This one-shot was written for Psyche's Before the Beginning challenge, "a Gundam Wing fanfiction challenge for stories set at any point prior to the first episode of the series." If you're interested, there's still time for you to write something, too – the deadline is April 30, 2004. You can find more information at happyfangirl org / before.

Rated: G
No pairings, no major cussing.
Warning: significant mathematical and physics concepts ahead.
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Today's Lesson

            
           
           

           
"Two hours."

"One."

The kid pauses, his eyes narrowing. "One an' a half," he says, decisively.

I snort, assessing the kid carefully. The kid - Duo - is smart, no doubt about that, but I've met plenty of smart kids - and adults - in my lifetime. What Duo has is pure guts. I smile then, a tight movement that just bares my teeth, and nod once.

Duo punches the air with a fist, his grin wide, and shifts in his seat, pulling one of the books across the desk towards him. "Then get outta here, old man, so I can finish this."

On a whim, I shake my head. "I'd rather quiz you. You spent all day yesterday going over these questions."

"Quiz me?" Duo rolls his eyes in an exaggerated fashion. "Man, that is so dull. Just lemme write 'em out an' then I can―"

"No," I say, holding up a hand. "Sixteen trees, on average growing forty kumquats each―"

"What's a kumquat?" Duo's tone is baffled. When I don't answer, his blue eyes turn suspicious. "You can't multiply stuff that doesn't exist."

"It's a type of fruit. Ever heard of oranges?"

Duo rolls his eyes again and nods.

"Well, you should eat more of them." I snort when Duo makes a face and ducks his head to the textbook. The Sweepers do their best, but the kid's a bottomless pit. On the other hand, at only five-foot even, there are modifications I can make that I couldn't make with an adult. It's not like the kid will need the extra legroom - I expect him to grow an inch, maybe two, in the next two years. I realize Duo's muttering under his breath, and pay attention, leaning forward to see what has him irritated.

"This stuff is just...this is so stupid," Duo moans. "When am I ever goin' to care about somethin' like how many gallons of water are in a swimmin' pool? When am I ever gonna be near a swimmin' pool, anyway?"

"Do you know what one is?" I lean back, regarding Duo steadily.

"Hell yeah," Duo retorts, indignantly. "There was one at the church! Hell," he mutters, glaring at the books. "I don't see how you can swim in a bathtub in the first place."

I ignore the misconception as irrelevant. Saying anything would only make Duo bristle. "You need to know volume, circumference, and other basic calculations if you're going to be able to handle flying outside the simulator. The program won't always be running to make those adjustments and calculations for you."

"Can't be that hard," Duo replies. "And it's gotta be less borin' than this crap."

"Can't be that hard," I repeat, a bit sarcastically, and chuckle dryly. "You think?"

"Yeah!" Duo sits up straight in the chair, his legs kicking at the rungs. They're not long enough to reach the floor, but it doesn't stop him from glaring at me. "Go ahead! Gimme something hard!"

"Fine. First, determine the weight of a shuttle, loaded with one Gundam."

Duo's silent for a minute, his eyes closed. Then one brilliant blue eye opens. "What kind of shuttle?"

"Thirteen-X," I reply, picking a shuttle make at random. I'd assigned lists of such information for Duo to memorize, and the kid had complained for at least a half-hour. Then he'd disappeared, and I'd found him an hour later, perched on Deathsycthe's chest as the head engineer made alterations to the ECM system.

"Nine-point-eight tons," Duo answers.

So he did at least look at the list. "With one Gundam," I remind him.

"Seventeen."

"Thirteen-X has a capacity of two mobile suits," I point out. "The weight is not discrete, as it varies from front to back―"

"So the weight changes depending on distance," Duo says, shrugging. "Just divide up the length of the shuttle into smaller sections, determine the weight of each section, to get the..."

I blink.

"...What?" Duo frowns, puzzled, but the look quickly becomes a scowl. "It makes sense to me!"

"Right, right," I say, waving one hand. "Then do it. Numerically integrate the equation and tell me the result."

"Numerically my ass," Duo mutters, falling quiet for a second. "Seventeen-point-six," he says.

I blink again, and resist the urge to dig in my pocket for a calculator. Then I consider digging in Duo's pockets for the calculator, just to make sure the little thief isn't doing it all under the table top. I realize Duo's staring, and sigh.

"Try calculating the change in velocity required to enter the transfer orbit from L2 to Earth," I begin.

"What's velocity again?"

"Speed." I give Duo a sharp glance, but the kid's expression is thoughtful. I grab one of the sheets of scrap paper, jotting down a long equation. "You need to know the basics before you can understand - let alone compute in your head - equations like this."

Duo nods, considering that carefully, then his face splits into a wide grin. "What's this do?"

"It's a formula for calculating the velocity at any point of a heliocentric orbit with L2 at perihelion and Earth at aphelion," I explain. Wonder which word will trip Duo this time. The kid's vocabulary has grown substantially, but it's been stunted by the fact that he rarely sits still long enough to read anything I give him with more than a cursory glance. "You don't need to―"

"Yeah, whatever." Duo mimics my habit of waving one hand, and I stifle a grin. The kid's obnoxious, but his quickness makes such forgivable. "One over R. R is rate...so that's the velocity at...what?"

"Aphelion."

Duo squints at the sheet. "If you replace R with dEarth...heading there, means slowing down, so negative..." His voice trails off into mumbles as he stares at the sheet, his brow furrowed. Absently he brings his braid around to the front, stroking it a few times before flipping it over his shoulder. "Change in velocity is negative three-point-two kilometers per second."

I study Duo for several seconds, until the kid starts squirming. Finally I settle back, trying to appear casual. "What makes you think that?"

"Dunno," Duo says, and grins. "Just made sense, that stuff should be moved around until ya find the answer. Did I not get it right?"

"Yeah, you did," I huff. I can't help it. Damn kid. Too precocious.

"Cool!" Duo shoots up from the chair, papers flying in all directions. "I'm gonna―"

"Duo!" I sit up, barking the kid's name. Duo freezes at the door, his hand on the plate to slide the ship's door open. I can see the slight rise in Duo's shoulders, and suppress a grin, knowing the kid's already gathering his strength to protest. "You still have to do the rest of these equations―"

"Only if you give me somethin' hard," Duo replies, but doesn't leave the door. Instead, he leans one shoulder against the door, his arms crossed, his nose turned up as though he's won the day and it's only a matter of time before I acknowledge it.

I smirk to myself, and decide to try a different tactic. Duo's been hanging out with the mechanics working on the Gundam. Perhaps it's time to measure the size of the little pitcher's ears. "How can a heat weapon block a beam saber?"

Duo snorts. "The I-field keeps the heat weapon from expandin' an' since it can't contract neither, it would force the blade back, eventually frying the saber if the two are in contact long enough," he recites in a bored voice.

"How do you determine mass ratio?" That might get him. It's several chapters ahead in the textbooks I've chosen.

"Velocity equals nine-point-eight-one meters divided by sec-to-2 times natural log of mass ratio times specific impulse." Duo yawns melodramatically. "Specific impulse, measured in seconds, reflects the efficiency of the propellant used."

"What's the mass ratio of Deathscythe?"

"One-point-seven-two," Duo says, and makes a face when I raised my eyebrows. "And before you ask, it will be outrun by a Leo in the stretch, which has a mass ratio of one-point-nine-six."

"What's the acceleration of a Taurus with a thrust of ninety-four-point-eight kilograms?"

Duo opens his mouth, frowns, and closes his mouth with a snap, giving me an annoyed look. "The book didn't talk about thrust in kilograms. It used some dead guy's name."

"Newton," I reply. "But when did you ever do anything by the book?" I'm amused to see Duo preen for a second. "Just go with it, and answer the question."

"Twelve Gs," Duo says, and snickers.

"What's an apogee motor?"

"A thruster used with Active Mass Balance AutoControl. Makes the suit go right way up. Is that the best you can do? Can I go now?"

I sigh. "Go on. One hour―"

"―an' a half," Duo interrupts.

"And a half," I agree, wearily. "And then get your ass out of that simulator and scoot it right back here. You're got two hours this afternoon with Mike."

Duo's already out the door, but pops his head around the corner long enough to grin. "Do we get to blow things up?"

"I don't know," I say, a little grumpy at Duo's cheer. The kid never approaches my physics lessons with half the enthusiasm he gives Mike's daily lectures in chemistry. I can hear Duo's footsteps pounding down the hall, before going silent as the kid kicks off and floats the rest of the way.

"That bad?" One of the men sticks his head in the door. "Saw the kid take out of here like a bat outta hell. What did you do to him this time, G?"

"Nothing," I tell him. "Just trying to figure out where he stores all that information in his scrawny little body."

"Probably the same place he puts all the food," Joe replies with a grin. "Y'know, we're going to need to stop by MT-0999XS and reload."

"Again?" I raise my head sharply, but Joe looks serious. "We can't possibly―"

"We can, and we are," Joe says. "Ted's been fussing about the fact that the food stores keep disappearing, despite the eight locks between the mess hall door and the walk-in freezer."

"And I bet Duo oh-so-helpfully agreed to help him put the locks in place," I mutter, a little sourly. "Ted's not the brightest."

"Speaking of which, explosives class after lunch?"

"Yeah, why?" I stand, sorting the textbooks and papers into a pile. It's not the neatest, but it's neater than Duo would ever manage, if left to his own devices.

"Just making sure. Me 'n the guys are gonna head out to MT-0999XS immediately after lunch, then. Figured it'd be better to vacate the premises."

Yeah. Duo and explosives...I join Joe at the door. "Got room for an extra body on the shuttle?"

"Sure thing, G," he says, and laughs. "I've got a shopping list right here...say," he adds, frowning as he looks at it. "Who the hell wrote down six pounds of chocolate and three cases of soda?"

I peer over his shoulder at the list. The additions to the ship's shopping list are in a scrawl across the bottom of the sheet. "I don't know," I tell him. "But I'd be willing to bet it's got two short legs and a long braid."

"Thanks, but I don't take losing bets." Joe regards the list thoughtfully. "So should I mark it off?"

"No," I say, grinning slyly. "Let's buy it, and then lock it up. The kid'll find it soon enough, and we wouldn't want to make it too easy on him." Yeah, Duo, you always take the hardest route, but I'll keep giving it to you if that's what makes you happy.

     
     
     
     
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Much of the information about mecha, weights, and specific physics questions related to Gundam were derived from the Gundam FAQ project, at .