"That's not possible!"
Demora Sulu blushed as the entire classroom of Cadets froze and her instructor fixed her with a glare. If she had taken a second to think before such an outburst, she would have realized it was not going to win her any points in class. She would have kept her mouth shut, and mentioned the situation to her father later, and discussed it thoroughly with him.
As it was, she hadn't taken that crucial second to think, and was now regretting the declaration. Her instructor was practically red from anger and embarrassment, and the man who was considered one of the best Navigators in the fleet was studying the girl who had interrupted his lecture.
She buried her head behind her book and wished she could crawl into a hole and die. She wished she had stayed in bed this morning.
She was in for it now.
She could hear her instructor clear his throat, and jumped as she realized he was right beside her. "Cadet!" He barked, and she looked up to meet his eyes.
Her instructor was obviously furious, but it was hard to be intimidated by either the obvious irritation in his eyes or the aggression in his stance. When your father's best friend was a man prone to highly emotional outbursts and (when overly excited) no concept of personal space, it was difficult to be truly frightened by displays that she considered comparatively restrained.
The result was that Demora was more embarrassed than anything else. "Sir?" She replied, wishing her face didn't feel hot enough to toast bread on.
"Are you implying that you, a mere Cadet, know more about piloting a Starship than a Commander with more years of experience than you've been alive?" He demanded, a warning in his voice.
Demora shook her head. "No, sir." The very thought was ridiculous. "But all the same, it isn't possible. The laws of Physics don't work that way."
He was going make her challenge the speaker himself, Demora realized. She wondered if she should be terrified as her professor raised his eyebrows and said, "Oh? And I don't suppose you'd mind explaining to us just why you claim the Commander is mistaken?"
Demora sighed, and forced herself to look at the man. She stifled a groan. He was laughing at her. His face was impassive, unreadable, but his eyes were dancing with amusement.
She forced herself to take a deep breath and began to explain. "Well, given the size and shape of a Constitution Class Starship, the reaction time would be too slow to allow such an attempt to be successful." She replied confidently. She knew she was right.
The instructor spluttered, and waited for the speaker to quickly put her in her place, but the other man merely waited for her to continue. He wasn't convinced.
"I mean," Demora nearly faltered, "if you were under fire, and shields were down, you wouldn't have time consult your star charts, plot your course, have helm check the coordinates before laying them in, and execute it successfully. Too much time would have elapsed. And even if you accounted for the time it would take and where you would be when the course was actually executed, you would still have to do it before the ship was blown or shaken to pieces. All in all, it's not possible."
He waited, as if there were something she had missed. Then he shrugged. "You're right." He conceded. "The situation you just described could not be possible." He was silent again.
Demora glared at him as he asked, "Then how am I alive?"
She nearly blushed again as the Cadets couldn't help but laugh. They thought she was trying to show off, that she was being arrogant. She tried to tell herself she didn't care. She knew it wasn't possible. He had just agreed with her.
But he was still waiting. She had missed something, then. Something in her understanding, or her assumptions, was off. She stared at him incredulously. "You didn't do all that." She said flatly, and he grinned.
"Nope." He agreed. "Couldn't. Star chart readouts had gone dead." She shuddered at the thought of not being able to see whether you were aiming for an asteroid or possibly a planet. Still...there wasn't enough time, even without consulting the star charts.
She scowled at her book, and he gave her another clue. "Helm didn't check the course, either." That he didn't have to explain to her.
Not everyone understood. "What, was the guy insane?" Another Cadet, Johnson, had decided it was safe to get involved in the discussion, since Demora was obviously not off the hook yet.
"There has been some speculation." The speaker replied dryly, his eyes locking with Demora's as she struggled not to react to this assertion. His attempt at impassiveness was not at successful as hers had been.
The slightest of giggles escaped him, and almost every Cadet in the room jumped as if they had been shot. He was laughing too hard to explain by now, so Demora spoke up.
"They were considered the best helm team in the fleet. If he gave the helm data, the man trusted that it was accurate."
Johnson wasn't convinced. "That's not very smart, though." He said as the speaker managed to control his laughter. "I mean, you'd have to be incompetent or some kind of idiot to-" He broke off abruptly as the man closed the distance between them, eyes flashing dangerously.
"Or desperate." Chekov suggested sharply. "If you have a choice of whether to give up and die or die trying to do something, which vould you prefer?" Johnson was sufficiently cowed, and Demora took pity on him.
"But you were flying blind." She suggested, calling his attention away from Johnson. "Surely there was some other alternative."
He drew up to his full, unimpressive height and regarded her with an offended air. "I vas certainly not flying blind." He declared.
"You were going by memory." She guessed. He nodded. Demora shook her head. To plot a course by memory…the thought was terror-inducing. "But if you had been off just the tiniest bit…" She trailed off, and Chekov rolled his eyes.
"Dead is dead, vhether by an attacking wessel or because you flew into a star." He said flatly.
"Vould you just sit there and twiddle your thumbs vhile the ship gets blasted to pieces?" He demanded, unintentionally raising his voice.
"I would have tried to find a better way." Demora replied calmly.
"Of course you vould have." He retorted. "And of course, you vould have succeeded. You certainly could not possibly have been blown to pieces vhile looking for an easy vay out."
That wasn't fair. "I would have taken the two extra seconds to confirm my headings were correct before I risked killing some four hundred crewmembers because I might have punched something in wrong." She suggested evenly.
"Cadet!" The instructor barked. He had decided to remind everyone that he was the one in charge here. And of course, it was her fault.
She blinked, staring up into a dark pair of slightly amused eyes. She saw something else, too. Pride? He was proud of her for arguing with him?
No. He was proud because she had stood her ground, had defended herself because she had been convinced she was right. She had not let anyone in here intimidate her into giving in.
She considered his idea. Between Chekov and her father, it could have worked. More than could, it had worked. But it would not have for almost anyone else.
She smiled as he backed up, reminding himself that his idea of personal space did conform to most people's idea of the same. He nodded, and returned her smile as the instructor prepared to tell Demora off.
He was suddenly aware of Chekov's approval, and faltered. It was all either Demora or Chekov could do not to laugh as the instructor suddenly realized something else. They were out of time: class was over.
He dismissed the class, and they filed out silently, sneaking confused glances at Chekov and Demora as they tried to figure out what was going on.
Johnson eyed them both as he hesitated in the door. Mischief glimmered in Chekov's eyes, and he said cheerily to Demora: "Cadet Sulu, make sure you tell your father vhat your classmate thinks of my former helm partner."
It took less than a second to click, and Johnson darted out of the room wearing a horrified expression. Chekov laughed, and Demora allowed herself to join him, especially as her instructor also made the connection and suddenly turned beet red.