By 1st endeavor
Disclaimer: All the characters and references to the show "NUMB3RS" are the property of Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falaci, CBS and the Scott Brothers. I am not making any profit from this and no infringement is intended. This disclaimer applies to all of the chapters in this story.
However, the story and original characters are mine.
A/N: This is dedicated to Catroxie and who have been encouraging me to finish this tale. It's also dedicated to tootlebug, masondixon, PattyB, HuskerCat, Cutter12, Deanna and all of my other readers who expressed a desire to learn more of the life of Thomas Hill and his friendship with Charlie. This story takes place a few months after the end of By the Dawn's Early Light so if you have not read that story you might want to read it first.
(Charlie's memories and the mysterious whispers are written in italics.)
Charlie sighed heavily and rolled over on his side, careful not to pull the covers from the sleeping woman lying next to him. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand but didn't really need to see it to know that it was almost five a.m. Within the past eight months the young mathematician had developed an unnatural fear of the five o'clock hour, specifically those last five minutes before dawn made its appearance. He actually felt relieved that he had awakened; sleeping through those dreaded minutes was far worse than facing it while he was awake. He tossed the blankets aside and rose carefully from the bed. In the darkness he felt around for his robe then slipped silently through the bedroom door, closing it quietly behind him.
The hardwood floor was cold against his feet as he shuffled through the cabin but he was too focused on the time to let it bother him; it was almost dawn- a time that held a profound and unsettling effect over him.
"Dawn," he thought as the first chime echoed through his memory, "is the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise." He switched on a small lamp hoping that the light would help dispel his fears and tried to force the darker thoughts from his mind. "There is also the Astronomical dawn," he mused as the second chime sounded within his head. "The time at which the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon in the morning or," he thought desperately, trying to ward off the third chime, "the Nautical dawn when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon."
He had failed; the third chime flared through his memory with such intensity that it felt like a physical blow. Charlie gasped and stumbled to the sofa; collapsing on the cushions just as his legs gave way beneath him. He leaned forward closing his eyes while he massaged the back of his neck in an effort to relive his aching and tense muscles but gave up a minute later, it didn't help…nothing seemed to help.
"Why wouldn't it stop? Shouldn't it have stopped by now?" he whispered frantically to the empty room. He rubbed his forehead nervously; trying desperately to push his thoughts elsewhere then broke out in a sweat as the fourth chime flitted across his mind.
His heart began to race in anticipation of the last chime; it was always the worst one, that final peal that could have signaled the end of his life. Charlie grabbed a notepad and pen from a table next to the sofa in a desperate attempt to ward off the memory of the final chime. "Number theory," he mumbled desperately, scribbling furiously, "think number theory."
Suddenly Charlie shuddered uncontrollably, dropping both pad and pen as the fifth chime, followed by the sound of gunfire, pealed loudly in his ears. "Oh, God!" he moaned, bowing his head and covering his face with his hands. "When is it going to end?" He had been getting better and there had actually been mornings when he had been able to sleep through that dreaded hour peacefully but the last few weeks the chimes had returned with a vengeance.
Charlie raised his head, exhaling a shuddering breath; it was over for now- the chimes wouldn't ring again, at least not for another day.
"Maybe Tom was the lucky one after all." He muttered under his breath as he leaned forward again to rest his elbows on his knees and hold his head in his hands.
"Noooo, Charliee," a familiar but haunting voice seemed to whisper out of nowhere. "You don't mean that. Don't ever think like that."
"What?" Charlie's head jerked up, brown eyes widening as he glanced around the room. "Amita?" He called out tentatively; his gaze darting toward the bedroom but the door remained closed and there was no sign that his wife had awakened.
"It couldn't have been Amita," he thought suddenly as his head swiveled around to view the whole room. "I heard a man's voice….not a woman's." He swallowed hard, beginning to feel uneasy when he couldn't find the person to go with the voice. "I must have imagined it," he decided, laughing nervously. "I'm really losing it now."
The young man suddenly felt chilled and brought his cold feet up to tuck beneath his robe. As he was getting comfortable his right foot nudged a small box of photographs that had been left lying on top of one of the cushions. Amita had discovered it the night before and they had been gazing at the pictures before going to bed. The photographs had belonged to his friend Tom and as he pushed the box out of his way one of them caught his eye. It was a picture that Tom had taken of him during his second year of college. Charlie picked it up and gazed at it thoughtfully, letting the photograph carry him away to another time and place.
Fourteen year old Charlie Eppes shifted nervously from foot to foot, and then peaked around the stage curtain for what must have been the hundredth time. The lecture hall, MCCosh 50, where he was currently standing, was rapidly filling up with the elite of Princeton University as well as journalists representing The American Journal of Mathematics and other scientific publications.
TV crews from FOX News, CNN and the local news stations also packed the hall and were busy positioning their cameras and doing sound checks in preparation for their upcoming broadcasts. The youngster swallowed hard as his eyes drifted over the upper balcony where students and Professors alike scurried to take their seats before the presentation began.
Charlie had become the youngest person to ever publish a major paper and today he was giving his first seminar on that paper: The Eppes Convergence.
Suddenly his dark brown eyes narrowed suspiciously as they followed the entrance of a group of his fellow classmates, particularly a tall, lanky boy wearing a pair of dark rimmed glasses; his nemesis, Marshall Penfield. The young man had been a thorn in Charlie's side from the first moment that he had set foot on campus; it seemed that the boy had made it his life's work to scrutinize and look for flaws in everything that Charlie did. The fact that Penfield had failed to discredit Charlie's work so far had not diminished his efforts but only seemed to spur him on. Charlie sighed inwardly; apparently today's seminar was not going to be an exception in the boy's behavior.
Light reflected off of something on Marshall's shirt drawing Charlie's attention away from the boy's face. He leaned further around the curtain and squinted up at the balcony as he tried to get a better view of the object. Charlie jerked erect abruptly, his body stiffening as Marshall caught his eye and turned to face him. For a brief second hurt was reflected in Charlie's expressive brown eyes; he was no stranger to ridicule, but even so he still longed for acceptance by his fellow classmates and the badge that Penfield had chosen to wear hurt him deeply. Almost immediately the hurt turned to anger, and outraged he turned to the boy standing by his side.
"Look! Just look at that!" Charlie hissed angrily, pointing at Penfield with his chin. "Just look what he is wearing on his shirt!"
"Take it easy Charlie." Nineteen year old Thomas Hill replied soothingly. Standing a head taller than his young friend Tom glanced over Charlie's head, his blue eyes drifting upward to view the balcony.
"That damn son-of-a bitch!"Tom muttered angrily, his good humor deteriorating rapidly when he spied the "Don't believe the hype" badge that Penfield was flaunting. Cursing under his breath he stepped back behind the curtain and lowered his eyes to meet the distressed gaze of his young friend; absently tucking a strand of his collar-length blonde hair behind an ear as he tried to calm the boy down.
"Penfield's an idiot, Charlie. Just ignore him."Tom said sympathetically, squeezing the young boy's shoulder encouragingly. "No one is going to believe anything that he says, and once you give your presentation everyone will see him for the jealous jerk that he is." He tilted his head to the side as he studied his friends face. "You know that…right?"
"S…sure. I mean...right." Charlie agreed meekly, ducking his head and looking away, hoping to hide the uncertainty and doubt that he was suddenly feeling.
Tom wasn't buying it though. "Charlie?" He gave the boy's shoulder another squeeze and waited for him to look up. "Listen to me. Penfield's brains are located in the wrong part of his anatomy ….if you get my drift….so you shouldn't let anything he does or says bother you. Okay?"
"Okay, Tom." Charlie said, raising his head higher; his lips spreading in a broad grin while he pictured Marshall's brains located in a particular part of his body.
Relieved that his strategy was working Tom continued to make fun of Penfield; his blue eyes lighting up with mischievous merriment.
"Just picture how his jaw will drop when it's announced that you've won The Milton Prize."
"But Tom," Charlie countered, "I haven't won it yet – I've just been nominated."
Tom rolled his eyes. "Of course you'll win it Charlie! No one else has presented anything that even comes close to "the Eppes Convergence." He suddenly glanced over Charlie's head and followed some movement in the crowded hall. "Hey, I just saw Dr. Edwards heading for the stage so I better get going. Your Mom and Dad are already in the front row and they said that they would save me a seat." He turned to leave but paused mid-step, concern crossing his features. "Are you sure that you're okay?"
Charlie took a deep breath and nodded his head. "Don't worry Tom, I'll be fine."
"That'll never know what hit'em, Charlie." The older boy replied confidently, a knowing grin spreading across his face, then turned without another word and hurried to take his seat.
After a moment, Charlie peaked around the curtain again and watched his friend slip into the vacant chair next to his father. Tom leaned over to say something to Alan and Margaret then pointed to the curtain that he was standing behind. They spied him right away, waving and calling out his name; they're expressions filled with love and pride. Charlie blushed, waved back and stepped behind the curtain once again. He was thrilled that his father had been able to attend his presentation, but disappointed to learn that his older brother would not be there. He frowned as he thought about it…it wasn't as if he had really expected Don to show up; a gap had grown between them and it had nothing to do with Geography. Alan had tried to cover for him by saying that Don was gearing up for his mid-terms and couldn't get away but Charlie knew better; the simple truth was that his brother didn't want to be around him.
There was a sudden stir among the crowd as Dr. Edwards crossed the stage and stood before the podium.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," The professor began as he waved a hand to encompass the entire hall. "It seems only fitting that Charles Eppes, a child prodigy and certified genius, should present his theory to you in this particular lecture hall. After all, in 1921 another genius, Albert Einstein, stood in this very hall and gave his renowned Stafford Little lectures on the theory of relativity. I believe that was the year before he won the Nobel Prize."
Edwards turned and motioned for Charlie to step onto the stage. "I am proud to introduce you to Charles Eppes, the youngest student to ever attend Princeton University." He smiled as Charlie took his place beside a blank whiteboard. "It will not surprise me in the least, if someday he also becomes the youngest student to graduate from these hallowed halls as well."
"For the benefit of those among you that are non-mathematicians, I would like to define the word "elegant" as it is used in context with Math. Mathematicians don't have much regard for a solution that's obtained by grinding through a standard algorithm. We call this kind of calculation "turning the crank" and turning the crank ranks zero on the elegance scale."
A sudden murmur of chuckles, along with the nodding of heads rippled through the mathematicians sitting in the second and third rows, prompting Dr. Edwards to wait until the noise subsided.
Edwards cleared his throat and continued on with his explanation. "For example, long division, although necessary for us to know, is not an elegant solution to any problem. It's too much work, and it takes too long. If we want to take one eighth of 1000, we can recognize that taking an eighth of something is the same as halving it three times. 1000, 500, 250, 125, and there's our answer. The mathematician calls this "elegant". Today's youth would call it "Cool!"
Professional mathematicians call it the "elegant" solution. Saying that a calculation or proof is "elegant" is the highest compliment mathematicians pay one another."
Edwards beamed and waved a hand at Charlie. "Ladies and Gentlemen, at this moment I will turn the stage over to Charles Edward Eppes , and I have no doubt that by the time he has finished presenting "The Eppes Convergence" , that all of the mathematicians in this audience will agree that it is most "elegant".
Charlie took a deep breath as Edwards left the stage. He picked up the marker and as he began to explain his theory and write the first equation on the board his numbers took over and his nervousness faded away.
The sound of thunder rolled in the distance bringing Charlie's thoughts back to the present. It had been a long time since he had thought of that long ago presentation and Tom had been right, by the time that he had finished, not only Penfield's badge had disappeared from his shirt, but his arrogant smile had faded as well.
"In-Math, "elegant" means "cool!" Article written by Russ Rowlett