HP and the Programmer's Printer

By Gary McGath
Copyright 2008 by Gary McGath. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fan fiction. All trademarks, references to published works of fiction, and allusions to familiar characters are for purposes of entertainment or satire only. This is not a commercial work and is not offered for sale.

Chapter 1

Mr. and Mrs. Luddley lived ordinary lives. They didn't like the way technology was changing the world, and they kept away from it as much as they could. But they had been saddled with Hugh since his parents had died. Mrs. Luddley's sister was Hugh's mother; there had been something very strange about her and her husband, and about Hugh as well. From an early age, he had an affinity for computers, and that was something the Luddleys couldn't stand.

Once they visited a museum, and they found Hugh talking with one of the guides. He seemed to be speaking some foreign language, though it had something to do with cars. The guide tried to explain, but they couldn't understand him either. "He does not have a lisp!" Mrs. Luddley insisted. "And what's a programming language?"

As Hugh's eleventh birthday approached, they started getting e-mail addressed to him. This was very odd, since they didn't have a single computer in the house. Somehow it was coming in on the TV. They didn't let him see it. At first it was just a single message, but soon it grew into a flood of spam. In desperation they terminated their cable contract, but it kept coming. They decided the TV was haunted and threw it out.

Hugh's eleventh birthday was coming. Every birthday, he got nothing but clothes and low-tech toys. His foster parents never let him have so much as a Gameboy. When they took him shopping, they rushed past the computer stores. But he still looked forward to his birthday. Alone in his room, he counted down the seconds till midnight, when he'd be eleven.

Then at the stroke of midnight, there was a polite but insistent knocking at the door. Mr. Luddley tried to ignore it, but finally got up to answer. There stood a crew-cut man with wire-rim glasses and four pocket protectors in his shirt. His pants pockets bulged with mysterious devices.

"Good evening," he said with a smile. "I must talk with Hugh Packard."

"There's nobody here by that name!" said Mr. Luddley.

"Come on now, I know he's here. Oh, excuse me. My name is Orville Grid. You can call me Doctor O. I'm with Bugwarts School of Computing and Programming."

Mr. Luddley recoiled at the words. "We don't hold with things like that in this house."

Hugh, roused by the noise, came out from his room. "Hugh!" said Grid. "You've grown so much in ten years! We've been trying to reach you with your acceptance notice, but you hadn't replied!"

"Acceptance -- what?" Hugh asked groggily.

"Acceptance at Bugwarts School of Computing and Programming! The finest tech school anywhere!" He saw Hugh's blank look. "Haven't these Mundanes told you anything? No, I suppose they wouldn't."

"Would you please leave?" said Mr. Luddley.

Grid ignored him. "You do know that your parents were two of the finest developers ever to graduate from Bugwarts, don't you?"

"I thought my parents were park rangers who got mauled by a bear."

"Park rangers!" Grid spat out the words. "Your parents were geeks! Supergeeks! As for how they died ... we can talk about that later. But the point is now, you've been accepted with a full scholarship for a seven-year course with geeks like you."

Luddley's look changed. "Full scholarship? Why didn't you say so? Take the little nerd and get him out of our house, Doctor O!"

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