HP and the Programmer's Printer: Chapter 3

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 3

The Luddleys dropped Hugh off at Del Cross Station, happy to be rid of him till summer. He went down to the waiting area and looked at the track numbers. There was no Track 3.14159! There was a Track 3, a Track 4, and nothing in between. Panic seized him.

Then he saw a group of red-headed boys being herded along by their mother. She said, "That's right, track 3.14159." They all looked up, and he followed their gaze. Directly above them there was a gap in the roof, open to the air. Floating in midair was a railroad track, which had on it not a train, but an airplane! For some reason, none of the Mundanes around them took any notice.

"That's it!" said a boy about Hugh's age. "Pi in the sky!"

But how were they going to get on board, when it was at least fifty feet above them? Hugh approached them timidly. "Excuse me," he said to the mother, "is that the Bugwarts Express?"

"Oh, yes," she said cheerfully. "You must be a new student."

"Yes, ma'am. My name is Hugh Packard. How do we get on the plane when it's so far up?"

"Oh, my goodness," she said, recognizing the name. "Of course we have to help you get on. I'm Mrs. Wisiwig." She took out a portable projector. "All set, Rom?"

"All set, Mum." She set the projector down on the platform and oriented it so that it was pointed up at his head, and at the airplane above him. She paused to hug him and say goodbye, then turned the projector on. It cast a bright light for a moment, and then Rom vanished.

"What happened?" said Hugh.

"I projected him onto the plane," explained Mrs. Wisiwig.

"Then can I get on the same way? Please?"

"Of course. Let me take care of my other children first." He watched the others take the same place and disappear in turn. Then he stepped up to the same place, holding his bag tightly and nervously. She smiled reassuringly and flipped the switch. For a moment he felt distorted, but then he was able to coordinate himself again -- and he was now on the plane.

Rom waved to him as he took a window seat; the seats were filling up fast, so he took the one next to Rom. "Are you really Hugh Packard?"

"Everybody says that like I'm somebody famous!" said Hugh, bewildered.

"Well, it's not everyone who survives a takedown attempt by $DARK_LORD."

"You mean Lord Pe --" He saw Rom's alarmed expression and broke off. "Oh, right. People don't like to say his name."

A girl sat down in the aisle seat next to him. "Hello, I'm Hermioport Hacker," she said, followed by a stream of technobabble neither Rom nor Hugh could understand.

"Um, sure, whatever you said," said Hugh. From the look Rom gave her, he was sure that those two would be fighting furiously till they reached puberty, after which they'd be going steady.

Without any seat belt warning, the plane took off, throwing a couple of unwary first-year students to the floor. Fortunately, Hugh was safely seated. "Bugwarts is a great place," said Rom. "All my brothers go there."

"So what's it like?"

Rom took out his laptop and connected it to the on-board Wi-Fi, then brought up Hackapedia. He showed Hugh a page with a short video of a distinguished-looking man. The accompanying text identified him as Professor Dublincore, the headmaster of Bugwarts and a specialist in online libraries. "He's a little crazy," said Rom, "but he's a genius."

They looked at some other pages, and it seemed like only a few minutes before the plane started descending. Looking out the window, he saw it was converging on a floating point in the sea. The plane landed, the doors opened, and all the students started pouring out onto the runway. At the base of the steps, Hugh saw Grid calling out, "First year students, over here!"

He looked out in the distance at the building, which was in a very modern style. It was on the slope of a hill and had two connected wings. He liked the look of it.

Hugh Packard had arrived at Bugwarts.

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