HP and the Programmer's Printer: Chapter 4

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 4

Grid led the first-year students to the entrance of Bugwarts. "You'll all gather in the main hall," he told them. It's on the seventh floor."

The students, all carrying heavy luggage, groaned. "It's not really that bad," said Grid. They followed him up a single broad flight of stairs. "Here we are, the seventh floor," said Grid. "That's the main hall on the right."

"Wow, that's impressive," said Hugh to Rom. "How do they do it?"

"Oh, they've got some even better tricks in store. Ever heard of a guy named Escher? He designed this place."

They left their bags by the wall and took seats in the spacious hall. A man in a turtleneck and jeans, whom Hugh recognized as Professor Dublincore, came to the lectern.

"Welcome to another year at Bugwarts School of Computing and Programming. And to those of you who are just starting, welcome to the start of your years at one of the finest schools of its kind. You'll learn enough here, if you pay attention, to have a very successful career in the computing industry, and you'll have a lot of fun along with the hard work. Now if you'll open up your laptops and go to http://bugwarts.edu, you can sign in and get your room and class assignments." He gave them a few minutes to check their computers. Hugh and Rom found they'd been assigned to the same room, along with someone named Neville Longword.

"We have a top-quality network here and a solid online library. But I must warn you all, do not -- I repeat, do not -- try to access the server named Fluffy." There was an immediate rattle of keys being hit throughout the hall.

"It's protected by Kerberos," said Rom. "Should've known."

"I told you not to try," Dublincore told the assembly.

After some more administrative details, the students were let out. Rom and Hugh picked up their bags. "Our room's on the fourth floor," said Hugh. "If we're on the seventh, that must be underground?"

Rom took out a map in the form of a Möbius strip. "No, no. My brothers gave me this map. See? It's this way." Rom led him down a zigzag corridor, where many other students were also going. After a couple of hundred feet they came to a sign that said "Fourth Floor."

"I must be in some crazy story," said Hugh. "No one would design a real building like this."

The first few days of classes were mostly enjoyable. He really enjoyed the Defense Against Dark Code class, taught by Prof. Squirrel. There were some people he didn't get along with, though. One was a snobbish kid named Draco Malware. Worst of all, though, was Prof. Magnetus Tape, who taught Algorithms and ridiculed Hugh at every opportunity.

But it was gym class that opened up a new world for him. On the first day of this class, Madame Tully issued a remote-control robot to each student and had them compete in teams in a simple ball game.

Hugh's robot responded wonderfully to his controls. It was effortless, as if he were right in the bot's head. Neville, though, was having a lot of trouble controlling his. Draco Malware, on the opposing team, saw a chance to play the bully. He sent his robot crashing into Neville's, though that was strictly against the rules. Neville's robot spun out of control and headed straight for Hugh's. Hugh quickly put his robot into reverse and spun it around, dodging the collision and barreling toward the loose ball. Draco's robot was still wobbling; as he tried to steal the ball from Hugh, it toppled over. Facing no opposition, Hugh sent the ball into the goal.

"Foul! Penalty shot for ... um ... him," said Madame Tully, indicating Neville. Turning to Hugh, she cried, "I've never seen anything like that maneuver! Packard, you need to be on the intramural Quadratich team."

"Quadratich? What's that?"

"You don't know? That's right, you were brought up by Mundanes. It's a sport with competing robots like this game, but the robots fly. You'd be a natural at it!"

There were three intramural teams at Bugwarts: the Macs, the Linuxes, and the Windows. Hugh was assigned to the Linuxes as Searcher, and soon became quite a star.

There was an incident in which Rom, Hugh, and Hermioport combined to drive a troll from a discussion board, after which they all became good friends. The three of them spent a lot of time with Grid in his office. In addition to his duties as maintainer of the network, he was the official gamekeeper of Bugwarts, and naturally had a great selection of games.

Other than the occasional excitement of Quadratich, life was reasonably uneventful until one day in January, when Rom, Hugh, and Hermioport were waiting in front of Grid's office for him. They heard an anguished cry around the corner.

"That's Grid!" said Rom. They ran to see what had happened.

"Someone --" Grid was shaking, his head between his hands, his voice not quite under control. "Someone hacked into the server room!"

"You mean got unauthorized access to the server?" said Hermioport, who was always sensitive about the word "hacker."

He motioned to them to follow. "I mean hacked into the server room!" They stared at the door, which was normally securely locked. It had been destroyed as if with an axe.

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