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.
Hugh, Rom, and Hermioport followed Grid through the smashed doorway into the server room, which they'd never even seen the inside of before. There were racks of machines filling every available space, with lots of mysterious cabling. Nothing looked damaged.
"Is anything missing?" asked Hugh.
"Nothing," Grid replied after a moment. "I'd know if anything had happened to my babies. Whoever it was, was looking for something and didn't find it."
"Could it have been Lord Petitmol?" asked Hugh.
"Hugh," said Grid, "you've got a lot of courage, the way you always say $DARK_LORD's name out loud."
"It's not that," said Hugh. "It's just that I've never figured out how to pronounce dollar signs."
"Well, if it was him, it's a good thing that Dublincore was clever enough to hide away the thing Nicholas Flamebait brought to Bugwarts, and that $DARK_LORD doesn't know that the password to Fluffy is 'Orpheus.' Oops, sorry, I didn't mean to say anything!"
"Say anything about what?" Rom asked sharply.
"Nothing! I didn't say anything, did I?"
"No, nothing at all," Hermioport agreed ironically.
Afterwards, the three conferred about this revelation. "What 'thing' could Grid have been talking about? And who's Nicholas Flamebait?" asked Hugh.
"You haven't been studying your computing history at all, have you?" said Hermioport with an excessively smug tone, even for her. "Obviously $DARK_LORD was looking for the Programmer's Printer!"
Rom and Hugh looked at her blankly.
"It made sense in the original British text," said Hermioport with a shrug. "Can I help it we're in a dumbed-down American edition?"
"But what does it do?" asked Hugh.
"It's supposed to be able to change reality itself. Whoever had it would be all-powerful. Nicholas Flamebait invented it, but used it only to make his code bug-free."
"And it's hidden somewhere at Bugwarts," said Rom. "And Fluffy has something to do with protecting it. And we know the password to Fluffy."
"I bet that Lord Petitmol's got inside help on this," said Hugh. "Did you know that Tape used to be a DEC eater? He might have been the one who actually broke in. We should chase this down before they get their hands on it. How much trouble could we get into?"
"We could be given detention, expelled, and killed," said Hermioport. "Not necessarily in that order."
"Let's do it, then!" Hugh and Rom said together.
"I just know I'll live to regret this," said Hermioport.
"Of course you will," said Rom encouragingly.
"Okay," she conceded. "I'll check what's on Fluffy, and let you both know tomorrow night."
When they next got together, Hermioport had a memory stick for each of them. "There's a file that says how to get to the thirteenth floor."
"Thirteenth floor?" Hugh and Rom both asked.
"It seems to say that's where the printer is. It's weird, though. It says to go up the stairs from the trans-dimensional corridor."
"But there aren't any stairs going up," said Rom.
Hugh looked at Rom. "Then there must be ..."
"A secret passage to a secret floor!"
"Is there any clue about how to find it?" Hugh asked Hermioport.
"All it says is to go up the stairs."
"I'll get to work on figuring it out," said Rom. "A place like this has to have secret passages."
"But even after that," said Hermioport, "the printer isn't of any use as things stand. Nicholas Flamebait wrote the only driver for it, and that isn't on Fluffy."
"Is there anything at all about how to talk to the printer?" asked Hugh.
"Funny you should ask," said Hermioport. "There's a full spec for the printer's interface. Care to start coding it?"
"Sounds like a nice extra-work project," said Hugh.
"I'll see what else I can find out about Nicholas Flamebait and the Programmer's Printer in the library," said Hermioport. "Then we can all be overworked just to get ourselves in trouble."
Hugh copied the memory stick onto his laptop and looked over the download. He was glad to see that there was a working simulator of the Programmer's Printer for testing. But the documentation showed he'd be facing a real challenge; the printer was an artifact from the distant past, so old it used a SCSI interface.
One step at a time, he thought. He created a new folder for his work, naming it "HP_Printer_Driver".