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Progress

Luxury Nashua Secure Hiding Facility of Hunt’s Security
Nashua, New Hampshire
Saturday, September 12th, 2015, 11:00 am

 

 

      As the meeting broke up, Carmen asked Jared, “Can I get a look at the builder code?”

      Jared smiled and said, “Sure, Maybe you can find why it won’t make hydrogen.”

      Carmen said, “Well, I doubt I’ll be much help, but I’ll certainly give it a look. What language is it in?”

      Jared said, “It’s an interpreted language called FastScript.  Have you heard of it?”

      She shook her head no.

      “It’s kind of like Java, but it’s not object-oriented.  It’s also fairly simple, even if it’s a tad slow for most uses.  Fortunately the builders don’t need the extra milliseconds that other languages would allow for.”

      “Cool; I know Java.  It’s a required language in high school.”

      “Really?  It’s so outdated.  I guess it’s just because the languages now used are based on it, almost like learning Latin.”

      Michelle was having a conversation with Sarah, so instead of interrupting they left. Jared picked up the builder and said, “There is a workroom I found down the hall that we can use as a lab for now. We can use a wireless connection to the builder there.”

      They walked down the corridor going deeper into the facility and came to a door marked ‘Workroom D.’  Inside the room were several computers, printers, and scanners on various tables. There were two office chairs to every computer.  The room was designed in the same style as the hall except that the lighting came from some of the ceiling panels. 

      Jared walked to one of the computers and initiated a connection with the builder. He brought up the source code on the screen.  FastScript was written in source code but translated into a file to execute using an interpreter.  Unlike compiled languages, which are compiled into machine language to be run by the hardware of a machine, interpreted languages have interpreters.  An interpreter is software that executes a file or set of files.

      The source file for the builder was still small.  Most of the complicated work was done by hardware, which Jared had an easier time working.  While Jared could program, he did not really enjoy it or excel as a programmer.

      They started going through the code.  Carmen quickly caught on to the language because it was so similar to Java. 

      Carmen asked, “So what happens when you try to make hydrogen?”

      Jared replied, “Well . . . nothing.  It doesn’t deconstruct atoms, and it doesn’t build anything!”

      Carmen said, “Do you think it has to do with the fact that hydrogen is the only element that has no protons?”

      Jared said, “It could be.  I’m really not sure.  I tried hard-coding one neutron, but all that happened was that one neutron for each atom of hydrogen was assembled, no electrons or protons were formed.”

      Carmen said, “Have you tried debugging to see what all the variables are at when you are about to do a build?”

      Jared shook his head no.  “Let’s try it.”

      FastScript comes with a debugging tool that allows you to place breakpoints wherever you want in the code.  When the interpreter reaches the breakpoint, it brings up a debug screen that allows the coder to look at the values of all the variables in the various symbol tables. It also allows you to step through, or run, lines of code that follow the breakpoint line by line.  Further, it allows you to run code through the interpreter with the variables as they are at the breakpoint and in this way to change the values of the variables.  The debugger also allows users to navigate through the variables and edit them directly.

      They placed two calls to the debugger, one before the deconstruct function call and one after the build function call.  Jared then programmed the builder to make one atom of hydrogen using the debug version of the code.  “Here goes,” he said.

      The builder powered up.  Just before it took apart the needed matter, it stopped and showed the debugger screen on the computer to which they interfaced.  They poked around the symbol table looking at all the variables that the functions would use, “Here, look at this!” exclaimed Carmen.  “The proton and electron values for hydrogen are both 0 when they should be 1.  That explains why it builds nothing!  Let’s look at the code that initializes it.”

      They exited the program without finishing its execution.  Then Carmen found the BuildElementTable() function.

 

 

// This function builds the element table

/////////////////////////////////////////

void BuildElementTable(ElementTable &New)

{

   int Electrons = 1;

 

   While (Electrons++ < 117)

   {

      New[Electrons].Electrons = Electrons;

      New[Electrons].Protons = Electrons;

     

      LookupName(*New[Electrons]);

      GetNeutrons(*New[Electrons]);

   }

}

 

 

    

      “Mr. Miller, look at this.”

      Please don’t call me Mr. Miller.  My father was Mr. Miller.  I’m Jared.  Please call me Jared.”

      “Are you sure?”

      Yes, very!  Whatever you do, don’t call me Dr. Miller . . . that’s even worse.”

      “OK, Dr. Miller,” she said with an evil grin.

      He teased, “Why was I was showing you this again? . . .  So, what do you see?”

      “Look at this function,” she pointed to the part of the screen that had the BuildElementTable() function.  “Electrons is initialized with one, but then in the looping condition it is incremented. So when the first element is run, Electrons is equal to two for helium, and hydrogen is skipped!”

      Jared slapped his forehead in the universal sign of oops!  “Wow, we’re lucky I used FastScript where the default value is zero as opposed to a language like C where the default value is whatever was in the memory location before!  It would be almost random.  If it had been a random number who knows how many radioactive and dangerous elements I would have made!  Thank you so much for finding this!”

      Carmen shrugged, “It’s an easy mistake to make.  It’s always the little bugs that take the longest to find.  You just needed a fresh pair of eyes.”

      Jared edited the code so that it was initialized with zero instead of one.  “Now we can finally try to make water!”  He translated the code and programmed the builder to create a small amount of water.  “Here goes.”  He pointed it towards the floor and pressed the build button.  A small amount of water suddenly appeared a foot from the floor and then fell with a splash.  “IT WORKS! IT WORKS!”  He threw his hands up in the air in enthusiasm.  “We better make sure it's really water.”

      “How?” asked Carmen.

      “I guess we can try the old-fashioned way.  See if it boils at 100 degrees and freezes at zero.  Time for a field trip to the kitchen!”

      Jared led them back into the hall to the kitchen.  The kitchen was huge.  It could easily be used to cook for 1000 people, even though there would be no room for that many people in the facility.  There were two long commercial class steel counters, an oven, a set of 12 burners, and a grill.  A deep fryer was adjacent to the grill.  There was also a commercial mixer.  The floor was covered in rough red tiles.  The ceiling was cement and had a huge vent for the grill and burners. There was a walk-in refrigerator and a walk-in freezer.  There were various pots, pans, and ladles of different sizes hanging above the counters. Beneath one of the counters was a stack of cookie sheets and three mixer bowls.  On the end of one counter was a can opener and a large set of knives. There were also some tall brown wooden cabinets, three sinks, and an industrial dishwashing system with a long conveyor belt.

      Carmen took two metal pans down.  Jared filled them both with water from the builder.  Carmen put one pan in the freezer and Jared put the other pan on a burner.  After a minute of confusion figuring out which knob was for which burner, he lit the burner.  Carmen found a heavy-duty thermometer designed to hang from a lip into a pan. She attached it to the pan.

      Jared said, “It looks like it's the right color and texture.  Now we just need to wait and see if it really is water.”

      While they waited Jared asked, “How are your parents going to handle you wanting to disappear with us?”

      Carmen blushed, “Don’t you know?”

      Jared shrugged, “Know what?”

      Carmen sighed and said, “I’m an orphan.  I thought you knew.”

      “Oh, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t know.”

      “It’s alright, my parents died when I was ten.  I live in an orphanage.”

      “May I ask . . . how did they die?”

      “It was a car accident.  They were heading to work after they dropped me off at school.  A truck hit them.  The driver fell asleep at the wheel.  I guess he was hauling some high tech stuff that was late, and he had been up for 48 hours. A little before lunchtime at my school the police came and took me out of class to tell me.  For a while, I blamed myself for their death because I had made us late leaving.  I was really depressed, but I finally got over it.  I didn’t have any family so they put me into the orphanage.”

      “I’m so sorry.”

      “It’s OK. I really don’t remember them that well now.  I do miss them from time to time, but I’m past that part of my life.”

      “I can’t imagine what that would have been like.  I don’t think I could have lived through something like that.”

      “Well, you have to.  I was lucky; I was able to put it past me.  Some people I know lost family in similar ways and still can’t cope with the loss after years.  It seems to affect everybody a little different.”

      The water started to boil.  Jared checked the thermometer and it was 100 degrees.  “Perfect.  It will be awhile before the other pan freezes.  Let’s do a pH litmus test and check the density.”

      “Do you have litmus paper?”

      “Yes, a chemist is always prepared.”  Jared pulled out his wallet where he had several litmus strips and took out one. He wet it with the water and it turned green for a perfectly neutral 7.0 pH.  “Excellent, 7!”

      “So now we need some metric equipment.  I’m guessing you don’t store that in your wallet?”

      “Nope, but this is a kitchen.”  They found a scale and a cup that measured in milliliters.  They put a cup on the scale and set the scale to zero grams.  They then poured some water into the cup.  The cup read 105 ml and the scale read 105 grams. “Perfect.  I should taste test it!”

      “Are you sure?”  Carmen shuddered.

      Jared took a sip of the water.  “Wow, this is pure water.  Except . . . Except,” he started clutching at his throat.  Jared coughed, then fell to the floor.   Carmen screamed, and Jared turned over saying, “Just kidding!”

      Suddenly the door swung open and Sarah stepped inside holding her gun.  Sarah asked, “What happened?”

      Jared apologized, “Sorry, it was a bad joke.  My bad jokes make people scream!”

      Sarah holstered her gun.  Jared stood up and Carmen punched him in the arm, “Don’t do that again!”

      “Ouch!  OK, OK!”

      Sarah shook her head and left.

      Carmen looked at her watch, “I’d better get going.  Allegedly pizzas don’t deliver themselves!”

      “What a nasty lie, obviously perpetrated by rightwing fundamentalist whack jobs! I'll let you know how the freezing goes.  Will we see you again tonight?”

      “No, I work late.  I'll come by tomorrow after I finish some homework.”

      “OK, thanks for all your help!  I guess you'll need Aaron or Sarah to get out.”

      “OK.  Bye.”

      “Bye,” he said as she left.  He started putting everything away.

      She walked back up the hall towards the exit.  She found Sarah, Michelle, and Aaron talking in the meeting room.

      “Can one of you lead me out?”

      Sarah stood.  “I’ll take you.”

      Sarah led Carmen back through the way they had come in.  When they got past the antechamber Sarah said, “Now, please remember not to say ANYTHING about the Millers or this facility.  If anybody asks, you were hanging out, chilling, or whatever you kids call it now, with Keith.”

      “Don’t worry, Mrs. Hunt, I won't say a thing.”

      Sarah changed the subject, “So, Kara tells me you’re one of the brightest kids in your class.”

      Carmen shrugged.  “There is a kid named Todd that's way ahead of me.  In fact, he is way ahead of everybody.  He’s one of those genius kids that skipped some grades.  He’s only 14.  If he doesn’t skip ahead again he will easily be our valedictorian.”

      “Are you and Todd friends?”

      “No, he sticks to himself.  Actually, I guess we are both loners in a way.  Your daughter though, she’s really cool.  She must make friends easily.”

      “I don’t think it’s so much her as it is how she gets involved with people and things. Like she’s in the theater group and takes it very seriously.  She spends so much time with it that we barely ever see her.  It’s almost like . . . never mind.  I really shouldn’t be saying that.”

      They continued on in silence.  Finally, they got through the small tunnel and Sarah used a remote similar to Aaron’s to bring down the fireplace.  They both got in and were returned to the living room.  Sarah walked her to the door and said, “I would walk to your car with you but they are watching us.  You see that van over there?”  Sarah pointed to an auto parts van parked across the road.

      “Is that CTF?”

      “Probably; they might follow you.  Be careful, OK?  If you need anything or get into trouble use this.”  She pulled out a small keychain with a red button on it.  “If you push the button the microphone inside will be activated and transmit anything it hears through an encrypted transmission to our company through satellite.  It will also send your location and body heat to us.  As soon as it is pushed somebody from our company will be sent to you as quickly as possible.”

      Carmen said, “Do I really need it?”

      “I hope not, but CTF seems to want Jared, so it’s hard to say.”

      Carmen got into her car and then drove to her work.  A white car was behind her during most of her pizza deliveries. 

 

****

 

      Keith and Kara had gone back into the house almost the minute the meeting ended. On the way there, they discussed what had happened.

      “I don’t want to go,” started Kara.

      “I do!”

      “WHY?”

      Keith blushed and said, “Because Carmen is going.”

      “You like her that much that you’ll throw away your life?”

      “What life?  This isn't life.  My life is school.  I don’t care about school.”

      “You should care.”

      “Why? Do I really need to know algebra or chemistry?  When will I ever use that?”

      “Well, look at Mr. Miller.  He uses chemistry.”

      “Whatever. I don’t want to be an inventor.  I don’t want to be anything.  All I know is if Carmen will go, I will go.”  After a pause, he added, “So why don’t you want to go?”

      “Because my life is here in the real world; I have plans for my life.  I want to be an actress!”

      “You know . . . it would be tough staying here without our parents.  We would be orphans, or would have to live with Aunt Alexia!”

      Kara gasped, “I hate Aunt Alexia!  How could they do this to us?  Why is this so important?”

      “They’re right, you know: if that technology gets out, the world will really fall apart.”

      Kara joked, “Maybe we should use the time machine to prevent Mr. Miller from creating it!”

      Keith laughed.  Then they headed to their separate rooms.

      Kara kept thinking about it.  No matter how hard she worked, she might never become a famous actress.  Was it really so important to be famous?  Maybe in a way this would bring its own kind of fame. She had so many friends though. How could she leave them all? What kind of life would she have living in a cave?  Kara tried to imagine life with the builders: being able to make whatever you wanted and not needing to work.  Maybe it would be worth it.  Maybe the families that were included would be interesting.

 

****

 

      When the day ended, Jared and Michelle talked in their bedroom.  They smiled at each other and sat side-by-side on the bed.  In some ways, they were like they had been when they were still dating.  Both were shy and anxious. 

      They had talked about having children seriously, but the last discussion had been years ago.  They liked how much time they had together.  They also liked the freedom of Jared being able to work whenever he needed to and for Michelle to have time for writing.  She never had any of her work published.  She never even had a strict focus.  Some days she would write poems, some days she would write short stories, some days she even made books for children that she would give to the local schools.  She liked kids; she had been a teacher for a while.

      Neither of them knew if they could even have children.  They both knew at best they would only get one doctor, the one chosen for the trip, to help them if they had trouble. 

      “So,” said Michelle.

      “So,” replied Jared.

      “We’re going to have kids?”

      “If that’s what you want, Honey.” 

      “I do. It’s scary though.  What if we can’t?”

      “Don’t worry; if we can’t . . . we have Carmen.  Plus, we’ll probably get enough other couples.”

      “I like Carmen.  She’s an orphan, you know?”

      He laughed, “Yes . . . I sort of found out by mistake.  I asked her how her parents would feel about her going with us.”

      No, you didn’t!”

      “I did,” he nodded.  “It’s OK though, I don’t think I upset her.  She’s not what I would expect an orphan to be like.  I’ve always pictured them as unstable, but Carmen really has it together.  I don’t think I could have fixed that bug if it wasn’t for her!”

      She nodded, “You’re right.  She is stable, and smart.”  Even though the rooms were fairly noise proof she whispered, “She’s more stable than Keith and Kara!”

      Jared laughed. 

      Michelle said, “I should get to know her.”

      Jared gave her a sly look, “Are you changing the subject.”

      She poked him, “You’re the one that brought her up.”

      He grinned, “Oh yeah.  What were we talking about again?” he said sarcastically.

      She gave him a soft slap on the arm.

      He turned and hugged her.  Jared brushed her hair back and kissed her passionately.  That night they tried their best to conceive their first child.  They hoped their bodies would be able to make a child for them to love.  They hoped for a child to care for, to teach and to play with.  Mostly, they hoped for a child who would love them.  With all their hearts they hoped they had not waited too long, that there was still time and their bodies could do what they were created for.

Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford

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