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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 125: Brown 43
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Raeph was perhaps in his thirties, and the sort of outgoing friendly person you could not help but like. He immediately asked Derek to tell him about his things. Derek complied.
"Well, the laptop is standard binary stuff, programmed for thirty-two bit coding. Some of the video games are 64-bit, but all binary. I noticed your systems mix binary and trinary chips. Don't they have trouble talking to each other?"
"That is a problem with mixing systems. Although the trinary chips work exceptionally well for high speed processing and compact data storage, trinary data transmission is a lot less reliable, and we wind up converting a lot of the information to binary anyway. So the split is mostly that core systems are trinary, but as soon as you get outside these you shift to binary."
"There was some trinary stuff where I was last, but not a lot, probably for that reason. I hacked into it–but then, the coding languages were all very different. It took me a while to work out the logic of your base code for both binary and trinary use, and the fact that they were both in use made it that much more difficult."
"I'm surprised you managed. The whole system is a morass of outdated protocols that are still in effect because it would cost too much to refit all the old systems, so the new bits always have to be reverse compatible."
"That's the case in every world, I think. The simple stuff is still in use when the better stuff comes along, and since they have to work together at first, you never really do entirely eliminate the early gear."
The conversation continued along these lines for quite a while, at times getting very technical. Sometimes Derek would have to ask for an explanation of a system or term Raeph used, but nearly as often he found himself explaining his own terminology and the systems he had hacked. Raeph was good at giving clear explanations; more than that, though, he seemed genuinely interested in helping Derek understand, and would take the time to repeat an explanation, or restate it, if Derek wasn't getting it. That reminded him of Lauren, whose patience and willingness to work with her students had taught him so much. They must have talked for at least an hour with Mary Parker sitting alongside watching them.
"So," Raeph eventually said, "Mary says you need a job. Would you like to work for me?"
"Raeph," Mary said, "I didn't mean–"
"It's all right, Mary," Raeph said. "It happens that I need someone, and I believe his story–and anyway, he seems to know his stuff pretty well. What he doesn't know he can learn."
"I'd like that, I think," Derek said, "but I don't actually know what it is you do."
"Didn't Mary tell you? I'm the chief sysop for the entire station. Oh, and by the way, that was nice work you did earlier when you back doored into my files and created the dummy identity so you could access your records."
"He did what?" Mary almost shouted.
"You knew about that?"
"Chill, Mary, I was watching him. Yeah, I knew. I wanted to see what you would actually do if you got into the system. The police were afraid you were out to sabotage us or something. I was impressed, and you didn't do anything that suggested any sort of nefarious plot."
He had been set up. Raeph had given him the chance to prove himself, one way or the other. That had given him a fair break. It also suggested that this was someone who had faith in people, and gave them the benefit of the doubt. Again, Derek was reminded of Lauren.
"I would very much like to work for you," Derek said. "When do I start, and what do I do? Oh, and how do I get a place to live, and food, and all that stuff?"
"Don't worry about all that stuff; I'll see to it. You're going to help me monitor and troubleshoot computers on the station, watch for problems, oversee systems, and work on upgrading and improving things. I've got about twenty people working on that, but on a station this size that's not enough."
"Well," Mary said, perhaps just a bit annoyed that Derek had succeeded in proving himself this far, "I'll leave him with you then. If you have any problems, let me know. Derek, welcome to Terranova. I'm sorry for the rough start you had, and hope you enjoy your stay."
The last was much softer, almost kind again without the earlier suggestion of paternalism (or perhaps, Derek thought, that was maternalism). "Thanks," he answered, and turned back to Raeph.
It didn't take long for Raeph to get Derek settled into a room large enough for his gear and himself, and to introduce him to the other workers. They had all been aware of his hacking efforts, and impressed by them as well. Derek was a bit embarrassed that so many knew what he had thought had been so secret, but they pointed out that it was a bit foolish of him to have expected as a prisoner to be given access to an unmonitored terminal, particularly when he was caught attempting to hack into the computer systems.
His first day on the job was long; then again, they were eager to introduce him to everything, and he had not slept in a comfortable bed for days. By the time he was done, he was ready to sleep. He got a quick bite of something that passed for fast food among the other computer experts, and fell asleep so quickly in his new bed he was not even aware whether it was comfortable or not.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #122: Character Partings. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: