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Chapter 1 – The Bit About Bytes
Section 1 – Dave Awakes
Dave struggled to free himself from the embrace of sleep as his mind became aware of the furtive whispering. He could faintly hear some rustling noises, too, as if one ore more people were moving around him. Sleep just didn’t seem to get it that the relationship was over and struggled to hang on to him like a desperate ex.
As he slowly came awake, he remembered where he was. Should he jump up screaming? Knowing the people who inhabited this place, he didn’t think that would be a good idea. Perhaps better to wait it out a bit and see what happened? He might learn something. “Yeah, you might learn that it isn’t always a good idea to pretend to be asleep,” whispered that sarcastic voice in his mind which always seemed to want the last word. Dave called this voice inner-Dave – he was certain that inner-Dave was real.
“Now?” said a voice.
“No! We need to learn about this app development stuff …” growled another voice.
“But why can’t I just eat his brains? Maybe I’ll learn all about app development that way!” whined a third voice.
“You know it doesn’t work that way, Zane! You’ve never learnt anything by eating brains. We have to get him to teach us. That’s the only way!” said the second voice.
“Buf jusf a liffle bif of a drink won’f hurf, will if?” said the first voice again and now Dave knew who that was – Vincent.
Dave decided that he’d better stop pretending to be asleep. He didn’t want Vincent taking any sips. After all, Vincent was a vampire and his favourite drink wasn’t something that Dave wanted to be a part of. He yawned and stretched as if just waking up and did a fake double-take as he pretended to see his visitors.
“Huh? Hi guys! Umm … isn’t it a bit early for visitors?”
His visitors were three. No, they weren’t three years old. In fact, some of them claimed to be over three hundred, but that was another matter. There were three of them. There was Vincent Veindahm the vampire. He was closest to Dave and Dave didn’t really like the way he seemed to be sniffing in his direction, almost as if he was sniffing the bouquet of a new wine …
While Dave had not known any of them long — he’d only met them the previous night when he’d suddenly arrived in their … neighbourhood — Vincent always seemed to be very neatly dressed. In fact, he seemed to be a bit over-dressed. He looked like a gentleman out for a night at the opera, though the illusion was spoilt a bit by his jutting fangs. The selfsame fangs resulted in a lisp that turned all his “t”s into “f”s.
Next to Vincent was his complete opposite, at least in terms of dress. The second individual, Zane Zesterfervour the zombie, was barely holding himself together. Literally. His face was ashen grey and there were places where somebody had done some repairs by stitching up some peeling skin.
He wasn’t dressed neatly like Vincent. Instead, he seemed to have thrown on some clothes at random. Given the zombie penchant for eating humans, Dave couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps Zane had acquired his items of clothing from his victims. “Yeah, nobody who had a choice would wear that hideous shirt with that purple skin tone,” inner-Dave agreed.
Then there was the third member of the group – Wendy Weatherall the werewolf. From what Dave had observed on arrival last night, she seemed to be the leader of the group, keeping the other two in check. She didn’t seem to think there was a need for any clothing since she was already covered in a thick brown furry coat. She looked generally like a huge, shaggy wolf standing on two feet – absurd though the sight may be. Dave had never seen her out of wolf form since he’d met her – not that he’d know who she was if she wasn’t a wolf. Didn’t werewolves only change in to wolves during a full moon or something? Maybe things worked differently in this place?
It was Wendy who answered Dave. Or rather growled at him. “Hi Dave! Sorry about the early morning visit. But as we told you last night, we wanted to talk about app development …”
That again! He had been rather disoriented last night on arrival and so hadn’t really considered anything except his chances of survival. And of course, how he’d get back home. He did recall somebody asking him about his profession and having told them that he was an app developer.
There’d been a great hubbub at that and they’d wanted to discuss app development. He’d simply said something about needing sleep, hoping that it was a bad dream. But either the nightmare was not over or he was going to have to deal with what they wanted.
“Umm .. Yeah. About that. Don’t you guys use magic?”
They all gave him the kind of look one would reserve for somebody with limited brain ability, or was insane, or both. It was Wendy who replied. “Magic? Magic is from kids’ fairy tales. Who would think magic is real?” growled Wendy.
“Is magic real in your world? Was Sfefe Jobs talking liferally when he said the iPhone was magical?” asked Vincent, his eyes as big as saucers. He sounded almost hopeful.
“What? No! Of course not! We believe in science. But you guys are … umm … shouldn’t you believe in magic?”
“What about us?” snapped Wendy.
“Well, you’re people of magic … at least where I come from …”
“Clark’s first law does say that any sufficiently advanced magic would be identical to science …” began Zane.
“Pfft, superman! Nobody believes in his theories!” scoffed Wendy.
“Superman?” asked Dave, a vision of a red and blue figure streaking through his mind.
“Oh, just this philosopher of ours. He has all these crazy notions of science and magic co-existing and a race of supermen who can wield both. But nobody believes him. Magic is not real!” said Wendy, looking hard at her two companions as if reinforcing an oft repeated lesson.
The other two simply nodded their heads, keeping quiet.
“OK, so you guys have access to the Internet? Our Internet?” asked Dave clutching at something that he remembered from last night, trying not to drown in the flood of foreign information.
“Yes,” Wendy sounded impatient. “We explained this to you last night when you arrived. We were able to tap through a trans-dimensional wormhole and connect to your Internet. Our scientists don’t quite understand how it works but it works …”
“So it’s like … magic?” Dave couldn’t resist asking.
Wendy gave him the kind of growl which indicated that further questions along those lines could result in loss of life and limbs. Dave decided it was safest to humour his hosts for the time being and keep the smart-ass comments for later. “If there is a later…” muttered inner-Dave.
“OK, so you have access to the Internet,” he said. “And you’ve heard of iOS development. But you realize you can’t simply code apps, right? You need a Mac to develop on, you need an iOS device to test on …”
“We have those!” interrupted Zane, sounding impatient.
“Huh? How? Don’t tell me you’ve been ordering stuff online and they delivered …” Dave trailed off, wondering yet again if this was a dream and if he should start pinching himself.
“I wish! No, we’ve had to build our own computers and iPhones and stuff. Some of our people weren’t really happy with the whole ‘It’s magical!’ bit but they’ve kind of accepted it once they realized how useful the technology would be …” said Zane, glancing at Wendy and looking away quickly. Dave wondered if Wendy was one of those people who hated “magical” devices.
“You mean that everybody here has a freaking iPhone in their pockets that’s based on just what you read on the Internet?” asked Dave, his eyebrows shooting up like caterpillars on a trampoline.
“Well, not quite in your pocket …” answered Vincent, looking a bit sheepish. Dave could not think of anybody who would look less like a sheep than a vampire. But Vincent managed it somehow.
“We took a slightly different turn on the path to technological advancement. We don’t have the miniaturization capability that your people do. We are what your people might call a steampunk culture. Our iPhone is a bit bigger,” replied Wendy.
“How much bigger?” asked Dave, curious now.
“It’s still perfectly portable, you just have to make sure that you have a good engine,” replied Zane.
“Engine?” asked Dave, mystified.
“You know, for the carriage. To carry the iPhone around?” Zane was talking to him in the tone one employed when explaining something to a really slow child. Or an adult with an IQ in the single digits.
Dave just stared at Zane for a moment. “Err .. You mean your iPhone is so big that it has to be carried around on a vehicle?”
“Ah! And does it run iOS or does it use some other operating system that you guys have concocted?”
“Oh, it’s iOS alright!” Zane responded enthusiastically, his eyes shining. “Unlike the hardware, we could get the operating system via the Internet and our people have been reverse-engineering each new release of iOS and figuring out how to clone it. We’ve got an exact clone of the Apple product.”
“Well, then what do you need me for? Your guys probably understand the OS and SDK better than I do.”
“That’s the issue you see,” Wendy broke in. “Our scientists can replicate the OS but they’re not very good at explaining things. Plus, not all of them understand the software development process. So there’s high demand for iOS development training and only the nobs get the training.”
“Knobs?” Dave asked, furrowing his brow.
“Nobs. Don’f you know whaf nobs are? Fhey’re fhe ones in power, fhe lords …” said Vincent, struggling to explain.
It took Dave a moment to decipher what Vincent had just said. “Ah, you mean the rich people?”
“Not just the rich. The powerful. Our political system is a little different to yours. We have what you’d call a feudal system.” Wendy explained.
“As in you guys fight a lot?”
“That too … but we also have lords in charge of different districts. They control everything for their district. Now the lords and their families want to control knowledge …” said Wendy.
“.. And knowledge is power!” interrupted Zane. “So they don’t want us to learn iOS development, if they can help it.”
“So will I get in trouble for teaching you guys?” asked Dave, looking apprehensive. Images of secret police squads and torture chambers were already beginning to bob up in his mind like apples on a tub of water.
“Oh, no!” said Wendy. Dave thought perhaps her denial had been a bit too quick but maybe he was just being paranoid? Anyway, surrounded as he was by a zombie, vampire, and a werewolf, did he have much choice?
“They don’t have any laws saying we can’t learn iOS development,” continued Wendy. “We do have access to iPhones and Macs after all. But they do try to make access to development harder for the common folk. That’s why we were so happy to find you!”
“Err … OK. But what do I get out of it?”
“What do you want?”
“I want to go home, of course! How do I get home?”
“We know somebody who can help you…” replied Zane, looking expectantly at Dave.
“As long as I teach you iOS development?” asked Dave.
“See? Aren’t you the bright one!” said Wendy, grinning. Seeing all her long, sharp teeth in their shining glory made Dave realize that he probably wanted to get his tutoring duties over as soon as he could, and then get home fast.
“When do we start?” Dave asked.
“How about right now?” replied the others. (Though to be accurate, in the case of Vincent it was more like, “How abouf now?” …)
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