strypey: A black-and-white picture of Strypey wearing a hat (Default)
2016-10-27 10:27 pm

Hacker Holiday

The sun was being slowly eaten by the gentle jaws of the hills when Trevor finally arrived home. It had been a long day. He had installed a new set of condenser wells in some of the dryer parts of the farm, and his hands were blistered and sore from gripping the shovel as he dug the holes for them.

It had been a good spring, with plenty of rain, warm, and not too acid. But there was drought coming. Trevor could feel the thirst in the wind at times. He would need all the wells he had, and more, to keep the younger food forests irrigated, not to mention for drinking and washing.

He had picked some loquats on the way back to The Cave. They had yet to fully ripen, but Trevor liked them this way, before too much of the starch decayed into sugar, masking the zesty bite. He sat on the sod roof, savouring the sour-sweet taste of the fleshy parcels. Later in the season they would make good jelly. As the last of the ambient light seeped away through the cracks of early evening, he went inside to make dinner, only to find he was not alone.

"Sally!" he gasped, throwing his arms around her shoulders and pressing her face into his sweaty chest, "I wasn't expecting you for months!"

His daughter fought free of his smothering embrace, so she could reply without having to speak through a mouthful of musky shirt.

"Hi Dad. I couldn't face doing the last leg by airship in the end . All that time in the air makes me feel like a grumpy cloud."

Even with the latest solar cell canvas hulls, and the most streamlined, lightweight bodies the design communities could come up with, the airships still couldn't fly nearly as fast as the planet-cookers used to.

"I took the e-train down from Tamaki Makaurau, and got Irene to pick me up in her buggy."

"She finally got the battery fixed?" he asked, "or did you have to stop and recharge every half an hour?"

She grinned, "I brought her new battery with me on the train. She would have picked me up anyway of course, but you know, never miss an opportunity to put good karma in the karma bank."

Trevor allowed himself a wry smile. It was something he'd told her often while she was growing up. He realized it was a terrible distortion of the complex doctrines of the old sanskrit word used by Hindus, Buddhists, and Hippies, to reduce karma to a crude double-entry accounting metaphor. But it had done the trick. His daughter had grown up effortlessly generous, and happy to help whenever she could.

"Lies to children", he muttered, quoting the old Terry Pratchett book about science that he used to read to Sally in her early teens.

"What's that?", she asked, looking up from the "thank you" message to Irene, which she had been tapping into her beat-up handheld. She went on without waiting for an answer.

"You're connection is crap Dad. 1 gigabit?!? No wonder people think you've gone into hermitage. You really ought to get a petabit router for your netballoon."

"Maybe you can help me with that while you're here?", he suggested. "I need to pull down some firmware updates for my tractor and a few other things around the place too. I just never seem to have the time. I keep their networking stuff turned off and hope for the best.

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sure, any other basic helpdesk jobs you want me to do, while I'm on holiday from kernel hacking for eighty hours a week?"

She smiled. Of course she would help upgrade the software on all his hacked together farm equipment, and probably end up replacing the operating systems on half of it, and writing patches for any bugs she found. He found it a painstaking chore, and never lost the fear of making mistakes that would fry the silicon like hot chips, while she could do it in her sleep. Besides, she felt twitchy if she went for too long without hacking on something.

At least he always had the sense to avoid the proprietary gear from the big, flashy shops, on the main street in town. It was often cheaper to buy a whole new piece of equipment than pay licensing fees for the latest version of the sloppy software on the one you bought a year ago. From the few times she'd got access to their highly secretive source code, she couldn't help but think it was programmed by letting a roomful of drunk baboons dance on keyboards. The corporate manufacturers who made the hardware generally outsourced the software side to overpaid amateurs, who knew far more about marketing trends than sensible data structures, and the comments in their code consisted of terse, unhelpful phrases like "fixed that variable thing".

"I'll tell you what", he said, "I'll make you a nice, home-cooked dinner, with fresh veges off the farm, and some eggs from the ducks, and you can tell me all about your trip here. Then, after you've had a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, we can talk about farm stuff. Alright?"

"Sounds great Dad". Her smile cracked open, and lurking behind her eyes he caught a glimpse of the wild child he had known.

"I'll go wash off the dust of the road while you cook."

This was not just a metaphorical flourish. Trevor knew what a ride in Irene's open-top, electric dune buggy was like. Thrilling but dirty.

It's good to have her home, thought Trevor, even if it was only for a few weeks over the summer solstice. Some of the farmers never saw their kids after they left for the city, and they never knew why. Trevor did, but there was no point trying to explain it to them. A bird released, avoids cages. He started rinsing the veges, humming tunelessly to himself.

This story is licensed under CC-BY-NC. You can share it freely, but if you want to use it in anything commercial, you need my permission.