A Computer Called Clarke
[The continuation of the Survivor Short Story “project” in the War On Boris the Bytrode series. This time, back in time, 1967, following the adventures of middle-aged mum, Letitia…
In this episode (5.3) Will asks Letitia to fix his computer…]
Letitia stared at the scrambled eggs slowly cooling on the plate before her. 5am was just too early in the day for such generosity. Even the gentle bobbing of the vessel in its moorings messed with her balance causing a rising sense of seediness. She needed to acclimatise to the notion of seafaring. Then negotiating her way around the sprawling mess of Melbourne, and finally, the dreaded possibility of flying back to Adelaide. To teach. Then a worse thought, having to deal with Tails. That creep, who with his partner in crime, stole two boys from their rightful parents.
Tails. She remembered him. A slimy character swilling down a beer. Reeking of alcohol from every pore. Leering at her. As she dodged the drunken crowds. Keeping pace with her up Anzac Parade to the racecourse in Sydney one sweaty summer’s day. Frieda’s party were meeting there, near the racecourse, before the IGSF bus ride out West to Wagga and the flight to the LaGrange Point. Tails, uninvited, followed. The IGSF team were not fond of escaped convicts.
Boris didn’t seem to have a problem with Tails, though.
Letitia gulped and plunged her spork into the yellow mash.
Wilhelm, as if unintentionally teasing her, added the attached strings, ‘You wouldn’t be able have a look at our on-board computer – it’s been playing up lately.’
Her fork come spoon which had tentatively driven into a chunk of egg scramble, stood undecided what to do next. Me? she thought, A computer expert? What sort of computers were around in 1967? She cleared her throat from the surprise of the request and replied, ‘Thank you for the offer Wilhelm. I will see what I can do.’ She emphasised the “I” as in Mirror World, she was indeed the computer expert. However, the concept of a dodgy computer on a boat in 1967, disturbed her more than the prospect of flying. Lumps of mashed toast and egg took up residence in the back of her throat. She coughed, then forced the lumps down.
‘Good, well you can give us a few tips what we can do. I think it’s just some sabotage, courtesy of Boris. But you never know.’ Will chatted nonchalantly mouth full of scrambled egg.
‘In my other life, I worked on computer operational systems that covered the city of Adelaide—Mirror Adelaide 2018.’ She swallowed the egg and smiled weakly.
‘Well, I suppose you could have a look. Can’t do any harm.’ Wilhelm conceded with a hint of reluctance. ‘It’s IGSF equipment. Top Secret, of course. Computers do exist, but they’re monstrous things compared to what we work with in the IGSF.’
‘I was wondering how you could have one on board and not sink,’ Letitia laughed. ‘Fortunately, I am familiar with the IGSF system. In fact, your wife, Frieda trained me.’
‘Frieda?’ Wilhelm raised an eyebrow. ‘She who can’t operate our new washing machine without getting all tangled up?’
‘Actually, by the time she becomes Admiral…Oops, spoiler alert. I mean, she gets quite adept with the programming. But you know, it’s Minna…her…’ Letitia’s voice trailed off into the uncertainty of future happenings.
Letitia waved. ‘Sorry, I’ve said too much already. Probably just what happens on Mirror World.’
‘Perhaps you could check out the computer as soon as possible – this morning even. We could leave this afternoon if you can fix it.’ Will rubbed his hands together and grinned. ‘If we, if we get to Melbourne early, I can fit in some shopping before heading to the conference in Canberra.’
Letitia gulped a large glob of toasted egg and returned the smile. ‘Well, then, what are we waiting for?’
Half an hour later, Letitia began to regret opening her big mouth when she sat confronted with the dinosaur of the computer which Wilhelm had nicknamed “Clarke”.
She stroked the solid polished Huon pine desk and then locking her fingers together, cracked her knuckles. Even the IGSF technology of the day seemed archaic. Did they really fly up to the LaGrange point for Frieda’s birthday party in 1962 using this “dinosaur”?
She peered at the clunky switches and dials, and the grey-green screen that sulked in a blank state at her.
In the background, as if intent on making her task more challenging, Wilhelm prattled on, boasting of his mistress’ (the boat called Fair Lady) prowess in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in which the vessel did admirably coming somewhere in the middle and not getting smashed to pieces with high seas. Huon Pine maketh the vessel seaworthy, according to Wilhelm. Other yachts apparently were not so lucky in Wilhelm’s no-so-humble opinion.
‘How can I tame “Clarke” with you blathering on?’ Letitia muttered while navigating IGSF cyber-technology of the 1960’s. ‘No wonder we got attacked by Boris and I ended up in Mirror World.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Bellerive Marina © L.M. Kling 2011