Fort Weyr - Computer Lab
This large, square room next door to the library has been outfitted as a computer laboratory for fort's residents. The edge of the room is lined with desks on three sides. Upon each desk is a computer. In one corner of the room one can see three printers and three scanners set up for ease of records transcribing.
In the center of the room a screen for projecting pictures on can be pulled down. A large heavy oak table, battered and worn with time, sits in the middle of the room with rather uncomfortable looking wooden chairs. A projector for projecting slides, and even film if some enterprising fortian wanted to, is located on this meeting table and lines up perfectly with the pull down screen.
The final detail is that shelves and metal cabinets with office supplies and a comprehensive library of equipment manuals and books with titles like "Word Processing, a Weyr Archivist's guide" and "how to convert pictures to the large screen" and "Virtual Book Keeping, what every Headwoman and Steward Should Know" and still others with less original titles and still more with simple operating manuals for each of the pieces of equipment therein.


Mid-morning sees the early hustle and bustle of the Weyr fading to a steady thrum of activity as Rukbat fills the caldera with late summer light. Inside the miriad tunnels the scene is much the same, except lit by artificial rays. The decibel level of that thrum suddenly rises in the Computer Lab when a gaggle of children roughly three and up are herded into the electronic-filled chamber in a neat but excited throng. "O-kay!" calls a voice from behind them with cheerful authority. "Everyone find a chair!" The neat lines break as the kids seek to obey the command, giggling and chattering excitedly as they find seats along the tables. Ashri brings up the rear, source of the command. "Today we're going to learn how to use a computer. Does anyone know what that is?" She looks around, waiting for an eager outburst or a more neatly raised hand.

Melze is here partially through curiosity and partially because it had been hinted at loudly that she should learn before too much longer. There's something slightly embarassing about being in a class full of children, which could well explain her reasons for staying near the back of the room, though the fact that she just pulled apart two boys who seemed intent on doing each other some harm may well have contributed as well. The boys, despite the blonde candidate saying between them, keep leaning around her to give each other drity looks, an even the occassional swipe of a hand or foot. Each boy is pushed into a seat, Mel taking the one between them. It may well turn out to have been a very bad idea.

Polsie is not actually on nanny duty today, but if she's heading in this direction anyway on break from the kitchens, well, she's obviously got to help out, doesn't she? Not that the Bitran girl looks terribly delighted as she herds a trio of moping slowpokes through the door. "C'mon, you little scoundrels, computers are *fun*, don't you wanna have *fun*?" One of the slowpokes, a towheaded lass with enormous pigtails, considers this for a moment, then calmly says, "You're lying, this ain't fun at *all*." Polsie's smile takes a plastered-on look as she gently shoves her charges towards the other kids. Straightening her posture, she glances around the room, smiling at the familiar Jayashri and nodding amiably at Melze.

A hand or two from the more nicely behaved lot shoot up in response to Ashri's question, but one snaggle-toothed lad bursts out with a whistling reply. "Masheeens that compoot shhhtuff!" There's a chorus of giggles at the inadvertant 'poot' and even Jayashri's lips twitch in an effort to contain the mirth that seems to be contagious. "Yes." She says after a moment, licking her lips to smooth her rebellious features. "They are machines that compute things for us." Another pause to let that sink in. "Members of the Computer Craft, like myself, write things called /programs/ that tell computer what to compute." She walks over to a terminal, laying her hand across the monitor, though she's not much taller than it. "Anyone know what this is?"

Melze sinks a litle lower in her seat as the question scome, clearly trying to keep from being too obvious in this class of children. Her wish to remain completely unnoticed is made all the more difficult by the boys beside her. First one then the other leans across and hisses an insult. The first insult is rewarded by a slap of Mel's hand onto the desk, the second gets a frustrated hiss. Eventually she breaks her self-imposed silence and hisses "Shut up." Trying to pay attention to Jayashri, the boys, and herself was always going to be an exercise in futility, especially as one of the boys decides to reply to the crafter's question with a shout of, "Stupid!"

Polsie takes advantage of the attention the children are paying to Jayashri to slip through the group towards the scanners in one corner, taking a slim metal box from a nearby table and undoing the lock. Yes, Project Scan A Bunch Of Old Stuff is still going on, when and as Polsie has time, and her switch from apprentice to candidate doesn't seem to have put a stop to it. As she waits for the scanner to warm up, she turns back towards Jayashri's class… and frowns at the revelation that one of her trio (the pigtailed moppet, again) has followed Polsie rather than take a proper seat, and is standing on her tiptoes trying to see more of the scanner. With a gently exasperated, "No, sugar, you're s'posed to be over *there*," Polsie starts herding the little girl back to the group.

A wry smirk tugs at Ashri's lips in response to the unruly boy's felinecall. "Interesting guess, but no." Clearly the Journeyman is used to such foolish outbursts when dealing with strangers to technology. Her hand pats the object. "The correct term, however is 'monitor'. Other acceptable alternatives include display and screen." She smiles, and then quirks a brow at Polsie's box before memory kicks in. "Ah. This." Hand moves to the tailed oval object. "Is a mouse." To the input device. "Keyboard." She then touches the box. "And finally the actual computer itself, which has many smaller parts inside that work together like a team." She bends over to login to the terminal, the computer screen changing to a desktop as various things load. "The most basic thing a computer can do is math. Everyone knows what math is, right?" A glance about.

Melze looks towards Polsie as if the other candidate could save her simply by being there. A hissed "Quit it." is sent to one of the boys next to her as a hand flails past her face in a vague attempt at hitting the other. Monitor, mouse, keyboard, she touches each in turn trying to pay attention to Jayashri. Her head nods in rwply to the question, and she almost manages to hide the flicker of amusement as the boy beside her answers once again with "Stupid!"

"Stupid's not a nice word to say," Polsie chirps, sweetly, as she firmly points her pigtailed moppet into a nearby seat. "No tussling in a computer lab," she adds, as she steps closer. In a low enough tone to not totally distract the rest of the class, the candidate says, radiating 'honesty and sincerity': "You'll break something and the Computer Craft'll make you work in the mines to pay for it." She shoots a glance towards the scanner and her box, before looking back at Melze and smiling brightly. Murmured, quietly, is: "Want me to keep an eye on these ones so you can pay attention? I've been through a few computer classes already, myself."

For once, Ash actually frowns, and it's a very severe look on her angled features. "Even if I do not necessarily possess the authority to mete out punishment for breaking any of the computer equipment here presently, you can be sure that Weyrwoman Galina /does/. I'd hate to find out what she'll do to make you pay for damaging Fort Weyr property." There is a decided glower in the words and knit of the Journeyman Candidate's brows as she levels her hazel gaze at the unruly boys. It's a look that definitely says 'don't test me', which manages to look surprisingly quailing coming from the five-foot woman. "Now, as I was saying, math." A hand pops up, a little timidly. "Yes?" Jaya points to the girl. "It's adding and subtracting, right?" A nod. "Those are the most basic mathmatical functions, yes." A few mouse clicks brings up a program with litte buttons that have numbers and symbols. "This program takes does math for us. We call it a calculator." She performs some simple calculations for demonstration before closing it. "Any questions?"

Melze clearly hadn't considered the consequences of this whole endeavour, and as Polsie whispers she flushes slightly but nods. "Please. I'll trade you my next day off even just for an hour without one of this pair." The boys, for their part, seem to have taken some notice of the warnings being thrown at them, both turning their back, crossing their arms, and pretending like they were the most innocent people on the planet.

Nodding sunnily at Melze, Polsie takes up station behind one of the boy's chairs, leaning forward to grin first at one, then at the other. Like a shark. "A little behind on the exercise, aren't you, boys? Listen up, alright? I'll be… *right here*… for the duration of the lesson, so I can help ya out." And indeed, this is where she shall stay.

No questions yet it seems, so Ashri continues by opening a word processor. "This program is used for writing. It can be a program, a letter, a report, a journal, anything like that. The great thing about it is that it uses /no/ paper, so you can write, erase and save as many documents as you have space to store." She types a few random keystrokes in, demonstrating the basic function. "It's quite useful for storing any information you need to look up quickly."

Melze's relief at Polsie's agreement is clear, and even as the boys start a muttered arguement again (first "dimglow", then "Smokeless wonder") Mel's attention snaps to Jayashri and embarassed or not she finds herself putting up a hand, "You can do letters and things? How do you know who wrote them, does it keep a note of your name or something? Could someone write something on that and then pretend it came from someone else? Or… or make it look old like it's a…." She pauses, trying to think of the word, "treasure or something."

Jayashri smiles reassuringly to Melze. "There are a couple of ways to show the origin of a document. When in your user account the program saves an invisible attribute that shows who created the file and when it was last mod-" A pause. "edited, rather. We can also send messages between computers by way of the lines connecting them together and also a wireless network that connects us all to AIVAS." She pauses to let that tidbit sink in as the kids sit with wide eyes in facination at all the new and big words. "As to making a document look aged, or other effects, it is possible through a few methods. The most common would be purchasing sheets from the Paper Craft that are given an aged look in advance, then printing the document onto it." Curiosity tilts the Candidate's head. "Have you seen something like that?"

Melze flails a warning hand towards the boy on her left just before he says something else, though her attention stays mainly on Jayashri. The whole process of saving, sending, and so on seems to confuse her slightly, though she doesn't comment on that part and simply nods until the ending question, "I'm…not sure. Someone showed me a bunch of letters at one point and it seemed a bit too odd to be really old like they were saying. I guess the aged paper would be expensive, right?"

"Hush up," Polsie murmurs to her two quietly bickering charges, resting her hands on the back on their chairs. She's so distracted by smiling unpleasantly at them that Melze and Jayashri's conversation barely registers for a moment, before Polsie abruptly glances in Melze's direction, eyebrows raised. "Wait, old letters? Not from my box in the library, were they? 'Cause there wasn't any *paper* in there, it was all hide."

"It is more expensive than the usual plain, unbleached paper that is mass produced," Ashri nods her affirmation. "But a clever individual could age the paper themself, but it would require a certain amount of time and effort." She looks about to the gaggle of children, some starting to verge on boredom. "We can certain talk about it in detail later." A quick smile and she demonstrates a function of the processor, changing the background color of the writing area to a parchment pattern and then to a few others in rapid succession before closing the application and launching another. Colors, a blank white area, and more tool looking buttons appear on screen. "This program is used for creating and editing images, including photographs." She clicks a button and draws a bright yellow disc on the canvas area, promptly swapping colors to black and drawing two vertical lines and a half curve beneath them. The smiley grins at the pleased tots. "Great for letting kids draw without wasting paper."

"Really? How would…." Melze begins, but then comes Polsie's question and she stammers slightly. "What? No. I mean, they were in the library but it was definitely paper and not hide." She clearly knows the other letters being referred to though, "It was… look I'll tell you later it's not really for prying ears." By the time she looks back to Jayashri things have moved on and there's that face on the screen instead and the moment is lost. The boy to her left pipes up with, "Bet I could draw better than that." Which of course is quickly countered by his ealier sparring partner who asserts that his would be better.

Polsie frowns, not so much *at* Melze as at her words. "In the library? Huh, that's… nevermind." She adds, in a lower mutter, "Tell me in the barracks?" But back to the wonders of computing! Polsie watches Jayashri's image creating demonstration, echoing the smiley on the screen with a broad grin on her face. "Hushup, you two," she tells the two boys, absently.

"Well, we've got a few computers to go around, so why don't we see what you can do." Ash erases the face and resets the program to it's default state, gesturing to the chair in front of the monitor. "You." She points to the instigator. "Give it a go." A finger jab to the chair before she begins logging into the guest accounts of the machines and setting them up with the art program, getting the kids started on them one at a time. "We'll have to take turns. But you." She points to the computer next to where Polsie was about to start scanning. "You'll sit there and see what you can come up with." She offers the two women a grin. "I think I'd like to hear later myself." It's a tone crossed between mirth and conspiracy.

Melze nods to Polsie, though there's a little someting in her expression that hints towards either mischief or some secret begging to be told. As the boys are called forward her grin only grows, after allthe attention is now well and truly shifted away from her in terms of the computers at least. The boy begins to carefully draw something that could either be a very lopsided tree, or a drunken one-winged firelizard, it's hard to tell. His 'friend' fares little better. As for Mel she grins and nods to Jayashri, "Better than that, I could show you. Not now, but…." She nods again, the'later' implied but not spoken.

Polsie leans against the back of a chair, watching the boys get called forward with a touch of smugness. That'll teach 'em! With a polite nod towards the other two candidates, she pushes away from the furniture and makes for the abandoned scanner. "Better get a little of my work done while those two are preoccupied," the Smith explains, as she ambles past.

Grinning, Ash nods her understanding with a shooing motion before she smiles at Melze. "Help me keep these young'uns swapping around?" Not waiting for a response the Journeyman begins to float through the lab and helps kids save their work before swapping in the next. This continues for around about half an hour before Ash declares. "Okay, lunch time!" and helps the last kids save their artistic efforts and logs the terminals out, herding the group back into an orderly line before marching them in direction of the living caverns, leaving the computer lab to die down to its usual quiet thrum of fans, no longer molested by the rambunctus tots.


'The World of Pern(tm)' and 'The Dragonriders of Pern(r)' are copyright to Anne McCaffrey (c) l967, 2000. This is a recorded online session, by permission of the author but generated on PernWorld MUSH for the benefit of people unable to attend.