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Fences and Gates

by The Inimitable Pooh Bah

Date: November 11, 2000

Rating: PG

Summary: Everyone's favorite programmer turns up in the Realm.

Spoilers: 'Manus Domini,' 'Inga Fossa'

Disclaimer: "Harsh Realm" belongs to Chris Carter, 1013, and/or FOX.

Feedback: poohbah@gray-eyed.com

Website: http://www.gray-eyed.com/

Archive: List archives and by submission. Do not archive or repost without permission.


Pinocchio pushed aside the tent flap with a cry of "Your six-thirty wake up call, sir!" Unfortunately, there was nobody there to hear it. Hobbes' sleeping bag was empty.

"Hell," Pinocchio growled. Now he'd have to go look for the kid. Stupid Hobbes. "Florence! Hobbes is gone."

Florence heaved a noiseless sigh, and got up from her log to go look for their comrade.

Running footsteps sounded in the underbrush nearby. Pinocchio and Florence spun around to face the noise, and dropped to the ground, guns ready.

Hobbes burst into the clearing, with Dexter running close behind him. "Pinocchio! Florence! You'll never believe who I found!!"

"Hobbes," Pinocchio barked. "What's the big idea running off like that? You had us worried!"

"I found a computer programmer!" cried Hobbes, ignoring Pinocchio's reprimand. "He can help us get to Santiago! He can help us win the game!" Hobbes ran back into the woods, and returned a moment later, pulling along--

"Hobbes," Pinocchio gasped. "Do you realize who that is?"

Hobbes stared at the man's face, then looked back to Pinocchio and shrugged. "He said his name was William . . . "

"He's Bill Gates, Hobbes."

Hobbes, with a puzzled look on his face, turned back to the programmer and scrutinized him.

Pinocchio frowned. Maybe Gates wasn't well-known any more. Maybe Microsoft had flopped, like Pinocchio had always said it would if Gates didn't fix all those bugs in the software. Maybe they'd been sued--a really, really, really big lawsuit-- and they folded. Windows '95 had been big . . . But who knew what could have happened since it was released? Pinocchio had been in the Realm from the very beginning, and that was a long time.

"But Bill Gates wears glasses," Hobbes protested.

"They got broken," Gates explained.

"He's a computer programmer," Hobbes informed Pinocchio again. "He can help us get around the program. He can probably make glitches, and--"

"Crashes," Pinocchio whispered in horror. "Crashes, Hobbes!" he shouted. "He gets near a computer, we're all gonna die!"

Hobbes looked at his friend with a rather indulgent expression. "Now, Pinocchio, I know Microsoft has had its little bugs . . . "

"Hobbes. Please. Giving that man a computer here would be like committing suicide. Don't you remember Windows '95?"

Hobbes nodded. "But Windows '98 and Windows 2000 were much better."

Pinocchio shuddered violently.

Hobbes shrugged. "We'd have to get him a computer first, anyway."

Pinocchio reached into his pocket and nervously fingered his rosary.

--

Hobbes and Gates sat together on a log, planning how to get ahold of a computer and what to do once they had one.

Pinocchio sat away from them, trusting enough to make it out of hearing distance--he knew Hobbes was too dumb to come up with a coherent plan, and anything Gates came up with would be so full of bugs it would never get off the ground. Besides, Pinocchio assured himself, Florence still had her head on straight, and the two them could keep Hobbes and Gates from doing too much. . . .

Florence came back from her scouting trip, Dexter running along behind her as fast as his little doggy legs could carry him. She sat down beside Pinocchio, heaving a noiseless sigh of weariness.

"Hey, Flo."

She gave him a tiny, ever-so-quick smile by way of greeting.

"Florence, we gotta get rid of Gates. It might be hard to find a computer here, but if I know Hobbes, he won't give up 'till he does. . . . " Pinocchio noticed a peculiar tint to Florence's eyes, and stopped to scrutinize her. "Florence? What's with the weird . . . " He trailed off, having realized that one of his worse nightmares was coming true.

<Hobbes said that Bill could rework my code . . . I've never talked before; I want to know what it's like.>

"Florence!" Pinocchio gasped.

She stared at him, the most matter-of-fact expression on her face.

"Florence," Pinocchio said softly, "I don't think Gates can do a thing to your code. And even if he did . . . " He sighed. "Florence, you not talking is just the sort of burp that shows up in Gates' programs. Trust me, you don't want this dude tweaking your code."

Florence huffed voicelessly and rose to her feet. She and Dexter ran off toward Hobbes and the computer programmer.

--

Gates had to go, Pinocchio decided that night as he paced around on his watch. One way or another. An accident would be convenient, he thought. Maybe some sadly ironic flaw in the programming. Or a glitch that wasn't really in Santiago's fence where Gates thought it was. . . . Even just a bullet in the head would work.

Pinocchio crept toward the dying campfire that the others were sleeping next to. He stepped over Florence breathing evenly in her sleeping bag, Hobbes snoring soundly huddled in his jacket, and Dexter kicking his legs and ruffing softly in response to a doggy dream . . . and he stood over Gates, lying utterly vulnerable on the ground, Hobbes' loaned blanket tossed off restlessly as dreams of bytes and bits wafted through his bytes-and-bits consciousness.

With a solemn frown, Pinocchio raised his handgun and pointed it toward Gates. It was already cocked, so he wouldn't have to do that and wake everybody up with the sou--Pinocchio groaned quietly in annoyance. As if they would sleep through a gunshot! Damn it, he'd have to do something subtle to delete Gates from the Realm.

Pinocchio sulked back off toward the edges of camp.

--

Pinocchio tried to avoid going into the settlement, as Hobbes could probably find a computer there, but they were running too low on ammo to risk waiting 'till Gates was out of the picture. So they went into Baltimore, and Pinocchio had to make the best of a bad situation.

"Florence, get ammo." She was second only to him at getting the currency of the Realm. "Hobbes, see about some gas, and keep an eye on that dog." Gas should be hard enough to find that Hobbes wouldn't have any spare time to hunt for a computer. "Gates, you stay here and watch the car." Keeping him there meant he couldn't make any more plans with Hobbes or Florence, and he couldn't hamper Pinocchio's activities, either.

They all got out of the Chevelle and headed off in their separate directions. Pinocchio picked up his pack from the trunk and shouldered it, so nobody could go snooping around. It would be a disaster if Hobbes found out that Pinocchio owned a sack full of assorted computer hardware and software . . .

Baltimore had become the hub of computer geeks in the days since Santiago began his takeover, for if Baltimore hadn't, Pinocchio would have had to spend quite some time tracking down the other computer geek who will shortly make his appearance in this tale. In Baltimore, the first zip files had been made and put together to fight; from Baltimore, many nearly-successful computer-aided assaults against Santiago had been launched; in Baltimore, Pinocchio had spent two years building connections and doing favors . . . which he now wished to have returned.

Pinocchio was pretty good with computers. Not as good as some, and definitely a bit rusty after two years without touching a keyboard, but he had helped code Harsh Realm, and he knew the program better than Gates possibly could. He also had friends who could help him get into the mainframe. If Hobbes was going to get high-tech help . . . well, two could play at that game.

The mercenary walked up to a dilapidated trailer and banged on the door.

"Not so hard!" cried the voice inside. "You'll knock it right off the hinges! . . . Who is it, anyway?"

"Tinkerbell," Pinocchio replied sarcastically.

"Still won't tell me your real name?" inquired the man who opened the door and let Pinocchio in.

"No, Jobs, still won't tell you. Listen, I've got some stuff here--" Pinocchio handed over his sack of goods-- "and I need you to do some hacking for me."

Steve Jobs dumped the bag's contents out onto a table and poked through them. "Awh, come on, you think I want these? These are Windows-compatible, man! This scanner needs Windows '98! This keyboard's got that Start Menu button! This software--this software--" Jobs shivered violently and shoved the Microsoft Office CD back into the bag and out of his sight.

Pinocchio grunted. "So? Trade 'em to Logan Cale for Mac-compatibles. He's not as picky as you."

"Look, just 'cause I'm VC doesn't mean I'm dumb. I'm smarter than you, Real Worlder, or you wouldn't be asking me for help. So, tell me what you thought I'd do for these peanuts, and we'll renegotiate."

"I want you to help me take out Bill Gates."

Jobs' eyes lit up. "Hey, man, I could never charge you for that--it's basic human decency."

--

Meanwhile, Florence had returned to the Chevelle with not only a month's worth of ammo, but a laptop computer as well.

Gates' broke into a blissfully happy grin as he fingered the computer. "Thanks, Florence! You're the best!" And he set to work installing the latest version of Internet Explorer.

Florence watched, frowning. He didn't look like he'd accessed the Harsh Realm mainframe to alter her files. . . .

--

"Can't you just do it here?" Pinocchio pleaded with Jobs as the hacker packed up his blueberry iBook and tangerine iCamera and papaya iCable and banana iBattery.

"No," Jobs insisted. "If Gates is going down, I want to be there to watch. Now, where did you say he was?"

Pinocchio sighed, and followed Jobs out of the trailer and toward the woods.

--

Florence glared irritably at Gates. <Would you hack the mainframe and fix my files already??>

But Gates, like just about every other person in the Realm, couldn't hear her--and he was too busy integrating Internet Explorer into the Linux operating system the computer had come with.

Fortunately for Florence, Hobbes arrived then, lugging a ten-gallon canister of gas. "Can you believe it?" he beamed. "I found the gas already! I'm gonna go look for a comp--" He spotted Gates tapping on the laptop. "Oh, you've got one already. How's the reprogramming coming, Florence?"

Florence rolled her eyes and shook her head.

"Oh," said Hobbes. He set the gas can down on the ground and went over to Gates. "Bill, Florence and I want you to do something. . . . "

--

Pinocchio and Jobs peered out of the bushes at the Chevelle. "There he is," Pinocchio whispered.

Jobs nodded, then sat down and started hacking into the mainframe. He had soon bypassed all the passwords and firewalls. "I'm in."

"Great! Give it to me."

Jobs shook his head. "One thing I gotta do first . . . "

--

Gates typed and hacked and searched and pulled up Florence's file. "You wanted that speaking thing worked on, right?" he verified.

Florence and Hobbes nodded.

Gates started typing.

--

"You can't do anything," Pinocchio scoffed quietly. "You don't know the program."

Jobs gave the mercenary a patronizing look. "You think I'd find out that this is a computer, and then not hack the mainframe and study the program code? Please."

Pinocchio shifted impatiently from foot to foot as Jobs typed.

--

A Boston cream pie came out of nowhere and flew through the air, hitting Gates square in the face.

--

Jobs grinned happily and handed the computer to Pinocchio.

--

Gates' fingers slipped on the keyboard when the pie hit, and he struck some unintended keys . . . Florence paused, flashed with static, and suddenly sprouted an extra pair of arms.

Hobbes screamed in horror at what had happened to her.

Gates sputtered and wiped pie off of his face.

--

Pinocchio gasped and began typing furiously, angry frown etched on his face.

--

Gates morphed into a kiwi bird, and squawked with alarm.

Hobbes screamed again, and fainted.

Florence frowned in worry, trying to decide what to do with her new arms . . . She didn't have to worry about that for long, because the spare limbs disappeared a few moments later after Pinocchio corrected her file.

The mercenary sprang out of the bushes and ran over to the Chevelle. He hopped over Hobbes' prone form, nearly stepped on Gates the kiwi (who scrambled out of the way just in time), and grabbed Florence up in a protective bear hug. "Are you alright, Florence?"

She nodded, not perturbed by any of this.

"Are you sure? You had four arms there . . . "

Jobs, meanwhile, picked up his iBook from the ground where Pinocchio had left it, and went over to Gates. He stuffed the kiwi-cum-computer geek into his backpack and trudged back off toward Baltimore, with a satisfied smirk on his face.

Eventually, Pinocchio accepted that Florence was alright and left her side to pack Hobbes into the back seat of the Chevelle.

--

Hobbes came to some miles later and sat up woozily. "Hey--where'd Gates go?"

Pinocchio shrugged as he navigated a bend in the road.

"Well, don't you even care?" Hobbes demanded indignantly.

"No," said Pinocchio.

"But how are we gonna program glitches and things without him??"

"We're not going into Santiago City soon," Pinocchio reminded Hobbes. "And in a world without fences, who needs Gates?"

--

[ END ]


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