It was late. So late, in fact, that the street lights in town were dim, and I was asleep on the verandah, with a book on my chest and half a cold tea beside me. Aurelia decided this would be the right time to rush in from the shed and excitedly announce her project was working.
Groggily, “Just what are you on about now?”
“The prototype I borrowed from work! I hooked it up to some stepper motors and I have it tracking stellar objects with the telescope!”
The cogs in my head finally started turning. “And uh, why?”
“Come look, come look!”
I sighed and held out my arm, gesturing to be pulled up off the deck chair. The shed is much closer than usual for Aurelia’s astronomical excursions. I grabbed my tea as she led me towards the kitchen, taking a swig and wincing at the cold bitter liquid. I’ll have to heat it up later.
Entering through shed’s side door, and after squeezing around my car, I was presented with a wire-wrapped board hooked up to a desk power supply, a very familiar protoboard H-bridge board, and a bundle of wires running outside above the desk.
“I wanted to test the threaded compiler, so I wrote something to roughly calculate angles based on orbital parameters, and that worked pretty well, so I borrowed your motor controller board and replaced the output words with stuff to control the motors - hey, do you think we could set up a camera with this? Or maybe the boss would let us make a CCD?”
“Hey now, slow down.” I inspected the dubious solder work on the motor controller board. “What do you have it tracking?”
“The LSO station; take a look, the radiators have a new hole.”
Silhouetted against the blue-green glow of Satella was a tiny cylinder, framed by two dull red rectangles. Upon closer inspection, the rectangle on the right had gained another indistinct hole, allowing ever so slightly more green light to reach the telescope.
“I’ll ask the boss about the CCD tomorrow.” That got me a hug.
The flat sound of rain and sharper sound of a spoon hitting a mug flowed together, starting my brain up enough to decide that I was cold. Blinking and sitting up, a shadow moved into the gap in the curtain.
“Hey, I made you one” - Aurelia raised a mug - “and started breakfast.”
“You just want a lift,” I said, gesturing out the window as I started putting on proper clothes. I only got a funny look in response.
By the time I’d gotten my shit together, the kitchen table had one and a half servings of omelette on display, and my companion digging in, so I saw no reason not to indulge myself.
Sitting down and peering over my meal, it seemed prudent to ask. “You seem happy today. Did you sleep?”
“Of course! Today is a work day…”
I frowned, but didn’t question it further, and instead we talked about plans for the next eclipse as we finished breakfast.
“One of these days, I need to put up a walkway to the shed.”
“You said that last time it rained.”
Aurelia was wearing a knee-length sleeveless dark blue dress. It was a nice look, if a little odd paired with steel-caps.
“Bah, start the car for me, I need to grab a jacket.” I tossed her the keys.
As the surroundings went from pine trees to sugar cane, and then to buildings and footpaths, the traffic didn’t get any heavier. Town was always quiet on rainy days, though even main street was quiet today, despite the festival preparations. We pulled into work a tad earlier than usual, and dashed into the factory adjoining the offices. I made straight for the kettle, and Aurelia headed for our office.
The smell of black tea was only beginning to permeate when BOSSMAN’s shout echoed through the office, “those fucking ALIGNMENT bastards, they beat us to it!”
I was first to the door, but Aurelia was only a few steps behind. The radio in the corner of BOSSMAN’s office chattered quietly, while he studied an exposed PCB in an unceremoniously opened plastic box. There was a similar one plugged into a small TV, and with the top of the box attached, displaying a calculator-like keyboard.
“Look at this, it only does RF video out, and the board isn’t even shielded.” He grabbed a magnifying glass from a desk drawer and continued scrutinizing the board. The cursor on the TV blinked. “4K of RAM? Useless! I bet all the chips are chemically etched, too.”
Aurelia glanced over to the computer hooked up to the TV.
“Oh, don’t even get me started on the keyboard. It’s atrocious, the worst chiclet keyboard they could make. The whole thing is so cheap, and it’s not even significantly cheaper than what we’re aiming for.”
“I thought they were a year behind, at least?” Aurelia seemed surprised by the development, half-assed as it was.
“Well, apparently fucking not.” There was a pause, and BOSSMAN sighed. “Could we do full 16-bit without blowing out our transistor budget?”
“Shouldn’t be too hard, but that’ll necessitate a bunch of other design changes to the rest of the system.”
“Well, being first isn’t an option anymore, so we’ll just have to be the best.”
I sighed. “Do you want the big graphing paper, or the really big graphing paper?”
BOSSMAN shook his head, “no, Haley, I want you supervising all the non-LSI design so Aurelia doesn’t have to worry about it. I’ll get someone onto taking this thing apart properly.” So much for imaging.