A PADT Engineer in King Attiball’s Court – Chapter 2

There just is not enough engineer-focused fiction out there. Romance, Horror, Sci-Fi, Young Adult, Historical, Mystery, etc. They all do well, but they are rarely written for the engineers of the world.

Here at PADT, we are all about undoing such injustices. We decided to brainstorm a story about an engineer who does simulation and 3D Printing and ends up on an adventure. We hope they will find some mystery, some science fiction, and some horror. Maybe even a little romance. To develop the characters and the plot we all got on an MS Teams meeting and blocked it out. It was a lot of fun. That turned into an outline, that will turn into a chapter every month.

We hope you enjoy the result as much as we enjoyed dreaming the journey up.

It should be noted that every character in this story is completely made up. Sometimes we steal some names from real people as a shoutout to them, but that is about it. PADT does not have a basement or a fancy cluster in one. Everything is made up. Well, almost everything. We do have a stack of furniture in the back of shipping and receiving.


Read Chapter 1: Batch Submission


Chapter 2
New Friends

“Tastes like sand.” That was the first thought Ash had as she began to wake up. The crunch she felt on her teeth and the nasty flavor reminded her of the time her brother buried her on the beach.

It was definitely sand.

As she became more aware, she realized it was in her nose as well. When she moved her hands, she felt more hot, dry sand. Laying there, trying to figure out what happened, she noticed the sound of waves and then seagulls.

The last thing she remembered was trying to keep her balance after submitting her CFD batch run on PADT’s new supercomputer. Passing out and waking up on what appeared to be a beach was not the usual result of pressing return on a batch command. Even if it was the wrong command. For a few seconds, she wondered if she was in a virtual reality simulation. But the gritty sand in her mouth was real. Her slowly reviving brain latched on to the idea that a good next step was to open her eyes.

She said, “OK, seagulls, let’s see what you look like.”

Ash was met with a view of a blurry beach with waves slowly working their way up and down a stretch of sand about thirty feet away. She tried to lift her head to look around, but her body did not cooperate.

“Let’s try toes.”

She was able to move those, but didn’t feel sand. Good, it seemed her hiking boots were still on. She was able to move her arms slightly across the warm sand.

“Progress,” was her comments to the gulls she could see skimming the shoreline, occasionally diving into the water.

Before she found the strength to lift her head again, she heard voices. It sounded like two children. As the sound became louder, she could tell they were not speaking English. With a start, she realized they were talking to each other in a heavily accented version of Phoenician.

Ash heard what sounded like a little girl shout, “On the beach, see, it’s a goddess!”

This was followed by a boy’s voice responding, “No, it’s just a foreigner. Probably a slave.”

Ash said in English, “I am neither a goddess nor someone’s slave, thank you very much.”

Using as much strength as she could muster, she raised herself up and faced the two kids.

Ash spat out some sand and croaked, “Where am I?” in her best Phoenician.

Both the kids were thin with dark olive skin and long, kinky black hair. They were both wearing torn and dirty tunics, and they stared at Ash with a mix of fear and curiosity. The boy held a long stick, which he raised and used to poke Ash in the shoulder.

“Ouch!”

The girl said, “She talks as funny as she dresses.”

Ash took a deep breath and tried again, speaking slowly. “What. Place. Are. We. Near?”

Poking her again, the boy answered, “Sur. The center of the world.”

Ash recognized the Phoenician name for the ancient city of Tyre on the coast of what is now Lebanon. She remembered studying it in college and how it was built on a rocky peninsula that jutted out into the Mediterranean. Looking up the beach, she could now see beige stone walls rising from cliffs that protruded into the water. Smoke rose from behind the walls and a few tall masts poked up above the city.

This made no sense. Ash’s head began to spin as the craziness of the situation hit her. She was sitting on a beach, speaking with two children in ancient Phoenician, and what appeared to be an actual ancient walled city was within walking distance.

In English, she said, “This is crazy. It must be a dream.”

She tried to stand and became very dizzy. Her vision blurred and then began to fade to black.

When Ash woke up, she found herself on a pile of straw in a small room. It smelled of smoke and animals. Light was streaming in from an opening about two-thirds up one of the mud walls.

Her head did feel clearer. When she tried to stand up, she realized that her backpack was still on her back. She unclipped it and swung it to the floor as she walked to the opening. Looking out, she saw a collection of buildings clustered around a small harbor that was full of boats of different sizes. The paths that weaved between the buildings were full of people wearing tunics and robes. It was loud. I was also very smelly.

Ash struggled to get her head around what she saw. After a few minutes, she stopped trying. Realizing that the best way to deal with this was to just go along with it, she bent to open her backpack and took out her Phoenician clothes.

“When in ancient Phoenicia, do as the ancient Phoenicians do.”

Minutes later, Ash found herself moving with the flow of people down a narrow street. The sights and sounds began to excite her. This was an excellent simulation of what Tyre must have been like. She passed stalls full of food, cloth, pottery, and bronze implements.

Stopping in front of a pottery stall full of beautiful pieces of different sizes and shapes, she said to herself in English, “I need to share this with everyone.”

Without thinking, she reached into her pocket, took out her mobile phone, and raised it to take a picture. The stall was in the shade, so the flash went off.

That was when the merchant, followed by what seemed like everyone in the street around her, turned on Ash.

They were all shouting. She heard, “Magic!” “Foreign Sorcery” “She’s a Demon!” “Witch!”

It was the term “witch!” that took over. Soon they were all shouting it while grabbing her and pulling her down the street. Several women started to grab bright pieces of cloth from stalls along the road and put them over her head. At one point, someone stole some sort of root vegetable and tied it to her nose.

Over the chaos of the growing crowd, she was able to see they were approaching a large open space raised platform in the center.. Pushing her forward, she found herself at the base of a small stage. The merchant that had started this whole thing jumped onto the platform and shouted, “we have found a witch!”

The crowd continued to shout, “A Witch!.” “Burn Her!” “A Witch!”

A well-dressed man joined the merchant on the platform and asked, “how do you know she is a witch?”

Someone in the audience answered, “She looks like one!”

Ash shook her head to try and bring some sanity to the insane scene around her. She called, “I m not a witch!”

The well-dressed man walked towards her, looked her over from sandals to scarves, and said, “ehh… but you are dressed like one.”

“They dressed me up like this!”

Someone behind her said, “Naah. No, we didn’t. No.”

Ash said, “And this isn’t’ my nose, it’s a false one.”

The man who seemed to be in charge reached down and lifted the nose off.

“Well, we did do the nose,” admitted one of the men holding her.

“Just the nose?”

“… and the scarves. But she is a witch!”

The crowd joined in. “Burn her. Burn her!”

The man motioned for Ash to be moved onto the platform and then spoke to the crowd. “I am Azmelqart. The King’s magistrate. Who here can tell me why you think she is a witch?”

Ash could now see the throng filling the square. A filthy man was working his way to the front. Once there, he said, “she turned me into a newt!”

“A newt?” asked Azmelqart.

The dirty man looked at his feet, then the crowd, and replied, “I got better,” in a small voice.

The crowd didn’t care. They started shouting “She’s a witch!” and “burn her!” again.

Azmelqart motioned for silence. “There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.”

“Are there? Well then, tell us!” demanded the merchant.

“Tell me… what do you do with witches?” asked Azmelqart.

“Burn them!”

Azmelqart nodded his head and then asked, “What do you burn apart from witches?”

Someone in the crowd answered, “More Witches!”

Azmelqart shook his head. A small boy walked forward and tentatively asked, “Wood?”

“Correct! So, why do witches burn?”

The boy looked at his feet and kicked at some stones. He then offered, “Cuz they’re made of… wood?”

Azmelqart smiled and said, “Goooood! Now, how do we tell if she is made of wood?”

Someone answered, “Build a bridge out of her.”

“Ahh, clever, but bridges can also be made out of stone. Does wood sink in water?”

“No,” said the merchant.

The boy added, “No. It floats!”

Someone in the crowd added, “Let’s throw her in the harbor!”

“What also floats in water?” asked Azmelqart.

Someone said, “bread.” Another guessed, “apples.” A third offered, “very small rocks.”

This last answer annoyed Azmelqart. People continued to make even more ridiculous suggestions until a clear, deep voice added, “A Duck!”

Bannal turned to face a man wearing bronze and leather armor on a horse. “Exactly! So logically…”

The merchant thought about it. Then he said, “if she weighs the same as a duck… she’s… MADE OF WOOD!”

“And therefore,” said Bannal.

The merchant thought some more and suggested, “a witch?”

The crowd took it up. Chanting “Witch,” “Witch,” “Witch” as they jumped up and down in the square.

With a look of triumph on his face, Azmelqart leaped from the stage and said, “We shall use my largest scale!” and the crowd followed him towards the harbor, leaving Ash alone on the platform.

“This is insane,” said Ash to the backs of the disappearing crowd. “I feel like I’m in a bad Monty Python skit.”

The only people left in the square were a young woman and an older, heavyset man. She was wearing a beautiful, ochre-colored dress that draped perfectly over her tall, thin frame. He was wearing a simple, very white tunic with a wide leather belt around his paunch.

“You certainly know how to get noticed when you come to a city for the first time,” said the woman. “I am Verihbitt, daughter of Batnoam. And this is my slave and faithful assistant in all things, Mnihh’dm.”

Ash walked towards them. “I’m Ash, daughter of…” She hesitated but could only think of her father’s real name. “Daughter of Alan.”

“Welcome to Sur, the center of the Phoenician Kingdom. You are obviously not from here or any other land I’ve been to. Where is it you come from?” asked the tall woman in a pleasant voice. Then she added, “but before you answer, let us leave the square and go to my father’s house. Before that idiot, Azmelqart, realizes he forgot to drag you to his scales.”

Mnihh’dm darted down the closest alleyway, and the two women followed.

Before long, Ash found herself in a small courtyard filled with olive and fig trees. Verihbitt motioned for her to sit on a stone bench as Mnihh’dm disappeared into a dark doorway.

“My guard,” said the young woman as she sat on another bench, “Takaa was the one that offered up the idea of a duck. I think it worked well, do you not?”

Ash caught her breath. “Yes, thank you so much. It was so strange, I did not know what to do or say. I cannot thank you enough. How can I repay you?”

Verihbitt’s face changed from stern and concerned to a beautiful smile. “Well, my father always tells me I am far too curious for my own good. And I am curious about you. Your payment must be telling me where you are from and why you are here.”

Ash contemplated what to say next. She could not tell this woman the truth. But she could stretch the truth to fit the situation.

“I was traveling in my land, a place far west from here, near where the sun goes to sleep each night.  I was… working on calculating some numbers and made a mistake that must have angered a god. Before I could fix my error, the room I was in began to shake, and all went dark. When I woke up, I was on the beach just south of the city walls.”

Verihbitt stared directly into Ash’s eyes as if trying to see if the tale was true.  She began to twist her hair in her fingers. Then she said, “that is an amazing story, one that a song should be written about. Even if it is not, I sense, the complete truth.”

The two women looked at one another, not really knowing what to say. Ash was starting to panic when Mnihh’dm returned with a platter filled with bowls. He set it down on a tripod between the two women, turned to Verihbitt, and said, “I like her. I think she needs a friend.”

Ash looked at Verihbitt more closely. She had to be about the same age as Ash. Her hair was black and curly. Her skin was the same dark olive as everyone in the city. She could tell that this was a smart, confident, and caring woman. And that was precisely what Ash needed.

Ash ventured, “I truly could use a friend.”

Verihbitt leaned forward and lifted her cup. “To friendship then, and to the adventures that it brings!”

– To Be Continued –

Continue reading with “Like and Owl,” wherein the new friends fend off not one, but two attacks, a secret is uncovered about one of them, and Ash realizes she has a connection to the present day.

Please subscribe to our newsletter, so you will know when the next installment is released

A PADT Engineer in King Attiball’s Court – Chapter 1

Editors Note:

There just is not enough engineer-focused fiction out there. Romance, Horror, Sci-Fi, Young Adult, Historical, Mystery, etc. They all do well, but they are rarely written for the engineers of the world.

Here at PADT, we are all about undoing such injustices. We decided to brainstorm a story about an engineer who does simulation and 3D Printing and ends up on an adventure. We hope they will find some mystery, some science fiction, and some horror. Maybe even a little romance. To develop the characters and the plot we all got on an MS Teams meeting and blocked it out. It was a lot of fun. That turned into an outline, that will turn into a chapter every month.

We hope you enjoy the result as much as we enjoyed dreaming the journey up.

It should be noted that every character in this story is completely made up. Sometimes we steal some names from real people as a shoutout to them, but that is about it. PADT does not have a basement or a fancy cluster in one. Everything is made up. Well, almost everything. We do have a stack of furniture in the back of shipping and receiving.


Read Chapter 2: New Friends


Chapter 1
Batch Submission

Everyone’s work cubical is different. Some develop a zone of chaos. Some use it as a place to display the things they care about. Some, like Ash, keep theirs stark and clean.  She found it difficult to focus if one item was out of place or if her monitor was not at the perfect height and angle. She started and finished each day with the same ritual. A ritual that guaranteed that at least this little corner of her world was controlled, clean, and understood.

Most days, it worked. But no matter how hard Ash tried, she was going to end up in a place that she could not control, keep clean, or even understand. If she knew that facilities would soon start using her cubicle to store large, blue water bottles, she would have thrown a fit. At this point, she had no idea how unusual things would soon become. But, we are getting ahead of our story.

On this particular day, she walked into her cubicle with an extra bounce in her step. She straightened the diploma on the wall that said, “Asghleith Jones, PhD, Computation Fluid Mechanics.”  She even made sure her tape, stapler, pen holder, stack of sticky pads, and metal straight-edge were in their proper position. She realized that the only picture in her office, a group photo of the Phoenix Phoenicians LARP’ers, had been moved by the cleaning crew again. With a gentle nudge, she put it back into its proper position.

Ash was on the taller side with a fit figure that she usually kept hidden under baggy khakis and a polo shirt.  She had bright, intelligent green eyes, dark olive skin, and a mass of black, curly hair.  Hair she almost always kept tied back behind her head and down her back. After turning 27 the previous month, she had recommitted to her regimen of running and yoga that kept her feeling healthy and energetic.

The large backpack she placed on the floor next to her desk, and the bounce in her step were related. After work, she was heading to a campground outside of Tucson, Arizona, to meet up with the group in the picture. They were going to spend a whole week pretending to be a group of Ancient Phoenician traders. Live-action role-playing, LARPing, was her passion.  A passion she could not wait to indulge. She just needed to get this huge fluid flow simulation set-up and solving on the server before leaving. Then she could relax and slide into her alter-ego.

“Hey, Ash, ready to go a’LARPing?”  She looked up from her monitor to see Harriet Rumanicci, PADT’s HR manager and her best friend at work, standing in the door.

“Don’t make fun of me,” she answered.  “It is relaxing and good therapy. No computers, no meetings, no nosy co-workers, and best of all, no deadlines.” 

Harriet came in and sat on the guest chair in the cubicle. Petit, blond, and full of energy, she was the only person keeping the various employees at PADT socially connected. She also truly enjoyed teasing Asghleith.  

She continued that teasing with, “How can someone who is a neat freak like you spend a week living in the desert? Do you sweep your tent every hour?”

Ash stopped typing and looked directly at Harriet with the most severe look she could muster. “As the manager of HR, you should know that my OCD is a disability, and making fun of me is discriminatory.”

“I don’t know. In your line of work, it may be an asset.”

They both laughed. 

Harriet slightly adjusted the position of Ash’s stapler and then asked, “Are you going to be able to submit the big job before you take off?”

“Yes,” said Ash, adding a sigh. “If I am not interrupted and if they get the server back up and running today.”

“Oh, you need the help of IT?”

“I do, and they are being very nice and responsive. Because they like engineers. But, the new hard drives may not be here in time. I’ve got an email into someone named -” Ash stopped speaking to click on her computer screen. “ – Alex Adalopopolopolus in the government projects team, to see if I can run on their cluster.  I heard it was massive with lots of new, super-duper-magic-fast hardware.”

“I know Alex. But then that is my job.” Harriet smiled at her little joke. “He seems a good guy, doesn’t talk much. In fact, he never leaves the basement.”

“Well, he will be this project’s lifesaver if he can get me a login and peel off some nodes with dual GPU’s, 128 gigabytes of memory, and four terabyte RAM drives for me to solve on.”

“I heard, lifesaver, blah, blah, dual goats, blah, blah, solve on,” joked Harriet.

“Exactly.”

Harriet sat comfortably in Ash’s cubical, checking and responding to emails as Ash continued to type and click at her computer.  They often worked like this, not saying much, just sharing the same space and tossing the occasional comment back and forth. The silence, and their productivity, was broken when Oren Barnett’s well-coifed head popped up over Ash’s cubical wall.

“Hey, Ash. How is that big run coming? Is it done yet? I got a big order that should drop as soon as you give them results.” 

Harriet said, “Oren. Bringer of anxiety. Can’t you see the lady is busy?”

Oren raised himself a bit higher so he could see where the unexpected voice was coming from. “Oh, I see HR is here. Isn’t making fun of me against some sort of corporate policy?”

“Let me check.” Harriet pretended to scroll through her phone. After a few seconds, she said, “No.”

Ash chuckled as she continued to work. She then said, “I should have it submitted this afternoon. A few more hours to get the boundary layer on these critical surfaces, then I’ll re-mesh one last time to get everything in its place.  The new drives won’t make it in today, so Alex in IT just gave me a week on the government cluster in the basement.”

Oren climbed up on the chair that he kept on his side of the cubical wall, resting his arms on top of the divider.  “Perfect, thank you, Ash.  It’s an important project that could lead to a seven-figures worth of HPC if we, well you, can show them how they can fix their problem.”  He paused to look at Harriet and considered if he should continue or not. 

He decided to continue.

“Ash, once you get that job submitted, can I take you to dinner as a reward?”

Harriet’s face darted up from her phone to glare at Oren.  Asghleith tried to ignore the proposition by typing faster and harder on her keyboard.

“Come on. You have worked hard all week.  All month, really.  Let me pay you back the best way I know how.” He smiled at her. “Time with me.”

Ash felt a bit trapped.  The truth was, as annoying as he could be, Oren made her laugh, and even though he put pressure on her all the time, he was always supportive and did everything he could to help her get her job done. And she could not deny, his smile was charming.  On the other hand, Harriet didn’t like him at all. She was also continually sharing stories of past office romances that had ended disastrously, often with HR involved. 

As much as she felt tempted to give in to Oren’s constant attempts to get her to go out with him, she had a valid excuse this time. 

“Sorry, guy. I’m leaving town for the week right after work.”

Oren’s smile faded. “Oh. Darn.  Going someplace fun?”

Ash continued typing and said, almost to herself, “I certainly hope so.”

At around four-thirty, the model was ready.  While Ash copied it to her thumb drive, she straightened her office up.  Everything was moved into the proper drawer or put in its perfect place. She smiled a bit when she realized that Harriett had moved her stapler and then put it where it belonged. 

Moments later, she was headed down the stairs to the basement.  Most people didn’t know that PADT even had a basement. The entrance was back behind a pile of old furniture stacked in the rear of shipping and receiving. 

At the bottom of the stairs, she pushed a simple red button with a small sign under it that said: “Push Me, All who Wish to Enter.”

A voice said, “You must be Asg-ha-leeth Jones?”

“Yes, No. Ash-Lee or Ash. Parents thought it was a sophisticated way to spell my name.” A flood of memories came back of her explaining to people since kindergarten that her name was Ashley.   

“Anyway,” she continued, “that is me. Do you need some ID or something?”

“No, you are good. Please enter.”

The door buzzed and slid open.  Ash stepped through into a small room with glass walls.  All around, on the other side of the glass walls, were rows and rows of computers.

“So cool,” she said to herself.

The same voice from the door said, “It is, isn’t it. Literally and figuratively. We keep the room at sixty-two degrees.  And it is a lot of very fast computers. Some with some pretty cool new technology. Which, I cannot tell you about.”

Startled, Ash asked, “Umm, who is this?”

The voice calmly answered, “I am the AI that lives on this computer. Although, we could debate if I actually live or exist.”

This was a shock to Ash. She thought the computer was used to run really large simulations for the government, she had no idea it could host an AI algorithm that sounded so human.

“Just kidding.” Said the voice in the ceiling. “This is Alex Adalopopolopopulus. You can just call me Alex A.” He paused. “Alex-ah. I am just kidding, again. Alex is fine. It is a pleasure to talk to you in person instead of through email.”

“Likewise.  Thank you so much for getting me time on this machine. I feel like a kid in a candy store. And I do like the idea of calling you Alex-ah.  Might as well, since you are a disembodied voice.”  She looked around for a terminal to sit at and realized there was no desk, no keyboard.  A large monitor was hanging from the back wall, next to the door where she had entered. 

“Welcome to the Phoenix Cluster, our state of the art hybrid quantum-digital compute cluster.  It integrates eight-thousand-one-hundred and ninety-two cores with six quantum compute nodes.  It also has a state of the art passive augmented reality interface.”

All Ash could say was, “so cool.”

“Indeed, my young padawan. Let’s get you loaded and started. There is a USB port under the monitor. Go ahead and put your thumb drive in.  Then stand on the yellow pad in the corner.”

Ash shifted her large backpack on her shoulders and walked to the monitor, more than a little nervous. She slid the thumb drive in. She then took a few steps to stand on a yellow circle in the corner by the monitor. 

As soon as she had both feet on the pad, her skin felt tingly. The room around her and the computers on the other side of the windows all faded, and she saw a cartoon version of the room.  A mouse, keyboard, and monitor floated in front of her.  She reached out and touched the keyboard. As her fingers made virtual contact, she felt something pushing back against them.

Before she could say it herself, she heard Alex’s voice in her ear, “I know, so cool!”

“I am kind of speechless. This is so awesome. As much as I want to play with this interface, I gotta get on the road, so here goes.”

Ash started to type on the keyboard and saw her command form on the monitor.

Ash–> cfdsolve1 -s fluent -t 2022-03-12-23:00 bc -loads-c1.txt -c Phoenicia -jn t75-c1-a

The command Asghleith typed in was supposed to start a batch script that ran Ansys FLUENT starting at eleven that night on the Phoenix cluster. As she pressed the virtual enter key, she realized that she put the dash on the boundary condition flag, bc, in the wrong place and had typed Phoenicia instead of Phoenix.

She thought it would be no big deal. The script would error out, and she would type it in correctly. Instead, she felt a jolt as if she was in an old elevator that had started to move up. On the screen, she saw the words, “Batch Job Submitted.  Engaging Quantum Temporal Solver.”

She struggled to stand as the whole room began to jump and shake. Her head began to spin.  The keyboard and monitor faded in front of her, replaced by blindingly bright light. She closed her eyes, but that did not help. The spinning got worse.

As she began to lose consciousness, she said, “Alex-A, I think I entered the wrong command.”  

-To Be Continued –

Please enjoy the next chapter, “New Friends.”

When we next join Ash she will encounter a mob, a wise man of science, ducks, and of course, a princess.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter, so you know when the next installment is released.

To be continued