Willow Harmony Starkweather stood in the shadow of the giant skeleton staring up at the small skull, several metres above her head.
Her grandfather’s gruff voice disturbed her daydreams.
“Come on, young lady. You’re not here to stand staring at the specimens, you’re here to work.”
She sighed under her breath and followed her grandfather.
“I need you to help Spool,” he said, his heavy boots echoing on the stone floor.
“What’s he done now?”
Spool, a Data Handling Daemon, was known throughout the museum for his extreme clumsiness.
“All of the display signs in the Dinosaur section have been muddled up.I need you to help him sort out the letters.”
Her grandfather suddenly stopped, turned and looked down at Willow with a puzzled look on his bearded face. He coughed before gesturing to the sign on the wall beside him.
“Oh,” she said looking up at the picture of a stickman. “I’ll go and find Spool.”
She backed away and after her grandfather had entered the toilets she turned and ran off back down the corridor towards the museum’s main lobby.
When she reacher the lobby she pressed a button to summon an elevator. The lift doors opened almost immediately, she stepped in and pressed the button labelled Floor. The elevator then proceeded to transport her up to the next floor of the museum where the dinosaur exhibits were housed.
She found Spool in the middle of the hallway , stood in front of three large crates.
“Hello Willow,” he called out as she approached.
“Grandfather said you needed my help?”
“Why, yes, thank you. Someone has cut all the strings. He gestured behind him to one of the exhibits where a piece of knotted string hung down in front of the glass. Willow stepped towards the exhibit. Behind the glass all she could see was thick black smoke and strange pink letters floating mysteriously in the air. ExhibitError : Exhibit is not defined.
“Without the correct string, the exhibit spellgorithm will not run properly, he muttered as he tried to reach into the first crate. UNfortunately, being a Daemon meant that he was too short to reach inside.
“Let me, “ said Willow as she knelt beside the crate. “What’s in the box?”
“Yes, a list of strings – each string contains a prefix – the bits at the front of a dinosaurs name. I need you to find the correct one when I ask for it.”
“How will I know which one you need?”
Spool pointed at a pair of numbers etched into the wooden window frame. “The numbers tell you which string to pick from each list.”
“Ok Spool, so what is the first number?” WIllow asked.
Willow looked inside the first crate. It was full of pieces of card, each with letters printed on them and tied together in groups with pieces of string. She reached in and picked out the second group of cards and passed them to Spool. He held them out; the characters spelt out “DEINO”
“Next crate,” he said. “Number 8.”
Willow rummaged in the second crate and pulled out another string of letters. This time they read “RAPTOR”
Spool lay the two strings on the floor in front of the first exhibit.
“I now need to use a Spell of Concatenation to combine these strings.”
The Daemon proceeded to mutter under his breath in a language Willow didn’t understand. There was a puff of foul-smelling smoke and then the two strings on the floor disappeared and the letters reappeared as one word on the string above the exhibits window: “DEINORAPTOR”.
The black smoke inside the exhibit swirled violently and the pink letters faded. Spool stepped back from the window as the pink letters reappeared. ExhibitError : Deinoraptor is not defined.
“What happened?” Willow asked.
“The string is incorrect,” sighed Spool. “Did you give me the right strings?”
“Yes, you said 2 so I gave you the second string in the list.” She looked in the crate, the string “DEINO” was still in the second slot in the crate.
“Wait, count to ten.” Spool instructed.
Wth a puzzled look on her face Willow began to count. “!, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…”
“Ah ha! You counted wrong.”
“Yes you started at 1?”
“We always start at 0.”
“Yes, everything in the museum is arranged beginning with zero. You used the lift to get here right?”
“Well, what button did you press to go up one level?”
“Umm, One, to get to the first floor.”
“Exactly and what button would you press to go back down?”
“Yes”, smiled Spool. “Zero for the zeroth floor. We always start from 0. So try the list again.”
This time Willow counted the slots inside the crate, starting from 0. This time the string in slot 2 read “BRONTO”.
“And the next list?”
Willow agaijn counted from 0 and this time the string in position 8 read “GNATHUS”.
She passed the two strings to Spool, who once gain lay they down on the floor and performed the Spell of Concatention. There was a puff of smoke and a flash of white light as the word BRONTOGNATHUS appeared on the string above the exhibits window. Willow watched in awe as the back smoke behind the glass began to fade. She stepped towards the window and then jumped back in fright as a dinosaur, with a large square head, filled with rows of sharp teeth suddenly appeared in front of her and roared a very loud, deafening roar.
“Ah Brontognathus,” sighed Spool. “Thunder Jaw. Deinoraptor didn’t work because we don’t have one of those in our collection. So what have you learnt today Willow?”
“The Brontognathus is scary?”
“No, about strings and lists…”
“Ah, strings are a series of characters and strings can be joined together. A list can be a collection of strings and to count the items in the list…”
“Or characters in a string, or floors in a building.”
“We start counting from 0.”
“Excellent, now let’s fix the rest of these strings.”