At his desk in the Melrose Avenue building, a warm light glows somewhere behind Jaymi’s eyes, at the sense of ease and freedom spreading out from between the ones and zeroes of Evelyn’s freshly-emerged code in his text editor window. While he stares, though, it seems the subtlest change of flavour is occurring somewhere within her, without his inputting any further edits. It’s such a low-key change, he almost fails to register it—but it’s true.
He frowns, sits up straight. What’s happening? His screen isn’t big enough to display the whole windowful of Evelyn without needing to scroll, so he cannot take in all of her in one glance; but his eyes scan her code, hard and fast. He can’t quite put his finger on it, but something’s changed in her.
He can sense it.
He’s being hacked!
—Is he? Or is he just imagining things?
And what little extra has Herb added to this innocently enchanted landscape in Evelyn’s imagination? A mere detail that many players might not have noticed, but no less outrageous a thing to have smuggled in. He has appended: “A clump of human penises, of every colour of international flesh, is planted in a wide flowerpot on the shoreline of your mushroom bay, Evelyn, waving and twirling in expectancy. As soon as you approach them down the sand, they come to a stop, one by one. As you draw nearer, they turn to face you, as if sniffing the air, twitching in readiness. The closer you come to them, the higher and more excitably they swell, until they are all thrashing and straining upwards at your passage along the beach beside them.”
Jaymi laughs aloud, despite his mounting indignation. Herb has even nailed something of Jaymi’s own style in coding his Beasts!
His mirth soon dies down, though. Herb was a cheeky wag there, yes. But a little of that sort of stuff goes a hell of a long way, in any context outside the tabloid-flavoured culture that Jaymi knows to be so prevalent in Dud’s division of Bang Dead Games. And Herb’s career has been steeped in that Dud culture, which will inevitably have tended to warp his cultural and creative instincts. Any further input from him would therefore tend to give Jaymi’s code a small push towards the cruelty and tackiness of Ain’tTheyFreaky!. Combing her code, he locates many more of the tweaks Herb has made, scattered throughout its length; and yes, there’s no getting away from the fact that Herb’s overall contribution is designed, in effect, to subvert the code by dumbing it down towards a tabloid flavour, in ways that are aesthetically debased and imbued with a deep-seated mean-mindedness. For Jaymi, Evelyn has been taking shape as a happy, functional and self-possessed party girl—no saint, but innately rich and generous. Yet across the board, wreaking insidious violence on that shape, Herb has been all too predictable in warping those qualities into a soulless cartoon version of her, infused with brassiness, sleaziness and simplicity—none of which are true to herself, and all of which serve to short-change Herb’s audience, cheapen Evelyn and cheapen the world.
A stab of tension and entrapment passes through Jaymi, as if this violence being done to his Beast’s essential nature extended even into his own torso, sitting out here in meat-space in the Melrose Avenue building.
As for Evelyn’s own perceptions, Jaymi assumes that this hack into his Beast’s code must surely have been felt as a kind of existential violence—so she will have suffered too, when the cheapness started flowing into her.
Fortunately, however, she will not have to retain any memory of that suffering: by running comparisons of successive versions of her code, taken from the automated back-ups generated since the restore point he chose, he should now be able to identify exactly when Herb’s first change was made to her; then delete all his meddlings and consign them to the category of alternate life histories that never happened, so she will never know what her digital-genetic fate might have been. And this is just what he spends the next couple of hours doing, with the greatest of care and eventual success.
At last his beautiful Beast is back to how she was meant to be, at this tender stage of her creation cycle. But if Bang Dead wants a battle, then by god they’ve got one. Never again will he let himself be hacked!
His hands clasp his upper arms across his chest, as if in protection of her.
For more about “The Beasts of Electra Drive” by Rohan Quine, see
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