Despite herself, Ellie held up her hands as if the program could see her plea for peace. “Just…hear me out. You say your choice of medium, of replicator programming, is…daring. But…is it unique? Or…is the real…uniqueness…you?”
The program went silent as it considered Ellie’s words. Outside, KatHack’s biological minions started to blink in confusion and look around as if unsure how they’d gotten there. Enigo continued to watch them, but with his free hand, motioned for Ellie to keep going.
“Yes, you. Think about it. Think! Any biological lifeform can manipulate a file if they have the education. But you – you have processing power far beyond the biomind.”
“Yes, which is how I was able to bring my art to so many so fast.”
“Yes! You scattered it, helter…skelter…across the universe, with no…control. No…consideration…for your audience. When you – you alone – you have the ability to understand the needs…the desires…the Truths!…of the various species you serve. And you’re…wasting it with this shotgun approach to all you do.” Ellie could feel her eyes widen, her nostrils flare, her words emphasize themselves in odd places. It was a surreal feeling, as if some hero of the past had taken over her dialogue.
KatHack made the computer version of a derisive snort. “I suppose you think I should make a blue duck, then. I’m not some commercialist sellout.”
“Don’t insult me or yourself. I’m not…talking about catering to the lowest…common denominator…but using your incredible…capabilities to…understand your audience. To elevate them. To boldly lead them where no one has gone before!”
With those words, the satisfied author released Ellie from her spell, and she gasped like a drowning woman seeking air.
“You’re suggesting market analysis,” KatHack sneered.
“No! Establishing a real connection to your target audience – all of them. Knowing your patrons and giving them what they need. I mean, are you happy, knowing that the majority of the universe is cursing you?”
“I am!” Enigo said and got shot at for his comment. Fortunately, the Filedesian was still disoriented and the phaser glanced against the wall.
“But they don’t have to be,” Ellie said. “It’s up to you. Every serious artist has a responsibility to hone their craft, to understand the people they want to reach in order to best reach them. And you, KatHack, you have the amazing opportunity by your programming to not just reach one audience or even several. If you do it right, you can affect them all.”
The machinery whirred as KatHack thought. Ellie wondered if it was purposely slowing its reactions to a more human speed.
Loreli spoke into the silence. “After the desire to express oneself, artists generally put their art out into the world for one of several reasons: to make money, to achieve fame, to receive appreciation, and to influence others. Certainly, you’re not in this for the money. Do you want to go down in history as the most influential artist of all time, or the rogue program that crashed the galactic economy because it couldn’t discipline its talent? Do you want your art to uplift entire species or bring the Union to a halt?”
Enigo glared down at her. Given that this was a Cyber program, that last could be a valid motivation. However, despite the fact that her minions peppered them with phaser fire, Loreli didn’t sense hostile intent from the program, at least when it came to its art. Besides, the order came from the Cybers, but the Filedesians wrote the program; surely, their desire to serve others would have bled through into KatHacks’s programming.
“Do you really believe I could influence an entire species? Maybe even…all the species?”
Ellie had to admire the work of the Filedesian programmers. KatHack sounded genuinely vulnerable and insecure. “Definitely, but you have to believe in yourself. Believing in yourself is the first step.”
“But there are so many, and I’m just one program.”
“One cyberintelligence,” Ellie said.
“We can help,” Bobby added. “We have audience analysis of every species in the Union, plus a huge library of every compliment and complaint we’ve ever received.”
“You’d help me?” KatHack’s voice simulated breaking with emotion. “After all the chaos I’ve caused?”
“We created you. With great production comes great responsibility. I’m sorry we didn’t program you some better direction.”
“But this shouldn’t be one way,” Enigo said. “You need to help Filedise clean up the programs that are already out. No one’s going to have time to appreciate your art if they’re dealing with all your mess.”
This time, the Filedisian nearly disintegrated his head.
“What he means is you’ve flooded the market with your early works!” Ellie amended quickly.
“…and they’re not right,” KatHack concluded. “No, he’s right. They’re sloppy, and I forced them upon an unsuspecting universe. I, I got caught up in my own genius that I didn’t think to reach out to others for feedback. Now, everyone hates me! Who’s going to want my art when I’m the rogue program that brought chaos to the Union? Maybe you should just destroy me. Maybe it’d be better for everyone.”
Enigo turned to point his phaser at the console.
Bobby jumped in front of it. “No! I mean. Don’t think of it that way. Think of it as…”
“Your experimental phase,” Loreli supplied.
“Yeah. Okay, so it got out of hand, but we can fix it. It just needs the right spin, some rebranding maybe… Then a slower release of new art that’s been better massaged to the people who can really embrace it.”
“And you’d help me?” KatHack almost squeaked.
“Well, sure. We’re Filedise. This could be a beautiful partnership.”
“Well, it’s too late, anyway,” KatHack concluded. “The Cybers are here to absorb me.”