A few such recording sessions should suffice, Rik has estimated, to give Jason’s client enough raw material from which to assemble a full, man-made “human imagination” for the company’s pesky interactive cartoon spokes-sheep.
She then starts relaying something else from Jason, which he didn’t say to me, about how the sheep’s logical facilities won’t need to be stolen from real people in the same way but can just be plugged in from existing logic-based computer programs. My mind starts to wander, rather as it did with Jason’s financial graph, so while I half-listen I can’t help myself tuning in to her for a moment … and I zoom in on a pair of childhood memories, Evelyn: the chime of the ice cream van with garish cones and faces painted gaily on its sides in faded letters, as you giggled with a girl who was a friend, but whose face is a lacuna in this scene. And linking chime and giggle, an old rock song heard in Frank’s, up on Main Street, where you went with a boy who came to town for a brief while but then moved away again and so fell out of touch—a boy called Romel, whom you thought of, when he went, as Romel-we-hardly-knew-you. What’s this ghost of your former self saying to Romel in Frank’s, with such enthusiasm? Neither you nor I can lip-read your younger self’s words, but the urgency of your chatter is at least preserved in the faint tug and ache of this small memory, and maybe also somewhere in the memory of the vanished Romel.
“Who’ll be the targets?” she asks.
“Er … well, how about you? You’d make a great contribution to a sheep’s imagination.”
“No, thank you, Jaymi. Anyway, our targets have to be outside the Metropolitan.”
“Hmm.” Thinking back to last night, I remember that I’ve already earmarked Angel and Shigem, for starters, but I’m curious to see whom she suggests.
“All right, I’ll choose,” she says. “How about Pippa, Kim, Shigem and Angel?”
“What good taste you have! OK, fine. You know them better than I do. I’ll leave you to take responsibility for the choice.”
“Oh, sure,” she says. She looks into the distance, with a hint of glee in her eyes. Then she reaches for a pencil and a scrap of paper, writes out their names and slides the scrap across the sofa towards me, with a flicker of irony, like a cool teacher assigning a perverse bit of homework. I pick it up and inspect it.
As I contemplate these names, randomly applied by general agreement to four people I have known for less than one full day, it strikes me that by steering me towards them, Evelyn might be thought of as having somewhat subverted Jason’s “balanced, cheerful, family-rated quartet of target imaginations”. They’re an OK balance of races, I guess, and Kim and Shigem are good-natured enough, but something makes me wonder whether Jason would see any of these as quite what he had in mind for the spokesfigure of a corporate client. I suspect Evelyn picked them out as a result of little more than her own arrant nosiness concerning imaginations she’s curious about.
“Yep,” she chuckles. “Jaymi, you don’t seem to have noticed, but in secret I actually run the country. OK then—let’s go record your first secret imagination-cloning session.” She reaches for her phone.
“What, right now?”
“Why not? I could tell you were taking a lot in last night.”
“Was it that obvious?”
“Not to any of them, but I could tell. Don’t forget, I’m up to my neck in this with you. I think you tuned in to all four of our targets.”
“Actually just three of them. I didn’t have time to plunge into Kim.”
“Fine, we’ll get cracking with the other three, then. Jason wants results here.”
“Do we have time, before the Big Bang recording?”
She checks the time. “Easily. It won’t take you more than, what, half an hour to project what you remember, will it?”
“I guess not. Damn! I was hoping to take it easy.”
“You’ll get enough of that when you’re dead. Hey babe,” she says into her phone. “You in the studio? OK, we’re both on our way. Those four are confirmed now.” She rings off. “Rik’s ready now.”
“You just told him ‘those’ four are confirmed…”
“Yes, he and I chose them for you last night. Let’s hit it, Jaymi! Put that coffee down. Go go go! Bam bam bam! Chop chop chop!” She takes my hand, hauls me to my feet, ignoring my laughing protests, and steers me towards the door.
Why do I get the feeling I’m not in control here?
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