'What do you mean? Got past the firewalls? Good God man! Nothing could hack through the firewalls! It had to be an inside job! Call up the personnel files.'
The Jebbit hated those first, few probing rays of sunlight that woke it from hibernation. They were always sickeningly pink and spangled with the fairy glitter of pollen from absurd flowers that had no sense of season.
Stiff and hungry, the disgruntled monster emerged from its comfortable cocoon.
The world was buzzing with life, reprimanding the Jebbit for its sluggishness. The only reason it hibernated was to escape the hyperactivity of Loopy Land for as long as possible. How had it become stranded in this frenetic, ludicrous farce? There was a vague recollection that it had, long ago, been searching for new life forms to communicate with. Back then it had probably been enthusiastic to make contact; now it hated all living things, especially the sentimentality which oozed from corner, nook and cranny of the ridiculous realm.
The Jebbit snatched the nearest fluttering creature and crunched its way through the insubstantial body and bones. Fairies weren’t even a light snack; it needed something more filling to devour than the small, frolicking inhabitants of the detestable world, so it lumbered through meadows of friendly flowers towards the village.
'Dear God!' exclaimed the head of the board. 'Is this really going out live!?'
'We can't pull the plug. We would never be able to reboot the system.'
'Cyclops will rip us apart!'
'We’ve written a programme that will delete the thing - hopefully before they notice.'
The freedom flowers, with their smiley buds and bouncy stamens were on the march again, filling the balmy air with enough sickening fragrance to send the Jebbit back into hibernation. As always, their fundamentalist tenet was to cover the land with meadows of fluorescent petals opening to welcome the sickly pink sunlight. Something deep down inside the monster suspected that these floral fanatics in any other world would have had roots anchoring them to one place, but not in Loopy Land.
The Jebbit devoured a bunch of them just for the hell of it. Infuriatingly, it didn't make any difference; the parade just pranced by, over the litter of sepals and stamens.
So it went into the village of balloon buildings topped by marzipan tiles and with facades decorated by curlicue icing. Nothing here had corners. The rounder, more reassuring and unthreatening the better. Why couldn't the occasional rocket shaped tower stab those pretty, fluffy, white clouds that were forever performing meaningless pirouettes, regardless of which way the balmy breezes blew, in a pink sky only fit for confused butterflies and tweeting lovebirds.
The Jebbit was unable to reach the clouds or lovebirds, so devoured a couple of innocent bystanders who had been chatting amiably outside a small bakery. The rest of the queue paid no attention. The worst the elfin folk, who had only come out for their crusty rolls and farmhouse loaves, thought, was that this grotesque interloper should have a diet as uncomplicated as theirs. Given the casual way it regularly gorged on the citizens of Loopy Land, it was incomprehensible to the monster that they did not regard it with more apprehension.
The Jebbit, now satiated, lumbered its ungainly way through the quaint, organically shaped buildings of the village and wondered what mayhem it could cause - and whether anyone would be bothered!
Without warning the sun stopped pretending it was a standard lamp with a pretty pink shade and decided to cast down hard, yellow rays. The monster recollected that this was the signal it was about to be challenged and the increased brightness intended to spotlight the battle. The odd hero frequently would, of course, volunteer to take up their lance to slay the dreadful creature, yet had never succeeded, and the Jebbit rather liked crunching through the armour to get at the marshmallow inside.
Rumtug let out of a wail of distress. When his minder dashed in to see what the problem was, the child was pointing at the viewer in indignation. Tickera couldn't believe that it was happening again. Loopy Land, the ultimate babysitter, the safest form of child entertainment, was once more seeding innocent minds with the repellent spectacle of a monster munching its way through its beloved characters. Loopy Land was no mere representation of a mythical paradise where only the docile and well behaved could exist it was so realistic that adults were also addicted to its reassuring message. Every living unit had a wall to wall viewer where the humdrum antics of this fantasy world could not be switched off. It had proved far more effective than the austere features of the Beloved Leader communicating his doctrinaire wisdom. Loopy Land had become an institution with its own cyberspace world in which the neighbourly inhabitants played out their safe, unreal lives in an unremitting, unchallenging soap opera.
Then the Jebbit had appeared. No one believed their eyes at first. As the characters devoured by the Jebbit inexplicably bounced back to life after a few episodes some thought they had been mistaken and, after the monster disappeared for a while, everybody else thought it was safe to put the children in front of the viewer again.
When the Jebbit repeatedly returned, fewer and fewer people bothered to tell the nanny unit monitoring their lives because they discovered a horribly uplifting fascination in watching this grotesque monstrosity consuming Loopy Land's candyfloss characters. The repellent novelty stimulated the audience's imagination, overriding the sedatives with which food companies were ordered to lace their meals and risking the wrath of the alteration police who, whenever someone seemed to be thinking for themselves, altered them.
Totally oblivious of what was heading in their direction, a herd of lemon ooflants was making its way to graze in the orchards of jerriberry trees. They were being herded by three sets of twizzle twins; large-eyed, identical siblings with the magical powers to fend off evil. So the Jebbit devoured a couple just to see if it was true or not, and then had one of the ooflants as dessert before returning to the village to knock holes in the puffball homes and eat a few inhabitants. Assuaging its huge appetite helped distract the monster from trying to remember how it had arrived in Loopy Land. It could not have evolved on this world filled with compliant, politely conversing neighbours, babbling brooks, and rainbows so solid they seemed to buttress the sky. Surely the Jebbit had been spawned in the depths of a subterranean world foetid with the decomposition of aeons.
Loopy Land Inc had assured Cyclops, the government department which purchased their product, that the system was hacker proof, the main selling point bound to appeal any tyrannical regime. With alcohol and hard drugs banned because they affected productivity, sedatives and mental pap were the only other ways to influence the population's behaviour. Those few who tried to avoid the processed foods, or complained about the unremitting regimentation and dull overalls, were weeded out and committed to the Administration's compost heap.
There were no repeats of Loopy Land; it was continuous, fly on the wall entertainment which could not be interrupted, even for government adverts. That was the programme's strength - and weakness.
The database Loopy Land Inc had designed was buried inside a mountain. In chamber upon vacuumed chamber, the unflagging, realistic make-believe land played out its happily oblivious evolution with an unerring logic. Each character had a programme of several petabytes which enabled it to interact in the safe, reassuring environment filled with its other superficial companions.
Here, no worms, viruses or trojans could break through its unassailable firewalls - until the Jebbit.
When they at last believed the complaints about what was happening, Cyclops accepted Loopy Land Inc's explanation that the monster had been deliberately installed as a grotesque chrysalis from which a beautiful butterfly would emerge in due course to stimulate an increasingly static scenario. They had never intended it to devour the characters. Even the program designers were persuaded that the Jebbit was the handiwork of one of their own and secretly envied the bravado of the lunatic who had dared risk installing it.
By the time it became apparent that some extraordinary hacker (who no doubt managed to procure a fresh vegetable diet) had breached the firewalls, it was too late; the Jebbit had well and truly contaminated the system. Malicious resentment on six legs, it moved like a juggernaut, crushing lovingly designed flowerbeds and pretty pavements as it passed. Most enterprisingly of all, it had been given the subconscious suspicion that it was actually a space traveller driven insane by being trapped in this bizarre world.
As soon as the Jebbit glimpsed the shiny black carapace of the assassin, it knew that the ominous interloper was here to do battle. So did the inhabitants of Loopy Land. They disappeared into their homes, nests and flowerbeds as 20 billion viewers about the planet became riveted on what was going to happen next in this gloriously lurid episode of the compulsory universal soap. The captive Loopy Land audience were not used to being challenged by anything so terrifying, but were beginning to enjoy it.
Debugging a system the size of Loopy Land couldn't be done quietly. Because the Jebbit hated life, it didn't mean the monster was suicidal; this was one worm not only prepared to turn, but fight back.
After previous attempts to remove the creature, the programmers had to accept that part of Loopy Land would need to be sacrificed; at least it would keep the candyfloss characters occupied in rebuilding it. After all, it was probably the database's desperation for storylines that had allowed the Jebbit to establish itself in the first place.
The electronic assassin the technicians had sent in was part beetle, part chrome teapot and moved seamlessly on a blur of wheels, one moment confronting its quarry, the next perching on a nearby roof. The Jebbit was awkward and unable to match its speed, but its thick hide repeatedly absorbed the energy from the assassin's weapon. The gleaming beetle again wheeled round to confront its adversary, charging up its weapon for something spectacular.
The audience on every hemisphere of the planet, and in orbit about it, held their breath.
Without warning, a blast of pure white energy incinerated the small village's pretty square with its clock tower and quaint shops.
The Jebbit hadn’t expected to survive a conflagration like that, even less that its adversary was prepared to destroy itself in the process. But, when the air cleared, a crashed, chrome beetle was chugging dismally in fatigued circles and the monster was amazed to find that it was still alive. So the Jebbit bit its attacker in half. Partly as a precaution, mostly in malice, it swallowed both halves. Unfortunately the assassin's programme hadn't been totally wiped. Once deep in the Jebbit's gut, there was a flicker of life.
Then came the explosion.
That surely had to be the end of the Jebbit.
The monster was aware of drifting over endless grids of flashing lights. Here and there a violent arc of energy spat in fury like some trapped entity. All about it busy connections sparked furiously as the colossal system tried to reweave its Loopy Land fantasy.
The Jebbit collided with pulsating towers hurling discharges across chasms, only to slither into maliciously illuminated gullies.
Just as it expected to be snuffed out of existence - the monster was back in Loopy Land. For a split second it was relieved. Then the unremitting jollity of the world once again plunged the interloper into spasms of dangerous annoyance.
Now the Jebbit had destroyed their last assassin programme, the only hope of Loopy Land Inc's Board of Directors was to flee to the ends of the world and their self contained bunkers, leaving the boffins who had designed the system to sort the mess out.
Having witnessed the circuits that it emanated from, the Jebbit at last realised that it was, after all, the ultimate creation of the animator's craft.
It could be as bestial as it liked. The Jebbit felt much better about itself. It no longer had any need to hibernate.
The monster turned its hungry gaze to the benign, gently undulating landscape of Loopy Land peopled with munchy inhabitants. It belched. The beetle assassin's chrome carapace was not yet digested. It needed something soft to wash it down. Shepherdesses were quite tasty.
With nothing to replace Loopy Land in the affections of the oppressed masses, Cyclops dare not pull the plug and expose the population to the unremitting futility of their existence.
The Jebbit occasionally felt a subroutine kick in. Now and then it would be confronted by more and more sophisticated adversaries attempting to eliminate it. The only thing they succeeded in doing was educating the oppressed viewing audience in how to go about dealing with tyrannical monsters.
By the time the programmers eventually achieved their goal and Loopy Land was returned to its original, sterile format, it was obsolete. A whole new generation had learnt how to remove the other "Jebbit" that had ruled the lives of their parents.