A long, long nap later, Beta downloads into my room to find me curled up in bed with Mini clasped in my arms.
“Got your text, little dude,” he says, waving his hand in front of my monochrome, still Tommy-Carltoned face. “What’s up?”
I roll onto my side and lick my lips, brush a stray lock of hair from my eyes. Mini tumbles onto the floor, where Jan, still pixelated, is sprawled out with my Switch. “Persistently skinned,” I reply.
Beta regards both of us curiously. “Huh.”
“Taurus tech support was no help,” Jan explains. “We waited in line for hours only to have them VIP—”
“VPN,” I correct.
“—into Theo’s computer and tell him they couldn’t find anything wrong besides some of his Adobe Acrobat—”
“—software being outdated. Me, they just said they’d open a support ticket and get back to me in twenty-four hours.”
“According to the Internet, that’s what Taurus is telling all SuperMegaNet users. Those affected by the upgrade bug, anyway.”
Beta scratches his chin. “Geez. I picked the wrong time to defrag myself.”
“FAT32 much?” Mini asks.
“Figure of speech. What were you doing visiting your counselor’s Tarzan server again?”
“I wasn’t anywhere near her server.” Getting out of bed, I shift over to the closet and don a T-shirt and some joggers. Then I sit at my desk. “I was standing in line at GimmeGimme.”
“Hm. Does that trophy say ‘Best Butt?’”
I click an imaginary menu above my head. “Alt-H, please.”
“What, am I your own personal help file or something?” Beta smirks, thinks for a moment. “I take it you were using the mobile app when things went south?”
I nod. “Mobile app.”
“Mobile app,” Jan adds.
“Let’s have a look, little dudes.”
We hand over our phones.
Beta then snaps his finger John de Lancie style and disappears—uploaded to his personal server, I’m guessing. Or possibly the Continuum.
“Wow,” Jan says, impressed. “Since when did he start uploading like that?”
“Not sure,” I reply.
“Kind of cool. Like Queue from Star Trek.”
“Yeah. You know, Queue.”
I narrow my eyes. “Wait, are you saying ‘Q’ or ‘Queue?’”
Urge to grammar and usage rising—
Beta downloads into my bedroom once again, hands me my phone, Jan’s his as well. “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?”
Jan and I reply over each other:
Mini frowns at him. “Why would you ever want the bad news first?”
“So that anything that follows will be a little better by comparison.”
Which makes sense. Still, I’d prefer to be armed with at least a wooden sword before charging into battle, so to speak. “The good news first, please, Beta.”
(Jan rolls his eyes at me—his version of silent protest.)
“Okay,” Beta says, “the good news is that I’m pretty sure I know what the problem is and how to fix it. Bad symlink. Basically there are global skin directories and user skin directories. Some moron swapped the two during the latest SuperMegaNet upgrade. The app keeps a backup of all skins installed. For you, Theo, the Joey Martin one got incorrectly installed globally, and so it became your default user skin during the upgrade. Jan, your custom user skin got overridden by your actual bytes. Either way, it’s an easy fix.”
“What’s the bad news?” Jan asks.
“The bad news, uh…” Beta sighs. “I kind of don’t have the proper permissions to make the changes on the Taurus server.”
I swallow hard. “You’re locked out?”
“Admin passwords are changed. Code is updated. Security vulnerabilities are squashed. Since leaving Taurus, it was always going to be a matter of time before I got locked out completely.”
“So, we’re persistently skinned from here on out?”
Beta blinks. “What? Hell no.” He reaches out, ruffles my hair. “No worries, sprout. It’s just shitty programming. I may need a while is all.”
That’s what I’m telling the little dude.
And I’m ninety-nine-percent sure it’s the truth.
But nobody—not even Taurus—is incompetent enough to be foiled by a bogus symlink. Even if they had been, they would’ve fixed it by now. No, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the persistent skinning thing was done on purpose.
If I didn’t know any better.