Friday, July 12, 2013

Super-hero romance novel character bio #10: Polybius

Let’s do one of the newer characters to the series, Polybius.

Polybius (“Polly”) is the name given to the Consortium’s computer system. She’s the head of their IT Department, and works with the other department heads to manage their affairs and digital information. She was given the position in an effort to head off any potential confrontations between the other volatile members of the team over control of the Consortium’s computers.

Polly appears as a semi-transparent intangible green hologram, and is probably around 5’5”, although she can alter her scale if she wants. Her face and body type are an amalgamation of several different Hollywood starlets from the 1950s which she thinks are pretty, and she wears her hair in Victorian sausage curls (see Tarzan's mother's hair from Disney's animated Tarzan film and Mercedes from the 2002 "Count of Monte Cristo" film for reference).  She usually appears dressed in a loose Greek inspired diaphanous toga-styled gown, although why she chose to dress herself like that is anyone’s guess. She projects herself from a white plastic and chrome device attached to McCallister MacReady’s wrist, and seems to spend a lot of her time helping him oversee the Machines Department. Polly was programed by Mack’s father for the government many years ago, but now works exclusively for the Consortium.

In addition to having instantaneous access to all Consortium files, Polly also has the ability to communicate with other computer systems, uploading and downloading information as needed. Additionally, she can project holographic images other than herself and can alter her own avatar if desired. 
Although she is a computer program, Polly is designed to grow and learn. The more experiences she has, the more intelligent and lifelike she becomes. Polly is often described as being “difficult.” Her behavior is characterized by a tendency towards being passive aggressive, and is usually smug about her own abilities. Marian describes her being either “quirky” or a “teenager who not-so secretly disrespected her parents to their faces.” Others describe her as being “rash, impatient, temperamental and surprisingly innocent.” Most of the Consortium seems fairly certain of her abilities though, and suspect that she will one day go insane and try to kill them all. Until that day arrives though, they have to endure the fact that she’s so difficult. Many prefer to work on computer issues themselves rather than involving her, simply because they don’t like dealing with her. The group is pretty evenly split on how to treat her, with half of them referring to her as “it” or “that thing,” and the other half treating her as they would any other member.

Polly’s own feelings about her co-workers haven’t really been explored in the series yet, but I get the sense she doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for them. Or any biological entity, really. I think she views herself as a much more complex being than they are (she once pointed out to Cynic that she is composed of 8 billion lines of code, while he is composed of just forty-six chromosomes), and they would be utterly lost without her. I think she finds their fleshy weaknesses and stupidity rather amusing, but occasionally irritating. Thus far, she’s expressed no desire to be “real” and seems content with herself and her artificial nature. Whether this represents her actual worldview, or merely a confident and proud mask she wears, is up for debate at this point though.

Polly is based on a fairly standard popular culture character trope (the first time I can remember seeing a holographic girl who helps was “SELMA,” the holographic ATM card owned by the main character in the 1993 TV series “Time Trax,” but I’m sure she wasn’t the first, as similar characters have been a staple of movies and comics for years), and is named after the video game of urban legend, which in turn was named after the Greek historian and father of Cryptography. I actually went through several versions of her name, and she was “Hallie” for a long time, in honor of “Hal” from “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

Personality wise, Polly is based on the GPS system in my car. There’s just something about that voice which convinces me that it’s secretly some sort of super-villainess and is trying to destroy me. Maybe it’s her clipped feigned politeness or her near constant condescending “turn around when possible”, but whatever the case, it inspired Polly. I think it laughs at me when I make wrong turns and secretly delights in sending me the long way around when I’m in a hurry. …That thing makes me sooooo mad sometimes.

Although she’s only been around for the last two books, Polly actually has a long history in the series. Her basic character was originally going to be an android named “Tiberius” which Holly and Mack constructed out of parts “scavenged from an old Buick” which shot missiles from its chest, and (according to Cynic) felt nothing but “rage, the urge to kill, and rage.” I deleted the mention of the character though, once I realized that Rayn was going to start calling Tyrant “Ty”, and thus, there wasn’t a way to shorten the name. Plus, the chapter was too long as it was, so something had to go. The next conception for the “Head of IT” character, was going to be a teenage girl who also went by “Polybius”, who had little experience with the main Consortium team and was kind of flighty. This idea never really went anywhere though, because Stacy’s personality strayed into the “gamer” field, and there wasn’t any room for someone new. Eventually, I realized that most science fiction series in popular culture have some sort of synthetic person who is usually associated with the main computer system though, and I didn’t yet have my take on the character. So, Polly was born.

Honestly, I find Polly funny. She comes up with some lines which make me laugh out loud. She’s a character I’ll probably use more in the future.


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