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Chapter 6

“I don’t give a goddamn. I don’t care what you have to do. I want every department, all agencies working together. This is a code 1 alert. I want to know who’s behind it. I want answers and I want them now. I want to know how the fuck we let this happen. How did it go unnoticed? One billion goddamn people creep up on us like this and we just let this happen.”

“Mr President, we have been monitoring this for some years now. Until now it was just another social website.”

“And you didn’t think that we ought to know who was behind it?”

“We had intelligence on it and it came back clear, no threat. A social website for the poor.”

“And you never thought of bringing it to my attention? I’ve got the goddamned ‘no threat’ report here. A billion people and growing, 400 million in Africa, 290 million in the Americas, 180 million in Asia, 50 million in the Middle East and 20 million in Europe. Estimated half a billion Muslims and you decided it was ‘no threat.’”

“Yes Sir. It was declared ‘no threat’. We still feel that….”

“Bullshit O’Neill. The threat is real. We can’t even close the goddamned site down. We have no idea who’s behind it. My grandson could have seen the threat and he’s in nappies. Jesus Christ, this could be the start of a third world war and I’m not the only one who believes it. We’ve let our enemy surround us. I want answers. I want to know who’s behind this. I want intelligence and increased surveillance on every Muslim group, anarchist, green, the whole goddamned lot of them”

“We’re already on it Sir.”

“Now get me President Amiri on the white phone, right now.”

“Yes Mr President. Right away.”

“I want President Popov on the black phone and President Li Jun on line 2.”

“Yes Mr President.”

“Right gentlemen, I want them on conference. This is a critical moment. Now I want every resource on it. We cannot afford for the goddamned Russians or Chinese or the Iranians to get there first.”

“Please Mr President, just consider for one moment. Amiri has been accused of financing a terrorist site by the entire world, led by the US. We both know that the ‘evidence’ is shall we say, ‘not conclusive’. We are not exactly allies. If you put Popov and LiJun on conference with Amiri, he starts with his back against the wall. Popov is not exactly diplomatic. He’s just lost his biggest backer to the DRI. He wants blood. I don’t think he’s in a mood for conciliation. We don’t want an incident without evidence. The American people will not accept another Iraq. ”

“You may be right O’Neill. Put Popov on line 4 and LiJun, Amiri on the white phone. Now.”

“President Amiri, President LiJun, gentlemen we have a situation, such as we have never faced before. I won’t beat around the bush. President Amiri, intelligence reports indicate that DRI has been funded by your country. You will understand that the US government cannot accept this. I think I speak on behalf of President LiJun.”

“Yes President Howard, you do. The position of the Chinese government is clear. We are in full support of the USA.”

“President Howard, President LiJun, our intelligence has examined your allegation and it is clear that you have no evidence. I think that all of us here know this. I understand the motives but I say it now to you both, off the record and on, the Iranian government did not fund this evil. Let me be clear with you both, we will defend our people and be sure that every, Iranian man, woman and child will defend us. We will use all means necessary but let us hope that this can be avoided. I think that we know that it is against all our interests and off the record, we will support you in any action you decide to take to destroy this monster. DRI does not hold hands with Islam. It has no religious foundation.”

“President Amiri, if this is not backed by your government then who is behind it?”

“We are not averse to brinkmanship, if we are honest, but this may not be the time. A common enemy may force an alliance between our countries. We must stand together in this quest. This is something our agencies have been investigating. We have analysed the demographics. There are now more than one billion users and that is growing fast. We have dissected this into demographic groups - 41% African. 29% Americas, 18% Asia, 7% Europe, Middle East 5%. And 2% of the DRI population is Iranian, not significant maybe but in real terms 20 million people. That is more than one quarter of our population and over half the number of internet users. The Iranian government is considering a complete internet ban. We will not allow civil unrest. There will be no Spring in Iran.”

“What are you saying President Amiri?”

“Islamic law does not encourage the use of the Internet but it does not ban it. The Iranian government allows the use of the internet with one eye closed. We certainly would not and we certainly did not finance DRI. Ask yourself what would be our interest but I am sure that you know this already. If you are looking for a diversion then look elsewhere. Gentlemen, we are on the brink of something critical and for now, we need to put aside our different ideology. We need to work together to end this quickly. The Iranian people will not suffer false accusations nor will they shy away from conflict.”

“President Amiri, I have heard your view and with respect I wish to discuss this with President LiJun. Thank you.”

“I have on the line, President Popov and President LiJun. I understand President Popov that you have been briefed. Please accept our apologies for excluding you from the call with President Amiri. This is a time for clear thinking between men not Presidents. This is not a time for politics. So, what does Amiri know? He knows that we have nothing. He knows that conflict will unite Iran. Gentlemen, we have new intelligence – there is a media frenzy in Iran, that DRI is US backed. A weapon of mass destruction aimed at Islam. We know that President Amiri has Islamic ambitions beyond his borders and if he gets hold of DRI then he may just succeed. President Amiri speaks with a forked tongue. He wants DRI and we must stop him at all costs.”

“Perhaps we must put aside prejudice and consider logic. DRI is inciting the Iranian people to rise up against the government. President Amiri is courting conflict to unite the country. Do we want conflict? Perhaps we do. The Iranians are masters of brinkmanship. Perhaps we should push them over the edge to take them out of the race.”

“That would not be wise. Let’s be blunt, all of us here know that it is nothing to do with Iran but that is not the issue. Our electorate will not accept war. Russia will not back down from its position but we will not play into the arms of the Iranians. A war will unite them. DRI registration in Iran has grown to 23 million and increasing at 250,000 a day. The war has begun. This is the frontline for now. 23 million Iranians are marching towards the front and with a little support from us, they will rise up.”

“President Popov, you have summarised it perfectly. Are we all in agreement then? We need full collaboration. Our agencies must work together. Good. Then our people will contact yours and you know the rest gentlemen. Now, where do we stand with the imminent threat? Off the record, we have had advice that we can afford to let a few of our big guns go down with minimal impact. We have been watching the Ivanov situation with interest and in principle we are not entirely against a degree of collateral damage. I think that we need to let some of them go.”

“Yes Mr President, our belief is the same. We have already selected a few for sacrifice. Ordered chaos is vital. Thank you President Howard, President Popov.”

“I am also in agreement. Thank you both. Good day.”

“Please President Amiri, please accept my sincere apologies for keeping you waiting. We have discussed the situation and we are all in agreement that the intelligence reports are not conclusive but I am sure that you understand, we cannot change our position but I give you my word that we will not act upon it. As you said so clearly, we must be united by a common enemy. I thank you for your time President Amiri.”

“Well that was interesting. Liars, every one of them, snakes. I want to know how much they know. We cannot afford for them to be ahead of us. I want the conversations analysed and I want the reports with me by tonight. I don’t care what you need to do. I need to know what they’re thinking. Get me John Carter and Mike Ryan now.”

“Mr President, we have to assume that we are all in the same race.”

“There’s no assumption needed, we are. Anyway, gentlemen I don’t need to tell you that DRI in the wrong hands could change the balance of power in the world. It’s too early to know for sure but indications are that it is unstoppable and growing. The US depends on you all to bring it home. Every government in the world is in the race but the US must be the first over the finishing line. John, Mike what do we know?”

“Well Mr President, we all know that it is not backed by Iran. We know that the Iranians, the Chinese, the Russians and other government agencies are in the race. We’ve drawn up a list of potential groups that may be behind it. As yet, we can’t eliminate any of these Sir.”

“You want me to believe that this is the list of potential candidates and you can’t eliminate any one of these. My God, there must be a hundred groups here. This is madness. We must shut it down.”

“The AI boys have drawn a blank. DRI is the most sophisticated website ever developed. Whoever is behind it, they are ahead of us. We do not have the ability to close it down as of this time. The techs are trying to unravel it but it’s a complex maize of super technology and advanced AI. We are fighting a machine with the most advanced defence system we have ever come up against. The boys in the lab are on it 24/7. Mr President, we do have something significant. We have undertaken an analysis of the higher level membership of DRI and I think you need to see it. Sir, if you look at the profiles on the IT and AI departments. There are some big names that might interest you.”

“This is beyond belief. How is this possible? How could we not have known about this? This is a fucking disaster. I want them brought it now. I want to know what they know and I don’t want any press on it. No mistakes. Bring them in and make sure it’s under the radar. They need to disappear without trace for a few days.”

“I’m on it sir.”

“Jesus H Christ. This is worse than I imagined. Mike what do you think?”

“Mr President. We have made contact with elements in the Iranian resistance. We are organising support. We have men on the ground.”

“Civil war is vital. I want things moved on fast. Give them whatever they want. We must have Iran out of the picture. We need a goddamned war there. Now, what have you got?”

“We agree with John except we think that there is no organisation behind it. We’ve analysed the evolution of DRI and it is clear that it follows no policy, no agenda. It has no politics and no ambition. We think that it has evolved through a form of virtual natural selection, advanced at a lightening pace through AI technology, way beyond its original concept. We are of the opinion that it is a random event. We believe that this will destroy politics as we know it, Mr President. Machine controlling man. And Mr President, it is our view that it is unstoppable.”

“Bullshit. There is always somebody behind everything even evolution. God created man and I want to know who the fuck created DRI. Someone is behind it and I will hold all of you personally responsible if you don’t find out who it is. I want their head brought to me on a goddamned real plate.”

“But Mr President, we have been watching DRI for years and not just us, the British, the Chinese and probably every intelligence agency on the planet. It just sneaked up on all of us. ‘No Threat’ sir until now. DRI has protection that is impenetrable. IT and AI have drawn a blank.”

“Then go back to the fucking drawing board. I want answers. Bring me AI. Keep the press off my back. Give them Iran but don’t let them go elsewhere. As far as we are concerned, the Iranians are behind it. If there’s a leak from this office, I will have blood. Understood?”

“Understood, Mr President.”

“O’Neill, Carter. What do the British know? They always know more than they say. Get on to MI5 and see if you can get anything. Get me Prime Minister Strickland. I think that we might need to deal. The Brits are always amenable to a little deal. They still think they run the world so let’s feed their egos.”

“The British are our natural allies Mr President. Our people have spoken to theirs and they are in agreement. Now is the time to form alliances. We are not alone in this. Popov and LiJun have been talking and the Brazilians have been busy. Lucky the French and the Germans are asleep as usual.”

“Mr President, we have Prime Minister Strickland on line 1.”

“Prime Minister. Thank you I am well. Let’s not beat about the bush. We’re both in agreement that the Iran situation is under control. We understand that we’re on the same page there. We have a long history of alliance and mutual self-interest.”

“That is correct. We are on the same page Mr President and we want the same outcome. Am I to take it that we’re going to hold hands and sing the same song?”

“I couldn’t have put it better myself Michael. I’m going to be blunt and this is not our official position. We want control of DRI and we want it now. I am sure you know that in the wrong hands, it could compromise the US and the UK. It’s too early to say what impact it might have or what power it might exert but indications are not good. Do I have your support Michael?”

“David, you have our support. Our agencies are already collaborating but maybe a nudge from both of us might accelerate things, shall we say. David, we have carried out a detailed analysis and our conclusion is that DRI was not backed by government. Some organisation and we think probably an anarchist movement, global not national, are behind it. We have a list of potential candidates. They split the atom again and now we have no choice but to join the race.”

“Precisely our thinking Michael. Good then let’s keep the line open.”

“Thank you for your time David. Good day.”

“Okay you all heard that. The Brits are on board. This is a race for cyberspace. Now let’s get to work.”

“Sir may I introduce, Carter Feldman, Head of AI.”

“It’s an honour Mr President.”

“Cut the bullshit. I want to know what you know about DRI.”

“Yes sir. We know that DRI is an AGI based platform. We have been limited by our inability to map human intelligence, notwithstanding advancements in the ability of machine to reason and solve, to plan and to learn but and this is the big ‘but’, we have failed in the field of strong AI to simulate machine intelligence at a human level. It seems that DRI have taken AGI to the next level. Artificial General Intelligence is the future of mankind and it is that very intelligence that is blocking us. In simple terms, we cannot break through. DRI has evolved beyond our intelligence, sir.”

“You want to tell me that we can’t do a thing to stop it?”

“Yes sir.”

“It must have an Achilles heel.”

“We have not been able to find it yet. We know that as far advanced as it may be, it does not operate on a conscious level. It has no self-awareness or actual thought. It has no wisdom. It is simply a mathematical formula. Herein may lie the solution and I assure you Sir, we are working on it 24/7 sir.”

“Thank you Mr Feldman. I don’t need to tell you what this means in the wrong hands, the Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians. It’s unthinkable. You may go.”

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