“You all heard that and I am sure you all understood. The three wise men are united against Iran. Alliance and self-interest has no shame. This is however a great opportunity for Russia. Gentlemen, today the Federal Assembly granted me special provisions under the Prevention of Terrorist Act. We are now operating under Rule by Decree. This is war and at all costs we will not lose. Beyond this room, we can trust nobody. We have all read the intelligence reports. Maxim, Stepan you will take over cyber-surveillance. I want our AI department at work 24 hours a day. No holidays. No time off. No exceptions. You are to co-ordinate inter-departmental co-operation. You have anything and every resource at your disposal. Go. Go. I want a report here on my desk tomorrow morning. Yuriy, Roman you are to co-ordinate all inter-governmental collaboration. You are responsible for the flow and exchange of information. I do not need to tell you how important this is. Do not let me down.”
“No Mr President. Thank you sir.”
“Now, Victor you and I are alone so we can talk as friends. I am deeply concerned with the current threat against Gregor Ivanov. He is a friend of the government and he is my brother. We cannot allow DRI destroy a national asset but we also will not let one man’s greed sacrifice Russia. Are you in agreement with this?”
“Yes Andre. I understand that it is a dilemma for you as a man but you have no choice as a President. Ivanov must be sacrificed. I must say that I am not unhappy with that. I never liked him. If we hadn’t put him on his throne, he would still be selling cars. He always was a peasant despite his father.”
“Yes he is an educated peasant but a likeable one. He is family but even family is dispensable.”
“And it would be wise to declare an alliance with DRI. Maybe we can smoke out the people behind the scenes. My advice is that we follow the procedure required by DRI for Redistribution. We need to prove our alliance. We cannot risk the US taking control. We must feed Ivanov to the lions.”
“How can you expect this of me? I am his friend. And besides, he may have certain insurances that could harm us both. It is too risky to arrest him. Maybe we can suggest that he disappears.”
“No this is not enough. The Russian government and the President must put distance between themselves and Ivanov but if he disappears then we will be branded complicit. Remember this is not diplomacy. This is not politics as we know it. This is new politics where deals cannot be made behind the scenes and self-interest is no longer paramount. At least for now.”
“God forbid. It will be the end of us all. At least we have a history of equality but the Americans, they thrive on inequality. If Ivanov has to go then I do not want to see or talk to him. It is not an easy thing to do, to sacrifice a friend for the greater good.”
“I agree Andre but there is no alternative. It must be stopped or we must drive it. If we are to unravel the puzzle with a billion anonymous eyes on us, we must be smart. We can’t hide any more. Ivanov must be arrested and charged in public with a full media show as soon as possible. We must act quickly to remain ahead of the competition. I will arrange a press conference. It will be an Oscar winning show. Andre do not worry about Ivanov, I will take care of everything. I will cancel his insurance. You will look good.”
“So be it. If you see him, tell him I was not happy but I had no choice. He will understand I am sure. I will be ready by 6pm tonight. Until then I need to sleep. Make sure nobody disturbs me. No matter what or who. And please tell Katya, not even President Howard in person is allowed through those doors. Before you go Victor, let me ask you something. Who do you think is behind DRI?”
“Andrei, I personally think that it is the work of one man or somebody would have come forward by now.”
“Impossible my friend. Interesting but impossible. Victor thank you my friend.”
While the president slept, Ivanov was busy discussing his next step with his accountants, lawyers, bankers, associates, accomplices and family. Victor was cleaning up the Ivanov problem whilst organising a press conference. Intelligence agencies, IT and AI were sharing limited information. The world’s media were crowded into the World Trade Centre on Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment. President Andre Popov, Victor Levkin and team walked on to the stage amid camera flashes and video. The press were seated, digitals poised, television cameras transmitting.
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, colleagues. It is with regret that I come here before the entire world. We are facing a new threat, a cyber-threat that we cannot fight with conventional means. We are faced with a war but a hidden war with a hidden threat. This is a threat that we do not understand. This is a threat that we cannot negotiate with. A threat that we cannot see. I President Popov of The Russian Federation hold out my hand in peace and reconciliation, to whomsoever you may be. We the Russian people have a long history of equality. Moving on, it is with great personal sadness that I come here before you to announce that Gregor Ivanov has been arrested. Now, Let’s begin our discussion and give Mr Levkin the opportunity to do some work. We invite your questions.”
“Mr President, Moscow Observer, Dmitry Karkow. What has Mr Ivanov been charged with?”
“At present, we are not at liberty to say. The charges are serious.”
“Mikail Anatoly, St Petersburg Tribune. Mr President, are you not concerned that the world will see this as Russia conceding to terrorists?”
“Mr Anatoly, you may report in your paper that Russia will never concede to any threat. This is a police matter and not within the jurisdiction of government. Mr Ivanov is a personal friend but if he is found guilty of any crime in a court of law then he will be punished as any other Russian citizen.”
“Mr President, is this not giving in to terrorism, to Iranian threat?”
“No. As I said, this was not a political decision, this is a criminal matter.”
“Will the sacrifice of Mr Ivanov be the first of many?”
“As I have already said, all citizens of Russia are subject to the law.”
“The President will not take more questions about Mr Ivanov. It may compromise his case.”
“Mr President, President Amiri has denied all accusations and demonstrations are taking place all over Iran by DRI members. It seems to me that the Iranian government would not sponsor its own destruction. What are your views?”
“We cannot say what is in the mind of the Iranian President. We support freedom of speech and democracy.”
“What are you doing to close down DRI? Why has this not been done?”
“This is a complex issue. DRI is an advanced system of Artificial Intelligence. As yet, we have not been able to stop it. We are working jointly with the Chinese, the Russians and the British governments to find a way to stop DRI and bring the creators to justice.”
“Mr President, would it be wise to close down a site with one billion registered users? Especially with such a volatile demographic spread.”
“This is a question we are considering. No decisions have been made yet. It is a matter for international consultation. The UN has set up a committee to investigate the options. Any further questions will be answered by Mr Levkin. Thank you for your time.”
“Mr President, why did you let them take your friend?..........What are you hiding?.…………..Why won’t you release the intelligence reports?................Aren’t you afraid for yourself?....Is there a race to take control of DRI?........the most powerful weapon in history?.....”
Questions thrown from every direction in every conference to every President as Goris and Steve watched one show after another. Each president or Prime Minister saying nothing, answering little and avoiding everything. The only thing that they had in common was nothing, that they knew nothing. It was clear that self-interest was top of the agenda and co-operation was a weak smoke-screen.
“You do realise Goris that every one of them is trying to find you? They may not be looking in the right place for now. You need come out of the closet? I know you’re sure that there is no link to you but eventually something, someone will point to you. It’s your only insurance policy to admit you’re the founder. I’ll back you up.”
“Steve. Don’t bother going down that road again. I’m not doing anything. Leave it. It may not be in their interest to find me. Think about it. You and I know that they have no intelligence. It suits everyone to blame the Iranians. Obviously they’ve got every resource on this, digging, scrabbling around to find something. Sooner or later they’ll realise that they can’t find the owner of the car and then they are going to try to steal it. That’s what they’re doing and I’ll put money on it.”
“One thing’s for sure, they’re not going to stop.”
“Not exactly. It’s the other way round. DRI won’t stop. Anyway, let’s forget it for the moment. Why don’t we go and see the women.”
“Are you mad? Where did that come from? It’s the craziest idea? Never. No way. Katrina doesn’t want me anywhere near her and Gallie doesn’t know what she wants. I’m not facing them both together. How can they be together? I don’t get it. Why doesn’t Katrina blame Gallie?”
“Maybe the same reason I don’t blame you.”
“Yea but it’s not normal.”
“Yea I know. Let’s go.”
Neither of us knowing why on earth we were going, we both got up and left. I was the richest man in the world. I had created something of global significance. Every government wanted my baby. I felt alive and powerful. Facing jealousy and betrayal was nothing for me. I drove the Ferrari for the first time in years and it felt great, Led Zeppelin screaming out the window and a spliff in hand. Steve was quiet as I sang along to Stairway to Heaven. We arrived at Steve’s house and only when every drop of the song had finished, we got out. This was on my terms. There we stood shoulder to shoulder on the front step. The door opened and Katrina revealed herself visibly shocked at the sight of us.
“What the hell are you doing here? How dare you turn up without calling? Get the fuck out.”
“Wait, Goris. Katrina please, calm down. We are all adults here. What are you doing here Goris?”
“Hi. I don’t know. I just wanted to see you, I think. But now I’m here I’m not sure. Can we come in?”
Steve and I on one sofa and the girls opposite. Every single feeling of strength and resolve that I had been overcome with less than an hour ago had simply vanished and now I was a nervous, embittered and betrayed husband wanting revenge. I didn’t give a fuck about DRI. I was no longer the richest man in the world, the creator of something huge. I was the poor guy whose best friend had fucked his wife. I was the pathetic victim who was confronting his wife and lover in desperation. Steve repulsed me. Gallie had taken a 12 inch bread knife and rammed it into my heart. I stood up and poured myself a whisky. I downed it in one and then poured another. All of us were aware that this situation was ridiculous. No betrayed partner should ever have to sit calmly and respectfully in a room with the man or woman who had fucked their husband or wife. Betrayers were never worthy of a confrontation. Betrayers were the lowest form of life. I paced up and down. Nobody spoke.
“Why did you do it Gallie? No I don’t want to know. Don’t answer that. You will have justified that it was my fault. We all know that. My fault that you fucked Steve, isn’t that hysterical. It is my fault that you opened your legs and let my best friend stick his married dick in you. You hear that Katrina. And no doubt it’s your fault Katrina that Steve fucked my wife. Steve what’s your reason for fucking my wife? Oh yea, you’d done it before so it wasn’t a big deal and you wanted revenge for me stealing her. At least that’s an excuse. How does revenge feel? Gallie, you have no excuse. The only thing is Steve, how do you justify it to Katrina? Maybe, she doesn’t understand you? Maybe she doesn’t know how to please you? Gallie you repulse me.”
Then Gallie pleaded with me to stop. It wasn’t dignified. Where’s the goddamned dignity in betrayal, adultery, fucking your husband’s best friend? Why did she not just leave me? It would have been kinder. A one-off fuck, twice and I could have understood maybe. She was angry with me and I had betrayed her. Perhaps I could have accepted a moment of weakness but an affair, to indulge herself in a relationship, the depth of betrayal, is beyond forgiveness. She was my wife, for better for worse, for richer for poorer. What happened to the ‘worse’ part? She tried to justify her betrayal but there was no justification. She should have left me. There is no grey.
Katrina was ready to forgive. Steve had clearly analysed the situation and having been advised to keep off the steak, at least for now, he was ok with the shepherd’s pie. Gallie felt a degree of remorse but mostly justified and immoveable. Anger was replaced with awkwardness and uncertainty. Suddenly images of Steve and Gallie filled my head. I saw them naked and entwined and sweaty and laughing and discussing me. I saw my wife gripping his cock and gently easing it into her. I saw him thrusting, tongues engaged, juices flowing, hands caressing and teasing but the worst was the laughter. I could hear the laughter. I felt sick and weak. I tried to engage with the creator of DRI, the richest man in the world but what was he without his wife? And yet he had no wife. I looked at her. I felt the tears and left. She came after me, with words of regret and love and forgiveness.
I drove around for hours probably organizing my thoughts and rearranging my emotions, Led Zeppelin and the Stones easing the pain until Jagger sang Angie and I went with the flow. The words erased the shit in my head as Mick sang – ‘I still love you baby’ and ‘everywhere I look I see your eyes’ and ‘there ain’t a woman that comes close to you’. The music filled my head and the words slowly and at first, quietly started to escape my mouth and I reminded myself that I was too distraught to sing but then, what the hell, I couldn’t help it and I was singing at the top of my voice – you’re beautiful but ain’t it time we said goodbye……don’t you weep, all your kisses still taste sweet. I hate that sadness in your eye but ain’t it time we said goodbye. I still love you baby, everywhere I look I see your eyes. There ain’t a woman that comes close to you…. Ain’t it good to be alive. They can’t say we never tried.
Mick Jagger was right. He loved Angie with all his soul but still he left her and it felt good to be alive. I went home, filled my glass with whisky, sat on the sofa and turned on the tv. Time meant nothing to me. After all, what was time? Time to work. Time to eat. Time to go. Time for bed.
I watched the news 24/7, Al Jazeera, BBC, ITN, CNN, Fox, French News, Canadian, discussion programmes, disturbed only by sleep and food and a few basic needs. The world was at war with a machine and the media loved every moment. One Hyena down, 1425 to go – no impact. Two more followed, followed by further sacrifices here and there – no impact. DRI loved the sacrifice and wanted more and stepped up its attack. Forum debate raged and declared anger at the slow rate of sacrifice. A statement was drawn up, processed and posted in the public forum. The media got hold of it and wrapped it around the globe for all to see. One hundred Hyenas were listed daily for voluntary or forced distribution. Those who refused to go voluntarily submitted themselves to e-trial and total e-execution. At first the Hyenas howled and barked in a display of strength. The once top predator was fighting for its survival but a greater predator had evolved with a bigger bite and longer claws. DRI closed its bite and grip on the Hyena, whimpering until all signs of life had gone and there it was, helpless and useless and small, chained and caged, awaiting execution, naked and exposed to the world. It’s filth boxed and perfectly wrapped and sent to the police. Government was helpless, the police enforcing law and behind closed doors everyone was smiling. Arrest after arrest was made. The media broadcast the sensational bits of Hyena behaviour, stirring up the growing anti-feeling toward them.
The impact on global economics was huge. It was a panic reaction to an unknown event, a readjustment. Stocks and shares plummeted. The Dow, the NASDAQ, the S&P 500, the FTSE, the DAX in freefall, currencies fighting for their lives and politicians attempting to calm the world. Economic chaos took hold. The media across the world broadcast Hyena after Hyena trying to worm their way out of redistribution, discussions about the economic impact - assessing the damage, predicting the outcome and all the time DRI watching and growing. As shockwaves spread from epicentre out, those in the line of destruction held their breath, Ferrari and Porsche, Renoirs and Picassos, Diamonds and mansions. DRI accounts were filled to the brim. The Finance Department unable to fight a human instinct, issued a statement.
A Request for Vote – Finance Department
The DRI Finance Department are in receipt of substantial funds as a result of DRI redistribution policy. It is our belief that economic reaction has created an opportunity for DRI to invest. We formally request permission to purchase shares to a maximum of 20% of DRI reserves. All transactions are open for view. Any request granted in respect of movement of finances is subject to renewal every 28 days (Section 3, Finance Statement 1714).
The Media gorging on the kill, dribbling in ecstasy, spitting out the fat and bones. Financial experts in expensive suits allegedly advising but obviously guessing the outcome with no real clue but serious enough to fool a few. One expert predicting the rise and another the fall. The ones that guessed right awarded with more time in front of the camera until by process of elimination, only a handful were left and these same few faces would appear daily, each one licking their lips at the thought of the extra cash this would bring them. Government ministers, presidents, prime ministers, male and female thrown in front of the cameras, thereby compelled to say something, making sincere statements in their usual high language and low content and all the while, DRI with no face, simply grew and grew.
Day fourteen and almost every Hyena had been eaten in the hunt. Six had been killed in more mysterious circumstances, three in Africa, two in South America and one in Asia. Not a single one of the 1131 who refused the DRI offer was able to defend their position without perjuring themselves in their e-trial. Evidence against them was overwhelming, their defence teams holding up their hands in despair and no other verdict than guilty was possible, no other sentence than level 4, total e-execution. Of the remaining 295 that accepted voluntary redistribution, 293 having under-estimated the power of DRI, attempted to hide assets, move funds, remove art and antiques, transfer assets, stash gold and diamonds, bequeath, donate, invest, destroy and supress but the 1.2 billion pairs of eyes glued to each one of them and the data storage and amassing capability of DRI combined to catch them red-handed. 293 e-trials were scheduled for immediate broadcast and vote and every one with no mitigation, convicted and e-executed. Two Hyenas attempted no deception, gave in to all demands in a dignified and open manner, Michael Igwe and Raphael Dias. The dead Hyenas were old news but the surviving two, were of significant interest. I watched their stories unfold on the BBC.
“Both Michael Igwe from Nigeria and Raphael Dias from Brazil are as different as they are similar. Both men share humble beginnings, Igwe one of nine children, from the rural South East of Nigeria where his family lived on less than $1 a day. Dias, one of thirteen children, from the urban slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil, raised by his mother, spent his childhood begging on the streets. Both driven by a burning ambition to rise above, they fought their way into a world of unimaginable wealth through stealth and cunning. Little is known about their meteoric rise to success. In statements issued recently, Igwe said and I quote ‘I never left my village. I am proud of my achievements and if all I have done in my life is to inspire one child then I have done enough.’ And Dias was quoted as saying ‘I am too old to fight. My children do not have the right to inherit such wealth. Wealth destroys a man and I am happy to be freed. I can go home and die in peace.’ Are these true words of contrition? I suppose we will never know. Suffice to say, two Hyenas have been elevated to Gods. Jonathan Gold, BBC Sao Paulo.”
I read the entire statements released by the two Hyenas. DRI boiled over with anecdotal evidence of major philanthropic gestures and super human feats, casting aside the real evidence of wrong doing by these two great men. The Nigerian and Brazilian forums had elevated their men to God and Saint respectively. Their pictures were posted everywhere and stories of incredible philanthropy and miracle. Nobody knew if they were true but nobody cared. Now elevated from Michael to Father Igwe, he was reputed to have saved tens of thousands of African children from starvation, some said he had made water flow and crops grow by the touch of his hand. He was said to have built hospitals and orphanages, roads and schools. Raphael Dias now Saint Raphael was reported to have taken tens of thousands of families out of slums and into homes, brought water and sanitation to rural areas, provided jobs at fair wages. It crossed my mind that perhaps it was a collective guilt for the hunt and kill of 1424 Hyenas that led to the worship of the surviving two. Was it a transfer of confused emotion or a real celebration of human kindness?
Distributors posted an official Request For Vote, sufficient signatures for dispatch to committee, debate and report to LHOD, debate and vote and to UHOD, debate and vote, all in the public domain. Finally to full e-DRI vote.
LHOD/UHOD – Request For Vote.
Subject: Honorary lifetime admission to HORD
Nominees: Mr Raphael Dias. Mr Michael Igwe.
Summary Rationale: That nominees voluntarily redistributed personal wealth (see full report -Library archive).
The results posted, the two Hyenas had been overwhelmingly voted into the House of Righteous Distributors. I felt somewhat cheated. Letters had piled up, take-away containers and boxes strewn, ashtrays full, coke cans crushed and discarded on the floor. I hadn’t spoken to a single person for days until Steve turned up. I opened the door and let him in.