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Chapter 9

“Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention please. I have called this meeting, and I apologise for the late hour, to discuss the increasing global threat of DRI. We have been monitoring DRI activity. Most is of a local nature and of no significance but a recent global petition for the prosecution of corrupt politicians has been approved and is in the committee stage. It’s only a matter of days before it goes through. I don’t need to tell you what unimaginable chaos will ensue. It is a ‘who’s who’ of politicians standing against the wall. Our intelligence is that all will be convicted by DRI. I don’t need to tell you what the impact will be. In front of you in the blue folder is the list…Yes it is quite a shock. I think you’ll recognise most of the names. As you can see, we happen to be in the clear so far and by the way, so are the Americans rather surprisingly. I think you will all agree that the situation is critical. The question is what action do we take? I do not think that we can afford to under-estimate the power of DRI. At the moment it’s only virtual war but how long before DRI members are rioting on the streets? Membership is diverse – even members of our army, police, civil service, teachers, politicians. So what are we going to do? Any thoughts?”

“Prime Minister, we understand that the US is considering negotiating with DRI but we think it’s a mistake. It’s our belief that we need to create a diversion. We need more time. Intel is following a line of enquiry that looks promising. We are of the strong opinion that we need to attack Iran regardless. The Americans haven’t ruled out the idea and the Russians and Chinese will no doubt look the other way. A war is exactly what we need to change the focus of the DRI mob. Especially an unjustified attack. Of course we have no evidence of a link with Iran but that is neither here nor there. Media has ruled them out too, even the Beeb. The world will be up in arms and that’s exactly what we want. It’s collateral damage as the Yankees say.”

“I for one will not be party to an attack on Iran. We wouldn’t get UN authority.”

“Actually I think we would and I think that we could even get them to throw in a few coins. If you look at the list of politicians, I’d say we’ve got more than a sporting chance. In fact, they’d be volunteering themselves. Somehow I think that the Chinese and the Russian presidents would welcome a war. They’re both on the list. Edward, how long before someone digs up something on you or me or the Prime Minister for that matter?”

“I resent that Charles. There are no skeletons in my cupboard.”

“Are you sure Ed? Everyone has a skeleton or two.”

“I think that we’re heading off the point. I’d say we are all at risk if we let DRI continue on this path. I agree with the Prime Minister. We’re heading for total anarchy. There won’t be a politician, banker, lawyer or accountant left. Nobody to run anything. We don’t have a choice. We need a distraction. A war and a bit of economic hysteria is just what the doctor ordered. It will be a media circus. A few bombs, ground troops, some casualties, along with the unjustified attack, – that’ll stir up the DRI mob and keep them off our backs for a while.”

“And if that doesn’t work, we’ve destroyed Iran for nothing and lost the next election.”

“Not exactly Giles. Destroying Iran can never be for nothing. Eh gentlemen? The Iranian government will fall and that is a good thing. There will be civil war and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The public have a short memory and that’s a great thing and it is a long time before the election. Prime Minister, we think the longer term impact will be small, especially if we engage the opposition.”

“It may be good strategy but it is an immoral action and innocent civilians will be killed. That’s not collateral damage, that’s murder. It is wrong, simply wrong. I won’t put my name to it Prime Minister.”

“Don’t be so dramatic. What the hell has morals got to do with war? You need to grow up. This is not the kindergarten. It’s survival.”

“But in my view, it’s the wrong thing to do. You seem to have overlooked that half of DRI membership is Muslim. It will unite them against us. It’s too much of a risk. It will backfire. I can’t agree.”

“We don’t believe it will. We’ve carried out a risk analysis. The initial bombing should be over in six weeks and then the Special Forces will go in for the clean-up. The UN will deploy troops and the boys in blue can stand around like a bunch of idiots handing out a few sherberts. We will give the fringes a trim and after nine to twelve months, withdraw the boys and leave the locals in chaos and then they can kill each other just like the mess we created in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s perfect. We feed the media, keep the fires burning and we make sure all eyes are on us. Meanwhile we go round the back door and steal the telly.”

“Thank you for your input. Whilst I may agree with the solution, I can’t say I agree with the sentiment. There is one issue that we have not discussed. What will time give us? How do we steal the telly? Technical says we can’t break in.”

“Prime Minister, at this time it is true that we can’t do a thing but we are following a lead. A man walked into our embassy in Luanda.”

“Where the hell’s that?”

“Apologies, Angola. He’s a local fisherman or something and he is insistent that he’s the man behind DRI. It may sound somewhat implausible but he claims to have proof - apparently. We do know that the domain name is registered in the name of John Angola at but this is public knowledge. Anyway the ambassador, a Gareth Johnston-Smith insisted that we send someone. Personnel say he’s credible. MI5 are on it. Agents are on their way there. We should have something by 9am tomorrow. However the Angolan is not the only one. 185 people have come forward but most of them, we are assured, are not credible. Everyone is under interrogation.”

“And what if Angola comes to nothing? Do we have any other leads?.....Nothing? Not one of you has any input? Surely some thoughts? Sophie what’s the view of IT?”

“Prime Minister, absolutely we have a view. In a nutshell, we need to face the bull by the horns. DRI capabilities are way beyond ours. We can’t say for sure if the Americans, the Russians or the Chinese are ahead of us but we suspect not. We don’t think they’re hiding anything. In plain terms, DRI is an out of control freight train, gathering information and picking up passengers at high speed and its heading straight towards us, maybe not the next stop but somewhere along the line. There is a general consensus that DRI has a random agenda, that it follows no plan or structure, that it wasn’t created for any specific purpose and it is non-political. However, with the evolution of its AI technology, it has evolved into a more structured, thinking machine. It is capable of predicting outcome way beyond our ability. I am afraid Prime Minister that we are of the opinion that we have no choice but to negotiate.”

“Sorry what exactly do you mean, a thinking machine?”

“Their technology has managed to break down the components of thought into numbers. It’s an incredibly complex technology of prediction and outcome. It’s no different from playing chess against a computer. It calculates a move through a set of formulas based on stored information and patterns. The more information it has, the more it thinks and DRI has trillions of bits of information and it has the ability to process this information and that gives it the ability to influence its members. It has evolved into a political, super-search engine with the ability to provide complex answers to complex problems. It prepares reports with statistically calculated outcomes. We need to negotiate with DRI before it hits us.”

“And how on earth do we do that? Send them an email?”

“Yes Prime Minister. That’s exactly what we do. We send them an email. There is a Negotiations Department.”

“Do you really think that the British Government will negotiate with a faceless website? The media would crucify me. We have no idea who is behind this. I can see the headlines. I won’t be the first Prime Minister to negotiate with a terrorist website. I won’t be known as David Howard dot com.”

“I’m afraid I agree with Sophie, Prime Minister. We need to negotiate.”

“But we don’t have anyone to negotiate with and what exactly are we negotiating? You can’t ask a billion people simply to change their mind and unregister.”

“We need to think of DRI as an entity simply processing information for its members. An email from us will be processed. If we can predict its response then maybe we can influence its response. From what I understand, the Negotiation Department will accept submissions from all governments. We asked them what the process is. They emailed us that they process every government submission within 24 hours. Then send it to a committee for initial discussion and they report to the Houses and then there’s a vote and then it’s put to the electorate with their recommendation and then there is global debate and full DRI vote. There are two distinct elements, human and machine - the members of DRI debating issues and DRI responding to requests for information. DRI processes information in response to a request. It is programmed with sophisticated AI technology to analyse every piece of information available, to select relevant data based upon formulae and to submit the possible outcomes. We cannot predict what DRI considers relevant and this is the most dangerous aspect of DRI and perhaps the Achilles heal. You have to think of DRI as a kind of choir with a huge voice made up of one billion singers. We hope that we can influence what is put in front of them and we pray to God that they’ll sing it. That is the only way to affect the outcome.”

“So in actual fact, you have nothing, no real leads, no progress, just hand in the towel.”

“Excuse me, could I have a little quiet please. We’re going round in circles. I think that we will reconvene tomorrow at 2pm after we’ve had time to review any new information and by then we should have news on the Angola lead.”

Steve and I ordered Thai food for a change. I rolled a joint, mixed a jug of drink and poured us a couple of cocktails by the pool. My anger seemed to have subsided and Steve seemed unrepentant so it just seemed prudent to leave it. I thought I should raise a bit of anger but quite honestly I didn’t have the motivation and I was too hungry. It was odd that I had no desire to hurt Steve nor did I harbour any ill feeling toward him. We had always had an odd relationship.

“Have you been out Goris? You look like shit. Have you spoken to Gallie or Jazzy?”

“No I’ve been here, glued to the tv and my laptop. It’s incredible. Where have you been? I presume that neither of the women want to see you? I can’t blame them. It seems that I’m the only one who can put up with you. Nothing less than you deserve.”

“You presume wrong but I am staying at the Four Seasons. It was me that wanted the break. Actually I wanted to come here but I thought that you might……”

“Punch you. No. The other day maybe but not now. I’ve had time to calm down. Anyway, it was inevitable. If it wasn’t you it would have been someone else. I suppose when I think about it, better the devil you know. I suppose I’m glad it was you.”

“Thanks. That’s big of you. Listen Goris, you might not want to hear this the way you’ve been lately but you are a shareholder. Anyway is doing great. It’s generating big revenue now. We’ve signed up some big names. I mean big. Your shares are worth a lot. You’ve got 30% and according to the latest valuation…”

“Steve what’s What shares?”

“Goris what the fuck is wrong with you? You’re really losing it. You invested a lot of money in my business. You signed papers and we gave you shares. Shareholder Does that jog your fucked up brain? Jesus you really have been away and I mean away. Well?”

“Sure I remember. I gave you a cheque for $5m. Good, I’m glad it’s doing well. I promise you that if I make any money I’m going to take it to Angola and find that guy John and give it to him. He deserves it. He started DRI. Anyway there’s a joint press conference being broadcast live from the UK with the president and I want to see it. I want to see what they’ve come up with. Come on Steve it’s starting.”

“It is always a pleasure to welcome my friend and partner, President David Howard to the United Kingdom. I wish that it was under less distressing circumstances. As I have said before, the great alliance between our two countries is defined by shared interest and shared values and its vital contribution to global security and prosperity. It is our belief that war is always a last resort. We stand here shoulder to shoulder to urge the Iranian government to withdraw their threat and avoid war. I am holding here definitive proof, first-hand testimony that the terrorist website that has created global chaos, politically and economically has been backed and financed by the government of Iran. We have asked the Iranian government to close down DRI. They have refused. We have great respect for the Iranian people. We do not want war with the Iranian people. We do not want war. This is our final plea, a last bid for peace. The UN Security Council is currently in session. We will reconvene in 72 hours. David I want to thank you for showing the world that our peoples stand as one, in good times and bad.”

“My god Goris, look what you’re doing. You’ve got to stop it. They’re going to war with Iran.”

“What’s it got to do with me? Anyway, I don’t give a shit about the Iranian government. It’s a good thing. It will free the people. They need a civil war.”

“Thousands of innocent people will be killed and the blood will be on your hands. You’ve got to tell them. You’ve got to go to the police.”

“No I don’t and I’d be written off with every other head-case that’s claimed ownership. Maybe this is the beginning of equality. Maybe the Iranians will be the first to go but they won’t be the last. You might be surprised to learn that this is what the people want. DRI could stop it, I couldn’t, but it has no intention of stopping it. It seems that most of the Muslim world wants war against Iran. Government decisions do not represent the people and when you take government away, you get the truth. I’ve been watching DRI and they will never get a million votes. That’s what you need to implement a global petition. The people don’t want to stop the war.”

“So what? It doesn’t mean they are right. The world is full of hatred and prejudice. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to stop it.”

“But I think it does actually. This is the people fighting for a more equal world without the limitations of government. DRI is the first and only government not driven by corruption and self-interest. Greed has been a disaster for democracy. It has destroyed democracy. Steve, leave it alone.”

“I don’t know how you can sleep.”

“I can’t. You know what Steve, I’m almost prepared to go to the police just to prove it to you. In fact I will go but on one condition, you have to come with me so you can see that I can’t prove a thing and that they won’t believe me. Have you seen how many people have claimed ownership? I saw it on tv. Well?”

“Tell them about the guy in Angola. Maybe they can track him down.”

“Sure they’re going to send the CIA to track down a black guy called John in Angola because I tell them. Do you know how many Johns there are in Angola? Anyway what can he say? We met once, years ago. Come on let’s go, it should be fun.”

“Okay I’m willing if you are. It should be fun.”

I had no idea why I agreed to go. Steve suggested that I needed to confess and I didn’t disagree. The desk officer looked at us with disdain and irritation for wasting his time. He added us to an apparent list of claimants and told us to wait. We drank the warm brown water that was marked as coffee and waited in a dirty waiting room among the down and outs and minor criminals. Eventually my name was called and we went into interrogation room 131. It was hardly out of a Hollywood film. A kind of Formica blue table with a few matching chairs, scratched and old and an overweight Sergeant seated opposite us with a pad and recorder with an expression that said it all.

“Right boys, let’s have it. Which one of you created DRI?........ Name, address, date of birth, occupation…... Ok so what’s your story and be brief. I haven’t got time to waste……Yea very interesting….let me get this right, you were going through a mid-life crisis so you left your wife and kids and went travelling and you had the idea in Angola, wherever the fuck that is, and you asked a guy called John but you don’t know where he lives or what his family name is…you asked this guy to register the name DRI in his name and he did and you’ve got no proof of any kind because you burnt it a couple of weeks ago. Even my ten year old son thinks he’s John from Angola. It’s in every fucking paper. Maybe you hadn’t heard. Ok well I’ve heard enough. I think I’ve got it thanks. We’ll be in touch if we need anything else and it’s only because it’s too much paperwork that I’m not charging you both for wasting police time. Now get out of here. No I don’t want to hear any more. Before you go, sign here. You know what, forget it, I’m not even going to process this. No I don’t care who you are. What do you get out of this? I’ve torn it up and it’s in the bin. Get the fuck out before I change my mind and don’t come back.”

“Thanks Steve. That went well. I told you they wouldn’t listen. You can’t say I didn’t try. I’ve never felt so stupid. Now what?”

“I don’t know. The papers?”

“I told you, nobody will believe me. I hardly believe me. It’s strange Steve but now I want to be known as the founder of DRI. I want my daughter to know what I did and why? I want my day in court. Let them try to convict me. DRI would never allow it. It’s ironic that I took every precaution to hide my identity and protect myself and I did such a great job that even if I wanted to come out, I couldn’t prove a thing.”

We didn’t speak in the cab back to the house. I was swamped in thought of fame and worship and power. If I could prove my link then I would be the most influential man in the world. What could they charge me with? I hadn’t committed murder or fraud. Had I incited something? Maybe. They couldn’t charge me for inciting a war in Iran because it would expose their lies. They wouldn’t dare charge me with bringing down a few corrupt politicians or businessmen and if they did find something, who would convict me? I’d be the most important man in the world and potentially the richest but more than that I would have changed world politics forever. I would have brought water to Africa, cured the blind, fed the starving, cared for the sick, provided jobs for the unemployed, broken the drug cartels, brought criminals to justice. That’s more than Jesus did but then he did get crucified. Some might even say I was the son of God or the messiah. On the other hand, I would be blamed for having destroyed a lot of people’s lives and they’d want revenge. Major criminals and major businessmen. We walked into the house, I poured whisky, Steve rolled a spliff. The tv was on. Pizza was on its way.

“You know I think they’ll kill me in the end. Somebody will, you’re right.”

“I told you that. You’re on death row my friend. I would not want to be in your shoes. You’re fucked any way you look at it. The government catch you and God knows what they’ll do to you. Even they’ll work out that you’d never be convicted so they’ll hold you under terrorist charges until you die of old age and they’ll wheel you out in a DRI wheelchair and bury you in a DRI coffin.”

“At least DRI survived that long. Thanks for the compassion.”

“You’re welcome, except I hadn’t finished. If the Hyenas, the politicians and everyone else you’ve ruined get to you first, and they are probably looking for you now – they will want blood and they’ll find you and you’ll end up cut into pieces, put in a refuse bag and thrown into the Hudson. But if you remain anonymous, you’ll be looking over your shoulders forever, living alone, too scared to involve the girls and your friends in your miserable life so you’ll live on your own for a while and then paranoia will set in and you’ll go on the run, from motel to motel, then from country to country, fear moving you on and finally you’ll be found dead on a straw bed in Africa somewhere at the age of 65 having died of the only tropical disease that DRI didn’t manage to wipe out.”

“My God Steve, you’re a real friend. You fuck my wife, eat my pizza and bury me. Is that what you really believe?”

“You know me. I only say it as it is. I don’t know what to believe because what’s going on around us is unbelievable. It’s like a shitty Hollywood film, a machine slowly taking over the world and humankind is helpless to stop it. The only difference is that Tom Cruise always manages to save the world. Maybe you could call him.”

“You know it’s not that funny. I have to do something. I can’t sit and watch anymore.”

“Goris you need to really think carefully before you do anything. Whatever you do could implicate us, Gallie, Jazzy. It won’t be just you they go after. You’ve done some serious damage to some serious people. I know you didn’t mean it but that won’t save you. Hyenas didn’t become Hyenas by being nice or by being reasonable. You’ve shown them up for what they are – ruthless criminals. They will go hunting. If I were a Hyena, I’d get all the Hyenas together and hunt in a pack. Look I might have exaggerated a bit but you’re not in a good position. Someone will find you for sure. You can’t possibly have covered all your tracks.”

“Well you’re wrong. Nobody can ever track me down. But I do agree with you that it’s too dangerous to claim ownership for now but maybe in a few years when the forest has grown back better and stronger. Take a look at this Steve, the Redistribution Department. It’s incredible. Look, you go into the Redistribution Department and this opens. ’You must read the following report before you enter the department, ‘corruption and aid’. You have to spend four minutes on each page. It’s unbelievable but luckily I’ve read it or I wouldn’t be able to enter.”

“What does it say?”

“Basically, it’s an analysis of the aid business as it is today. They talk about the success stories and the failures and show how corruption has prevented effective aid. Look what they head the conclusion, ‘statistical analysis and outcome’. It says that politicians and officials need to be removed first and it talks about the effect of war and crime on aid. How it is working on ways to tackle those issues. It says that workers must be DRI members so they can be investigated and monitored. Now look at the number of petitions passed, more than 26,000 so far. DRI has prioritised them for action. This is proof that I am Jesus of LA. Look this is amazing. Applications for future jobs with DRI. Listen to this….Charity workers sought with experience in food distribution, basic medical knowledge, all backgrounds and languages, relief workers, nurses, doctors…must accept total openness and DRI exposure. The list is endless. For more information, see job opportunities in Employment Department. It’s mad. DRI is an employer now.”

“Actually it’s really disturbing. I want to ask you something. I understand that petitions are the beginning of a DRI process and they are generated by people. How is a report generated? If you have to read a report before you enter a department, who prepares the report and who decides that? How can you guarantee a report is neutral?”

“I don’t know the answer to that. I was shocked to see it myself. I’m not sure but I assume a Department generates the request for a report as a result of a petition. DRI has been programmed with such advanced AI technology that it has the capability to produce detailed reports. It’s just math. It’s an incredibly advanced search engine.”

“And how is it kept neutral?”

“I don’t know but if a government got hold of it, I’m sure that they would programme an agenda. The implications are incredible.”

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