The End of the Old Order
The Prescient Psychographics
“About six months ago, Mother Suri’s engineers hacked into the control frameworks of every Erabian and Anglican nuclear power station and took them over. She has maintained control over them ever since. It is thankfully not yet public knowledge, but a week ago she released small amounts of radiation into the atmosphere at each of these stations. It was essentially harmless, but it was a shot across our bows. Initially, we believed Mother Suri wanted to negotiate in good faith with us. But now we think otherwise. Our engineers cannot get back into the systems and Mother Suri is no longer willing to communicate with us. In releasing the radiation, she was showing us that if she so chose, she could destroy most of Erabia and Anglica. Her recent public announcements confirm that she has abandoned nonviolence as a guiding principle of the RNTM. My Director of Terrorism, as well as Anglica’s Minister of Intelligence, both believe that Mother Suri has the ability, and probably the desire, to destroy our nations. So now it’s an all-out war between civilized nations who want law and order and terrorists who do not.”
Avir shakes her head. It is clear she does not believe the King. Her disgust does not surprise me. But what does surprise me is that there is no response from the King, a man unaccustomed to being challenged. As the King continues to talk, I get up from my seat and wave my hand in the air. Again, no response. He can’t see us. This is a small advantage I will soon leverage. I trust the King about as much as Avir does.
“So you decided we needed rescuing from Mother Suri’s sick circus show,” I say. “But that doesn’t explain why we were there in the first place.”
“Let me explain the best I can. But Colonel, please keep in mind that these are very strange times, and because Mother Suri controlled (and still controls) the fate of our nations, our options were very limited. The Prime Minister—who is no friend of mine—was the initial one who decided we must work together to fight Mother Suri. But, to be frank, we agreed that the general public could not understand what we were doing. Through our public statements we ran counter-information campaigns to keep the public from understanding that we were cooperating. We both strongly believe that the press is a dangerous institution in times like these.” Avir is skeptical, but she remains silent.
“The Prime Minister and I miscalculated. We initially believed Mother Suri when she said she wanted to develop a public service show that would run on all networks and demonstrate to the world that Erabians and Anglicans could live in peace. Yes, she had taken over our nuclear power stations, but she also made it seem as though she simply wanted to teach the world to live in peace. She promised us she would turn back control over the reactors, and do no harm, if we submitted to a simple request. She asked that we give her two of our most senior military men, both with experience negotiating truces, and allow a team of studio professionals to film their negotiations. It seemed innocuous enough. So, I chose my nephew and the Prime Minister chose Colonel Wyles. Mother Suri seemed to be happy with our selections, and as a token of our new mutual trust, she released control over half of the nuclear power stations. At some point, and my recollection of timing is a little hazy here, our intelligence agents realized that family members were taken as hostages and that this show was anything but a public service program. We knew we had to take action. We had a plan in place to rescue all of you, but you beat us to it. The minute we got word that you had escaped and were on a road to Yerusalom, we sent out the drone to exterminate Equis.”
“Well, thank God we had you looking out for us,” Avir says.
“I would watch your tongue, Avir. There is just so much I will take. You and I are not blood and I do not condone what you did to my nephew. He may have forgiven your tawdry affair, but remember that I am your King, and I do not forgive so easily.” Trina gets up from her seat, whispers something into Avir’s ear, and gives her a quick hug before sitting back down.
“What about Prescient Labs?” I ask. “Equis’ production assistant said they were involved and Equis acted strangely when I asked about it.”
The King pauses. He starts to say something and stops. “I can’t tell you much in the way of details. It’s highly classified. But I will say that the founder of Prescient Labs, Rhone Block, is a good man who wants to help Erabia and Anglica against Mother Suri. The Prime Minister and I have met with him on a few occasions. He’s on our side. Mother Suri leads an organization of sophisticated hackers with loose decentralized cells. They are a formidable opponent. They are cyber-terrorists without a nation or even a headquarters to attack. They have a uniquely sophisticated understanding of high-tech warfare. Rhone Block has volunteered his company’s services to counter Mother Suri. I cannot say any more about—.”
“All I care about is my children,” Avir interjects. “Do you know where they are?”
“Daveem and the younger children are all safe, Avir. I made sure of that myself. They are under the care of your mother-in-law. Princess Salen, who had your children, has unfortunately gone missing.” The King stops himself and takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry Princess but Bramir has been taken by Mother Suri, as has Salen’s friend Ms. Salaman. Mother Suri has them brainwashed.”
Avir does not cry. Her face tightens and I’m not sure if this reflects her skepticism or shock. Trina once again moves to console Avir and she simply says, “Please … don’t.”
“Mother Suri has been secretly brainwashing people for years. Bramir and Ayesha are recent victims of a comprehensive social conditioning campaign that, like The War Show, uses complex psychographic messaging to persuade different groups of people of the importance of supporting Mother Suri. We are countering their efforts with something devised by Rhone Block called Prescient Psychographics, which is an intricate algorithm that tries to predict and diminish the impact of Mother Suri’s conditioning campaign. Again, this is all highly classified so I cannot say more. But you should take a look at the last two posts of Bramir and Ms. Salaman. Does this post seem like something your son would say?”
Avir reads the posts multiple times, spending far more time on Ayesha’s than Bramir’s. The King wants to start talking again, but the princess politely asks him to give her a few more minutes to read the posts. The King waits patiently while Avir quietly stands up and moves towards me. She pulls my head close and whispers. “We need to stop this car immediately. We need to find Salen. She’s the only person who truly understands the message that Ayesha is sending. I think I know where Salen may be.”
“Out of respect to the Prince, I want to be honest with you, Princess. I don’t trust you at all. I trust the King even less, but I cannot trust a woman who blatantly lied to her husband. I don’t understand how you could have done what you did.”
“You wouldn’t be the first man who couldn’t understand a woman and you certainly won’t be the last.” Her tone becomes angrier. “You don’t understand what it is to be a mother.”
“I’m not following you.”
“You don’t need to follow me. And I don’t need your understanding. But because I need you to believe me about Salen and Ayesha, I will indulge your chauvinism. But it will be the only time I indulge it.”
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