A follow-up to a previous a story entitled "Comes a Blond Stranger ..."
Years later (present day) ...
The two sat at a table in the large basement cafeteria of the Agency's Washington DC headquarters. It was late afternoon, and they were drinking lattes instead of coffee, as in years past. The basement had been remodeled: soft lighting; beige carpeting. Even the chairs had gone upscale, expensive and over-stuffed. A lot of money sloshing around Capitol Hill these days.
The worse it got outside, the better the Agency seemed to do.
The senior man missed the look and feel of the place where he'd spent much of his spare time. He felt his age; the junior man, opposite him, looked as young and dynamic as ever.
"Remember right here we talked about finding a guy and turning him into a star years ago," the junior man said, adding too much sugar. "He's sure blown up since then. Makes me nostalgic."
"He's the biggest thing in the world right," the senior man said, ladling a little honey. "That was one sweet concept."
"Lucky I had a brainstorm," the junior man needled.
"Sure, you were on the verge of washing out," the senior man teased back. "I gave you the credit because you needed a boost and you ended up with a real humdinger, my son." His smile ended up as a grimace. Out of practice.
The junior man took a cautious sip. "And now he's everywhere. He's all over the news just about twenty-four-seven."
"Well, we own the goddamn mainstream media," the senior man said, trying his own latte. "Are you surprised?"
"It's strange to watch," the junior man said. "I know it's all an act, but the left wing wants him deified and the right wants him shot."
"That's part of the dialectic. We need to control both sides of the argument. Our guys need to capture the most radical sentiments in order to control them. Has to do with credibility."
"But our own presenters are sounding like anarchists. It's almost counterproductive."
"Don't think the higher-ups aren't aware," the senior man said, wondering if his drink had cooled. "But nobody expected the Internet to be so uncontrollable."
"We ought to just shut it down," the junior man said. "If it were up to me." He drew his finger across his throat.
"That's easy for you to say." the senior man said. He took a sip. Better.
"But how are you going to do it practically?" the older man continued. "It's a balancing act."
"Give me three or four days," the junior man muttered. "I'd take care of it."
"I bet you would," the senior man said. "You and DARPA. They invented the Internet but they didn't count on two fellows in a garage coming up with a personal computer. Once everyone plugged in ... game over."
"Idiots," the junior man said heatedly. "They should have used better judgment."
The senior man took another sip. "You can't fight the market. Nobody can anticipate everything."
"What're you kidding me?" The junior man was startled. "It's OUR narrative, man! Everybody else just keeps score."
"I used to think that too," the senior man said. He felt suddenly weary. "But we can only go so far and then there's a setback. Now they're building a decentralized Internet. It's going to make things even harder to control. The pirates - the Pirate Bay folks. It's on the news."
The younger man looked surprised.
"What's that?" he asked finally, after collecting his thoughts. "I doubt it will work."
"I'm afraid you're wrong. You can't control this technology, not in its beginning stages. They couldn't control the Gutenberg press, either."
"The Gut ... what?"
The older man sighed and drank more latte.
"Look," the junior man said, settling back in his comfortable chair. "When it comes right down to it, we work for the people with the money. We're just ... enforcers."
"Sure," the senior man agreed, settling back too. "But people with money tend to be arrogant. You can't beat the market. Not in the long run. The Invisible Hand gets you every time."
He put his own somewhat mottled hand up to his throat and made a choking noise.
"I'll play for the side with the money," the junior man said. "Wealth always wins." He leaned forward and slurped.
"Does it?" the senior man asked. "New technologies can even-out the playing field for a while."
"All I know is our guy is blowing up big," the junior man said, looking up. "We want a war, well, these leaks provide plenty of reasons. He's giving us an excuse to crack down hard on the 'Net. License every user, track every domain ... And we got good partners. The Brits. Mossad. Tavistock doesn't fool around," he added with a final slurp, like a coda.
He drummed his fingers on the table. "Just like with the Beatles when they blew up. Or Operation Gladio."
"That was pre-Internet," the senior man pointed out.
"Come on! It's been set up brilliantly," the junior man said. "Everything that's come out has basically reinforced our policies. And we're getting publicity that we could never have paid for in a thousand years. "
"So far so good," the senior man said, playing with his cup. "You can't count on the success of an operation until it's over," he cautioned. "Too many things can go wrong."
"But look what we've ended up with!" the junior man said, leaning forward. "We got a sex addict charged with rape running an Internet leak program that is putting international secrets at risk - and jeopardizing the lives of soldiers and diplomats around the world. We want to crack down on the Internet now, there's every reason to."
"Perhaps so," the senior man said quietly. He didn't sound convinced.
"He's even changed the color of his hair," the junior man pointed out. "Now it's black. Looks a lot more dangerous. I don't know what you're so worried about."
"What am I worried about?" The senior man considered. "Well ... look around you. Not here! I mean look at the big picture. The economy is a mess. The world is a mess. Europe's in flames. America's getting there. We got employment numbers last put up during the Great Depression."
"Of course things are chaotic. That's part of their plan. You can't build a world government without breaking a few eggs."
"But China is going to go down. Inflation's out of control in that big country and sooner or later China's problems will bring down all of Asia. Now the entire world's in a slump."
"Game on!" the junior man cried. When the older man winced, he added, "Oh, I understand the causes - central banking and delinking from gold. You've taught me that. There couldn't be any other outcome."
"That's true," his mentor confirmed. "This was the strategy. Out of chaos, order. Central banking made the global meltdown inevitable, just as planned. But the higher-ups, they didn't understand about the Internet. That's exposed us. Our ideas are regularly discussed now and even anticipated ..."
"... But I don't see anyone backing down," the junior man interrupted. "I think you're worried about nothing. That's your personality. You've always got find the fly in the ointment."
"I disagree. We're approaching an inflection point. When China goes down - either through inflation or interest rate hikes - the world is going to be a terrible mess. And even without China, we've already got riots ... civil disobedience. Some think Western capitalism has failed, it's true. But people are not so uneducated anymore, thanks to the 'Net. And some may understand that 20th century economics was closer to communism than capitalism. They may riot for freedom this time, for a real marketplace with real money, not for bigger government."
"Look," the junior man said, ready to drop a name. "The Red Shield is pretty good with this sort of thing. I personally leave it up to them. They've managed the conspiracy rather well. And our guy is certainly helping. That was the whole idea wasn't it? We came up with it, and now I've even heard his role may be expanded."
"Yes ... I've heard the same thing," the senior man admitted.
"He's the focus of worldwide attention," the junior man pressed. "Before they're finished, he could be the most famous and heroic person in the world. Nothing will stick, or nothing big, even if he does go to jail for a while. And before he does, he'll release that insurance package of his. So who cares if he wanted to get laid? He's just going to look persecuted, like he's stood up to the most powerful bullies on earth. When the nation-states implode he'll be the most important person left standing. A war or two later, and people will look for leadership ... They'll virtually be begging for someone like him. He could lead the way to ... to ... "
"Yes, yes, of course" the senior man said. "A kind of new world order."
"His goal is to make closed societies more open," the younger man said emphatically. "People misunderstand his message. He doesn't want to do away with government, even big government. He just wants to make it better. He's playing a part, and we've got everyone watching. It's incredible. All over the world. Same techniques they used with the Beatles, and Lady Gaga. Mainstream media coverage 24-hours a day."
"Hm-mm. Hope he can be counted on."
"He's staying on the reservation," the junior man replied, feeling inexplicably a little defensive. "No question about that. He's sticking to the script, saying all the right things. He's even explained that he doesn't want to disseminate through the 'Net because he needs 'professional journalists' to work with him, like those at the Guardian and the New York Times. He's singlehandedly resuscitating the reputation of mainstream journalism. Plus he doesn't have any problems with the official story about 9/11 - so that's off the table."
"Well, I hope you're right," the senior man said, feeling suddenly gloomy. "Say, did you buy liability insurance?"
"Huh?" the junior man asked. "Oh, yeah - the new program. I looked into it."
"Do yourself a favor," the senior man said. "Revisit it."
"You serious?" asked the junior man.
"What if he's playing a double game?" the senior man probed, looking right in the eyes of his protege. "We've seen it before. What if he's going along with it now but when he's decided he's got enough clout to make a difference, he leaves the reservation - does things his own way? Maybe he forgets who his friends are and starts taking it all too seriously ... "
The young man looked pale. "Like a double agent? That wouldn't be very good for my career."
"No, you'd be blamed."
"You, too," the younger man said hurriedly, looking downcast. "It was YOUR idea."
"It wasn't," the older man said. "Anyway, I'm retiring."
"That's true," the junior man muttered. "How can we be sure?"
"We can't be sure of anything," the senior man said. "The balls are in the air. Where do they land?"
The above is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. If it were not fictional, it would represent an alternative view of recent events that increasingly (and unfortunately) seem suspect to some, including us.