The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
“Why in the world would the Vice President be coming to Dad’s funeral?”
Holding tightly onto her purse, Rebecca was beginning to get more uptight than grieved. She didn’t deal too well with turmoil and this was bothering her. She answered, “I don’t know. I didn’t think he was that close to the Vice President.”
Charles stood up and said, “There’s one way to find out.”
“How?” Patricia asked.
“I’m going out there to ask around.”
“This is a funeral, it isn’t a courtroom. You just stay right where you are,” Rebecca said tersely.
“My brother’s little funeral is turning into an affair of state. I’d like to know what’s going on.”
“I’m sure that it’s some kind of mix-up. Maybe they think he’s some other Peter Moore.”
Rebecca said, “Peter had a lot of friends in all kinds of places. You didn’t know him like I did.”
The slamming of the door destroyed the natural noises of the forest. The birds stopped chirping and the larger animals all froze. The man responsible for the door slamming was storming towards a 1950 Willys M38 jeep. The body wasn’t original, having been replaced with a new tub three years earlier by a jeep collector, who upon having completed the restoration had found one of the same year with a better pedigree. The body had been repainted in the original flat army green complete with a white star on the rear fender. There was a shovel and an axe hung on the body below the driver side door. The windshield had been folded down.
The man came to an abrupt halt upon reaching the jeep. It was his jeep, given to him as a present by his wife who was tired of hearing him wax poetically about how the early jeeps were a thousand times better than the modern travesties that the company was producing now. He liked the jeep so much that he was loath to drive it. He wouldn’t have been driving it today except that there was a large antique automobile show in town and he couldn’t resist the chance to show it off.
“What are you doing in my jeep?” the man asked not wanting to deal with some antique car nut at the moment.
“I’m waiting for you.”
“Get in. We have to talk.”
“I don’t know who you are or who you think you are, but if you don’t get out of the jeep right this moment I’m going to feed your ass to the bears.”
Holding up a large envelope, Peter asked, “Do you know what this is?”
“It’s an envelope. Now get out of my car.”
“That’s right. Inside the envelope are two sheets of paper. On one of them is written a bank routing number, user account name, user account number, and password for an account in bank located in Vanuatu. The account contains three million dollars and is for your use in creating a new nature preservation charity, one that is a bit more sane and rational then the one located in the office that you just stormed out of.”
“I can’t use that money. The federal government will be all over my ass unless the sources are identified.”
“The second paper inside this envelope is a copy of the last will and testament of an eccentric gentleman from Singapore. He died a couple of weeks ago. You are named in the will as the legal recipient of this money for the sole purpose of starting a nature preservation society. He liked one of your specials on television.”
The man stood there thinking about it. The jerks inside the building were talking about destroying millions of dollars of private property and defacing national monuments in order to raise awareness of the plight of millions of species as a result of global warming. They were demanding that owning a gasoline car become a federal crime. They wanted a ban on home heating and air conditioning. They were demanding that all coal mines and oil wells be shut down. He had lost it when they had started harping about banning hot water for personal hygiene.
It was a shame that the organization had been taken over by radicals. At one time, it had been a real force for positive change. They had gotten millions of acres of land set aside as nature preserves. One of their efforts had brought a species back from the brink of extinction. They had helped create hundreds of miles of nature trails to introduce people to the wonder of nature.
“It’s best not to talk around here. There are some people who are actively hostile to the idea of preserving nature nearby,” Peter said gesturing with his eyes towards the building.
More than the money, that comment piqued his attention. He had accused them of exactly that crime just a few minutes ago.
“Where do you want to meet?”
“Get in and drive. I’ll tell you where to go.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“You shouldn’t, but you don’t have much choice. You can go with me and save the natural world or you can feed me to the bears and watch everything you care for wither and die.”
The man got into the jeep and started it.
“Just drive away from here,” Peter said.
Thirty minutes later, they were parked on an overlook gazing down at a landscape that threatened to take their breath away.
“Who are you?”
“Now that we’re away from listening ears, I am free to talk with you. I am Peter Moore, at your service.”
“I’m Paul Metzer.”
“I know exactly who you are, Dr. Metzer. You want to save the world.”
“The natural world.”
“You and I are in the same business. I want to save the world, as well. Our approaches are different, but the outcomes we want are identical.”
“I’ve never heard of you.”
“Of course, you haven’t. You are trying to save the world by shining a light on the beauty of it. On the other hand, I live in the shadows seeking out those who would destroy that beauty. You need me to live there in the shadows, because that’s where the people who oppose you reside. I need you in the light because someone has to lead once the bad people are removed.”
“Why do you have to work in the shadows? We all know who the bad guys are. It’s the chemical companies, the lumber companies, and manufacturers who dump their toxic waste into the environment.”
“Vaughn was murdered and the people who were behind his death weren’t members of any of that group.”
“He died because he was ill.”
“No. He was being poisoned.”
“He had Leukemia.”
“He ingested low levels of radioactive material over a period of two years. Every once in a while, they would break into his house and add very small amounts of radioactive materials to freshly-opened cans of coffee. Every time they brewed a cup of coffee out of the tainted coffee can they were getting poisoned. The reports I read identified a wide variety of materials were being tried, including Strontium 90, Tritium, and Cesium 137. Any one of them can cause Leukemia. Once symptoms developed, they stopped administering it. They knew what to watch for, Vaughn didn’t. As you might be aware, his wife was the first to die of Leukemia. He died shortly after from Leukemia. His son has it now.”
Peter didn’t know why they chose that approach in killing Vaughn, although he was pretty confident it was inspired by the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB officer who had made accusations against Putin, or the Karen Silkwood poisoning. In this case, they were a bit more subtle about it and used small quantities of material added over time. They wanted him out of the way in a manner that would raise no questions.
Looking irritated, Peter said, “The why is troubling. To be quite honest, I’m not fully convinced I understand their motives. It seems strange to me that there are people who do not want to preserve nature. I don’t know why they want people like you and Vaughn out of the way.”
“That sounds like something out of a spy movie,” Paul said skeptically.
In a move that surprised Paul, Peter got out of the jeep and went over to where his car was parked. It was one of several that were parked there. People did stop by there to check out the view. He grabbed a manila folder out of the trunk of the car and carried it back to the jeep. He handed it over to Paul.
“Tell me how many of the names you recognize.”
Paul opened the folder. His eyes widened upon seeing the first page. On it was drawn a series of lines, with each line representing a time line of one year. There were little ticks on the time line with labels. Below the lines was text identifying what happened. He read the first page shocked at the level of detail within it. He knew for a fact that many of the incidents identified in the report had happened. He looked up at Peter.
There were people, places, and events mentioned. There were payoffs, assaults, and murders described. He recognized the names of the good people from working with them. He recognized some of the bad names from the jokers that he had just left behind. They had moved the whole save the earth movement from focusing on education and filing legal actions to stop companies from poisoning the land, to eco-terrorism.
One group was now engaging in acts of aggression and physical confrontations that would ultimately lead to deaths. Another group had defaced an internationally recognized and protected historical site. As he flipped through the pages, he found events that he hadn’t heard about because they were too small-scale to make the news. All of it was criminal.
It was quite obvious from the history when one of the good guys was bought off or scared away. They walked away from projects in the middle of them or changed their tone to the negative. It wasn’t just activists who were chased away. The reporters they had once used to invoke public outrage over toxic dumps had been silenced. That was why there weren’t any more stories about ecological crimes.
The last event on a timeline appearing on the last page involved him. There had been a meeting a week before in which his death was discussed. His hands started shaking and he felt nauseous. He had noticed a change in attitude towards him right after that date.
“You and your wife need to disappear for about six months while you put together the charity. The money is real. Pay yourself a salary out of it to cover your bills. You’ll know when it is safe to come out of hiding.”
Paul studied Peter carefully. He asked, “You’re out to save the world?”
“Yes. The system is broken. Every area of human activity that you can name has been corrupted, including business, politics, economics, infrastructure, education, ecology, science, arts, sports, press, and entertainment. The checks and balances have rusted into immobility. The governors that keep the system from running out of control have been disabled.”
“You’re trying to deal with all of that?”
“I’m helping people like you because when the system is reset, we need strong, moral, and intelligent people in place to provide a direction. You’re one of those people. You need to spend this time coming up with a policy that can protect the environment without disabling society. It needs to be sane, reasonable, and implementable. That’s not an easy task.”
“You’re trying to deal with all of that?”
“What makes you think you can succeed?”
“That’s a good question. I’m not a prophet. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I do know more about the recent past and present than anyone in the world. I can extrapolate the outcomes of current events based on historical precedence.
“I’m not the most brilliant person on the planet, but I have a very good idea of what needs to be done. I may not know how to perform some task, but I know how to find just the right person to do it. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know how to use technology to get answers to questions.
“I believe that what I’m trying to do is the best guess anyone can make about how to fix things.”
Paul said, “That’s actually a pretty good answer.”
Peter said, “Earlier you asked me why you should trust me. I want you to understand just how much trust I’m putting in you. You are one of a dozen people who know my identity and what I’m doing to fix things. I am trusting you to come up with a direction for us to follow once the bad people are taken out of the picture.
“By the time I’m done, there will be hundreds of people just like you who will be poised to step in and give direction to society. Other forces will be caught unawares, so we will have a real chance to put into place positive measures.
“You are one of the first people who I’ve contacted. The problem you’re going to be solving is perhaps the most complex of them all. You’re going to need help, but you can’t advertise it to anyone. You tell me what kind of expertise you need and I’ll identify a person who is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and discreet. You’ll get the help you need.”
“You’re asking a lot of me.”
Paul sat in the jeep staring out over the view below. He had a lot to think about. His mind went back to that last entry in the time lines where they were discussing his death.
“How long do I have before they try to kill me?”
“I’m not sure. I imagine that your storming out of there probably moved up their schedule. They can’t afford to have someone who knows what they are trying to do, running around loose. Arson isn’t exactly something that one can explain away when caught red-handed.”
Paul wasn’t even going to ask him how he knew that. In a way, it was frightening what the guy knew. He asked, “What did I have for breakfast this morning?”
The question was so unexpected that Peter nearly choked. He answered, “I don’t know.”
“Could you find out?”
“I could acquire enough data to make an educated guess.”
“Your wife shops at local grocery stores. I could get into their records, search for your telephone number, and find out everything that you bought ever since she signed up for the preferred shopper program. With a detailed list of purchases for eggs, cereals, bread, pancake mix, and other breakfast items, I could probably construct a pretty good picture of what you eat for breakfast.”
“You can find out all of that?” Paul asked.
Peter answered, “You’d be shocked at how much data about you is being passed around among companies. You read the little privacy policies and you think that what you do is somewhat private. There’s the fine print about sharing it with partner companies. You never ask who those companies are, what is being shared with them, and what they are using it for.”
He wasn’t going to volunteer that he had a company that was a partner with all of those big companies who collected data like that. This included grocery stores, pharmacies, credit card companies, insurance companies, oil companies, internet search companies, and online retail firms. Every Monday, his program spit out a number of products that seemed to be gaining attention from the public at large. The result was sent back to all of those partner companies. Every month an electronic transfer was forwarded to a company account he couldn’t ever touch. However, he could touch the data.
There were no secrets in the modern world. Anything that anyone entered into a computer was available for the taking. Some of the uses for that information were terrifying. The sad thing was the information was being used for exactly those purposes. The algorithms for processing that data were getting better. One day, people would lose all free will.
“I didn’t know they did that.”
“No one ever reads the End User License Agreement. No one ever notices just how much of their privacy they are giving away each time they click that little box in which they acknowledge that they accept the terms and conditions. No one ever reads the privacy statement.”
“I guess I’m going to do that from now on,” Paul said.
“No, you’re not. You’re not going to change how you do business at all. Doing so would raise suspicions.”
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“Go home. Pack your bags and leave. Take your car, not your jeep, and head out. In a couple of days, email me, and I’ll let you know where you can stay so that you’ll be off the grid. Put together your ideas, critique them for gaps, fill in the gaps, and come up with a sane policy for our natural resources.”
“Okay,” Paul said.
Dave stood at the door of his large house wondering who this guy was, to come knocking on his door. “Get out of here. We’re not buying anything.”
“Dr. Dave Morton, I would like to talk to you about the paper you’re writing. Last night, around two in the morning, it disappeared from the cloud.”
Dave had already started to shut the door on the guy, but he froze once he realized what the guy was saying. He was saying that his most recent work was gone.
“Just the paper?”
“No all of your work disappeared last night. The programs, data, and paper are all gone. Everything was erased.”
“It can’t disappear. It’s the cloud. There are backups and all of that kind of stuff. They guarantee their data.”
“It’s all gone. Someone went in and cleansed everything you had put up there.”
“It can’t be.”
“Go check if you don’t believe me.”
The door slammed leaving Peter standing at the front door. There was a single little step from the walkway to the door. He turned and sat on the little step. He pulled out his telephone and started reading. He figured that he’d be waiting there for a while. Having years of work disappear tended to leave one a little frantic. He hadn’t wanted to approach Dr. Dave Morton in this manner, but the sudden interest in his work had necessitated a prompt action.
The door opened and an ashen faced Dave stood there. He had visited his account and what he found there horrified him.
He asked, “Are you from the cloud company?”
“What do you know about the disappearance of my work?”
Peter said, “To answer that question, I’m afraid that you’ll need to come with me.”
“Are you from the government? Why should I go with you? Did you have something to do with destroying my life’s work?”
“I’m not from the government. I need you to verify that I managed to salvage your work. I was somewhat involved in the sense that I managed to protect your work from theft.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Peter Moore and I’m risking my life standing here talking to you. I’d really appreciate it if we could go someplace a bit safer.”
“What’s going on?”
“I’ll explain in the car.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”
Dave had the expression on his face of someone who had been pole axed. It took him a second to get his thoughts back in order.
“What do you know about Dmitri?”
“You and he had a long collaboration with each other until he died under mysterious circumstances last year.”
“There was nothing mysterious. He told me that someone had stolen his work and the next day he was dead. He was murdered.”
Peter said, “May we go somewhere safe so that I can tell you the whole story?”
“We can go in my house.”
“We can’t talk in there.”
“You have products all over your house that can be turned into listening devices.”
“Are you telling me my house is bugged? That’s absurd.”
“You have several voice-controlled systems in multiple rooms. They are always on. Anytime it thinks that you’ve given it a command, everything you say is sent back to the company where it is analyzed.”
“Yes. Someone like me can tap into it and listen in on everything you say.”
“I had no idea.”
“So let’s go somewhere we can talk. You’ve got some very nasty people interested in you and you need to know what you’re facing.”
It took a bit longer than necessary for Dave to lock up the house and get ready to leave. Peter waited patiently in his car. Once again he had been forced to move faster than he had wanted. First it was Martin, then it was Alan and now it was Dave.
Once Dave got into the car, Peter drove off. He started explaining,