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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

A career highlight


John Gilbert's The Slain Dragon (1885).


There once was a kingdom of the people of Selbland, and those people were courageous, traditional and widely admired. They were poor but they were proud, and because they were known to have integrity and courage in battle a far-off united kingdom always treated them as an ally. However after a series of great and terrible international wars, something went wrong. The people of Selbland became avaricious for the territory of their neighbours, and as one of these great world wars came to a close the people of Selbland used the diplomatic oversight in the peace negotiations in a town called Versals in another far-off land to negotiate for themselves a grossly enlarged territory over which they would rule as an expanded kingdom, absorbing a range of neighbouring people who did not want to be part of a greater Kingdom of Selbland. And therein began Selbland's troubles. Infighting between the peoples of the expanded Kingdom led to the King of Selbland being assassinated, and a period of tyranny endured in which national identity was suppressed and the identity of the Kingdom of Selbland was abolished altogether. After a second great and terrible war, in which the people of Selbland again showed their heroic qualities, the monarchy was abolished and egalitarian socialism was introduced to fund harmony between the various people of a Greater Selbland.


This filled the people of Selbland with pride, although they had to persevere with the abolition of their national identity because the borders of the new socialist country were still those of greater Selbland. But the capital of this new southern territory was the capital of Selbland, and perhaps the people of Selbland burst with pride just a little too much. Unfortunately this model of ethnic harmony within a greater Selbland was based upon a myth, because it survived only upon subsidies from the competing great powers that surrounded Selbland. And then those great powers, and all their proxy conflicts, dissolved, and in time Selbland found herself surrounded only by allies of one of those great powers; and all she had to show for her territorial hubris was a mountain of debts in money borrowed in competing quantities from the former rivals.


The socialist utopia dissolved into war, with shocking loss of life, and Selbland was reduced to her former borders, much to the chagrin of her peoples who felt humiliated as they had new territorial terms imposed upon them by the prevailing power in the region, a mighty western army that had taken grave offence at the death toll encountered as greater Selbland dissolved. And this grave and lasting offence, both by the mighty western army and a new democratic federation of cooperating nations that had emerged all around Selbland, was never really understood by the people of Selbland, who treated themselves as the victims and could not or would not come to terms with their share of moral responsibility in the bloodshed that had followed as greater Selbland, a historical accident lasting less than 100 years and that had emerged only out of a peculiar oversight as the Great Powers had fought broader battles. For the people of Selbland had forcibly resisted the collapse of their expanded nation, and this meant that far more people had died than ever needed to.


Eventually war came to Selbland itself, and the great western army bombarded Selbland's cities to force her to relinquish a southern part of her territory whose ethnic composition had changed entirely since the beginning of the period of the Kingdom of Selbland and was now dominated by people of a different nationality. The people of Selbland were humbled, but many of them continued to look backwards with dreams of what they imagined to have been a Greater Selbland and a socialist utopia in which they, the Selbian people, were predominant. The people of Selbland had been humbled by their experiences of war in which they had found themselves pitted against the world's dominant military power, and for some years they purported to integrate themselves into the great trading bloc that increasingly surrounded them.


But their experiences of war had embittered and criminalised the culture of the Selbian people, who in times of hardship had turned to crime as a way of life. The drugs trade flourished in Selbland, and the money from it corrupted politics, the economy and the entire Selbian way of life. Traditional values of sticking to one's word, and the importance of family, became eroded within Selbian culture as the omnipresent menace of narcotics and the revenues from its trade across Europe rotted the social fabric. The rot spread as far as the President of Selbland: a good man who proved unable to escape the drug trade's vices due to the omnipresence of drug money in Selbland's politics. Eventually he was deposed in a constitutional coup organised by the country's drugs lords, and he remained formally in office but deprived of power.


As Selbland's development into the regional trading bloc of which she ought properly to have become a member stalled, due to her internal corruption and all her problems with narcotics, guns and violence, she peered east to a large bearish historical ally by now engaged in an aggressive and destructive war with her neighbour to the world's near-universal horror and admonishment. That ally had never really helped the people of Selbland; instead it had just used the Selbian peoples' imagined sense of brotherhood to exploit Selbland and to sew division in the region for its own malign purposes. And this is what started to happen again: as Selbland slipped into the doldrums, the influence of the security and intelligence services of her imagined eastern ally took ever firmer a grip over Selbland's precarious democratic institutions. They started funding and pressurising both the government of the day and the opposition, catalysing false conflicts between different groups and classes within Selbian society and thereby maintaining the pervasive atmosphere of lawlessness that permitted the drug dealers to prosper.


They also infected the domestic security services of Selbland, who were ostensibly western-aligned. Then all of a sudden, in June of 2023, the head of those domestic security services flew to Mosscrow, the capital of their eastern ally, revealing his true colours. Indeed the authorities in Mosscrow bought a substantial chunk of Selbland's law enforcement institutions, corrupting them and making them report to Mosscrow rather than to do their national duty. They did this in an unholy alliance with Selbland's drug dealers, who had also infected the drug trafficking community.


But there were some white knights, who avoided repeated blows and attacks to strike at the heart of the corruption and malaise that had infected Selbland. One such knight, together with a team of expert and appreciated professionals, succeeded in blocking and dismantling an entire regime of electronic communications interference devised by the tyrants in Mosscrow. The system he destroyed would interfere with people's electronic communications by suggesting or altering words in emails, electronic messages and other communications, most of which were centred around mobile telephones that everyone now uses so ubiquitously, to sew confusion, to create discord between friends and professionals and doubt in the loyalty and actions of one's loved ones, and to cause mental distress and upset to powerful people across Selbland and beyond who would not meet the standards excepted of them by Mosscrow. This system of electronic communications interference would target individuals and then, within a few seconds or up to a minute of realising that they were using their mobile telephone to send an electronic communication, it would be triggered to intervene in the communication and start suggesting or changing words in a way calculated to damage the morale of the target by playing on his or her weak points or just by producing spurious rubbish suggesting interactions with the Police or with a certain internationally reviled politician based in Mosscrow.


It took weeks or even months of intensive labour to unravel the way this extraordinary scheme, which was run from a building in a downtown neighbourhood in the capital of Selbland, near the confluence of two rivers, worked and how it could be fooled. It was very difficult to acquire initial data on the nature of the scheme, because most of the victims of the scheme were too ashamed, humiliated or embarrassed to come forward and discuss that they had been victims of it or to discuss the damage that it had done to their professional and family lives. So the white knight and the other professional people charged with investigating and dismantling this programme, that had been in existence for some years but had been developing in complexity throughout this time, had to start from scratch. In an intensive period running from about January to May 2023, they scanned the patterns of electronic communications interference to assess how they were working and how they could be disrupted. One thing they noticed was that it was easy to notice when the interference had been triggered because a series of negative words, casting doubt upon the author's intentions or the welfare of his friends, family or colleagues, would be suggested to the user of the electronic device. After that, the programme would be placed on autopilot and increasing quantities of nonsense would be generated until the interference would terminate in a series of buffer words that would just loop round one to the other indefinitely.


The programme of electronic communications interference could also intervene in people's email accounts connected to their mobile telephones, and included both sending emails in somebody's name that they never actually sent; and ensuring that emails sent to a target's email address would not be received by him.


Unfortunately, due to the corruption inherent in the law enforcement authorities in Selbland, it proved very hard to arrest the perpetrators of this giant electronic communications interference programme, despite the fact that a number of them were brilliant IT experts from across the globe apparently living in Selbland without work permits. Nevertheless the initial solution to the programme of electronic communications interference was to overload the system with meaningless nonsense, trying to use words that would trigger interference and then continuing to write ever more that might trigger the interference system repeatedly and even require human oversight. It was observed that there was a "panic" feature associated with the programme of electronic communications interference, in which a human being would take over from auto-generated word suggestions / alterations because there was some danger perceived in what the target was writing - for example, exposure of the details of the programme or the identities of the persons operating it. In this way, the programme of electronic communications interference could be disrupted by requiring ever more human beings to operate it, and to cause chaos and sew division amongst the staff of the programme by threatening the possibility of exposure, police action, action on people's immigration status, and the like.


Matters came to a head when the authorities in Mosscrow sent an emissary to Selbland to stand off against the White Knight. It was a precarious affair taking place in a bar, and the White Knight had a bottle thrown against his head. (It missed.) The White Knight had suffered numerous poisoning attempts and other acts of violence during the course of his work, including attempts to drive him insane by deploying electronic devices to attack him with what has become known as "Havana Syndrome" (audio waves outside the audible spectrum blasted at a person while they are sleeping). Nevertheless the White Knight finally escaped Selbland, despite all the threats and violence perpetuated against him, having managed to bring the programme of electronic communications interference apparently to a satisfactory conclusion. The system had been turned off; or, at least, he had ceased to be a target, and he has not heard of any other such cases since. However should any such new cases arise, we are informed that the White Knight will always be on call again to assist.


This was a real career highlight for the White Knight. He had reduced to rubble the mighty dragon nurtured by the authorities of Mosscrow, and in the process put to bed a great evil that had blighted the lives of many of the world's rich and powerful people by disrupting their electronic communications and causing them unspeakable mental suffering. It is sad that the people of Selbland ever suffered such a thing to develop on their territory, and it just goes to show that Selbland remains a weak, impoverished, institutionally fragile nation in which rule of law is almost entirely absent and our worst enemies may pray upon the people there, wreaking havoc if we are not eternally vigilant.

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