Project PRIME

Janice is suddenly jolted back to consciousness with a bucket of dirty, mildly hot water. The hot water stings open wounds on her face as the upward direction of the water going into her nose gives her the sensation of suffocating. She turns her head to the right to open her eyes as the water runs passed her stinging eyes. The sludge in the water leaves the taste of mud in the back of her throat.

As she opens her eyes, she sees Thomas five feet away, still tied up in a chair. His head is titled over his left shoulder with blood-tainted saliva dripping from his mouth onto the cement, which is drenched in blood that’s dripping from his seat. His intestines have been slightly pulled out of his stomach with a clamp constricting the exposed intestine. She notices a slight fluctuation in the light reflecting from the blood on Thomas’s chest. He’s still breathing.

Janice hears a door open in the distance, then voices, then heavy foot steps. If she hadn’t spent the last 24 hours with the real punisher, then this next 24 hours was going to be even worse. She can barely muster enough strength to get her head upright to face her adversary. She hears foot steps walk away and the door open. The door closes, and then she hear’s his voice.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Janice.”

Janice remembers that voice. It is special agent Paige of the CIA. She had just heard his voice for the first time two days earlier when she arrived in New Orleans. Thomas had played a recorded phone conversation between Paige and another member of the CIA who were planning her very abduction.

That conversation echoes in her head as she is jolted back into the current moment as agent Paige slides a thin, narrow, sharp six-inch blade into the base of her kneecap. The pain is excruciating! Her legs are taped tightly to the legs of the chair, which are bolted to the floor. The more she tries to move her right leg, the more painful the blade becomes, but she can’t help but move her leg; it’s reflex.

Agent Paige leaves the blade in Janice’s right leg and then walks back to the cart the other punishers have been pulling their weapons from for the last 24 hours.

“Janice, I’m going to tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about our programs. Most of it, you probably already know. We found a lot of data on your computers.”

Agent Paige picks up a pair of pliers like a mother pickups her infant child. Janice can see genuine love on agent Paige’s face as he admires the pliers and inspects their operation. He’s practically making baby faces at the pliers before he turns to Janice. The look on agent Paige’s face is demonic as he walks towards Janice.

“I love what I do, Janice. Protecting this country isn’t work at all when I love what I do as much as I do.” Agent Paige squats down to look Janice eye to eye. “Truth is… I always fancied myself an artist.”

He grabs Janice’s right wrist and grips a pressure point that forces her fingers to splay. He then places the pliers between her thumb and index finger and begins to squeeze tighter and tighter while slightly wobbling the pliers back and forth. Janice goes unconscious from the pain.

#

Janice has lucid dreams about the last 24 hours in New Orleans. Within minutes of meeting with Thomas, they both knew that someone was watching them. They decided to go to Bourbon Street to give themselves a large public space that would minimize the likelihood of the random “mugging gone bad” story they had discovered while researching the CIA. The story line was simple and always seemed familiar when they’d watch in on the news.

Thousands of people are killed in America on a daily basis, and rarely is it orchestrated. What gets reported in the national news is actually the covert killings orchestrated by the CIA. Janice thought this was absurd at first. How could the CIA kill people in broad daylight?

The evidence uncovered by AIexander showed that the killings were real. The people were real. The motives and the news reported were not entirely real. The killings chosen to be reported on national news are carefully chosen by the CIA. The information “leaked” or publicly disclosed to news reporters, like her friend Thomas, were all carefully worded by an application that is part of Project PRIME.

Janice still doesn’t know the true origins of Project PRIME, but she does know it is an artificial intelligence developed for the CIA to utilize psychological priming and framing to condition the human mind. Through careful word choice that is only possible with AI, the CIA is able to craft entire sets of news stories that are completely factual while priming the human mind to be easily manipulated and open to suggestive speech.

It would usually involve two (often unrelated) news stories. The first performed the priming, and the second used psychological framing to produce a desired emotional outcome amplified by the priming that had just take place.

But the true gem in Project PRIME was the influence that could be affected with predictive text. As users type text into their phones, the keyboard makes suggestions. Project PRIME would hijack those word suggestions and create constant priming that could allow the CIA to influence hundreds of millions of people around the globe without them ever having a clue that this influence was taking place.

Project PRIME had been so effective in the last election. Every time a political conversation was detected, predictive text would analyze the text being typed and prime the user with auto suggestion words to make it easier to sway their political opinions towards the CIA’s choice for President; the current President! Project PRIME and the CIA had been instrumental in creating an environment where an unlikely candidate ended up winning the Presidential election, and nobody could possibly know they had been manipulated.

Sure, there were the usual stories of voter fraud, campaign finance violations, corruption, and foreign adversary influence, but the only thing the investigations uncovered was rampant tax evasion. No election meddling could be proven. People legitimately voted for the unlikely candidate. They just didn’t know they had been swayed by Project PRIME.

#

Janice breathes in a pungent odor and wakes up like she just had a double shot espresso in Italy. She can feel the pliers still on her hand and looks down at her right hand. The pliers seem like they are invisible. She can’t see them, but the excruciating pain that went all the way up her arm and into her head is still there.

Looking back at Janice over his left shoulder, agent Paige smiles at Janice, “I’ve crushed your median nerve just the perfect amount to keep you useful and to give me pleasure.” Agent Paige laughs, “Which is also useful.”

Janice looks over at Thomas who she can tell is now sitting lifeless in his chair. A tear rolls down her cheek.

Agent Paige begins telling Janice everything she ever wanted to know about all the programs the CIA has in place to manipulate the global news cycle via disinformation and Project PRIME. He confirms everything she’s already read from the troves of data that Thomas has been receiving from his source.

“The beauty of this whole thing is that you guys go about your days believing…” Agent Paige pauses. “KNOWING! You know you are making your own choices. You are presented with all the options, and you make the choice that we want because you know it’s the best choice. It really is the perfect democracy, and I’m going to protect it from adversaries like you and Thomas at all costs.”

Janice looks at agent Paige with disgust and a scowl. “What’s the point of telling me all this? Isn’t this the moment where James Bond comes to save me? Or is this the moment where you tell me you expect me to die?”

“Oh, you most assuredly will die, Janice. I guarantee you that the next light you see will not be the sunrise but the light we all see right before death. And James Bond is already here.” Agent Paige steps closer to Janice to ensure she hears his next words clearly. “I am James Bond, Janice. I am the hero of this story. You…”

Agent Paige slowly reaches inside his coat as Janice is left hanging on his words. He pulls out an unusual looking gun and pulls the trigger. Janice hears nothing and doesn’t see any flash. Then she feels a sharp object pierce her stomach and feels her legs disappear. She looks down at her legs, but they are still there. She tries to move her legs, but all she can see moving is a stain of blood soaking its way through her light-colored blue jeans.

“…are the enemy, Janice. And this whole charade of killing time before I kill you serves a very important purpose. You see, I have an addiction to the chemicals my body produces when I torture someone. But, like any addiction, I need a greater and greater fix.” Agent Paige begins to shout, “There’s got to be something more to life than causing you pain, watching you grimace and then pass out, and then waking you up to do it all over again. Isn’t there?”

Agent Paige crouches down and pulls out the blade from Janice’s right leg. With her lower spine severed, she can’t feel the blade being removed, but she watches in horror as the six-inch blade is removed from her knee.

“Look at me!” Agent Paige says softly to Janice.

She knows that even if James Bond came through the door and killed agent Paige right in front of her… She’d rather be dead anyway. She looks up into agent Paige’s cold blue eyes.

“That’s the look I’ve been waiting for.” Agent Paige’s eyes roll back slightly in his head as he closes his eyes and places both hands on each of Janice’s knees. He lets out a big sigh.

“I told you everything so that you know that knowing everything doesn’t make any difference. You…” Agent Paige pauses purely for a sick, dramatic effect. “…are going to die knowing everything you ever wanted to know. You’re going to die having uncovered what you spent your entire life working towards! And the best part is, Janice.” Agent Paige adjusts his position to better see Janice’s slowly dropping head.

“The best part is that you now know your cause completely dies with you. Your entire life is completely meaningless, Janice. And I get to see you give up right before my very eyes! There it is.”

Janice feels her eyes drying out. She tries to blink, but her eyelids do not respond. A slight glaze is starting to form over her vision, and she feels her body weakening. She has sudden sensations of her body jolting and her head jerking, but neither her head nor body are moving. She feels a cold grip surround her entire self.

There’s a glow emanating from agent Paige’s chest. Paige was right about the light. The glow becomes brighter as agent Paige reaches into his coat and pulls out what looks like a glowing orb and lifts it to his ear. Agent Paige smiles, practically from ear to ear. His voice is filled with joy as he answers his phone.

“Hello. Special Agent Paige here.”

Agent Paige looks at Janice’s face and smiles even wider as he can see Janice’s face begin to go lifeless with her relaxed forehead, wide eyes, and slightly ajar mouth.

“This is AIexander.”

Janice smiles. Her vision fades to nothing as she witnesses the corners of agent Paige’s smiling eyes squeeze tight. His nose flares, and his smile turns into a snarl of rage.

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The Savior

Ned Lysander is a dangerous man!

That thought suddenly pops into Jason’s mind while he’s sitting in his biology lecture hall. His heart starts racing and palms are sweating. Who is Ned Lysander?

Class ends, and Jason rushes out of the lecture hall to get fresh air. He’s in a virtual panic from what just happened in the lecture hall. A sudden rush of thoughts about topics and people he had never heard of before. It was like he was day dreaming… Only, this seems real.

“You okay?” Jessica asks Jason. “Need me to call someone?”

Finally starting to catch his breath, Jason explains to Jessica that everything is just fine. Another student is walking by and hands both of them a religious pamphlet: Jesus Saves. He was just stressing about the upcoming finals. Jessica offers to walk with Jason back to his dorm, and he accepts her offer.

“Have you ever heard of Ned Lysander?” Jason is curious to find out who this person was who just popped into his head during the lecture.

“You mean the guy that started that science conference Ned Notes?”

Jason had seen the Ned Notes videos online before. It’s always the top scientists, authors, and artists discussing important political, philosophical, social, or psychological topics. One of his favorite best-selling authors had just given a presentation a few weeks back.

“You know, I never really put two and two together on that. Ya, that’s the guy!”

#

Jason spends the entire evening researching Ned Lysander online. “There’s not a single negative thing anywhere about this guy.” Jason is puzzled. “Something’s fishy. There must be something about him”. Jason decides to call it a night and go to sleep.

Jason slips into a deep sleep, and then his brain kicks into overdrive. His dreams are vivid and more like memories than dreams. Visions of huge scientific papers are rolling through his dreams like he’s scanning through an old microfiche. Then everything stops and all Jason can hear in his mind is “Ned Notes are carefully orchestrated to fulfill on a specific agenda for creating mass compliance within the intellectual community”. It repeats over and over in his mind until he wakes up with one final thought. “Find Gertrude Hammenstel”. Who is Gertrude Hammenstel?

Jason is half awake as he pulls up his computer and searches for Gertrude Hammenstel. Nothing. It’s like she doesn’t exist. He begins to wonder if perhaps the stress of finals is getting the best of him. He goes back to bed.

#

There’s a knock on Jason’s dorm room door. He slowly gets up and answers. It’s a woman he’s never seen before, but she looks so familiar. “You wouldn’t happen to be Gertrude Hammenstel, are you?” Jason asks half asleep.

“No. I’m an investigator with campus police. Detective Gomez. Jessica Sands was assaulted last night, and we received information that she was last seen with you yesterday afternoon after you were acting erratic during a lecture.”

Jason feels like he’s really losing his mind now. Could he have blacked out and done something to Jessica and not even remembered it?

“Is she okay?”

“We don’t know yet. Her vitals are stable, but she’s unconscious.”

“Uh… She walked me to my dorm yesterday after class. That was the last I saw of her.”

Looking around Jason’s dorm, it’s what a detective would envision is a typical dorm room for a well-organized biology major. Books on top of books and the obligatory religious pamphlet on top of his dresser: Jesus Saves. “What direction did she go when she left your dorm?”

“Well, she didn’t come into my dorm. She just walked me to the front of the building. I think she might have headed back in the direction of campus. I didn’t really think much about it at the time.”

The investigator sizes up Jason as a possible suspect in the assault on Jessica. He’s too much of a wimp to be a threat to Jessica whose parents let her know had a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She smiles at him. “Gertrude Hammenstel was an adjunct professor here almost 20 years ago. I had her for a biology class. Her husband died about the same time, and I think that was the last class she ever taught. Great teacher and lovely couple. He was a genetic engineer over at X Labs. One of the founders.”

Jason tries to hold back the look of shock from his face, but it doesn’t require a police investigator to know something was amiss. The investigator asks Jason a few more questions about Jessica and any possible boyfriends or people who might not like her. She leaves him a card and tells him to call her if he remembers anything.

#

Jason goes to the school library and looks up old school papers from 20 years ago. He searches everything on the computers and can’t find anything.

‘Try the microfiche,” he suddenly thinks.

The librarian is a petite older woman with a feisty attitude when Jason asks her for a microfiche machine and old school newspapers. “No one has used microfiche for a decade, young man. Do you want some help?”

Jason refuses her help, and the librarian leaves Jason to himself.

Jason spends hours pouring through slide after slide. He’s getting exhausted listening to the voices inside his head telling him stories about Ned Lysander’s arrangement with the government to create mass market brainwashing protocols and propaganda. He feels a hand on his shoulder, and he nearly jumps out of his chair.

Standing in front of him is the librarian holding a microfiche slide. “I believe this is the one you are looking for.” She extends the slide towards Jason.

Jason isn’t sure what to make of it. “Are you Gertrude?” he asks as he takes the slide from the woman. The woman nods.

Jason examines the microfiche but nothing is standing out. Suddenly, a sequence of numbers enter his mind. He goes through the microfiche using the number sequence as a guide for finding words on each of the images. The message isn’t making any sense to Jason.

“It’s his private key,” Gertrude says to Jason. “Let’s go to my lab.”

#

Gertrude takes Jason back to her lab and explains to him along the way that her husband was a genetic engineer who discovered an agreement between Ned Lysander and the US government to develop Ned Notes into a program that appears to spread brilliant ideas of science, art, society, and politics but is actually a front for disseminating information to help the government subconsciously control intellectuals around the globe.

The program has become so massively successful over the years that scientific research is funded based upon how closely you are tied to Ned Lysander. In order to get close to Ned, you must have performed some sort of compelling research that is reviewed by the Ned Notes board. Then you are selected to participate in the program as a presenter.

“That’s where the magic happens, Jason. Have you ever noticed how nearly ever single presenter for Ned Notes has the exact same presentation style and intonation?”

She was right. Everyone presents in the same way.

“That’s not just because they have a format, Jason. It’s not just because that’s the best way to present. It’s because these intellectuals are being manipulated using the best psychological techniques ever discovered. Often times, they are too smart for their own good. They are unwittingly brainwashed over time into creating a message of compliance for the masses. Compliance that allows the government to easily manage and control society.

You notice how there always appears to be this synergy of ideas in science and news? That’s not because of an actual synergy. It’s fabricated! Newspapers and television news are reporting the same thing because that’s what they are told to report. There is tremendous financial incentive to be in compliance, Jason. Research grants and government funding all require compliance, and if you’re not in compliance you won’t get hired and you won’t get funded. You get blacklisted.

It’s not just in science. It’s in the arts: music, paintings, acting, writing, producing. Artists that comply the most, get the work because they are hired by others in the compliance alliance. That compliance alliance is what drives the narratives that the masses are influenced by. The machine that drives the compliance is Ned Notes.”

Jason is following every single thing Gertrude is explaining, “But what do I have to do with it?”

“When Ned found out that my husband figured out the plan, Ned had my husband killed and ensured that all of the data was destroyed along with him. But I think my husband embedded the data into your DNA. and that private key you just found is to unlock the encrypted data within your DNA.”

Gertrude has Jason swab his cheek, give her a hair sample, and also some blood.

“Now, we wait until the sequencing is completed.” Gertrude lets out a sigh as she’s so exhausted.

There’s a knock at the door that startles them both. Gertrude is not expecting any visitors. With what Gertrude and Jason just discovered, they are paranoid. Gertrude looks through the peephole in the front door and sees two large men standing at the door. She motions to Jason to go hide downstairs.

Then Jason hears a familiar voice outside the house. “Can I help you two?”

“Ma’am, we’re just spreading the word of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”

It’s the investigator who visited Jason’s dorm room. She had been following Jason after he left the library with Gertrude. “Sure you are.” Gomez is suspicious. “Do you have pamphlets? I’m quite interested in the teachings of Jesus.”

One of the men starts reaching his left glove covered hand towards his inside suit pocket.

To signal that she’s no pushover, Detective Gomez places her hand on her pistol. “Let’s do that extra slow now, shall we.” She can see the bulge of a shoulder holster on both men. Her heart is racing as she looks up both men and thinks to herself that these two definitely aren’t here to talk about Jesus.

“Yes, ma’am.” The man slows his movement and reaches into his suite pocket. He slowly pulls out a wrinkled pamphlet with a picture of Jesus on it. He hands it to Detective Gomez and the two men step down off the porch while Gomez watches their every move.

After they are out of sight, she looks down at the wrinkled pamphlet with Jesus on the back cover and flips it over. Her heart starts racing as she realizes that Jason is in some serious trouble: Jesus Saves.