At 0600 tomorrow I will march on Philadelphia the very cradle of our glorious republic. Those that join me will be more than citizens or soldiers. You will be patriots! Together we can wrest control of the country back from those who've so ruthlessly abused the responsibility.
We've entrusted to them. They have made it clear there can be no other alternative. If a strong united America is what you've signed up to defend, then join me now!
These three tweets posted under the handle @Brig_GenMandell were the explicit declaration of mutiny by so far unknown elements of the military. The shamen of war who toiled in the heart of America's citadel of military power were working as quickly as they could to find out just who this rogue general even was.
As the number of likes and retweets rocketed into the thousands, then into the tens of thousands, confusion gave way to panic. The top experts in the relevant fields were quickly tapped and pressed for emergency service. The creme de la creme from the legions of academic charlatans was quick to publicly offer their advice and projections. The inane chatter became a self-perpetuating phenomenon, and before any concrete fact came to light, there was already too much preoccupation with rumors and speculation that the various channels of information the neural center of the military depended on became clogged and unreliable.
Buried away in the concrete labyrinth was an obscure officer Colonel who fate had cast as the bumbling sorcerer to put this process in motion. Now he would either have to sacrifice himself to kill his monster or evade responsibility and let the destruction run its course. The millions of people destined to live through the chain of events set in motion by this faceless functionary would never know the power he had over their lives on that chaotic day.
He paced around his office, sucking down mug after mug of coffee. The continuous doses of caffeine exasperated his anxiety, but he couldn't seem to stop himself. He tried, again and again, to confine himself to his desk, but his racing thoughts kept the pensive Colonel on his uneasy back and forth track.
His office phone chirped, shaking him out of his trance. He cleared his throat and picked up the receiver;
"Yes?" he answered calmly.
"Doctor Myer and Doctor Bhatia are here to see you, Colonel," his secretary informed him.
"Send them in."
Meyer walked through the door first. "Sorry we are late," he apologized in his thick German accent. "But traffic is a nightmare right now."
His colleague was in just as light-hearted a mood. "Yeah, they're pretty shaken up out there," Bhatia chucked.
The two men were the dual proprietors of Machiavelli, a software engineering firm that developed products used in counter-espionage operations. One of their creations was an artificial intelligence that produced propaganda designed to flush out right-wing extremists from the ranks of the military. Colonel Peck didn't know the first thing about the workings of the artificial intelligence he'd help fund so lavishly. But when the only Brigadier General Mandell he could find in the records had died over a decade ago, he started to suspect Machievelis digital mole might be behind the mutinous proclamation.
"Gentleman, I'm just gonna get straight to the point," Peck said somberly. "Does what's happening today have anything to do with your software?"
The pair shared a quick glance. Bhatia quickly pleads ignorance. "I'm sorry, but how do you mean?"
The Colonel was frustrated by the question. "You know what I'm asking," he snapped. "Is Mandell one of its creations?"
The engineers exchanged another discerned glance.
"Don't you understand what's happening out there?!" The Colonel slammed his fist. "If we don't get this information up the chain of command, this whole damn thing is going to spin out of control!"
"Colonel Peck," Myers began hesitantly, "We can neither confirm nor deny this as to
acknowledge the existence of the program would fatally compromise its effectiveness."
"What do you mean?" Peck asked.
"If people know the software exists and what its purpose is, then it would be rendered useless," Bhatia explained. "That would be in violation of our contract, then you and the department of defense would be liable for any damage to done to the prestige of our company."
"Also, if you'll remember you and the department of defense are the parties liable in cases of such unintended events," Myer reminded him.
"So that's it? You bastards are leaving me on the hook?" Peck said acidly.
"I'm sorry, Colonel, but we must be going," Meyer said, ignoring the comment.
"Yes, we're due in Switzerland tomorrow," Bhatia said.
As the two tech pioneers left his office, Colonel Peck started to have grave misgivings about putting so much money and trust into a company named in honor of the shrewdest man in history. The Colonel had spent his career as a desk jockey and never found himself having to prove his courage. That day he had to accept that he was by no means a brave man.
The dejected Colonel decided to reside himself to let come what may, but the people peppered throughout the armed forces who were the targets of his pet project saw the tweet from the phantom general as providence. At first, they were scattered and isolated now, they had a rallying cry and a common cause. The infection of rebellion spread too quickly to control, and by the time the news broke, there was no General Mandell. It no longer mattered. After all, how can any believe everything they read online?