"The fake news you created about Hughs."
"Oh, that," he sighed, resigning himself to the truth.
"How did it all come about?" asked Ethan.
"Like I told Becca, Wilson is a very old friend of mine. We used to meet up at the G-Spot Exclusive club and share girls and generally have some fun. He knew about my company and my software and he suggested that I help him out with some scandal about the opposition," he shrugged as though it was perfectly normal.
"In exchange for political careers for Singen and Isaac?" Ethan asked.
"Exactly. Wilson told me he'd get them onto his political ladder and eventually get them into his cabinet once he's elected. I jumped at the chance to give my sons a good start in life."
"Yes, but you told me you were sharing the rumours on social media. You didn't tell me you created them," I butted in.
"Well, somebody had to," he replied. "I'm sure there was some real dirt on Hughs, but it was much easier to just make it up. If people see it on Facebook or Twitter, they think it's true. It even made it onto the national news," he said proudly. "I thought it went rather well. What?"
"Is there any truth to the rumours about him being unfaithful to his wife and fucking prostitutes?" I asked.
"I have no idea, but that's the beauty of the internet. Anyway, from what I hear, he was no saint either. He got this Stanislav fellow off the hook for war crimes. He didn't deserve to be in power."
"I have to agree with you on that one," laughed Ethan. "He was also going to allow him to bring his criminal activities to the UK. I think we've got enough of our own criminals to deal with."
"That doesn't make it right," I snapped. "Wilson's no fucking better. He might not be in bed with Russian criminals, but he still attended a rampant sex orgy and treated women like toys. He's a married man."
"That's politicians for you," chortled Tristan. "They're all corrupt and deviant in some way."
I couldn't disagree with that comment, but the election meddling shouldn't have been allowed.
"What's done is done," said Ethan. "We can't go public with an election rigging scandal. The country's in a bad enough state as it is. This would ruin us."
We all fell silent as we thought about the ramifications if this ever got to see the light of day.
"All's well that ends well. That's what I say," giggled Tristan smugly.
"Tell that to Natalie, you cunt," I hissed.
"Yes... sorry. That was unfortunate. I hope she makes a speedy recovery," he replied sheepishly.
"How does the fake news get created?" asked Lexa, not letting him off the hook.
"It's a complex system of creating the social media post under an anonymous user name and then bouncing it off VPN's and international servers so it cannot be traced," he was in his element now, like a salesman selling his wares.
"And then what? How does it get shared if it's made anonymously? Surely you need friends or followers linked to the Facebook or Twitter account in order to share the post," Ethan continued.
Tristan let out a long sigh.
"It would be easier to show you," he said.
"How? On a laptop or phone?" Lexa asked.
"No. At the physical location where it occurs. I can take you there."
"To your Genesis corporation?" I joined in with the interrogation again.
"Sort of. That's a legitimate side of the business. I can take you to my sideline as long as I'm immune from prosecution."
"I just told you, we can't prosecute you for election rigging. It never happened as far as the world is concerned," said Ethan. "Take us there and explain it all, we haven't even got started on The Generals yet."
"Ah... yes. Well... I suppose we could go there now. I'm due back at the house this afternoon. Shall we?" he said, standing up like he was about to make a speech at a formal dinner party.
His posh accent was in full swing now that he felt back in charge of his own life.
We all got up and followed him out to the hallway. It was still raining outside so he slipped his wax-jacket on. He looked like a country gent off to feed the horses.
"We'll take the Range Rover," said Lexa. "It's a nice car and we may as well use their fuel up."
I checked that my pistol was still stuffed into my waistband and we all got into the car. I sat in the front with Lexa driving and Tristan and Ethan got into the back.
"It's a lovely day for a drive in the country," I said sarcastically, as the rain thrashed against the windscreen.
"We're not going into the country," replied Tristan. "We're going into the city. I'll direct you."
I couldn't believe where we'd ended up. We'd driven back to the same city where it had all begun.
We drove down the street where our apartment used to be. It seemed a lifetime ago when we'd killed the four Russian hitmen and then seen it plastered all over Facebook.
We continued past the Voodoo bar and into the city centre where we'd had drinks with Singen and Isaac. Tara had texted me and told me things were going well at the Voodoo bar since I'd had my little chat with Big Al. He was keeping himself to himself and the girls were really making a go of the place without his interference. People went to a titty bar to see tits, not a fat sweaty man barking his orders.
The city streets were a lot busier than when Natalie and I had been chased through them on our motorbikes. It felt surreal to be back here again.
We passed though the centre and out of the other side into the run-down industrial estate. It looked different in daylight and although we'd thought all of the buildings had been completely abandoned due to the recession, not all of the car parks were empty.
There was no sign of T-Bone or any of the other race crews. They wouldn't be out until later. We drove towards the car park where it had all begun.
"Stop here," said Tristan. "This is it."
We pulled up outside a rundown building which had graffiti all over the walls.
Here we were.
We'd gone full circle.
This was the exact place where it had all started. The street racer's car park wasn't derelict, it belonged to Tristan Kingsley.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me," I gasped.
"Why?" asked Ethan. "What is this place?"
"This is where Natalie and I met with the twins on the first night of this operation," I explained. "You own this building, don't you?"
"I own the whole estate, but this building is of particular importance," said Tristan.
The car park was pretty full of standard looking cars. There was nothing fancy or flash about any of it. A passer by would just think it was a manufacturing warehouse that was struggling to survive. It would be viewed as one of the few companies that hadn't moved its business to China.
"What goes on in there?" asked Lexa as she parked in the disabled parking bay.
"I'll show you. Follow me and I'll give you the tour," said Tristan proudly.
We all got out of the car and followed Tristan to the main entrance. Last time we'd been here there was a metal roller-shutter door in place, to keep the vandals out. Now it was in the up position and there was an electronic keypad for the large double door.
Tristan keyed in some numbers and the door buzzed.
"Shall we?" he gestured for us to go first.
"After you," I said.
There was no way I was going to risk walking into a trap. I pushed my hand into the rear of my waistband and gripped the pistol handle. Lexa did the same.
"You won't be needing those," smiled Tristan. "Come on."
He opened up and we cautiously followed him in. Inside the reception area was a dirty looking hallway which looked as disused as the outside of the building.
"This way," he continued to direct us towards a lift.
He pressed the call button and the whir of the lift motor kicked in.
The lift opened and we followed him in. He pressed the button for the basement and the lift started to drop.
"What the fuck is this place?" I asked.
Before he could answer the lift stopped and the doors pinged open.
What I saw took my breath away.
Beyond the lift doors were row upon row of desks with computer terminals sitting on them. Each terminal had a person sitting at it typing away at their multiple screens.
"Holy shit," gasped Ethan. "Is this what I think it is?"
"Welcome to my Genesis corporation," announced Tristan with his arms extended out. "This is where the magic happens."
As we walked through the sea of desks, I saw that every computer operator was either on Facebook or Twitter. Most modern companies would fire their employees for playing about on social media during work hours, but I suddenly realised what Genesis corporation really did.
Ethan had already figured it out when he saw the room and I guessed Lexa wasn't far behind.
"This is a fake news network," said Ethan. "Fucking hell, I've heard of these places, but I didn't know they actually existed."
"Oh, they are very real," replied Tristan. "They're all over the world and this one is mine."
"What is it?" I asked, playing dumb and not believing what I was seeing. I needed it to be confirmed.
"Do you know what Genesis means?" asked Tristan. "It means the origin of something or the beginning or creation of something. I made a lot of money with my software, but that's nothing compared to the money I make doing this."
"You're creating fake news and propaganda," stated Lexa, open mouthed. "How many people work here?"
"Physically there's two hundred people, but in cyberspace there's ten-thousand of them."
"Ten-thousand? How?" I quizzed.
"Each of these people has fifty, fake accounts to maintain and spread the good word," he explained.
"Or the bad word," said Lexa.
"Exactly. If a company or person or organisation wants something putting onto social media, they come to me with their proposal. We then create the post and spread it across ten-thousand fake accounts. Each of those accounts are, in turn, linked to real people on social media. If they like the post, they share it. It's human nature and gossip at its very best."
"And it doesn't matter if it's true or not?" I sighed.
"People believe whatever they're told. It's no different to the main stream news channels. You don't think everything they tell you is real, do you?" he laughed.
I hadn't really thought about it like that. He was right, people really did believe what they were told. Social media platforms just gave everyone a new way to reach millions of people whether it was true or not.
"Is this how the post from our apartment got onto Facebook?" I asked. "It was posted within hours of it happening. People saw what had happened to the four hitmen and it was viewed by millions within days."
"Yes, but it wasn't made up. That was real news and when it was flagged by Facebook protocols it was brought to my attention. I knew they had to be Stanislav's men and I thought that if it was shared and shared again that it would eventually get shown to Stanislav. I hoped it would scare him off knowing that four of his men had been killed."
"For fucks sake," I gasped.
"That's how it works. The saying is that it goes viral, as I'm sure you all know. It works in just the same way as a virus. It spreads from one person to a hundred friends. Then each of those hundred friends has a hundred friends and so on and so forth. Pretty soon, millions of people have seen it. The more shocking or unbelievable it is, the faster it spreads. It's no different to people gossiping in a small village. You know how it used to go. Mavis saw the milkman coming out of Mildred's house, doing his trousers up and the next thing you know it's all round the village that Mildred is a whore," Tristan continued. "The only difference is that Facebook and Twitter are the new villages and I'm the new Mavis."
"This is fucking mind blowing," I gasped. "It can't be legal."
Tristan shrugged, knowing that it wasn't.
"So, where does the A.I. come into it?" asked Ethan. "Becca was told your company used some sort of semi-artificial-intelligence."
"You're looking at it," he laughed holding his arms out to emphasise his empire. "This whole room is the artificial-intelligence. There are programs that run in the background to speed things up but for all intents and purposes the accounts are real."
"I thought you said they were fake," I said.
"Well, the are fake, but they have to be created just like a normal account. That's what these people do all day. They create an account, adding in all the usual details and photos and they maintain them to make them appear real. They have pictures of their dinner and family or pets or whatever other rubbish people put onto social media. The only difference is that the pictures are taken from other accounts or from the internet. They can hack someone's account, change a few details and give them a made-up name and voila, the fake becomes real."
"Mother fucker," sighed Lexa.
"And this is how you swayed public opinion for the elections?" asked Ethan.
"Yes. I created false allegations about Hughs and it spread like wildfire thanks to all these people."
The sheer scale and utter genius of it all was beyond belief.
"Why did the allegations end up on the news?" asked Lexa.
"Because it was all over Facebook, so even the mainstream media couldn't ignore it," he laughed. "Those parasites are no better than me."
"You can't help but admire it," I agreed. "People are people and you're just preying on their human nature."
"Yes, but if you hadn't been a greedy fucker and tried to do Stanislav out of ten-million pounds, none of this would have seen the light of day," snapped Lexa. "It was only because your emails were intercepted by MI5, otherwise we'd never have known."
"Yes. That was a mistake, but I never knew it would get so out of hand," sighed Tristan. "And I certainly didn't know MI5 were tracking me."
"They weren't," admitted Ethan. "They were tracking Stanislav. Your name was then flagged to me and I already had your name on a list."
"A list. What sort of list?" asked Tristan sounding surprised.
"Ah right. Let's go into my office shall we," Tristan put his arm around us to direct us towards the far end of the room. "We need this to be a little more private."
We walked past several desks to the far end of the room. It must have once been a storeroom or a warehouse of some kind with a foreman's office overlooking the workforce.
The whole room was white washed and carpeted and fitted out like a modern open plan office. Apart from the lack of windows it could have been like any other modern office block.
We climbed some metal stairs and entered Tristan's office. It was an exact replica of his home study back at Kingsley manor, down to the last detail. The desk, the leather sofas, the drinks globe, the only thing missing were the bullet holes in the door and the broken windows.
"You really are an egotistical bastard, aren't you?" I hissed.
"Not at all my dear. I just like my home comforts. Please take a seat," he motioned.
I wasn't taking any chances. Maybe I'd seen too many movies where the bad guy lulled people into a false sense of security, only to produce a weapon from his desk drawer and kill his enemies.
"Why don't you sit the fuck down and start talking," I said, pulling my gun out and pointing it at his head.
Lexa followed suit as I checked Tristan's desk for weapons. I found nothing, but at least it told him who was still in charge.
"You think that because Stanislav is out of the picture, that you're now safe?" I snapped. "You've got a lot of explaining to do and the first thing to explain is why we're keeping you alive."
"Becca, calm down," said Ethan. "You're still tightly wound after the last couple of days and because of what happened to Natalie. Put the gun away and let's listen to what he has to say."
I looked at him as if to say 'shut the fuck up', but then I remembered he was still the boss. I put my pistol back into the back of my waist band and leaned against Tristan's desk.
"Go ahead," I said, waving my arm at him. "Tell us about The Generals."
"It's complicated," said Tristan nervously.
"So is sucking a cock, but you didn't hear me complaining about it when you stuck it in my mouth. I didn't need to explain the emotional turmoil that was involved, did I? I just got on with it."
"Yes, I suppose you did," he frowned. "I first met them at the G-Spot exclusive club. It started as a gentlemen's agreement. We'd help each other out with business agreements and give each other priority over prestigious deals."
"This is way more than helping each other out. Keep talking," I said.
"Well, they found out what I did for a living and they all wanted a piece of it. Several of them ran high-flying companies and they wanted my help in promoting their products. They paid me, in fact they paid me stupid amounts of money."
"To do what?" said Ethan.
"To write fake reviews for their products. People tend to go online and see what other people have said about a product they've bought. It may be a new tennis racket or tv or phone and I just got my team to write great reviews."
"The product became more popular even though the people reviewing it had never even bought the product."
"For fuck's sake," gasped Lexa.
"It sort of escalated from there really. Companies and individuals wanted to meet with me at G-Spot and give me money for making them or their product or their company look amazing on social media. It was all made up but it worked."
"Did you have no morals at all?" said Lexa.
"I was rich, but it wasn't about the money. It was about the power. If I didn't get paid in cash, I got paid in favours. That's how all this works."
"Ok. We understand that," said Ethan. "Who else is involved and what are they involved in?"
"Most of the time they never gave me their real names. They all had pseudonyms. I just did them favours and got favours in return. I don't know most of them," he lied.
"Fuck off. We already have a list of our own," said Ethan. "We know who they are, but we don't know what they're up to. That's why you're still breathing and why we're allowing you to continue with all this. What are they up to and who's running the show?"
"I'm not sure if anyone is running the show. It's more of a consortium where we all play our part. My orgy on Saturday night was just to show some of them that we were still in business after the G-Spot club got shut down."
"Someone must be in charge of it all. Is it Wilson? He's about to become Prime Minister so it would make sense that he'd be the boss," I said.
"Wilson isn't anything to do with The Generals. The deal I struck with him was on a personal level to help my sons," he shrugged. "I'm not even sure if Wilson knows about The Generals."
This was disappointing to say the least. He wasn't telling us anything we didn't already know apart from the fake news aspect.
We all stayed silent for a while thinking things through. I felt that Tristan had used us to get Stanislav off his back and that he'd given us nothing in return.
"What information do you have on The Generals. Which ones have you done social media campaigns for?" asked Tristan.
"Well... obviously I have their company names if it involved a product review and I have some details of fake news that's been used to discredit companies or help people get where they needed to be."
"That's a start," Ethan replied. "We'll need all the intel you have on them."
"What about client confidentiality?" protested Tristan.
"Illegal activities don't fall under that category," replied Lexa. "You'll have to give us everything you've got on them.
"And if I don't?"
"There's several options and none of them end well for you," smiled Ethan. "Your incestuous relationship with your daughter will be broadcast on the national news. This place will be shut down and all of your assets will be seized."
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