‘I would suggest that divine discontent is a fitting term regarding the affect this website has on those that view it’.

This remark, Jon’s first at a meeting called by the Minister responsible for digital media and communications, prompted what could only be described as a moment’s pregnant silence. Jon was used to his remarks meeting with a hostile reception but he wasn’t prepared for what happened next. The meeting erupted into a chaos of quips between the other delegates regarding the website and a divine purpose. Jon sat there somewhat bemused that his attempt to bring some degree of clarity to the meeting should be so ridiculed. The other delegates clearly had no comprehension of the website’s intent. They assumed that they could break the code currently making any recording of the site contents impossible. That this would lead them to the source of the site and its intent.

Jon’s remark had at least gained him the attention of the whole meeting when — despite the thinly disguised and often barbed mockery — he said in a calm if somewhat condescending manner;

‘I think we can all agree that the sudden and global appearance of the website is a totally unexpected and inexplicable phenomenon. We could call it phenomenal global discontent. I happen to think that the term divine discontent is most apt. There is no discernible common feature that enables the website to apparently activate what could be called the affect of divine discontent in those, or at least most of those, who access it. It simply causes the viewer to act on whatever divine discontent that person has, be it dormant or otherwise. Having interviewed a considerable number of people who are know to have viewed the site, I conclude that it is the only discernible common factor’

‘I would suggest that the introduction of a new term implying that the intent of the website is known would be dangerous. I have found no common intent in the effect this website is having other than, that is, the increase in global anarchy that we are now witnessing. The term divine discontent is commonly used, especially among psychologists. Another term already in use that could be used to describe the website’s affect would be diffuse dissatisfaction. However, naming these affects is an exercise in semantics, which brings us no nearer to realising the intent of the website or how it is able to effect these human emotional changes.’

‘Given the political unrest the appearance of this website is unleashing worldwide and the inability of any government to shut it down, you would expect world governments to unite in their opposition to it. However there’s no indication — at least non that’s being made public — that there is any unity in this purpose. Rather, governments are interested in obtaining the technology behind it for their own political purposes. I agree that knowing the intent of the website would help to source its origin and may lead to the discovery of the enabling technology. However, that intent is as yet unknown, while globally governments speculate on the website’s source. I would imagine that every government in world is seeking the source of this website. Just as I assume that every government in the world is now frantically funding research into both the means of selectively shutting down the website and the emulation of its digital media communication system that is now shown to be technically feasible. I’m sure that those industries represented here today see the commercial potential of this divine technology.’

If the other delegates were offended by Jon’s closing remark they now remained somewhat cowed and silent. They looked towards the Minister who had been sitting quietly at the head of the conference table throughout their exchanges, giving no indication that he endorsed their ridicule but having made no attempt to curtail it.

With meeting’s attention now focussed on him, the Minister suggested that it was an appropriate time to break for lunch and that they should adjourn the meeting. He invited the delegates to move next door where a buffet had been prepared, adding that he would join them shortly as he and his aide had some other business to discuss. When all the delegates had left the room the Minister turned to his aide; ‘Make sure our dossier on Professor Marks is on my desk after this meeting. Cancel all my other commitments for the day after tomorrow and discreetly invite him to a meeting with me. Meanwhile make sure that the dossier we have on him is as complete as possible. Well-done Ana, If we can persuade him to join us, we may stand a chance of getting ahead in this game. Whatever charm you used in persuading Professor Marks to attend this meeting, I suggest that you continue to use it. Now let’s go and join the others. You should have no problem in engaging Professor Marks in a discreet conversation, these industrialists here are on a fishing expedition for a government contract and will be vying for my attention’.

When Ana entered the room set for lunch she saw Jon standing by a window with two of the other delegates. They with  wine and canapés from the buffet and Jon with a coffee. He looked quite bored, if the delegated didn’t realise this Ana did, she had seen that expression often enough.  Approaching the little clique she looked at Jon and asked:

‘Aren’t you having any lunch Professor Marks?’

‘I hadn’t got around to it Miss Jones, I needed a coffee to recover from that verbal attack I received back there in the meeting.’

‘That was just friendly banter Professor’, one of the delegates interjected.

‘Well, I’m afraid that it didn’t come across as such. Apart from apparently not understanding the difference between affect and effect, non of the delegates here appear to have any understanding of the website’s psychological aspects. Perhaps they should confine their remarks to its technology, although I doubt that they have the capability to address even that.’

You haven’t changed Jon, thought Ana, still as blunt as ever. Turning to the delegates Ana said, ‘Would you mind if I took Professor Marks across to the buffet for some lunch. Perhaps he may like something a little stronger than coffee if he is in recovery. Red or white wine Professor?’

This amused the delegates, nevertheless, following Jon’s acerbic remarks, they looked relieved when he agreed to join Ana for some lunch and they wandered over to join those surrounding the Minister. No doubt — like them — hoping for him to leak some information about a government contract, or for a rival to give some new indication of their technical abilities. There was only Ana and Jon at the buffet table when Ana quietly said, ‘I was surprised when you accepted the invitation to attend this meeting Jon.’

‘I was counting on there not being more that one Anastasia Jones at the Department for Digital Media and Communications, at least not more than one senior civil servant with that name, I could’t pass up the chance of meeting you again.’

‘You could have always got in touch Jon. Why didn’t you?’

‘After Stanford, I suppose that I was afraid of being rejected again.’

‘Ah! That fragile ego you disguise so well.’

‘Now you’re mocking me Ana, I didn’t come here for that. Why don’t we go out somewhere for dinner where we can talk?’

‘Hmm! I’ll agree to dinner with you, if you agree to a meeting with my Minister.’

‘But that’s coercion!’

‘Yes, it is isn’t it. Do you agree?’

‘Fine!’ Jon replied, exasperated that Ana was able to manipulate him into doing things against his will. ‘When does he want to meet?’

‘How about the day after tomorrow?’

‘Fine, we can discuss the details later over dinner.’

‘No, Jon! First you meet with the Minister and then dinner.’

‘Dammit Ana, why are you leaving me hanging in midair?’

‘That’s not, nor has it ever been, ever my intention Jon but I deserve to be more than an adjunct to your needs.’

‘You never indicated that you ever felt like that Ana. Why didn’t you say something?’

‘Why did I have to Jon? And Jon; this meeting with the Minister is important — to both of us — regardless of your cynical opinions of professional politicians, don’t make the mistake of underestimating the intellect of this one’.

‘You seem to know him well, are you and he having an affair’?

‘Why would you care Jon? You made no attempt to stop me returning here from Stanford.’

‘You rejected me Ana.’

‘No, Jon: I rejected your terms.’

‘Well, this has been an interesting conversation Ana but I have to wonder if it would have turned out this way if you had not already accessed the website. I will stay for the rest of the meeting and I will meet with Minister, and I will expect you to honour our meeting for dinner. Now excuse me while I find a quiet spot to muse over my own divine discontent.’

Ana made no comment but glanced across the room at the Minister and realised he had been watching them. She nodded and he smiled.

The Minister looked genuinely pleased, offering his hand and saying, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you Professor Marks. Miss Jones speaks very highly of you, I believe you were one of her lectures when she was at Stanford.’ Adding by way of a distraction, ‘Would you like a coffee ? It is Java.’

‘If you know my favourite coffee, what else is in the dossier you must have on me?’

‘Come, come, Professor, you know that no one gets private access to a Minister without everything possible being known about them. You wrote about this in your book Political Gateways.’

‘So you are familiar with some of my works Minister?’

Without answering his question, the Minister said, ‘ Please, do call me Jeremy. This is an informal meeting, no notes will be taken even when Ana joins us. We’ll leave those formalities until later.’

‘Presumably Jeremy, my dossier contains the details of the relationship I had with Ana at Stanford?’

‘Ah! Now you’re testing me Professor, perhaps you may be jealous and think that Ana and I are having an affaire. If you must, call me whatever you’re most comfortable with. I’m sure that whatever you decide on I will have been called it before.’

‘I assume you’re aware that I was coerced into attending this meeting.’

‘You mean the dinner arrangement. Yes, Ana told me.’

‘Are you having an affaire?’

‘You must have very strong feelings for Ana, Professor. So much so that they cloud your intellect. You must ask Ana if you think we are having an affaire.  Your relationship with Ana at Stanford wasn’t in the dossier on you that Ana prepared for me, it was in the one on you that the Intelligence Service sent to me. I hate using them but I needed to know who were the world experts in this field. The appearance of this website has brought us to the brink of a global war, this is not the time to shrink from what needs doing. If I have to use your feelings for Ana to coerce you further, believe me Professor, I shall.’

Jon knew that he could pick virtually any government in the world to work for. He had already received offers from a number of significant government sources elsewhere who wished to employ his expertise. He now began to realise that this was no chance encounter with Ana.

As if reading his mind, the Minister said, ’Ana is not aware that I knew of your relationship with her, just as she is not aware that her writing to you was my contrivance to get you here. I was counting on your feelings towards Ana and hoping that a desire to rekindle the relationship might persuade you to join us. I know you have been approached by other governments and have not accepted any of their offers. While I can’t match the sort of salary they are offering, I can offer you the partner that they can’t.’

‘If you’re so confident that Ana is the key to my joining you, what makes you think that others don’t know this?’

‘Oh, I’m sure that they do Jon, that’s a chance I’m willing to take. What about you Jon? We may not be able offer you the salary you could get elsewhere but we can offer you unfettered access to all areas of government and access to the Prime Minister. Privileges that you would not get elsewhere.’

‘And if I join you, Ana will be a member of my team?’

‘Ana will be your partner Jon, the two of you can decide on the size and composition of the team you require. You will both report directly to me.’

Jon began to wonder if the Minister could read his mind and that perhaps the source of the website was here. Especially when the Minister said, ‘Any concerns you may have about Ana’s loyalty and that she is simply going to be a government plant on your team, is something that you are going to have to work out with her. Whoever you work for there will always be a government plant.’

Jon’s mind went back to his time with Ana at Stanford’s Communications and Technology faculty, when the Minister again surprised him. ‘It wasn’t entirely your relationship with Ana at Stanford that gave me the idea of using her to recruit you Jon. But it was your report on one of her papers that convinced me to make her your partner. You called her work on anthropomorphism¹ inspired. Especially her hypothesis that a website could be given some anthropomorphic divine form, work that may well have initiated recent studies into the human predisposition to believe in a God concept. “Probably the ablest selected graduate I have ever met” were the words you used’.

Jon gave a cynical laugh, ‘Well Jeremy, perhaps you should introduce me to my new partner’.

The Minister buzzed his secretary and asked him to send for Miss Jones, then reached across and picked up the coffee pot, ‘More coffee Jon, while we wait for Ana to join us’.

Every time Ana entered a room Jon was enthralled and was a little disturbed that she could still arouse such emotion in him. She smiled at Jon and looking at the Minister said, ‘Has Professor Marks agreed to join us?’

‘He has indeed Ana or at least I assume that he has.’ The Minister looked at Jon who nodded an affirmation.

‘Then let’s stop this charade and get down to the matter in hand. Jon will be appointed as a special advisor to this office, the terms of his appointment will be as you advised Ana. I have made one change and that is your secondment as Jon’s partner. Equal partner that is. You can both thrash out the details of this partnership and your endeavour later. In the meantime we need to issue a press release, there is no point into trying to conceal what other interested parties will already know. In fact we need to issue two press releases. The industrialists we met with recently are expecting me to let a contract and we shouldn’t disappoint them, both of you can advise me on the details and the company that is best suited to your endeavour.’

This is all a complex game of charades thought Jon, I wonder which facet he is referring to. Are both Ana and I conforming to his contrived plan or is it just me? When Ana thanked the Minister and called him Jeremy, her use of his name seemed to suggest an intimacy that aroused feelings of anger and jealousy that surprised him. It also now made him suspect Ana’s role in this charade to recruit him. Still, the sudden appearance of the website, its affect on viewers and the consequential global effect was real enough, as was the technology that prevented the retention of any website data.

Jeremy suggested that Ana take Jon to the office that was to be provided for him, where they could begin discussing their partnership needs. Adding that she might take Jon to dinner that evening where they could continue discussing their relationship. Jon scowled at the Minister, thinking that he was again being mocked only to be met with a disarming smile from Jeremy. He was now beginning to feel well and truly stitched up as his American colleagues would say and that Ana had been complicit in Jeremy’s pimping of her. Was it his own divine discontent that prevented him walking away from this situation? Was Ana really that important to him? He rationalised that she was. Damn website he thought, perhaps you are the real reason I’m here.

When Jon and Ana had left his office Jeremy dialled the Prime Minister’s secure landline. ‘Are you free to talk?’ He asked.

‘Hello Jeremy! Yes, go-ahead?’

‘He’s agree to join us, effective immediately.’

‘Do you think that he has anything to do with source of this website?’

‘I’m not really sure Douglas, but we will find out if he has. I’m more inclined to think that he suspects us of being the website’s source.’

‘Good, the sooner we can discredit any thought of the source being here, the better. Make sure that he has access to any facility we have.’

‘I’ve already made that clear. I’ll keep you informed of their actions.’

‘Good! As soon as you think it appropriate arrange for me to meet with the three of you.’

‘Will do! I hope to have more information when I bring the family to Chequers this weekend.’

‘Mary and I are looking forward to then. Thanks again for your invaluable input here Jeremy.’

‘It’s a pleasure to be of service Douglas, see you at Chequers.’

¹anthropomorphism — An instance of ascribing human form, attributes or personality to a non human form.

3 responses to “DIVINE DISCONTENT

  1. Pingback: Emotional Malevolence | Aasof getting serious!

  2. Pingback: The JUNE 2015 Creative Writing Competition. Where to find the stories and how to vote. – Am I my brothers keeper? - My Telegraph

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