The rebel activity virtually stopped along the pipeline. During a joint investigation with a senate intelligence committee, in a closed door hearing, Tim learned that the clandestine funding for the rebels had evaporated. Ned later learned that the VIPs had visited with rebel leaders during their tour of ancient monuments.
The reduced resistance along the pipeline provoked a reduction in funding for defending the project. But most of the troops and contractors were simply moved to Africa and South America because of new conflicts there over more commercial exploitation of resources.
Franklin got a job as sniper instructor for his employer. Barry ended up working on a conservation project in the Atlas Mountains of North Africa and married a local girl there. Part of his work was engineering cheap hybrid bikes for much needed motorized transportation in the region.
Ned’s AI project went Open Source. That is, it was embraced by the same people who kept the Open Source movement alive. AI never developed an independent conscience because it couldn’t, but it did seem to be aware that humans had one. One of its primary features was extrapolating each user’s conscience and warning them of unforeseen implications of certain choices. This didn’t prevent big money tech dreamers from trying to create an independent AI, but it never happened. AI couldn’t be made to care. All the good or evil arising from the use of AI was still the result of human moral choices. Meanwhile, AI made software companies totally obsolete.
However, the collaboration between Tim’s lab and the hackers gave birth to quantum computing. Tim made Ned the CEO of the lab, and the hackers were all offered full time jobs at generous pay. Ned was careful to never take the company public; it remained fully privately owned. They retained hardware patents on the design and process and profited from the licensing. But Ned kept the focus on genuine innovation, as there was no way to prevent someone else from using their own implementation of AI to duplicate the results some other way. Ned’s company simply got a head start and tried to stay on the forward edge.
Because of deep bureaucratic habits, some government agencies clung to their old ways of secrecy and surveillance, until AI virtually destroyed the whole industry. The old established intelligence community became a joke, and private espionage via AI took over. It meant a return to some forms of physical spycraft, something only a new generation had the energy to pursue. Their entirely different moral outlook changed everything.
And somewhere in a forgotten Middle Eastern country, a young boy with burn scars on his chest remembered the kindness of strangers and grew up with a peculiar genius for peacemaking. He united the warring tribes in his country and became a powerful voice for the oppressed.
This ends the story.