Back in the war, I did everything I could to get into psi-ops. I never made it. Not smart enough. After failing the test a couple of times, I realised it was never going to happen so I tried another route. I made tea, swept up, cleaned the toilets; anything so that I could meet some of the leaders and ask a few questions. Anything to hear a few tidbits about the war.

Psi-ops was the nerve centre. That's where the power-brokers hung out and where decisions were made. That's where the topic was set. Down in the Psi-ops bunker, we never talked names. Code only. Names were for AOL. We--I sometimes had this fantasy that even as a volunteer toilet-cleaner, I was part of the in-crowd, though in reality, I never was--the psi-ops crew had all sorts of gradations of security and passwords. Paranoid they were, about letting anyone in on their secrets.

The heaviest codewords were for the elite team of monkeys, called webmasters. Those guys knew everything and could tap in to the mainframe whenever they wanted. Man, if you ever wanted to know what the word 'busy' meant, you just had to look at a webmaster. And they did everything in code. Heck, even their faeces were in code. That was my self-appointed job: cleaning the crap. I might have flushed away some of their waste, but I never got to speak to the webmasters--they were locked away in the depths of the bunker. God knows what they did. Something about Apaches and there was this guy called Michael, but they always spoke about him with an extra 'S' --Mice-chael. He musta been some badass, considering how they cursed him! Always threatening him with scalping or some other Apache process. Sometimes as many as three processes at once. Scary. I think they got paid in pearls. All I ever heard about was their reconditioned strings of pearls. Shows what a team we had: their elite were paid in recycled goods.

Thing is, the war came up on psi-ops from nowhere. We--they--never saw it coming. We all knew we were getting hit hard by google, the lag was getting bad, but we never knew when Wiki was stalking one of our best. One day, a bright young noder, churning out the WUs, rescuing content left right and centre. The next: nothing. No screams, no cries; no warning, but sure as hell, the Wiki had won another recruit. We'd trained 'em up, given them the tools, but Wiki took 'em like a thief in the night.

It was hard to say this back in the day, but Wiki treated them well. Took them seriously. gave them control Anyone who was any good--and the E2 recruits were among the best--quickly got on board. Welcomed in; given as much responsibility as they wanted. Wiki even made pages to make the transition from E2 easier. They knew a good thing when they saw it. First it was Wiki, then H2G2 came at us. And Dmoz. LJ came for us too.

We could never compete with that. The strongest attitude down in psi-ops was "If a coupla grunts want to join Wiki, let 'em go. Plenty more where they came from." Not that everyone thought that way. Even back then, some people saw the war coming, but louder voices; stronger egos got in the way.

We even had a couple of Wiki spies coming over here. Of course, being such intelligent intelligence officers, we spotted 'em a mile off and we sent 'em running for cover. They could barely fight, for a start, so we spat on them, cursed them and showed 'em who was boss. Wiki wants a fight? Wiki wants to set up an army? We laughed in Wiki's face!

With google we sent in the webmasters and they pretty much fixed things. But when Wiki came hunting, we didn't know what to do. It was like Korea. We knew how to fight big battles with guns and tanks and missiles: shock and awe. But guerilla warfare was something else. The trickle to WIki and LJ became a torrent. Shock and awe went out with Wharfinger. We had to win hearts and minds.

Now Hearts and Minds is what psi-ops does best. We had their minds. We knew about Evercrack, and we knew how to hook 'em. We gave 'em XP and levels and if you stayed here for ever, you even got to post a (non-copyright) picture of your choice. We knew how to keep a-hold our recruits.

Some of our best were as good as the Navy Seals. We promoted them up and up the ranks, we gave them power and responsibility for the nodeshells so that they stopped fighting. We wanted everyone to join them, up with the elite, but the training budget ran out, and too many people found the first hurdle too high. Oh yes, they were queuing up to join us, with our elite mentality and high external profile.

What did we do with them? What did we say to them? How did we help them? That was the problem. We could take their minds, but gradually, steadily, their hearts slipped away from us.