2 February 2019 / Fiction Reconstruction: Chapter 3 The Positive Perspectives reading of Reconstruction continues! In this episode, the stakes are raised as the events which occurred during the inaugural meeting of the Reconstructionists are investigated by the police. Is Vince capable of working for the Reconstructionists, or will he regain allegiances with CorpCorp?Vince knew that the Corporate Intelligence department within CorpCorp wasn’t above using strategic violence to keep its agents serving the mission of the company. The culture there was vastly different from the rest of the world, as far as he could tell. If someone needed to be eliminated--if they had been compromised, begun to doubt the morality of the department, or simply were underperforming--they would simply disappear one day. A story would circulate about how they tragically died in some accident, had passed unexpectedly from an acute medical condition, or had been killed in a burglary or break-in. The records would show the same--CorpCorp left no stone unturned and no tracks behind themselves. But the other agents knew those stories were a cover. Those stories were circulated to let people know what happened to people who didn’t do well in Corporate Intelligence - they ceased to exist. It wasn’t much of a stretch to think that CorpCorp could escalate their violence against a defector like Vince.“It’s the POLICE! Open up!” The shouts coming from Paul’s front door, accompanied by banging and the repetitive ringing of the doorbell quickly snapped Vince out of his thoughts and back to the present. Paul looked at Vince and raised his eyebrows uncertainty. Apparently Paul didn’t quite trust him, not yet anyways. But it wasn’t just Paul; all three of the men seemed to be apprehensive about Vince interacting with the police after the developments of the past day. The attention made him more nervous. The thought that he could probably get these men arrested crossed his mind, but the alternative - working with these men - was what he intended to do.More banging. “Open up now! It’s the Police!” The group had moved to the main room from the basement some time ago, and were acting in accordance with their plan to send Vince back to employment with CorpCorp; but as a double-agent for the Reconstructionists. The act had been simple so far - some overt discussion within the audio reach of Vince’s corporate devices about how they no longer were planning to release the application after the previous day’s activities, and a cover story which blamed Nora for the gun and audio recorder. ‘Leeroy’ was made to be the victim in this narrative - betrayed by his wife; an unthinkable act made all the more painful by the fact that she had done it for money from CorpCorp. Paul moved to open the door. He didn’t have any choice, really. Warrants had long ago been made obsolete to investigate many types of accusations, and the police given authority to use “minimal necessary force” to investigate such. The balance to this authoritarian policy was, ironically, equally authoritarian; anyone who accused another person wrongfully could be held liable for damages incurred during the investigation - including the potential for loss of life. Accusations were taken seriously, and if they were made maliciously, they were punished in accordance with the severity of the accusation.“Yes--” Paul was cut off by the officer as soon as he opened the door. Though Vince knew that the officer was a man of average height at best, he seemed to be a giant, looming frighteningly large in Paul’s doorway. “Sir, you’ve been accused of false imprisonment of one…” The officer looked down at his phone, presumably to make sure he had the name correct before continuing. “One Leeroy Jenkins. You’ve also been accused of battery, assault, and rape of one Alice Jenkins. We have the authority to investigate these claims by inspecting your house, and questioning anyone in your house.”“Absolutely. I have nothing to hide; you will find that these accusations are unfounded. Come in.” Paul moved to the side of the doorway as the officers - five of them - entered the house, disregarding his invitation. I thought the police force had been entirely replaced by robotics and AI at this point… Vince pondered. Robots were far superior for the job as they couldn’t exhibit bias, had better analytical abilities, and could handle violence better without the need to use lethal force; or so the government had claimed. Nevertheless, Vince knew that there had been several pockets of various cities that still retained a human police force. While it was a hovel compared to the Overworld, Paul’s neighborhood was still considered one of the nicest in its Underworld metropolis. It was likely one of the last holdouts for a human police force, Vince thought.Vince grew increasingly nervous as he raked his mind for what story he might have to tell. He knew that if the group disagreed on the events that had occurred the previous night, that that would be taken as evidence to substantiate the claims. He would have to tell the police a convincing story, and one that aligned with the story that the others would tell.“Well, officers, I’m Leeroy Jenkins, and there was no false imprisonment last night - I can explain the whole thing--” Vince’s voice was easily quashed by the lead officer’s interruption. “Mr. Jenkins, we will be sure to get everyone’s story, but please refrain from speaking of it until we separate you to perform the questioning. It’s standard procedure, you know.” Two of the larger members of the five officers guarded the front and back entrances to the house, while the other two started exploring freely. The lead officer faced the group, and continued speaking. “I am Sergeant Ghrock. As you can see, I will be leading the investigation into the charges that were brought against you. None of you will be permitted to leave this building until the initial investigation is complete. The investigation will go as follows: We will search the premises and confiscate into evidence anything that we find to be pertinent. We will separate the individuals and question them about the time when these accusations were supposed to take place. Any resistance to the proceedings of the investigation will be taken as evidence against you. Also, all phone tracking information has already been taken into evidence for this case. You will be permitted to submit additional evidence during the individual questioning.” At least their approach is the same as the robots’ would be, Vince thought as his anxiety grew. Moments after the sergeant’s speech came to an end, one of the officers came up from the basement with Paul’s scanning device, the gun, and the audio recorder in separate evidence enclosures. The sergeant stared at the group as the other officers continued their exploration and evidence gathering. They were quick and efficient, and soon returned to the main room of the house and informed the sergeant the details of the evidence that they had collected. The three items from the basement were all that were mentioned, although one officer also noted that there was a bed in the oddly furnished basement. The sergeant returned his focus to the group. His glare moved from person to person, resting on each for several uncomfortable moments of eye-contact - or lack thereof - before moving on. When he finally did speak, the palpable release of tension made Vince physically exhale. “Based on the accusations, I understand this basement to be the scene of the alleged crimes. I have decided to take each of you there individually for the questioning. There is to be no communication between you during this process. Leeroy Jenkins, I’ll start with you.” Before Leeroy could even think or react, a large hand guided him firmly towards the steps to the basement. Vince’s pupils dilated, and the whites of his eyes reflected the suspense and near-terror building in his mind and body. Why am I going along with this plan, Vince thought. I haven’t even started talking to the police, and my body is already literally failing. Darkness crept into the edges of his vision, and he clenched his teeth until the pain distracted him from his panic. Summoning what was left of his courage, he breathed deeply and tried to focus on the story that he would have to tell.“Please, sit.” The sergeant pointed to the bed. He motioned to the other officer to close the vault door. Leaning casually against the billiards table, he smiled tautly at Vince, oddly recreating the scene from only a few hours before.“State your name.”“V-- Leeroy Jenkins.”“Tell me what happened between 6:00 PM yesterday, until the time when we arrived.” The officer was clearly eager to get straight to the point - detecting Vince’s apprehension and attempting to exploit it before Vince had a chance to compose himself.“Well, sir, I came here a few minutes before 6:00. I’m sure the phone record already states that. I came with-- with my wife, Alice.” Vince lingered on those last words, attempting an affectionate tone. “Why did you come?” The officer interjected. “Oh, well… Paul, the owner of this house, works with me. We both work at the SMBM facility not far from here. He invited myself and my wife over for a meeting.”“A meeting... about work?” The skepticism coloring the sergeant's tone somehow had no effect on his stone-cold expression. “No, it was about… Well, they want to release this application. It’s just going to have secure, anonymous communications. But also, allow people to grow ideas about… they called it Reconstruction.”The officer remained coldly silent.“The idea is to change our society - like, the whole thing - so that people find purpose again. Jobs, meaningful work of any kind, really. And there might be other things, too, so long as people have something useful to do with their lives.”“So, they want to create an application that will help people find purpose? I don’t see the necessity for this basement, then? Why the secrecy?”“Well, the problem is that in order to get people to work again, the jobs have to be released from the AI which have taken so many of them. That would mean seriously hurting the operations of most of the Overworld companies--you know, since they’ve made their fortunes off of AI.”“Continue please, tell me how the meeting went.”Vince paused briefly, making sure that the version of the story that he was about to tell was the right one. “When we came, we were told to leave all devices and phones upstairs. We came down into the basement and were greeted by Paul and his two friends, Carroll and Benjamin. Then Paul had the door closed. N-- Alice reached behind me and put something in my pocket then, and seconds later she put a gun in my waistline. It took me a moment to realise what it was, I thought it was just her hand at first… But when I realised, I nearly panicked then and there. I didn’t figure out what was going on until later - but she must be working for one of the Overworld companies!”The Sergeant raised his eyebrows at that, breaking his otherwise perfectly ambiguous expression. “One of the Overworld companies? How did you make that out?”“Well, it’s obvious, really. They’re the only ones who have anything to lose from Reconstruction - and they have a lot to lose. I bet that they monitored mine and Paul’s online communication - we both have been very critical of companies like CorpCorp on the web. From there, they probably profiled my wife, Alice, and figured out what it would cost to get her to plant a gun and audio recorder on me… Why else would she have done it? I was almost killed! We loved each other!” Vince let a sob break his voice as he described his wife’s betrayal, but wasn’t able to play up the act much before the officer prodded him on.After a few deep breaths, recovering from his emotional state, Vince continued. “Paul brought out a scanner. He said something about it, but I was too focused on trying to make sense of the gun to hear what he said. He came towards us and scanned Alice. I realised that I would be detected, and wanted to just run away… But the door was closed and locked! Paul scanned me and I didn’t know what to do, I pulled the gun on Paul, hoping that I could somehow take control of the situation and get away I didn’t want to hurt anyone, really! Instead, they tackled me, taking the gun away. I think they almost shot me then and there.”Vince looked up at the officer to see if the story was convincing him, but he was met once again with a blank stare.“They tried to figure out what was going on, but I wanted to try and protect my wife until I understood why she had planted the gun on me. The men thought I was the only threat, since I was the one that they found with a gun. So I didn’t say much at first. But Alice apparently caused a scene upstairs and put all the blame on me. Of course they let her go, thinking that she had been betrayed by me. She left, without even so much as an explanation.” Vince shook his head sorrowfully for emphasis. “After I knew she had left, I told the men the truth—the same thing I’ve just explained to you—and then I stayed the night in his basement. We talked a lot more the next morning - this morning - and that’s it.” “What did you talk about?”“Reconstruction, mostly. Alice… just trying to figure out why. We think that whatever Overworld company paid her planned all this just so that the Reconstruction application doesn’t get released - which worked, I guess. They said that they weren’t going to release it anymore; that it wasn’t worth the risk of being targeted by Overworld companies. The application isn’t illegal, but it must be a real threat to their company, I guess. The fact that Alice accused Paul and his friends so quickly, of so many untrue accusations, is probably evidence for as much. Maybe the company thought that they would kill me if they found a gun on me? Then you really would have crimes to investigate here today.” Vince kept his gaze on the concrete floor for a few more moments, letting the sorrowful tone he had created marinate in the room. When he finally looked up, the sergeant was still staring unfeelingly at him.The sergeant straightened his posture. “Is there anything else you’d like to add to evidence now?”Vince simply shook his head in reply. The officers led him back upstairs. The questioning process was repeated three more times with Paul, Benjamin, and Carroll, in that order, as Vince waited quietly in the main room of Paul’s house. He compulsively went over his story again and again in his mind, searching for inconsistencies or mistakes. The questioning wasn’t as aggressive or thorough as he thought it would be. Maybe robot police really are better at their jobs, Vince thought. So long as the other men’s stories were similar enough to Vince’s, the police wouldn’t even have enough evidence to continue the investigation. Instead, they would have to investigate the crime of false accusations by ‘Alice Jenkins’. But they wouldn’t find anything. Alice Jenkins simply wouldn’t exist. Nora Whitehall would go on undetected, working for CorpCorp. The Police’s authority extended to the Overworld as well as the Underworld, but Corporate Intelligence would be sure that there were no ties between Nora and her cover identity, ‘Alice’. Though Vince had worked for CorpCorp for many years, and even worked on various morally questionable projects throughout that time, it had never occurred to him just how dark the corporation was until now. They were willing to kill a long-time employee, and destroy the lives of innocent people, all to ensure the future profitability of the company. He shuddered a little.After Carroll returned from his questioning, the sergeant convened with the other officers briefly. The only word Vince could make out was “Overworld”. Once again, the sergeant addressed the group of four men. “I just finished checking the analysis from the Truthful Witness program, and have decided that we do not have enough evidence at this time to make a case against any of you. You will be free to go on with your normal activities.” While it was obvious that everyone was relieved at this news, Vince made some effort to not seem too surprised. What an absolutely ridiculous day. Vince thought as the officers began to leave. The sergeant paused in the door, and turned back to look at Paul. “You know, Paul, you’re still something of a legend back at the department. What you did seven years ago… that was a good thing.” And then he left. Paul stood smiling, still facing his now-closed door. “What was that about?” Vince asked before the silence was able to set in.Benjamin replied in a subdued tone. “He convinced the people in the district to petition the government to keep a human police force. It worked, as you saw.” The story was simple, but its importance was immense to Vince; especially in light of the novel ideas of Reconstruction. Paul wasn’t just an idealist—he was finding ways to practically work towards his goals of work, purpose, and the reconstruction of society. He had stopped the implementation of AI in the place where he could - his own neighborhood.