“I knew you’ve been busy Paul, but this--“

Carroll Bowie erupted in hearty laughter, stooping under the low-hanging door frame of Paul’s basement for the second time.

“Hush, hush. Close the door.” Paul replied, grinning widely.

Benjamin lounged in a comfortable chair nearby, one of the many upgrades the basement had received in the past three weeks.

Carroll closed the door and marveled at the once-spartan room. The pool table, still sporting its jagged gunshot wound, stood as a lone relic of the former furnishings. The smooth, shiny grey walls surrounded a well-furnished and comfortable room, nearly wiping away all memory of the uncomfortable doomsday-like bunker the men had met in before. A deep chocolate-brown leather couch claimed one side of the room, with matching reclining chairs on either side. Mahogany side tables supported decorative lamps, filling the room with a warm, inviting light. An advanced projector system had been set up near the back of the room, facing a clean wall.

“It’s not the Overworld, Carroll - you don’t have to stand there in awe at it. Grab a drink, have a seat, relax!” Paul’s invitation brought Carroll’s attention to the mini kitchen to his right.

“You’ve really outdone yourself, Paul.” Carroll browsed the fridge’s inventory, chuckling.

“Could you pour me another glass, while you’re there?” Benjamin chimed in, holding up his wine glass with fragments of red in the bottom.

Some minutes passed as the trio sat, laughing jovially together at some inside joke or another that nobody else would understand, before the conversation turned to a more serious note.

“You know, Paul. as enjoyable as this is, we should probably get to business. I left my phone at home like you asked, and even though it’s only been twenty minutes or so...” Benjamin laughed a little. “I suppose I’ve developed a bit of an addiction to our new app.”

“Well, it’s not so new anymore. We’ve gained some one hundred thousand users in the past three weeks, you know. But you’re right - we should use this rare moment of freedom as we intended to.” Paul sighed loudly, shifting the atmosphere of the room from jovial relaxation to one of seriousness. “To be honest, I don’t like how things are going. The most recent version of the Manifesto has distinct Pro-Underworld overtones to it--almost like this is driving the division that we already have between Under- and Overworlders even deeper. And that’s not the only problem; we still have yet to develop a reliable system for detecting accounts that might belong to people looking to thwart the Reconstruction- the security algorithms we have in combination with the Trust Rating system should detect and neutralise AI threats, but there’s nothing stopping human agents from faking their way to the top of the trusted list.”

Paul paused a moment, and Benjamin nodded thoughtfully. “I’ve been giving that very thing some thought, Paul. Given what we know about Corporate Intelligence, and even what they’ve already tried to stop our cause, it’s very likely that someone would have infiltrated our ranks from the very beginning, and be actively trying to gain reputation in order to get better information about our actions. I talked with Vince, well, final alias over the application and he confirmed as much - and even added that it’s probably Nora who would play the part at this point.”

“My suspicion exactly, and I have my eye on a couple of users…” Paul added.

“Well, I’ve been thinking of a counter to this. My most recent plan is a bit low-tech, but it should be able to confirm whether or not a user is connected from an Overworld office. In fact, we should be able to calculate the position of any Overworld user to within a distance of a single building. All we would have to do is download some app data, unique to that user’s device, from a number of different Underworld locations. We then simply measure how long it takes for the initial communication to occur between the devices. We should be able to triangulate their position using the measurements taken from the different locations.”

Carroll groaned, slouching further into his chair. “I don’t know how that works, but it sounds like you’ll need someone to drive around the city all day just to roughly locate a single Overworld user?”

“Well,” Benjamin explained, “yes and no. That was actually my first plan, but it would be even harder than that since we’d have to wait for the user to post something every time we wanted to measure from a different location in order to assure that it was the user-in-question’s device that the data was replicated from, and not someone else's. You see, whenever a user makes a post or otherwise interacts with the app to make a post, reply to a post, or make any other sort of content, the content remains isolated; or rather, unreplicated, on their personal device until someone goes to access it.”

Benjamin paused for a moment, ensuring that Paul and Carroll were still engaged. “I didn’t realize that design decision would prove to be so important. It’s not how things are normally done, since if the user were to go offline or destroy their device after making a post, the post would be destroyed as well. But that’s pretty unlikely, and I wanted to reduce overall traffic as much as possible… Anyways, the lists of available content are updated on a selected set of user’s devices such that all users see that there is new content, but the content itself is not distributed until someone goes to look for it. It’s replicated to their device at that point, and subsequent viewers of the content may download from previous viewers, depending on a number of other variables.”

Paul nodded along thoughtfully. “So, what you’re saying is that we need to be the first ones to access new content from suspected overworld users so that we can accurately measure the latency between us and them. And if we can do this from various Underworld relay points, we can triangulate their overworld position?”

“Yes, exactly! But to get back to Carroll’s point, that would be a lot of leg-work if we had to travel around the Underworld in order to force the connection through different relay points. That’s when I realized that there’s a different way, using a bit of a hack. I did some testing, and with a specialized directional antenna, and some connection spoofing from a stationary computer, I can route my connection from whatever Underworld relay location that I want. Then, I just have to have some control application which constantly polls for a specific user’s new content, and changes what underworld relay the connection is routed through! Add in some math to calculate how many Overworld routers the connection went through, and It should find their location just as quickly as they post new content!”

Benjamin’s excitement struck Paul as a rarity. I suppose creative uses of technology and wine is all it takes, he thought, amused.

“Well, one other thing,” Paul paused after a moment of contemplation. “Is there anything stopping anyone else from implementing this sort of solution to track our connections?”

“Oh, of course. The Underworld internet infrastructure is quite different from the Overworld’s. Up there, there’s thousands of routers spread evenly across the city. Down here, there are only a few dozen relays, and the latency from one to another can vary dramatically depending on load. While you could probably employ the same technique to try and find our location, the best someone could do would probably resolve our location to an area at least the size of a neighborhood--likely much larger. Combine that with the fact that most of us move around the city fairly often even while using the app, it seems very unlikely that anyone would be able to find the location of an individual user.”

Paul chuckled. “I’m so glad you’re on my team, Benjamin.”

Benjamin laughed off the compliment before adding, “That’s not all, though. I think with enough time, I should be able to calculate and even map out the number of Overworld users. That could really give us some insight into how our whole plan is going over, which brings us back to your first point.”

“Oh, yes-- The Reconstructionist Manifesto. Yesterday, for the first time, my vote on the changes wasn’t on the winning side.”

“Well Paul, you’re the one who set up this system,” Carroll taunted. “You should welcome the fact that the Reconstructionists had some idea that you didn’t come up with - that means it’s working, right?”

Paul hesitated. “Of course I’m fine with new ideas, new implementations, new rhetoric, and even changes in scope.” Paul’s tone had grown decisive, gradually shifting his gentle response into a diatribe. “But the core of the idea, as was present in the first version of the Manifesto was that Overworlders and Underworlders were equally at fault for getting humanity into this situation, and must come together, work together, in order to get humanity out of it!”

Paul took a slow breath. “And besides whose fault it is or isn’t, I believe every individual is responsible to work towards the betterment of the society, given its current state. It fundamentally doesn’t matter whose fault it is. To have that in the Manifesto is a mistake. At this point, I regret making the tone of the first version so accusatory in the first place - even if it was equally condemning of both sides.”

Paul made a few hand gestures, and the wall opposing the three friends lit up with the application interface. “I was re-reading it before you guys came over. Don’t you see how Overworlders are going to take this?”

Several lines of the Reconstructionist Manifesto glowed in yellow light on the opposing wall.

“The divided nature of the very structures in our world implies the indignity of those below. We must Reconstruct.”

“There is no possibility of meaningful existence while these technological Overlords remain. We must Reconstruct.”

“We cannot even enact change through the political forces of government as that too is enacted by the Overworlders. We must Reconstruct.”

“Those who have caused this must be the first to make amends. We must Reconstruct.”

A silence at least sufficient twice over for reading the lines created a sense of unease in Paul. He expected his friends to agree with him quickly. A glance at Benjamin revealed that he was, in turn, observing Carroll. So it was Carroll’s turn to speak.

Yet silence prevailed.

“Carroll, what do you think?” Benjamin asked, after an overtly prolonged sip of wine.

Carroll had sat up straighter. He seemed to stare at the glowing wall as if it mesmerized him. “Damn the Overworlders. That’s what I think.”

Paul’s subconscious unease materialised into understanding.

Benjamin was a second or two ahead. “I believe the correct statement would be, ‘Damn humanity’. It’s not as if the Underworlders have no guilt. This whole situation came about while Underworlders slept in hedonism - you know that.”

Paul watched to see how the correction would go over. Carroll seemed unphased, yet also didn’t reply. Perhaps he knew he was wrong, but didn’t want to admit it?

Paul decided to try a different approach. “Like I said earlier, it doesn’t matter who's at fault. We must do whatever it takes - including blanket forgiveness and even sometimes ignoring justice - in order to bring about a peaceful Reconstruction. To get there, the Overworlders must be onboard. This sort of divisive rhetoric will only serve to grow the gap between the Overworld and Underworld.”

Paul’s reasoning and rhetoric were sound and sincere, yet Carroll impassively gazed at the glowing projector output - silently refusing to be swayed by his closest friends’ reasoning. Paul had plenty of practice making the pitch for a peaceful Reconstruction since the application release. Defusing the threat that Carroll now partially embodied was forced to be Paul’s top priority on the app by the magnitude of the danger that he saw as the most likely outcome of such ideas. Carroll’s attitude reflected the prevalent opinion of the Underworlders, and apparently the Reconstructionists as well.

“Whatever it takes?” Carroll keyed in on the phrase. “Well, Paul, it’s going to take violence. You really have hope that those Overworld thugs would just willingly destroy their own companies, wealth, and their entire world?!

Paul was struck by both the tone and contents of Carroll’s reasoning. Of course that’s what I hope for. “Yes, and more - I work towards it! If we aren’t able to manage a peaceful Reconstruction, then we’re doomed. Either to this same life or some hell much worse!” Paul shifted forward on the couch, dramatically calming his voice back to a quiet pleading. “They have the only militarized force in the world under their control - the police! There’s no way we could win even if it came to that.”

Paul trailed off, his words echoing a potential future in each of the friends’ minds.