To the leaders of the hard left movements, all their protests had too little effect. They broke their share of windows, beaten up a few cops and burned many stick figures. But the corrupt fascist order of things they hated continued, The System lived on. While their ranks increased daily, the growing police state blocked their organization and swallowed many civil liberties in the process.
After another failed demonstration against G25, their brightest minds got together and produced several alternatives. The Commonwealth was their greatest success.
The left scene was fragmented, with a large number of independent groups and conflicting philosophies. There were the communists and there were those calling for more social justice. There were armchair revolutionaries and angry students willing to attack anything. There was the famous Lotus, Buddhists calling for action. Car-Breakers, with a very selective subject of hostility. And then some more colorful people. Many were just oddballs, but together, they could be a force.
But the fear of infiltration was endemic. Known figureheads were harassed by the police and often ended up in prison for unrelated charges. Their communication was monitored and their homes bugged. And there was never a lack of suspicious characters around.
The basic philosophy of the new network was: "Share, Dilute, Concentrate."
Share your resources and energy freely with others - after all, you fight the same good fight.
Dilute any trace of real identity of network members, to prevent anyone from hacking into it.
Concentrate the efforts of many, where they matter. Allow easy communication with all the security you can think of.
The Commonwealth is a redundant, non-hierarchical network, that can be composed of any number of nodes. A node is connected to at most three other nodes. Nodes exchange between themselves "pleas" and "gifts", requests for and offerings of services.
The idealists they were, the creators of the network didn’t base it on money, but on favors performed by noble warriors for the same cause. It was perfectly admissible to offer and request without awaiting anything in return. A large part of the low-risk actions was organized in this way.
To prevent abuse, several ratings were introduced, measuring the prestige of a node. A node, mind you, was a completely anonymous part of the network. The connections to other nodes had to be established manually, the necessary codes often exchanged in person, so you knew, who your ‘neighbors’ were, but didn’t know anything beyond. The communication lines could also run through several channels - direct connections or pipes, instant messengers, even emails. It increased security along with heavy encryption. A node could be a server in itself, run on a server, or there could be several nodes on one.
If a node received a request or offer, it would pass it to a random other node, then to the remaining node, with a random delay (unless it came from there before). Answers will be passed to the node where the message came from.
It was therefore close to impossible to know, where a message originated and where the node in question is: it could be your neighbor, it could be someone on the other side of the network. (Note that the network was not acyclical, so you could end up communicating with the same node through different channels over time. This redundancy was an expected feature.)
The system of ratings completed the equation, personal ratings would rate the nodes you dealt with and their public equivalents averaged them in smart ways. For a time, they worked.
The Commonwealth in practice
For months after the release of the basic software (open source), it was used for gluing posters to walls. Some would do it for free, others traded "I’ll show your stuff in my city, you’ll put up mine in yours.". It was a nice toy, everyone said.
Then a large group called in many favors for the regional elections in France. A postering campaign was started in the whole country, showing the corruption of a government member. The scandal cost the ruling party several percent… the Commonwealth, growing all the time, was impressed.
The hard core took notice and started to post requests with higher risk levels. They were answered.
A spiral of violence followed. The mass demonstrations were bad, but weren’t the worst. In the unprecedented "Operation Countermove", the police forces gathered in Brussels for another summit, but the Commonwealth troops didn’t come. Instead, they torched over two hundred police stations in and around Haag, disrupted official communication lines and started attacking the most hated institutions. Thousands dead, billions in damages, it took the army five weeks to suppress the uprising, several more followed.
A credit card company was taken offline.
Communication with the databases of ‘undesired elements’ was disrupted for a few days, blocking several major airports.
The reconstructed seat of the European Parliament was completely demolished and the present seat was almost disabled as well.
In eastern Europe, several American radar outposts were damaged.
A large demonstration in Quebec was claimed to be their work as well, to the alarm of all security forces.
The Commonwealth had more successful campaigns, but became victim of this success. Its distributed ranking system was abused, as more members strove for a better ranking. It is widely believed secret services infiltrated many of the nodes and debates about trust rised dramatically. Members of several nodes were exposed and convicted thanks to "Hugz_Lenin", some idiot talking of his time in the network in the media. It was probably a plant, but the damage was done. If his identity is ever revealed, it won’t be a merciful death.
Then, a politician was shot, while a demonstration was organized around him. The events of that day are hopelessly unclear, but the chance of abuse by criminals dealt the network another heavy blow.
The Commonwealth became the public excuse for all crime and disorder, a secret, shadowy nihilistic cult of destructive maniacs, an image eagerly spread by the bloodthirsty media. Its activities fell to a minimum, until the final message came.
The announcement feature allowed anyone to leave a public message under any name, the best known was Bad_Uncle, known for thoughtful declarations and violent rants, the reported designer of the network. Many users speculated which messages were really from him. The nick has been abused before; this time it might have been the believable writing, or the users felt it was time… when the appeal to end the project came, too many agreed. The Commonwealth fell apart and disappeared in a few days. They say Bad_Uncle was never found.
There is some discussion, whether it was a genuine terrorist organization. It organized the radical left in ways unseen before and inspired many others. "Common Good", the group banned and persecuted all over the world declares itself a direct follower.
Before: this new threat to civilization is quietly rising, somebody should find out what happens before it really strikes.
During: the Commonwealth in the times of its glory, it has to be infiltrated and destroyed!
After: the infamous network is dead. Many claim now they were part of it; most who did stay quiet. Both may be surprised one day.
While written with European tags, it can be easily moved elsewhere. And nothing says leftists couldn’t be instead rightists, environmentalists, religious activists, and so on, and so forth. Choose any regionally divided, somewhat radical group and give them a perfect tool to organize... even if singular members become notorious, the network can resist snooping to some degree. It can be started by any group; others can adapt it for their needs.
The network has a certain optimal size: as long as members connect only to similarly devoted people, it can be dangerously effective. But with rising numbers, the standards fall. You invite your brother or good friend, who invites his friends… by the time every idiot can join - and it’s cool to do so - the network becomes unusable. Infiltration by government agents and intentional saboteurs can be resisted to some degree, but won’t help either.