Sunday, 27 December 2020

Ripped from the Headlines: Ghost Boat Cocaine

Inspired by this Guardian article about an 18-foot fiberglass boat that washed up on the Marshall Islands, stuffed to the gunwales with cocaine, an $80 million haul. The Maritime Executive has a slightly longer version, with photographs.

Sourced from CNN via jonastur68

I've talked about ghost ships before. From North Korea's fishing boats to the Mary Celeste, pausing briefly to admire cruise ships stuffed with cannibal rats, derelicts infest the ocean blue. This one's a bit of a head-scratcher. You just don't take an 18-foot putt-putt far from shore. Not if you value your life and cargo, and someone must have valued this cargo if not the life of whichever shmuck was paid to pilot. Presumably it wasn't piracy, or the cargo would have vanished. 

So it was probably a coastal storm of some description, bad enough to wash the pilot overboard but not bad enough to sink the boat. Fiberglass is difficult to sink, but every other year here in Bermuda hurricanes prove that difficult is not the same thing as impossible. You regularly see boats sunk at their anchorage, perhaps a bit of the bimini sticking above the surface. The pilot almost certainly drowned, and if he didn't he must have wished he had. Explaining that sort of thing to the bosses is not an easy task.

The bit I like is at the end of the Guardian article:

University of Hawaii researchers conducted 16 computer simulations of drift patterns from the Mexico coast and found nearly all eventually arrived in the Marshall Islands.

The Maritime Executive has an interesting addition:

Some of these lost-and-found narcotics re-enter the supply chain: earlier this year, a resident of  remote Ailuk was caught and arrested after trying to board an airplane with three kilos of cocaine in his possession. The source, he told investigators, was from a different batch of lost "bricks." 

The Marshalls have been independent since 1986; before that it was part of the American-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and before that it bounced from pillar to post in the usual that-colony's-mine-until-I-don't-want-it way that was so popular from the 1500s onwards. Before that it was one of the many islands settled by Micronesians, well before the birth of Christ. These days it's a parliamentary republic with an interest in fishing, selling flags of convenience to shipping companies, and bitcoin, not necessarily in that order. There's not a lot of ways to make money if you're the Marshall Islands. 

A little under 78,000 people live there, the vast majority being Marshallese. The islanders have their own language, but English is widely spoken. Median age is (roughly) 23, and the population mostly lives on the atolls of Majuro and Ebeye. The US takes care of defense and the Marshallese police take care of internal issues.

Past nuclear tests nearby have left a toxic legacy. While compensation has been granted it has not been paid, and some of the atolls are completely uninhabitable due to radiation poisoning. 

According to the CIA, no TV broadcast station; a cable network is available on Majuro with programming via videotape replay and satellite relays; 4 radio broadcast stations; American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) provides satellite radio and television service to Kwajalein Atoll (2019). 

Roughly 40% of the island has internet access.

With all that in mind:

Lost and Gone (Fear Itself, Esoterrorists)

It ought to have been simple. When the boat drifted ashore with its load of cocaine at Ailuk, a remote and lightly-inhabited coral atoll about 200 nautical miles to the north of Majuro, the plan was to burn most of it and turn over a few bricks for the DEA to analyze. A couple agents were given the onerous task of flying over to collect - never let a chance for a visit to a semi-tropical paradise pass you by, must be the company motto. The bricks were supposed to be kept secure at the air base at Bucholtz, on  Kwajalein Island. 

Nobody knows where those bricks are. As for the ones that were supposed to be destroyed ... rumor has it that not all of those found their way into the incinerator. Each one's practically a pension for whoever has them. Bucholtz is being torn apart in the search for the two that were supposed to be there, and the cops who had possession of the rest are under intense scrutiny.

Meanwhile rumors are flying, strange lights are seen out at sea, and some fishermen say a new boat's been seen out on the water at night - one without a pilot, yet it seems to be getting about just fine.

  • Free Meal. The original pilot was attacked by a Skitch (Unremitting Horror) and killed, but that left the insect-like meat eater with a problem. Once the boat was out at sea, there were no ways to spread its eggs. The Skitch was at the very end of its life cycle when the boat drifted up to Ailuk, its carcass smeared across the deck. Some of it was snatched up by birds, some by rats and crabs, before the boat was discovered. These have slowly found their way back into the human food chain, through cats (who eat the rats and birds) or other means. The bit about the missing cocaine is a red herring; the real problem is the skitch eggs which are now spreading rapidly through the local population. 
  • Bad Trip. That wasn't cocaine. Perhaps it was Liao, perhaps something else, but whatever occult substance is in those bricks someone at Bucholtz knows what it really is. That person isn't a cultist nor yet trained in mystic arts but they know just enough to know how insanely valuable the stuff is. Far too valuable to go up in an incinerator. So this person arranged for the cops to hand over their supply and made sure the two bricks kept for the DEA went missing. Meanwhile they sent out feelers to people they knew in Hong Kong and Macau: does anyone want to take this stuff off my hands? Now the problem is how to keep everyone bribed and compliant long enough for someone who actually knows how to handle the drug to show up and take it away.
  • Bright Lights. The boat was targeted off the coast of Mexico by Something - say, Greys from Delta Green. Those same Greys tracked the boat all the way across the ocean, wanting to carry out an ocean drift patterns experiment of their own. Where would it end up? Now the Greys know, but evidently that wasn't the end of the experiment. Whatever it is, it's still hanging around in the skies above the Marshalls, dogging whoever came into contact with the boat or its cargo. The cops who stole a pension, the army guys who 'lost' a couple bricks of cocaine, they're all being tracked, abducted, experimented on, and returned to their ordinary lives - perhaps a little traumatized, otherwise fine. The question is, what do the Greys really want - and what will it take to persuade them to go away?
Enjoy, and Happy Holidays! I'm going to take a break for one week, so no Ephemera next Sunday. After that, we'll kick off the New Year - and may it be better than 2020! 

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Seven Kinds of Fruit Loops (Bookhounds of London)

Seven Kinds of People You Find In Bookshops (Shaun Bythell, Profile Books hardback, 2020 ed) is something I'm going to talk about in detail for a YSDC Bookshelf, but I also want to recommend it here for Bookhounds of London players and Directors. It is exactly what you'd expect from the title; a slightly misanthropic take on the kinds of customers often found infesting bookshops, antiquarian or otherwise. 

It reminds me of a similar book, An Innkeeper's Diary (John Fothergill, Chatto and Windus, 1931). Fothergill's a snooty crosspatch who, in 1922, 'found that I must do something for a living' and so became an Innkeeper. 'Here at last I thought I might still be myself and give to others something of what I had acquired before making this clean-cut departure from my past.'  Thoroughly miserable old fool that he was, he persisted, and became friend to the literary greats of the period. Every page turned I couldn't help but wonder why the hell Fothergill, who by any standard seems to have been a prime candidate for an atomic wedgie, stayed in a profession he obviously felt was beneath him. Shaun Bythell seems cut from the same cloth.

Understand, I'm not saying Bythell's a bad man, or, worse yet, a bad writer. I'm saying he exudes the kind of scruffy pomposity you often find in a university lecturer, and I'm not sure how much of that is his professional persona intended for public consumption, and how much natural tendency. Frankly, I doubt even he knows, with any certainty.

Video sourced from David R Godine

Yet Bythell persists, and has won fame and plaudits. Seven Kinds is the third he's published; the others are Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller

You can probably guess the kind of people Bythell's talking about but I wanted to bring this to your attention because of one chapter among the seven: Genus: Homo qui maleficas amat (Occultist). This is why I bought the book: I wanted to mine it for Bookhounds of London

Boy howdy, can you ever.

I'm not going to go through the whole thing. Technically I don't suppose it counts as spoilers, but it's much more fun if you read it for yourself. That said, what I do intend to do is use those descriptions as a stepping stone to create an NPC which you might use in the game. 

Let's begin.

Type one. Species: artifex maleficus (dark artist)

Always dressed completely in black, usually a bit overweight and invariably on a quest for books by Aleister Crowley, or something antiquarian with which they believe they can summon Mephistopheles.

The always dressed in black bit is a modern conceit. In the 1930s people didn't know what Goths were, unless they were sacking Rome, or claiming all the best spots by the pool with carefully placed towels. In game, Bohemian with a touch of Count Dracula is the better way to go. A bit of the fictional gypsy, all ribbons, bright colors and crystals.  

Martyn Bower

Description: gender a bit of a mystery, always wears red and often too tight over an ample front, never without jade cigarette holder, probably in their 20s though is the type who will look 16 forever.

Auction 4, Fleeing 6, Magic 4

You could set your clock by Martyn. On the second of the month, without fail, in they trot with a new list of wants. Somehow Martyn's always on the cusp; there's meant to be a maiden aunt out there somewhere who will drop off the twig any minute and leave Martyn all her money. Not that anyone's ever met this mystery aunt, mind. Until then Martyn lives off credit and great expectations. Martyn's pet subject is Demonology; give Martyn the slightest opportunity and Martyn will talk your ear off. To Martyn Demonology is a soap opera; Mephistophilis might be some rake cutting a broad swathe through the swooning females of Tartarus, Beelzebub the wicked uncle lording it over his downtrodden extended family. And you wouldn't believe what that crafty tart Lilith's been up to!

Type two. Species: homo qui conjurationes fervet (conspiracy theorist)

Although not strictly speaking an occultist, the conspiracy theorist shares with the dark artist the characteristic of credulously believing in something for which there is an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary.

Robin Lea

Description: wiry, mop of sandy hair, charming polite goofball who, without ever intending to, creates chaos all around. If there's an open bucket of paint on the floor, Robin's about to step in it.

Driving 4, Explosives 1, Firearms 2, Mechanical Repair 3.

Robin's the radical's radical, the red sheep of an otherwise solidly middle class family. He dreams of making a difference, of striking a blow for the downtrodden. He's convinced the enemy outside will destroy the nation, the enemy within will destroy the nation, the enemy above will destroy the nation, the enemy below haven't the slightest idea what's going on, and Robin is the only benevolent conspirator in London - if not the country. He's remarkably well informed on police procedure and if he was a character he'd have a high Cop Talk rating, so it should come as no surprise that his father's a chief inspector at Scotland Yard who devoutly wishes Robin would grow up and take life seriously. If you want to find Robin, look in someone else's bed; he's usually in it or hiding under it.

Type three. Species: homo qui cartas providas legit (tarot reader)

Gazing into crystal balls and predicting the futures of complete strangers on the basis of precisely nothing has traditionally been the exclusive preserve of bearded - or at least heavily mustachioed - middle-aged types of either gender.

Lucy Garland

Description: forbidding stick insect, forever prodding with her umbrella as if it were some form of proboscis. Avid collector of any and every variant of Tarot de Marseille and is never without at least one deck.

Auction 4, Filch 2, Magic 2

Lucy knows. Nobody's quite sure what she knows, but she knows. She has that ineffable air of mystery that comes with being a fortune teller, and her client list is really quite stunning. Not just the great and good, but also the peculiar and the downright criminal consult her. She's as well known in the East End as she is the West, and her boast is she never judges anyone's behavior, sexual habits or larcenous tendencies. A client is a client, and their confidence is treated with the utmost respect. Many people wonder what this Victorian remnant does for fun. She's never been seen to drink, smoke, or indulge in any vice, nor has she ever been married - as far as anyone knows. Rumors abound. If every story's to be believed she's actually led a debauched life with six husbands, four wives (including a Duke's daughter), and currently sleeps in a coffin in an East End opium den - but you shouldn't put your stock in stories.  

Type four. Species: venator umbrorum (ghost hunter)

A YouGov survey in 2014 revealed that more people in the UK believe in ghosts than describe themselves as religious (34% and 26%, respectively).

Jacob D'Aster

Description: Craggy with a touch of aristocratic frost, full crimson vampiric lips, eyes that cut like razors. Particularly interested in anything to do with ghosts or Enochian practice. Never without his bag of tricks, which is full of odds and sods - it always seems to contain what he needs when he needs it.

Auction 2, Fleeing 4, Magic 2, Scuffling 6, Weapons 4

It's funny how D'Aster can become Astor at a moment's notice. Not that Jacob's a member of the illustrious banking and political clan, heavens no. He would never trade on anyone's mistaken belief that he's worth thousands, if not millions. That would be beneath him. Yet for whatever reason all sorts of people think he's minted, absolutely rolling in the spondoolicks, and Jacob never troubles to correct them. He might live in a drafty East End garret, but he'll never be anything less than the Lord of the Manor. He's even fought a duel, they say, defending a lady's honor. That was before the vampire incident in Highgate Cemetery. Ever since, Jacob's had almost a monomania about the place. If ever you want him, that's where you're most likely to find him.   

Type five. Species: homo artificii studiosus (craft enthusiast)

Although not technically an occultist, the craft enthusiast shares many of the characteristics of some of the subsets, most notably the tarot reader's dress sense.

Larry Tinston

Description: Your five-year-old younger brother, except he's twenty four and twice as annoying. His day job's at St Bart's and somehow his clothes are always spotted with gore or chemical burns, never mind that odd antiseptic smell that follows on his heels, more faithful than any hound. People always forget he was a boxing blue (Fist +0 damage).

Auction 1, Fleeing 3, First Aid 4, Scuffling 8

Everybody knows Larry. It's impossible not to know the man - he barges into every conversation, whether he knows who's talking or not. He assumes you're the best of friends, despite any evidence to the contrary. Which can be unfortunate, as Larry's true love is trains. He's a member in very good standing of the MRC (Modern Railway Club) King's Cross and his modelling skills are second to none (effective Craft 4). He will talk the hind legs off two donkeys and a nun, if given the slightest encouragement. Some do. Those with Megapolisomatic interests have noticed Larry's models can give magical bonuses to any working involving trains. Nobody knows why, least of all Larry, to whom any esoteric discussion is so much piffle. People have been known to pay Larry good money for his models, just to help them carry out some mystic scheme or other. Funny thing; nobody ever tries it twice. They say Larry's models give them peculiar dreams ...


Sunday, 13 December 2020

Rats, Rats, Rats as Big as Cats (GUMSHOE all)

 In the Quartermaster's store ... or in this case, a Manhattan Chipotle outlet.

Video sourced from PIX11 News

Rats have been a horror staple for I couldn't even tell you how long. Some of our most effective horror writers have used them with great success. James Herbert turned feral human-devouring rats into a trilogy which ended with them munching on a thinly disguised Maggie Thatcher. Herbert turned those rats into a career, and became one of the grand masters of horror as a consequence. 

Bram Stoker wrote one of his most effective horror shorts, The Judge, about a rat-infested house, and of course our dear friend Dracula has a close relationship with rodents - so close that Stephen King  borrowed the idea for Salem's Lot. He created a moment so hideous that his agent insisted he cut it from the narrative; I had them swarming all over him like a writhing, furry carpet, biting and chewing, and when he tries to scream a warning to his companions upstairs, one of them scurries into his open mouth and squirms as it gnaws out his tongue said King.

M.R. James once pulled a very sneaky blinder by titling a short story Rats, leading with a quote from Charles Dickens about bedclothes a-heaving with the rats under them, only to immediately forswear rats entirely and write the story about something else. Deceitful old soul that he was. 

New York is obsessed with rodents in a way I can't recall encountering anywhere else. Whenever someone posts a video about rats dragging away slices of pizza, people dressed in rat costumes wandering about in subway stations, giant inflatable rats posted at Union protests, I don't even bother asking which city. It's always New York. One of my favorite zombie movies is a rat zombie film, set in New York's Mulberry Street, made on a shoestring and remarkably well put together.

Sourced from The Palace of Horror

Why rats? Again, King has the answer.

I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud.

Rats, and vermin in general, are easy gross-outs. Just having them appear in the scene is enough to get a lot of people shaking in their khakis. One rat's bad enough - so let's have two, three, a dozen. They make us feel vulnerable, and where a kaiju or some larger creature terrifies though size and ferocity, rats do the same and worse by making us feel small.

One of James Herbert's most effective moments, which appeared in the film adaptation, comes when the rats swarm a baby. In the film you never see the body but that's definitely not the case in the novel. Herbert looks that moment square on, as if there was a camera put right over the cradle. The family dog does its best but is quickly overwhelmed, and soon after that the child's torn apart. Which is how rats make us feel - tiny, defenseless, vulnerable.

Bear in mind, that's all aroundabout page 20. Start as you mean to go on, I suppose. 

See, you can fight a wolf. You can hunt a bear, catch a shark. Rats, on the other hand, are like zombies - the weight of numbers is on their side. Kill one, there are ten more. Kill ten, there are a hundred. You can never kill them all. As for running ...

When I speak of poor Norrys they accuse me of a hideous thing, but they must know that I did not do it. They must know it was the rats; the slithering, scurrying rats whose scampering will never let me sleep; the daemon rats that race behind the padding in this room and beckon me down to greater horrors than I have ever known; the rats they can never hear; the rats, the rats in the walls. H.P. Lovecraft

It doesn't help that rats are pretty much contemptuous of us humans. They'll invade our spaces, wander though our kitchens, our bedrooms as they please, when they please. They'll attack us, bite us, where another animal might run. A cornered rat will bite a cat, it's said. To fight like a cornered rat is to fight with utmost ferocity, no holds barred. 

The Quartermaster's Store, that cheerful ditty, may pre-date the Great War but it certainly became popular then, and no surprise. The War had more than its fair share of rat stories. 


Entropy (n) lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder. As symbolism goes, you can't get better than rats. Look at what happened at the Chipotle: wires destroyed, stock eaten, staff injured, a decline into disorder that leads inevitably to destruction - or in this case, closure. 

So any scenario involving rats ought to be reinforcing that theme: disorder, decline, unpredictability. 

With all that in mind:

The Nest

The characters are asked to go to X and recover Y. For purposes of this outline it doesn't matter what X or Y actually are. Y is valuable enough to send some poor shmucks to go get it, and X is a place that once was quite nice and now is not. It could be a subway station. an airport, a fine mansion on the hill. Or none of these things. 

The previous occupant(s) were less than cleanly. Maybe it was an aged packrat (eh? ehhh?) who piled everything up until trash overwhelmed them. Maybe it was squatters, or some eccentric billionaire who forgot how to take showers and clip their toenails. Whoever it was, they left a lot of stuff behind, some of which is valuable. That's apart from whatever Y is worth; extra loot, which the characters might carry away for themselves.

Then they find the bones. At first it's animals; cats, dogs, relatively ordinary creatures whose corpses were dragged inside and flung into a midden. It's unusual behavior for unintelligent animals; people create middens all the time, octopi also, but it's rarer for other creatures. 

Then they start finding human remains, picked clean. Some were transients, people who probably came here for shelter. Others may have been ambushed and brought here; kids, city workers, people who got too close. Somehow they were dragged here after death, their bodies carefully hidden away.

Then they find the holes, the tunnels that lead downward, ever downward.


  • The rats are being channeled or powered by a minor supernatural or Outer Dark entity; a ghost, say, or some kind of dybbuk. This spirit has inhabited the decaying flesh of one of the corpses and so long as that corpse isn't buried or otherwise dealt with, the rats will keep coming back.
  • The rats are being controlled by a different kind of rat, perhaps one with multiple heads (credit to James Herbert for that one.) This super-rat has psychic control over their lesser brethren, a kind of Queen status. It can't move very quickly so if the characters find this rat they should be able to kill it - provided they can get past all the other rats.
  • The problem is X. Wherever or whatever X is, it's not a place as we understand the term. It's entropy manifest. It started small, perhaps one room in a much larger structure, but over time entropy infested everything, took over the complete building, with unfortunate consequences for the people who lived/worked there. There may not be a way to defeat it, but there ought to be a way to contain it for now. Later, someone with more smarts or resources can actually destroy it. You hope ...


Sunday, 6 December 2020

Heath Robinson Assassination (Night's Black Agents)

 From the Guardian, concerning the recent assassination of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Iran:

“The operation was very complex and took place using electronic devices, and no one was present at the scene,” [Ali Shamkhani, secretary for Iran's supreme national security council] told Iranian media ... 

A [Fars news agency] report said Fakhrizadeh and his wife were travelling in a bulletproof car along with three vehicles for bodyguards when gunfire hit his car. Fakhrizadeh exited the car to check the damage, the report said, speculating that he may have thought he had hit something.

“At this moment, from a Nissan car that was stopped 150 metres away from the martyr’s car, several shots were fired at the martyr from an automatic remote-controlled machine gun,” the [Fars] report said, adding that one bullet hit his back.

“Moments later, the same stopped Nissan exploded,” it said, adding that the owner of the car, which it did not identify, had left the country a month ago. It said the weapons may have been controlled by satellite.

The Iranian state-owned broadcaster Press TV cited unidentified “informed sources” as saying remnants from the attack showed Israeli arms had been used to kill Fakhrizadeh.

My first reaction: that seems needlessly complicated. 

Think about all you'd have to arrange for this to happen. You'd have to smuggle in some fairly sophisticated equipment, get someone with above-average technical expertise to put it all together (don't forget whoever-it-is needs to be a demolitions expert as well as a mechanical genius), transport all that kit to the hit site and pray Fakhrizadeh chooses exactly that route. Since he's an assassination target you've got to figure he changes his driving route constantly to avoid becoming an easy target, so good luck with that. Hopefully your sources on the inside can give you Fakhrizadeh's route so you don't have to rely on blind luck. 

You probably can't afford to leave the Nissan in place for longer than a few hours, so this all has to be done quickly as well as discreetly. Presumably you have to have a Plan B in case this doesn't work and you have to retrieve the Nissan and its gear to try again tomorrow. You'd then have to remotely control all that sophisticated equipment and do it in such a way that you can adjust the kill shot in case Fakhrizadeh doesn't obligingly stand exactly where you want him to. You then have to carry off the operation flawlessly and extract whoever it was that put all that equipment together. As assassinations go, this technical masterpiece makes the aerosol murder of Kim Jong-nam look like amateur hour.

Incidentally, jolly good luck on the shooter's part that not only did Fakhrizadeh get out of his bulletproof car and stand out in the open like a complete fool, but also his bodyguards didn't immediately intervene and drag the idiot under cover. Three vehicles, assume four people per vehicle - that's twelve bodyguards, any one of whom could have saved his life. Did Fakhrizadeh habitually bail out of his protective vehicle? Is that why his bodyguards weren't quick off the bat - were they used to his antics? Was he deliberately lured out? Otherwise this seems like an incredibly lucky break, worthy of Gavrilo Princip.

For those keeping score, the effective range of a heavy machine gun is well over 150m, so no problems there. An SMG would have an effective range of about 200m, so accurate shooting's getting a bit complicated and in any case an SMG would have next to no chance of penetrating the bullet-resistant car. An assault rifle's effective range is about 400m more or less, but has a similar problem with bullet resistance - and remember this all has to happen in a matter of seconds, because the target will rabbit as soon as the threat's obvious. 

So if this happened at all the Nissan presumably had a mounted HMG of some description, since the shooter couldn't count on Fakhrizadeh getting out of the car and the HMG has the best chance of being able to eat through the car's resistance to hit the target. Even then, the odds aren't great - unless the target gets out of the car and obligingly provides the perfect opportunity.

Video sourced from JerryRigEverything

Incidentally I cry bullshit on that claim Israeli armaments were used to carry out the attack. It might have been the Israelis, but if it was not even the most idiotic of spies uses easily identifiable home-manufactured equipment. It'd be like James Bond parachuting in with a Union Jack chute. 

Spy Who Loved Me clip

I can't help thinking it would have been easier to smuggle in a couple gunmen, purchase equipment on the ground, and hit the target the old-fashioned way. It sounds more like something I'd see in an NCIS Los Angeles plotline than a real-life Iranian assassination. After all, if your whole plan hinges on the target being kind enough to get out of the car and present you with a kill shot it really doesn't matter whether you're using Robocar or someone with a reasonably accurate rifle.

If you're wondering whether I can get past that, no, I really can't. This whole scheme would probably have gone down the crapper if Fakhrizadeh hadn't gotten out of the car. So why the hell did he? People do stupid things, but you've got to figure he'd been told again and again that staying in the car was the best policy - he's a prime target, after all. Did he really care that much if the paintwork on his company car got dinged?

That said, if the Wire Rats in your Night's Black Agents game aren't paying close attention to this theory then they just aren't trying hard enough.

Heath Robinson was a cartoonist who specialized in ridiculous, over-complicated mechanical devices; his American equivalent, and spiritual successor, is Rube Goldberg. The NBA support book Double Tap gives Achievement rules, in which:

  • when an agent meets the criteria for an achievement
  • and the player provides a colorful bit of roleplaying or hot-dogging
  • the agent gets a 3-point refresh of whichever General ability seems most appropriate
From that:

Heath Robinson Assassination. Carry out an assassination completely remotely, by using remote-control equipment of some complexity. No fair just exploding a bomb with your cell phone; get creative with your kill shot.

The Double Tap cherry Trapmaster is the closest equivalent to any cherry I might devise to cover this situation. I'm not about to reinvent the wheel.

However there is another possibility: Distance Shooter. The Wire Rat can use Mechanics pool for Shooting tests when using a remotely controlled rifle or similar weapon. I'm a little leery of this. It requires some prior assembly, and it kinda feels as if the Wire Rat's stealing the team sniper's thunder, but it does have that quasi-Cyberpunk feel that the best Wire Rat ought to be able to manage.   

If I were assigning Difficulty to this task I would add 3 for every element of the task, on the presumption that the more moving parts involved the more opportunities there are for failure. So in this instance there are at least three elements of the task:

  1. Placement/assembly of the assassination weapon. (You could split that into two elements, for greater Difficulty).
  2. Remote control of the assassination weapon.
  3. Remote viewing of the target.
That makes the total Difficulty 9. Tag-Team Tactical Benefits or Tactical Fact-Finding can help reduce that Difficulty to an acceptable level, or add in points to help the Wire Rat hit the difficulty.