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Old 02-16-2020, 05:05 AM   #134
Icelander's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Re: What Happens to the PCs?

Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
It seems to me that the excluded agencies will be looking for a reason why the PCs did what they did. If they are satisfied with "they're adrenalin junkies who really didn't want to be excluded from the bust", which is after all a real thing that happens, then they don't need to go further.
Yes, but the situation is still fraught with risk.

Remember, 21 people died. Most of those people were, judging from the evidence on the scene, probably bad dudes. But not all of them can be proven to have been dangerous criminals currently holding a weapon. Indeed, people who were clearly unarmed also died, as did people who appear to have been more victims than perpetrators. Even if everyone who died had been certified, 100% dyed-in-the-wool unrepentant villain bent on mass murder and this could somehow be proven, law enforcement is not supposed to use tactics that result in suspect deaths if other methods might have allowed them to arrest the suspects.

If the PCs give answers that satisfy the feds that they are simply reckless adrenaline junky Reserve Deputies in a two-bit, small-town, Sheriff's Office that really, really, really didn't want to miss a chance to play cut-rate Navy SEALs and board a ship full of 'pirates'*, those answers might also be used against them in wrongful death suits or even criminal proceedings.

If sufficiently irate, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michel, especially if he can convince the senior Supervisory Deputy US Marshal of the GCVOFTF, could easily make the case that if not for the reckless actions of three Reserve Deputies of the Galveston County Sheriff's Office, a coordinated tactical operation conducted by all the concerned agencies once the Aqueronte had docked in Houston could have arrested the entire crew without a firefight that killed 21 people. He could argue that the crew only resisted because there was not sufficiently overwhelming force present to deter them from doing so.

Now, the PCs have done several things to make it harder to take that line. First of all, the alleged testimony of Raul Sandoval Jara, while obviously lies**, is carefully crafted (by the PCs), to give them legitimate reason to want to check out Aqueronte and to suspect something fishy about the ship, as well as enabling a local judge (who happens to be in Kessler's pocket) to issue a warrant to search the vessel for evidence of a) the presence of a suspected accessory to last night's shooting, b) human trafficking and/or c) other smuggling, while not including anything that can be pointed at in court as evidence the PCs should definitely have known that they'd meet armed resistance as soon as they boarded.

The warrant is issued on the basis of some pretty circumstantial evidence and might not have held up in court. For one thing, they called the judge from their boat and supplemented their earlier paperwork wirh new information, i.e. an alleged sighting through thermal sights of a female form when no women were part of the crew manifest, which allowed the judge to issue the warrant (and send an electronic copy to the PCs***).

However, as it happened, while the PCs did approach the Aqueronte because they planned to execute the warrant and they did stop the vessel by addressing them with a bullhorn asking them to submit to a search by the Galveston County Sheriff's Office and offered to show the warrant to the Captain, they were fired upon before they had a chance to execute the warrant.

While everyone they talk to, from the initial agents on up, will know damn well that the PCs didn't just happen to have scuba gear for two of their number with them and were thus planning to board tactically from the start and are lying through their teeth about having decided to not to wait for backup only after hearing a scream that made them afraid that people were being murdered aboard the Aqueronte, their story can't be disproven.

One PC and the NPC ally and fellow Reserve Deputy who also had scuba gear are licensed diving instructors who donate their time to train members of the Marine Units of several nearby Sheriff's Offices. They do have a legitimate, if not entirely plausible (in light of the fact it was the holidays) reason to have full suits of tactical team diving gear in their boat and no laws actually prohibit them having been planning on developing some training material for next year over the weekend. It also helps that both men are known to spend much of their free time diving, though usually not in full tactical gear.

Also, good forensics will determine that several of the victims aboard Aqueronte have severe injuries inflicted before they died and, indeed, in some cases, probably well before. A case can be made that at the time the PCs boarded, two and perhaps more people were being tortured and killed. Even though the PCs almost certainly didn't hear any screams from the engine room deep in the bowels of the ship all the way through a quarter mile of foggy evening at sea, no one can exactly disprove that, either.

A lot depends on who gets credit, here. If the official reports are accurate and truthful to the point that the FBI and other federal or state agencies involved get no credit, with the potential heroes being from the Galveston County Sheriff's Office, the Powers That Be will have every reason to try to taint the operation and even get the PCs in legal trouble. Even if the PCs successfully navigate through that with their prepared stories, one or more senior feds will almost certainly become Enemy (Watcher) or even (Rival).

But the PCs are wise in the ways of buraucracy and inter-agency rivalries. You see, executing the warrant with Reserve Deputy Lucien Lacoste was Deputy Marshal Natalie Garza of the United States Marshals Service, currently serving as a member of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders and Fugitives Task Force. And the PCs are entirely willing to claim the operation as a joint task force endeavour, ably supported by the USCG and the FBI, as well as any number of thirsty AF state and federal agencies.

That changes the equation considerably. Now, the feds will have a vested interest in not exposing any flaws in the official version of the story. Oh, sure, large parts will be fiction, but they'll be a polite fiction bureaucratically agreed-on for purposes of sharing credit and not embarrassing anyone. And nobody wants a potentially weak warrant or improper actions by anyone on the GCVOFTF to taint the evidence aboard or the warrants that result from it, not if their agencies are potentially involved too, so irregularies will not be pursued.

So, ironically, it might actually be better for the PCs if the feds strongly suspect that they are lying to cover up an informant they are shielding or an illegal black-bag job or wiretap, because as long as that can't be proven and all the alphabet agencies share in the success, no one has a compelling motive to try to undermine the official version of events.

*An international crew of human traffickers with illegal, fully-automatic assault weapons is probably the closest to actual pirates any of the law-enforcement agents involved is going to see in his life.
**For one thing, Mr. Sandoval claims only have realized later that what he saw was suspicious and carefully mentions nothing that implicates him in any illegal activities. He just happened to see X and overhear Y, which only afterwards, once he knew that the people in question had ambushed police officers, he realized might have been evidence of other illegal activity.
***As well as a copy to Deputy Marshal Garza, on the GCVOFTF, which would become important when Lucien Lacoste (PC) found that not only could he not access the file on his smartphone, but his smartphone somehow crashed when he tried and wouldn't start again.
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Last edited by Icelander; 02-16-2020 at 05:16 AM.
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