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Old 01-07-2009, 11:43 AM   #1
Mgellis
 
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Default Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

A question...

I've generally assumed that when Infinity's Penetration Service sets up on a timeline for long term observation, a base of operations, etc., that one of the standard ruses is an import-export firm. This gives them an excuse to have offices, warehouses, travel around the world (ostensibly to look into new potential goods they could buy and/or sell), etc.

Does this make sense? I figured that having an excuse to move people, crated goods, and money seems like a good thing to be able to do if you're a Penetration team. You want to have an excuse to be flexible but not draw attention to yourself. But are their hidden problems I had not anticipated?

Inspectors of one kind or another might stop by once in a while, but as long as their books don't look suspicious, they probably won't have many people snooping around. (The one exception might be if someone thought they were involved in drug smuggling or human trafficking.)

Here's another question...

What other ruses might they use? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of any particular kind of cover?

I understand the CIA actually ran a small airline as one of its cover operations. Again, this lets it move people and goods all around the world fairly easily. Would this work for Infinity (assuming a TL6+ world)?

Mark
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:03 PM   #2
Mysterious Dark Lord v3.2
 
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

Airline would work, as would a tramp-steamer operation - a couple of older cargo vessels taking adventure cargo and cheap fares wouldn't be out of place. At most, they would have to worry about customs people looking for smugglers, but since the smuggling they would be doing would be of a totally different sort, it might go under the radar.

For an observation center, a casino might work. Lots of traffic, lots of money moving through to fund operations, and getting connections with a wide range of people, from rich gamblers to crime-bosses wanting a cut of the action.

One underused possibility is an encyclopedia publisher. Gives lots of excuses to ask snoopy questions. In the same vein, an advertising research agency, performing surveys of public opinion, testing education levels, etc.
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Old 01-07-2009, 03:04 PM   #3
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

There's a sci-fi book series built around that premise, but they're not the I-Corps (or whatever it is), they're a company that travels thru time.

I have a copy someplace, never read it.

There's also another one, immortal cyborgs, working for Dr. Zeus (not Seuss)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_The_Garden_of_Iden

But I don't think they're time travellers per se. I was bored to tears.

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Old 01-07-2009, 03:26 PM   #4
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

Harry Turtledove's "Cross-time Traffic" series has that premise. It's a Young Adult series about merchants operating in alternate timelines. I've only read the first three, but I enjoyed them.
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Old 01-07-2009, 04:22 PM   #5
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mgellis
What other ruses might they use? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of any particular kind of cover?
Surely this is very sensitive to what the line you are observing is like, and what you think you need to observe. Merchant ventures are useful on most timelines if you expect to need to move a number of strangers and a lot of money around. The other classic one in the literature is a religion - this works better for a low TL line where you can produce convincing "miracles" with imported technology. On a lot of timelines there really aren't very many other excuses for people to move around long distances after all.

But I expect the standard observation mission is a lot less involved. Something more like send one agent to a provincial town to get a bland job, rent an apartment, get a newspaper subscription and a library card, and bring in a "spouse" or "sibling" who spends a lot of time reading.

Other good covers for small operations would be open up in a major city with a job that is essentially freelance. This pretty well prevents anybody from actually checking to see how many clients you actually have, and hence getting a handle on whether you are spending more money than the time you are working accounts for. Artists, musicians and entertainers work this way all the time, and nobody gets suspicious if they up and move to another town for a few months either, though they usually don't make enough to cover large expenditures. Private investigators have an excuse to ask questions, but it isn't a career likely to exist on many timelines, especially in an unregulated form. Law would be a good one, except that you really do need to actually know a lot about the local law to pull it off convincingly. Small architectural design or engineering consulting firms would probably work quite well for Infinity, given that they have a valid excuse to take new "contracts" all over at any time, and usually have enough technical edge (and the ability to hire somebody on Homeline to do the actual design work) to make it fairly easy to build a good reputation.
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Old 01-07-2009, 07:19 PM   #6
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

I'll have to remember the encyclopedia researcher. That's a good one. I'd also put in a nod for, "traveling salesman" if such a thing exists in the world. Gypsies can also be good, although traveling people tend to be looked upon with suspicion by more settled folks. A religious pilgrimage is also a good choice.
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Old 01-07-2009, 08:10 PM   #7
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

If the timeline is going through a Great Age of Exploration, then the locals are going to expect to hear about companies that send men out to take a look around for months at a time. (For examples, the East India Company and the Hudson's Bay Company.) At least, the locals will expect to hear about exploration of lands that aren't their own - nobody needs to explore the civilized lands that are sending out explorers, after all.

But that still gives a cover for Infinity to explore large areas of many timeline's Earths during any number of historical eras...
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Old 01-08-2009, 12:21 AM   #8
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mgellis

What other ruses might they use? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of any particular kind of cover?

I understand the CIA actually ran a small airline as one of its cover operations. Again, this lets it move people and goods all around the world fairly easily. Would this work for Infinity (assuming a TL6+ world)?

Mark
Well Infinity has a much easier way of crossing borders without being noticed than the CIA. That being said, import export operations are going to be set up to cover the actual cross-time commerce and there's no reason why Penetration wouldn't make use of them as needed.

One alternative that would work pretty well though would be to set up a newsmedia organisation. There is nothing better as a cover for information gathering than a legitimate reason to gather information. Charitable organisations also work well as a cover since people are disinclined to examine people doing good works too closely. In a cosmopolitan polytheism a temple would make a good cover. In ancient Rome nobody would think twice about a temple of some god from some foreign land they'd never heard of springing up in the middle of Rome. They were all over the place.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

Quote:
Originally Posted by malloyd
Other good covers for small operations would be open up in a major city with a job that is essentially freelance. This pretty well prevents anybody from actually checking to see how many clients you actually have, and hence getting a handle on whether you are spending more money than the time you are working accounts for. Artists, musicians and entertainers work this way all the time, and nobody gets suspicious if they up and move to another town for a few months either, though they usually don't make enough to cover large expenditures.
This reminded me of something like a travelling circus, medicine show, or repertory theater group. (The players in Hamlet are the first example that comes to mind.) They'd have the disadvantage that the normal purpose is to attract attention to their performances, but they have reason to move around, and to move quantities of props, scenery, and stage equipment, depending on the "tech level" of the timeline's entertainment industry.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:32 PM   #10
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Default Re: Cover operations for Infinity's Penetration Service

University students and/or faculty.

Find the largest and best equipped places of centralized learning that you can. This is not the initial foray into the culture btw, but once you have a sufficient grasp of how things work locally to fake a foreign exchange student it's almost a must. Then as your penetration of the culture advances it's a perfect place to spot upcoming trends (or start them) and potential movers and shakers.

Harvard, Yale, and Oxford come to mind.

Universities also tend to attract and forgive a higher level of eccentric behavior, but also tend to get a higher level of scrutiny from intelligence agencies so be careful.


Makes one wonder about the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. Who had control of the campus, and who was behind the mob that burned it down? All kinds of possibilities.
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