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Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance

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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by ThinksMarkedly   » Sun Sep 29, 2019 10:51 am

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Garth 2 wrote:On the other hand the two pretending to be a RMN ONI officer and Prince Michael at Smoking Frog did seem to choose to die, whilst the ones taken into custody by the SLN did seemed to be surprised by it (unfortunately, we didn't get to see the ones the Manties identified beyond they "died").
As for the operative on Torch, we don't know how volunteer his choice was but he wasn't an alpha line agent but a gamma line so it might be that the Alpha lines has "more built in protection" against poison.
Maybe another part of the plan is that during interrogation a natural death (no doubt due to the stress) is less likely to trigger further investigation of the body.


It's also very difficult to convince anyone else after the fact that you've caught a spy if all you have is a body that clearly died of natural causes. They only know that it is so because the death was observed and it was an extreme statistical fluke: one death you couldn't be sure, two you're scratching your head, three you're suspicious.

What probably happened is that the nanotech has a gross calculation of how compromised the person is and was programmed on how much the MAlign trusts that person to resist interrogation or turn coat (read: they don't). The direct confrontation probably meant it blew past the threshold and death was then and there, as opposed to randomised during the night.

Another point is OpSec about the nanotech itself. It may be programmed to protect itself and dissolve quickly before reverse engineering. But it can only do that after it's killed the host.
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by tlb   » Sun Sep 29, 2019 11:06 am

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ThinksMarkedly wrote:Another point is OpSec about the nanotech itself. It may be programmed to protect itself and dissolve quickly before reverse engineering. But it can only do that after it's killed the host.

I hope that in the next book or two that some bodies went on ice quickly enough to get an analysis.
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by Brigade XO   » Sun Sep 29, 2019 8:45 pm

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It strikes me that, with the possible exception of the ones sent to Smoking Frog, none of the Alignment agents identified seemed to know anything about the nanotech before it killed them.

While it is true that the people on/near Earth and the ones with Manticore seem to be a current crop of mulitgenerational agent plants, they must have had the nanotech installed at some point without their knowlege. 1st a bio sample has to be taken, the tech adjusted to them (and only them) and then introduced. That is what happened to Honor's Flag Lt. That also didn't seem to happen in a time frame where the sample had to go back to someplace like Mesa or Darius so there have to be the equevelent of teams with portable labs out doing the infections.

I suppose that the major advantage of the nanotech is that your agent can't provide any information even if they want to. Yes, it is possible to try and roll up their communication line and local handlers but, until Manticore firgured out what was happening, the most likely way for the agent to become compromised would be an accident and then the death would make it very difficult to track back from. With the killing-by-confronting style, you get to isolate (probably) your target and then start investigating back into their history & contacts.

It also seems to me that the nanotech may be going to have some unintneded consequences as the knowlege begins to spread out. The various handlers and probably a large number of intermediate contacts will probably figure out that "something" is killing thier agents (Manticore, at least, does not just put a pulser dart in the brain of potential spies they catch) and that if the handlers are taken for interview or confronted they are "just going to die". So, they may decide to either find a really deep hole and pull the cover in after them or try and run off world. That lead to the question: will the nanotech kill them if they either go to ground or run? Will it let (given it's indivual tailoring) let mid to high level links in the chain attempt to extricate themselves or it that too much to ask of the nanotech?

Anyway you look at it, the Alignment is going to loose a lot of agents at the same time that ONI and other agencies are going to be really busy investigating all these people.

It's one thing to accept that you are being given a false tooth or a suicide device when you know you are going on a spy assignment and what could happen to you if you'r caught, it's another to discover that you masters probably have fitted you -without your knowledge- with an auto-distruct system that will kill you where you stand if you are discovered. Heck, it could go off if somebody asks the wrong question.
This is not adjusting an agent to die if captured and tortured or any number of extreem methods of extracting terrory. It's a risk but probably one entered into with foreknowlege that the possiblity exists.
This starts entering fanatic territory here, "Sure, Albrect, stick one of those in my brain, anything to protect the Cause".
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by ThinksMarkedly   » Sun Sep 29, 2019 10:43 pm

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Brigade XO wrote:It also seems to me that the nanotech may be going to have some unintneded consequences as the knowlege begins to spread out. The various handlers and probably a large number of intermediate contacts will probably figure out that "something" is killing thier agents (Manticore, at least, does not just put a pulser dart in the brain of potential spies they catch) and that if the handlers are taken for interview or confronted they are "just going to die". So, they may decide to either find a really deep hole and pull the cover in after them or try and run off world. That lead to the question: will the nanotech kill them if they either go to ground or run? Will it let (given it's indivual tailoring) let mid to high level links in the chain attempt to extricate themselves or it that too much to ask of the nanotech?


We are told there's a time limit implanted in the nanotech. Unless your handler resets it periodically, it's going to kill you. We know, but ONI doesn't (though probably suspects). That also does not mean the agents or even the handlers know about it, they might think it's just some booster for inoculation or for their genetic therapy.

Brigade XO wrote:It's one thing to accept that you are being given a false tooth or a suicide device when you know you are going on a spy assignment and what could happen to you if you'r caught, it's another to discover that you masters probably have fitted you -without your knowledge- with an auto-distruct system that will kill you where you stand if you are discovered. Heck, it could go off if somebody asks the wrong question.
This is not adjusting an agent to die if captured and tortured or any number of extreem methods of extracting terrory. It's a risk but probably one entered into with foreknowlege that the possiblity exists.
This starts entering fanatic territory here, "Sure, Albrect, stick one of those in my brain, anything to protect the Cause".


The GAULs probably accepted that. The agents sent to Smoking Frog also knew of their own suicide devices and probably consciously triggered them. Most everyone else, like Gweon, didn't seem to know of their implanted killing nanotech.
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by Jonathan_S   » Mon Sep 30, 2019 10:13 am

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Garth 2 wrote:So been rereading the series, and do wonder if the Alignment has been "to cute", with regards to its deep cover agents. To date each one that has been captured has well "died of natural causes", this is good from cutting off a potential leak but on the other hand it:
1. means that they can't make use of that agent down the road
2. the agent can't send the investigators down a blind alley
3. actually confirms for the investigators that they are on the right track, after all the suspect wouldn't have died if they didn't know something
4. as Kingsford sort of proved, it makes it really easy way to identify the Alignment spies and eliminate them (which makes counter intelligence activities even easier) especially once you have established a "clear operation team/zone"

So, why did they set-up this way?

The only answer I can come up with, is that due to their arrogance they never believed that their agents would ever be discovered, that they had been manipulating the "normal" for so long that they would constantly dance to the MA tune, regardless of the evidence.

I think they must have been far more worried about someone in the know inappropriately sharing information than they were about getting picked up by counter intelligence.

It's really suspicious if a suspect in custody drops dead after a specific question is ask - even more-so if several do when similar questions are asked.

But that's a potentially effective way to prevent casual leaks that would tend to increase the chance of coming to counter intelligence attention in the first place. No purging your guilt confessing to a priest, or sharing too much about your work with a spouse, or while drunk on a date...


A suicide pill might work against hostile interrogation (assuming that the operative didn't have a change of heart - or the pill wasn't detected and removed/neutralized before it could be used); but it's worthless at preventing inadvertent, or ill advised but deliberate, sharing of your secrets.
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by ThinksMarkedly   » Wed Oct 02, 2019 10:19 pm

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Jonathan_S wrote:But that's a potentially effective way to prevent casual leaks that would tend to increase the chance of coming to counter intelligence attention in the first place. No purging your guilt confessing to a priest, or sharing too much about your work with a spouse, or while drunk on a date...


A suicide pill might work against hostile interrogation (assuming that the operative didn't have a change of heart - or the pill wasn't detected and removed/neutralized before it could be used); but it's worthless at preventing inadvertent, or ill advised but deliberate, sharing of your secrets.


That's why they treated Firebrand with kid gloves after capturing him in Seraphim. They treated him as a guest (who couldn't leave) but didn't ask him any questions on the trip back to Manticore.

It's unlikely the MAlign forgot to give the virus to anyone else, but the strategy is sound. A non-fanatical onion member may start volunteering information if they aren't under duress. The nanotech may not be able to distinguish divulging information to the enemy from discussing with legitimate parties.
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by tlb   » Thu Oct 03, 2019 8:22 am

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Jonathan_S wrote:But that's a potentially effective way to prevent casual leaks that would tend to increase the chance of coming to counter intelligence attention in the first place. No purging your guilt confessing to a priest, or sharing too much about your work with a spouse, or while drunk on a date...

A suicide pill might work against hostile interrogation (assuming that the operative didn't have a change of heart - or the pill wasn't detected and removed/neutralized before it could be used); but it's worthless at preventing inadvertent, or ill advised but deliberate, sharing of your secrets.

ThinksMarkedly wrote:That's why they treated Firebrand with kid gloves after capturing him in Seraphim. They treated him as a guest (who couldn't leave) but didn't ask him any questions on the trip back to Manticore.

It's unlikely the MAlign forgot to give the virus to anyone else, but the strategy is sound. A non-fanatical onion member may start volunteering information if they aren't under duress. The nanotech may not be able to distinguish divulging information to the enemy from discussing with legitimate parties.

He is one who did not get the suicide protocol, because of the confusion after the destruction of the Gamma Center.

How difficult would it be to design such a protocol? You would not want the agent to die just because of a water ccooler conversation about the latest spy adventure available on holovid.
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by ThinksMarkedly   » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:23 am

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tlb wrote:He is one who did not get the suicide protocol, because of the confusion after the destruction of the Gamma Center.

How difficult would it be to design such a protocol? You would not want the agent to die just because of a water ccooler conversation about the latest spy adventure available on holovid.


That's what I meant. You can't have your agents dropping dead when they record a memo for their handler either. So the virus may not be able to tell apart intentionally leaking from MAlign business. And for that matter, the situation may be both, in which the agent think he/she is talking to a MAlign handler but that is in fact a GA spy.

The nanotech is likely keyed to stress responses and to specifically blacklisted subjects. Gweon died after he got asked about his fiancée's financial broker, which the narrator told us confused him.

That's in addition to timed responses: if the field agent isn't reset by the handler within some time, they'll die too. So there'll be a lot of deaths after Houdini, but since they'll be natural deaths, the GA and the Ghost Hunters won't be clued in to anyone they didn't already suspect.

Either way, the MAlign infiltration networks and their access to information is going to be severely curtailed, not to mention they'll likely limit traffic through the Felix Junction to avoid attracting attention and leaking that precious bit of information. This really means the previous phase of influencing and manipulating other governments is over. They're in a completely different phase of the Detweiler Plan, first the propping up of the Renaissance Factor, then the direct confrontation.

Except the RF is not the biggest successor state of the SL, which didn't even fall. Haven, the SEM and the Andermani Empire are still there and each of them is bigger, wealthier and more powerful than the RF.
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by Jonathan_S   » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:58 am

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ThinksMarkedly wrote:That's what I meant. You can't have your agents dropping dead when they record a memo for their handler either. So the virus may not be able to tell apart intentionally leaking from MAlign business. And for that matter, the situation may be both, in which the agent think he/she is talking to a MAlign handler but that is in fact a GA spy.

The nanotech is likely keyed to stress responses and to specifically blacklisted subjects. Gweon died after he got asked about his fiancée's financial broker, which the narrator told us confused him.
Agents are harder, because they have to do their work out in the real world. Bbut in theory scientists, R&D types, etc. could have location linked safeties on their nano-tech. They can discuss blacklisted subjects when they're within preauthorized locations (or potentially locations broadcasting an "don't worry, it's okay" signal of some sort that the nano-tech picks up) but say that same exact sentence at home or some other unauthorized area and *oops*.
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Re: Mesan Alignment - Back on Balance
Post by tlb   » Thu Oct 03, 2019 11:18 am

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ThinksMarkedly wrote:This really means the previous phase of influencing and manipulating other governments is over. They're in a completely different phase of the Detweiler Plan, first the propping up of the Renaissance Factor, then the direct confrontation.

Except the RF is not the biggest successor state of the SL, which didn't even fall. Haven, the SEM and the Andermani Empire are still there and each of them is bigger, wealthier and more powerful than the RF.

I have said elsewhere that I think the Detweiler Plan has failed and now the Onion core is going to have come up with a new one. The failure point was letting the SLN become so obsolete that the League could not fight the challenger from the Havenite Quarter to the point were they both collapsed. Instead the League was a pushover. The SLN had to be brought up close to the Haven standard before it could fight.

I think one immediate error was expecting Haven to conquer Manticore in the aftermath of Oyster Bay and they never contemplated that the two would become allied instead.
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