Tag Archives: undercover

My MC (a highly skilled fighter posing as cleaning staff) disables an assassin (amateur and unskilled, but armed with a knife). So as not to blow his cover, he disables the man with maximal flailing and, once the knife is under control, a small shallow injury to himself for extra sympathy. Maybe the knife “slips” as he grabs it. Plausible? How precise can he be? I thought a slash to the forehead, which’d bleed safe & spectacularly, but he got knifed in the eye once and might be leery of that.

Plausible? Not especially. There’s three problems.

First, knife fighting is very dangerous. There’s no margin for error, and screwing around is a fantastic way to end up dead with no warning. Trying to get hurt, is a fantastic way to end up dead, because your character wouldn’t be able to pick and choose between a strike that would kill them (or could lead to certain death) and one that would be superficial.

This is actually one way a lot of real world martial artists get themselves killed. They approach a situation with a knife (or another weapon), the way they approach sparring, and they get shanked (or shot).

Also, getting stabbed in the eye usually means it no longer works. Which means they should not be getting into knife fights under any circumstances. The lack of depth perception would be fatal there.

Second, your character has no way of knowing their opponent is unskilled. This is actually getting into general writing advice, but you always need to keep what your character knows separate from what you, as the writer, knows. Always.

Your character has no way of knowing this is an unskilled amateur. They have no way of knowing that they can jump into a fight with this assassin and not give it their all. For that matter, they may not even know the guy is an untrained assassin, because whatever tells they’re expecting to see from a trained killer won’t be there.

Third, what are they blowing their cover for? Your character went undercover for a reason, and it wasn’t to deal with this one off, random, untrained assassin that any security guard could deal with. He’s got an actual job to do, probably surveillance, based on the information you’ve given. Risking their cover to deal with this one guy isn’t heroic, it’s sabotaging their work.

Going undercover isn’t about being a secret good guy, it’s about disappearing and passing yourself off as someone else. This whole, Clark Kent would change in a phone booth, but he doesn’t have the time, so he’ll just have to do this out of costume thing doesn’t apply for undercover operations. That’s superheroes, and it’s very different.

Your character would need to do whatever a janitor in their position should, which is contact security or trigger a silent alarm and let the people who are actually being paid to deal with situations like this do their jobs. They should not jeopardize their position by exposing themselves so they can pretend to be a superhero.

If your character is a competent spy, they’re not going to risk their cover unless it is necessary to achieve their goals.

As a stray note, if your character’s lost an eye, they’re going to be a sub par choice for undercover work. Ironically not because of the vision issues. The problem is they’d be more memorable. Which is exactly what you don’t want. While an actual janitor with a missing eye makes perfect sense, they’re also someone you’re more likely or remember than “that nondescript guy over there mopping.”

Now, if the point was to get noticed by someone, your one eye janitor getting shanked by some crazy would be a good way to do that. In that case, the missing eye is a good way to keep in people’s minds. Along with a story about being some blacklisted/burned out/screwed over badass who’s been reduced to cleaning up other peoples’ vomit.

But, that approach would be more about ingratiating your character to the villain. It would require your “untrained assassin” to be an accomplice, who can stab your character safe(ish)ly, before taking off. Because the entire thing is a scripted act and not just improv night with knives.

-Starke

Hey! I’m writing a character that will be attending a fancy ball undercover and will be carrying a concealed firearm. What would you recommend for her to carry and where should she put it? I know the stereotypical place is on the leg, but I don’t think she would be able to draw it quickly enough, unless she wears a dress with a split, and in that case it might be revealed accidentally when she moves…

This one’s actually simpler than that. If the gun is not mission critical, don’t carry it.

If your character’s cover won’t allow them to carry a gun, then they shouldn’t have one. This may sound risky, it is, but it’s a lot safer than risking their cover by carrying equipment they don’t need.

It doesn’t matter if your character’s a spy or an undercover cop. If finding a gun on them would blow the operation, they won’t take it.

Here’s the thing. If your character manages to sell their cover, they won’t need the gun. If they fail to, six rounds will not save them. And, if someone does find the gun, it could make selling their cover much harder.

If it’s an assassination, or a smash and grab, then things get a lot more complicated. In situations like that a gun may very well be mission critical, and your character’s going to need a way to get it in.

If there’s no security cordon, then she could probably get a Glock 33 or any other subcompact pistol in by sticking it in her hand bag. (I’m picking the 33 because it fires a SIG .357 cartridge, but the subcompact Glocks come in 9mm, .40, and .45.) Worst Case, she might be restricted to something like a SIG P232 or P230.

If there is a security cordon, her best option will be a dead drop or using a different venue for access.

With a dead drop, she’ll need to have the gun on her for as little time as possible. This means the drop needs to be someplace that security didn’t check. Somewhere she can easily and quickly gain access to, and someplace close to where she’s going to use it. Combine this with a need to ditch the weapon as quickly as possible, and an exit option, and you’ve got a rather annoying list of requirements.

The better someone’s security detail is, and the more control they have over the event will dictate what is a viable hiding place. With little to no security, anyplace could be a viable hiding location. In tight security, they may even take down the sub ceiling long enough to verify that nothing’s been stashed up there.

Also, remember, even if the target isn’t the person the cordon’s being set up for, they’ll still benefit while they’re in it. This could make a party like this a spectacularly poor time to execute a hit, unless generating a high profile is the point.

Finally, the other option is to go in as someone in building maintenance or catering. This would afford your character clothing options that allowed for them to more effectively hide a weapon on their body, and it would make them harder to identify before and after the hit. Also, clothing your character could actually fight in. Fighting in a suit isn’t fun, but it’s preferable to fighting in a dress. In some cases, it would even put them under less security scrutiny. It’s easier to disguise yourself as a member of the waitstaff, and retrieve a handgun from behind the dumpster, where security hasn’t checked, and wander back in, if they think you were just going out for a smoke break.

Another possibility with a hit would be to trade up the handgun for a garotte. Wires are much easier to hide, can be made from materials that won’t show up under most detector systems, and won’t draw nearly as much attention as a gunshot. The trade off is, they take longer to use, and your character needs to be right next to the target.

-Starke