The Generic Villain’s Infiltrator Tricks

There you are, having successfully infiltrated a gathering of those potentially troublesome to you. You’re blending in, you’re avoiding the hazards, you haven’t gone redemption-bait… now what? Hopefully you’ve thought far enough to have an in-depth plan for what to do now, but if not, or if you’ve got a plan but haven’t learned your targets well enough to be able to implement it, these basic tactics will keep you effective. Note that these only work when you know how to be subtle; too blatant, and they set you up as a mole in need of whacking.

In every group, there is at least one member with some level of disaffection. You’ve seen the type, whether they’re the resident Gloomy Gus, The Hero’s outspoken and irritated rival (now with extra genre-savvy; step carefully!), someone who does work far in excess of the recognition she gets for it, or someone for whatever reason just doesn’t fit into the organizational structure (in case of one of these, do at least try to make sure you fit in better). Whoever it is, though, seek them out. Then listen to them. Be friendly and sympathetic, and whatever you do, don’t dismiss or trivialize their concerns. The object of the game is to make them think you’re good people, and that ruins the effect. While you should at least make it look like you’re trying to help, where possible, never be too ready to suggest solutions; it gets some people’s backs up, particularly the kinds who complain first rather than doing first (sometimes they just need someone to agree they’re right to be unhappy, and there’s no good reason for us not to stick to that). Besides, you’ll want to take the time to design and propose the most convenient solution for your goals. Being an open ear will in turn make the complainer more sympathetic toward you, possibly even more trusting—and more open to suggestions that you can use to indirectly sabotage the foe.

Ask questions. And no, this isn’t those prying questions that delve you straight into the midst of their secrets and set off alarms like a horde of Viking raiders in a thistle patch. Focus instead on things that could reasonably be seen as inconsistencies, the kinds of things that a new group member might think they need to know in order not to mess things up later. Emphasize your status as being new and behind the curve: questions like “Is Zilla supposed to be slipping off in the middle of the night?” Look helpful, look concerned, and they’ll clarify the missing detail, let you know it’s important by covering it up, or start being suspicious too.

Consider being too enthusiastic—but not too often, and not in the same way twice. Remember that the most dangerous person in the group is the one who tries too hard with too little information: they misunderstand a procedure, skip a step, do things in the wrong order, do Step 1 before they finish hearing the directions, and it backfires on everyone. Best of all, as long as it’s infrequent enough to look like bad luck/innocent overexuberance and not a pattern, it’s the kind of sabotage that you can do in the open and not lose much beyond your new fellows’ opinions of your competence. The main rule is that your mistakes need to be convincing: this is no place for the old “Oops, my hand slipped” gambit. I recommend being able to formulate a full logic process that leads to what you did—the step you glossed over, the shortcut you took, the material substitution you made—being theoretically better, were it not impossible—it’ll make it much harder for them to fault you for it. And even if you mess up and do accidentally make their lives better, at least it’s something you’ll know how to replicate!

When in doubt, fall back on the basics; they’ll get you through.

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