The Bootlickers Guide
(adapted from an article published in Dragon magazine, February, 1986)
The following excerpts from the infamous manuscript "Treasonous Jive That'll Keep You Alive" are presented by the inspired leadership of PURGE ("Smash The Computer. PURGE is your friend.") to help Troubleshooters survive mission assignments.
This information is of most use to experienced Troubleshooters, who have undergone, if not survived, several Paranoia expeditions, and understand the kind of snafus, insanity and general mayhem that can be expected. Don't feel compelled to read it the first time you play.
These maxims were allegedly collected and annotated by the folk hero "One Clone Chari-Y." The volume of this manuscript (over 600 handwritten pages in tiny script) attests to the author's longevity and therefore the presumed utility of his advice.
A visual guide to getting it right
I Never Saw a Boot I Couldn't lick
Or a bot sensor. Or a Computer terminal. Indeed, licking the metaphorical boots of The Computer is the primary survival skill. You know what The Computer wants to hear - that its citizens are safe and happy, that treason has been rooted out and destroyed, and that everyone is endlessly grateful to The Computer for its bountiful generosity and compassionate concern.
Never tell anyone (or anything) something that he/she/it does not want to hear. If this compels you to misstate yourself, and you are caught creatively interpreting the facts, immediately and cheerfully acknowledge your "error" in memory, perception, or judgment, or blame the misinformation on some other source - preferably the perennial scapegoat favorite, Commie mutant traitors and saboteurs. "Gosh, how could I have ever forgotten about that flybot we lost, It just must have slipped my mind in my eagerness to report to you, sir."
"Yes, Friend Computer, it is certainly clear from the explicit photographs you have shown me that it was indeed I who smashed the terminal with a hammer. Oh, woe is me! I have been made the unwitting dupe of some Commie spy with mutant mind control powers! You must let me go seek this Commie traitor without delay before he corrupts some other loyal citizen."
Always have a few nice speeches prepared in case you are forced to bootlick for your life on short notice. For example:
"Indeed I can see that the circumstantial evidence demands my execution. But, in your extensive experience and abundant wisdom, surely you have discovered that appearances are deceiving, especially when the masters of misrepresentation, Communist traitors, have fabricated a web of falsehood to indict innocent citizens, confounding the process of justice and causing loyal citizens to suffer tragically in spite of their unswerving devotion to The Computer. All I ask is an opportunity to clear my name, and to fight this insidious threat to the security of all citizens and to their benevolent protector, The Computer."
Numerous catch phrases are sure to receive a gratifying response:
- "Friend Computer .....
- "... obviously the work of Commie saboteurs..."
- "..clear implication of the operation of some unregistered mutant power..."
- "How terrifying it is to contemplate that even The Computer's information sources may be compromised by Communist conspirators."
- "No! Of course not! The Computer in error? Completely implausible! No, it can only be the work of traitors..."
- "But I was only following your orders (when we executed that High Programmer/when we cooperated with that registered mutant/when we tested the experimental matter imploder). Who could have dreamed that your orders might be unwise or ill-considered?"
- "Of course, for my protection that important information (about the flybot operation/ about the weapon's destructive. capacity/ about the instability of that isotope) was not available at my security clearance. I hope that as I rise in The Computer's favor such tragic destruction of Computer property can be avoided."
If You're Going to Make a Citizen lick Your Boot, He Might as Well Start With the Sole
A common mistake made by ambitious young Troubleshooters is acting heroically in the service of The Computer The proper approach is to direct subordinates to act heroically; then, after their inevitable and carefully planned demise (often in the act of heroism), claim credit for their heroic deeds.
Always present orders that entail certain death for subordinates in such a way as to suggest that you are graciously offering them an opportunity to distinguish themselves.
"Here, Gone-R, you take this experimental plasma-powered flashlight. I'm sure a comprehensive report on its testing will earn you a commendation."
"Splat-R, I commend you on your courage in volunteering to disarm the berserk scrubot. None of us veterans could begrudge you the honor of serving The Computer in so selfless and loyal a fashion."
Beware of excessively cooperative bootlickers. Many are simply mindlessly loyal and courageous, and present no threat to you, and you will find it easy to assign them useful tasks they will not survive. However, a shrewd bootlicker may scheme a way to survive the task you assign, planning to exploit his actions to further his ambitions, or to plot your demise. Assign him the task he has volunteered for, but add some additional complication that he cannot have anticipated. For example:
"Why, thank you for volunteering to attempt salvage of that malfunctioning plasma cannon. A noble gesture. Of course, with such a dangerous mission, it would be unwise for you to further risk any of The Computer's valuable equipment by exposing it to any explosion that might result if you should fail. Therefore I regret that you will have to leave all your equipment here with us in the bunker. Yes, I'm afraid that means your tool kit also."
Accidents Will Happen - And the Sooner, the Better
Whenever possible, reduce the number of Troubleshooters in your mission group. Several basic principles are at work here:
- Fewer Troubleshooters means fewer weapons aimed at your back.
- Fewer Troubleshooters means more casualties to be tailored to your scapegoat requirements without the embarrassment of contradictory testimony. "Yes, the villainous traitor Fawlg-I was obviously responsible for sabotaging our mission at every turn. How unfortunate that he did not survive so that we might force from him the complete story of his heinous betrayals."
- Fewer Troubleshooters means less confusion when commendations are handed out. if you are the only survivor of a successful mission, you can certainly dramatize your crucial role without fear of contradiction.
The unsophisticated method of reducing mission staff is summary. execution. This technique is effective if well-planned and carried out, but if no more than an impulsive bit of gunplay, the executer is often executed by his victim or by other trigger-happy citizens who want to join in the fun.
The "accident" is a more controlled and ef- ficient method of reducing staff. First, a prop- erly staged accident, even if it fails, does not necessarily prompt the victim to pull his weapon and start firing. A well planned accident may not even alert a victim that he has been the target of an attack, and even if he suspects that he has been set up, the victim is not sure who to shoot in retaliation. Also, occasionally survivors may be called to task when a mission group is decimated; if the fatalities were obviously "accidents," charges of false execution are not likely to be filed.
Never Let Untrustworthy Citizens Behind Your Back - And Who Ever Heard of a Trustworthy Citizen?
A good position in the marching order is vital to survival. Since the mission leader usually has the power to order the group to deploy as he likes, a discussion of best choices is properly addressed to him. However, if a mission leader is weak or stupid enough to permit personnel to position themselves as they will I], other Troubleshooters should under- stand these basic principles:
The coveted position in any mission deploy- ment is in the rear of the group. Normally this position is preempted by the mission leader (0, fortunate mission leader.) If you are the mis- sion leader, or the ranking citizen, demand this privilege. Do not be swayed by clever tactics like:
"Say, my combat skills and training make me the perfect one to guard against attack from the rear," or
"Since I carry the multicorder and must record all our activities, I must stand behind you, Mission Leader, Sir, for a panoramic view."
Of course, if you are not the mission leader, you must try these clever tactics. Some inex perienced or dim witted mission leaders may fall for them. However, if the mission leader assumes the rear, then you must scramble to assure yourself of the best spot you can wrangle, Far right or left flank is usually the second best choice for a combatant, affording a wide field of vision and fire.
If you are the multicorder operator or some other technician, you can usually make a good case for being back with the mission leader, since without a drawn weapon you present a less immediate threat to his security. Note, however, that a prudent mission leader arranges to eliminate any recordings of the mission, and that the multicorder operator is at serious risk when near the mission leader and out of line of sight of the rest of the group.
The rear position is coveted not only for its superior range of fire and the safety it affords from backstabbing, it also is the place where fewest eyes are trained; for those who wish to do things they do not want to be noticed, this is the ideal position.
Conversely, not only is the point man the focus of all weapons in his own party, as well as the weapons of any opponents, he is also constantly subjected to the scrutiny of his companions. This position should be assigned by the mission leader to the Troubleshooter most likely to present a real threat to him. Never waste this resource by placing a low-status nincompoop there.
Wimps and morons should be graciously assigned a position in the center-rear of the group, and told: "Now, aren't I a kind and considerate mission leader to place you inex- perienced men in such a safe spot?" Reassure them often about how safe they are, then ter- minate them at your leisure after the tough guys have been eliminated.
Never assign anyone with a powerful area weapon to a position on the periphery of the group. The temptation to turn and wipe out the rest of the party in one shot is just too seductive. Place him in the middle, where you can keep an eye on him.
Don't Start Anything You Can't Finish - Preferably, to Component Atoms
Inexperienced Troubleshooters haul out their lasers and open fire the moment someone says or does something that might be construed as treason. This is dumb. You are not looking for an excuse to execute someone. You are looking for an opportunity to execute someone in such a thorough and risk-free fashion that he is dead before his weapon can clear his holster.
Given the generally poor marksmanship of Troubleshooters, the unreliable killing power of their weapons, and the substantial protection of armor, the chances of nailing a prospective traitor before he gets off several shots is diminishingly small; thus, you are as likely to die as your victim. Dumb.
Bide your time, build your case, then plug him when he is relatively unable to return your fire. An ideal time is when he has his hands full of some other kind of trouble, like attack- ing hostiles or a malfunctioning weapon or a berserk bot. At very least his weapon should still be in its holster and his attention engaged elsewhere. Ideally he should never even know you attacked him. Whenever possible, attack when you have superior firepower, or when circumstances ensure that you will hit your target - for instance, when you are standing behind him with your slugthrower pressed against his torso.
Often resorting to weapons at all is unwise. Normally the "accident" is a more effective way of eliminating a traitor and claiming a commendation, and if you never get a good opportunity during the mission, there's always the debriefing. A well-supported case of treason is a more deadly weapon than a laser, and less likely to backfire on you than a sum- mary execution.
A Sucker for Every Scheme, and a Scapegoat for Every Crime
Carefully select your prime victims. Certain types make excellent suckers and scapegoats. Trigger-happy, impulsive types can easily be induced to start trouble with hostiles, facilitating your shooting them from behind.
Super-loyal, heroic types can usually be talked into getting involved in risky ventures that will either kill them or distract them enough to give you a good shot at them. Naive eager types who throw themselves wholeheartedly into a mission won't have time to notice the sneaky stuff you're doing to them.
Scapegoats should be of lower clearance than you, so you can give them orders which set them up as fall guys when your schemes backfire or blow up in your face. For example, just before you test an experimental weapon, always ask a lower-status tech to inspect it first. If something goes wrong, obviously the tech damaged it during his inspection. (Of course, keep an eye on the tech at all times to make sure he isn't really sabotaging the weapon.)
Absent scapegoats (either deceased, missing, or imaginary) are preferable to scapegoats who can stand up at the debriefing and defend themselves. The all-time favorite scapegoat is the hypothetical Commie-mutant-traitor always lurking just out of sight. The Computer is an easy mark for the impassioned, melodramatic speech which conjures sinister images: evil agents hidden under benign, loyal smiles; demonic criminals hovering behind every back; tiny, gremlin-like presences of unimaginable malevolence and almost magical power to avoid detection. As long as other citizens can be dissuaded from persistently pointing their fingers at you and crying, "Traitor!" The Computer can be easily sent off on some wild bot chase, searching for an imaginary Commie, while your treasonous acts are overlooked in the hysteria.
Traitors Have Nothing to lose by Committing Treason
Many traitors are too indoctrinated by The Computer's propaganda to profit from their treason, despite the fact that they are as likely to be executed for treason whether they behave treasonously or not.
Mutants, for example. How many mutants effectively exploit their innate capabilities? Sure, many mutant powers are pretty unim- pressive, but a power like hypersenses is just perfect for gathering information.
The best power is telekinesis. Think of the possibilities for planting false evidence, or pulling the pin on grenades, or squeezing the trigger on another Troubleshooter's weapon in the middle of a briefing or R&D visit. Rumor has it that there is a secret society that can teach people how to use these powers. Sign up in a hurry if.you make contact with them.
And, speaking of secret societies, no one ever uses secret society connections to full measure. Sure, it's dangerous, but what isn't in Alpha Complex? The moment I get a new mission, I find some excuse to stop by my secret society drop points and get the inside scoop from some highly placed lodge brother, or wrangle a special secret society assignment that promises a big payoff in black market in- formation or equipment.
"Err, excuse me mission leader, but it ap- pears that my laser barrel has only one shot left, and my spare has a hair-line fracture at the aperture [carefully put there for just such an emergency]. Let me drop by PLC supply and pick up a couple of new ones so I'll be primed for this important mission."
And don't be shy when asking for informa- tion or equipment. You aren't going to get something unless somebody is feeling generous, anyway. Secret society higher-ups prefer a little unbridled greed in subordinates; it displays promise, ambition, and enthusiasm that may be channeled into bootlicking pro- fitable for all parties concerned.
Debriefings Always Go Smoothly When You are the Sole Survivor
"I speak without fear of contradiction..." is the opening sentence of the ideal debriefing. A creative dramatist can transform a disastrous mission replete with treasonous crimes into a glowing heroic narrative with the speaker as the modest model of a loyal, courageous citizen serving The Computer with all his heart.
First, other Troubleshooters are potentially embarrassing records of the mission. Get rid of them. Since wholesale slaughter is not always practical, bribing or blackmailing them into supporting your story may be an alternative.
Recording devices, like bots, multicorders, and live radio/vidcom links with the party must be eliminated, sabotaged, or distracted wher- ever possible. Such records are evidence that is hard to explain away, and more difficult to dismiss as Commie treason than the verbal statements of other Troubleshooters. Be pru- dent, however. Unsubtie and unrestrained destruction of recording and transmitting devices will be interpreted as a deliberate ef- fort to compromise the records. it may be suf- ficient to make sure that the multicorder is turned the other way or that the snooperbot is busy down the hall while you perpetrate nefarious deeds.
If you volunteer or are chosen as the multicorder operator, your problems are more complicated. First, you wish to survive, which is not consistent with carrying something that others are eager to destroy. Further, you are the one who gets the fines if the device is dam- aged or destroyed. To improve your chances of survival, stick close to the mission leader - usually in the rear of the party and less sub- ject to outright attacks. Further, make it known that for a few credits you can make sure that the mission record features a Troubleshooter's finest moments and overlooks his outright treasonous acts.
Another clever ploy is providing narration for the record tapes by speaking loudly as the events are recorded.
"Note the diligent labor of citizen Bumm-R as he searches for the source of the jackobot's malfunction." (Bumm-R is in fact reprogramming the bot to respond to a remote control se[f-destruct device that will obviate the need for an extensive debriefing by obliterating the other party members and the briefing personnel.)
When Disaster looms, Keep Stalling - Only Heroes Are Too Stupid to Wait Patiently for Miracles
When called upon to perform the impossi- ble in the face of certain death, we always politely ask The Computer if we can go to the bathroom first - and if we can have a glass of water - and if we can check just one more reference by data search - and if we can field- strip the electron howitzer to find that buzz- ing noise it makes when you set the fuse timer - and so on - and so forth. This tactic is most effective if the requests can be made privately and without alerting the rest of the mission group to the fact that you will be tarrying behind just a little bit. Once they catch on, everyone gets into the act, and The Computer's temper simulation software gets short.
Stalling is also the ideal tactic for resisting the peremptory orders of superiors. "Of course, sir, right away, I'm right on top of it, just have to get my tools ready, yessir, err, could you stand back a bit so I can spread these out on the floor and make sure all of them are neatly sorted by size, shape, color, and serial number?"
Of course, stalling doesn't make the loom- ing disaster go away. While you're stalling you must continue feverishly brainstorming and scheming, hoping for some inspiration or the intervention of good fortune. A gifted footdrag- ger has one special resource he can always count on - the impatience of other Troubie- shooters. If the stalling is executed with ex- quisite subtlety - if your mission ]@ader and fellow Troubleshooters perceive your actions as bumbling incompetence, finicky perfec- tionism, tiresome attention to detail, or sim- ple cowardice - if they don't perceive your actions at ail, so perfectly have you managed to avoid attracting their attention - then the actioq-oriented, impulsive types will often push forward, elbow you out of the way, and stride confidently into the trap you were desperately hoping to avoid.
Remember: "He who hesitates is lost... but I'd rather be lost than eviscerated any day- cycle."