The cell tradecraft in the first draft of Perfects had a plot hole. I found in my first editing pass, it relates to the cell tradecraft when it is compromised.


Core and infrastructure from al-Qaeda style ce...
Core and infrastructure from a typical cell system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main characters in Perfects are a group of genetically modified people. They’re illegal and trying to help other genetically modified people escape from the country under false identities. The parallel here is the evader networks in nazi occupied Europe during WW2. Indeed the group has consciously modelled it’s way of working on the SOE manual. They have a compartmentalisd cell structure to prevent the whole network being compromised.

The Plot Hole

The story involves the cell being compromised. The police raid their identity factory and arrest of a couple of the cell members, including the leader.

In the first draft as written I had them following a pre agreed plan to make their escape from the area. This makes sense from the perspective that the extraction plan is thought through. Also that there is pre positioned escape kit to facilitate this.

However, it doesn’t work from an operational security perspective. If the police break the first person before you’ve got out of the country, then they can pick everyone else up. So this hole needed to be fixed.

SOE worked on the basis that everyone will break under interrogation, and that double agents will infiltrate your network. So you limit who knows what as much as possible. You also change things frequently so that it is harder for anyone to spot a pattern.

So the cell needs to assume that it will be betrayed. This is most likely what lead to their identity workshop being raided. Their early warning system saved them from being caught in the act, although the police operation still picked up two of them nearby.

Cell Tradecraft – Actions On Compromise

So the fix is simple. The cell should have a set of actions on compromise already worked out.

  1. None of the cell know all of the options for the escape plan.
  2. The cell will have multiple escape plans.
  3. Every cell member has at least one false identity and hideout that no one else knows about
  4. Every cell member has private  contact arrangements 1:1 with every other cell member.

So the drill on finding out about a potential cell compromise is to scatter and lie low using 3 until it is clear whether or not the cell has been compromised. When it has been compromised then the cell members can gather using the arrangements at 4 if that seems sensible.  If not then each cell member can invoke their private extraction plan.

Any cell member that the police have had arrested needs to be treated as suspect and told nothing. Ideally not even contacted to avoid the risk that they’ve been turned.

Thoughts or comments welcome.