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The Safehouse / Re: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Last post by Django Durango on November 25, 2019, 11:09:55 PM »
It's just U.S. based, but I can imagine there's similar organizations run elsewhere, to varying degrees of technical aptitude.

As far as the legit half of the app goes, it only really works in the U.S. because the atmosphere of a working class bar is completely different in other countries so it'd be impossible to rate bars fairly. Hole-in-the-Wall is about a very specific kind of bar scene.
The Safehouse / Re: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Last post by Paupers Run on November 25, 2019, 10:04:22 PM »
Forgot a question:

* About how far has Hole-In-The-Wall spread? Is it just the US, or is it multinational?
The Safehouse / Re: A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Last post by Django Durango on November 25, 2019, 09:27:59 PM »
Ooh, yes! I hope you like tl;dr though 'cause that's the only kindsa answers I got.

How well does the actual "dive bar review" service work?

The Hole-in-the-Wall app is a fully functional dive-bar directory app. It has a very solid userbase of normal people who use it for its intended purpose, finding hole-in-the-wall bars to drink at while abroad. Like its back end, the legit app relies on user reviews to rank bars appropriately. Basically, they're trying to maintain a listing of bars that are not pretentious or hipster-ized in any way. It's for people looking for a genuine experience where everyone's drinking domestic beer and there's nothing being appreciated ironically. If a bar's atmosphere changes, like blue-collar culture is being overrun by something else, users will report as much and it will be hidden from search results until it regains recommendations. This is a completely supported venture, they keep it updated and innovated. They put ads in it so it brings in a modest revenue too. It's a sizable branch of The Syndicate's operations.

How did The Syndicate come up with this idea?

In fact, "The Syndicate" isn't even what they really consider themselves. That's just the name they have agents use to keep people from getting suspicious of the app (that's why the name isn't that clever). Technically - and this is understood by everyone in The Syndicate - they think of themselves as the second iteration of the Hole in the Wall Gang. You know, loose unofficial coalition of robbers and thieves, but for a modern age.

I haven't written a whole history with names and shit, but basically, someone had the idea that it'd be cool if robbers and thieves could use a mobile app to arrange jobs and kinda keep track of reputations so that you could work with someone you hadn't met before but have somewhat of a guarantee that they weren't gonna do anything crazy. This idea then evolved into a "what if we could make them work for us in a gig economy-type deal 'cause that allows us to take a larger cut of the profit" situation. The idea for hiding it behind a legitimate app came later, possibly as a result of an Incident, possibly not, haven't decided. It is a natural extension of the kind of stuff you do as a heister anyway. Misdirection, hiding in plain sight, etc. And the The Syndicate name was instituted in order to keep people from drawing connections between the app and the criminals using it.

How much screening is there to becoming a part of Hole-In-The-Wall, and is the current state of things from a gradual decline in quality?

For the first few years (would be like, '06 to '10ish), it was a closed beta sort of thing. Controllers would keep an eye out for people who would be decent prospects and approach them personally. They weren't exactly looking for the cream of the crop or anything, just people who were already in the business and might find the idea of a more organized system of work appealing.

After a while, with enough agents onboarded, those agents would recommend people they knew. It was a good deal because it allowed you to work more often, broadened your talent pool for prospective jobs, and The Syndicate had a benefits package that basically amounted to health insurance and working with the police to get you out of jail if you did somehow get pinched, which was unheard of in the bank robbery industry before then. So becoming an Agent was a goal for a lot of Indies. Depending on the kind of work you were pulling, though, whether The Syndicate worked out to be a better deal overall could vary. Bijou, for instance, declined to join when offered an invitation because she did the math and she made more money independently (that, and she didn't want to wear the uniform). The Syndicate takes a 60% cut of the profit, but covers most overhead. Independent thieves get all of their money, but have to pay out to launderers, fences, medics, etc. It depended on the kind of work you did and how often and the risk level.

And there also developed an idea among certain Indie holdouts and rejects, our Guy Fawkes kids for example, that Syndicate Agents were not as good at the job as Indies were and could be overwhelmed or strong-armed. That really depended on the crew and the background of each of its members though. Dixie was harder to make because she had experience working independently, keeps her plans loose and changeable, and knows how to improvise. Cleo would have been much more what they were expecting, as someone who's never really worked outside of The Syndicate and who is a little too devoted to standard operating procedure.

There's another facet to this that I'm holding back on, but for the most part, the quality of agents never changed, just the quantity. They were always separated by their rating and beyond a certain point, you wouldn't even be shown higher level jobs if you weren't rated high enough. Dixie and Cleo had middling scores for most of their careers and so did not pull grand heists with elaborate plans. They did smash-and-grabs and the occasional burglary. Nothing fancy. The problem is more that with so many Agents and increased bureaucracy, The Syndicate itself is less agile and less able to hold up its end of the bargain. Allocated resources are not delivered (like drivers) and there's no longer a swift way to rectify that. Lack of resources leaves Agents in a bind where they must either improvise or forfeit jobs, both of which reflect poorly on your rank. So it becomes a vicious cycle where your rating suffers each go-around.

Could people use the app to hire people to do jobs for them, or is it only Agents looking for other Agents?

At the level that Dixie and Cleo worked, jobs were typically requested by a client, but the job is always posted by the Syndicate itself and Agents are always in charge of it. A lot of the work Dixie and Cleo did was part of larger insurance fraud schemes. Clients requests a robbery, someone accepts lead on the job, crewmates join up, they pull the job, client files an insurance claim. Clients never interact with the Agents directly though. It's part of the Syndicate's larger scheme of cross-protection. Keep as many moving parts separate and on a need-to-know basis, for the safety of everyone.

At a higher ranking, Agents can plan and recruit for their own jobs, but this is reserved for Agents with a demonstrable ability to pull a job without much mess. 4's and up. the idea is that you really have to work for and prove yourself to get that kind of autonomy while under the auspices of the Syndicate. Basically, you have to show that you can do this without creating problems for them.

If people can hire a crew to steal something on their behalf, can the client provide the plan, or is it purely on the Agents to plan it out?

Again, dependent on rank. Given that most lower level jobs are not that complex, in depth planning is not needed. Certain parameters may be added if they are necessary, but The Syndicate doesn't permit clients to issue challenges or anything. On a more complicated higher level job, a client could offer information or arrangements that might help, but it would still ultimately be up to the crew whether to utilize them. Most would, obviously.

What's stopping someone from uncovering the hidden feature that isn't supposed to?

The hidden log-in screen for the backend is inaccessible if your account doesn't have the clearance. Once you become an Agent, if you don't already have an account, the Controller will make one for you (it has a different username from your codename, usually something like what the spam accounts that used to sign up here would have, since most people never use theirs in the front end). From there, the account is then given then clearance for the backend. By all appearances, it looks like a regular Hole-in-the-Wall account, it just has additional (and invisible) permissions. You can even still use it for finding bars, if you're into that.

To log into the backend, you have to click a practically invisible and tiny spacer image on the homepage of the regular app. If your account has the clearance, it takes you to the login page and makes you re-enter your username and password (just in case) and, now, makes you do two-factor authentication, thanks to Clippy and Mitty. If it doesn't, it takes you to the image file for the spacer image itself, making it look like it's just a weird, misplaced hyperlink.

In Mitty's case, he didn't actually stumble into the backend or anything. Clippy (named for his skill with computers by a Controller who didn't have any) was irresponsible and wrote an auto-login script so he wouldn't have to log in every time. That's how Mitty ended up with access. Most people don't have the technical know-how to do that, or would be smart enough to know it was a shitty idea. The human element is usually the weakest part of any security plan.
The Safehouse / A few questions about Hole-In-The-Wall
« Last post by Paupers Run on November 25, 2019, 09:15:22 AM »
So, as the title suggests, this is to ask a few questions about the mess Cairo and Sable are leaving behind known as the Hole-In-The-Wall app. I'm sure they'll be explained in future stories, but never hurts to have an FAQ. So;

* Could people use the app to hire people to do jobs for them, or is it only Agents looking for other Agents?

* If people can hire a crew to steal something on their behalf, can the client provide the plan, or is it purely on the Agents to plan it out?

* How much screening is there to becoming a part of Hole-In-The-Wall, and is the current state of things from a gradual decline in quality?

* How did The Syndicate come up with this idea?

* What's stopping someone from uncovering the hidden feature that isn't supposed to?

*How well does the actual "dive bar review" service work?
Things were going quite well, if Dixie said so herself. This was the first time she had applied to be lead on a job. It earned one a ten percent bonus for taking the responsibility of seeing that the score was delivered to the local Syndicate depot. The rest of her crew were out front sweeping loose diamonds off tables and displays and into duffel bags. The diamonds were small and of mediocre quality, but the sheer quantity of them would net a decent profit. Because things were going so well, Dixie was in the back office, cracking their wall safe. She didn't expect to find anything worthwhile, but she had the time and cracking safes was what she did.

At the last tumbler falling into place, she turned the handle and yanked open the door. A stack of bills sat on top of some official looking papers. She snatched the bills out and put them in her jacket pocket: a tip on top of her lead bonus! This job was turning out real well.

Until the gunshots sounded out front.

It was not common to fire one's gun during a Syndicate job after the initial civilian scare. Even if the police showed up, they usually did not interfere directly as it could endanger civilians. The occasional hero cop might try to thin a crew's ranks with an opportunistic shot sometimes, but for the most part the agreement the Syndicate had with law enforcement kept gunplay to a minimum.

The shots fired out on the sales floor were therefore cause for suspicion. Dixie drew her revolver from her hip and peeked around the door frame.

Two of her crewmates, Selznick and Mallard, had with their weapons fixed on two other people in Guy Fawkes masks who were pointing their own guns at them. Her third crewmate, Fontaine, was curled up in a ball in the middle of this stand-off, whimpering, gasping for breath, and bleeding all over the floor. The three civilians lying in a neat row on the floor along the back wall shook in fear and hid their heads under their arms.

Dixie crept out of the office, staying low to sneak behind the display cases. Joining her crew out there would tip the scales in their favor over... whoever these guys were, but if she could manage to sneak up on the one who was standing closest...

What Dixie lacked in height and might, she made up for by carrying a massive firearm. The Ursa Striking Bear revolver was five pounds and ten inches of intimidation, a fact this V for Vendetta cosplayer realized when Dixie jammed its barrel into his back.

"Why don't you set that gun down, sweetie?" Dixie said, prodding him with her own. "Nice and easy, don't want it to go off." He bent down slowly and set his assault rifle at his feet.

"Mallard, come get this," Dixie said. Mallard came over to collect the weapon, never once taking his eyes or his own weapon off the other guy.

Once Mallard and her hostage's weapon were out of reach and the odds were significantly back in the Syndicate agents' favor, Dixie shoved her hostage. He stumbled and fell. She kept her gun pointed at him. When he turned over, she asked, "Are y'all, like, protesting the robbery?" She gestured around at the scene. "The fuck is this?"

"These guys just burst in here and shot Fontaine," Selznick said.

"Why'dya do that?" Dixie asked her hostage.

"We were gonna steal your take. Billy says it's easy to steal from Syndicate crews 'cause they're not real robbers."

Dixie rolled her eyes. She figured that much.

"No, honey, why did you shoot Fontaine," she clarified.

He seemed reluctant to answer so she pulled the hammer back on her revolver to convey her impatience.

"Billy always shoots a civilian first off," he spat out. "So they know he'll shoot any of them if they act up."

"Shut up, Charlie!" Billy said, shifting his aim off Selznick and on to Dixie. Selznick jumped on the opening and fired his shotgun at Billy, hitting him in the gut. Billy reflexively fired his rifle as he fell, and the bullet clipped Dixie's ear. Dixie's hand darted up to hold her stinging ear and she swore loudly. Charlie saw the opening and made a motion to get up, but Dixie trained her gun back on him to get him to stay down.

Selznick darted forward and snatched up Billy's rifle from where it lay next to him.

"Okay, good hustle, Selz-y, but one inch over and I would be dead," Dixie pointed out.

"Sorry, ma'am," Selznick said.

Dixie gingerly prodded her ear and hissed.

"God, there's, like, a chunk missing. That's gonna heal up pretty." But no matter. "All right, you two," she directed Selznick and Mallard, "Get Fontaine into the van. You," she said, pointing at Charlie. "You are now in my crew." She waved her gun at him in a pope-like blessing. "So start loading these bags in the van."

"Or what?" Charlie said defiantly. It surprised Dixie, as Charlie had come off pretty passive this whole time. It was annoying, given the obviousness of Or What.

"Or I will shoot you," she ground out, "and your buddy Billy here, and I won't miss like Selznick did," she said. "Chop chop, motherfucker."

Charlie begrudgingly got up and picked up a pair of duffel bags. He followed behind the rest of the crew as they carried Fontaine as gently as they could.

Dixie huffed at the ceiling and reached up to poke at the missing chunk of her ear again.

Gonna have to add that clipped ear to her model.

As far as the reviews go, I think it only really pays to downplay someone's contribution when you failed to score outright. So while generally, you may not leave a glowing review of your crewmates, you wouldn't downvote them without just cause if you still completed the heist successfully. So in this case, while they probably wouldn't be effusive in their praise, they wouldn't downvote her much either. A 3 is a perfectly inoffensive, middling score and they'd all probably give 3's or 4's, as would she.

Think of it kinda like airbnb reviews. There's a lot of tension between guests and hosts re: reviews because if you, a guest, review a host who had a shitty, falsely advertised property, they would leave you a retaliatory review saying you were shitty guest regardless of what quality a guest you actually were. And that would, unfairly, make it hard for you to book future properties. And because it's all very bureaucratic and a huge case of he-says/she-says, you will never get that shit resolved or corrected for truth. So everyone thinks twice about really sticking it to their crewmates unless there is a really justified cause because it comes back around.

Cleo and Dixie ended up with the scores they did because they had a slew of bad luck, which can really fuck you in the Syndicate. And why the peer review system is wildly imperfect. It should be noted that, in this bad luck streak, they also downvoted a lot of people and lowered their scores too. And not all of those were cases where the girls were the ones in the right.

Part of their joy in striking out independently is freedom from the review system.
Yeah, maybe MVP wasn't quite the right word. I didn't mean like "single-handedly saves the job", but did a splash more than the randoms.

Maybe that happens, but the crew downplays it more in their reviews of her. Something more like that.
Specifically, Dixie is hitting a diamond exchange with a crew of Syndicate randoms. But as they're about to start, a non-Syndicate crew, starts their own robbery, and they're definitely more vicious than Syndicate.

You don't have to make this before Dixie met Cleo, but definitely have her as MVP. Maybe getting shit on for credit in pulling the job through, but still.

So I am still working on this, but I thought you might like to know a little about why it's taking so long. You've actually kinda given me a bit of a challenge here.

See, one of the things I try to be mindful of in my stories is not to let any one character come off Too Cool for School. Remember how when John Wick was announced for the PAYDAY roster, and the copy had Chains practically shaking in his non-slip shoes over trying to get Wick (who is supposedly an old friend with whom he has a rapport) to wear a proper mask, as opposed to the selection of sunglasses he never wears in the movie? Or how Hoxton was written from Crimefest '14 through the Housewarming update, when people finally started to backlash against his characterization? Where he was the sassiest sumbitch on the crew, and also had most of the good ideas, and also just took it upon himself to burn the safehouse down but no one minded because that was one of Hoxton's good ideas and Hoxton is so so so cool anyway that he gets away with being a jerk-ass to everyone, and now that he's called in his vast estate of resources he's also responsible for all the good things the crew has?

That kind of shit comes off like a 12-year-old boy wrote it.

Usually, the way I avoid this is to break up all the cool points among characters. You'll still get some disproportion due to characterization (Cairo is a lot more cerebral than Sable is, for example, so she gets fewer one-liners but is responsible for more crafty idears), but in general, doing this makes for a fairly even distribution of Coolness so that no one is coming off as the Hoxton on the crew.

That becomes harder, though, when one character is explicitly supposed to be MVP and also when the rest of the crew are filler characters.

I'm not saying I can't do it ('cause I can). Just that it's a fine line to walk and it requires a little more finesse than most of what I've done so far, 'cause most of my usual avenues of egress are not present in this prompt.
Also this.

They were in the Titanic Exhibit gift shop. There were necklaces for sale, with pendants made from supposedly genuine pieces of coal brought up from the Titanic's wreckage.

"That seems rather tasteless," Cairo commented.

"That shit's probably haunted," Sable said.
So like, I have chosen to kind of weave the birthday thing into what I was gonna do anyway so this isn't the full extent of where I'm going with that yet, but here, look. We're actually proceeding in the plot!

I am working on yours, Paupers Run.

"All right," Sable said. "Moment of truth."

Cairo picked up the hotel phone, flipped the yellowed calling card over, and dialed the number she'd jotted down ten years ago. Sable leaned in close to hear since they weren't going to risk putting the call on speaker and being overheard.

The phone rang once. Then again. Then the click of connection.

"Good morning, Miss Laurendeau's residence," a woman's voice answered. Cairo knew this woman was definitely not Bijou. Bijou had a comically affected transatlantic accent. There was still a remote possibility that Bijou still lived there, if this woman was just answering her phone.

"Hello. May I speak to Bijou please?" Cairo chanced.

The woman on the other end was silent for a moment, then said, "May I ask who's calling?"

"Oh, my apologies," Cairo said, having forgotten to introduce herself before . "My name is Cleo."

"Cleo...?" the woman trailed, prompting for a last name.

"Just Cleo."

"I see. May I put you on hold?" the woman asked.

"Yes, of course."

They waited. A moment later, an older woman's voice asked, "Hello? Bijou speaking."

Sable nearly choked in surprise at how this woman just answered so readily to her codename, not knowing who was on the other end of the line.

"Uh, hello," Cairo said, a bit startled herself. But this was Bijou. One did not forget a fake accent like that. "You may not remember me, but we met several years ago on a job. You gave me your calling card-"

"Oh, I never forget a face, darling," Bijou said.

"It was pretty dark at the time," Cairo said, positive that Bijou couldn't possibly remember her.

"We met at Mimi Vanderhausen's, correct? In 2009? We were... admiring her collection of Fabergé?"

Cairo leaned back and stared at the phone for a second. "Wow, you remember that?"

"Darling, you scared the hell out of me!" Bijou explained. "It's not often I meet colleagues while I'm working. Let alone someone quite so imposing. I thought you were on Mimi's security team until I saw you had a mask on too. So how have you been, dear? Are you still working with the Syndicate?"

"Actually, that's why I called," Cairo said. "My partner and I were thinking about leaving, striking out on our own. But we don't really know anyone outside of the Syndicate. We were hoping you might be able to help us."

"Oh dear," Bijou sighed.

"Oh dear?" Cairo asked.

"I'll help as much as I can, of course. But I definitely think you're in for an uphill battle. There's not a lot of unsigned talent left anymore."

"Surely we can scare up two crewmates," Cairo said. "We're really more worried about finding a launderer for now. We're sitting on a pretty big pile of dirty clothes and we don't have anything to wear, if you understand me."

"Hmmm. I don't know any launderers personally, but perhaps my fence does- Actually, a marvelous thought has just occurred to me," Bijou cooed. "Yesterday, he told me about this friend of his who's just come off a long-term engagement too and is looking for work. You should see about meeting him."

"Oh, uh, we're really doing more of a feasibility study at this point, not conducting interviews," Cairo tried to defer.

"Oh darling, you really must," Bijou said. "You're going to find that the world outside the Syndicate is very small. You'll want to have as many options as possible if you want to have any hope of making this work."

"I don't know. I really would rather discuss the logistics before we get anyone else involved."

"Trust me, you'll want to meet him. He's in Las Vegas right now for a car show. Go! You'll have fun, take a nice little vacation before you start this new crew." Sable perked up at the idea of going to Las Vegas. "In the meantime, I'll speak with my fence and we'll see who we can find with availability. After you speak with his friend, come up to New York and we'll figure the rest out."

Cairo didn't think now was a good time for a vacation and she didn't want to involve any more people in this conspiracy than was necessary. Sable watched Cairo's face to see what she was thinking and didn't like the conclusions she seemed to be reaching. Sable grabbed the notepad and the pen  off the nightstand and scribbled out a note.

It's my birthday next week.

She held the note up and did a seated we're-going-to-Vegas shimmy because how could one argue with that?

One couldn't and so Cairo relented, giving an annoyed nod, but she smirked when Sable hopped up from the bed and did a silent celebratory happy dance. At the very least, they'd be able to launder a little of the cash themselves through the casinos to fund a decent time.

"All right, we'll go to meet this guy," Cairo said into the phone.

"Fabulous!" Bijou said. "I'll get the details and call you back."

"Thank you so much for all your help, Bijou," Cairo said.

"Think nothing of it, darling. I'm always happy to help someone get out of a bad contract."

Cairo hung up the phone.

"Vegas, vegas, veeegas!" Sable sang as she did her Vegas dance.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Cairo said in mock-annoyance. It was convenient though. She hadn't actually known it was Sable's birthday. They'd never exchanged gifts or acknowledged birthdays the whole time they'd been working together. Now that Cairo thought about it, it was sort of strange.

"How come you've never mentioned your birthday before?" Cairo asked.

Sable stopped dancing and stared at Cairo for a second before looking away.

"It wasn't that big a deal in my family, that's all," Sable said. "Grew up poor, you know? We'd have cake and all, but it wasn't that different from any other day. So I just don't think about it, I guess."

"Oh." Clearly a change of subject was in order. "Well, what do you wanna do on your Las Vegas birthday vacation then?" Cairo said, getting out her cellphone. She ran a search for Las Vegas attractions. "Look, we could see some sort of male revue called Thunder Down Under. Oooh! Or - well, I know it's your birthday, but maybe we could see The Titanic Exhibit too."

"Hey, it's a vacation for both of us," Sable said. "If you wanna see something boring, we can see something boring."

The Titanic Exhibit is NOT boring, just fyi.
Either Cleo or Dixie suddenly discover that it is the other's birthday. Maybe they make a ahem subtle mention of it because they're expecting a gift, or maybe the info is gleaned accidentally. Regardless, a scramble ensues to throw something suitable together.
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