The common rat, so often a sight of subway tunnels and garbage heap and waterfront dive, takes on a more majestic role when directed by the hand of an evil mastermind who is truly in tune with what motivates them. Few things are so compellingly stimulating than the sight of several thousand rats scurrying as a single living carpet heedless of anything that might chance to be in their way. They are animals of simple but rapacious tastes and of hardy frames which the most inept and inattentive fiend could raise in great numbers easily, as if by accident, and are well endowed with intelligences which can be harnessed by anyone willing to put in a bit of time training them to carry out surprisingly complex tasks, singly and in concert, which would be impractical to do by many other non-human minion. Getting started with rats is neither difficult nor costly, although there may be some circumstances where their continued upkeep can be taxing. We present a number of tips to help the aspiring rat-master to get the most use out of these versatile rodents.
- Buy in bulk. You have the great luxury when it comes to working with rats not to be hampered by considerations of practicality that would be prohibitive with any other fell beast, for instance hellhounds, vampire bats, or black mambas. Once you have a compatible breeding pair, you can rather quickly come up with nearly astronomical numbers of rats so long as you have the food and space for them, so it makes sense to conceive of massed effects with a minuscule initial outlay. Geometric population increases are your friend in this respect.
- Operant conditioning. Rats can be trained to do simple or elaborate tasks through the simple and consistent application of behavioral modification, employing positive reinforcement when they do what is desired and negative when they do not. Carrying this out on the grand scale is purely a matter of logistics and persistence. As they do not possess the faculty of language, there is little danger that your plans will be betrayed by a foe who manages to kidnap a few of them, even under threat of torture or death, a huge advantage over the vast majority of human minions. Do not expect a few simple stimulus and response cycles to win out against a major supernatural hex or alien mind control field among any but the most loyal of rodent minions, however.
- Deploying them effectively. Schemes which allow you to arrange your rats where they normally live beforehand are usually more successful than ones where the rats need to be transported into place, although given sufficient resources even these may be made possible. Remember that although they are able to swim and are fairly tough physically, it is not appropriate to have them cross wide bodies of water, fall great distances, or go without oxygen for all but a very brief stretch of time.
- The afterparty. Once you have extracted all the utility of your horde of rats, you may choose to let them go off to whatever fates befall them, or you may wish to retrieve them (especially if they have been given some elaborate training in the process) to continue the work. In the latter case, you should arrange during their training a special signal, audible or visual, that will tell the rats to muster in a single location in order to simplify the work of gathering them up. Then it's on to the next location.
Strokes of genius
- Running water. Water rats are a specialized sort of minion most useful when you are undertaking a nautical kind of mission. The creature is a relatively strong swimmer, though not swift enough to reliably outswim major aquatic predators such as alligators and sea snakes. The sight of a large landing craft disgorging a large number of rats upon a defenseless beachhead is thrilling beyond compare.
- Food. The dietary needs of the most common species of rat are similar to those of humans, as is the tendency to gorge upon junk food and alcohol. If you can provide a well-balanced and wholesome bill of fare you will find this translated into an improved physical condition overall along with better morale.
- Parasites. Understanding the role of hitchhiking fleas and lice is indispensable if you take a historical interest in the spread of the Black Death and want to provide the most accurate representation of how the lifecycle worked back then. Less well-known but nearly as devastating is the spread of endemic typhus fever which also has some serious health consequences of interest.
- Advance guard. Much like the canary in the coal mine these animals can serve vital intelligence roles in the thick of battle, with their highly developed senses and instincts to avoid danger. When the rats flee the subterranean caverns en masse it may well be time for your main force to brace for the appearance of the Big Bad down there.
Traps for mere fools
- Snakes. Be on the lookout for the predatory sort, especially, which can pursue a rat down the narrow passages they favor.
- Warring rat packs. The most troublesome are the kind headed by an unnaturally intelligent Rat King and oftentimes armed with tiny little weapons.
- Artificial hazards. These include rat traps, baited rat poison, and shotgun booby traps.
- Strange rat-obsessed drifters. Occasionally these turn out to be part-rat themselves, but often they are twisted little rodent-haters who would like nothing better than to frustrate your rat-related plans.
- Rat catchers. The kind who were armed mainly with a pipe have long been superseded by the kind with high tech equipment to locate, attract, and dispatch the creatures at a high rate of speed.
Precious and needful
- Material to gnaw through. Their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, so it is good for them to be able to wear them down on wood, concrete, or bone.
- Mutant DNA treatments.
- High-protein supplements. Either the pre-packaged kibble or the kind that walks around.
- Rat-size passageways. Strict attention to the method of ingress and egress is most helpful when you want your rat charges to overrun an impregnable stronghold.
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- Image credit holy rats! by Barabeke
- Image credit you lie - banksy by niznoz
- Image credit Horrible Claws ! by Rosebud 23
Created by: . Last Modification: Sunday 23 of October, 2011 06:40:45 EDT by .