PDA

View Full Version : components in a bomb/chemical weapon



rosehips
12-19-2012, 12:32 AM
Hi all,
I need a weapon, designed for use on people in a July 4 parade, which has several components, one of which would be found at a crime scene. This component would set of alarms bells for the police detectives on the scene, but not enough to give them a clear picture of what's going on.

Explanation:
I initially posted this to the sandbox because it's not a fully developed idea yet, but I think I need someone with some weapon/bomb expertise, so I'm coming to you folks.

My villains belong to a terrorist group targeting veterans, specifically, in a 4th of July parade. My mc is a psychic who is dating a police detective. The detective investigates a double homicide: one victim is on a watch list for terrorists, so this raises a red flag, while the other seems to be an innocent bystander (but will turn out to be more than that eventually). There is also a third victim in a coma (I haven't worked out how she fits in yet.) At the crime scene, the investigators will find some evidence (this is where I need help) that could be a part of some sort of weapon. However, whatever it is can't make the detective's job too easy--he's got to need to call in the mc for her insights. So no diagrams of bombs, I think--that would be too much. Someone suggested phosphate fertilizer, so maybe something like that. My mc also keeps getting a vision of an airplane. I figured some member of the terrorist organization is on the plane. He could also be bringing some other element of the weapon with him (which she could get a look at in a later vision).

So what I need is a weapon that can be somewhat targeted on a moving group of veterans in a parade. It would need to have several components, one of which could be left behind at the crime scene during the scuffle with the bystander. Another of which could be smuggled in by the airplane passenger. I did some reading about bomb components (hope I'm not raising red flags at Homeland Security) but I confess a lot of this stuff is over my head. I figure if someone can explain it to me, I will be able to write realistically enough about it for my story to work.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

King Neptune
12-19-2012, 12:45 AM
Explosive bombs don't leave much evidence of any size, but chemical weapons can be made such that the casing and other components would be recognisable. But chemical weapons are notoriously unreliable. In either case, it is common to use cell phones to set off bombs. A cell phone is the trigger in the bomb, and pieces of them a sometimes found after the bombs go off, and one can carry a cell phone almost anywhere.

Drachen Jager
12-19-2012, 01:22 AM
An excessive amount of castor beans plants in the garden might be a clue to an astute detective (castor beans can be fairly easily transformed into ricin, one of the most toxic substances known).

Otherwise you could look up component chemicals for explosives. Search something like 'making bombs from household ingredients'. If one or several of the ingredients is present in large supply (or empty containers for that ingredient) it would certainly raise flags.

espresso5
12-19-2012, 08:28 AM
My first thought was ferilizer, but it looks like you already have that covered. It's nitrate, though. Ammonium nitrate is mixed with a fuel oil. It reacts with long chain hydrocarbons (from a fuel oil source) during detonation.
It's really stable and requires a booster (secondary explosive) like dynomite.
This kind of bomb would be perfect to hit a parade, but nothing would really need to be smuggled in. You could have the terrorist smuggle in some radioactive material (it wouldn't increase the lethality, but it would get a ton of media attention, which is really the whole point of terrorism anyway), although I'm guessing TSA has all kinds of radioactivity monitors.

rosehips
12-19-2012, 08:44 AM
Thank you all for the responses.

Drachen, you said:

An excessive amount of castor beans plants in the garden might be a clue to an astute detective (castor beans can be fairly easily transformed into ricin, one of the most toxic substances known).

I knew that castor beans were poisonous, but how could ricin be used in a weapon against a group of people? Can it be administered through a bomb?

I like the radioactive material idea, but as you point out, it might not make it through security. Does anyone know if airport security would catch it? Is there a way to mask it, like a lead box? Would having a lead box trigger a search by security?

espresso5
12-19-2012, 09:16 AM
I like the radioactive material idea, but as you point out, it might not make it through security. Does anyone know if airport security would catch it? Is there a way to mask it, like a lead box? Would having a lead box trigger a search by security?

If they knew you had a lead box, they would search it. One could carry it on their person, but if the character ran into a full body scanner, it's over.
Maybe get a cancer patient and pop him with a lethal dose, then use that as background to mask any leakage from capsules containing larger concentrations.
You could fashion small lead capsules disguised as dental fillings.

Drachen Jager
12-19-2012, 10:00 AM
I knew that castor beans were poisonous, but how could ricin be used in a weapon against a group of people? Can it be administered through a bomb?

It would normally be administered in an aerosol for these sorts of purposes. A terrorist group tried to use it in a Japanese subway some years back, but they screwed up the chemistry and only ended up making a lot of people sick (some may have died, I don't remember). You might want to look at their method of dissemination.

Anything that will aerosolize it will work. An explosive would have to be carefully planned, too much and the spray is ineffective. Any kind of spray system could be made to work though, common gardening sprayers might not be the most effective, but they'd work.

Also, if you're thinking of using Ricin, look up the Umbrella Assassination, it'll give you some good historical context. You might even find a place for it in your story.

JayD
12-19-2012, 10:08 AM
One possibility for a chemical weapon would be cyanide. I believe there have already been a couple of attempted terror attacks using hydrogen cyanide, so you could look up the case files on those and get a good idea of what equipment was required. Generally, the airborne concentration would have to be fairly high to be lethal, so enclosed spaces are required.

For chemical agents in general, could also try going to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LD50 and sorting the table by LD50 (standardized). That'll give you a smorgasbord of lethality to choose from.

The problem is that a lot of the chemical components are almost a giant neon sign saying "terror plot in progress". If you want to expand the search, there are some biological baddies that might be a bit more subtle.

melindamusil
12-20-2012, 12:05 AM
It would normally be administered in an aerosol for these sorts of purposes. A terrorist group tried to use it in a Japanese subway some years back, but they screwed up the chemistry and only ended up making a lot of people sick (some may have died, I don't remember). You might want to look at their method of dissemination.


As I recall, ricin is extremely deadly but only "works" when people come into contact with it. That's why airborne ricin in a small space with a lot of people (like a subway station) is very deadly. I believe in the Japanese attack, the ricin was in liquid form, not airborne. So people who actually touched the liquid ricin got sick, and they had to decontaminate everything the liquid ricin touched, but most of the people were just fine.


One possibility for a chemical weapon would be cyanide. I believe there have already been a couple of attempted terror attacks using hydrogen cyanide, so you could look up the case files on those and get a good idea of what equipment was required. Generally, the airborne concentration would have to be fairly high to be lethal, so enclosed spaces are required.


Hydrogen cyanide is the same stuff used by the Nazis in some of their gas chambers. It was in the form of a pesticide called zyklon-B, which mixed the HCL with a stabilizing agent and an adsorbant (like gypsum pellets). It was very stable and safe to handle, so they'd pour it into the gas chambers, then turn on a hot-air fan. The heat became a catalyst, making the HCL quite deadly.

rosehips
12-20-2012, 12:31 AM
The problem is that a lot of the chemical components are almost a giant neon sign saying "terror plot in progress". If you want to expand the search, there are some biological baddies that might be a bit more subtle.

Thank you for the link! I'm reading about several poisons now. But I'm intrigued by the biological baddies. Can you elaborate? All I know anything about is anthrax, and I don't know much. It struck me that if the police found any evidence of something like anthrax at the scene, they'd be convinced of the plot in progress, as you indicate for the chemical weapons. Is there some biological weapon that would work better?

Drachen, thanks for the explanation. I'll definitely look up the Japanese situation and the umbrella assassination. It sounds like to make that work I'd have to rethink the location of the attack--couldn't be outdoors in a parade. Maybe if the perpetrators wanted to kill someone specific and that person was riding in a car... something to think about, certainly.

Espresso, thanks. I think I may well go with the cancer patient idea. Do you think the person would need to have the fillings, or could they have swallowed (by force, I'm thinking) a bag of the radioactive material? Maybe my terrorist could masquerade as a nurse or doctor transporting the patient (near-death) on the plane. Which actually raises another question for me... how does that work? In a legitimate situation where a patient who is very ill must travel from abroad to the US, who travels with them? Are there hoops to jump through to get clearance for that sort of thing? Other considerations?

ETA: Would aerosol distribution of botox work against the parade?

JayD
12-20-2012, 12:57 AM
Thank you for the link! I'm reading about several poisons now. But I'm intrigued by the biological baddies. Can you elaborate? All I know anything about is anthrax, and I don't know much. It struck me that if the police found any evidence of something like anthrax at the scene, they'd be convinced of the plot in progress, as you indicate for the chemical weapons. Is there some biological weapon that would work better?

Anthrax used to have the advantage of looking like an innocuous white powder, but now most people know enough to be suspicious.

My own personal nightmare is Naegleria fowleri (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naegleria_fowleri). It has a 98% mortality rate, and there's no known cure. It takes 5 days for symptoms to manifest, so by the time someone realized what was going on, the bad guys could have covered their tracks or hit another target. It's also not transmissible, so only the people exposed would be at risk (keeping it from devolving into a world-ending plague plot).

There's not much setup required (the bad guys could essentially culture it in a hot tub), and it only needs a vaporizer or mist machine to disperse. All they would need is someone on the team with enough microbiology experience to make sure it's the right strain and infectious.

The only other story I know of that's used it is a couple episodes from House. A terrorist plot involving it would be a pretty original plot device.

EDIT: Oh yeah, and it essentially eats your brain alive.


ETA: Would aerosol distribution of botox work against the parade?
http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=193600 (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=193600) gives a pretty good overview.

melindamusil
12-20-2012, 01:09 AM
ETA: Would aerosol distribution of botox work against the parade?

I think aerosol distribution of anything would be a challenge in a parade (or any other open-air gathering). Perhaps there is a tent somewhere, where people gather and which could sorta collect the fumes? Or of course you could move it to any kind of indoor gathering.

Another thought - I may be thinking of a different umbrella assassin, but I remember they used basically a BB gun. If you have a pretty good quality BB gun and a person who is a good shot, when they hit people, the people might think they've just had a bug bite or sting.



My own personal nightmare is Naegleria fowleri (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naegleria_fowleri). It has a 98% mortality rate, and there's no known cure. It takes 5 days for symptoms to manifest, so by the time someone realized what was going on, the bad guys could have covered their tracks or hit another target. It's also not transmissible, so only the people exposed would be at risk (keeping it from devolving into a world-ending plague plot).


Ooo, thanks JayD! I can use this too! *rubs hands together and cackles maniacally*

RemusShepherd
12-20-2012, 01:22 AM
My vote for bomb materials would be iron filings, preferably also with filings of aluminum or magnesium. They're the components of thermite. That's a bomb that's low-tech enough that it's buildable by a single man, but with non-toxic residues that can be easily identified. It wouldn't be hard for the detective to note small piles of metal dust in the corners. If he finds binder material like silicone it could be another clue.

If you go the chemical weapon route, the perp needs a lot of equipment. We're talking catalyzers and hooded workstations and empty containers that used to hold precursor chemicals. From the inside of a chemical weapons factory it's very obvious what's being made. I wouldn't believe that a single detective would clue into it while the rest of the police do not.

Bio weapons are a tricky option. They offer many possibilities. But you can expect the lab to contain experimental animals (possibly dead), centrifuges, and isolation boxes. It will be obvious that germs are being cooked up, but it might be impossible to say what germs they are. My vote for germ of choice is Ebola -- it kills faster than any other common bioweapon, and is more gruesome than most. With any bioweapon, note that unless your society is much more advanced than we are now, the bad guy isn't just killing a small group of people. He'd be releasing an epidemic.

Drachen Jager
12-20-2012, 10:08 AM
My vote for bomb materials would be iron filings, preferably also with filings of aluminum or magnesium. They're the components of thermite. That's a bomb that's low-tech enough that it's buildable by a single man, but with non-toxic residues that can be easily identified. It wouldn't be hard for the detective to note small piles of metal dust in the corners. If he finds binder material like silicone it could be another clue.

Thermite isn't going to kill anyone unless you strap it to them. It burns far too slowly to create mass death, unless you had enough to light the whole street on fire I suppose, but then I think someone would notice.

This is how thermite acts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPAYZMzGMwQ

RemusShepherd
12-20-2012, 11:32 PM
Thermite isn't going to kill anyone unless you strap it to them. It burns far too slowly to create mass death, unless you had enough to light the whole street on fire I suppose, but then I think someone would notice.

'Thermite' is a descriptive term for a variety of flammable mixtures. Some of them can be formulated to explode instead of burning, and even slow-burning thermite can be used to trigger gas explosions. Mythbusters made a bomb out of thermite wrapped in ice, for example.

rosehips
12-20-2012, 11:35 PM
Thanks for the response, JayD!



My own personal nightmare is Naegleria fowleri (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naegleria_fowleri). It has a 98% mortality rate, and there's no known cure. It takes 5 days for symptoms to manifest, so by the time someone realized what was going on, the bad guys could have covered their tracks or hit another target. It's also not transmissible, so only the people exposed would be at risk (keeping it from devolving into a world-ending plague plot).

There's not much setup required (the bad guys could essentially culture it in a hot tub), and it only needs a vaporizer or mist machine to disperse. All they would need is someone on the team with enough microbiology experience to make sure it's the right strain and infectious.

This is great information. I read the wiki article. If I understood it correctly, in order to become pathenogenic, it must be inhaled. Do you think it's reasonable that if infected water was sprayed through one of those machines that blows mist on people outside when it's hot, the people inhaling the mist would be infected?

Do you think it's believable that someone with expertise in microbiology could develop a strain that is more virulent (for instance, it more likely to infect people who inhale a small amount of water)?

It's particularly useful that it won't spread.

King Neptune
12-21-2012, 01:38 AM
Thanks for the response, JayD!



This is great information. I read the wiki article. If I understood it correctly, in order to become pathenogenic, it must be inhaled. Do you think it's reasonable that if infected water was sprayed through one of those machines that blows mist on people outside when it's hot, the people inhaling the mist would be infected?

Do you think it's believable that someone with expertise in microbiology could develop a strain that is more virulent (for instance, it more likely to infect people who inhale a small amount of water)?

It's particularly useful that it won't spread.

A mist like that would be an excellent way to spread any disease that can be spread by aerosols from the common cold to Plague, and now Ebola.

JayD
12-21-2012, 02:20 AM
This is great information. I read the wiki article. If I understood it correctly, in order to become pathenogenic, it must be inhaled. Do you think it's reasonable that if infected water was sprayed through one of those machines that blows mist on people outside when it's hot, the people inhaling the mist would be infected?


It's entirely plausible. Especially if the bad guys acquired/developed a more pathogenic strain. They might also set it up upwind of the main group of people, and hope to get even more exposure that way.

Steve Collins
12-21-2012, 07:39 PM
Have you looked up Tannerite on google? Plenty on there, it is a binary explosive that doesn't become explosive until mixed. It is perfectly legal to own and can be purchased freely in any gun shop. It is primarily used by target shooters for exploding targets. Check out this youtube video where 50 lbs of it blows up a 2 ton truck: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1ZdcI08GkI

rosehips
01-05-2013, 08:43 AM
A mist like that would be an excellent way to spread any disease that can be spread by aerosols from the common cold to Plague, and now Ebola.

I've googled mobile high pressure misting cooling systems. Here is one site that sells them (http://www.mosquitoandcoolingsystems.com/15-mist-line-systems). Here is another (http://www.mistcooling.com/high_pressure_mist.htm). Can anyone advise me as to how my terrorist would poison the water being misted? My understanding is that these systems use water from hoses--although that's in a residential installation. Where does the water come from in a street setting? They must connect the system to a water main, I assume, but are there any filters, or something like that, which could be infected? Any suggestions?

King Neptune
01-05-2013, 07:12 PM
I've googled mobile high pressure misting cooling systems. Here is one site that sells them (http://www.mosquitoandcoolingsystems.com/15-mist-line-systems). Here is another (http://www.mistcooling.com/high_pressure_mist.htm). Can anyone advise me as to how my terrorist would poison the water being misted? My understanding is that these systems use water from hoses--although that's in a residential installation. Where does the water come from in a street setting? They must connect the system to a water main, I assume, but are there any filters, or something like that, which could be infected? Any suggestions?

That kind of system is more than you would want. Take a look at this and vconsider what it would be like to use a solution of bacterial greowth medium in which the bacterial have been busily growing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jchFlsbh8G8
You also google hose attachments for detergent. The misting systems would be dandy, if you had hundreds of gallons of medium, but a small quantity could do an excellent job. Remember that the first victims will be spreading it even further.

rosehips
01-06-2013, 02:47 AM
Thanks, King. I see what you're saying, and thinking about it, it makes more sense for the weapon to be smaller and more focused, as the target really is the veterans, and not so much the bystanders. The larger misting systems would hit bystanders first. So what I should probably do is have a perpetrator spray the veterans with his smaller mister.

I'd have the perp hand them water to drink, but the amoebas I have in mind infect via the mucus tissues in the nose (N. fowleri).

I'm starting to wonder, though, if this N. fowleri idea is just too farfetched and complicated for the setting (July 4 parade). Maybe I just need to rethink it and make it something else. I like the character of the microbiologist coming from abroad, as it works with another element in the plot dealing with him riding in an airplane. I see him transporting whatever the biological agent is with him (maybe even in his checked baggage due to the restrictions on liquids). But N. fowleri just may not be the way to go.

Sigh. Off to google infectious micro-organisms that spread through water.

frimble3
01-06-2013, 07:38 AM
I wouldn't try the attack while the parade is moving.
Maybe after the parade there will be speeches, and someone has thoughtfully set up a canopy in case of either blazing heat, or downpour. The veterans, as honoured guests, have a reserved section up near the front. A small, compact group.
I would assume the mister system could spray mist or air, and even if the mist was shut down almost immediately, after complaints, it would still have time to do it's job.
If your terrorists get a job doing tent-set up, they could just shrug and say the mister came with the tent, and that it isn't hooked up. Then hook it up, either to a canister of pressurised, contaminated air, or a contaminated water source. I'm betting that if it was hooked up to air, people wouldn't even notice, unlike mist, which will annoy some people even if the day is hot. After all, they got all dressed up for the big occasion.

King Neptune
01-06-2013, 11:07 PM
I agree with frimble; it would be better to get the target group in one place before or after the paarade. I'll think about how and what agent.

rosehips
01-07-2013, 12:07 AM
Thanks Frimble and King, I really appreciate the help. :)

King Neptune
01-07-2013, 12:59 AM
The problem with using a spray of aerosol is that it ,ight be effective against any number of people, and, if the infectious agent is effective, then it would spread to others. If you want only a small number of people to be killed, then you want something that would not spread readily. That fowleri amoeba doesn't appear to be a good hit, because it appears not to be highly infectious, considering how widespread it is in the environment and how few cases there are. If you are targetting a group, then consider food-borne disease. You could have them all eat one thing and have that infected with something deadly, and some variety of cholera may be what you are looking for. People who drink treated water, etc. don't often get Cholera, unless it is in food, and there are varieties with a very high mortality rate and that work quickly.

James D. Macdonald
01-07-2013, 02:27 AM
If you need a thermite explosion, here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6cMmk8LZgQ

rosehips
01-07-2013, 05:20 AM
Hi King. Yes, I was thinking I might go with something in water bottles. Botulism?

Hi James. Thanks, I really enjoyed that video. I may revisit the bomb idea, and even if I don't use it this time, the story is part of a series, so I'm sure I'll have a place for it eventually. Thanks again!

(After watching the video I was pleased to see that Mythbusters streams on Netflix. I've been needing a new show to watch.)

James D. Macdonald
01-07-2013, 08:55 AM
So far, all the actual biological attacks in the USA have involved food. These have been e.g. salad bars, or a box of donuts left in a company cafeteria labeled "Free!" and such.

frimble3
01-08-2013, 10:06 AM
Trouble is, getting the designated group of veterans to eat something contaminated, all around the same time, is going to get complicated.
Even with bottled water, you're not going to get 100% compliance. Although you could increase acceptance by having the water really cold, and offering some sort of flavouring, perhaps.
With food, you have some people who have allergies, dietary restrictions, plain old preferences. Plus, if you want to keep the 'Fourth of July festivities' idea, you're looking at fair-ground type food, unless you're hoping to move the whole thing from an outdoor venue to some sort of a banquet hall for the speeches.

King Neptune
01-08-2013, 05:59 PM
Hi King. Yes, I was thinking I might go with something in water bottles. Botulism?


I do think that the spray mist is the way to go. Many bacteria can be spread in aerosols; It is just a matter of decideing which one. I favor Y. pestis, because it can be contracted with as few as 400 bacteria, and the pneumonic form has a nearly 100% mortality rate. Since this is taking place in July there wouldn't be many accidental infections, because the aerosols would evaporate quickly. There is a variety of Ebola virus that can be spread in aerosols, but I don't know much about itbeyond its existence.