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How could a group, very possibly militarized, cut off a small-medium sized city from the rest of the world for an overnight period? This includes outside responses like police, national guard, so on and so forth. Also, something that would keep as many people from escaping the city as possible before the event is over, and keep them from contacting the outside to keep anyone from knowing what is happening.

  • There are some supernatural elements in this world, but I'm looking at something practical. Supernatural ideas are welcomed but looking for more than "put up a big magical barrier", something more subtle that the outside world wouldn't be tipped off to the existence of magic by would be appreciated if you go that route.
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    $\begingroup$ Very interesting question! Just to make sure: I am assuming that such group of people is NOT connected with government. We are talking about organized individuals. Am I right? $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Aug 24 '18 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 I see in that the assumption that such city may want to call for help $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Aug 24 '18 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ Is this city modern? Do the citizens have access to an internet, long-distance telephone service? Are there private or commercial airports within the city limits? $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 24 '18 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ @PavelJanicek - Yes, they are not connected with any government. And your reply to Raditz_35 is corrected, that was meant to be of they called for help they couldn't, but if any outside forces tried to respond they couldn't get in either. $\endgroup$ – F.N. Keys Aug 24 '18 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ FYI, the first notice the Japanese command had of the bombing of Hiroshima was that much of the city had gone off the air. You can bet that someone will investigate if this city goes offline too. $\endgroup$ – Hosch250 Aug 24 '18 at 14:56
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Depending on the city, it would be relatively easy to stop the majority of people from being able to leave simply by causing chaos on the roads and trains. For many cities in the UK this happens from time to time anyway without any co-ordinated action, so it certainly would not look suspicious. Cause a few bad accidents on the roads, and the emergency services will be 'naturally' tied up too. Spread some disinformation on Twitter about the cause and location of the jams.

At the same time, there need to be some power cuts. You need to stop the trains from running anyway, so it's efficient to cut the power to the stations, cell towers and maybe broadband exchanges at the same time. This won't be a complete blackout (too dramatic and suspicious), but it's enough to slow down communications significantly. Staged correctly this could be seen as a consequence of the traffic accidents - again, stealth and disinformation is your weapon.

Crucially, this starts to normalise the idea among the rest of the country that city X is having serious but non-malicious communication issues. Like the boiling frog, the authorities outside don't notice that everywhere is cut off until it's too late.

Now if your plucky band of terrorists is going to start exploding people or wizarding buildings apart then of course eventually word is going to get round, and people will start to panic. But by this point you should be well into your 12 hours, no-one can drive anywhere and only parts of the city have street-lights because of the power cuts. For those with power/phone/internet it may be hard to convince the outside world there really is a problem in the first place. Most of the local emergency services are already tied up. Do what you will.

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  • $\begingroup$ i will keep this in mind, I think I'm going to combine aspects of what your saying here with some others. Thank you very much. $\endgroup$ – F.N. Keys Aug 24 '18 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ Here is a list of recent massive power outages. No power means no Internet and no Mobile phones, probably no landlines either. Add in the traffic jams caused by the lack of red lights. I love this answer more and more. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Aug 24 '18 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Even if major routes are blocked or reported as blocked there are normally a few back routes that local people use as rat runs. I may not be able to use M1 as its blocked but I know which B roads will circumvent the problem. $\endgroup$ – Sarriesfan Aug 24 '18 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Sarriesfan This depends a bit on geography. In some regions like the Seattle-Tacoma area, all the water and mountains sandwiching the city make it difficult to build alternate routes out, so most traffic is stuck with the highways. $\endgroup$ – Troyen Aug 24 '18 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthieuM. its a bit more complicated than that. Mobile phones obviously have batteries, but having family that works in the industry, a lot of cell towers/stations will also have batteries. Emergency services in particular like to have batteries+generators onsite, so you'd need to either sabotage those or otherwise make sure that there wasn't any backup paths that kept the network connected and working. $\endgroup$ – mbrig Aug 24 '18 at 21:10
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Take over the target city's radio and television stations. Broadcast an airborne bio weapons alert, then shut down the power, phone and internet. Tell the citizens that the city is quarantined and that martial law is in effect. Anyone found outside of their homes will be arrested and shot if they resist.

Sorry that I can't see a way to keep the citizens ignorant of your teams presence, but the whole internet is too big to spoof and the phone network is too heavily used to just go away without anyone noticing. So in place of ignorance, I've used fear as a method for controlling the masses. Hope it helps. Oh, and make sure your team is done and out of there before the national guard and Centers for Disease Control show up, 12 hours later.

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    $\begingroup$ broad spectrum noise generation can disable all non-wired communications, but would be hideously expensive on power, and would require some very visible machinery to create. Can't send/receive information if every medium of transfer is flooded with white noise garbage. $\endgroup$ – GOATNine Aug 24 '18 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn, how would anyone outside know that it wasn't a real bio-terror alert. In the first few hours of an event like that, fact checking will be very difficult and authorities would respond conservatively. Nobody would tell people it was fake news and risk higher contamination rates until they were absolutely certain that it was fake news. So just phrase your announcements so that the authority behind the quarantine comes from inside the city management, then make sure none of those city leaders have access to outbound communication by taking them prisoner. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 24 '18 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Henry Taylor if people on the outside hear that there's a citywide bio-terror alert, all federal agencies will show up in force very shortly. If anything happens, the instinct for every first responder is to rush in. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 24 '18 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ Two of your requirements is "and keep them from contacting the outside to keep anyone from knowing what is happening." Suburbs are outside the city. Thus, having them know breaks your requirements. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 24 '18 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Henry Taylor - and reporters will quickly get inundated with calls, and start calling authorities. This kind of news (terror alert) will quickly become big on social media. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 24 '18 at 20:01
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Release a special kind of gas in bulk, all around the city. This gas is a sleeping gas, but it wouldn't cause somebody to pass out on the street, but it would cause overwhelming drowsiness that would make everyone who breathed it in want to go home and sleep more than anything. Workers would all be so tired that the managers would agree to go home for the night, and anybody who had to be awake would eventually fall asleep where they were. Soon the whole city would be asleep, and the population would be ready to be separated.

After everyone is asleep, take out the power grid, and shut it off from the rest of the world. Leave a few lights or non-internet electronics on, as to not alert outside forces that the city is under attack. While everything is shut down, rewire everything to connect only to the group, so that no one can use a generator to contact the outside world once the night is over.

Now you are free to do whatever you want with the city, without anybody escaping before the night is over. (Edit: I have had a question about traffic in and out of the city. The group could close down exits to the city for "construction". The airports could be hijacked, saying that no planes can land due to a "problem" at the airport. All the plane would take off that needs to, but everyone at the airport breathes in the gase.)

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  • $\begingroup$ my co-write likes this idea. I hadnt considered gas. Definitely going to keep it in mind. My question to you would be what about people coming in to the city (like on highways or to airports)? Do we just assume the gas will take care of them before they become a threat or get back out? $\endgroup$ – F.N. Keys Aug 24 '18 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ I wasn't a fan of this idea on first read because that sort of selective targeting sleep gas challenges believability, then I reread the question and noticed that magic and supernatural events are on the table. That makes your smart gas more possible, so +1. The magic might also help explain how the gas lingers around to effect new arrivals. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 24 '18 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ This is much more doable without anyone getting suspicious if you do it small scale. For example a neighborhood of residential buildings or a few selected apartments. $\endgroup$ – mathreadler Aug 25 '18 at 7:51
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Good Question, Other than fear and politics which Henry Taylor mentioned most surefire way is to set off an EMP, this can be done without Nukes, so only electrical equipment would be effected.

Everything would be disabled, most things these days permanently, that includes Ham Radios. then just blockade the roads, most people in the modern world don't see a massive power-cut and think "crikey, i need to get out of town immediately" and they are aware that power-cuts can happen. people would check with their neighbours maybe head down the street if nearby to the police station post office, hospital etc, as those places have generators to see if they can get some news, while the connections to the outside world wouldn't be all that effect, anything within the town that can use them would be inoperable so whether it be satelite radio microwave ham then only way of getting information would be from two sources

  1. Walking out of town (modern cars would be completely dead) and finding out from someone else outside of the effect area (all on potentially blockaded roads if you team has anything to do about it)
  2. From Preppers, those are the only people that would have equipment within faraday cages to protect them from EMPs, and lets be fair, when old crazy dave that alwasy talks about preparing for the end of the world as we know it starts saying the government has zapped the town to do x or y... who's really going to believe him. even normal people that are generally prepared and just might have a faraday cage still won't straight away think "the end is nigh watch out for government hit squads etc."

Especially if this happens in the evening it leaves the townspoeple with a couple of options left, head to bed early, after fumbling around hitting their heads on the cupboard door while trying to find some candles despite never hitting their heads on that door when not looking for candles! and see if its all back to normal in the morning

Or head down the pub, the pumps aren't electric, their gas pressurised, so they might be not quite as cold but its still beer right? or the beer is bottled and they can sit in a candlelit pub next to the barman with a bump on his head and be thankful that beer can stay cold for quite a while during a powercut.

Powercuts happen on average once a year where i'm from, so fair enough if the cars and phones stopped it would be strange but ignorance is bliss, and the Pub option is what i did last time there was a powercut at home, I don't know why my missus always puts the candles in that stupid cupboard

The Police would probably send someone on a pushbike to the next town over to find out whats going on, but by having someone in place to see where he heads and having the blockade grab and knock him out the town would be none the wiser

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Good Idea, but I think more than just the preppers would put two and two together and start walking out of town. I would and I don't even have a week's food in my pantry. I'm an unprepper extreme, but I have good walking shoes, a compass and know in which direction all the nearby towns are overland. Zap my city and I will be voting with my feet before sunrise. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 24 '18 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ An EMP won't stop at the city limits (fails "keep them from contacting the outside to keep anyone from knowing what is happening"). $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 24 '18 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ If your EMP device is reusable, set it off in a distant city, a few hours before your attack on the target city. That way, the nation's attention and emergency teams will be as far as possible from your target should the news get out. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 24 '18 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Blade Wrath I considered EMP. I think with how you laid it out, and Henry Taylor's advice there, I think this is a really good idea for us. Thanks a lot, I really like it. $\endgroup$ – F.N. Keys Aug 24 '18 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor, Thanks, I meant that preppers would be the only ones that would have faraday cages to protect communications equipment to get word from the outside. the few walkers such as yourself would get picked up by the potential blockades $\endgroup$ – Blade Wraith Aug 28 '18 at 8:11
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Depends on the city.

If it's a large city? Not going to fly. NYC, for example - even if you throw a Perfect EMP on the thing so that no one's getting word out via electronic devices, and manage to seize control of the airports, and manage to seize control of the seaports, and cut the rail lines, and surround the city on all sides so that no one could get out by car or on foot or on a bike, and have snipers out to prevent any sort of drone shenanigans, and get lucky so that there aren't any paranoid types with satellite phones hidden in Faraday cages, and you coordinate everything so perfectly that no one notices and gets word out...

Well, that just means that NYC just dropped off the map. That doesn't happen. People would notice, quickly, and get alarmed, quickly. I guarantee that the news helicopters and fighter jets would be making a flyby in way, way less than 12 hours.

Now, if it's not NYC? If it's some small-to-middling-sized city in a country that doesn't have a meaningful air force, where things mostly shut down at night anyway, and maybe occasionally has blackouts just because? That gets a lot more plausible. It's still not guaranteed - all you need is someone who lives nearby with a cell phone and a car to get suspicious and come driving in while on the phone with someone further out and people are likely to start responding pretty quickly. Still, it's a lot more plausible. They're also a lot less likely to have satellite phones in faraday cages.

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  • $\begingroup$ You make a fair point, there's things for me to consider in your comment. $\endgroup$ – F.N. Keys Aug 24 '18 at 19:10
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Manufactured Weather

Every year this exact thing happens all over the world. Some sort of crazy storm rolls through and it essentially shuts the city down. Sometimes the city itself bans travel. Since you said you have supernatural options just create an insane snow storm or roll in some fog that's so thick it makes travel impossible. People rarely question the weather and it's a great cover for all sorts of illicit activities. Power can conveniently "go down" in specific areas. People can have "accidents". Buildings are sometimes destroyed. The best thing about the weather is people don't normally question it. You can even pass off your militarized group as first responders and use them to prevent access to the city. For their own safety of course.

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I think the power grid is key but I'd also be careful to knock out any gennies at gas stations so that getting gas to leave would be a problem. Then chainsawing two hydro poles unto all exit roads. Finally I'd be sure to knock out the power backup systems at the telephone companies and cell towers to ensure landlines and cell phones were blacked out.

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Severe snow storm

Here in Romania it happens almost every winter. The combination of snow and wind make it impossible to keep the roads clean. The lack of funds for equipment is a major role in this also. You might consider disabling the snowtruck fleet.

Snow also has a devastating effect on power lines. It could cut power and thus communication.

The blizzard can be induced by a weather machine.

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Just broadcast a multi-frequency jam and cut the main phone/fibre communications lines - for most cities, there would usually be two or three of those at most. Drop tinfoil grenades all over the power distribution points if you also want the power out.

No radio, no internet, no communications, no power and, just a few entry/exit points to control.

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