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All was still as the stranger loaded a cartridge into his shotgun and peered around.
Looking out furtively from deep within the shadowy gorse thicket, he waited, in silence.
They would be appearing any minute now – just here, where the trees met the field.
Every evening they passed by this way, around dusk, just as the light began to fade.
Red and orange danced in the clouds – a pleasant backdrop for a decidedly unpleasant task.
Opening his black pocketbook, he flicked to the page on today’s assignment, double-checking the orders.
Nothing too difficult – make the shot, get in, swipe the goods, and head to the back door of the pub at midnight.
Everything depended on stealth; no loud noises to arouse suspicion or attract attention – all was still…

What is the stranger’s mission?

The passage above conceals the 8-letter answer – your task is to uncover it...

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    $\begingroup$ So he's not going to make any loud noises, but he is going to fire a shotgun? $\endgroup$ – simpleuser Feb 14 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ @simpleuser Only at the crucial moment... $\endgroup$ – Stiv Feb 15 at 7:38
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The stranger's mission is

POACHING, as in illegally hunting wildlife.

As Tonkleton found in their answer,

the first letters of each line spell out ALTER ONE. This indicates that we need to change exactly one letter in each line in some thematic way.

Given this hint, we can then discover that

several words/phrases in the passage are one letter away from the names of birds (and one mammal) that are commonly hunted. Each line contains exactly one instance of this occurring:

cartridge -> Partridge
gorse -> goOse
here -> hAre (found by Jens)
dusk -> duCk
pleasant -> pHeasant
page on -> pIgeon (found by David Lewis)
swipe -> sNipe
arouse -> Grouse

Note that all these words/phrases are the ninth from the beginning in their respective lines. I’m not entirely sure of the significance of this, but it could fit with the ALTER ONE instruction as 9 is one greater than 8.

Finally, we

take the alterations in order by which line they came from to get POACHING as our answer.

Other clues that validate this answer:

The title mentions "game," which all the animals certainly are. And the passage itself describes someone waiting to hunt some form of wildlife in secret, which is what poaching is.

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    $\begingroup$ for the second missing part, it's rot13(cntr ba -> cvtrba) $\endgroup$ – David Lewis Feb 14 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidLewis Nice catch! (No pun intended, hehe) I updated my answer to include that. $\endgroup$ – HTM Feb 14 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ One possibility for the third line is rot13(urer -> uner) though that would break the bird pattern. $\endgroup$ – Jens Feb 14 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ Nice work! It's unfortunate that the one you're missing is the one which isn't a bird, and therefore makes you think that's the pattern! All 8 critters are classed as rot13(TNZR). If you want confirmation that @Jens is correct, look at which number word in each line is the important one... Round it all off and the checkmark is yours :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Feb 14 at 7:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Mitsosp it is preferable when posting spoilers in comments to use rot13.com to hide answers from people who want to attempt the puzzle themselves first $\endgroup$ – lioness99a Feb 14 at 11:10
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Oh boy, this seems like a long shot, but I think the mission is...

an assassination for the mafia, or rather, a MOB SNUFF.

Explanation:

If the first letter from each line is taken, you can spell out the message ALTER ONE. Taking that advice and changing each letter from ALTERONE by one to the next letter in the alphabet, you get BMUFSNOF. These letters form an anagram of MOB SNUFF, hence a mafia assassination.

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    $\begingroup$ Haha! Wow, that's some creative thinking right there! Nice spot on the acrostic (which will come in handy) but not in this way... Keep hunting! :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Feb 14 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ One difficulty with this is that the letter after O is P, not N :-). $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Feb 14 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Stiv Heh, I see what you did there with that ending remark... $\endgroup$ – HTM Feb 14 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan You're right -- I think my eyes saw what my brain wanted to see. How about MOB... PUFFS... ? Oh well, hopefully my answer was worth a laugh at least. :p $\endgroup$ – Tonkleton Feb 14 at 17:48

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