Friday, September 18, 2015

Being on Life Support

The following is an excerpt from The ABCs of Space Opera Volume 2. A lot of the entries in the ABCs of Space Opera, Vol. 1: A to L (available through Blue Max Studios on RPGNow are rules agnostic and can be used by anyone as I hope this illustrates. I present The Life Support Guild.

Organized Crime
by Captain GCS Tesla

I don’t know why they want me to cover crime and the underworld. You’d think making a few deals with some soldiers of fortune makes you disreputable. Here goes.

The criminal cartel most Confederation citizens know about and may have dealings with is the so called Life Support Guild. The Guild sprang out of good intentions to fill a necessary function. As we moved out into space many logistical and strategic hubs were on space stations. These stations often developed into colonies in their own right.

The problem is most people basically are paid enough to keep them from quitting and work just hard enough to keep from being fired, even life support techs. Over a few generations people let their habitats turn to crap. Hell we did it to Earth. There will be work slow downs, people not wanting to work overtime for necessary functions. They expect someone else will get it. After all most of them lived on that station their whole lives and it’s still here.

On the Tesla I simply ask the Chief to take you down to the hangar and explain why I am disappointed with your performance. Turns out civilians have rights but the basic approach still works.

Some colonies turn all their necessary life support maintenance over to AI. That works till hackers get wind of it. That’s usually about a week before they call me in for evac and you all stop laughing at those fat shuttles of mine that hold three times my ship’s crew.

Some colonies found another way to keep technicians working hard. The Life Support Guild grew out of an affiliation of ‘serenity coordinators’, thugs, enforcers and goons who made sure the habitat got maintained. Don’t want to put some overtime in? You might get a busted nose the first time, or tossed out an airlock if the goon had a fight with the spouse. Want to make a complaint? That’s hard from ICU … or a slab.

It works. I’ll give it that. For the most part the techs were well paid and well treated. After the first guys wound up hurting the rest put their nose to the grindstone. It was less painful it turns out.

Like any successful enterprise it expanded to other habitats having trouble. It was a great way to cut out red tape. Soon  everyone was on Life Support. Then they began expanding laterally: fencing, loansharking, illegal gambling and the sex trade. Now that’s the Guild we know and love.

The worst part of it is that it is entrenched in many habitats’ governments. Everyone is involved to some degree and everyone keeps their mouths shut. It’s very hard to insure a witness’ safety when the local authorities are also working with the Guild. Being on Life Support they call it.

The Life Support Guild (or simply Support) can be introduced anywhere. They might be the power behind an orbital installation's civilian government or intruders trying to muscle into a space colony and take it over behind the scenes. In a pinch they might even be the good guys. If local events (rebellion, strikes, meteor showers) affects labor and vital technicians won't man their posts Support will make sure they return to work and services continue. Or a colony that let things sour between them and the Guild may find that technicians refuse to work for them and their life support problems are growing steadily worse. The Guild will sabotage systems until the colony fails and can be bought up cheaply.

Of course there's stil the drugs, vice, extortion and corruption that the Guild dabbles in. Perhaps they sought Support in a time of crisis and now don't want to deal with the after effects. In any of these cases adventurers could be brought in as muscle on any side or perhaps to transport a vital witness for a case against the Guild and unwitting targets for their pirate friends.