Monday, December 12, 2016

Proof of Death Contracts

The Inerzan (more properly Ergali )restaurant was opening to great fanfare. It was a bright spot, a bit of glitter and light in weeks of unemployment, businesses closing and talk of more sanctions to come. It was also hoped that it was a sign that the People of Inerze (the Ergali in fact) had no ill feelings towards them and perhaps would eventually influence the business interests that were opposing them to make nice and be friendly again.

The idea had a snowball's chance in a fusion reactor but the food was good, the reporters were going to be there and Rodella Cox Swinton was taking a break from filming Chapter 23 of Ghouls of the Underworld in which she played the daring young Tech. The fact that Ranna Morrigen, recently reinstated Tech Knight, was going to be there was a guaranteed draw. She had said publicly that the film serial was utter garbage, Rodella's character was an obvious duplicate of her, and she intended to lodge her protest (and her boot) firmly on meeting the busty actress.

"So when's the Boss get he ..." Basement was induced to abandon this field of inquiry by Mezzanine giving him a swift kick in the shin. He swore a little and rubbed his leg.

"Clamp it mook. Are ya trying to get us made?"

"No sir!"

"Who are you calling sir?! In this rig?" Mezzanine waved her hands around the more prominent aspects of her anatomy the dress was doing its best to show off and tossed her blonde mane of hair back.

"Force 'a habit. You look beautiful. Really ..."

"... Constance."

"I mean it. It ain't no con!"

"Constance is my real name. My folks named me 'Constance'. The Professor named me 'Mezzanine'."

"Oh. I thought ... Mezzanine is a pretty name ..."

"Get some more champagne ... we got a roll from the ... himself to make it look like we're a couple of moneybags."



***
"Ygor this is a bad idea. That Morrigen bitch is right over there looking daggers at me," Rodella Cox Swinton murmured, taking a sip of seltzer.

"Listen, she takes a swing at you ... you go down like a sack of doorknobs! You know there's no such thing as bad publicity."

"And there's no such thing as a good way to get your teeth knocked out."

"Good point. Turn your head if she goes for the mouth," the agent said grabbing a cracker and reaching for the caviar.


***

Tech Knight Senior Bert produced a slim cigar and nodded his thanks to the squire who snapped to and produced a light for him instantly. One day he'd have to learn that kid's name. The squire presented a tray of appetizers to the Senior.

"That ... hussy has no business dressing in our regalia ... hey! What's the idea? I thought you were a gentleman!" Ranna interrupted her spouting to point at Sir Bert's cigar. Bert paused n nibbling his biscuit with caviar.

"My apologies! Here." Bert handed his cigar over to Ranna who took a long drag and returned to shooting daggers with her eyes at the starlet. The squire produced another cigar for Sir Bert.

"Things are looking up. Our film industry is taking off. Project Venture is proceeding despite our loss. Annnd I just got a letter from Subsector Savings and Loans indicating they want to discuss this ghost embargo we're experiencing and resolve our difficulties. All that and more ..."

"Fuck that bank. You aren't thinking of squashing the Project are you?"

"My dear ... if my tenure in the Order of the Flaming Sword has taught me one thing it's once you get someone by the short hairs you don't stop twisting. They're running around with their heads up their a...  "

"Okay good. Now about Professor Elevator ..."

"Eli Abatur is no professor. I wouldn't let him teach my granddaughter's kindergarten class! He nearly gummed things up good messing with the embargo. That embargo has the populous following our every order, making every sacrifice we ask for. Like the sheep most of them are. Anyway ... Elevator is riding for a fall. I have an angle," Bert said knocking some ash from his cigar. The squire caught it.

"You had an angle many tines ... he's still out there," Ranna cautioned.

"Awww daddy's little girl. This caviar stuff is good. What is it?" Bert muttered.

"Raw fish eggs," Ranna said absently.

The squire shielded Sir Bert's spit take from view with his body. Ranna laughed.


***

"So it's like a time bomb sir?" Lobby asked. The Professor liked his band playing dumb.

"Heh. Good choice of words my lad.  It's an airborne version of medical Fast drug. Get a good sniff and your in slow motion for a couple weeks. I'm going to dose Sir Cuthbert's gang of sycophants and give our Mayor a chance to run things unfettered. Then when they are no longer statues the recriminations could begin, is the Mayor in league with me? Why didn't the Tech Knights stop me? Who needs them? the Mayor ran stuff okay."

"Brilliant perfessor."

"Thank you Lobby, now men, fix your wigs, check your guns and move out! To anyone who looks we are merely a mass delivery of floral arrangements for Dame Ranna on her reappointment!"

"Can we spare Rodella Cox Swinton?" Fourth asked. "I'd like to get her autograph."

"My boy, you can have her adorning our rec hall like immobile siren for a few weeks after this if you are willing to shoulder her sylph like-form and lug her back with you."

***

"It's called a Cobra Contingency," Colonel Leogain had said. The banker finally stopped sputtering.

"You pay me the first price up front. In exchange I do my level best to take out the native leaders who are giving you a problem. Up to six, POD guaranteed."

"POD, I don't want this contract printed. Keep it verbal," the banker said.

"Proof of Death, meaning all targets in the contract killed using small arms and their deaths recorded before we leave. There's a little leeway in there for me. The major targets are guaranteed: Morrigen, the Mayor, Sir Bert and up to three more. For the minor targets my success rate averages about 75%. I have my references here. Now the second much larger charge is for invasion. If we have to invade the assassination squad cost is refunded. No one else gives you that deal."

"Yes but according to this cost sheet ... 

"Ah yeah. If the assassination squad terminates all major targets and the government gives into your demands you give me one quarter the invasion fee and that my dear sir is held in escrow by a solicitor we can agree on. I listed several there."

"Why the hell would I pay that if there's no invasion?"

"Because I am bringing my crews, troops and my heavy guns to a state of readiness and they will be ready to move at a moment's notice if the planet does not capitulate. Strike while they're still disoriented. That takes money."

"Hmmm. Maybe see how the assassination squad does first ...?"

"Fine. I don't need you to tell me how to run an operation. You give me the objectives and pay me to take them. I tell you how I will go about it. You want to direct the invasion or waste a few weeks mobilizing ... Get someone else," Leogain said.

"Okay. Okay. I see your point. I mean I don't let you tell me how to mortgage ships."

"Good my men will be at the target in time for this hooligan ball they're having in two weeks."

"You charge a steep price to corral a bunch of barbarians."

"I charge the highest rates for barbarians. They fight after any civilized man would give up because of the cost or long odds. You really should stick to bleeding your civilized customers."


***

Traveller has a long and illustrious history of military fiction inspired supplements and adventures. Let's ruin them!

That is let's reinterpret them in light of what I've already written about MTU.

There is an inherent contradiction in using mercenaries. The ideal is to hire a force with a technological advantage over your enemies, unleash them and enjoy a quick war and certain victory after which the mercenaries go off to enjoy margaritas on the beach. There's come variation in this. Some guys prefer caipirhinas (equal parts lime sugar and rocket fuel). 

There are several devils lying in the details. first to employ mercenaries your Polity must remain a remote and barely seen leviathan. That means mercenaries stick to the fringe areas and there just aren't a lot of high tech worlds there. So supply is a problem. Several high tech worlds in the subsector doesn't avoid this problem. Instead of the Polity you get a local government asking very intently what the blazes you're going to do with 1,000 gauss rifles, a ton of TDX and six grav carriers?

This applies extremely well to battledress. It not only gets the local suits going 'hmmmm' but it does require stores, supplies and servicing. While these are not often the subject of roleplay they are assumed and a set of battledress for a battalion is going to require a lot of them for a campaign. The same goes for those lovely high energy weapons.

So you buy your really shiny stuff on the black market but that will cost you s you won't have a lot to waste. Your regular troops if they're in any great numbers will probably be wearing cloth and carrying ACRs. Lasers and gauss rifles will be doled out to snipers and special forces troops.

If your main body of troops doesn't have a huge technological advantage ask yourself why you need them? Given the cost of transporting and supplying offworlders wouldn't it be better for locals to import an ACR and other gear, outfit a local troops and hire instructors to school them? Rather than hordes of offworlders you'd see locals boosted by offworld special forces and instructors attacking their neighbors.

Speaking of hiring a mass of offworld troops you have to wonder what those guys are going to do after the fight is over. Will their leaders spend a lot of money to ship them to the next fight or get tired of wandering and try to set up shop on your world?

Invasions are necessary when a world has a relatively stable and well supported government, there is no real opposition to hire and equip and the population is not large enough to make occupying them a road to financial ruin. That's important because the people who have to hire mercenaries are usually corporate types without their own armed forces and those guys keep an eye on their costs and a hand on their fat wallets.

Before they perform an invasion corporations will do anything and everything to avoid it such as (but not limited to) assassination, corruption, intimidation and blackmail. Those will involve small numbers of mercs who might be the classic high tech type or disguised to look like locals. After all things like battledress and gauss rifles stand out and are easier to track than cloth and assault rifles and you never know when the Polity will take an interest.