May 2nd 2013
As always, please consult our caveats before diving in.
Arrow & Ross Weapon Systems (A&R) : Family-oriented and affordable weapons manufacturer; imagine if Ikea sold turrets for your car.
Ship weapons (Kinetic, Energy)
Grade: Cheap to Standard
MaxOx : Weapons manufacturer. They’re chasing that elusive military weapons contract but their weapons are generally used by criminals, which hurts their PR a bit. Builds mostly kinetic weapons for ships (35mm Dredge Gun) as well as personal weapons: the MaxOx P4 (their attempt to rebuild the iconic Behring rifle as an energy weapon) is a rapid-cycle energy-based submachine-gun.
Ship Weapons (Kinetic & Energy)
Grade: Standard to Quality
As far as the quality levels, we went back and conformed the previous entry to comply with the following list (from worst to best):
Crime appears in many forms. Though the methods may differ from world to world, system to system, there are drugs, thefts, murders, criminal organizations and corruption in every corner of the known universe.
To briefly recap the law enforcement side, planets are expected to police themselves. If a case should arise for intersystem justice, the Advocacy will get involved.
SOME OF THE TYPES OF CRIMINALS:
Piracy is a growing epidemic in the UEE. Pirates can work solo or in groups (known as packs). As far as criminals go, pirates are the most diverse. Each pack generally operates by a loosely specified set of rules but there’s little camaraderie between pirates, as they will steal from each other as often as they steal from Civilians or tip the law on their competition without a moment’s hesitation. Some operate by a code of one sort or another, but others couldn’t care less.
Transport of illegal cargo has become a great way for haulers and shippers to earn Credits on the side. The types of cargo that fall under this category can be anything from stolen merchandise to illegal drugs to contraband weapons to slaves. Sometimes they might not even know what they’re transporting, just another crate slipped in among the legitimate cargo.
Professional smugglers often use all manner of technological subterfuge to slip their product past the eyes of Customs, Law Enforcement, or Advocacy personnel. They will have counterscan technology, forged ship-tags, dummy crates or even concealed cargo holds to avoid detection.
Trafficking Sentient cargo is a risky proposition. Even among criminals, slavers are generally regarded as scum.
Even so, slavery still exists in corners of the UEE. Sometimes it’s dressed up with names like indentured servitude, but it is slavery, nonetheless. Some incredibly unscrupulous Corps will hire slavers to “recruit” employees for sledge camps (distant mining settlements that use manual labor to dig through rock). Slaves are also purchased to fight in gladiatorial rings or for off-grid scientific experimentation.
Slaves can come from any culture: Human, Banu, Tevarin, or Xi’An. Some Traffickers have even been known to abduct aliens from developing worlds.
There are two phases to any slave’s introduction to servitude. Traffickers can handle one or both of these phases. First they are snatched. This can happen in the largest cities or most remote settlements. Then they are transported. Different trafficking outfits have different methods (this will usually indicate how sophisticated their operation is). Some throw them in a cage like any other live cargo, while others will anesthetize their products and transport them in scan-shielded coffins. Sometimes tracking studs are embedded into their bodies (usually as a visible marker on the wrist), coded so their owner can easily locate them but also to indicate that they are enslaved.
Whoever said crime doesn’t pay clearly wasn’t thinking on a macro level. Crime can be incredibly lucrative if you have the resources to not get caught. Syndicates include any group of people bound together as a single entity for the purposes of criminal enterprise. There are probably hundreds of syndicates of various sizes throughout the UEE. The larger syndicates can handle a wide variety of illegal services (drugs, slaves, and smuggling) while others are specialized (hit squads, for example). Even though any group of like-minded criminals could classify as a Syndicate, the name has a connotation of a Mafioso-type organization (in composition/influence, not appearance).
While we have alluded to the existence of syndicates in the lore but haven’t really introduced any, so the sky’s the limit for your own fiction. Treat them like any other character and ask yourself questions about how they’re able to function outside of the law: do they own the local police? Maybe they only steal from other criminals? How public are they? Some syndicates want their name to carry weight while others prefer to stay out of the public (and even criminal) consciousness.
More of a personality than an official position, a good infoagent is the nexus of local news and information for his or her planet and system. They keep their ears to the ground and their eyes open, trying to keep abreast of what’s going on around them: who’s got work, who’s looking for work, who’s flying into the system, who’s on their way out …
We have already described infoagents in an earlier dispatch. Most pertinent to our discussion here, there are also the illegal ones. These shadowy information brokers are the local fixers for the criminal element. They can either represent a local syndicate or they can be freelancers, but these infoagents are the ones to talk to if you’re looking to make a smuggling run or you’ve got some boosted product to offload.
THE TEVARIN AND CRIME
We will dig into how the Tevarin became fixtures of the criminal underworld at a later date, but for the time being, if you see one, more often than not, they are/have been/know someone involved with the criminal element.
Fortunately for Humanity, we still have booze. There are barrels of whiskey slowly aging in Croshaw, Sauvignon Blanc grapes growing on vines in Davien system and beer fermenting on Terra. So that’s one thing we’ve got going for us.
On the narcotic side, there are still legal and illegal drugs. Overtly harmful drugs (particularly those with no medical application) fall into the illegal category.
Stims: Legal drug, composed of various combinations of tobacco, caffeine, and mood-enhancer. Smoked as a cigarette. Cheaper, knock-off brands are sold as packs of individual smokes while higher-end versions have electronic cylinders with replaceable cartridges.
SLAM: A fear-inhibitor and painkiller. Most commonly ingested as a gas. Vials of SLAM are cracked and inhaled. Initially gained popularity as a steroid for athletes before going black-market. Heavy-duty SLAMjunkies are easily identifiable in public; they have ‘the shakes’ — involuntary muscle twitches. Important to note that this is not a sign of withdrawal, simply a side effect.
WiDoW: Thick ink-black Opiate. Exclusively injected as a liquid. Extensive use stains the veins black, creating web-like subcutaneous patterns through the body.
Neon: Club drug. Similar to Ecstasy. Slight hallucinogenic, affects the nervous system.
Maze: Street name for a tranquilizer and knock-out hallucinogen, believed to be Xi’An in origin. Looks like flakes of bark. It’s lethal in heavy concentrations (many who try injecting it die immediately); it’s meant to be ingested. The digestion process distills it to where it just messes you up. Dosing up is like taking a massive journey into your own mind. To the outside world, you’re nearly comatose, but to you, it’s a wild trip. A handful of religions have been started after a user took a dip in the maze. Aside from the toxic element, there’s a chance you won’t come down from the high. They call this ‘getting disconnected.’ Users stay locked in their own head until their brain decays.
THIEVES’ CANT (or SLINGING THAT SLANG)
Some claim that thieves’ cant originated as early as the 16th century. While the information listed below is more slang than cant, it’s not unlikely that enterprising criminals would devise a system of words to allow conversations of an illicit nature to occur in public settings.
For our new guests, Cathcart is a junkyard system. Used for decades as a dumping ground for the UEE’s trash and demolished ships, it became a haven for refugees, criminals and anyone else who wanted to stay off the grid. Over the years, these inhabitants pieced together and repressurized fragments of old starships to create a floating home. More and more people began to arrive and built onto this original structure, ultimately creating Spider, the massive structure somewhere between an orbital platform and a planet. It’s even withstood bombing runs from the UEE military.
The dialect first appeared in the Last Flight of the Seraphim story. Here’s a sampling:
“We’s dropped for metals and such.” Vik slurred in a thick Cathcart accent. His tiny eyes looked over Harroway. “What you have?”
“We don’t have anything.” Harroway said. The pirate didn’t like that answer.
“Scrum don’t chaw with the beddewan. Other we gon’ spatter fon.” Vik pressed the gun against Harroway’s skull.
There aren’t established rules for this dialect but let’s take a look at those two lines.
The first is just a simplified method of speaking. The dialect was born on Spider, where there isn’t a lot of public education, so the slang has lost most tense distinctions and some helping verbs. Like most accents, the thicker the dialect, the longer the person has lived on Spider.
The second line was meant to be impenetrable, mostly for dramatic purposes. The idea was to make the character Harroway out of his depth, so having him threatened with an intentionally confusing line made him feel even more helpless and the situation more terrifying.
But that doesn’t mean it was written without a meaning:
Scrum = Similar to ‘scum’ it referred to a person for whom you have no real affection, i.e., I’m calling you this because I don’t like you and don’t regard you as much of a person.
Chaw = a version of ‘don’t mess/tangle/toy with’
Beddewan = This is odd but was supposed to be a version of “us here.” In this context, it’s referring to ‘us, the pirates who have guns to your heads.’
So the translation of the line is basically “B***h, don’t mess with us here.” If it helps, the rolling cadence was meant to be an exaggerated version of a very thick Creole accent.
Here is a sampling of other slang words that have appeared in the various Dispatches and their meanings:
AntiLaz (v) A contraction of “Anti-Lazarus,” any method of murdering someone to prevent the possibility of medical resuscitation or repair (such as shooting an ejection pod). Coined by Aarol Cobb, an ultra-religious hitman. (see also empty casket)
Dingo = (n.) the dookie-chute, the badonkadonk, i.e., the butt.
Sample Sentence: “Can you believe this? As I was running, the cops shot me right in the dingo.”
Drift 1: (v) move away, get out of here. Usually used in a dismissive manner.
Sample Sentence: “Why don’t you drift and let the adults talk.”
2: (n) to float aimlessly in space. Also used as a way to describe nomadic life in space.
Sample Sentence: “Probably should have let him know his merchandise was out on the drift.”
Empty Casket (n) A term for murdering someone to prevent the possibility of medical resuscitation or repair. (see also AntiLaz)
Ghost (v) to kill someone.
Sample Sentence: “I ever see you again, you’re ghosted.”
Roust (v) to raid/rob.
Sample Sentence: “Six ships passed armed to the teeth. Somebody was getting rousted tonight.”
Skag (n) idiot, some other fellow (see also Skiff)
Sample Sentence: “Some skag came by and tried to rob my ship.”
Skiff (n) Slang for another person. Primarily used to describe a person who is actively flying a ship.
Sample Sentence: “The second I hit the system, I had some skiff on my tail.”
Tag 1: (n) Registration tags, the info that comes up when your ship gets scanned.
Sample Sentence: “I had some dirty tags so I couldn’t land.”
2: (v) Getting identified/scanned and logged into a system.
Sample Sentence: “I know the cops tagged me before I hit the jump point.”
Or if you want to get real crazy: “Kilo got tagged before he could get new tags.”
Crime and the criminal lifestyle is always fun to write. There’s something intoxicating to the imagination about it — whether you like rogues with a moral code or gritty, desperate thugs, there’s something in it for everyone. As with any story, ask yourselvf questions about your characters to build their backstory and motivations to this life of crime that they live, and just be true to that.
As far as the language/slang goes, don’t worry about adhering to the above list. There are no hard rules in this universe. Its sheer size and diversity means that there can be all sorts of slang words. Most of all, the language should be fun — speak it out loud several times to hear how fluid it sounds. Part of the reason slang develops is because it’s an easier way to convey something. Sometimes, it’s borne out of the local environment or history. Other times, it can come from Vids.
So, as always, trust your instincts and tailor it to fit within your story.
Q: Couple questions for next week’s Guide:
With regards to The Advocacy, what is their internal hierarchy (ranking/status) like?
I’m guessing that Army/Navy recruiting will be similar to how it is now, but what about Advocacy’s recruitment & training process?
As for the Bounty Hunters Guild, how does their ranking system work? (eg: Start off at Class F, get limited jobs, have to [work] arse off to get promoted to Class E.. Jobs offered get thinking of the bounty board in the manga/anime Fairy Tail)
Pretty much, any additional information on BHG and The Advocacy is appreciated (particularly Advocacy with regards to ranking, recruitment, training, how field agents operate, etc.).
A: We haven’t determined how the Bounty Hunters Guild works. There will probably be some kind of rating/reputation system. In the Tracker Spectrum Dispatch (http://www.robertsspaceindustries.com/news-update-bounty-hunter-guild-news/) we mentioned entry and silver levels (insinuating that there are probably bronze, gold, maybe platinum, etc.) but we haven’t firmly tackled this issue. If there’s a specific question you have for a story, let me know what it is and maybe we can figure something out.
The Advocacy recruits from the Police and the Military. It’s a grueling process, as being an effective Advocacy Agent is part tracker, part combat pilot, and part social engineer.
For the Advocacy, here’s a rough pass of the ranking structure. Without getting into the multiple divisions within The Advocacy, or forensic science departments, this is the standard Advocacy Agent’s career path:
Supervisory Special Agent
Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge (ASAC)
Spec Agent-in-Charge (SAC)
Assistant Section Chief (ASC)
Section Chief (SC) (oversees Advocacy activity in one system)
Deputy Assistant Director
Director (highest position in The Advocacy)