The Sylan Extraction
This article originally appeared in the author’s fanzine in June 2019, and was reprinted with permission in the July/August 2020 issue of Freelance Traveller.
Location: Syl/Reidain (Foreven 2724) B510874-C
Patron: Johannis Arnaund, Journalist/Researcher
Required skills and equipment: Starship
Syl, the fourth moon of the gas giant Askew, has been a productive mining colony for several centuries and is currently the home of a number subterranean company towns, all of them locked in endless competition. Each corporate enclave tries to produce the best ore at the lowest price, but over the centuries, a sizable population of non-aligned Sylans has taken root in abandoned steam and aqueduct tunnels (known collectively as the Agrippa). These Agrippans are effectively Syl’s riff-raff, living by their wits, often doing the worst jobs for the lowest pay, and sometimes even serving as independent mercenaries whenever a corporate war breaks out, which is fairly often. Some Agrippans, unhappy with this arrangement, have joined together as the Sylan Liberation Front (SLF), a group that seeks to undermine corporate control of Syl and ultimately create a participating democracy among all of Syl’s people in order to effectively regulate and rein in the corporations. Needless to say, the SLF is considered an outlaw organization among all of Syl’s competing corporations, and anyone associated with the group may be considered a terrorist.
The PCs will likely be visiting Syl to pick up or drop off cargo. While in the starport bar, they meet Johannis Arnaund, a rather inebriated fellow with a strange accent who seems to be somewhat disgruntled with Syl’s current state of affairs. He appears to be drowning his misery with alcohol, and while talking politics, he will wax eloquent about how the Sylans (Agrippans and Corpies alike) are all effectively prisoners to the corporate elite. The Corpies work in constant fear of being fired, because if they are fired they’ll become Agrippans, who are, in turn, essentially treated as human refuse. Sure, the consumers get a great price on the mined minerals, but what is the real cost in terms of human misery and broken lives?
If asked about himself, Johanes will say that he’s from the Spinward Marches and that he came to the Foreven Sector in order to study and write about governance, corporatism, and sophont rights along the Imperium’s spinward frontier. He has written extensively as an independent journalist and social commentator, but despite his work, he remains relatively obscure. Earlier this year, he came to Syl and met with certain members of the SLF, whose names he obscured in his notes by referring to them as A, B, C, D, etc. …. However, as he returned to the starport, his notes were confiscated by Sternmetal Corporation’s security grunts, and he realized immediately that although they didn’t have the names of these people he met with, they’d be able to use security camera footage and data logs to figure out who they are. Hence, he sent a number of warning messages out via the public boards, but he’s very worried that these people will eventually by rounded up by Sternmetal or one of the other corporations.
“I will not be able to live with myself,” he states in one of his more lucid moments, “if my stupid lack of precautions causes these noble, brave, freedom fighters to suffer further.”
To this end, if the PCs will find these people and provide them with passage off-world, he will gladly pay three times the normal rate, and he can be talked up even higher.
The passengers can be smuggled past security inside of large, hollowed engine parts that can be obtained from a local scrap yard. These parts will need to be welded shut around the human cargo so that they can’t be easily opened by the guards.
The hard part will be in locating these people and communicating with them, but given Mr. Arnaund’s help, this is much more doable. The problem, he says, is that now that Sternmetal is on to him, they will be paying careful attention to anywhere he goes, and his life might even be in jeopardy if they think he constitutes a threat.
Possible variants are as follows (roll d6 or choose):
- All is as it seems, but Arnaund is secretly in love with one of the SLF leaders, a woman by the name of Este. He will be very eager to meet with her in person, possibly putting the whole operation at risk.
- The operation is already at risk, as Mr. Arnaund’s table was bugged by Sternmetal security before the PCs even showed up.
- Arnaund, having fallen on hard times, has effectively sold his soul to Sternmetal security and is helping them to entrap unsavory merchants in order to impound their starships, imprison their crews, and then employ them in hazardous duty in the lower mines.
- As #3, but the SLF was secretly created by Sternmetal in order to gather subversive elements and conduct terrorist operations against the other mining companies. These “leaders” who are to be extracted are members who were up-and-coming in the organization who advocated hitting Sternmetal itself rather than just hitting the smaller corporate enclaves, something the SLF’s senior leaders obviously couldn’t allow. Hence, this extraction is being conducted so that these people can be effectively neutralized off-world so as to not create a rift within the SLF itself. Arnaund’s plan, then, is that after the ship reaches orbit with its human cargo, it’ll be stopped by a Sternmetal SDB, thoroughly searched, and then Sternmetal will deal with the PCs however they wish.
- These supposed SLF members are actually Zhodani agents/agitators whose covers were compromised after a recent terrorist operation, and Mr. Arnaund is, among other things, a Zhodani agent who is trying to get them out on short notice. The PCs, therefore, are effectively useful idiots in case the extraction should fail.
- As #5, but the Zhodani agents are not satisfied to merely have escaped Syl. They also want a starship of their very own to get back to Consulate space, and the PCs’ ship would do quite nicely.