The Wing Wherewith We Fly
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Freelance Traveller.
Synopsis: The adventurers smuggle teachers and intellectuals onto a repressive world that quashes education and the arts.
Setting: Any Imperial world with Population 8+, Government 3 or 5, and Law Level 8+.
Equipment and Skills Required: Starship.
The group is approached by a man dressed in a clean but rumpled suit. Introducing himself as an independent passenger agent, he wants to book all the staterooms on the PCs’ ship for a group traveling to a nearby world. The group must stay together, which is why he needs to book all the cabins at once. He is willing to pay standard middle passage rates, plus a 10% incentive bonus. The passengers appear average in every way, but comprise a diverse group.
The world the passengers are bound for is ruled by a repressive government that maintains control by banning free artistic expression, placing harsh restrictions on free speech and assembly, and even tightly regulating education and information. Education beyond the minimum the masses need to perform their designated social functions is illegal, and reserved only for the planet’s ruling elite. Independent teachers are considered persona non grata on the planet, and criminals of the worst sort. Naturally, the leaders are themselves all highly educated.
In response to the restrictions, smuggling operations have arisen which involve getting intellectually-gifted individuals onto the planet. The emplaced individuals secretly teach the common people the higher education and critical thinking skills they need to question the government and thus encourage change. The government considers such activity subversive and insurgent; its response has been brutal. Frequent counter-operations round up as many of the instructors as possible, and “coyotes” caught bringing in undesirables are summarily executed. The authorities have not yet shut down immigration to the world, because they badly need the trade any such action would also shut down.
Trained handlers typically arrive at the starport to receive smuggled individuals; coyotes are in no danger as long as they stay on Imperial property.
Possible Directions to Take This Scenario
- All is as represented. The passengers are met on the destination world, and the PCs can walk away with some easily-earned cash.
- Due to a paperwork snafu, or just plain laziness, some of the passengers are not intellectually gifted, and are in fact below average. The PCs may not discover this until they are well underway. They will only be paid for transported academics.
- As 2, except the subpar passengers were pretending to be literati in order to get free passage off the original world. The referee will need to supply a reason why they were willing to leave under such circumstances.
- As 3, except the subpar passengers are agents of the destination world’s government, returning from a mission to penetrate a source of smuggled mentors. Upon landing, the agents will try to seize the ship and arrest the PCs.
- The passengers are not adults, but incredibly precocious children, extensively trained in teaching methods and critical thought. The government will try hard to kill the youngsters; the heroes will have to keep close watch on them.
- The handlers fail to make the appointed rendezvous. The adventurers must help the group get to a safehouse where another team of handlers is waiting for them. This means the PCs will have to leave the safety of the starport and help what the rulers consider criminals. The government will consider them coyotes if they are caught.