This article originally appeared in Spanish in Vuelo Raso N 2 under the title “El Alba”, by Gaizka “Akerraren Adarrak” Márquez. The translation was done by Google Translate and edited/“cleaned up” by Jeff Zeitlin. This English translation appeared in the January/February 2022 issue.
What is El Alba?
El Alba is a secret government organization created in the shadows by the Chantico government. Its origin, initially as a branch of military intelligence, is a bit doubtful (although this is the official version; some believe that it is a corporate maneuver). They are currently in charge of searching out and collecting Ancient artifacts. And there are those who say that, in the shadows, they have come to power and it is they who really pull the strings of their “home” planet.
In essence, it is assumed that, as a government agency, it should not have an ideology of its own but should reflect the attitudes of the government it serves. However, we are faced with an organization with broad meritocratic features where it is the high-tech elements obtained that make the agents rise and fall through the ranks of the organization.
The top general of the organization may once have found a functional Ancient artifact of great power, but if he rests on his laurels and another agent, even if it is by a stroke of luck, obtains a comparable item, he could supplant the top general without any problem. This hierarchy, based on the results of each of the agents and their teams, keepss them from relaxing for too long, so as not only to continue to rise in the social hierarchy of the organization until the time comes to retire, but also to not lose their place to new rising stars.
Organization of El Alba
El Alba has a vertical organization chart, where each member can only exercise direct power (in the form of orders and others) to only those people who are directly under his command. No link in the chain of command may be skipped and doing so may be grounds for sanction.
Board of directors
The board of directors of El Alba is made up of a total of five members and is based in Chantico, at the organization’s secret base. They meet daily to discuss topics of interest and relevance, and after the meetings they spend their time wasting their time in the corridors or sticking their noses in the governmental affairs of the planet.
The board’s reaction speed and boredom is practically a roller coaster. When a ship arrives with news, it usually brings back a good amount of reports and sometimes an agent, which gives them work for a long time. These activities are usually, but not exclusively, reading, debating, deciding, writing responses, sending incognito agents to convey the response or offer support, selecting these agents, investigating the new technological elements received, and so on.
Once all that happens, generally only boredom remains, and it is then that the claws of the organization penetrate the governing bodies …
Executive Ambassadors, in addition to being a bombastic name and air of grandeur, are nothing in the organization beyond diplomatically armored couriers (although it is not surprising that they set goals and work at their own risk and expense). The ambassadors are members of the government loyal to El Alba, in addition to any other political office of any nation or system they have sworn to serve. They are not well liked and only answer to the board of directors, but they are considered a necessary evil. Their diplomatic immunity allows them to move through different systems transporting confidential documents or valuables under seal. In addition, they must protect said documents so that they reach their destination without breaking that seal under any circumstances. If these documents arrive compromised in any way, it may lead to a diplomatic conflict with the governments these agents have sworn to serve. Three futures await these ambassadors, each more promising.
- If acting on their own they achieve an impressive finding: They become honorary members of the organization. They retire to live in Chantico with a generous pension to enjoy the rest of their days. Although this seems like a great prize, the cold climate and the tenuous atmosphere of the planet mean that it is not a very accepted option, which El Alba likes, because that way you can start point 3 and save good money.
- They don’t accomplish much on their own, but they serve faithfully while in office: They become sleeper agents and receive a small quarterly stipend. This amount is not usually very high, but enough for the ambassador to remain loyal: at some point his services can be requested, either by hosting active agents or transporting some documents from one place to another.
- They fail, or refuse either of the above: The agent will die of
hypothermia (Chantico’s most common death penalty). It should be
noted that they are the only agents facing the death penalty.
Perhaps it is an involuntary representation of the disapproval they
face within the organization and a reflection of “they are a
more-or-less necessary evil.”
In addition, and to top it off, their dual affiliation makes them traitors to their political career and El Alba hates traitors (even if they make use of them).
Legal Advice Unit or LAU
If you are going to have a secret organization make sure you have a good army of lawyers. Although the entire LAU is in the main base of the organization, they have outsourced to trusted law firms in each subsector system with population 7+, as long as it is a system that uses lawyers … In systems with lower population, help can be requested from the LAU or one of the subcontracted law firms. Although it may take time to arrive, they will respond. Of course, sometimes it is better to spend time in prison or pay a fine than to risk ’blowing’ your cover by requesting the help of the LAU.
The internal police of the organization, it is not that they are officially necessary, of course, but you know: just in case …
The administrative management is made up of one member from each of the branches included in this subgroup. Each branch has its own specific workers and usually acts independently towards the others, except the liaison branch that is in charge of pooling the work of each of the branches so that all the gears of the administration work like a perfect clock.
The internal branches of administrative management are the following:
The creme de la creme: field work, those who stain their boots and wear gloves … Unlike Administrative Management, Operations Management is made up of a total of 15 veteran members who give the green, red or Amber to the various operations planned from the intelligence division. Each one of the members of the operations management can decide to take the control of a concrete operation, risking to assume its successes, and its failures.
Organization of operations management:
- Peaceful Operations Section: These agents are not expected to be
exposed to danger in any way, except if they screw up spectacularly.
- Intelligence Division: In collaboration with the data mining section thanks to the links.
- Division of Espionage and Terrain Reconnaissance: They prepare for the arrival of “noisier” agents.
- Subcontracting Division: They are the ones who contact travelers.
- Covert Operations Section: It is to be expected that occasionally
something will go wrong and these agents will be exposed to danger.
- Communications Division: They carry sensitive information from one place to another.
- Acquisition Division: They obtain objects of interest to the organization through subtlety, money or deception.
- Research Division: They carry out field investigations of elements that do not belong to the organization, to assess whether or not they should belong to it.
- Political Division: These members are in charge of sticking their noses in other governments and organizations to protect the interests of El Alba, whether by destabilizing the government in power, recruiting executive ambassadors or removing opponents through the subtle art of assassination.
- Remote Division: This division makes use of trained animals or remotely piloted vehicles to carry out whatever operations are necessary. They are a support division.
- Suppression Section: When subtlety fails, under false identities or
posing as criminal groups, it is the turn of the Suppression section.
Unlike the other two sections, it is expected and desired that the
members of the Suppression Section not only go into danger, but also
dance a tango with it.
- Direct action group: Just soldiers.
- Sabotage group: Soldiers who do more than just shoot, as the name suggests.
- Hunting group: Location and pursuit, generally supported by remote divisions.
- Naval group: This group is quite expensive, as they use corsair ships.
How to Introduce El Alba in Your Games.
El Alba can be introduced into any campaign as an allied or enemy organization, or through a contact or rival who is a member of this organization. In addition, you can be a good employer to commission a variety of technology recovery or extraction jobs. They don’t always have to be Ancient artifacts (although that would be the most exciting). Other times they can be high-tech machines that can be used to manufacture components or they can also be plans and stolen research to be able to develop technologies without paying patents or things like that. Overall, El Alba is intended and designed to be a power in favor of the PCs. Although it can easily be used against you, your governmental character can make you a formidable enemy.
The World of Chantico
Chantico E6377B9-5 Lo-Tech A G
Chantico is a small and cold world; local gravity is only 0.7G. Most of the world is frozen over; only the “tropical” belt around the equator gets warm enough to rate as “tundra”. Water tends to be frozen on the surface and rivers flow under layers of ice several centimeters thick. Many of the animal species have adapted to obtain water from ice or to break it and access the liquid.
Traveling through Chantico would be most like doing so through Finnish Lapland in winter.
Chantico’s Past and Present
The daily life of the inhabitants of Chantico takes place in the huge cities with narrow streets, with rail vehicles as the main means of transport. Life is not especially easy, especially because of the TL 5 that dominates the system.
There is a extensive civil service bureaucracy which exists mostly to give El Alba access to information.
The system is classified as an Amber zone due to its strict legal code. While this reduces tourism (something that the government views negatively), it allows El Alba to act with greater freedom on their home turf.
When the colony was founded at TL 12, everything was simpler, but the unilateral declaration of independence made by the grandfather of the current supreme leader, together with the closing of borders and the high level of legal control in the population, caused it to degrade to TL 5 in several generations. (El Alba currently operates at TL 7.)
The father of the current Supreme Leader founded El Alba in hopes of obtaining high technology quickly and without regard to cost, in addition to opening the borders to trade and the flow of travelers. After putting the system back on the map and getting it to advance in all directions, his son deposed him and seized power, a move which did not quite please the population, especially because it re-established the high level of legal control. An Amber Zone rating was declared for the system, leading to a reduction of trade and tourism; where the population saw a tragedy, El Alba saw an opportunity.
It is not that El Alba is preparing a violent coup or anything like that, it is simply sticking its noses in all layers of government agencies with its TL 7 technology and saying, “Look, we’re better at this than you, we know more, we can do more, we get more.”.
Under the cover of “Blue Corporation”, El Alba is getting the current dictator to subcontract with them to carry out procedures, improvements, projects …. Actually, El Alba is getting fully into the organization of the Government and on top of it is charging for it. And as if that were not enough, making the Government look like fools to the people.
The Korhonen Dynasty
“The Revolutionary Oppressor”
The first important member of the Korhonen dynasty was a general of the former colonizers. He was the one who engineered the colony’s unilateral declaration of independence and who prepared the army for a possible invasion with the intention of recovering it. For some strange reason, the invasion for the recovery of the colony never arrived and Mikael remained in command while the system remained closed to the rest of the galaxy. For all this, the travelers were not well received.
The system was classified as a Red zone and life in Chantico more or less followed its course.
“The Leader Involved”
Upon the death of his father, Johannes assumes command and began to become aware of the real needs of his people (provided they do not involve visible reform in the government). He relaxed some of the legal code (going from 9 to 7), the construction and commissioning of El Alba begins and the planet opens diplomatically to travelers and merchant ships with a series of type E starports distributed around of the different metropolises of Chantico. This opening brings some elements of higher technology that pass directly into El Alba’s control.
During this period the population flourished and Chantico established itself on the galactic map. The general population was happy with their new supreme leader.
“Legacy of Oppression”
All good things eventually come to an end and Johannes ended up dead a little earlier than expected with a bad fall down the stairs. His beloved and only son witnessed the events and reported what happened at the same time that he assumed the oppressive responsibility of leading Chantico to a new stage. Among his not very popular measures were the closure of all the starports except one (located in the capital), the toughening of the laws with measures such as the reinstatement of the death penalty (return to Law Level 9), increase of the taxes on everything that helps fight the cold to invest more money in the army (and obviously in El Alba, which founded its Suppression Section, unofficial until now). In spite of the increase in funds, El Alba is not happy with Juhani and his methods of government, since in one way or another they end up hindering the true function of the organization, which is the acquisition of technology (especially Ancient artifacts) and Juhani’s attitude makes diplomatic channels difficult. As the “Blue Corporation” firmly establishes itself, it will only be a matter of time before El Alba takes over from Juhani, whether he wants it or not.