Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003 15:37:36 +0000
From: "Larsen E. Whipsnade"
Subject: [TML] Amber Zone: Honest Broker
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My folly is your boon...
He has need of some people to perform a somewhat critical business errand for him. The party that normally handles this sort of errand for him is busy with other tasks. The errand is not illegal nor will the players need to break or bend any laws. The errand is extremely confidential however and the broker does not want the job freely discussed in any saloons or barbershops the players may frequent. The broker is more than willing reward discretion on the players' parts and the fee he offers will illustrate that.
The broker's errand consists of the players taking a written note to an individual, waiting for a reply to the note from that individual, and returning the reply to the broker.
If the players are efficient and behave in a circumspect manner, the broker may have similar errands for them in the near future.
The people being kidnapped are drawn from all walks of life; they can be visiting businessmen, gang members, local citizens, and even starship crewmembers. Ransoms can range from a few hundred CrImps to hundreds of thousands of credits. Victims can be held for only a few hours or for several weeks, however long the situation demands.
Many groups, with a variety of agendas, are active in the trade. A few groups are using kidnappings to raise money for political or social causes, while others are involved in the trade simply for the money. Some of the kidnapping gangs specialize in snatching dozens of low ransom targets, depending on quantity to fill their pockets. Other gangs target individuals who can command large ransoms and spend weeks and months planning their operations. Whatever the reasons, the boom in kidnappings has led to an opportunity for people willing to act as middlemen.
Both the kidnappers and the ransom payers want a sense of security when dealing with each other. The kidnappers want to be assured that law enforcement or private security officers won't be breathing down their necks. The ransom payers want to be certain that they aren't paying for a corpse. Both sides want the full amount of money to reach the proper individuals without any problems and both sides do not want to be cheated by the other in any way. A middleman, known and trusted by both sides, can help assuage those fears.
The middleman can handle ransom negotiations, reporting honestly to either side about the financial situations involved. A middleman can also verify that an individual is actually being held captive and that they are in good health. Finally, a middleman can help insure that the final swap of ransom and kidnapped victim goes smoothly and without any chance of a doublecross.
Some middlemen have even branched out into offering a type kidnapping insurance. Individuals at risk of being kidnapped post a bond with a trusted middleman. This bonded money will then be paid out if the crime has occurs and after the kidnappers demonstrate that the victim is still alive.
His desire that the players remain discrete about their job is not due any personal embarrassment. Rather, he does not want to run the risk of the local authorities being tipped to the affair in any manner. Neither side is this situation wishes that to happen and the broker will reward the players if they behave in a circumspect manner. Any attempts by the players to pressure the broker for more money or even to blackmail him, in the mistaken belief they have something "on him", must keep these distinctions in mind.
Quite frankly, the local population generally admires the actions of the middlemen and the parties involved are relying on the broker's discretion. If the players get too "cute", the broker will remove them from the job, pay them the original fee agreed upon, and let news of their actions pass through the local community. The players will find any business or private dealings they may undertake in the area adversely effected by these reports for some time to come.
The broker will be forthright about the kidnapping, explaining the situation to the players and warning them not to be heroes. He will caution them about carrying weapons beyond those they would normally carry around town. The players are to act as the broker's ears and eyes; they are there only to determine that the kidnapped person is safe and whole. They are not there to puzzle out where the victim is being held, who is holding them, or any other similar information. The broker will stress again and again that the players not act as heroes. He wants confirmation, not additional problems.
When the players arrive at the rendezvous, a nondescript street person will immediately approach them. They will be asked if they are from the broker. If they reply "yes", the street person will hand them a small disposable comm link, tell them that the call is "for them", and depart. If the street person is followed, they will lead anyone trailing them first to a local liquor store and then, clutching a full bottle, to a flophouse. The street person will pay in both cases with cash. If questioned, the street person will only know that they were given the link, the cash, and instructions about whom to hand the comm over to. Any descriptions the street person supplies will be worthless, either too vague or too shifting to be of any practical use.
The comm link itself is of a local variety. Cheap and disposable, they are easily purchased and last for a set number of minutes. Attempting to track down who bought the link or where it was purchased will prove impossible as they are sold in vending machines throughout the port and surrounding region. Attempts to monitor or trace any calls made over the link will be fruitless too; the link has a limited wireless range and connects into a bewildering landline and microwave transmission network (Note to GMs - if the tech level of the planet in question cannot support a system of disposable cell phones, have the street person instead direct the players to the phone booth he has been waiting in. All other messages will be by public telephone too).
A voice on the comm link (or phone) will provide the players with directions to another location. The directions will be provided twice in succession and the voice will answer no questions. If the players interrupt too often or ask too many questions the call will terminate and no additional calls will be received.
As the players reach the new location, another call will be received much like the first. The players should be routed around the starport and surrounding city to as many locations as the GM wishes, but three or four such trips should be the absolute minimum. After reaching each location, the players will receive a new call with new directions to yet another location.
Do not provide the players with much time to travel to each new location. In this manner the GM will be able to prevent the players from making any detailed plans or doing anything else other than moving from place to place. The players should have little time in each location to scan or survey the each area. They should remain uncertain as to whether or not they are being followed or watched.
Finally, the players should arrive at low-income housing project, residential hotel, or other such low profile, high traffic type building. The players will be directed, again by comm link or telephone, to a certain unit or room and there finally meet the man they've done so much to see.
The make-up the group holding the captive and the set-up of the rooms in which he is currently being held should be carefully arranged by the GM. The number of captors, the weapons they are carrying, the location of the captive, all should be chosen to prevent any notion of heroics on the part of the players.
After being frisked and allowed to keep any personal weapons or equipment the kidnappers find reasonable, the players will be informed that they have 10 minutes to speak with the captive. They should hand over the envelope and await the response they have came for. While with the captive, the players may try to question him further. However, the captors will interrupt and prevent any questions beyond those concerning the captive's health and well-being.
As soon as the captive finishes his response to the queries contained in the envelope, the captive will be hustled out of the room. Some of the kidnappers will stay with the players and prevent them from leaving for another 30 minutes. After that time, the players will be free to go and report back to the broker.
Success in this one job may bring offers of similar jobs from the broker. The players could find themselves delivering a portion of the ransom or acting as couriers during protracted negotiations.
Success could also help the players in other, more 'legal' ways. The broker is a broker after all. The successful and trusted working relationship that developed during this matter could lead the broker to hire or use the players in other areas, such as shipping or speculative trading.
Success could also bring notoriety. While the general population doesn't mind the existence of the middlemen, the local authorities do not care for them at all, viewing the activities of the middlemen as a professional insult. The players may begin to experience low level police harassment, paperwork troubles, or other bureaucratic tangles once the authorities know their affiliation with the middleman.