Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: Intrepid Gadfly

Another NPC (sans stats -- my players don't have that information yet) from my game.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
"BootsBootsBoots" is an immensely popular blog within the Spinward Marches that analyzes the politics between the Zhodani Consulate and the Third Imperium. Hosted on Esalin (and taking advantage of that world's balkanized state by maintaining mirrored servers on both Imperial and Zhodani side to avoid censorship), it offers insight into the affairs of the day served with a biting, darkly satirical wit.
"The everybody get along, hug you until you die Zhodani say that their goal is for everyone to live in happy harmony and equality and right-think, and so naturally their right-thinking psionic overlords decided the best way to do that was to valiantly colonize a planet already colonized by the Vexx and put them in a reservation. Harmony!"
Named after the Rudyard Kipling poem, BootsBootsBoots was started in 1092, on the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Fourth Frontier War, with the title "Ten Years Later: Humans Still Massively Stupid". Its contents is best described as "What you'd get if Perez Hilton worked for Wonkette but wrote like it was for Manolo's Shoe Blog" -- in other words, a very bizarre first-person account of dirty politics and political gossip (but I repeat myself) from a superfantastic raconteur and muckraker.

Despite being an opinion blog, BootsBootsBoots doesn't take sides; it takes the position that both the Imperium and the Consulate are full of idiots... which is to be expected, because the writer of BootsBootsBoots, Intrepid Gadfly, is a Hiver, and they believe all non-Hivers are idiots. They just normally aren't so blunt as the Gadfly.
"Of course the boohoo boomboom Vexx cry a lot about it. How dare these humans with supertechnology take over our planet and increase our standard of living and healthcare and feed us and give us amazingly comfortable homes. We only managed to destroy  our homecradle by being too buffoonish to properly maintain our nuclear reactors! And then we came here and had our newhomecradle taken from us by a people who actually know how to run things!"
Why a Hiver has chosen to journalize (and sensationalize, and on more than one occasion antagonize) border politics is unknown. It's widely assumed that this is a manipulation of some sort -- after all, a Hiver is doing something, clearly there's manipulation afoot -- but most manipulations involve the improvement of a culture on some level, and it's not clear how raking muck, throwing verbal tomatoes and calling someone and/or their politics stupid is an improvement, let alone a subtle manipulation.
"Dateline: Occupied Chwistyoch/Non-Radioactive Chachtinch -- Goodwill Ambassador Baron I'mADroyneWhyAmIEvenANoble of Jewell admits that Imperial decisions cannot be made without the advice of at least one psychosociopathological fruitbasket. A question is put before the committee, and whatever Amoral Mixed Fruits suggests is noted as being the insane selfish murderous option, and (usually, it is hoped) avoided. 
Such forthrightness of admitting is a refreshing smell of clean air in the usual fetid miasma of inter-humaniti politicking."
Despite the name-calling, Intrepid Gadfly is loved for the same reasons it is hated: despite the mockery, it brings up genuinely good points about how the border conflict between the two polities is stupid, and both sides are to blame for it. Having grown up with the IronicallyBloodthirstyForVegetarians K'kree polity coreward, it understand how easy it is for one species to hate another. But Zhodani and Vilani and Solomani -- they're all humans. Killing each other over differences in government, Gadfly likes to point out, is akin to shooting your brother because he can't agree with you over what to have for lunch.
"Readers have said that The Gadfly finds nothing redeeming in culture of humaniti, but this is not true. The Gadfly is immensely impressed with social commentary of such works as the Blackadder and the Monty Python. Humaniti mocks itself better than Intrepid Gadfly ever could... but foolishbipeds think it comedy and not constructive criticism."

NPC Notes
It is widely believed that Intrepid Gadfly is linked to a third party in the intelligence business, because otherwise it would have been neutralized or turned by either NavInt or the Tozjabr long before it became this popular. The most believable theory is that it's funded by the Hive Federation Development Agency, but there is a plausible paper trail connecting some of its funding to SolSec, and the Confederation does enjoy seeing both of its ideological opponents mocked. There are also rumors that the Idyll Hands is involved in some manner; perhaps Gadfly is an asset of True Thomas, or perhaps the broker just enjoys the pot-stirring and all the secrets it churns up, but either way there is someone who transmits email copies of BootsBootsBoots posts across the Imperium in defiance of censorship requests. Of course, all of these could be true at the same time. 

In person, Intrepid Gadfly is a typically unremarkable Hiver save for the ancient Terran-style fedora with press credential it carries on its dorsal dome. Its artificial speech is modulated to be precisely artificial, and its vocoder has the ability to override many forms of speakers via wifi so that its provocative questions are always heard (and are often too outrageous to leave unanswered -- think the political equivalent of "Have you stopped cheating on your wife?") Other than asking terribly inappropriate questions at inopportune times, its social behavior is unassuming and inoffensive; think "Oh god, not this pest again" and not "Guards, take this fool outside and shoot it," because 1) its behavior isn't that bad and 2) no one wants to find out the hard way who its backers are. If it truly is an intelligence asset for another polity, it may well have bodyguards and/or other forms of 'insurance' against violence.
A few other interesting points:
  • Its press credentials are always valid. Even when they get revoked, they somehow become un-revoked later. It's become conventional wisdom to let the little pest in and have it ask its question rather than try to keep it out, because once it gets back in it finds something worse to say. "Take your medicine by mouth now, rather than by suppository later."
  • It doesn't specifically have access to top-secret material (or if it does, it doesn't seem to care about that); it's far more interested in dirty politics than state secrets. 
  • It has no interest in blackmail, either. If it wants you to squirm, it will do it publicly. 
  • It has a sense of adventure (that's the Intrepid part) and likes to jaunt across the Imperial-Zhodani border in pursuit of a story. 
  • It sometimes shows up  in systems without warning, as if it has hitched a ride without buying a ticket. This lends credence to the Idyll Hands rumor, especially since a similar Aquemna-class ship known as the Serene Gadabout is often seen in the area. Either Gadfly has the money to purchase and maintain a capital-ship sized oiler, or this is one of the Hands' disguises. 
Essentiallys, the Gadfly lives up to its name: a goading annoyance that is impossible to swat.

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