Saturday, 28 January 2017

SNS 1: Are Teenage Drone Pilots Child Soldiers?

I always loved the "Screamsheet" adventure format in the back of Cyberpunk 2020, sooooo:

SATURDAY NIGHT SCREAMSHEET: Vircades Project compiles the news from the grimdark future so you don't have to, sifting out adventure opportunities from all the trash and misinformation.

There's an adventure outline beneath the jump. This week - kidnapping, dixie gangsters and teenage drone pilots!

Islamic Republic News Service

...government forces routed from their fortifications under ferocious strafing fire from insurgent “Fatbed” gunbirds. The rebels drones even succeeded in downing one of the government’s antiquated Cessna A-37s over the city itself.

It was only by evening that government forces rallied. Electrothermal anti-aircraft cannon brought up by Primeval corporation mercenaries forced the gunbirds to retreat, while a counter-attack by “stalker” type drones stalled the guerilla advance. But with EMP mortar rounds raining down on the city limits, it seems clear that the Honduran army has a tough fight on its hands if it means to keep the rebels from cutting the Pan-American Highway by week’s end.


...won the 2023 Sparkle Vampire World Wars World Championship under the moniker Twilight<3 before being drafted into the Korean Airforce like so many other championship gamers.

Following his return,Twilight<3 surprised many by choosing not to return to the pro-gamer scene, instead hiring out to the private sector. For the corporations, gamers provide a source of trained and battle proven talent. Col. Mikaelova notes that “the interfaces used in modern drone swarms are, if anything, a generation or three behind the newest games. These days, most combat drone AIs and pilot aid systems use code originally built for the entertainment sector.”

His suicide has prompted renewed calls among veterans organisations for better psychological support for drone operators. Twilight<3 is known to have taken part in LG Yeongdeok’s oil platform security operations in the Gulf of Mexico, targeting “Wolverine” insurgents in southern Texas. “He spent days at a time monitoring terrorists and terrorist sympathisers in their family homes, waiting for the moment to strike. There’s an intimacy to this kind of operation unprecedented in the history of warfare” claimed…

Miami Noticeboard

Age 14+, tournament entrants must possess an Immortal Sanguine Crystal Medallion in Sparkle Vampire World Wars or a platinum rating in Titancraft. Must be willing to move to Miami for at least one two-year tour of duty. 35k annual salary and benefits - see below for contract details.

Auckland Post

“The high rates of PTSD among drone operators going right back to the Obama era should prove to any honest observer that these people are as much “combatants” as soldiers on the frontline. To say otherwise is frankly disrespectful to a generation of American veterans. If we forbid children from taking part in other forms of combat, why should we tolerate this?”


The Secretary General’s comments were ignored by all parties.


Fighting between the government of Honduras and rebels backed by the Ethica Fruit agri-corporation out of Sacramento (CA) is escalating, with both sides pouring mercenaries and high-tech weaponry into the western coastal front. Notably, Ethica has deployed a menagerie of teleoperated drones, ranging from simple K40-AAS “Drop Bear” Arboreal Ambush Systems to CN-5K “Fatbed” fighter-bombers. These units are flown by pilots operating out of various bases in the southern United States. Faced with the need to rapidly recruit pilots, Ethica has turned to the sprawling ecogee camps ringing Miami.

Primeval Security has been contracted by the government of Honduras (and various supporting banks) to help resist the rebels. In addition to deploying four thousand soldiers in theatre, they have also contracted freelancers to disrupt Ethica’s war effort elsewhere - using ‘runners to sabotage a drone factory in Taiwan, derail a banana-shipping deal to Slovenia and locate one of Ethica’s drone teleoperation centres in Florida.

Armed with this knowledge, Primeval aims to cause havoc through mind-games and misdirection. Also violence.


Primeval’s goal is a titanic B&E job, extracting as many pilots and portable electronic items from Flight Centre 04 as can be hauled away. They don’t expect either the pilots or the computers to provide much usable data - but the simple perception that they might have compromised Ethica’s operations will force the company to change up their security protocols at great cost in time and money.

Initial intelligence has located Flight Centre 04 in a nondescript office complex in an equally nondescript warehouse district on the edge of Port St. Lucie, south Florida. The complex, disguised as a call-centre for “YOLO Ice Cream,” is a sprawling two storey building surrounded by trees and razorwire fences. All parking and loading docks are under the facility, to better disguise the abnormally small number of employee cars on-site at any one time. Being this close to a major refugee camp, the (very visible) security mooks can get away with carrying the kind of intimidating automatic rifles consistent with local bourgeois paranoia. They are otherwise exactly the sort of guards you might find traipsing around the perimeter of a regional call centre.

Flight Centre 04 is protects itself by hiding in plain sight. In the event of a major breach, it must rely on Ethica teams staging out of their facilities in Vero Beach and Miami, all of whom are reliant on road transport. Primeval’s initial briefing is based on the supposition that the team might have almost half an hour before heavily armed teams arrive (although local police could well be much faster).

Primeval’s briefing doesn’t say anything about the local protection racket, because their spooks don’t know about it.


Primeval has arranged a seafront property with an underground parking garage as a hand-over point. A team of freelancers backed by a Primeval interrogator and some techies (plus equipment to neutralise tracer systems) will take the loot away up some stairs. None of them are prepared to explain their own escape plan, except that they want at least four minutes between the final kidnap victim entering the building and detection of the safehouse by pursuit forces.

Provide that: mission complete with full pay. Simple.

If the team asks what Primeval plans to do with the extraction victims, Captain Zhu tells the team that adult Ethica personnel will get ransomed as per usual practice. The kids will be offered the same ransom or a pay-off, with transport somewhere in the US. If asked about interrogation methods, Zhu (truthfully) tells the team all about serums, misdirection and bribery (even genuine recruitment offers for the pilots…). He strongly objects to torture, because it violates tacit professional codes of conduct and will make future extraction ransoms more expensive (also something something professionalism something something ethics).

And - quite aside from anything - the plan isn’t to acquire information. The plan is simply to appear to acquire information. Actual information would be nice, but if it comes to it Zhu and his colleagues will simply administer a sleeping serum to the targets, then pretend to have interrogated them under a narcotic haze. So long as the targets believe they gave up something or everything before they get ransomed back to Ethica, s’all good.


YOLO Ice Cream (South Florida) is home to 16 teenage drone pilots, all recruited from FEMA camps holding Texas drought and Florida storm ecogees. These pilots were scouted from various online gaming communities - the camps have wireless access even if they can’t manage proper housing, jobs or plumbing - and the kids were enticed with jobs and cash payments to their families. Ethica’s combat psychology unit intentionally picked cis-gendered males between the age of 14 and 16. All the teleoperators live on-site, along with an officer, a “councillor” and two cleaners.

The councillor (Jennifer Hernandez, formerly USMC) functions as a corporate commissar, inculcating esprit de corps, loyalty and a fraught warrior ideal in the kids. She ensures the Flight Groups maintain a constant regime of gym training and education between missions. She is also responsible for the ping pong tables, the common room full of tasteful “girl-next-door” pin-ups, film night and the uniforms modelled on pro-gaming teams with just a hint more paramilitary chic. She’s there to talk through moral and morale issues, administer proper levels of focus-enhancing chemicals, and provide the girlfriends.

The girlfriends are recruited from the same ecogee camps and driven in for regular parties, to support Hernandez’s “warrior esteem” programme with appropriate levels of moral support and hero worship (and to covertly report morale and personality issues to the councillor). The common room and the girls are both dressed up to create a kind of conservative fantasy of safe 1980s teen movie jock-n-cheerleader hi-jinks. Hernandez ensures that the beer is mislabelled to appear to have a much higher alcohol content than it actually has; she’s done something similar with the weed.

The girls were arranged through the local Okie Cartel, the Good Ole’ Boys who run the black markets in the FEMA Camps. Ethica also pays the Cartel protection money. In the event of an extraction, Okie SUVs will roll out of the gated suburbs loaded with angry cowboys packing automatic weapons and grenade launchers. Stereotypical Drought Mafia boys love their cattlehorn pickup trucks and their chromed 7.5mm caseless SAWs - and these guys are stereotypical as fuck

In the event of an emergency, they’ll fan out to chase the extraction team. The girls know they have tracker implants installed by the Okies; the boys don’t realise the company took the opportunity to install tracers as well as their totally awesome interface jacks and neo-livers (the tracers are in the neo-livers, naturally). The company values Hernandez so the Okies value her too; the boys and girls are completely replaceable in the camps. So long as she can say they died like heroes, to inspire the next generation.

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