Organised Crime in Mega-City One
Despite some truly atrocious tragedies, perps and their criminal activities remain the greatest threat to the stability of Mega-City One. From the lowly dunk working his way through a crowd to lift stray wallets and cred-slugs to the mighty criminal empires that are seemingly untouchable to judges of the city, perps constantly prey upon decent citizens for fun and profit.
However, the most successful perps eschew open violence and the dangers of street gangs to set up their own criminal organisations, sophisticated operations safely hidden behind legitimate business. Whether it is the manufacture of drugs, protection rackets or a bureau of assassins, few perps running such operations really consider themselves as criminals – they will avoid judicial attention at every step but usually view themselves as businessmen, pure and simple and, in many ways, this is exactly how the larger criminal organisations run. Even if the incoming credits are garnered from murder and theft, they still need accountants to watch for the best investments and avoid Mega-City taxes, lawyers to keep the bosses out of the iso-cubes, and a close eye needs to be kept on profitability and cost projections. The only real difference is the manner in which business is conducted – a hostile take-over of another criminal organisation is likely to involve spit guns and sharp knives, rather than a financial assault on another company’s assets.
A lowly street gang can garner its leader enough credits to live a life of absolute luxury, so long as he does not get killed in a rumble or arrested by the judges, two all too frequent occurrences for the perp who wishes to enjoy a long and successful life. Those with a little intelligence will instead seek ways to amass ever greater fortunes while minimising the risk to both life and liberty. Criminal organisations provide a way in which can achieve exactly this. Every criminal organisation requires a front, a legitimate operation that is as far removed from murder and other illegal activities as is possible. Whether it is a small Munce Burger Bar, a Knee-Pad stall or a large corporation, such businesses are required to both conceal the comings and goings of criminals within a base of operations and, more importantly, to launder and clean the credits gained from illicit activities. Such fronts do not always make a profit in themselves but then they are not required to – their main function is to disguise the true nature of the organisation’s employees. Criminal masterminds will work hard to ensure the legitimacy of their fronts so that, no matter how often judges place the business under investigation, no trace of illegal dealings will ever be found.
The more successful perps will soon seek to expand their criminal organisation into a criminal empire. By using the profits gained in one business, they will seek to expand into both new markets and new territories. While the rewards of a dozen criminal operations can be incredible, this expansion inevitably brings one organisation into conflict with another. As a rule, the perps running such operations view themselves as businessmen and will often go to quite long lengths to avoid an open war. However, there are always those who view it as their natural right to take whatever they wish and so war does indeed flare up in the underworld with some alarming regularity. When war between two criminal organisations begins, fronts will be torched and destroyed, operatives murdered and firefights erupt on the streets, catching innocent citizens in the cross-fire and gaining the inevitable attention of the judges. War is rarely good for ‘business’ but is yet another tool a criminal organisation may employ if it believes victory will come quickly and will earn longer term profits.
Criminal organisations tend to have more in common with big business than the street gangs they usually originate from, with worker’s needs and salaries needing to be met, revenues and profits closely monitored and the competition swept aside. In some cases, criminal organisations are a terrifying force that run rampant in the night, using numbers and reach to intimidate even large corporations as their influence spreads. Those at the head of such organisations rarely view themselves as common criminals and spend their time looking after their business interests – whether this is in stolen hovercars, drug manufacture or a blitz agency. The Justice Department works hard to crack open and destroy all criminal organisations within Mega-City One, for each can employ hundreds of small-time perps and drain as massive amount of credits out of the legitimate economy. High-standing perps, however, have their own means of defence which keeps many of them far away from the iso-cubes and, in the eyes of the Law if not the judges, clean and without record.
Organised crime comprises a wide range of illegal activities, and a large organisation may dabble in many of them. These are a few of the more commonly recognised ‘businesses’ that operate out of Mega-City One.
Assassins: A group of assassins operating behind a front will be skilled killers who specialise in ‘discrete’ murder. Lacking the terror tactics of the blitz agency, assassins do all they can to keep themselves, their target and their client as far from the prying eyes of the Law as much as possible. Contracts are therefore dealt with at extreme long range through the use of high-powered rifles, via accidents or poisoning. It takes a very skilled citizen to succeed at being an assassin and, despite all the precautions they take, this is still a high visibility business that will likely draw the attention of the judges as it becomes more successful – after all, a string of dead bodies can be immensely difficult to hide.
Blitz Agency: Similar to assassins, blitz agencies specialise in contract killings, but they do so in a way that causes as much terror in the victims and their associates as possible. Blitzers themselves are very well paid, for they must submit to surgery that places an explosive device near their brains in order to ensure they never get caught. However, their tactics, which normally revolve around bursting into a victim’s headquarters with guns blazing, makes the blitz agency a very risky operation to set up, no matter how high the rewards may be.
Body Sharks: This is a business based purely on human misery. Citizens are captured, cajoled or blackmailed into donating their bodies to the sharkers, who then trade them on for slavery or medical experiment. Secretly moving something as bulky as several human bodies across the city poses its own problems, though skilled operatives often have tried and tested methods developed over several years of experience.
Chump Dumpers: The process of chump dumping is a vile one, but is often entertained by businesses already involved in perp running for it takes few extra resources. This operation involves convincing aliens that Earth is the very best destination in the galaxy to spend a vacation, taking their credits, loading them up into a spaceship and then dumping them out of the airlock once among the stars. If a perp running business has already been set up to travel to other worlds, chump dumping can represent extra credits for little extra effort.
Corporate Fraud: Greed is the eternal driving force of any perp and few can resist squeezing just a few extra credits out of their legitimate fronts, even if this leaves them vulnerable to investigation by the Justice Department’s Acc-Div. By skimming employees’ allowances and dodging every tax imposed upon the front, a healthy amount of credits may be generated every month, though this is normally only worth the risk with large companies or corporations.
Drug Manufacture: There are a wide variety of illegal drugs in demand with bored citizens that a criminal business may begin to manufacture. Examples include the highly addictive but otherwise harmless Umpty Candy to Adifax, Chowder, Tobacco and Sugar. Many such businesses are tempted to manufacture sub-standard drugs in order to reduce costs and maximise profits, though some find word gets around of their practices at a worryingly fast rate.
Drug Sellers: Once manufactured, drugs have to be sold to the citizens of Mega-City One. This requires a special kind of lowlife to actually go on to the streets and pedal the drugs, though the business that supports such perps can be frighteningly professional. More wars between criminal organisations have started over territory disputes of drug sellers than with any other form of business. The practice is lucrative, though dangerous and always carries the risk of discovery by vigilant judges.
Forgers: A business based on forgery need not grow very large to become profitable and a criminal organisation with a forger on the payroll will always find a use for his talents. Almost anything can be forged, given the right level of skill and sophistication of equipment, from raw credits to alien Visas and ID slugs.
Gambling Establishment: There is a certain prestige attached to a criminal organisation that has a gambling establishment within its interests, despite the fact that there are far more profitable ventures and certainly those that are less visible. A good gambling establishment, however, may be enjoyed by many members of the criminal community and serves as a superb meeting place in which to conduct negotiations.
Heist Gang: From banks, through securicars to raids on spaceport customs, heist gangs are often valued members of a criminal organisation, for they are the ones who are willing to take the biggest risks to rake in the greatest profits by theft. Often completely ruthless in their trade, there is little room for sentiment within a heist gang, and most will go to any length to secure the object of their raid, be it credits, rare antiques or high-tech weaponry.
Mutant Smugglers: It is perhaps understandable that many mutants within the Cursed Earth seek to enter Mega-City One on a permanent basis, regardless of the genetic purity Laws. What is less well known is that there are mutants within the nuclear wasteland who possess a sizeable amount of resources, whether it is in the form of precious mined ores, old and forgotten technology or simple pillaged wealth. Such mutants can pay the high price demanded by smugglers who specialise in brining their kind into the city, to live in the most ruined sectors – though even these places are far more hospitable than the Cursed Earth.
Organ Leggers: If a criminal organisation can break into the market, it will find there is a huge trade in human body parts across the entire world and, sometimes, beyond. Organ leggers work in a variety of ways, from physically assaulting citizens and stealing their organs on the street, to actually buying organs from desperate donors at ridiculously low prices to sell on elsewhere. Any rich citizen will be paranoid about losing his wealth, especially through injury or death, and so the organ legger who can locate the right body part for the right customer can command an extremely high price. More enterprising organ leggers have found they can also do a lot of trade with aliens of other worlds, who find certain human organs a delicacy unmatched anywhere else in the galaxy.
Perp Runners: It can happen to the best of perps – a single mistake, or one loose mouth can force him to leave the city as quickly as possible before the judges close in on his tail. This is where the perp runners come in, businesses in possession of high-powered hover and spaceships designed to carry perps beyond the walls of Mega-City One to other nations or other worlds. Despite the incredibly high risks and costs, this can be a very lucrative enterprise, as perps running from the Law are often extremely desperate and will be willing to part with huge portions of their ill-gotten gains in order to ensure their freedom.
Protection Racket: This is one of the most basic criminal businesses any perp can set up, especially if he knows his immediate area. All that is needed is a couple of heavyweight goons who can travel to legitimate businesses in the area and demand protection money – guaranteeing that if it is not paid, an accident will happen to its owner. Word can quickly spread of a new protection racket springing up though actually witnesses can be frustratingly difficult for the judges to find, as few are willing to invite reprisal from the goons. Loan sharking to local citizens is also often incorporated into protection rackets.
Smugglers: There are so many possessions illegal in Mega-City One that a good smuggler cannot help but make his fortune. Whether it is drugs, alien artifacts or high-powered weaponry, a successful smuggling operation can bring about immense profits for a criminal organisation, so long as its visibility can be kept low.