ENTRY 030: Egobrokers
Indentured servitude is a reality in many habitats and hypercorps; egos beholden to some other ego or legal entity for debts in real currency or favors that must be returned, and bound to certain restrictions until the debt is paid. In actuality this may constitute anything from wage garnishment to actual enslavement or incarceration of the ego, but the vast majority of debt-holders in the solar system prefer some form of working bondage, where the ego is encouraged to maintain a paying profession so that the debt is paid down or off. More extreme forms of debt accrual and servitude are often looked harshly upon by many habitats, who stipulate that an ego must at least have the opportunity to pay the debt off within a reasonable span of time; but even so there are many transhumans essentially bound by their debts. More disturbing to most transhumans is that there exist secondary markets for indentured egos.
Egobrokers are third-party merchants that offer to settle an ego’s debts in exchange for a like period of service under a different client. Their service is more similar to a cross between a refinancing company and a temporary employment office than slavers or panderers, though the line is a fine one and often crossed, particularly in the latter case. The indentured ego’s debt is settled with their original source, or otherwise transferred to the egobroker, and the egobroker seeks employment for the indentured ego with other parties. For the vast majority of egobrokers, the arrangement is a cooperative contract—the indentured ego is not forced into any job or occupation they do not wish to participate in, but discusses the employment opportunities with the egobroker and attempts to find a suitable match between the indentured ego’s skills and preferences and the remunerative work that is offered. Many habitats with rep economies maintain egobrokers to handle small infractions, where the egobrokers work with the guilty egos to find some acceptable community service project.
Of course, there is a darker side of egobrokering—implants, invasive psychotherapy, even physical or digital incarceration to enforce the egobroker’s control of the indentured ego. Most habitats bar this form of egobrokering and indentured servitude outright, but on the fringes of transhuman society and with sufficient resources, even these old barbarities persist; certain scumbarges in particular are known for charging exorbitant fees or pushing enormous favors on new arrivals and essentially reducing them to debt-slavery very quickly.
- A minor infraction of the rules in the latest habitat comes with a fine, either in credits or rep points—but the player characters can avoid the penalty if they agree to perform community service. Of course, that means going to the local egobroker, who will suggest everything from a few days washing windows and repairing micrometeorite damage to a few nights in the local brothel.
- An old friend has fallen on hard times and wound up indebted to an egobroker, working a soul-destroyed job as a cog in a hypercorp. The egobroker is willing to forgive the debt, provided the player characters help track down a runaway indentured servant with a bounty on her head.