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My main characters has just escaped death in the Falklands. The pair have been able to sail across the ocean, to South Africa, specifically Cape Town. In Cape Town, a trench war is being fought between the UFS and UAC. After dodging gunfire, artillery and attacking soldiers, they make it across the UAC line, and out of UFS territory.

After this, the UFS sends a group of 6 IC assassins to hunt down my characters. It’s important to my plot, but I must ask a question. Why would a government do so much to hunt down 2 ordinary citizens?

  • It is expensive to send assassins , as they require rations and weapons, along with invisibility gear.
  • The two main characters are just ordinary citizens.
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closed as off-topic by Shadowzee, Mołot, Nahshon paz, ArtificialSoul, Renan Sep 27 '18 at 12:13

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    $\begingroup$ They aren't guards. Quite the opposite, in fact. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 27 '18 at 1:31
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    $\begingroup$ Also, don't make plot points before figuring out the rationale. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 27 '18 at 1:33
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    $\begingroup$ Also, please add a link to your previous question so that we know what UFS and UAC are. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 27 '18 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ Are your two ordinary Citizens meant to survive? against 6 highly trained assassins with invisibility gear? Because that would imply they are anything but ordinary citizens. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Sep 27 '18 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as too opinion based. Its a very open question with not enough details to build an informed choice. The simple answer is the 2 ordinary citizens are important in some way shape or form, in the future, past or present. The answers, they slept with the presidents wife, to they are a secret spy who lost his memories present far to broad a range of possible answers which are all equally valid. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Sep 27 '18 at 4:28
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The citizens don't know it, but they have something of great value.
They are still ordinary; since they don't know about it it can't affect their actions.

This is a staple in a lot of spy drama. The unwitting agent of espionage.

Some examples:

  • What they think was a gun that they stole while getting away, is actually a prototype of a powerful new weapon, and the UFS doesn't want it falling into enemy scientist hands, who might reverse engineer it.
  • Stitched into the lining of a jacket they stole is secret documents
  • The UFS worked out that the main characters could have overheard an important conversation; and all they need is the context (or even time to think) to realize just how important it was.
    • A cool variant of this, is where they actually overheard plans for a coup; and so the general planning the coup wants them dead before his bosses can find out.
  • While imprisoned the main characters fell very sick, and then suddenly recovered. It turns out that was no mere illness, they were subjects of a bioweapon experiment; and as survivors their blood now could be used to synthesize a cure (either because they have developed antibodies, or because they were given an experimental cure while imprisoned). Thus killing them prevents the cure falling into enemy hands.

Further more, none of these things have to actually even be true, someone in the the UFS just has to believe it is true. Or even that there is enough chance of it being true, to warrant taking action.
Aggressive risk management, via assassin.

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    $\begingroup$ "The unwitting agent of espionage." Or a case of mistaken identity, like Cary grant in North By Northwest. (Even your own all-seeing government can make mistakes.) $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 27 '18 at 5:34
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    $\begingroup$ OR: UFS Command THINKS that any of your points apply to them. They don't actually need to be important, it's enough that someone thinks they are. $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Sep 27 '18 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Mixxiphoid fixed $\endgroup$ – Lyndon White Sep 28 '18 at 2:38
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Could Be the Crime

The crime doesn't have to be awful. It could be, in this dystopian future what one or both the criminals did made someone powerful look bad (drunkenly disrupted an important mission; embarrassed a security specialist by breaking in to graffiti the office). The powerful person may have gotten shifted to a position of lower rank, but still enough pull to make sure that if the jerks who caused his/her loss of status are free, they are fair game.

Could Be Something they Know

In 'The Green Mile' one of the characters knew about the Warden's bribery scams. Maybe, as in 'The Rock', one of your characters knows where a little black book of very embarrassing state secrets are (maybe the character is normal, but picked up the book from a friend or ex-girlfriend who entrusted it to the character, and the character had the wit to hide it before getting arrested).

Could Be Who They Are

The escapees might be nobodies themselves, but maybe they were imprisoned unfairly to keep them on ice as a threat to keep some 3rd party from acting. Someone who is special, and someone who loves one or both of the escapees (sibling, parent, child, spouse). Maybe, after the escape, that important relative went ahead and took action: releasing a story, defecting, ... Now, the dystopian government wants to follow through on it's threat to send a message to other would-be defectors.

Could Be Where They Lived

Something about the escapees might be very embarrassing to the government, even if the escapees themselves don't realize it. Maybe they lived in some version of Chernobyl that no-one in your world knows happened. But they carry the evidence of it in their bodies.

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Nobody gets Away. Ever.

The government cannot possibly enforce their rule against widespread resistance. They just don't have the manpower. So they rely on the fear/compliance of 99% of the population, and come down hard on the 1% who are not cowed.

  • The Nazis in Germany had the Nacht und Nebel decree (literally night and fog, perhaps idiomatically cloak and dagger). It meant that the relatives of a prisoner would not be informed of their fate. Your UFS may or may not subscribe to the same doctrine, but they will not want people to get away uncontrolled and tell stories.
  • In the same vein, Germans who got out of early concentration camps (those in '33 were quite different from the genocide camps of the war era) had to assure that they'd keep quiet about conditions.

Samizdat.

It could be that they are thought to be bringing manuscripts out of the prison. The Russian term was samizdat (literally self-publishing). There could have been a "powerful" poet, writer, or philospher in the Falklands who is thought to have written something. It may or may not be true that they had it, what counts here is what the UFS thinks they had.

The problem with this is that the damage would be done after the refugees cross the line. An assassinated messenger should be almost as good as one who can testify to the veracity of the manuscript.

So probably not.

Pawns.

Even a fictional totalitarian state should have the usual internal strife. Part of that are several internal security organizations which watch each other, and try to score points against each other.

A bit like Nobody gets Away, above, except that the target audience are the other intelligence agencies and the President. "The main administration for camps and detention is an efficient agency and the chief administrator would be suitable as the next Secretary of Security."

Or perhaps there had been a prison riot in a camp in Texas last month that required the mobilization of the National Guard (and hence public announcements), and yet another public failure might sent the chief of camps to the camps himself.

I like the third one best. Drive home that it isn't about the characters, really. They are little pawns in the power play of faceless agencies and their remote bosses. They were pawns when they were sent to the Falklands and not stood against a wall, they were pawns when their escape had to be stopped at all costs.


Summary: The purpose of the camps is threefold:

  1. Support the image of an all-powerful state and discourage dissent.
  2. Extract maximum economic value from the dissidents. (Each camp has to show a profit, after operating costs are factored in.)
  3. Provide yet another disciplined, armed, barracked security force. (If the government ever had to fight a local police force, these people might be the available.)

Having escapees blab violates goal 1. So the chief of the camps goes to the chief of military intelligence and asks for a favor. The chief of military intelligence scribbles into a little black book and then nods.

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Why would a government do so much to hunt down 2 ordinary citizens?

Because the UAC can use them as propaganda, thus stirring up more unrest.

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    $\begingroup$ Especially if (unknown to them) the main characters were being used as a rallying cry by rebels. $\endgroup$ – Lyndon White Sep 27 '18 at 2:29
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From a pen-and-paper-RPG background, I dislike explanations which interfere with the back story of a player character. Much easier to mess with a non-player character.

The UFS has used the identity of a dissident imprisoned in the Falklands as the 'legend' for a spy. Due to a bureaucratic screw-up, the dissident has not been shot. The characters may or may not have seen this dissident. Now the screw-up must be covered up at all cost.

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