Agents of the Voxelia College of Bards, also known as Bards-Recursant, are human intelligence agents for the Voxelian government. The Bards-Recursant have specialized training in acting, disguise, forgery, surveillance, investigation, and personal combat. The ideal Bard-Recursant is indistinguishable from the population into which he or she is embedded, undertaking missions against enemies of the state while still maintaining an unassuming cover identity.
All Bards-Recursant are recruited from the Voxelia College of Bards, an educational institution which also produces skilled artists of all types to power the cultural outreach programs of Voxelia. Bards-Recursant are selected for their abilities in the performing arts, loyalty to the state, and lack of moral scruples which would hinder them in their roles. Once selected, a Bard-Recursant is allowed to finish his or her degree, then is taken in for further training by the Grand Army of Voxelia's intelligence corps. Occasionally, members of the GAV may be sent to the College if they demonstrate the raw natural talent required to become a secret agent, but this course of education is much rarer than the inverse.
For Bards-Recursant, advancement in both limited and unlimited assignments is directly tied to mission clearance rates, with different metrics applied as appropriate for a specific agent's assignment. Long-serving agents who clear many assignments may eventually advance to the rank of Grandmaster Bard, taking on an administrative role within the Bards-Recursant power structure.
Payment & Reimbursement
Bards-Recursant are given a salary meted out by the Council of Liars. Payments are laundered into agents' accounts through various means to prevent discovery,. "Inheritance," "pensions from previous employment," or "royalties from a creative work" are common cover stories for this income.
When not actively involved in an assignment, Bards-Recursant continue to draw state income with a relative minimum of effort. Additionally, Bards-Recursant get full reimbursement for medical treatment, any additional equipment required to maintain a cover identity or complete a mission, and (upon honorable retirement) living expenses.
The agent's assignment may be limited or unlimited in duration. Limited assignments have a defined objective and typically involve infiltrating an enemy organization or, conversely, exposing agents of enemy organizations in state institutions (such as the Grand Army of Voxelia). Bards-Recursant on limited assignments can serve as political commissars, internal affairs investigators, spies, assassins, or a variety of other roles. Unlimited assignments are rare, entailing an all-encompassing cover identity which must be maintained over the course of a lifetime. As an example, some of the Vianner townsfolk are actually Bards-Recursant on unlimited assignment; these live in the community, have false jobs, raise families, and otherwise appear to be absolutely normal members of society - except for the fact that they are also involved in counterintelligence work and eavesdrop on foreign tourists.
While individual Bards-Recursant are not visible to the public, the Bard-Recursant as an idea is celebrated by Voxelian media as a cultural icon for the virtues of subtlety, courage, and proactive action. Bards-Recursant in motion pictures and radio plays are portrayed as seductive femmes fatales and well-traveled men of action and mystery. Some aspects of the profession are intentionally left obscure or distorted by the media to deflect the public eye from the true- sometimes unsavory - actions of the Bards-Recursant.
Bards-Recursant are relatively rare, with the true number of agents unknown (even by the Grandmaster Bards) but presumed to be less than 5000 individuals spread throughout the Manifold. While the vast majority of Bards-Recursant are born Voxelians, a few double agents from other nations (or even species) are occasionally brought into the fold to serve Voxelia's expansive geopolitical interests.
Bards-Recursant make liberal use of disguises, including the tools and apparel of other professions which they might chose to emulate. In addition, Bards-Recursant are trained in the use of covert weaponry and infiltration tools, such as knives, firearms, lockpicks, radios, code books, tracking beacons, audio listening equipment, and hidden cameras.
Bards-Recursant are field operatives. Their workplace is the public sphere - though, ideally, no one else recognizes them as such. Numbers stations broadcast from Voxelian territory distribute orders to agents in the field, making any available civilian radio a useful tool to a Bard-Recursant.
Dangers & Hazards
While the Bards-Recursant are well-trained and specially picked for their profession, their success rate is less than %100. An agent who gets discovered as such is likely to be disowned if caught in a compromising situation, with other Bards-Recursant sent to assassinate captured coworkers to prevent intelligence from being leaked to opponents. Even if not discovered, Bards-Recursant can expect to operate in hazardous environments, including battlefields, industrial settings, unfamiliar cubes, and the institutions of enemy nations. Ex-Voxelian nations are especially adept at subverting Bards-Recursant to their own causes, leaving the agent to be hunted for the rest of their lives for their treachery. In any case, a failure on the part of a Bard-Recursant is usually synonymous with a painful death.
Once his or her training is over, a Bard-Recursant answers to Grandmaster Bard handlers operating directly under the Council of Liars. In general, a Bard-Recursant may act outside the bounds of the law if doing so falls within the bounds of their assignment, with murder, espionage, theft, and other, less savory activities all being accepted if necessary to finish a mission. This special dispensation immediately evaporates if the Bard-Recursant is ever discovered as such, though, as theatrics are an important part of the Voxelian way of life, making a spectacle of one's exploits without getting caught is considered the pinnacle of the Bard-Recursant's art.