Following the failure of the FTL Communications Network and generally upheld interstellar law, it became possible to hire out jobs that had formerly been illegal under the Terrestrial Alliance. The “Agony Columns” are similar to Classifieds in a newspaper, or a dating service – an individual pays to post a request, with a contact number that is provided by the local System Agency.
System Agencies pay a nominal fee to spike drive ships to carry information from one system to another, thus providing updated Agony Column information across nearby systems. The downside to this is that out-system listings may already be filled or closed by the time they reach a local System Agency, and it may be some time before the listing is updated. Those responding to out-system listings are cautioned to use their own best judgement!
In some systems, the local System Agency may use viral transportation to encode packets onto outgoing ships without the knowledge or payment of the owners. This is frowned on by GalSysCom, but is not illegal in most systems. A ship that discovers a System Agency packet hidden in its computers may delete or sequester the packet without fear of prosecution.
(Sequestering a packet prevents it from uploading to local System Agencies, thus limiting access to the information contained within...at least until such time as it is provided by another spike drive ship. Parties possessing the packet may then decrypt it in order to “claim jump” any interesting tidbits they may find.)
The Agony Columns are used not only to offer clandestine employment, but also list potential job offers with various corporations and other places of employment, personal messages, birth notices, death notices, wedding notices, and anything else a user is willing to pay 1 credit per 10 characters to post.