Freelancers have a Code they abide by for the sake of maintaining a professional standard. The Code isn’t an exact written edict, nor does every Freelancer perfectly adhere to or agree to it, but it is a general guideline that the majority of Freelancers abide by.
The largest five Unions demand that their members adhere to the Code, even Interdiction Sector. The Code exists to protect Freelancers and their reputation, not to interfere with the kind of work they do.
Freelancers are, above all else, expected to be discrete. Most clients hire Freelancers in secret, contacting Agents covertly and arranging jobs through intermediaries. Sometimes clients insist on meeting Lancers directly, for a variety of reasons. Even in those instances, there is an expectation that the privacy of the client and the confidentiality of the operation be maintained, unless the client requests otherwise.
Sometimes clients intend the exact opposite, and want it well known that they have specifically hired a Freelancer for this job. Usually this is the case when Lancers are brought in for highly visible tasks like negotiation or entertainment. Otherwise, nobody wants it known that they’re hiring a professional assassin or elite bodyguard.
This discretion is also supposed to extend if a Lancer is apprehended during the course of an operation that is actually illegal in the area in which it is being conducted. Lancers are expected to take the fall for their clients, or use the labyrinth of go-betweens to absolve themselves of liability for their actions. A Freelancer who manages to find themselves free of criminal charges by rolling on their employer will find themselves unable to find work again.
The key is simply not to get caught.
Collusion is a serious fear for syndicrats, especially when there is a risk of counter-operations. Collusion is when two or more Freelancers are involved in the same operation, often as counter-operatives against each other, and work together to their own ends instead of what is in the best interests of their respective clients. If an assassin and a bodyguard are opposed to each other but are allies, and the bodyguard “takes a dive” to allow the assassin to complete his operation, that is collusion.
Rampant collusion would destroy Freelancers, as a subculture. There would be no trusting them. As a result, collusion is expressly banned. While it is accepted practice to only use as much force necessary to accomplish your goal (see: Necessary Force), working out so-called “gentlemen’s agreements” or other pre-arrangements with other Lancers to your mutual gain on counter-ops is something every Union agrees is bad for every Lancer.
In fact, Unions exist largely to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Freelancers in the same Union won’t take counter-ops against each other to avoid the risk of collusion, and often Lancers from different Unions have such diametrically opposing viewpoints that collusion is very unlikely.
Another large concern for syndicrats is the potential for Freelancers to “sell out”, betraying their clients for a new contract, often with whoever is directly opposing their current employer. Assassins paid to leave their target alone, smugglers who renegotiate a side deal with another party, these sorts of activities are sell-outs.
Sell-outs are career suicide for a Freelancer, and a client with solid evidence that a Lancer has sold out can essentially ruin a Freelancer’s reputation forever. It is something Lancers only do if they seriously believe they can get away with it or they are opting to leave the life of a Freelancer behind permanently (and often, to join up with whoever they are selling out to).
The only times where renegotiating or betraying one’s client is ever considered appropriate is if the client had misrepresented the nature of the deal in the first place. If a smuggler was lied to about the nature of the cargo, or a bounty hunter deceived into committing illegal kidnapping, these sorts of actions would be grounds to cancel a contract immediately. These are not considered sell-outs, but rather the client violating terms of a contract due to deception and non-disclosure, so the Lancer is in the clear.
Freelancers are strongly encouraged to only use exactly as much force as necessary to complete their objectives. If that means lethal force because it was unavoidable, then often so be it unless the client specifically states otherwise. But many times lethal force isn’t required, and so many Lancers (especially those in Troubleshooters United) will try to find less-than-lethal alternatives when possible.
Against other Freelancers on counter-ops especially, lethal force is rarely utilized since there is an understanding that the other Lancer is simply doing their job and only has so much interest in the operation as attempting to prevent the other from completing their own. Subdual is generally all that is required, so outside of Lancers from the Sector, most won’t outright try to kill each other unless they absolutely have to.
This can often lead to intense Freelancer rivalries, as Lancers meet recurring foes on several counter-ops over time. As time goes on, that may stay professional and even become a friendly rivalry (and may risk collusion), or it might become serious animosity and turn lethal.