Skulls and crossbones

Fraeia sits at their bunk preparing themselves for the task at hand. Piracy, they think, never thought I would fall so far. Their eyes give a subtle twitch at a new but familiar sound. They hear whispers. They're soft and quiet, yet the whispers echo down every corridor of the ship.   Fraeia shakes their head as if to force the sound out. They stand and open the door to their quarters, intent on following the sound. When they step into the common area, a shiver runs up their spine. The whispers are louder here, almost deafening despite the fact that they don't seem to be saying anything at all.   Amber's voice somehow rises above the whispers. As soon as she speaks, the whispers disappear. "Fray?"   Fraeia narrows their eyes but only for a moment. They didn't even notice Amber sitting at the kitchen table. "I'm ready. Are we close?"   "What's wrong," Amber asks. "You looked really concerned just now."   "It's nothing."   "It's the piracy isn't it? We can find another way. We don't-"   Fraeia lies and it leaves a sour taste in their mouth. "It's fine. I'll get over it."   Amber shakes her head. "I don't know why. I've already ripped your life apart. This has been rough for you."   "Amber, no."   "Are you with me?" Amber looks up from the table and into Fraeia's eyes.   "Yes? I'm right here. I don't understand." Fraeia replied.   "No, I mean…" Amber takes a moment to form the words then continues, "Is this what you want? Like, no promise is worth what you've been through. Why are you still here?"   "I-" Fraeia pauses, suddenly unsure of how to answer. After all this time, they hadn't bothered to think about it. "Did it ever occur to you that I might actually enjoy it here?"   Amber laughs then replies in a flat tone, "No."   Fraeia sighs and nods, turning away to retrieve their rifle before speaking. "For now, yes. I'm with you."   They expected a reply, but silence followed. The whispers begin again, and if they didn't know better, Fraeia would say they came from within their own mind. "Do you hear whispers?" They ask, turning back to amber.   Amber stares vacantly at an empty patch of metal hull. She doesn't respond.   "Amber?" Fraeia inches forward, tapping on the table to get her attention. "Am-"   Amber's head turns, her voice not entirely her own. She speaks in Fraeia's language as if a native speaker, "Has it happened yet?"   Fraeia scowls at it, this beast who refuses to leave well enough alone. "You. Why? Why her and why now? Why can't you leave the girl be. She's been through enough."     Her eyes go wide, though it's clear it isn't Amber experiencing the shock. "It did, didn't it?" She pauses, her breathing rapid and shallow before speaking in a long drawn out sigh. "Finally." Tears form in Amber's eyes. Is Gibraltar getting emotional?   "Answer me," Fraeia screams.   "Be ready. This is it. You must keep her safe."   "Why?"   Amber breaks eye contact, a first when dealing with Gibraltar. "Because I won't be able to."   "You're her enemy."   Amber shrugs. "That's what she says but no." Amber toys with her fingers, looking up and leaning forward as if telling a deep secret. "I love her dearly."   "You what?"   Amber covers her mouth, fighting the tears that now stream down her face. "I've waited so long. You don't understand it now, but you will. Bring your missiles. We clash at the fever Breach."   In moments, Amber returns to her normal self. Her expression softens and she cocks her head. "What were we talking about?"   Fraeia responds in seconds, eager to put the encounter behind them, "We were discussing the plan. How are we going to do this?"
Piracy is an economic certainty in the void. The closer you get to the galactic community, the more likely you are to encounter it. Pirates are feared, hated, and hunted for their crimes, but more than anything else: pirates are misunderstood.   I've had a few run-ins with pirates over the years. They're some of the only times being my mother's daughter actually helped. Pirates have been the best business partners I've ever dealt with. They pay better than anyone for salvage, used to both upgrade and patch up their vessels.   Warfare is an occupational hazard. Death in battle or at the hands of the law should one be captured is just as much of a risk. The rewards are definitely tempting. The crew of a pirate vessel divide their profit evenly, making significantly more than one would on a military or merchant ship. You may wonder why someone would take such a risk. It's simple. Nowadays, Pirates rarely need to lift a finger.

Setting sail

Pirate vessels deviate from the norm, most of the time. The captain is still the one who owns the ship, but it's easier to mutiny against them without the authority of a government or other organization behind them like on other ships. To help with this issue, every pirate vessel usually has a code of conduct or a contract ratified by each and every member of the crew.   It details who is in charge, division of labor, wages and division of profit, rules of conduct and punishments for breaking those rules, and worker's compensation. The only time this contract is nullified is during combat, where the captain is free to do whatever is necessary to accomplish their goal. This comes with costs, however.   Life in the void is dangerous. Damage to the ship leads to cost in repairs and then there's that worker's compensation I mentioned. This grants larger divisions of profit to those who lose life or limb. This is especially important If a crewman dies. They likely selected a beneficiary to receive their cut of the profits, plus a little extra due to their death. For these reasons, fighting is seldom the best option.

Jolly Roger

How does one get another ship to give up without a fight? We don't have much information regarding pirates in human history. Even if we did, they sailed oceans, not the stars. Despite this, something did survive: their flag. Human vessels use a skull and crossbones to indicate a known pirate vessel when scanning transponders nearby. This symbol happens to be one of the most successful marketing campaigns humanity has ever pulled off.   Just being a pirate vessel, or even turning your transponder off entirely, can make nearby ships skittish. Pirate vessels are armed to the teeth, and go through great pains to hide that fact. Imagine you're minding your own business and suddenly a ship you thought could never be a threat reveals weapons that can cleave your ship in half. Surrender becomes your only option.   You could fight, but if you lose and survive, you're likely to be captured. Pirates have a sordid history of torture. Survive an encounter with them and you'll just be another example of their impeccable branding, a living example of why you really should just surrender and give them what they want. The stories spread far and wide. Even now, many merchant fleets have policies in place requiring surrender If cornered by pirates just to protect the crew.

Staples of piracy

You wouldn't know it unless you've encountered them enough times, but pirate vessels tend to share similarities regardless of their origin. Pirates prefer destroyers or cruisers. Small enough to be quick, but large enough to mount devastating weaponry.   It's not just their ships, either. Pirates tend to operate in deep space, using interdiction to isolate targets. Merchants traveling with military escorts can be singled out. By the time the escorts manage to turn around, the pirates will be long gone, the merchant vessel plundered without a single life lost.   This leads to similarities in their behavior. Pirates don't tangle with military ships. Aside from stealing technology, it just isn't profitable. More than that, military ships almost always fight. They tend to be crewed by loyal soldiers, conditioned and disciplined. Then again, if their captain is in poor standing, the crew might just mutiny if told to fight a losing battle.

smoke and mirrors

The real trick to a successful career in piracy is misdirection and manipulation. You have a target that knows what you're capable of, and is likely to surrender if escape is not an option. The problem with this is cornering them. Space is big and you're bound to be called out if you happen to fly too close to another vessel. All that space and you decide to fly right alongside another ship? That makes it obvious.   Some try false distress signals, such as a need for fuel or medical aid, but this narrows down both where you can operate and who you can operate on. Stealth tech that masks your heat signature is a safe bet, as is technology that can jam signals and just trick enemy sensors into believing you're not even there.   Our situation is different. My ship is outclassed. I lack any form of stealth and I couldn't stand toe to toe with a military corvette If I did. On top of that, they're soldiers. If we want them to stand down, we need to scare them... bad. We have the element of surprise, but we also need to convince them we are much more dangerous then we truly are. I think I know just what to do…  
  • By venting some of the heat, we can overclock the engines without boiling alive. If we carefully monitor speed we can trick enemy sensors into believing we're much bigger than we really are.
  • Disconnecting power manually from weapons will hide their existence from sensors, and if we're lucky, we won't be close enough for anyone to get a good look. We should appear as little more than a mining barge. Smugglers and Merchant ships often do the reverse. They fashion sculptures on their ships meant to look like advanced weapons, then wire them to trick enemy sensors.
  • We can insist on using the shuttle instead of docking ship to ship. It would make sense considering the dangerous cargo. The rest is up to me and how intimidating I can be. No pressure.
When we enter the system, it's all about speed. The Dhitol corvette has been here for some time refueling at an automated station orbiting a small moon. Based on the math, they won't know we're here for at least ten minutes. That gives us time to get into position.   The transponder is off, but we will need to fix that soon when it's time for the big reveal. I set the ship on a course that will take us within firing distance of the depot. I then scroll through a list of stored transponder signals. I know I have it. I have to have it.   Fraeia's voice pours through the speaker on the right side of the cockpit, "Everything's ready. Waiting for the signal."   The minutes fly by, and soon I receive a message from the corvette. "Unidentified vessel, this is captain Xola Aviquo of The Prosperity. You're in Dhitol space, and the system is under military quarantine…"   They continue on for some time, but I barely retain it. I'm busy. I don't even register their demands until I finally find what I'm looking for.   We only get one shot at this. I double check my distance, and we're right where we should be. I reach down and pick up two disconnected cables at my feet. I connect them, restoring power to the ship's weapons. Finally it's time to reveal who we are. This is a military ship. They won't surrender to just anyone.   I pick up the microphone and select the transponder signal from the list. We're flying new colors now. I take a deep breath. I'm nervous, but it fades away when I finally speak. I've heard recordings many times. I try my best to sound like she did. I didn't expect the words to be spoken with pride.   "Prosperity," I begin, stifling a hint of laughter. "This is Captain Deidre 'Invicta' Hurst of The Sea of Names. You have something we want. It's up to you how we get it."   Silence follows. The captain is likely checking to see if I'm really who I say I am. We should be putting off enough heat to pass as a cruiser, even one as big as The Sea of Names.   Once that's been done the captain will weigh their options. They could fight but losing wouldn't be pleasant and winning would cost lives and risk detonating the antimatter. It's important to mention that the Sea Of Names never lost a fight   Even if they choose to fight, their crew knows my mother's story just as much as the captain does. They could refuse and mutiny. Fighting would be suicide and my ship is too close for them to run.   "Sea Of Names, we have little choice. These weapons are important. Please, I must ask that you reconsider."   "Excuse me?" I reply. "Absolutely not. I have a shuttle inbound to ensure safe transfer of the cargo. Weapons are primed and will fire if you do anything other than what I tell you. Understood?"   A brief pause follows. The shuttle departs, and moments after, I get my reply. "Understood."     I lean back in the pilot's chair and let out a sigh of relief. They're probably hiding the bulk of the missles. That's okay though. We only need one.


Author's Notes

Just wanted to give a heads up, I dont have access to a computer currently but wanted to finish this one up. If there are any issues, please let me know! Thanks for reading!

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Mar 20, 2022 12:00

So glad you got this one out, I've been missing your stories! "This is Captain Deidre 'Invicta' Hurst of The Sea of Names." Oh, the irony! I can't imagine how Amber felt saying that

Mar 20, 2022 15:59 by Bart Weergang

Oh I like how you pulled all the traditional aspects of pirates into space! And one of these days I've to sit myself down and read S1 and S2.

Mar 20, 2022 19:44 by Thicc Shrek

Piracy is best acy.

Mar 21, 2022 21:09 by Stormbril

At last, I have caught up! And I'm certain just in time for something to go horribly wrong xD Can't wait to see the next chapter! <3

Jun 4, 2022 05:31 by Grace Gittel Lewis

Interesting, is the Sea of Names not like, widely known to be out of service, now? Is it just folk on Safeharbor that know this? Or am I misremembering— is it still running without Invicta? And...hmm, I'm beginning to wonder if Gibraltar is somehow Invicta herself, somehow, now...

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