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Brotherhood of the Coast

Another as-told-to from player Tim McGrady -- this time, a pirate campaign in some Federation backwater. From internal evidence, this was probably during the earlier phases of the Empire/Federation war, when the Navy was starting to stretch itself thin outside of the war zone itself, but was still able to maintain some presence.

Talk about "organized crime" - not only did the pirates in this frontier subsector have a good selection of safe-bases, they even had a union. "The Brotherhood of the Coast", they called it, after some sort of ancient tradition. Probably the same tradition that leads the Navy to classify pirate bases as "Tortugas" and "Port Royals".

Now the Brotherhood laid down rules of conduct - division of loot, behavior aboard ship, reasonable and unreasonable orders, authority of the captain - and acted as a court to resolve grievances and disputes among its members. No drunken orgies, no naked slave girls, the Brotherhood approached piracy as a business - though a thoroughly-illegal one.

And one of its primary "laws" was Do Not Betray the Brotherhood of the Coast. Once, long ago, one pirate did, and this was his terrible fate.

According to my informant, they had just split the swag from a major raid and scattered; this particular ship had put in at this Tech 3 world to spend their shares. And they went crazy picking up souvenirs from the local Renaissance-level culture - velvet tabards, silk doublets, big plumed hats, long rapiers, you name it. And this one crewman goes too far and gets picked up.

Now the ship was operating under deep cover; as far as the locals and the FedReps knew, they were just a large, heavily-armed free-trader, hitting an Amber Zone for R&R after some sort of big score. They had the records, they had the fake IDs, they had nothing that could finger them as pirates.

Except for this one crewman who got jugged - he starts blabbing everything, how they're a pirate ship who've just made a big raid - and the locals turn him over to the FedReps at the Scout Base, where the AG boys grant him immunity and word goes out to a couple light naval units that were in-system.

Somewhere during this process, the pirate captain spooked and lifted ship. They got intercepted as soon as they'd cleared atmosphere, and had to fight their way to Jump distance - jumping at 60 diameters instead of the normal 100, before they could get shot up any further, trying to make an uninhabited system the Brotherhood had equipped with refuge caches for just such emergencies.

And they misjumped slightly - emerging too close to the Brown Dwarf on the outskirts of their target system with a crippled ship. They were barely able to stabilize their orbit when their jury-rigged repairs failed, leaving them orbiting in a Brown Dwarf's massive radiation belts without any way to maneuver or escape.

About a month later, another pirate - from the same flotilla, who'd been on the same raid - Jumped in-system, escaping the Fed return raid on the one safe-base the captured crewman knew about. Picking up a distress beacon from next to the Brown Dwarf, they investigated - and found the first ship a radioactive tomb. In the intervening month, all the remaining crew had died slowly of radiation poisoning. As they sickened and died, they had recorded messages (some of them pretty graphic) for anyone else that found them, including that they had been betrayed and by whom.

After de-orbiting the radioactive derelict into the Brown Dwarf, the remaining ship took the news and records back to another safe-base - one the Feds didn't know about - and informed the Brotherhood of the Coast.

The Brotherhood spread its intelligence nets far and wide, searching for the one who had betrayed them. And what the hell? They got him. Took them two years, but they got him. Snatched him right out of the deep-cover of the Federation Witness Protection Program. "Are ye the one who betrayed his Brothers of the Coast?"

They didn't assassinate him. They had something better planned for him. Spiriting him away to their main Port Royal in the subsector (my informant became deliberately vague at this point), he faced his Brothers of the Coast - the senior pirate captains sitting in council - and heard his doom pronounced.

They didn't kill him. That was too easy. They "rubber-roomed" him - filled him full of hallucinogens and psychoactive drugs while replaying VR holo-loops of all his former shipmates dying of radiation-poisoning - full-sensory CGI simulations based on the ship's last records that died over and over again before him, cursing him as they died and rising half-decayed to accuse him further - "Ye betrayed your Brothers of the Coast!" Nonstop, never-ending, for several months (my informant again got very vague about the details) until they drove him insane - stark screaming mad.

They say he's still there, in a little padded cell on that safe-base, still screaming and crying while the VR holos of his shipmates shimmer around him. They say he should live for a thousand years, with all the anagathics they pumped into him to make sure he wouldn't find release any time soon.

And they say that the Brotherhood has a special initiation ritual for its new Brothers. The new pirate is taken by an officer to the madman's cell to watch him rant while the officer relates the above story as to how he came to be.

"This is what ye can expect, if ye betray the Brotherhood of the Coast!"

"Avast, Arrrrr, me Buckos..."