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Navigating the Perils of Space Piracy: Ten Things I Learned Playing Pirate

What’s up, fellow adventurers? Taking in the results of the poll on my last blog, it seems you all want to be called Cosmic Nomadics! That’s awesome! Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. We might be doing this again sometime, so feel free to throw out suggestions and we might be doing another poll sometime. For those who are new here, welcome to the Halcyon Daze!

So, here’s the deal. I worked my way around some of the shadier districts and ports in Brarcolyn and got myself next to one of the pirate captains that comes through here. After buying lots of drinks and doing some charming, I convinced them to let me come aboard for a little bit of piracy! Don’t worry, I just went along for the ride and didn’t foment any crime myself. Think of me as an investigative reporter, I just observe and report. I promised to keep everyone’s identities anonymous, but I learned a lot from the crew, the captain, and what it was like to live the life. To keep things digestible, I distilled my lessons into a list for all my Cosmic Nomadics to read and learn from!

  1. Code of the Corsair:

The first thing I learned was the Code. There’s a certain set of guidelines pirates live by. They aren’t written down anywhere, and they are open to speculation. I learned it by watching the crew, observing how they worked and interacted with each other, and by listening closely whenever they mentioned the Code. I’ll give you the broad strokes and boil it down to the top three. If you want more, join up with a crew and you’ll learn real quick.

First, your loyalty is to your crew and then to the captain. On the ship I was riding, the captain was elected by the crew to serve the crew's best interest. If the captain started doing things the crew didn’t like, they’d oust the captain and either demote him or…get rid of him. The captain is supposed to make decisions that get everyone paid and keep everyone alive. On some ships, the captain owns the vessel and hires the crew, but good captains always put the crew first and themselves second.

Second thing I learned, pirates are allowed to lie, cheat, and steal. They just can’t do it among their own crew. This ties back to the first thing, but it’s important enough to mention again. These are the people who have your back in life-or-death situations. If you’re not able to trust them, or they can’t trust you, the whole thing kind of comes apart. 

Third, don’t be a dick. Seriously, this one should apply to everyone. The kind of people who live the pirate life haven’t usually had happy shiny lives. Everyone has a story and has some shit in the past. Being an asshole to your crewmates is a good way to find yourself getting put in the airlock. Best thing for you to do is err on the side of caution and make sure people can at least tolerate you. 

2. Navigating the Stars:

So, our first act of piracy was something the captain had planned out beforehand. Successful pirates don’t fly randomly around the universe hoping for a good score. They listen, do research, make plans, and execute. Sometimes they come across something juicy at random, but that’s not a good way to make sure your next meal is coming soon. 

There are a lot of dangers flying around space for regular vessels doing legitimate business in established shipping lanes. Pirates have to navigate asteroid fields, gravitational wells, and military patrols on top of all that. A good captain usually has some sort of legitimate cargo on board they’re taking from one place to another in case they get stopped. Then, they pick up extra goodies that “just happen” to be on the way there. 

But this little heist was close to home and the captain had a meeting with the crew beforehand to present the plan and put it to a vote. Fortunately, it went well or I might be stuck in the Maw rather than writing this. This one was a shipment of military supplies heading into Brarcolyn for the local garrison. It was Black Palace goods, so I didn’t feel too tore up about them jacking it.

3. The Thrill of the Chase:

Chasing another ship through space is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done! There is no regular up, down, left, or right. You go every which way and all over the place trying to lock down the ship you’re going after and getting your hooks in them. 

The crew were all at their stations and on point. I was strapped in next to the pilot and hanging on for my life. Pretty sure I was shouting in equal parts fear and excitement while peeing my pants very minimally. I’m sure the other ship wasn’t having nearly as much fun as I was, and the pilot had a smile on her face the entire time.

4. The Art of Boarding:

While the chase was happening, the boarding team was geared up and ready to breach the ship while the hookers were lining up their shots. They use these magnetic hooks to latch onto the other ship and reel themselves in until they can get hull-to-hull with them. Then, everyone puts their exit gear on and they open the airlock. For several minutes, the bay of the ship is exposed to deep space while the breaching team cuts a hole in the other ship.

Once the breach is made, they seal the outside with this weird gluey paste and the breach team goes in and secures the ship. I didn’t get to see it in person but, from the stories I heard afterward, it went pretty peacefully. Most of the crew was already on the deck and surrendering by the time the breach crew made it in. The captain of the other ship, some Black Palace shill, tried to get in their faces and got his teeth knocked in for his trouble. After that, it was getting the loot.

5. Plunder and Profit:

Storage space on a pirate ship varies depending on the size of the vessel. Ours was a small ship, so the goods had to be prioritized. Small and expensive was loads more effective than large and cheap. Fortunately, the captain targeted this ship specifically for what it was carrying, medical supplies.

The Black Palace garrison on Brarcolyn got special shipments of goods meant just for them. The Brarcolnites had to beg, borrow, and steal to get the bare necessities that only occasionally came to the asteroid colonies. With these goods hitting the market, more people could get the medicine they needed, even if the prices were on the high side. 

As far as profits, they had a decent system to make things fair. Twenty percent of the profit went to maintaining and upgrading the ship, and ten percent went to each member of the crew. That included the captain. I was told the cut was different depending on the ship and captain, but it seemed pretty fair to me.

6. Navigating the Black Market:

Now that the goods were stowed on the ship, there came another important matter. Figuring out how to sell them. Loot doesn’t do you a whole lot of good if you don’t have a buyer willing to part with their units for it. Sometimes crews get contracted by someone to steal something specific. Those jobs usually get half pay up front and the other half when the goods are delivered. The job this crew did was different. They weren’t contracted ahead of time, but the captain already knew several buyers that would be willing to buy the meds.

Some of the meds they took right off the top to go into the ship's stores. Piracy can lead to injury, so it was always a good idea to have stuff ready in case it was needed. Also, one of the crew members has a condition that requires frequent doses of expensive medication. They were going to use their part of the cut to get the meds they needed, but the crew voted to have the meds taken from all of their cuts. That circles back to the Code. This crew takes care of each other, and they’re tight-knit because of it.

But some jobs get done where there’s no contract and no buyers at hand. That’s when the Subspace Underworld comes into play. While there are some actual underground markets on Brarcolyn, pirate crews form relationships with people who act as a go-between for pirates and the people who don’t mind buying stolen goods. Some pirates do this themselves and cut out the middleman, but if deals go sour it can lead to bad times. But if I’ve learned anything about the black market, if you’re selling something there’s always someone willing to buy it.

7. Surviving in the Void:

Here’s the thing though. When you live on the edge of civilization and outside the law survival can be difficult. When things go wrong on the ship you can’t call for help. Once the crew got rescued they’d probably find themselves tossed in the Maw with no help of seeing daylight again. So, you have to get creative.

Everyone on this ship has duties outside the pirating thing. Repairs can be slapdash and half-assed, but they work. Improvisation is a survival skill, and beauty is second to functional. When I was onboard the ship got hit with a piece of debris that sent the ship spinning. One of the crew was already outside welding a patch into the hull and he got tossed from the vessel and flung into the void. 

The captain got her suit on, grabbed a coil of chain, and airlocked out after him. While I was busy trying to keep myself out of the way, they flew into action. Everyone was on the move trying to assess the damage to the ship and figure out how to save the lost man. I thought for sure both of them were gone for good. But some fancy piloting and a lot of guts from the captain saw them both back safely if rattled.

Survival means looking out for each other and learning to think on your feet. Two things I learned a lot about while I was with the crew.

8. The Price of Piracy:

There are other consequences of piracy besides imprisonment and possible death. What happens to the people whose goods get stolen?

This crew had a policy of targeting Black Palace ships and nobles. The average person isn’t going to shed any tears for them. They also do their best to use non-lethal tactics and offer surrender as an option. But not all crews run like that.

Some crews shoot to disable a ship's life support systems and wait until the crew is good and dead before picking off the remains. They also don’t worry about who the victims might be. While we were out, we came across a ghost ship floating a day or so out from Brarcolyn. They let me go with them to see for myself.

It was a ship full of families, leaving Brarcolyn for greener planets and better opportunities. Their bodies floated around the derelict ship like flower petals on a summer wind. While the crew picked through whatever valuables were left, I made the mistake of opening up an old-school paper journal. A mother had earned enough money to buy passage for herself and her two children to Arcadia. She had a job lined up and everything. I found her holding her two children near one of the escape pods. The little girl had a bracelet that I have on my arm right now, a little reminder for myself.

There is a cost to piracy that goes beyond units. This crew tries to do better than most, but even they admit that lives are lost on both sides. 

9. Facing Justice:

There’s one more thing I learned from the pirates. Sometimes, the law catches up to you.

On my last night with the crew, we were out at a tavern celebrating. Things started to get a little rowdy and a friendly fight broke out. Somebody called the marshalls and one of the crew was apprehended. When they ran his name, they found an active warrant out for his arrest for his time pirating with another crew. He tried to escape and the marshalls shot him dead in the street.

It happened so fast. I’m still trying to adapt to knowing he’s not around anymore. The crew said it wasn’t the first time they’d seen it happen, and it wouldn’t be the last. It was the first time for me. Watching someone I’d shared meals with, laughed with, and had deep conversations with lying dead in the street was something I’ll never forget. 

Sure, he was a criminal. He broke the laws of the Black Palace. He robbed, lied, and more than likely killed people. But he was still a friend. And that’s hard to deal with.

10. The Brotherhood of the Black Flag:

Pirates never really retire. Sure, they might leave the ship, but they still stay involved in the black market, keeping an ear out for good marks, and passing around information. There’s a brotherhood among pirates, and they can usually tell by looking whether or not someone is part of it. 

Most of it is revealed in discrete ways. The way someone walks in and always knows where the exits are, or can eye someone up and tell they have information that might be valuable. There’s also a system of code words and symbols that are like a second language among them. I learned some of it but was directly told not to share it around. You never know what the Black Palace Military might be listening to or reading.

On top of all that, every crew has tattoos. You don’t get one as soon as you join a crew. The crew decides when you earn one and it’s given to you. Some pirates have several of these tattoos, and meeting someone with a matching one is kind of like discovering a distant cousin.

My last night on the ship, I was woken up when a calloused hand was shoved over my mouth and a smelly sack was pulled over my head. I found myself being held down, and I heard the distinct sound of a laser tattoo gun running hard. Relief was the first thing that went through me. I was sure the Black Palace had caught up to us and we were heading straight to jail. When the pain started the relief went away.

I don’t know what I did to earn their trust. I wasn’t very useful on the ship, and the only thing I did when they pulled jobs was stay out of the way. Maybe they appreciated me telling their story from their perspective. I wish I could tell you more about them. But for their safety, they’ll have to remain faceless and nameless for all my readers. But, I’ll never forget them.

I hope you all learned something from this. Spending time with these people opened my eyes to a lot of things. This life isn’t for everyone, but it’s a way to live with your only attachments being to your ship and crew. Not being tied down, not having to live by anyone's rules but your captain, I can see the appeal of it. It’s not the one I’d choose to live all the time, but I’m grateful for the time I got to spend living in it.

To the crew, if you're reading this, thank you, and stay safe out there.

Deno Wynn

39 views7 comments


Eric Martinez
Eric Martinez
Jun 06

The life of a space pirate sounds fun. But after reading that account, maybe I'm fine just watching

youtube and paying taxes.

Replying to

Sometimes it's more fun watching the pirates live their adventure rather than being in the middle of it.


Jun 04

dropping out of college and becoming a Space Pirate. thank you Mr Wynn

Replying to

Find a good crew and follow the Code.


Jun 04

i survived The Void (middle school)


Armani Salado
Armani Salado
Jun 04

can I join the Brother of The Black?

Replying to

You absolutely can. Tell them Deno sent you.

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