Black Flag Miscellaneous Background Information

Galactic Legal Alliance

The Galactic Legal Alliance is sort of like the United Nations of the Black Flag universe. It's main goal is to create a consistent legal framework that allows nations from a wide variety of planets to interact with each other. The Galactic Marines, their peacekeeping force, are run more like a charter company than an actual arm of a government.

The contract is the main building block of Galactic Law. Contracts come in two varieties, individual and public. What we think of as marriage, they think of as a 'Personal Contract' between one or more individuals. What we think of as "criminal law" they think of as a Public Contract between all the citizens of a community or nation. Every contract must include the penalty for violation or forfeiture and the designated means of carrying out that penalty.

For an individual contract to be valid is must be 'signed' by the individuals involved, there must have been no coercion involved, and the contract itself must not be in violation of any public contract in whose jurisdiction the contract will be carried out. It is possible to create a legal contract in which something that would normally be a public contract offense against an individual is legalized between specific individuals. The guardian of record for a minor must sign for that minor, and there are only a limited number of situations in which minors can enter a contract at all, as set out by the public contract. A GLA citizen reaches the age of consent at 18, but their guardian of record has veto right over their contracts until they reach their full majority at age 21. Upon reaching the age of consent a minor has the right to petition for independent status, which will be granted if there is evidence to suggest that their guardian of record is not acting in their best interest.

Galactic Marines

The Galactic Marines are a private corporation acting under charter of the Galactic Legal Alliance to provide a interplanetary peacekeeping force.

Ranks, Position and Promotions

The Galactic Marines are a ship to shore based force. They expect to do most of their fighting planetside, or at the very least, while in orbit, due to the logistic and tactical nightmare of attempting a battle between forces that are travelling unimaginably fast, and can not locate each other while in transit. Nonetheless, they spend most of their time on board their ships, and so each and every one on board is expected to contribute to the smooth running and wellbeing of the ship as a whole.

The Galactic Marines have no enlisted personnel, everyone is considered a potential officer. They start out as a raw recruit in "basic" and upon completion of basic they are assigned to one of the four ship's sections, where they start out as a trainee and then progress up through the ranks based on a combination of time served, and demonstration of competency in section duties and perceived leadership ability. Each section has its own ranks. When you reach the top rank in your section, you are eligible to be "bumped" into the command ranks.

The four ship's sections are as follows:
Engineering -- responsible for construction and repair of all ship facilities and equipment, as well as any additional constructions required to carry out their mission.
Personnel -- responsible for the physical, emotional and mental well being of the crew. This section includes the medical, training and recreation divisions.
Data Manipulations ("Comp") -- responsible for all information services and manipulation. This section includes the navigation, communication, and system security divisions.
Operations -- Responsible for the smooth running of unit and ship, this section includes the janitorial, quartermaster, lifesupport and food services.

Who does the actual shooting? Actually, the weapons are mostly automated. The operators set them up and keep them supplied with ammunition, the engineers do maintenance and repairs, the technicians program them, and the command staff specify their targeting priorities.

Command Ranks
Chief Engineer
Master Engineer
Engineer Sargent
Engineer First Class
Engineer Trainee
Chief Facilitator
Master Facilitator
Facilitator Sargent
Facilitator First Class
Facilitator Trainee
Chief Technician
Master Technician
Technician Sargent
Technician First Class
Technician Trainee
Chief Operative
Master Operative
Operative Sargent
Operative First Class
Operative Trainee

A Cruiser with a crew of 200 would have three Command Officers (a Captain, a "First" Lieutenant, and a "Second" Lieutenant), a "Chief" to act as head of each section and a couple Master's to act as watch officers, and maybe six Sergeants per section. A total of 39 officers.

In addition to their ranks Marines earn Augmentations and Certifications. A Certification acknowledges that they have mastered a certain skill, for which they receive a small badge. These are lined up across their sleeve under their rank insignia. The following Certifications: Shuttle Piloting, Battle Piloting, Subspace navigation, and Medic, also grant "Augmentations" to the service insignia of a sword with a generator field hilt. Feathered Wings for the Shuttle piloting, which are replaced by a metallic Wings for Battle piloting, a starburst for Subspace navigation, and the "healer's hands" for Medic. Although it is theoretically possible to earn all of these, it is incredibly rare for a Subspace Navigator to also qualify as a Medic.

Ship time is run on a 360 day year, 12 months with 30 days, 24 hours, 3 watches. First watch is from 1 to 8, second watch is from 8-16, third watch is from 17-24.

Black Flag Organization

Ironically he Articles of the Black Flag are probably more like the Articles of the Galactic Marines than any other document. Just like the the troops that are their traditional enemy, all members of the Black Flag are required to stand watches, train regularly, take combat classes, and remain physically fit. They use the same certification procedures (although the have added a deepspace certification for engineers), and divide their duties up between the same four ship sections.

They do not, however, use the same hierarchy of rankings. In fact they get by with hardly any ranks, and a great many less officers. For the same ship described above they would have four section heads, and eight additional section watch officers, a captain, who may also be a section head, and two watch commanders (Also called the first and second officer), who may also be section heads or section watches. Possibly they will have no more than twelve officers per ship, and they are unlikely to have more than fifteen. They also are a democratic society, electing their captains, and the other officers.

Because of the relaxation in the matter of ranks, transferring between sections is much more common on Black Flag ships than it is amoung the Galactic Marines, leading to the official ship's specialty designation of JOAT, or "Jack of all Trades", for crewmembers with a wide variety of certifications and no strongly delineated area of focus. A situation most frequently found amoung those who join the Brotherhood at an early age.

Another difference in how they run their ships is the oddity of having the third watch be the "dead" watch, the equivalent of the "middle of the night". Crew members are assigned to either the first or second watches, and take turns crewing the dead watch (every fourth month).

The biggest differences, however are in the matter of ship's discipline and the legal system under which they operate.

Black Flag Law

The Black Flag Legal system is largely based on the Galactic Legal Alliance system. However their system of dealing with "crimes" normally covered by public contract differs from the GLA norms.

The Articles of the Brotherhood of the Black Flag acknowledge three capital crimes, or "Points of Honor" against the ship: Treason, Murder and Rape. It also lists three minor offenses, or "Injuries" against the ship: Dereliction of Duty, Negligence, and Misconduct. It is the duty of the officers of a ship to see that the appropriate forfeiture is carried out for these violations, and in the case of capital crimes, the forfeiture is death. For the minor offenses either involve physical punishment or additional duties depending on the nature of the offense.

In addition to the above offenses against the ship any individual can claim a point of honor or an injury against any other individual for any reason.

Whether it is a point of honor or an injury that is being claimed the procedure is the same, the individual establishes the claim, and then engages in one-on-one unarmed combat (this is referred to as "taking to the arena", but the "arena" is a concept not a set location) until they have decided that they have administered sufficient punishment to account for the offense. Afterward each combatant pays for the medical care of their opponent.

As with many Code Duello systems, a system for the use of "champions" has been set in place. If the crime, for example, is against a minor, then it falls to the minor's guardian of record to administer the punishment. This is usually the minor's parent, or, if the minor is an orphan, the ship's captain. Likewise, if the injured party is a female and she faces a male, any willing male may be designated to take the arena instead.

When called on an injury, if a crewman feels the claim is unfair, he may enter the area and fight back, or if his opponent's fighting skills outmatch his, he may attempt to find a champion to take his place. No champion is allowed to replace the offender when the call is a point of honor, and the fight to the death. However, crewmember need not accept the claim of a Point of Honor at all. If the offending crewman refuses the claim, it is up to the injured individual to provide convincing evidence to the ship's crew that their claim is justified. If the crew agrees they can either force the offender into the 'arena', or, if that seems too problematical, simply vote to have him thrown out the nearest airlock.

(It is not required in a "Point of Honor" match that death be delivered with bare hands. Once someone has immobilized or has otherwise rendered their opponent helpless, a weapon is frequently used to deliver the death stroke.)

Other than in determining which crimes against the ship are points of honor and which are not the Articles of the Black Flag do not set specific penalties for specific offenses. However a tradition of set penalties has sprung up informally. These often have a kind of cause and effect relationship. For example, the traditional penalty for hacking into the wall screens and inserting 'graffiti' is to be assigned to the decorations committee for the next ship gathering, the traditional penalty for stealing a kiss is a black eye, the traditional penalty for slander is a broken jaw, and the traditional punishment for blatant and aggravated infringement of someone's personal space is a broken leg.


Treason generally consists of sabotaging the ship, tampering with life support, divulging secret information vital to the ship's survival, or attempting to circumvent the democratic nature of Black Flag society.

The most important secret the Black Flag holds, is the knowledge of how to reach the sub-subspace layer of space they call deepspace. The founders of the Black Flag could not simply keep this information to themselves -- any engineer needing to build or repair a ship's subspace generators must know how they work. So upon achieving his "subspace generator" certification a Black Flag engineer is declared a non-combatant (this means no boarding party duties, not that they can't be called to the arena) and is "ringed". This means having an earring permanently affixed to one of their ears, that contains an explosive charge powerful enough to blow their brains out. The charge can either be triggered in person using a special code known only to the wearer, or at a distance by someone with the right access keys. Traditionally these keys are held by the Captain, the Head of System Security, and a crewmate or family member of the Engineer's choice.

Being ringed is an honored and honorable choice, and the courage of a ringed engineer is never called into question, even though they are exempt from boarding parties -- the most hazardous of all Black Flag duties. As there is no need or desire to mark the deepspace engineers so vital to the continuance of their way of life in any visible way, wearing earrings is also extremely popular amoung members of the Brotherhood who are not engineers.

Personal Contracts

Interpersonal relationships are key component in any society. These are complicated amoung the brotherhood, by the fact that they are, for the most part, just what they call themselves -- a brotherhood. Less than 20% of the members of the Black Flag are female.

When a society has this kind of imbalance, there is usually a corresponding imbalance in the influence of the members. In order to defend and protect their few females the Black Flag have placed a great deal of power in their hands, both legally coded into their Articles, and through established social usage.

The Articles of the Black Flag establish rape as a point of honor against the ship, but the definition of rape so established only allows for a male offender and a female victim. Likewise, "Misconduct" means, essentially, a male harassing a female. In any other situation the same behaviors are a private matter between individuals. Perhaps even more significantly, no male can ever call a female on either a point of honor or an injury. This doesn't exactly put females above the law, since any female can step forward and make the call on behalf of a crewmate, but it does grant a great deal of social power to the minority gender in a situation where they would normally be very much the underdog.

(A side effect of the combination of the laws against rape and the adherence to the Galactic 'age of consent' rules, is that in the Black Flag "statutory rape" is a capital offense making teen girls not 'jailbait', but an actual death sentence.)

The privilege position of woman in the Black Flag is perhaps most clearly reflected in the unwritten rule that "A pirate never disappoints a lady", which expresses the strong cultural expectation that a man not refuse an invitation to a casual sexual encounter from a woman. There are a few exceptions: A man under contract with another female is allowed a refusal with no loss of communal standing, as is a man who is an officer over the female making the proposition (this is known as the "Captain's Privilege"), and any man may declare himself only interested in other men (but he had better mean it, because if he changes his mind later it is considered a point of honor against him for every female previously refused).

Being a female in the Black Flag is not all a matter of power and privilege, however. There is a strong societal pressure to be extraordinarily modest before turning eighteen, and to be extremely promiscuous thereafter, and although permanent and long term personal contracts of exclusivity are allowed, they aren't encouraged. There is also zero acceptance in the Black Flag for female homosexuality. Most unfortunately a woman needs to demonstrate an overwhelming technical superiority to everyone in her section in order to "make" officer. Most men of the Black Flag don't like to vote for women, feeling that they are already powerful enough.

Due to the discouragement of long term contracts, most intimate relationships between crewmates are covered under the "casual encounter" code, which establishes a baseline in legal expectations, and a default assignment of rights and responsibilities in case of offspring. In the default contract each participant is required to cover medical costs for their partner in the case of damage, even if that damage was done with the partner's consent. Any acts done without the consent of a female lay the male open for charges of rape and/or misconduct, in addition to any personal points of honor or injuries that are claimed as a private matter between individuals.

Although either party could practice birth control, current medical technology can accomplish temporary birth control most easily in females, and so most Black Flag males do not bother with it, considering off-spring to be both her choice and her responsibility. The default contract gives the mother custodial rights unless she demonstrates incompetence, and offers the father the option of providing paternity support in return for visitation rights and co-guardian of record status, but any individual may create and publicly post a contract that will supersede the default public contract if its existence is brought to the attention of potential partners and those partners proceed with the encounter. Co-custodial rights are frowned upon outside of permanent or long term contracts, so men desiring a more hands on parenting experience often create contracts reversing the standard assignment of rights, releasing the mother from the requirement of maternity support, and even offering their partner some kind of allowance to cover the pregnancy and post-delivery recovery period.

Pregnant crewwomen are exempt from boarding duties, and cannot be called to the arena.

Hexblurb for Flag in Flames
Space pirate romantic triangle
-- with explosions!

Copyright © Michelle Bottorff

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