Find a ship, find a crew, find a job, keep on flying. We may not be carrying the most legal of cargo, but it’s honest work and we don’t hurt other folk doing it. Just look for us on the raggedy edge.
We exist. Rules are great, yeah? Can’t have society without rules, can’t have profit without society, and without profit you can’t have little coffee machines that make Joe one cup at a time. Rules for the sake of it, so your poor choices never come back to bite you in the ass, for those who’re happy to be Good Little Soldiers if they get their bread and circuses, we can’t abide by that. They’re from another ‘verse, people like that. What’re they thinkin’, that these jackboot strongmen exist to give them all they want, and that they’re going to get it? We’re a loose confederation of independent captains; don’t let anyone tell you different. No bosses, no hierarchies. No one tells you what to do and you return them the favor. If you’re fond of timecards and cracking whips then you can walk, friend. Power and plunder are the other way.
Ah, but you’re still here. And I can see it in your eye. You want to say “But I’ve heard the songs about breaking the Blockade of New Damascus in ’31. Whole colony brought fresh a convoy of vitals, and you didn’t ask for a dime. And when you were contracted to run a bulk freighter’s worth of weaponry to Cassel, you found out who it was really headed to… Dumped ‘em into a solar flare.”
Big damn heroes, or so they say. Would the barons and the merchants stop calling if they knew we had a heart? Experience says no. We get the contracts we get because “Brown Coat” means fine work. When the Great Accountant in the Sky smiles upon us, when the logbooks are particularly kind and another day’s stay on this ethereal plane guaranteed, we’ll remember what it feels like to be down and out, to need assurance and not have it. We’re not out to change the ‘verse, just our little corner of it, wherever that may be at the moment.
All true, all true. We’ve a many who can turn mean a fighter, given the right provocation. Wouldn’t you believe that quite a few of us have been in the service, considerin’ that a fair bit of the cargo you see in those Advocacy public service announcement classics – “Know Your Cargo,” “Don’t Be a Mule” – is ours, snatched by one more officer who wasn’t out doing a damn thing about the pirate situation or the Vanduul. Life’s a funny beast. But you know that. That or your navigation is terrible, ‘cause where you are, where we’re sittin’ right now, ain’t nobody want to go. We’re out here on the raggedy edge, and it wasn’t us who sought you out. So ask your questions, but let me first ask you – why did you choose? Every one of us made the choice. Some made it with the actions they took long ago, others something more deliberate. We weren’t Good Little Soldiers, and something about the way you’re listening tells me that neither are you.
You came looking for the Brown Coats. What’d they tell you, that we’re all just piss and magic? It ain’t true, but we like for them to think it is. Never let a lie get in the way of a good story. We’re in the business of movin’. Movin’ cargo or movin’ ourselves, movin’ to stay outside the palms of too many overreaching arms. What do the slavers call it – “Labour Solutions?” That’s cute; it really is. Ain’t it the damnedest how you can pretty anything with time, a glass of whiskey, and a thesaurus? We won’t talk you out the sides of our mouths. We’re smugglers, blockade runners, bulk traders, and fast couriers, but we’re also explorers, entrepreneurs, and buzzardmen – that’s salvagers. We ain’t your babysitters and if you feel breath on your shoulder it ain’t us. You’re an adult. You own your own ship for God’s sake, probably a dozen of them, and run your own business, probably a dozen of them. Three hard and fast rules, and outside that we don’t care how legal your cargo is. If you don’t get caught, it didn’t happen. If you do, don’t expect us to go to war with the UEE. We might bring you in for a bounty – and then split the profits with you. We might hide you. We might give you one hell of a last night on the town out of our own pockets before we move on alone the next morning.
On a smoky billiards table strewn with cigar ash and gauze, twelve strangers raised the framework of our outfit as they lamented the debasement of frontier culture and dressed their wounds. Circa 2907 and they coalesced as a nameless organization in a backwater region of Eastern space famous for two centuries of failed Chinese investment. None called it home; it just happened to be the spot where they realized that desperate situations breed desperate men and that they desperately needed people to trust. And over bloodstained bandages and conciliatory ale those twelve made it official, and by made official I mean survived eight rounds of drink. They would be professional, reliable, but would leave the glory-hounding on the table. If you’re good in this line of work, they know your name. If you’re better, they don’t.
Morning’s sunrise and they left in twelve different directions, but glory and its baggage has a way of ferreting out those who elude it. Since then we’ve grown, we’ve branched beyond transport, and we’ve got ourselves a name. We were being talked about and it’s hard to talk about somebody if they’ve got no name, so we became the Brown Coats, nicknamed by other spacers – freighter captains, mostly – for the brown leather jacket popular amongst independent captains that we all seemed to wear in place of the company uniforms of larger shipping lines and the fancy digs of upstart fleets who want everyone to know they’d “made it.” Trade secret: You won’t need gilded threads to know when you’ve made it.
Here’s where this gets weird. I don’t have a damned clue what this all means – no one does – but I’ll repeat it ‘cause it’s tradition and tradition is what keeps the party at someone else’s house where you don’t have to clean up.
We’re not recreating the Firefly universe. The UEE is not the Alliance and we’re not hostile to it. We’re not politically minded and we’re not here to take anybody down. The UEE swings a big hammer and we make a habit of being anywhere but in front it. Roleplay ain’t a Brown Coat tenet, but you’re welcome to it if it’s your cup of ale. We’re casual, laid-back. Gone for a month? You’ll still be a member when you return to us.
We might not be legal, our work might be questionable, but we don’t harm innocents. You don’t make life harder for those who deserve better. That’s it. We aren’t going to tell you how to play your game or when to play it or how much. You’re not required to show up for anything or meet a quota. There’s no standing council, no home world, no great endeavor that we’re bound to pursue and support. Every captain is equal. We’re here when you need us, not the other way around. Concerns are raised, votes called, and decisions made as a group. You’ll have your chance to put one hand on the wheel with the rest of us and steer the Brown Coats where it oughta go. Attendance optional.
There’s no honor in threatening murder on a man and his family out for a luxury cruise no matter how many scarves you’re wearin’. You think piracy some democratic haven of ideals where everybody drinks grog and has no time for quarellin’ because they’re too busy respectin’ each other? Pirates are murderers, shakedown artists. If you see one flyin’, know that they’ve made good on threats against people who’re just like you. Those who haven’t were dusted by their own kind long before they’d be standin’ before you. Ain’t a damn person outside the Black Art who loves ‘em, and most of them hate each other.
Break this here and you’re goin’ lose every friend you have. More ‘an a few of us have spent childhoods tryin’ to scrape away the inky black scanner tag from an arm or a collarbone. You bring down the cuffs on somebody, you move “product,” as it’s called, and you’ll see how charitable your new slavin’ friends are when you outlive your worth.
It’s poison. I know, I hear you, “What’s the damn difference? We trade in weapons and booze,” but if you’ve half a heart you’ll sicken at visiting your customers month after month and seeing them wasted away a bit more than when you left them. That’s why you’ll always see two types of addicts: those tryin’ to quit and those gettin’ loaded into a box.
Run your liquor, weapons, weed, pornography, trans fats – if the local government says no but Uncle E.E. says “meh” then it’s all right with us. It’s the narcotics that’re a sticking point. For everything else, if you don’t get caught, it never happened, and if you bring heat on us, we’re goin’ to expect you to make it right again. Keep our reputation on the friendly side of everybody, between the UEE and the warlords on the outer rim. If we lose one or the other our trade routes collapse. We’re the link between.
Members aren’t required to help each other, but they are required to not steal from or betray one another. If you make a deal with a fellow Brown Coat and take on his raw material, don’t up the price when he returns for the finished goods. If another has found one hell of a derelict spaceship but needs to return with a bigger ship for the loot, don’t sell the location. Trust is what binds us. Every desperate person out there wants a piece of you and yours. We’ve got to know that if we’re doin’ business with a fellow Brown Coat you’ll do right by us. If that just doesn’t put the shine on your day then we’ll part no feelings damaged, but if what I’m sayin’ perks up your ears then make it official and hoist a glass of porter. Or fizzy water. We don’t judge, and we don’t do paperwork. We’ll fit you for a brown coat of your own – pretty floral bonnet optional – and get you set up to head out into the black.
Welcome to the raggedy edge. We can’t promise you a damn thing if you’re into power or Machiavelli, but propulsion we have, freight we can get, and fast money we make in spades. We’ll encourage it. We’ll facilitate it. Hell, we’ll even ride shotgun with you while you do it. And for a motley pack of screwballs like us, that’s everything.
THE GOLDEN RULE: If it don’t blacken my coat, I won’t darken your skies.
In other words:
Observe the Charter’s three prohibitions and don’t join organizations that condone violating them.
Sanctions will be handled on a case-by-case basis with ‘punishment should fit the crime’ as the general rule of thumb.