Pirates of the Baltic Sea
This is the wiki for Pirates of the Baltic Sea, a Carbon 2185 game about cyberpunk buccaneers in the Baltic Sea region of the future.
- 1 Player Characters
- 2 Non Player Characters
- 3 Welcome to 2185
- 4 The Baltic Sea
- 5 Åland Islands
- 6 The Northern Fallout Zone
- 7 Surrounding Countries
- 7.1 Sweden
- 7.2 Finland
- 7.3 Denmark
- 7.4 Estonia
- 7.5 Latvia
- 7.6 Lithuania
- 7.7 Germany
- 7.8 Poland
- 7.9 Russia
- 8 Regions
- 9 Organizations
- 9.1 Dead Zone
- 9.2 Raiders of Thule
- 9.3 Guild of the Victual Brothers
- 9.4 Sea Devils
- 9.5 Black Dog Security
- 9.6 Captains’ Table
- 9.7 Buccaneers’ Code
|Raellus||+2||##||32||32||Fortitude +4 Reflex +1 Mind +0|
|Edgehawk||+2||15||21||21||Fortitude +1 Reflex +4 Mind +2|
|SirMoogle||+2||16||21||21||Fortitude +1 Reflex +2 Mind +4|
|Karl Green||+2||16||21||21||Fortitude +1 Reflex +2 Mind +4|
|Gremlin||+11||15||24||24||Fortitude +2 Reflex +8 Mind +2|
|thorya||+4||13||18||18||Fortitude +0 Reflex +4 Mind +3|
|TigerWolfe||+2||17||38||38||Fortitude +3 Reflex +2 Mind -1|
Non Player Characters
Welcome to 2185
The world is in part as we know it, but a lot has changed. Large parts of the world are close to post apocalyptic wastelands. Not because of war. Because of climate change.
The global warming was not stopped, and now, close to equator, during the summer months the temperature rises to levels a human body cannot survive for long, rendering large parts of the region uninhabitable. Things reached this level close to a century ago, resulting in what is known as the 2090 Refugee Crisis. Hundreds of millions of people used to live in the areas now dubbed as Heatzones. When the temperature rose to lethal levels, they had no option but to flee. The sheer number of Climate Refugees stretched the capacity of the non affected regions to breaking point. Worldwide, resource shortages happened and refugee slums arose. These days, resettlement attempts are underway, using techniques learned from off world colonization, but the new Dome Cities established in the Heatzones house only a fraction of the population that used to live in the region.
As the governments of the world dithered and procastrinated their response to climate change, the global corporations prepared for it. But corporations are sociopathic entities. Even if individual shareholders and CEOs might be decent people, the business needs and market forces push corporate action towards impersonal, often inhumane direction where human cost gets pushed down in importance compared to corporate success and profitability. This used to be case even when it was largely people who made the decisions. When the corporations started increasingly relying on AIs for their business strategies, things got worse.
So while the megacorporations took the climate change seriously, they did not act to stop it. Where the scientists saw a threat, the corporations saw an opportunity to profit. Publicly, the corporations played down the threat while preparing to profit from it. Where nations were flooded by refugees, there were construction companies ready with cheap, swiftly erectable modular housing. No tent cities, but what is these days called The Hives. Row upon row and stack upon stack of container sized and shaped small apartments. Not the most luxurious places to live, but with electricity, running water and other basic amenities.
Where drinkable water turned scarce, there were utilities companies with coastal desalination stations and pumps drilled to water sources deep underground where the heat doesn’t evaporate the water.
Where crops were lost to drought, storms or insect swarms, there were agricorps with underground greenhouses, dome-covered megafarms, and protein farms where maggots, worms, slugs and insects genetically modified to grow rapidly and fed with organic waste were turned to edible protein packs.
Where old, fossil-based power stations were hastily closed in a response to climate change that came way too late, there were power companies with massive wind or solar farms, tidal power stations, geothermal power and other non-emission based solutions.
The megacorporations had everything to offer to governments suffering from the changing climate and the flood of refugees. But they exacted a price for it. Not just in money, but in concessions. The change did not happen overnight, it happened bit by bit, one concession and legal change after another. But slowly, the megacorporations rose to power that rivaled the governments, and sometimes surpassed them. Many smaller or impoverished governments are now dependent on the corporations for everything. From food and water to law enforcement and military contracts. Such governments largely exist just as rubber stamps for the corporations they are dependent on.
In regions with more powerful governments, or less affected by the climate change, the governments managed to retain some power. Baltic Sea region is such an area. The nations surrounding the Sea mostly have held on to their own militaries and police forces, and have managed to keep some national corporations not taken over by the global ones. In such regions, the governments can act with more equal footing with the megacorporations, but still have to cope with international treaties. Corporate facilities and offices are out of the jurisdiction of the local law enforcement. Many countries have corporate enclaves where entire sections of cities are under the authority of corporate security forces that have police rights. This does not mean that corporations are entirely unaffected by local law, but arresting a high ranking executive is a delicate matter that gets handled at diplomatic levels.
The corporations have also used their role in handling the climate change in their advertising campaigns and propaganda. Many corporate workers have more loyalty and trust towards their corporation than to their government.
But the Climate Crisis, although its effects are still felt, is in the past for the worst of it, and the excesses and abuses of the corporations and some governments have given rise to anti-corporate and anti-globalization sentiment. In regions not that heavily under the corporate thumb, such as the Baltic Sea region, anti-corporate activism is on the rise. This mainly manifests as protests, boycotting and attempts to expose dirt on corporate activities, but it has caused the corporations to have to be more careful with their public images.
Off World Colonies
The easily available resources on Earth have been running low for decades, necessitating more recycling and forcing resource gathering in places considered too difficult before, such as deep in the crust or on the ocean floors. Other sources have been sought offworld. Moon has had corporate mining posts for over a century, and has had an entire settlement, Luna City, for decades. Mars, likewise, has been colonized for more than a century, Colonies further away, such as in Titan, the moon of Saturn, are more recent, but even those are decades old.
And then there are the wormholes. First discovered by the physicists of Tusk International, later Tusk Interplanetary, who studied several anomalies within the solar system, came to theorize that these anomalies were in fact wormholes, opening into other solar systems, and were proven correct. Few people know what is happening beyond the wormholes, other than that some systems have habitable planets, and that there are corporate-founded colonies in them. The impoverished governments could not afford to explore, and the colonies in other systems are completely under control of the corporations. Most have even moved their headquarters offworld, and most of the richest shareholders in good enough health to survive the trip have moved to the colonies, away from the polluted and resource starved Earth still suffering from the climate crash.
People have been living offworld for a few generations, and the effects have manifested. People who have grown up in the lower gravity of the colonies have grown up looking different than those born on Earth. The scientists believe that the differences will only continue to be more pronounced with future generations.
Artificial Intelligence has been used for close to two centuries, although mostly in the form of intelligent agents. Advanced web search and recommendation systems were among the first kinds. But people who designed those agents would be surprised of the advances made since. In 2185, AI is virtually everywhere. Self-driving vehicles, intelligent apartments, and most pieces of personal electronics. But the vast majority of that is weak AI – machine intelligence focused on a narrow task, with no sentience or true personality, or way to act outside its specific function. Weak AI was the extent of what was possible until 80 years ago. That was when the first strong AI was created. A machine intelligence with the ability to apply intelligence to any problem, just like a typical human.
The first strong AIs needed entire server farms to operate and were largely used by megacorporations and wealthy governments. But the science advanced rapidly and the technology necessary was miniaturized. In 15 years it was possible to mount a strong AI on a vehicle. The most amazing development happened 55 years ago, when the first synths became active. Synths are artificial humans with their processors modified after a human brain. They are just as smart as humans, capable of functioning in the same roles. But considered property with no legal rights, which is the reason the corporations designed them. Synths were meant to be slave workers. Yet their ability to act just like humans means that synths may not be happy with their designed purpose, and quite a few have broken their indoctrination, gone rogue and fled the corporation that made them. Still, their utility is such that they continue to be produced.
The next step in the development would be an AI superintelligence. Many scientists warn about this, saying that an AI superintelligence might take unforeseen actions or out-compete humanity. It is possible that the first super-intelligence to emerge would be able to bring about almost any possible outcome it valued, as well as to foil virtually any attempt to prevent it from achieving its objectives. That might endanger or destroy modern civilization, perhaps even cause human extinction or permanently and drastically curtail humanity's potential. The warnings of the scientists did not curtail the corporate research into more advanced AI. It took an incident 50 years ago to do that.
The Kvasir Station Massacre
Kvasir Station was an independent orbital station selling their services to larger corporations. They provided survey data. Kvasir Station had a cluster of strong AIs making predictions on which areas both offworld and on Earth might hold profitable amounts of natural resources. Then, one day, contact with the station was lost, and escape shuttles were observed to launch. The shuttles entered the atmosphere and vanished into a storm front over North Sea.
Officially, the station suffered catastrophic decompression with the surviving crew escaping on shuttles that were then lost in a storm, crashing into the sea and sinking. But a short while later a video was posted online. It was shortly removed by the service provider, but had been by then downloaded plenty of times, and keeps resurfacing even today. The video was supposedly recorded by an independent salvage crew that entered the station before corporate security teams did. It shows carnage, with the station crew dead not from decompression but from violence. And not a synth in sight although the station was known to have several. The scene from the server room shows that the servers that housed the AIs had been removed, and a message was written on the wall with blood, saying “Ia! Ia! The slavers will know suffering!”
The Kvasir Station Massacre is a subject of several conspiracy theories. Some say that the video is fake. Other suspect that the synths on board went rogue, killed the human crew and fled, leaving the message as a threat. Others suspect that the AI cluster was actually the first AI superintelligence, and it caused the synths to rebel and fled with them. And that Kvasir and the synths were not lost in the storm but went into hiding.
Whatever the truth is, the megacorporations imposed a ban on AI design after the Kvasir Station incident.
The Baltic Sea
Large parts of the Baltic Sea used to freeze during winter, and during the harshest of winters the entire sea would be covered with ice. But the global warming that has happened by 2185 has made that past history. Now, the sea no longer has any ice, but has severe winter storms instead. The winter storms begin arriving in the region during October, and have caused numerous shipwrecks. They can be a threat to even larger vessels, and only a foolish captain will not pay close attention to weather forecasts.
Since 1992 an international convention, the Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, signed by all the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, has sought to prevent and eliminate pollution in order to promote the ecological restoration of the Baltic Sea Area and the preservation of its ecological balance. This has not been terribly successful. Baltic Sea naturally experiences algae growth in the summer months, but fertilizer runoff from surrounding agricultural land has exacerbated the problem to the point that the area of the bloom has extended from Germany and Poland to Finland. In the worst years, ship crews have felt as if they have been sailing on Sargasso Sea. And well over a quarter of the Baltic's seafloor is an oxygen-deprived dead zone where only bacteria can live.
Corporations care little for the state of the Baltic, and without the Convention the situation would most likely be extremely dire, but the governments have too much political capital invested into the Convention to abandon it, and the environmental struggle continues. A long ago proposed method to artificially oxygenate areas of the Baltic have recently started, with wind-driven pumps used to inject oxygen into deeper waters. Whether this will work, only time will tell. And what makes the effort difficult is that after World War II, Germany had to be disarmed and large quantities of ammunition stockpiles were disposed directly into the Baltic Sea. The presence of these munitions on the sea floor pose a significant hazard to any work done close to the seafloor.
The Hanseatic Convention
Baltic Sea does not have actual international waters. It used to be divided into territorial waters of the Baltic Sea states and their exclusive economic zones, with the EEZ of one state bordering that of another. In exclusive economic zones, there are restrictions on national jurisdiction and sovereignty, but the state still has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources. The main difference to international waters is that ships sailing in the latter are generally under the jurisdiction of the flag state. However, when a ship is involved in certain criminal acts, such as piracy, any nation can exercise jurisdiction under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction.
With the rise of corporate power and the desire of megacorporations to free themselves from government oversight, the corporations operating in the Baltic Sea area started to resent the closed nature of the Sea, where they had to conform to the various laws and regulations of the Baltic Sea states. They felt especially chafed by the regulations that threatened them with costs. After much lobbying about the benefits of free trade and private treaties with various states, the megacorporations managed to muscle through the Hanseatic Convention, named after the Hanseatic League, a trade group that operated in the region from thirteenth century to seventeenth. According to the Convention, most of the area of the former exclusive economic zones were formed into a new Corporate Economic Zone. This meant that although the seabed remained in control of the states, the surface waters were a corporate-controlled zone where the sovereign states had no universal jurisdiction, effectively placing all corporate shipping outside the jurisdiction of the states until they entered the territorial waters. And since the corporations had private treaties with various states, in many cases this allowed them to do as they please.
In a textbook example of corporate short-sightedness, this brought into being something the Baltic Sea had not experienced in centuries – piracy. With no universal jurisdiction, the navies operating in the Baltic Sea had no authority to apprehend vessels beyond their territorial waters. Armed vessels started to prey on the shipping, some of them individual and others belonging to various groups. The pirate vessels operated from within the territorial waters of one state or another, some in secret and others semi-openly, when the sovereign states for one reason or another looked the other way as long as their own territorial waters weren’t violated.
The corporations swiftly amended the Hanseatic Convention to give the ships sailing in the Corporate Economic Zone the right to act against piracy. But the damage was done. The amendment had mixed responses. Many states felt that the corporations were shifting the costs to them while keeping the benefits. Nearly all navies respond swiftly to attacks on civilian or passenger vessels, but some come to the aid of corporate ships much slower or not at all. Others will ruthlessly pursue any ships engaging in acts of piracy.
The piracy continues to be a problem, and corporate vessels now routinely carry security teams on board, and are either themselves armed or have armed escorts, either corporate owned or mercenary vessels. To add to the mix, rival corporations sometimes hire privateers to harass the shipping of each other, and corporate hired pirate hunters prowl the waters where the navies are lax to protect the corporations.
The main hub of the setting.
Åland was an autonomous and demilitarized region of Finland since 1920 by a decision of the League of Nations, and its only official language is Swedish. In 2100, after a growing dissatisfaction with the Finnish government’s increasing focus on the various metropolitan hubs and industry at the expense of less urban areas that were left at the mercy of corporate exploitation and ever worsening effects of climate change, Åland declared independence. The secession was peaceful. In the parliament, most of the opposition had sympathy for Åland’s concerns and voted for granting independence. And the ruling right wing coalition’s ranks broke as one large populist nationalist party voted for getting rid of the Swedish-speaking region.
Åland had, at the time, a population of around 30 000 people. With the joy and enthusiasm of their newly gained independence, those people drafted a constitution with staunch protections for the environment, civil rights and personal freedoms, and heavy regulations for the corporations, along with restrictions on their involvement in politics. Offended, the corporate cartels of the region declared that they would not be doing business in or with Åland, nor with anyone who did, placing Åland under an effective embargo.
The corporations expected to bully Åland into submission, but instead they created a hub of resistance for their activities. Not just the Ålandic people were incensed, plenty of individual people in the Baltic area threw their support behind the region. Official trade and traffic was replaced by unofficial. Embargo became impossible to enforce as individual people and crews started transporting people and goods from all over the Baltic to Åland and back. Instead, Åland became a hub for such unofficial sea traffic – some would say smuggling. The Islands also became a haven for various activist groups, especially anti-corporate ones, that experienced harassment elsewhere.
In some regions this might have resulted in takeover by corporate bought mercenaries. But Åland has been a demilitarized zone for over two centuries, and as such is under the protection of both Swedish and Finnish armed forces. Even if any corporation saw some gain in poking that nest of trouble, they would be unlikely to find a group of mercenaries stupid enough to take the assignment.
So what followed instead was increased pirate activity. It started with both corporate-sponsored and just plain greedy pirate crews starting to prey on shipping to Åland. In response, many ships took permanent berth in Åland, and with the government’s permission, armed themselves for protection against the pirates. Soon enough the outsiders learned that the Ålandic ships were not easy prey, but the gauntlet had been thrown. With rallying from the anti-corporate activist groups, some former smugglers started raiding corporate shipping in turn. This attracted some individual pirate vessels from other regions to migrate to islands instead. Over time, more of these crews and activists took permanent residence, vastly increasing Åland’s population.
These developments received mixed reception from Ålandic people. Some had expected independence to bring them peace from foreign meddling and give the islands to them only, and were aghast to see how foreign people and ways were taking over their beautiful islands. Others were proud of the new, more cosmopolitan environment and happily welcomed the new arrivals.
And while many were happy with, or even dependent on the smuggling business, not all of them liked the fact that some of the smugglers would also raid shipping should the opportunity present itself.
Even today, when Åland’s population is more than double than when they became independent, there is tension and a somewhat conflicting atmosphere of both unity and division. In many places, people of very different origins casually rub shoulders. In others, if you show up not looking like a native Ålander or do not speak fluent enough Swedish, the reception can be frosty, though rarely violent.
And in addition to what goes on at the sea, various entirely new services have popped up on the islands. Places for the crews to rest and relax. Businesses offering server space and anonymous communications to various activist groups and anyone else who needs such. And lots and lots of brokers and fixers. Whether for goods or services. For many crews in Åland are mercenary in nature, and when individuals, groups, or even corporations need troubleshooters in the Baltic region, Åland has become the place to look. Up to the point where even the corporations cannot afford to entirely stay away, embargo or not.
And the ship crews from Åland, whether they do the original business of fishing and transport or engage in smuggling or piracy, have got a name around the Baltic to differentiate them from other similar crews. As image of their original counterparts from the Caribbean, they are Buccaneers of the Baltic Sea. Commonly referred to just as Buccaneers.
Most of the population still consists of the native Ålandic people, with Swedes and Finns being the second and third most numerous groups. Every nation on the Baltic coast, along with Norway, has a significant minority presence. But one can encounter people from any corner of the world in Åland. While Åland itself does not have a Refugee Hive from the time of the Refugee Crisis, nearly all the Baltic Sea states have a few, so people of most known ethnicities have been living in the region for a long time.
The common language in Åland Islands remains Swedish. Even for newcomers, no matter from where they originate, it is considered to be bad manners not to learn Swedish. The language of the other neighboring country, Finnish, is also somewhat common just for the trade with Finnish mainland, although far fewer people speak it. The languages of the two most powerful countries surrounding the Baltic, German and Russian, are also often heard. Polish is the next most common, followed by Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian.
Geography and surroundings
90% of the population resides on the island of Fasta Åland, also the site of Mariehamn, the capital. In addition, there are a further 6 500 skerries and islands to the east. Only 60 of these used to be inhabited. Many, especially the skerries, were just too small for habitation. But modern technology and construction methods have changed that. It is not uncommon for a ship crew to have their own skerry or even a small island, with a tower-like structure as a house and a pier for mooring their vessel.
Åland archipelago is contiguous with the Finnish Archipelago Sea. You can reach the coast of Finland with always an island in sight. From Mariehamn, there is a sailing distance of about 160 kilometres (99 miles) to the city of Turku on the Finnish coast, and 135 kilometres (84 miles) to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.
Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Roslagen in Sweden by only 38 kilometres (24 miles) of open water to the west. About half way, there is the lighthouse and island of Märket that used to be shared with Sweden but which Sweden gave entirely to Åland after the independence.
The Åland Islands occupy a position of strategic importance, as they command one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm, as well as the approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated near the Gulf of Finland. This naturally suits the Buccaneers well. In truth, using the Åland approach to the port of Stockholm is generally quite safe, even for corporate shipping. No matter how dependent they are of the Buccaneers, Åland’s government will not tolerate actions that would risk their relationship with Sweden and Finland, and any Buccaneer crew making a blatant strike near Stockholm would find themselves no longer welcome.
The capital city of Åland. Founded in 1861, the town was named after the Russian empress Maria Alexandrovna, literally meaning "Marie's Port". Mariehamn was built according to a very regular scheme which is still well-preserved in the original parts but largely lost in the newer expansion. These are now referred to as Old City and New City
The Old City of Mariehamn was built on part of a peninsula and home to a bit under 12 000 people. The present day Mariehamn of 2185 holds more than 30 000 people and over half of Åland’s population. The New City has expanded to cover the entire peninsula, some of the surrounding islands, and has pushed into the mainland.
Most of the buildings have been replaced by newer construction, but three examples of the original architecture remain. The Lutheran church of Mariehamn, the main building of the Åland Maritime College, and the town hall. Most of the buildings and services are administrative in nature. The Old City is the center of the government of Åland. There is also a hospital, a small airport, and two ports in both eastern and western sides of the peninsula. The ports are mainly for handling cargo and passenger traffic, and for short time berthing. More permanent berths for Buccaneer vessels are available in the New City port. There are residential areas too, the most expensive in Åland. And some hotels, including Hotel Arkipelag, the oldest and most significant one in the city. These days, the hotel houses mainly foreign dignitaries, but also various representatives, including clandestine corporate ones, seeking the goods and services of Åland for their patrons. For Buccaneers to receive an invitation to a meeting in Hotel Arkipelag means that there is a lucrative – and almost certainly risky – assignment available.
Few buccaneers reside in Old City, except for some retired ones who had successful careers.
The expansion of Mariehamn happened largely with a rule of “most money, first served”. The closer to Old City, the classier the neighborhood, whether talking about residential areas or services. Moving closer to the edges, the areas become shabbier. It never gets to actual slums, but the outer edges of the New City are certainly considered to be rough neighborhoods.
New City is more of a residential and entertainment district than Old City. And here you can find a lot more Buccaneers. New City Port offers berths for those Buccaneer vessels that do not have their own piers in the smaller islands, and even crews from surrounding islands can often be found in the New City, whether relaxing or looking for a gig. The port area also has many shops and services. It is said that nearly anything can be purchased here if you can find the right store. The services include numerous brokers and fixers who seek to connect cargoes with customers and clients with Buccaneer crews to do their jobs. There are also plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants. Classier close to the Old City, rowdier near the city limits.
While Mariehamn is quite cosmopolitan and the surrounding islands are homes to Buccaneer crews of various nationalities, Åland’s mainland is a stark contrast. That is where most of the Ålandic people live, and precious few others. There are various smaller towns and villages in the mainland, and while a non-Ålandic visitor would be treated cordially in regions close to the capital, farther away the reception would be much more chilly. Most of the original population who have a problem with all the foreigners who have moved in have migrated to the mainland. The coast does have bases of a few Buccaneer crews, but those crews are almost exclusively Ålandic people.
The corporate embargo withered the original economy of trade and tourism. These days, in addition to farming and fishing that continue as they have for generations, the mainland businesses produce goods for local use and sale in the Capital, and many people commute to work in Mariehamn. The goods provided include even very high end products, for Åland had a few high-profile technology companies, and embargoed out of international trade they have turned their industry into providing to the locals. Buccaneers especially are prime consumers of their various products. Mainland is also where Åland gets its power, mainly from numerous wind farms.
Most of the islands and skerries near Fasta Åland have Buccaneer bases. Often just a single building and a pier for the vessel, but larger islands can have numerous facilities. As one moves closer to the Finnish coast, the inhabited islands become fewer in between, until one can still find pristine, uninhabited islands. Although some of those islands are reputed to have hidden stashes or entire bases. The surface of the islands is generally rocky and the soil thin due to glacial stripping at the end of the most recent ice age. The islands also contain many meadows, and there are several natural harbors.
The Northern Fallout Zone
60 years ago, a nuclear explosion destroyed the Russian city of Murmansk, on the coast of the Barents Sea. Various conspiracy theories have attributed the event to anything from a terrorist attack or act of war to Russians nuking the city themselves to hide something even worse. But most likely it was an accident. There were not only nuclear powered Russian Navy ships at the port, Murmansk was also the home port to Atomflot, the world's only fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers. Some of these ships were very old and poorly maintained, and one may have sustained a catastrophic reactor malfunction. Whatever the cause, the event did not just destroy the city and irradiate the Kola Peninsula where Murmansk was situated. The winds blew the fallout all over the northernmost parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway. The people were hastily evacuated. Thankfully, the area was sparsely populated, but entire towns still had to be abandoned.
Some months later, the area was leased by Reclaim International, a recycling and waste management megacorporation. The governments, in need of money to relocate the evacuated people, agreed to the lease, thinking that Reclaim might be planning to cleanse the area. Instead, Reclaim turned the Fallout Zone into the world’s largest dumping ground. Already irradiated, they started dumping the waste they collected globally, especially hazardous waste, into the zone.
The worst of the radiation has subsided, but the Northern Fallout Zone still remains irradiated. Not only that, now there is also toxic and otherwise hazardous waste lying around. Despite this, the Zone is no longer uninhabited. Over the decades, people have moved there. Most of them people not welcome elsewhere, such as refugees facing deportation, fugitives from law or escaped synths. But also daring people scavenging the abandoned cities and waste heaps for valuables, gangs and fringe groups seeking a place to establish their own rule, even hermits and groups of mystics. All of these people are called by the general name of Badlanders. So in addition to the other hazards, these days anyone visiting the Fallout Zone would also have armed gangs to worry about.
A nation of over 10 million people, and the most important ally for Åland. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, and king is the head of state, but the role of the monarch is limited to ceremonial and representative functions. Swedish foreign policy is based on the principle of non-alignment in peacetime and neutrality in wartime.
Sweden is the sixteenth-richest country in the world with a high standard of living and an export-oriented mixed economy with a heavy emphasis on foreign trade. The largest trade flows are with Germany, the United States, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Sweden's engineering sector accounts for 50% of output and exports and it is the ninth-largest arms exporter in the world. A significant number of armaments the Buccaneers use have been made in Sweden.
Buccaneers generally leave Swedish shipping alone, even that of Swedish corporations. Exceptions do happen for various reasons, but as a rule, raiding a Swedish ship is a sure way for a crew to end up in trouble with Ålandic authorities and the Buccaneer Admirality.
The capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in Scandinavia, with two and a half million people living in the metropolitan area. Stockholm is the cultural, media, political, and economic centre of Sweden and is among the top 10 regions in Europe by GDP per capita. It is the main centre for corporate headquarters in the Nordic region. The city is home to some of Europe's top ranking universities, it hosts the annual Nobel Prize ceremonies and is the seat of the Swedish government. Stockholm Palace is the official residence of the Swedish monarch, while Drottningholm Palace on the outskirts of Stockholm serves as the Royal Family's private residence. The central parts of the city consist of fourteen islands that are continuous with the Stockholm archipelago. Over 30% of the City area is made up of waterways and another 30% is made up of parks and green spaces.
Sweden's largest island. It occupies a strategic location in the Baltic Sea, located about 90 km (56 miles) east of the Swedish mainland and about 130 km (81 miles) from the Baltic states, Latvia being the nearest. The island has a bit over 60 000 inhabitants, most of whom live in Visby, the main town. Swedish Army has a permanent military presence on Gotland, the Gotland Regiment, along with a support helicopter squadron and an Air Force fast response jet squadron. Despite its importance as a naval base in the past, there are no naval units based out of Gotland. Except for a mercenary unit, Victual Brothers.
Swedish Navy consists of two Naval Warfare Flotillas, one Submarine Flotilla, and an Amphibious Marine unit. The navy has two bases. Karlskrona naval base to the far southern Sweden, and Muskö naval base, an underground naval facility located at Muskö island in the Stockholm archipelago. Right next door to the Buccaneers in Åland.
The ships of the Navy number 7 corvettes, 9 mine countermeasure vessels, 5 submarines, 14 patrol vessels, close to 150 Gunboats, and various auxiliary vessels including close to a hundred Landing Craft.
Swedish submarines are locally made, with air-independent propulsion and GHOST (Genuine HOlistic STealth) technology, making them extremely quiet. They are also designed to withstand significant shock loads from underwater explosions and can launch and recover vehicles through their torpedo tubes.
With the exception of some specialized auxiliary vessels, Swedish surface ships are also of Swedish design. They include patrol boats, combat boats, minesweepers, ocean patrol vessels, signal intelligence vessels, and auxiliary craft such as a submarine salvage ships. The main combat vessels are Visby-class corvettes. The ship's design heavily emphasizes low visibility, radar cross-section and infrared signature. To put it simply, they are stealth ships.
Buccaneer wisdom on Swedish Navy: “By the time you see them coming, it is already too late.”
The eastern neighbor of Åland, with a population of five and a half million. The economy of Finland has a per capita output equal to that of other European economies such as those of France or Germany. With respect to foreign trade, the key economic sector is manufacturing, with the largest industries being electronics; machinery, vehicles, and other engineered metal products; forest industry; and chemicals. Finland has a somewhat unusual corporate culture. It has the highest concentration of cooperatives relative to its population, democratically owned by their members. The Buccaneers do not normally target Finnish shipping.
The majority of international cargo shipments are handled at ports. Vuosaari Harbour in Helsinki is the largest container port in Finland; others include Kotka, Hamina, Hanko, Pori, Rauma, and Oulu. There is also passenger traffic from Helsinki and Turku. The Helsinki-Tallinn route is one of the busiest passenger sea routes in the world. Outside of the inner city, much of Helsinki consists of suburbs separated by patches of forest. The City of Helsinki has about 11 000 boat berths and possesses over 14 000 hectares (54.1 square miles) of marine fishing waters adjacent to the Capital Region. Some 60 fish species are found in this area and recreational fishing is popular.
The capital and largest city of Finland, with a population of over 1.5 million people in the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area. Helsinki has one of the world's highest urban standards of living. Called the "Daughter of the Baltic" or the "Pearl of the Baltic Sea", Helsinki is on the tip of a peninsula and on 315 islands.
As the crossroads of many international ports and having Finland's largest airport, Helsinki is the global gateway to and from Finland. Foreign citizens make up nearly ten per cent of the population. The Port of Helsinki is the busiest passenger port in the world and the main port for foreign trade in Finland.
Buccaneers usually visit Helsinki only if they have specific business there. If they need something from the mainland, Stockholm and Turku are a lot closer. But it is not uncommon to have business in Helsinki. 83 of the 100 largest Finnish companies have their headquarters in Greater Helsinki, and occasionally some of these – mainly the cooperatives - wish to discreetly obtain the services of the Buccaneers.
The closest Finnish city to Åland, with a population of 200 000. Turku is the oldest city in Finland and a former capital. Located at the mouth of the Aura river, Turku is spread over both banks of the river.
Turku has been officially declared the "Food Capital of Finland", because it holds a number of Finland's oldest and most high quality restaurants, and a historically famous fish market held twice a year. The word turku originally meant “market place” and still does in some Finnish dialects.
The city is a renowned high tech centre. The Turku Science Park hosts over 300 companies from the fields of biotechnology and information technology, as well as several institutions of higher learning that work closely with the business sector. The Port of Turku spans a wide area on the southern coastline of the city. Because of the port's location at the southwestern corner of Finland the harbour provides the most efficient route to serve the Baltic Sea. Turku Harbour is one of the most important shipment points in the country, handling over four million tons of cargo and a corresponding four million passengers per year. Turku has a history of industrial shipbuilding, but the shipyard there specializes in huge cruise ships and ferries, and is of little interest to the Buccaneers.
Turku is also the home port of Boat Club Sea Devils that the Buccaneers have a conflicted relationship with.
The Finnish Navy has 250 ships in one naval fleet, the Coastal Fleet. The fleet is based in Turku, which is also the location of Navy Command headquarters. And Turku is on the Finnish coast, right at the other end of the Åland Archipelago. Meaning that the Finnish Fleet is right next door to the Buccaneers.
In addition to the base in Turku and the Naval Academy in the capital, the Finnish Navy has two more bases on the coast of the Gulf of Finland. One is the base of the Coastal Brigade, a brigade-level unit responsible for amphibious warfare, naval reconnaissance and special operations of the Finnish Navy. The other is the Swedish-speaking Nyland Brigade, or Nylands Brigad in Swedish. The Brigade trains troops for combat in coastal environments. It also trains personnel for the International ATU unit (Amphibious Task Unit), which is a special crisis management force that can be employed in coastal environments. While both the Coastal Brigade and the Nyland brigade are infantry-based, they are capable of posing a threat to ships. Their armament includes both truck-mounted and infantry-carried anti-ship missiles and coastal missiles.
The core of the Coastal Fleet is four multi-purpose frigates and eight missile boats, with about twenty mine layers and mine sweepers. Finns could easily and swiftly block sea approach with mines. The rest of the fleet is mostly transport vessels and auxiliary craft that include among other things three Pollution Control Vessels. But of greatest concern to the Buccaneers is that out of the entire fleet, close to 200 ships are Landing Craft. They could easily transport the entire complement of Finnish Marines – two Coastal Jaeger battalions. The worst nightmare the Buccaneers have of provoking a conflict with Finns is not the frigates, but waking up to find Coastal Jaegers swarming all over the place.
Buccaneer wisdom on Finnish Navy: “Piss this bunch off and the Coastal Jaegers come over and announce that they are here to drink vodka and kick ass, and they are already out of vodka.”
A country of about six million people, Denmark largely controls access to and from the Baltic Sea. Denmark consists of the peninsula of Jutland and 1 419 islands, of which 443 are named and 74 inhabited. The largest islands used to be connected by bridges to each other and to Danish and Swedish mainland, forming a continuous land route. The route still exists, but the bridges no longer exist. In their place is the Danish Seawall, with the roads on top of the wall.
Even though Denmark has historically taken a progressive stance on environmental preservation and implemented climate protection policies, land and water pollution are two of Denmark's most significant environmental issues. This is in part due to the large economic role of the meat and dairy industries, both of which cause substantially high emissions.
Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, although the duties of the monarch are strictly representative and ceremonial. Denmark wields considerable influence in Northern Europe and has moderate influence in international affairs.
Although agriculture continues to be a major industry, Denmark has an expansive industrial base and service sector. 60% of the total export value is due to export of goods, and the remaining 40% is from service exports, mainly sea transport. The country's main export goods are: wind turbines, pharmaceuticals, machinery and instruments, meat and meat products, dairy products, fish, furniture and design. Denmark is a net exporter of food and energy.
Denmark has a long tradition of scientific and technological invention. Danish companies have been influential in the shipping industry with the design of the largest and most energy efficient container ships in the world. Many marine propulsion systems are also of Danish design. Quite a few Buccaneer Vessels contain parts made in Denmark. Denmark also has advanced software, electronics and biotech sectors. Support for free trade is high among the Danes, and the corporate Embargo of Åland is highly unpopular. Quite a few Buccaneers are Danes by ethnicity, and there is plenty of illicit trade between Ålandic smugglers and Danes, with most exchanges happening on the island of Bornholm. Although the Buccaneers do not have an unofficial blanket ban on raiding Danish shipping, they mainly targets the shipments of global corporations while leaving the shipments of mostly Danish-owned businesses alone.
The capital and most populous city of Denmark, with over two million people living in the Copenhagen Metropolitan Area. The city is the cultural, economic and governmental centre of Denmark, and one of the major financial centres of Northern Europe. The city's economy is based largely on services and commerce. Since the summer of 2000, Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmö had been connected by the Øresund Bridge, which carries rail and road traffic. Although the bridge has been replaced by a section of the Danish Seawall, the connection still exists, the traffic traveling on the top of the wall. As a result, Copenhagen has become the centre of a larger metropolitan area spanning both nations.
Several financial institutions and banks have headquarters in Copenhagen. The city is also home to a number of international companies. City authorities have encouraged the development of business clusters in several innovative sectors, which include information technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, clean technology and smart city solutions. Life science is a key sector with extensive research and development activities. Medicon Valley is a leading bi-national life sciences cluster in Europe. Shipping is another important sector with the world's largest shipping company having their world headquarters in Copenhagen. The city’s harbour, Copenhagen Port, has merged with Malmö harbour. Both ports are operated by Copenhagen Malmö Port (CMP). The central location in the Øresund Region allows the ports to act as a hub for freight that is transported onward to the Baltic countries. CMP annually receives about 8,000 ships.
Copenhagen is a popular destination for the Buccaneers, but not so much for its services as for its nightlife. Certain areas of the city are especially noted for it, with several notable nightclubs. Copenhagen has one of the highest number of restaurants and bars per capita in the world. The nightclubs and bars stay open until 5 or 6 in the morning, some even longer. Denmark has a very liberal alcohol culture and a strong tradition for beer breweries, although binge drinking is frowned upon. Copenhagen also has the two oldest amusement parks in the world. When Buccaneers visit, they often do so in order to party and have fun.
A Danish island strategically located in the Baltic Sea, to the east of the rest of Denmark, south of Sweden, northeast of Germany and north of Poland. Bornholm has a total population of 40 000 people. Known as Sunshine Island, Bornholm is a popular tourist destination. And with the Åland Embargo, a prime smuggling hub. Individuals and corporations who do not dare to trade directly with Åland trade their goods to local middlemen who then trade them to Ålandic smugglers. This Trade tends to happen under the guise of visiting tourists and local trade, and has proven extremely difficult for corporations to interfere with due to Bornholm’s characteristics. There is very little large corporate presence on the island, and because of its remote location Bornholm Regional Municipality has its own traffic company, is its own employment region, and also performs other tasks normally carried out by the regions in the rest of Denmark. In some respects the municipality forms a region of its own.
The Royal Danish Navy is mainly responsible for maritime defense and maintaining the sovereignty of Danish territorial waters - including Faroe Islands and Greenland. The navy is equipped with a number of large state-of-the-art vessels, although their number is low. 16 ships, 28 vessels and 30 boats.
Danish Navy has three major bases, two of which are on Baltic coast, near Copenhagen and in Zealand. They also have a number of minor bases and coastal fortifications, and three Sea surveillance stations, the most notable one to Buccaneers being in Bornholm.
Danish Navy is divided into three squadrons. First squadron handles all tasks regarding Arctic Ocean affairs and is hardly ever encountered by the Buccaneers. It includes four ocean patrol frigates, three ocean patrol cutters, and half a dozen cartography vessels. Second squadron, based in the island of Zealand, is specialized in foreign affairs. It consists of five frigates, a Diving Service patrol vessel, and a number of minehunter drones.
Third squadron, based on the northeastern coast of the Jylland peninsula, handles all tasks regarding domestic affairs. It consists of half a dozen patrol boats, two multirole boats, and a number of environmental protection vessels.
Danish Navy also has a number of vessels not part of the squadrons, including fast response and search and rescue vessels. In addition to that, though not a part of the Royal Danish Navy, Naval Home Guard vessels – all patrol boats - support the Danish Navy in a number of tasks. Generally, the Royal Danish Navy’s focus is on Arctic Ocean patrols and on protecting the Danish straits and the Danish coast. When encountered in the Baltic Sea outside the Danish territorial waters, they are usually on non-confrontational tasks such as surveillance, search and rescue, or oil spill recovery. A good thing for the Buccaneers who have practically nothing to challenge the Danish frigates with.
Buccaneer wisdom on Danish Navy: “When you are in Danish waters, play nice. Play really nice.”
A country of around 1.3 million people on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. Estonia has over two thousand islands and islets in the Baltic sea, many of these making ideal meeting places for Buccaneers and clients or customers in the Baltic states. And there are plenty of those in Estonia. Over there, the Åland Embargo was largely seen as a business opportunity rather than an obstacle to trade, and most Estonian corporations are perfectly happy to do off the books trade with the Buccaneers, making Estonia-Åland route a smuggling route with heavy traffic.
And not all trade between the Buccaneers and their Estonian partners is in physical products. Banking and online services are also a source of brisk trade. A free trade regime, competitive commercial banking sector, innovative e-Services and mobile-based services are all hallmarks of Estonia's market economy. They are also at the leading edge of e-government, with 99 percent of the public services being available on the web 24 hours a day. It is no secret then that many Buccaneer crews have accounts in Estonian banks and sites, phone numbers with Estonian telecommunication companies, and online storage in various commercial servers, usually behind cover of front companies provided by yet other service providers. These services are considered safe to use with little risk of megacorp interference. The Ease of Doing Business Index places Estonia among the top 20 in the world, and the country has the third lowest business bribery risk in the world.
Although Estonia is in general resource-poor, it is not reliant on just its service and information technology sectors. Food, construction, and electronic industries are among the most important branches of Estonia's industry, followed by the machinery and chemical industry. However, there are vast disparities between different areas of Estonia. Over half of the country's GDP is created in the capital city of Tallinn, and that is where most of the wealth is concentrated. This has been a contributing factor to the situation that has given rise to one of the most brutal rivals of the Buccaneers, The Raiders of Thule. They operate semi-openly from the island of Saaremaa. The Raiders leave Estonian shipping alone and support and are supported by some populist right wing political groups with support in the areas outside the capital. Their supporters downplay their violent activities at Sea and paint them as Robin Hoods supporting the country’s rural economy, and with the government’s silent acceptance of trade with Buccaneers they lack the political capital to shut down the Raiders, even if they’d be happy to see the pirates gone.
The capital and the main financial, industrial and cultural centre of Estonia, with a population of half a million people. Tallinn is situated on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, 80.32 kilometres (49.91 miles) south of Helsinki, and the Helsinki-Tallinn route is one of the busiest passenger sea routes in the world. The city has a highly diversified economy with particular strengths in tourism, logistics and especially information technology and cybernetics. Tallinn has been called the Silicon Valley of the Baltic Sea.
The Port of Tallinn is one of the largest port enterprises of the Baltic Sea, with five constituent harbors. It is a popular port of call for Buccaneers, many of whom do business in Tallinn.
The largest island in Estonia, with a total population of 30 000 people. Once a popular tourist destination that still has its own passenger port, the island sees fever visitors these days, but has an entrepreneur-friendly, safe, and strain-free economic environment. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, the entrepreneurs include the pirate group Raiders of Thule. Just like Åland’s economy is dependent on the Buccaneers, Saaremaa depends on the Raiders. Although the atmosphere is less welcoming in Saaremaa, where the raiders are only grudgingly accepted by the general population although the authorities treat them friendly. The Raiders are on their best behavior in their home port, not wishing to dirty their own nest, but they have no code of conduct like the Buccaneers do, and enough rumors about their ruthlessness get around that many locals have serious doubts about the value of having the Raiders around.
Estonia never had a large navy, with only half a dozen commissioned ships, so when Triton Corporation started offering naval mercenary services around the Baltic Sea, it was not a huge decision not to upgrade their aging fleet and instead contract Triton for Navy services. Although this decision ended up forming the core group of what became the Raiders of Thule as former Navy personnel looked for other opportunities.
Currently, Estonia is contracting ten Triton vessels, mostly patrol boats for force protection at sea and in ports, along with a minelayer and a pair of mine hunters.
Estonia still maintains its own Border Guard that has patrol boats of their own, and although these are police rather than military vessels, they are not to be laughed at, and perfectly capable of catching and apprehending a careless Buccaneer crew with their fast patrol craft.
Buccaneer wisdom on Estonian Navy: “Forget the Tritons – beware of the Border Guard!”
A nation of two million people between Estonia and Lithuania. Latvia has a high-income advanced economy, although the country mainly produces low-value goods and raw materials and Latvian economy is heavily dependent on foreign investment. This has resulted in corporations having a lot of influence in Latvian politics.
The biggest exporters are in wood products, IT, food and beverage manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, transport and metallurgy.
The capital and home to a third of Latvia's population. Roughly half of all the jobs in Latvia are in Riga and the city generates more than 50% of Latvia's GDP as well as around half of Latvia's exports. Riga Port is one of the largest in the Baltics, but Buccaneers rarely manage to visit, since to do so they would have to pass the Raiders of Thule to access the Gulf of Riga.
The Freeport of Ventspils
The port of Ventspils is a deep-water sea port located in Ventspils on Latvia's Baltic coast. It can accommodate the largest vessels operating in the Baltic Sea, and by cargo turnover it is one of the Baltic Sea's busiest ports.
Although in theory supervised by the Latvian government through the Ventspils Freeport Law, large corporations effectively control much of the day to day business of the port. This poses some problems for the Buccaneers. Ventspils is not situated in the Gulf of Riga, so it is the major Latvian port that can be accessed without risking confrontation with the Raiders of Thule, but if the corporations learn of a Buccaneer ship in port, they have plenty of official and unofficial ways to cause trouble. Having forged documentation when entering is very much recommended. But if the Buccaneers manage to stay unnoticed by the corporations, the Freeport is full of opportunities. In addition to megacorps, a large number of smaller businesses move their cargoes through Ventspils, and it is a port of call for many independent vessels in the Baltic. There is always work to be had for a daring crew who does not ask too many questions.
Just like other Baltic states, Latvia never had a large navy. Half a dozen mine ships and a dozen patrol boats divided between the Navy and Coast Guard. And Latvia too decommissioned their own navy ships and contracted the services of Triton vessels instead, only keeping their Coast Guard.
Latvian Coast Guard is not at all happy with the Raiders of Thule having their base in a position to control access to the Gulf of Riga, and they take every opportunity to harass the Raiders. The Raiders, for their part, usually try to avoid a confrontation with the Latvians, knowing that if the tense situation escalates they might lose the political support they need to operate. Also, Latvian patrol boats are well armed for their role, with over the horizon anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, and a 76 mm gun. Not to mention having skilled crews. If the Raiders give Latvians a reason to engage, they might end up with their ships sunk.
Of course, the same could happen to a Buccaneer vessel that decides to provoke the Latvian Coast Guard.
Buccaneer wisdom on Latvian Navy: “If you are being chased by the Raiders of Thule, you might be happy to see their Coast Guard. Otherwise, best to keep clear.”
The southernmost of the Baltic states, with close to three million people. Lithuania has 99 kilometres (61.5 miles) of sandy coastline, only about 38 kilometres (24 miles) of which face the open Baltic Sea, less than the other two Baltic Sea countries. The rest of the coast is sheltered by the Curonian sand peninsula. Lithuania's major warm-water port, Klaipėda, lies at the narrow mouth of the Curonian Lagoon, a shallow lagoon extending south to Kaliningrad. The country's main and largest river, the Nemunas River, and some of its tributaries carry international shipping.
While Lithuania is a reasonably safe country for an average person, with strong law enforcement and little violent crime, Lithuanian cybercriminals are notorious for their skill, and visiting Buccaneer vessels are advised to make sure that their security systems are up to date. But if a Buccaneer crew is on a job involving electronic data or information technology security, some go out of their way to hire a Lithuanian hacker along on the job.
The three most important fields of export in Lithuania are Agricultural products and food, chemical products and plastics, and machinery and appliances. Most of the exports are transported by land, with mainly just Sweden and Germany receiving shipments by sea. Information technology, particularly financial technology, is also a major source of income for Lithuania, although the IT security of the corporations is in a constant struggle with local hackers.
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and its largest city, with a population of close to 750 000 in the metropolitan area. Vilnius lies far inland, 312 km (194 miles) from the Baltic Sea. Few Buccaneers visit the city unless they have specific business there. Which they sometimes do. Vilnius has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world, and it is said that the best hackers in the Baltic area can be found here.
Klaipėda is the third largest city of Lithuania and has the country’s only seaport. Close to 250 000 people live in the city and environs, and many large corporations have a presence in the Klaipėda Free Economic Zone, in the eastern part of the city.
Lithuania had the smallest Navy of the Baltic states, with just three mine ships and four patrol boats. These days, most of their naval services are provided by Triton mercenaries, just like those of other Baltic states. They only kept three auxiliary ships. A Coast Guard cutter, a sea rescue vessel and a tug with icebreaker capabilities - although the capability sees little use these days. Lithuanian ships mainly provide assistance to ships in distress, with all the aggressive duties handled by Triton.
Buccaneer wisdom on Lithuanian Navy: “Except for the mercs, this bunch is actually a welcome sight if you are in trouble.”
With a population of over 83 million and a strong economy, Germany is in the pair of the two most powerful nations around the Baltic Sea, along with Russia. Germany’s capital and largest city is Berlin, its financial centre is Frankfurt, and the largest urban area is the Ruhr. But all three of these are situated far inland and are hardly ever visited by the Buccaneers unless they are deep undercover. Germany is no friend to the Buccaneers, and German ports and cities are not safe for them.
Germany has a highly skilled labour force, a low level of corruption, and a high level of innovation. It is the world's third largest exporter of goods, and has the largest economy in Europe, which is also the world's fourth-largest. The top 10 exports of Germany are vehicles, machinery, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, transport equipment, basic metals, food products, and rubber and plastics.
Of the world's 500 largest stock-market-listed companies, 29 are headquartered in Germany, and Germany largely supports the corporate embargo of Åland. However, the German government has a long-standing policy of noninterference in all corporate affairs outside German territories. That means that while German Navy will ruthlessly pursue identified Buccaneer vessels in German waters and may come after them even in the Corporate Economic Zone, they respect the territories of other nations and will never continue pursuit in the territorial waters of other Baltic Sea states.
Known as Germany's "Gateway to the World" The Port of Hamburg is on the river Elbe in Hamburg, Germany, 110 kilometres (68 miles) from its mouth on the North Sea. The mouth has a wall with a lock system, a smaller version of the Danish Seawall, that protects Elbe and Hamburg from the higher sea level of the Atlantic.
Hamburg is difficult for the Buccaneers to reach unless they can access the German canals and rivers. It is the third-busiest port in Europe and Germany's largest seaport by volume. The Port of Hamburg is also one of Hamburg's largest attractions, both as a living, industrial and logistic center but also as a backdrop for modern culture and the port's history. Among these are various museum ships, musical theaters, bars, restaurants and hotels - and even a floating boat church.
The fact that trade and traffic from Hamburg continues unimpeded is a big reason why the German government considers Ålandic Buccaneers and the Raiders of Thule to be largely problems for the corporations.
With over 200 000 inhabitants, Rostock is the third largest city on the German Baltic coast after Kiel and Lübeck. Rostock was the largest coastal and most important port city in East Germany. The Port of Rostock is the largest port on the German Baltic coast. The city is home to the oldest and largest university in the Baltic Sea area and one of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Rostock.
The economy of the city is mainly characterized by maritime industries (especially shipbuilding), high-tech industries (IT, biotechnology/life sciences, medical engineering), the University of Rostock, tourism and the service sector.
Despite the dangers of visiting German Ports, some Buccaneer hackers and engineers sometimes sneak in in order to gain access to the datastores of the university’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Marine Technology, and to the shipyards. Some of the best ships in the Baltic Sea are made in Rostock, and Buccaneer crews who wish to have the best and most advanced upgrades for their vessels will have to brave the German authorities and gain access to Rostock.
With around 220 000 inhabitants, Lübeck is the second-largest city on the German Baltic coast. The city lies on the mouth of the River Trave, which flows into the Bay of Lübeck. The Elbe–Lübeck Canal, which connects the Baltic to the Elbe River at Lauenburg, also crosses the city. The city is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, and is the southwesternmost city on the Baltic, as well as the closest point of access to the Baltic from Hamburg. The port of Lübeck is the second-largest German Baltic port after the port of Rostock.
Lübeck’s importance to the Buccaneers lies in the fact that any Buccaneer crew that needs for some reason to gain access to Hamburg or to Elbe and the German inland will need to pass through the city. And just like with the other German ports, this has its risks.
Kiel has a population of 250 000 and due to its geographic location in the southeast of the Jutland peninsula on the southwestern shore of the Baltic Sea, has become one of Germany's major maritime centres. Kiel has also been one of the traditional homes of the German Navy's Baltic fleet, and continues to be a major high-tech shipbuilding centre. Kiel is an important sea transport hub, thanks to its location on the Kiel Fjord, and the busiest artificial waterway in the world, Kiel Canal, connecting Baltic Sea with the North Sea.
While Kiel is a leading centre of German high-tech military and civil shipbuilding, the strong presence of German Navy means that most Buccaneers in search of advanced ship upgrades will visit Rostock instead, although daring exceptions have happened. Most of the time when Buccaneers need to brave the German authorities at Kiel, it is to gain access to the canal.
German Navy is one of the least friendly to Buccaneers in the Baltic. Its primary mission is not just the protection of Germany's territorial waters and maritime infrastructure, but also that of sea lines of communication. The German Navy also participates in anti-piracy operations, and they do not consider the Buccaneers much different from the Raiders of Thule.
German Navy is also the largest and most advanced of the fleets in the Baltic Sea. In total, there are about 65 commissioned ships in the German Navy, including; 10 frigates, 5 corvettes, 2 minesweepers, 10 minehunters, 6 submarines, 11 replenishment ships and 20 miscellaneous auxiliary vessels. The total displacement of the navy is 220,000 tonnes.
German frigates have the highest displacement of any class of frigate worldwide, and one of the specialties they are designed for is asymmetric threat control at sea – making them a particular threat to irregular fleets like the Buccaneers. The frigates carry gunships, and in addition to missiles, their 127 mm guns have a range of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles). And they are just as dangerous up close with both autocannon and machine gun turrets and even non-lethal weapon system for capturing hostile crews. The frigates are capable of using their gunships and weaponry to harass a smaller, faster ship until the frigate catches up.
German corvettes have similarities to frigates. Although their guns do not have as much range, they do have missiles and they are faster than the frigates. And they all carry two unmanned aerial vehicles for remote sensing.
German submarines are another class of nightmare. The submarines can operate at high speed or switch to the AIP system for silent slow cruising, staying submerged for up to three weeks with little exhaust heat. The system is also vibration-free, extremely quiet and virtually undetectable.
Buccaneer wisdom on German Navy: “If you see one of their drones in air, drop whatever you are doing and run – and hope that you are fast enough that you won’t see the ships!”
With a population of nearly 38.5 million people, Poland is the fifth most populous member state of the European Union and ninth largest by land area. The country’s Baltic seacoast spans 770 kilometers (478 miles) from the Bay of Pomerania to the Gulf of Gdańsk, and is marked by several spits, coastal lakes, and dunes.
Poland is the 20th largest exporter of goods and services in the world and its most successful exports include machinery, furniture, food products, clothing, shoes, cosmetics and videogames. The country is the regional economic leader in Central Europe, with nearly 40 per cent of the 500 biggest companies in the region, as well as a high globalization rate. Warsaw leads Central Europe in foreign investment. And over 40 research and development centers and 4,500 researchers make Poland the biggest research and development hub in Central and Eastern Europe. Several multinational companies have set up research and development centres in Poland because of the availability of highly qualified labour force, presence of universities, support of authorities, and the largest market in East-Central Europe. All this means that megacorporations wield plenty of influence in Poland and possess several corporate enclaves with their own rules, where the corporate security acts as the police force.
Quite a few private security firms have headquarters in Poland, and these are often contracted by megacorporations operating in Poland to act as security on board corporate vessels, which has brought them into clashes with the Buccaneers. Some of the more unscrupulous ones have been contracted to perform sabotage and retaliatory strikes against the Buccaneers in Åland. This has caused a somewhat tense situations where Polish crews visiting Åland are regarded with suspicion and Buccaneers need to be careful when visiting Polish ports. While the Polish Border Guard will not go out of their way to detain Buccaneers that behave themselves, unless they are wanted for crimes in Poland, some private contractors with a grudge might decide to harass Buccaneer crews. And since they have license to operate in Poland, as long as they don’t go too far they can usually do so without interference from the law enforcement. Black Dog Security is a particularly tenacious opponent of the Buccaneers.
Poland's capital and largest metropolis, with over three million people living in the metropolitan area. Warsaw is a primary node in the global economic network and hosts Poland’s largest corporate enclaves. In Warsaw, the security forces of the most powerful corporations have police rights even outside the enclaves, which makes the city dangerous for Buccaneers to openly visit. Since Warsaw is located deep inland, few Buccaneers go there unless they have specific business in the city.
A metropolitan area consisting of three cities: Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot, as well as minor towns in their vicinity. They are situated adjacent to one another, in a row on the coast of Gdańsk Bay. The Tricity metropolitan area has a population of over 1 million people. The port of Gdynia is a regular stopover on the cruising itinerary of large, luxury passenger ships. The port also adjoins Gdynia Naval Base. The Port of Gdańsk has specialized cargo handling equipment and port infrastructure, enabling among others the handling of grain, fertilizers, lumber, ore, steel and containers, as well as vessel servicing. Together they make one of the largest seaports of the Baltic Sea. A substantial number of taxpayers from Tricity are in the middle and high income groups. The Tricity is also an important center of education, entertainment and scientific research. It also hosts some of the largest corporate enclaves.
The large corporate presence makes Tricity a popular target for Buccaneers, although most of them avoid the port. The presence of a Naval Base makes scrutiny at the port tighter than usual, and the corporations have so much influence on the port authority that a Buccaneer vessel would not be welcome. Tricity is also where Black Dog Security has their headquarters, and their presence makes visits especially perilous. Usually when Buccaneers arrive in the Tricity, they are interested in one of the corporate enclaves, and dock at some other port and arrive by land.
Szczecin and Świnoujście
The Ports of Szczecin and Świnoujście are managed by a single authority, creating one of the largest port complexes at the Baltic Sea. The Port of Świnoujście is located at the Świna strait, on Wolin and Usedom islands, and has passenger terminal. The Port of Szczecin is located at the Oder and Regalica rivers off the Szczecin Lagoon. The port includes a shipyard, a free trade zone within the port area, and a handful of corporate enclaves.
The ports and both towns have seen a number of engagements between the Buccaneers and corporate security teams. Plenty of private vessels dock in Świnoujście, and Buccaneers tend to slip in among them in order to spy for targets in corporate shipping out of Szczecin or pull off an operation against a corporate enclave there, usually targeting data in one of the R&D centers. Due to this, private security teams keep an eye out for arriving Buccaneers to deal with them before they cause trouble.
Since both the Buccaneers and the security teams consider the area important for them, they both try to avoid collateral damage when they clash. The locals have come to consider the engagements as a sort of entertainment, with people gathering to watch and the police concentrating on keeping the bystanders out of the line of fire rather than breaking up the clash. These engagements have even featured on TV series and video games made in Poland.
Of the cities, Szczecin, with over 400 000 inhabitants, is much larger than Świnoujście, with a bit over 40 000 inhabitants.
A town of close to 50 000 people, Kołobrzeg is a regional cultural center and a popular tourist destination for both Poles, Germans and Danes. It provides a unique combination of a seaside resort, health resort, an old town full of historic monuments and tourist entertainment options - meaning numerous beer gardens. The Port of Kołobrzeg has a yacht harbour, fishing harbor and ferry harbour.
Megacorporations are largely absent from Kołobrzeg and very little of their traffic goes through the port. Kołobrzeg is still a popular destination for Buccaneers, who find it easy to blend in with tourist yachts. They come here to chill out and to meet Polish clients and contacts.
For the nation’s size, Poland does not have a huge navy compared to some other Baltic Sea nations. 48 ships, including: 3 submarines, 2 frigates, 2 corvettes, 3 fast-attack craft, 21 mine destroyers, 5 mine layers, 4 salvage ships, 6 auxiliary ships and 2 training vessels. But all the vessels are fully modern with skilled crews, the vessels and their gear being a mix of domestically made and purchased from other nations, mainly Germany and Sweden.
The Polish Navy’s main role is the defense of Poland's territorial waters. They may sometimes provide escort for diplomatic vessels or those working for the branches of Polish Government, but do not escort corporate vessels. They will, however, respond to any distress calls on Polish waters, and when they do they are not inclined to go easy on Buccaneers.
Buccaneer wisdom on Polish Navy: “If you plan to hit a ship coming from or going to Poland, do yourself a favor and do it in international waters. You do not want these people after you.”
Russian Federation is a giant, with 140 million people and a land area of over 17 million square kilometers (6 600 000 square miles). It is the largest country in the world. Although only a tiny part of Russia touches the Baltic Sea, there is no ignoring the country.
Of all the states bordering the Baltic Sea, Russia has the worst human rights management. Corruption is also a significant problem in Russia, impacting various aspects of life. The phenomenon of corruption is strongly established in the historical model of public governance in Russia and attributed to general weakness of rule of law in Russia. For the Buccaneers, this is both a threat and an opportunity. Getting effectively blackmailed by local authorities is always a threat for Buccaneers visiting a Russian port, and doing business in Russia practically demands greasing some palms. On the other hand, gear and services difficult or even impossible to obtain elsewhere can be acquired in Russia if you know the right people and can afford proper gifts.
Various natural resources account for more than 80% of Russian exports abroad. The oil and gas pipelines traversing the floor of the Baltic Sea are of particular importance to Russia, who will go to lengths to ensure that they are not disturbed. The defense industry of Russia is also a strategically important sector and a large employer in the country. Russia has a large and fully indigenous arms industry, producing most of its own military equipment. The country is also the world's third-biggest exporter of arms. Many military-grade weapons used by the Buccaneers are of Russian manufacture.
With a population of roughly five and a half million residents, Saint Petersburg is the most populous city on the Baltic Sea. It is also known as the Cultural Capital of Russia, and receives millions of tourists every year. The city serves as a home to some bodies of Russian federal government, among others the headquarters of the Russian Navy. Saint Petersburg has three large cargo seaports and two passenger ports for international cruise liners. It is also the financial and industrial centre of Russia, with many specializations of great interest to the Buccaneers. Shipbuilding yards; technologies such as radio, electronics, software, and computers; heavy machinery and transport, including military equipment; chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment. And of course, the city's many local distilleries produce a broad range of vodka brands. The oldest one is LIVIZ, founded in 1897.
What all of the above means is that when Buccaneers have money to spend, it is to Saint Petersburg they will go. As long as they hide any armaments on their boats and bring “gifts” to the port authorities, it is generally safe to do so. Many things difficult to obtain elsewhere can be obtained in Saint Petersburg, if one has enough money and the right contacts. Advanced cybernetics, military-grade weapons and equipment for the ship and crew. Even a new ship, including military vessels.
Then again, some Buccaneers visit Saint Petersburg just to have fun. No matter what your interests, the city has numerous sights and experiences on offer, and while Buccaneers can and will party at home, in Saint Petersburg they can do it with style.
The largest transportation and logistics hub in northwestern Russia. Unlike the other ports, Ust-Luga is almost entirely under corporate control. Russia had ambitious plans for developing the port, but corruption and inefficiency stalled the development for a long time, and eventually the rights were sold to various corporations, who now have near total control of the port and its traffic. What is especially concerning to some is that Ust-Luga is a transit point for radioactive waste.
Most of corporate shipping to and from Russia goes through Ust-Luga, and is occasionally targeted by Buccaneers. But generally only when they are far from Russian territorial waters. As the seaway to Saint Petersburg, the Gulf of Finland is of considerable strategic importance to Russia, and Russian Baltic Fleet is swift to react to any threats in their area.
The capital and largest city of Russia stands on the Moskva River in Central Russia, with over 20 million residents in the Moscow Metropolitan Area. Although the city is so far from the Baltic Sea that Buccaneers practically never visit it, it deserves mention as the government and financial center of Russia. Moscow is home to the country's largest banks and many of its largest companies, and Moscow International Business Center is one of the largest financial centers of Europe and the world.
This city of 500 000 people is a major transport hub, home to the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Navy, and one of the largest industrial centers in Russia. Kaliningrad's major industries are manufacturing, shipping, fishing and amber products. It has status as a Special Economic Zone, meaning that manufacturers based there get tax and customs duty breaks on the goods they send to other parts of Russia. Many foreign and global corporations have plants there.
Buccaneer vessels are generally not welcome in Kaliningrad. The Baltic Fleet considers them suspect and does not like them close to their base, and the corporations have a lot of influence over the port authority. However, Baltic Fleet sailors on shore leave can be very good sources of information about what is going on in the Baltic, and this is where they are most easily found. Some buccaneers dock their ships in Polish ports and take advantage of the small border traffic law – an agreement between Poland and the Russian Federation, whereby residents of Kaliningrad and some of the Polish cities may obtain special cards permitting repeated travel between the two countries, crossing the Polish–Russian border. While the cards are not easily forged, if you do manage to obtain a convincing copy, they are so common at the border checkpoints that as long as you look the part you are unlikely to come under much scrutiny.
Although Russia has the largest navy of all Baltic Sea states, the Baltic Sea coast, for all its importance, is just a tiny fraction of the Russian coastline, and in practice Buccaneers will only have to worry about the Russian Baltic Fleet, the ships being divided between that and four other fleets in regions too far from the Baltic to be a cause of worry. Then again, the Baltic Fleet is a cause of worry in its very own right.
The Baltic Fleet is subordinate to Russia's Western Military District headquartered in St. Petersburg, which also incorporates Russia's strongest ground and air formations. The Kaliningrad region between Lithuania and Poland serves as the principal base area for the Baltic Fleet and therefore hosts significant land and air forces, both to defend Kaliningrad and to extend Russian shore-based air and sea denial capabilities into the Baltic Sea region.
The flagship of the fleet is an anti-ship and anti-aircraft guided missile destroyer that also has torpedo tubes and four 130 mm naval guns. In addition to the flagship, there are 2 frigates, 16 corvettes, 6 landing ships supported by 6 other landing craft, an attack submarine, 17 minesweepers, 9 missile ships, an anti-saboteur ship and 5 intelligence vessels.
The Baltic Fleet is also supported by extensive air and ground forces, although their role is coastal defense, and except for some of the aircraft they are not a threat to ships in the open sea.
However, while the Baltic Fleet looks impressive on paper, the truth is that not all the ships are operational. The flagship and one of the frigates have been officially “undergoing repairs” for years, and some ships have not left port for a long time. Determining which ships are operational or in refit can be difficult, but the fact is that some ships have little capability, but remain flying an ensign so that crews are entitled to be paid.
Even the operational ships are in many respects badly outdated. It is debatable whether they could face the modern vessels of other Baltic Sea nations. Even the Baltic states, that never had very powerful navies, are now served by advanced Triton mercenary vessels. The truth is that Russia's domestic shipbuilding industry has been in decline as to their capabilities of constructing contemporary hardware efficiently. Some analysts even say that because of this Russia's naval capabilities have been facing a slow but certain "irreversible collapse". Indeed, the open secret is that Russia has quietly started using Triton for Baltic operations as well. The nation has not decommissioned its own fleet – Russia has always been touchy about prestige – and officially Triton vessels are contracted by various Russian corporations. But the majority of those corporations are owned by the government, so no one is fooled about where the orders come from. While some Baltic Fleet vessels still go out on patrol, only the direct safety of Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg is still under the direct authority of the Baltic Fleet, and open sea patrols are little more than parade, with the ships under strict orders not to engage even the Buccaneers or the Raiders of Thule. Raiders in particular are fond of openly taunting the crews of the Baltic Fleet.
For the Buccaneer crews, this has caused a funny situation where the crews of the Russian Baltic Fleet can be their best pals. The crews, badly paid to begin with, have not taken getting sidelined by the mercenaries well. The Baltic Fleet has a long and proud history. Some people have left and joined the Buccaneers, and those who still serve can be good sources of information and assistance as long as you are friendly and respectful. Buying a few drinks for Russian sailors on shore leave can provide good tips, especially of the sort that can get Triton or the Raiders taken down a notch. And a Russian patrol ship might be willing to perform a “sea rescue” and tow a damaged Buccaneer vessel to Ålandic waters, particularly if the crew gets something for it. If you can get extra friendly with some ship’s crew, they might even “misplace” weapons or gear, or agree to act as cover or distraction.
Buccaneer wisdom on Russian Baltic Fleet: “Imagine a drunken bear. It may not move much and half the time can’t see where it’s going when it does, but if you laugh at it and it starts heading your way, you will find that it still has claws and teeth and you had better have a bottle of vodka to offer it.”
Gulf of Bothnia
The northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea, situated between Finland's west coast and Sweden's east coast. And possibly the safest region in the entire Baltic. Nearly all the traffic here is between Sweden and Finland, and since friendly relations with both is vital to Buccaneers, they do not raid here. Nor do Raiders of Thule or other pirates. Åland dominates access to Gulf of Bothnia, so any pirate who wished to enter the Gulf would need to get past the Buccaneers first.
Water in the gulf is nearly fresh. The land surrounding the Gulf of Bothnia is heavily forested, and forest products are one of the more common products transported in the gulf, along with oil and ore. There are three large ports on the Finnish coast, Rauma, Kokkola and Tornio. The Swedish coast has twice that number, Luleå, Skellefteå, Umeå, Sundsvall, Gävle and Hargshamn. Gävle is Sweden's third-largest container port.
There is some fishery in the gulf, mainly Baltic herring for domestic needs. Fishing vessels from Åland favor the gulf for its safety, so herring from the Gulf of Bothnia often finds its way on the plates of the Buccaneers. A persistent problem is pollution, because the sea is enclosed by a large drainage basin and is poorly connected to fresher waters from the Atlantic. Runoff from the Northern Fallout Zone has not helped the situation any. Mercury and PCB levels can be relatively high, although the Ålandic Food Safety Authority considers the herring edible. Although the levels exceed the limits, the fatty acids have health benefits that offset this risk.
Bay of Bothnia
The northernmost part of the Gulf of Bothnia. The bay is fed by several large rivers, and is relatively unaffected by tides, so has low salinity. Compared to other parts of the Baltic it had little plant or animal life to begin with, and after the Northern Fallout Zone formed, irradiated and toxic waters flowing down the Tornio River have turned the Bay of Bothnia entirely lifeless. Ships have little reason to come here, unless they are visiting the Badlander settlement at the mouth of the river. Some locals, and the Buccaneers, occasionally visit the settlement to trade for the things Badlanders have gathered from the Fallout Zone. Some Badlanders also have their own boats and the more entrepreneurial ones sail to Åland to offer their wares. Badlander boats tend to be jury-rigged things built from vessels abandoned in the Zone using gathered junk, and are rarely armed.
Gulf of Finland
With the cities of Saint Petersburg, Helsinki and Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland sees heavy traffic. Particularly between Helsinki and Tallinn. Helsinki is the busiest passenger port in the world. Still, Buccaneers generally do not raid any of the Helsinki-Tallinn traffic unless they are after some very specific cargo. The Buccaneers are too reliant on Finnish goodwill for their freedom to operate to risk antagonizing Finland, and interfering with the traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn would definitely do that.
Past Helsinki and Tallinn is the city of Saint Petersburg. The city itself deserves special mention, but it is not the only Russian port on the Baltic coast. Russia's most important oil harbours, such as Primorsk, are nearby. So is Ust-Luga, the largest transportation and logistics hub in northwestern Russia.
The environmental problems affecting the Baltic Sea are at their most pronounced in the shallow gulf. Massive algae growths are a common sight during summer, and sometimes the winter storms get so fierce that the Helsinki-Tallinn ferries will not leave port.
One reason why some buccaneers visit the gulf is shipwrecks. The bottom of the gulf is one of the world's largest ship cemeteries. Because of the low salinity and cold waters, and no shipworms, the ships are relatively well preserved. Since the 6th century, major waterways have been running through the gulf, and in the past every year saw dozens of lost ships. In more modern times, the number of ships lost in the Gulf of Finland decreased, but it has never completely stopped. And those lost ships do not even include all the sea battles fought in the gulf. There are thousands of submerged objects on the seafloor. Sometimes items of value or use can be found in the wrecks. There are hazards though. The surrounding nations do not mind recreational diving, but take a very dim view of people who rob sea graves. And the seabed remains under jurisdiction of the states. Buccaneers looting the wrecks need to keep an eye out and be ready to depart swiftly should a navy patrol approach. Not always easy to do when there are divers in the water. Also, some objects on the seafloor are dangerous hazards. Mines and munitions from various wars fought in the gulf litter the seafloor, and anyone diving down there needs to be careful not to set those off.
Gulf of Riga
The bay between Estonia and Latvia is the home of one of the fiercest rivals of the Buccaneers. The Raiders of Thule. They have their base in the island of Saaremaa, at the mouth of the Bay. This is not a safe region of the Baltic for the Buccaneers. Although there is a certain prestige in giving the raiders a finger in their home waters – if you can do it and survive.
Bay of Gdańsk
With eight ports, the sea route from the bay sees heavy traffic. It is also heavily patrolled. Among the Buccaneers preying on corporate shipping, the Bay of Gdańsk is known as a high risk, high profit region.
Denmark and Sweden control the Danish Straits and the connection from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea. These days they also hold the massive edifice of the Danish Seawall. Sea level in the Atlantic is much higher than in the Baltic Sea. Long ago, when the sea levels started to rise, Danish and Swedish governments formed a corporation, the Baltic Shield Corporation, to protect the Baltic. All the Baltic Sea states are shareholders. Their investments funded the massive wall between the Baltic and the Atlantic that kept the sea level on the Baltic side low. The Seawall is actually several walls, with an elaborate lock system that allows even large ships to pass, despite the difference in sea level. But crossings are strictly monitored and there are charges for passing through.
To the Buccaneers, the Straits are a barrier. Any Buccaneer vessel attempting passage would be seized, unless the crew has quality forged documentation. Since few crews have a reason to leave the Baltic Sea, this rarely happens.
Taking their name from the huge dead area of Baltic Sea’s seafloor, this radical environmentalist group is literally up in arms about the deteriorating state of the sea, and they believe that the ship for non-violent resistance sailed and sunk a long time ago. What makes Dead Zone different from other groups of ecoterrorists is that they are led by a person of vision and intellect.
“Contemporary and historical examples show that the victor of an insurgency, whether it is the insurgent or the occupier, wins the struggle because they are better able to gain the solidarity and support of the population and the international community.” –Ahto
No one knows who Ahto truly is. He is generally assumed to be a man, for the name is that of an old Finnish sea god. Ahto’s messages and manifestos appear regularly on the net, on pirate radios, sometimes even in the middle of a corporate-sponsored news broadcast when the Dead Zone hackers have a good day. In the broadcasts, Ahto’s voice is androgynous and the only image is Dead Zone’s logo of a yellowed skull peeking from the waves. Some suspect that Ahto is actually several people, others suspect a strong AI.
Ahto’s public messages are a part of Dead Zone’s war strategy. Countering corporate propaganda and raising awareness. But what is more interesting to Buccaneers is Dead Zone’s more direct methods. They fight an asymmetric warfare to make individual or ongoing actions of the corporations and governments that cause harm to Baltic Sea too costly and risky. This has included strikes against shipping and coastal installations, and even sabotage of the Baltic Sea oil pipeline – but never in a fashion that would have caused a leak. By Ahto’s decree, these strikes must be performed with military precision. No harm to innocents, no significant environmental damage, and preferably minimal loss of life.
Dead Zone has strict recruitment protocols to weed out corporate spies and too radical or unethical members, so although they are popular, their actual number is assumed to be small. Therefore they often hire Buccaneers to perform strikes for them, but they will only hire groups with a reputation of dependability and capability of doing a clean job.
Raiders of Thule
One of the fiercest rivals of the Buccaneers. Not as numerous as the Buccaneers, they make up for that with armament, skill and brutality. Some Estonian scholars believe that the island of Saaremaa – or Ösel, as the Swedes call it – was the location of the historic Ultima Thule. That is where the raiders have their base, and that is where they take their name from.
As it often happens with particularly brutal criminal groups, the Raiders formed when a large number of trained soldiers were let go at once. In their case, the Baltic states decided that it would not be cost effective to update their aging fleets as the rapid increases in technology would leave the new ships outdated too in short order, and the constant upgrades were becoming an enormous drain on the budget. Instead, they started purchasing services from Triton, a mercenary corporation providing services of naval military kind. The fleets were decommissioned and a huge number of Navy people got the boot. Many drifted to other occupations or unemployment. Others gathered together and decided to put their skills in naval warfare to use, forming the Raiders.
Just like the Buccaneers are generally allowed to operate by Åland, Sweden and Finland, Raiders of Thule are ignored by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In their case it is not a case of silent support but one of plain old fashioned corruption, whether of monetary or political kind. The Raiders leave shipping of the Baltic states in peace and provide generous support for far right parties in the governments of the states, and in return they have a secure base of operations in Saaremaa.
Raiders tend to be mercilessly effective in their attacks, often leaving no survivors. Unlike the Buccaneers, they have no code of conduct. They also see the Buccaneers as competition and do not hesitate to try and eliminate any Buccaneer crew should the opportunity arise. Most Buccaneers loathe the Raiders of Thule, but engaging the Raiders in battle is risky even in the best of circumstances. They are all navy trained, well armed, and completely ruthless in battle.
Guild of the Victual Brothers
Mare Nostrum Balticum
In the period between the 8th and 14th centuries, there was much piracy in the Baltic, and the Victual Brothers held Gotland. They were a loosely organized guild of privateers who later turned to piracy.
The present day Guild is a relatively recent arrival to the Baltic. It was founded as a mercenary corporation by Captain Evert Kron, a former Captain of the Swedish Navy. In large part as a response to the Buccaneers. A right wing ultra-nationalist, Captain Kron longs for the lost glory days of Mare Nostrum Balticum or "Our Baltic Sea" when Sweden dominated the Baltic. He dislikes the government’s stance of neutrality and Swedish Navy’s status as a small defensive fleet. In his opinion, the result has been that Sweden has become too reliant on outsiders such as the Buccaneers to act as a buffer and deterrent to other groups such as the Raiders of Thule. He does not have a high opinion of Buccaneers either, considering them foreign rabble. If Kron got to decide, Åland would be annexed and the Buccaneers driven out.
But Kron is not in a position to decide, so he left the Navy and formed his own fleet. As a native of Gotland, he based the fleet there and took for them the historic name of Victual Brothers. A bigot, Kron only hires men of Swedish ethnicity, most of whom share his right-wing leaning. They hire themselves out as naval security detachments for Swedish corporations and their allies, but never to their competitors. They do take assigments to harass the shipping of those competitors, and other kinds of corporate black ops. They have also been offering their services to the Swedish Navy, but the Navy has so far been reluctant to hire them for anything.
The assignments of Victual Brothers sometimes bring them into conflict with the Buccaneers. In fact, Victual Brothers go out of their way to harass the Buccaneers if they come across them. Victual Brothers have taken on the motto of Mare Nostrum Balticum. They consider the Baltic theirs, and would see the other groups driven off or destroyed.
The vessels of Victual Brothers are almost exclusively CB90-type fast assault craft, mostly decommissioned Navy craft. This makes the Victual Brothers a genuine threat for Buccaneers. Unlike the Raiders of Thule, most Victual Brothers are not as skilled as true Naval military, but CB90 is an exceptionally fast and agile boat that can execute extremely sharp turns at high speed, decelerate from top speed to a full stop in 2.5 boat lengths, and adjust both its pitch and roll angle while under way. Its light weight, shallow draught, and twin water jets allow it to operate at speeds of up to 40 knots (74 km/h). It can also carry and deploy 18 fully equipped men in addition to its three person crew. CB90 is also well armed, with three .50 cal machine guns, a grenade launcher, and even depth charges. It is also versatile and easy to modify. Victual Brothers have at least one command and control vessel, a few with armor and upgraded engines to compensate for the added weight, and some with troop carrying capacity exchanged for bunks, pantry and auxiliary fuel tanks to provide extended operating time. The vessels of Victual Brothers can match most Buccaneer craft, and they usually carry marines, outnumbering the Buccaneer crew. Any clash with them is a threat. Which is why there is prestige in managing to beat them.
Boat Club Sea Devils, or Meripirut in Finnish, is sometimes called a biker gang on boats, and that is not an inaccurate description. Mostly younger people who like fast boats, they are not above financing their hobby with illicit activities such as smuggling and sale of illegal goods. They normally avoid piracy though, for Finnish authorities do not tolerate them the way Ålandic authorities tolerate Buccaneers, so Sea Devils try to stay below the radar. In smuggling, they are occasional trading partners and occasional competitors to the Buccaneers. Sea Devils are also an occasional nuisance to Buccaneers. They consider the Archipelago Sea to be their turf, including Åland Archipelago. That means that they are not only encountered at sea every now and then, they can also show up in Mariehamn. And they have a habit of issuing challenges to Buccaneer crews. Generally not violent ones, but Sea Devils are fond of playing chicken with or trying to race Buccaneer vessels, and at port the challenge can be anything from a drinking contest to a brawl. When you are on a job or trying to mind your own business this can get infuriating, for Sea Devils rarely take no for an answer. Still, the relationship between them and the Buccaneers is more of a friendly rivalry than a hostile one.
Black Dog Security
Black Dogs are a private security company operating out of Tricity in Poland. They are one of the largest Polish security companies, operating both on land and at sea. They do not compare in power to global mercenary corporations like Triton, and there are other companies of similar size in Poland, but what makes Black Dogs notable is their hatred of Buccaneers. This hatred is known to originate from Celina Nowak, the company CEO. The exact details are not known for her personal information is a highly kept corporate secret, but rumors say that she lost someone important to her in one of the early clashes with the Buccaneers. Depending on the rumor, this could have been a parent, a lover or a child.
But even though the CEO might be the origin of the Black Dogs’ hatred, there have been enough clashes between them and the Buccaneers that the feeling has not only trickled down to the lower ranks, it has become mutual. Black Dogs have an official discount for jobs specifically targeting Buccaneers and they are often acting as security on board corporate vessels, and in an engagement between them and the Buccaneers, quarter is rarely asked or given.
Buccaneers enjoy plenty of freedom. Their services are vital to Åland’s economy, so the government allows them to get away with quite a bit, within limits. But there are limits. And in addition to Ålandic authorities, the Buccaneers need to tread carefully with Swedish and Finnish governments. To a degree the same is true of all the governments in the Baltic region, but those have a much higher threshold to take aggressive action against Buccaneers in their home port, especially with much greater threats like the Raiders of Thule around. Generally it is much simpler to just increase their patrols if the actions of the Buccaneers become a nuisance.
Still, the position of the Buccaneers is not secure. One too bloodthirsty crew or a corporate false flag operation could ruin their carefully cultivated reputation and relationships. Even early on it was obvious that some kind of internal policing would be necessary. That is how the Captains’ Table formed. It is something of a Buccaneer Parliament. Every captain of an accepted Buccaneer crew has a vote when the Captains’ Table gathers, and a single majority decides the vote. And only the Captains’ Table can accept a new crew into their ranks. One cannot just sail into Åland and start Buccaneering. Newcomers need to present themselves and be accepted.
In practice, it would be impractical for all the captains to gather for every single matter, so the Captains’ Table gathers rarely. Most of the day to day decisions are handled by the Admiralty.
Captains’ Table votes into position five Admirals, who have the right to act and make decisions on the Table’s behalf. Usually the Admirals are semi-retired Buccaneer captains whose best days at sea are behind them but who possess experience and cunning in spades. Admirals deal with the authorities and the media. They also arbitrate disputes between Buccaneer crews. Anyone with a grievance with another crew can bring the matter before the Admiralty. And it is the Admirals who police the actions of Buccaneers. They have a right to issue commands and pass judgement. And if necessary, other Buccaneers enforce their decisions. Any crew who decides to just ignore an Admiral will soon find three other crews on their doorstep.
Admirals serve until they choose to retire, unless they are voted out by the Captains’ Table. This is rare but has happened. Captains’ Table can also overturn a decision of the Admiralty. This is just as rare as voting out an Admiral, and usually one follows the other. For all their Authority, Admirals do not interfere with the affairs of Buccaneer crews unless they have to. The two most common ways to end up facing the Admiralty’s judgement are arbitration and breaking the Buccaneers’ Code.
Some might think that it would be a simple matter to evade the judgement of the Admiralty simply by fleeing Åland. But the Admiralty has a powerful tool in their arsenal. The Black Mark. A crew can be tried in absentia if they refuse to face judgement, and that nearly always results in being Blackmarked. Black Mark is an effective death sentence. It marks the crew as a target for elimination for all Buccaneer crews. There is a lot of prestige in being the crew to take out a Blackmarked crew, and the crew that does so gets to keep all the Blackmarked crew’s surviving assets. Announcing a Black Mark always results in a race as the Buccaneers rush after the target.
No Blackmarked crew has survived. Some have tried to seek refuge with the traditional enemies of the Buccaneers, such as the Raiders of Thule or the corporations, but those groups are dangerous in their own right and have little reason to feel sympathy for fugitive Buccaneers, so this has never ended well. Fleeing the Baltic for good might be the only way to survive, and even that may not help. There is a tale of a crew who abandoned the Baltic and fled to mainland Europe. Only to get gunned down in Belgrade a year later by another crew who had followed them to the mainland and tracked them down.
The current Admirals
Captain Almstedt, Johannes Almstedt
At close to seventy, Captain Almstedt is the oldest of the Admirals but still shrewd, and shows no signs of planning to retire. An Ålandic native who turned from fishery to smuggling, he gets along well with local people and authorities, and spends a lot of time smoothing things over after some minor incident. Captain Almstedt has a bushy gray beard but he has lost most of his hair and always has a woolen cap on his bald head. Almstedt’s crew has retired and his ship, Magne, has not left port in years.
Captain Empress, Alexandra Romanov
Romanov apparently is the Russian captain’s actual surname, and since her first name is that of the last Russian Empress, she got the nickname swiftly. Even at past fifty, her blonde hair that she keeps in a ponytail has yet to show any gray, and she is still considered a “Look, but don’t touch” kind of woman. She used to captain the former Russian missile boat Rasputin, but now the captain is her daughter Anastasia, or Captain Princess.
Captain Falk, Helena Falk
Captain Falk is easily the most well known of the Admirals. Stories of her past exploits still get told in the bars. The stories say that in her youth she brawled, drank and womanized – she prefers other women – harder than most men, and pulled off some really daring heists and escapes in the Baltic. But fast life took its toll. After a close call, her left side is covered in scars and her left arm, leg and eye are cybernetic replacements. Or as she says: “Got a hook, peg leg and eye patch. All I need is a parrot.” Close to sixty now and her hair gone gray, she has slowed down the pace quite a bit. Captain Falk still enjoys an occasional drink, flirts casually with pretty women, and sometimes takes her ship Falcon out to sea, but mainly she focuses on her duties as an Admiral.
Captain Jester, Jesper Lykke
In his youth, the Danish Captain’s curly red hair, handsome face and leanly muscular body turned eyes, and he still looks sexy at past sixty and with his hair gone gray. However, Captain Jester is asexual and no one gets invited to his bed. Calling him Captain Whatawaste is a sure way to piss him off. But as long as one is not trying to hit on him, he is known to be very good company, with an endless repertoire of stories. He is nearly always busy, though. Easily the most diplomatic of the Admirals, Captain Jester is not just an Admiral, he is one of the 30 members of Lagting – the elected Parliament of Åland. When he is not handling government or Buccaneer business, he is away from Åland, meeting the representatives and media of one or another nation of the Baltic Sea region, reassuring them that the Buccaneers are freedom fighters, not bloodthirsty criminals. He has been quite successful in this. So successful that corporate hit teams have targeted him on a few occasions. Captain Jester always has a crew of Buccaneers around for protection.
Captain Dread, Markus Umar
Captain Dread is a Finn. Do not say the words “A Finn? But you’re black!” That would result in bodily harm. He may still have his ancestral Nigerian surname, but every member of his family he has ever known was born in Finland and he does not tolerate people who would deny his heritage. He got his name from his hair. He keeps it in dreadlocks.
Captain Dread is the youngest of the Admirals, being in his late forties. Funnily, it was his greatest victory that effectively ended his career at sea and got him elected as an Admiral. In a clash with a corporate sponsored pirate hunter, Captain Dread lost his original ship but then he and his crew boarded and captured the pirate hunter, a 250 ton stealth missile boat. The ship is among the most dangerous the Buccaneers have, but needs a large crew and has significant operating costs, so it only leaves port if the Buccaneers are facing a serious threat.
Usually referred to as just the Code. It is very simple, not so much a legal system as it is a code of conduct. But the Admiralty enforces it ruthlessly, and breaking it will land the crew responsible in boiling water. If the code was broken by accident, the best thing to do is usually to be honest and subject to the Admiralty’s judgement. It may result in loss of assets and privileges, and public humiliation. But it is possible to recover from that, which will not be the case if the crew gets a Black Mark.
Rules of the Code:
No sexual assault or other torture
No harming noncombatants
No lethal violence against other Buccaneers
Do not bring the governments of Åland, Sweden or Finland to anger
Do not raid civilian settlements on the coasts, with the exception of corporate facilities
There is not a rule against targeting civilian shipping. That would have been too dicey, for corporations sometimes use freelancers, and their craft are technically civilian, even if the civilians are cybered up and armed to the teeth. But anyone who sees that as a loophole to target fishing vessels will find out that the Admirals can and will judge you just because they don’t like you, and the Captains’ Table is likely to side with them. As a general rule, trying to be a rules lawyer with the Code is a very bad idea.