A Spacer’s Lexicon


abaft. To the rear of.

able spacer. The most experienced class of crewer aboard a starship. Able spacers are more experienced than ordinary spacers, while crewers with too little experience to be considered ordinary spacers are called dirtsiders.

admiralty court. A court concerned with the laws of space, including the taking of prizes. The Jovian Union maintained several admiralty courts in the Jupiter system and abided by the decisions of the admiralty court on the neutral minor planet Ceres, with privateers and warships expected to report to the admiralty court with jurisdiction over the area of space where a prize was taken.

aft. Toward the rear of a starship; the opposite of fore.

air scrubber. A collection of filters and pumps that remove carbon dioxide from the air aboard a starship, keeping it healthy and (relatively) clean.

amidships. In the middle of a starship.

apprentice. A future officer new to starships who’s assigned belowdecks to learn the spacer’s trade. An apprenticeship typically begins on a boy or girl’s eighth birthday and ends with a promotion to midshipman once the apprentice is rated an able spacer.

armorer. A wardroom officer in charge of a starship’s hand weapons. As most crewers on privateers and pirate ships carried their own arms, the rank of armorer was largely a ceremonial one, a rank given to a veteran spacer as a reward for good service.

arrrr. Originally an acknowledgment of an order (“yar”), it has become a nonspecific pirate outburst, adaptable to any situation. The more Rs, the greater the intensity of feeling.

articles. A written agreement drawn up for each cruise, setting out rules and the division of any prize money, and signed by all hands aboard a privateer or pirate ship.

articles of war. The body of space law governing hostilities between spacegoing nations and their starships

artificial intelligence. Software designed for interactions with humans. Some AIs are very sophisticated, with simulated personalities, while others are basic, designed for simple exchanges.

asteroid belt. The field of debris located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, rich in minerals and water ice. The largest celestial body in the belt is Ceres, an independent dwarf planet. Other large inhabited asteroids include Vesta, Pallas, Hygiea, Hermione and Cybele. Vesta and Hygiea pledge allegiance to Earth, while the others are independent and neutral in the conflict between Earth and Jupiter.

avast. Stop!

aviso. A small, speedy starship used for carrying messages.

aye-aye. An acknowledgment of an order.


bandit. An enemy starship, typically a small, maneuverable one that’s likely to attack you.

bandolier. a belt slung over an arm or across the chest that holds carbines, ammunition pouches and other nasty things.

barky. An affectionate nickname for one’s own starship. 

beam. The side of a ship, always identified as port or starboard.

beat to quarters. A summons to battle stations, in ancient times accomplished by beating out a rhythm on a drum, in modern times achieved by playing a recording.

belay. A ranking officer’s order countermanding a just-issued order.

belowdecks. The deck of a starship below the bridge or quarterdeck, generally reserved for spacers and officers who aren’t members of the bridge crew. Also refers collectively to these spacers.

berth. A sleeping place aboard a starship.

bilge. In ancient seagoing ships, the lowest part of a hull, which filled with foul water also called bilge. In modern parlance, anything foul or nonsensical.

blacklist. A list of spacers to be punished for failure to properly perform their duties, or for other breaches of discipline.

blackstrap. Cheap, sweet wine bought in ports.

black transponder. A transponder that identifies a starship as belonging to a pirate captain, or more commonly transmits a blank identification.

blaster. A pistol or other handheld cannon.

boarding action. The invasion of a starship with marines or crewers.

boarding party. A group of marines or crewers whose job it is to board and take control of a starship.

bogey. A starship that has been seen on scopes but not yet identified.

bosun. A wardroom officer whose duties include daily ship inspections. The bosun reports to the warrant officer.

bosun’s mate. A wardroom officer who assists the bosun, and fills in while he or she is off-watch.

bow. The front of a starship.

bow chaser. A gun located at a starship’s bow, designed for firing at ships being pursued.

bridge. A starship’s command center, generally called the quarterdeck on warships, privateers and pirate ships. On the Shadow Comet, the quarterdeck was the middle deck, and reserved for the bridge crew.

bridge crew. The officers who serve aboard the quarterdeck or bridge. On many privateers, the bridge crew is limited to the family that owns the ship or their close associates.

bridle-port. A port in a ship’s bow through which the bow-chasers extend.

brig. A room used as a jail aboard a starship.

broadside. A volley of shots aimed at the side of an enemy ship and delivered at close range.

bulk freighter. A large merchant ship, typically corporate-owned.

bulkhead. A vertical partition dividing parts of a starship. Bulkheads seal in the event of a breach to isolate damage and prevent the atmosphere from escaping.

buoy. A marker defining a spacelane. In the modern age, buoys send electronic signals to starships and maintain their position through small, efficient engines.

burdened vessel. A starship that doesn’t have the right of way; not the privileged vessel

burgoo. A gruel made from shipboard rations, not particularly liked by crewers.


cabin. An enclosed room on a starship. Generally refers to an officer’s personal quarters.

Callisto. One of the Gallilean moons of Jupiter, known for its mineral wealth.

cannon. A general term for a starship’s hull-mounted weapons. Cannons can fire laser beams or missiles, and are designed for different intensities of fire and ranges.

Cantons of Mars. An association of regional governments that rules Mars and its holdings in the Hungarias and the Floras. The Martian Cantons are independent, but pledge allegiance to Earth and are regarded as an extension of its will.

captain. The commander of a starship. Traditionally, a former captain is still addressed as captain.

caravel. A small, speedy freighter.

carbine. A pistol.

cargo. Goods carried by a merchant starship.

carronade. A powerful, short-range projectile cannon.

cartel ship. A starship transporting prisoners to an agreed-upon port. Cartel ships are exempt from capture or recapture while on their voyages, provided they don’t engage in commerce or warlike acts.

cashier. To discharge a crewer.

cat te. A card game popular with belowdecks crewers.

caulk. Thick rubber used to plug holes and seams in a starship’s hull.

centaur. A celestial body with an unstable orbit and a lifetime of several million years, with characteristics of both asteroids and comets.

Ceres. A dwarf planet, formally known as 1 Ceres and the largest celestial body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Originally a jumping-off point for exploration of the outer solar system, it declared itself neutral after the formation of the Jovian Union, becoming a hub frequented by traders, explorers and representatives from Earth and the Union.

chaff. Scraps of metal released by a starship to confuse the sensors of an enemy ship and/or guided missile.

chamade. A signal requesting a cessation of hostilities so negotiations can take place.

chandler. A merchant who sells goods to starships in port.

chaplain. A crewer who supervises religious services aboard a starship. On many ships, the chaplain also serves as a schoolmaster, educating young spacers. Chaplains are considered wardroom officers on some starships.

channel. A communications band. Different states, corporations and other associations use different channels to communicate. Sensitive communications are encrypted.

cheroot. A cheap, often smelly cigar.

coaster. A starship that operates close to a planet or within a system of moons, as opposed to starships that make interplanetary voyages.

cog. A small freighter, bigger than a caravel.

cold pack. A flexible packet kept cold and used to numb minor injuries.

colors. A declaration of allegiance broadcast via transponders; i.e. a flag. Ships often travel broadcasting no signal for security, a status known as “black transponders,” and/or make inaccurate declarations, known as “false colors.”

condemn. To seize a ship for auction or sale under prize law.

container ship. A large merchant ship that typically carries cheap bulk goods.

control yoke. The joystick-like control for steering a starship, used in conjunction with pedals. Most starship bridges had control yokes and pedals at each crew member’s station.

convoy. A group of merchant ships traveling together for mutual protection, often with armed starships as escorts.

corvette. A small, fast, lightly armed warship.

crewer. A member of a starship’s crew; the equivalent of a sailor on ancient ships. “Crewer” technically refers to all members of a starship’s crew, but members of the bridge crew are rarely if ever called crewers.

crimp. A person who captures spacers in port and sells them to starships as crewers. Unlike press gangs, crimps believe in no law except force.

crowdy. A thick porridge. More edible than burgoo, but not by much.

cruise. A starship’s voyage.

cruiser. A fast, heavily armed warship.

cuddy. A cabin in which officers gather to eat their meals.

currency chip. A data chip that could be filled with electronic funds and used like a wallet.

cutter. A scout ship.

Cybele. Formally known as 65 Cybele, the largest asteroid in the Cybeles. Independently governed, it is a trade depot known for lawlessness, frequented by prospectors, privateers, pirates and free-traders.


dead lights. Eyes.

derelict. Cargo left behind after a shipwreck with no expectation of recovery. Any claimant may legally salvage derelict.

destroyer. A small warship with the speed to hunt down small, nimble attackers.

dirtside. A spacer’s term for being off one’s ship on a planet or moon. Said with faint derision and distress.

dirtsider. A spacer with minimal training and experience, limited to simple tasks aboard a starship. A hard-working dirtsider may eventually be rated an ordinary spacer.

docking cradle. A mooring point for a ship in orbit.

docking ring. A ring of tough but flexible rubber used to connect two ships in space.

down the ladder. Tradition in which a midshipman spends a year or more belowdecks learning the spacer’s trade from an experienced crewer.

dreadnought. A large, well-armed but slow warship.

dromond. A very large merchant ship, often one that carries expensive goods.

dry dock. A facility where starships are taken out of service for substantial repairs or refitting.

duff. A kind of pudding served as a treat aboard starships.


Earth. The third planet of the solar system, and the origin of humanity. Earth is the solar system’s dominant world by any economic or military measure. It is ruled by a constitutional monarchy, its king advised and served by regional parliaments and extensive ministries that look after the interests of the planet’s most powerful corporations. Earth’s military power far outweighs that of the Jovian Union, but is limited by the vast distances of the solar system.

Enceladus. A moon of Saturn, part of the Jovian Union. It has a subsurface ocean, extensive settlements and mining operations, and shipbuilding facilities.

engineer. A wardroom officer responsible for keeping a starship operating properly.

engine room. The control room for a starship’s engines. Sometimes the same as the fire room.

ensign. A flag indicating a starship’s allegiance.

environment suit. A suit offering protection a grade below that of a full spacesuit.

escort. A starship providing protection for another, typically unarmed vessel.

Europa. One of the Gallilean moons of Jupiter, colonized but later evacuated and turned into an ecological protectorate by the Jovian Union. Europa possesses an ocean beneath its icy surface with extensive life dependent on volcanic “smokers” that bring heat up from its core.

exemption. A pass issued by military, merchant and privateer captains to spacers serving as part of their crews. At least theoretically, an exemption was proof against a spacer being pressed.


fanlight. A portal over the door of an officer’s cabin, providing light and air while maintaining privacy.

fearnought door. A door sealing a ship’s magazine, specially reinforced to prevent ammunition from igniting during a battle or because of an accident.

fenders. Bumpers on the sides of a starship, used to protect against damage in crowded shipyards, on landing fields or in parking orbits.

fire room. The control room for a starship’s reactor. Sometimes the same as the engine room.

fireship. A starship loaded with munitions and exploded among enemy ships to damage them. 

first mate. A starship’s second-in-command.

flag. A declaration of allegiance, generally indicated through transponder codes rather than a physical banner.

flip. A strong beer favored by crewers.

Floras. An asteroid family that’s part of the Cantons of Mars. The largest inhabited asteroid in the family is 8 Flora.

flotsam. Debris and objects left floating in space after a starship is damaged or destroyed.

flummery. A shipboard dessert.

fondaco. An area of a planet, moon, asteroid or artificial station reserved for citizens of a certain country, and within the bounds of which they are sometimes restricted. The plural is fondachi.

fore. Toward the front of a starship; the opposite of aft.

forefoot. The foremost part of a starship’s lower hull.

freighter. A general term for a merchant vessel.

frigate. A fast warship used for scouting and intercepts, well-armed but relying more on speed than weapons. The Shadow Comet is a heavily modified frigate.


galleon. A large merchant ship, particularly one that carries expensive cargoes.

galley. The kitchen on a starship.

gangway. The ramp leading into a ship, lowered when a ship is on a landing field.

Ganymede. One of the Gallilean moons of Jupiter and the capital of the Jovian Union.

gibbet. A post with a protruding arm from which criminals sentenced to death are hanged.

gig. A small, unarmed ship used for short trips between nearby moons or between ports and starships in orbit. An armed gig is generally called a launch.

GlobalRex. The most powerful corporation of Earth, its vast holdings include member companies, an extensive mercantile fleet, roadsteads and facilities in the asteroid belt, a powerful quasi-military security detail, and far more.

grav-sled. A small wheeled vehicle used for trips on the surface of a minor planet, moon or asteroid. Not a luxurious ride.

green. When referring to a system or process, an indication that all is ready or working normally.

gripe. A malfunction or problem with a system aboard a starship.

grog. A mix of alcohol and water, beloved by starship crewers. Also refers to alcoholic drinks imbibed in port, which shouldn’t be mixed with water but often are.

gunboat. A small but heavily armed warship. Often found patrolling ports or spacelanes.

gunner’s mate. A wardroom officer who assists the master gunner and assumes his or her duties during some watches.


hail. An opening communication from one party to another.

hammock. A length of canvas or netting strung between beams belowdecks, in which crewers sleep.

hand. A crewer, generally limited to discussions of “all hands.”

hang a leg. Do something too slowly.

hard horse. A stern, harsh and/or stubborn ship captain.

hardtack. Bland starship rations that don’t spoil over long cruises but aren’t particularly tasty. Unlike in ancient times, hard-tack is rarely actually hard.

hatchway. An opening in a ship’s hull for transferring cargo to and from the hold.

head. A bathroom aboard a starship.

heading. A starship’s current course.

head money. A reward for prisoners recovered.

heave to. A command for a starship to stop its motion.

heel. To lean to one side.

helm. Originally the controls for piloting a starship, but generally a term indicating an officer is in command of a starship.

Hermione. Formally known as 121 Hermione, an asteroid in the Cybeles. Independent, though highly reliant on Jovian trade due to its distance from Earth.

Hildas. The outermost family of the asteroid belt, heavily influenced by the gravity of Jupiter. The major asteroid of the family is 153 Hilda.

HMS. His (or Her, depending on the monarch) Majesty’s Ship, a prefix for a warship from Earth.

hold. The area of a starship in which cargo is stored.

holo-drama. An interactive entertainment.

holo-seal. A stamp affixed to a document as proof of its legitimacy.

hominy. Ground corn boiled with milk.

hoy. A small merchant coaster.

Hungarias. The innermost asteroid family of the belt, heavily influenced by the gravity of Mars. Part of the Cantons of Mars, and therefore loyal to Earth. The major asteroid of the family is 434 Hungaria.

Hygiea. An inhabited asteroid, formally known as 10 Hygiea.


idler. A crewer who isn’t required to keep night watches.

impression. Forced service aboard a starship.

in a clove-hitch. Dealing with a dilemma.

in extremis. Unable to maneuver safely due to malfunction, damage or some other condition. Privileged vessels must yield the right of way to starships in extremis.

in ordinary. Out of commission, said of a starship. Also applies to the crew of a starship while she is laid up in ordinary.

in soundings. Sufficiently close to a celestial body that its gravity must be taken into account during maneuvers.

intercept. The process of examining a starship for possible boarding, often followed by a boarding action.

interrogatories. Reports prepared about an intercept and/or boarding action, detailing events with evidence from the ships’ records. Interrogatories are submitted as part of a claim in admiralty court.

invalid. A spacer on the sick list because of illness or injury.

Io. One of the Gallilean moons of Jupiter. As with all the Galilean moons, the vast majority of settlements are located on the dark side of the tide-locked moon to protect against radiation from Jupiter. Extensively mined.


jammer. A ship-mounted device intended to scramble the sensors and systems of nearby ships lacking software to counteract such effects.

jetsam. Objects jettisoned from a starship in distress.

job captain. A captain given temporary command of a starship while the regular captain is away or indisposed.

jolly boat. A small craft used for inspections or repairs of starships in orbit.

Jovian Union. An alliance of inhabited moons and asteroids in the outer solar system, which declared its independence from Earth in 2590. Its capital was Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. Its members were Io, the Protectorate of Europa, Ganymede, Callisto (all moons of Jupiter); 624 Hektor, 617 Patroclus, 911 Agamemnon, 1172 Aneas (all Trojan asteroids of Jupiter); Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan, Iapetus, Phoebe (all moons of Saturn); Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon (all moons of Uranus).

jump-pop. A sugary, caffeinated drink loved by children and crewers alike. Bad for you.

Jupiter. The fifth planet of the solar system, and the heart of the Jovian Union.


keel. A long girder laid down between a starship’s bow and stern, giving her structural integrity.

keelhaul. To abuse someone. Derived from the ancient practice of hauling a disobedient sailor under a ship’s keel.

keep the matter dark. Keep something confidential.

ketch. A short-range merchant starship.

kip. A cheap lodging-house in a port.

Kirkwood Gaps. Areas in the asteroid belt largely free of asteroids, the product of orbital resonances between the planets. The 2:1 Kirkwood Gap, usually referred to without the numerical reference, was considered an informal line separating the spheres of influence of Earth and the Jovian Union.

klick. A kilometer.

Kuiper Belt. A region beyond Neptune littered with icy bodies and prowled by gas prospectors, explorers and others driven to push beyond the frontier of the solar system.


ladderwell. A ladder connecting decks on a starship.

lagan. Cargo left behind after a shipwreck and marked by a buoy for reclamation. Lagan can be legally salvaged under certain conditions.

LaGrange point. A stable point in space where the gravitational interaction of various large bodies allows a small body to remain at rest. Space stations, roadsteads and clumps of asteroids are often built or found at planets’ LaGrange points.

landing field. An area of a port where starships land. Typically, only small starships actually use landing fields, with larger vessels remaining in orbit.

larder. A room aboard a starship in which provisions are stored.

lash up and stow. A command, typically piped, for crewers to roll up their hammocks, clearing space for shipboard operations.

launch. A small, lightly armed craft kept aboard a starship, used for short outings and errands between ships. An unarmed launch is generally called a gig.

lee. An area where magnetism or some other measurable hazard drops to zero or close to it. A term borrowed from ancient ocean sailors.

legbreaker. A thug assigned to a bulk freighter by its owner to keep its cargo safe from theft by the crew and to safeguard against the crew selling the ship out to pirates.

letter of marque. A document giving a civilian starship the right to seize ships loyal to another nation, an action that otherwise would be considered piracy.

liberty. Permission to leave a ship for a time in port.

lighter. A starship used for ferrying cargo between ships and to and from ships in orbit above a port.

livre. The currency of the solar system.

loblolly boy. A surgeon’s assistant (of either gender).

log. A record of a starship’s operations.

longboat. A small starship primarily used for provisioning bigger starships.

long nine. A cannon designed to hit targets at very long range.

long-range tanks. Starships use bulky long-range tanks loaded with fuel for journeys between inhabited planets and distant asteroids, as only such tanks can carry sufficient fuel for crossing such vast distances. For shorter journeys, landing on planets or engaging in battle, ships detach from their tanks for greater maneuverability, relying on smaller on-board tanks.

lumper. A laborer hired to load and unload a merchant ship in orbit or in port.


magazine. A section of a starship used for storing missiles and other ordnance.

marine. A soldier aboard a warship who splits his or her duties between gunnery and boarding actions. The term is typically reserved for formal military ships, though sometimes extended to soldiers serving for pay to defend merchant starships.

Mars. The fourth planet of the solar system. It broke away from Earth’s rule in the early 2400s before returning to the fold some two centuries later.

mast. A pole attached to a starship’s hull to maximize the capabilities of sensors and/or antennae .

master. A member of the bridge crew who is not the captain or first mate. A female crew member holding this rank is sometimes but not always called mistress.

master-at-arms. A wardroom officer responsible for discipline belowdecks. On some ships the warrant officer or bosun serves as the master-at-arms, but wise captains avoid such an arrangement, as many crewers regard it as unfair.

master gunner. A wardroom officer in charge of a ship’s gun crews. Assisted by the gunner’s mate.

matey. An affectionate word for a shipmate.

mediapad. A handheld tablet that can store documents, retrieve information from networks and be used as a communication device. Mediapads of various shapes and sizes are ubiquitous.

mess. Where meals are served belowdecks.

message capsule. A small container with a fuel tank sent between planets or other celestial points carrying a small amount of goods or a physical message.

midshipman. A crewer training to be an officer. Midshipmen typically begin as children, spending years as apprentices belowdecks before being appointed to a starship’s bridge crew. Low-ranking masters who are new to the bridge crew are often still called midshipmen. Middie, for short.

moor. To secure a starship during a period of inactivity, whether in orbit or on a landing field.

musketoon. A pistol with a broad, bell-like muzzle.

“my starship.” A declaration of a captain or ranking officer indicating that he or she is assuming command. Command can be assigned through the order “your starship,” etc.


Neptune. The eighth planet of the solar system, located on the frontier. Its largest moon, Triton, is inhabited but neutral in the conflict between Earth and the Jovian Union.

nutrient square. A cheap, filling, not particularly tasty substance used as a meal replacement.


off soundings. Sufficiently far from a celestial body that its gravity can be ignored during maneuvers.

Oort cloud. A spherical cloud of comets surrounding the solar system.

ordinary spacer. A spacer capable of performing most activities aboard a starship, but not an expert. With work, an ordinary spacer may rate as an able spacer.

ordnance. A starship’s offensive weapons and materials, from cannons to missiles.

ore boat. A starship hauling ore, typically owned by a prospector.


packet. A small passenger boat that carries mail and personal goods between ports.

Pallas. Formally known as 2 Pallas, an independent asteroid located relatively near Ceres.

parley. A negotiation, often informal, between enemies.

parole. A prisoner’s pledge of good behavior while in captivity, or conditions agreed to if released.

pass. A document attesting to a spacer’s current service aboard a starship, offering theoretical protection from impression.

passageway. A corridor, often one aboard a starship.

peg. Figure, as in “I didn’t peg you for a lawyer/pirate/etc.”

performance bond. A financial guarantee that a privateer will abide by the terms of its letter of marque. Fines can be levied against a performance bond by an admiralty court or by the government issuing the letter of marque.

persuader. A carbine, large knife or other weapon that can sway the less well-armed participant in a dispute.

pinnace. A small, fast, highly maneuverable ship used for offensive and defensive operations by warships and other starships. Typically operated by either a single pilot or by a pilot and gunner.

pipe. A whistle used by the bosun to issue orders to a crew. Any spacer quickly learns to identify the unique tune for each order.

pirate. A civilian starship (or crewer aboard such a starship) that seizes or attacks other ships without authorization from a government. Piracy is punishable by death. A civilian ship with authorization for such seizures or attacks is a privateer.

pitch. A starship moving up or down through the horizontal axis.

pixel-pusher. An information worker whose job isn’t nearly as fun as being a pirate or privateer.

pocket. A prefix indicating a starship is a smaller variant of its class.

port. The left side of a ship, if a crewer is looking toward the bow from the stern. A starship’s port hull is marked by red lights. Also, a planet, moon or asteroid where a starship crew takes on supplies, offloads cargo or has other business.

porthole. A small, generally round window in the hull of a starship.

press gang. A group of spacers that prowls ports looking for men or women to impress into the navy, merchant marine or crew of a starship. Unlike crimps, press gangs respect interplanetary law.

privateer. A civilian starship authorized to take offensive action against another nation, typically by seizing merchant ships belonging to that nation. Unlike pirates, privateers possess a letter of marque, which requires them to abide by the laws of war and all other laws of space.

privileged vessel. A starship that has the right of way while navigating.

prize. An enemy vessel, crew and cargo captured in space by a warship or privateer. A legally taken prize is either condemned and sold to a nation or on its behalf, or released for ransom and allowed to continue on its way. Either way, the proceeds (prize-money) divided among the ship’s crew.

prize agent. An agent who sells prizes on behalf of a nation, pocketing a fee for his or her efforts.

prize court. A court that decides claims on captured starships.

prize crew. A crew temporarily sent to a captured or salvaged starship to bring her into port for condemnation and/or sale.

prize law. The interplanetary laws governing when and how a privateer may seize a merchant ship belonging to an enemy state. Contentious.

prize money. The proceeds from the sale of a prize and/or the ransom of her crew, shared out among the bridge crew and crewers at the end of a cruise.

purser. A wardroom officer responsible for keeping a starship’s financial records and distributing provisions to crewers. Typically a rank assigned by the warrant officer to a trusted veteran spacer.

put in irons. To imprison.


quantum signal. A signal that works through a quirk of quantum physics. Quantum signals are paired, and when one is activated the other one will also activate regardless of how far apart they are. This allows faster-than-light communication, but messages are limited to yes-no.

quarterdeck. A starship’s command center, often known as the bridge on civilian ships. Typically reserved for the officers of the bridge crew.

quartermaster. A wardroom officer with general duties assisting the warrant officer, bosun and bridge crew. A largely ceremonial rank typically used to reward a veteran spacer.

quittance. A release from a debt.


ransom. Money paid to privateers to allow a captured starship to proceed along its course without being taken to prize court for claiming and condemnation.

reactor. The power source of a starship, housed near the engines and heavily armored for protection and to prevent radiation from leaking and poisoning the crew.

read in. To make a spacer a member of a starship crew, typically by receiving an acknowledgment that the spacer has read the articles for a given cruise.

recall. An order to return to a starship and prepare for liftoff.

recognition code. A digital countersign proving a starship’s allegiance when hailed.

red. In reference to a system or situation, an indication that things are not ready or functioning normally.

rescue. The recapture of a prize by a friendly ship (known as a rescue ship) before it can be claimed in prize court and condemned.

retainer. A crewer whose family has served aboard a starship or for a specific family or shipping company for multiple generations. Many privateers and merchants are crewed in large part by retainers.

right-of-way. An indication that a starship has priority for navigating over other starships in the area. The starship with the right-of-way is the privileged vessel; other starships are burdened vessels.

roadstead. A safe anchorage outside a port or a port’s orbit, often at a space station or isolated asteroid.

roll. A starship moving to port or starboard of the horizontal axis while changing its vertical orientation.

rudder. The device used by the pilot to steer a starship. A physical object in ancient times; now a series of software commands.


salvage. Abandoned or lost cargo (or a starship) that has been legally claimed, or has been claimed subject to a legal ruling.

Saturn. The sixth planet of the solar system, its moons are members of the Jovian Union.

scope. A screen showing the result of sensor scans, or providing diagnostics about other starship functions.

scow. A dirty, poorly run starship.

scurvy. Originally a disease to which sailors were susceptible, now a term of contempt.

scuttle. To intentionally render a starship or an important system aboard a starship inoperable, so as to deny it to an enemy.

Securitat. The intelligence service of the Jovian Union.

settle one’s hash. To subdue or silence someone, often violently.

shindy. A dance favored by boisterous crewers. Also: a good time had by same. A night of hijinks while at liberty in a port would be remembered as a fine shindy.

ship of the line. A warship big and capable enough to take part in a major battle.

ship’s bells. Spacers tell time aboard a starship by listening for the ship’s bells. Those bells ring every half hour, with a ring added for each half hour until eight bells sound and the four-hour cycle begins again. So 12:30 a.m. (0030 hours) is one bell, 1 a.m. (0100 hours) is two bells, and so on until eight bells sound at 4 a.m. (0400 hours), when the cycle starts over. So, for instance, two bells would sound at 1 a.m. (0100 hours), 5 a.m. (0500 hours), 9 a.m. (0900 hours), 1 p.m. (1300 hours) and 5 p.m. (1700 hours).

The systems of bells and watches are synchronized, with eight bells typically signaling the end of a watch. The exception is the first dog watch, which is only two hours long and therefore ends at 6 p.m. (1800 hours), signaled by four bells. The second dog watch, also two hours long, was marked by one bell at 6:30 p.m. (1830 hours), two at 7:00 p.m. (1900 hours), three at 7:30 p.m. (1930 hours) and eight bells at 8:00 p.m. (2000 hours).

First Watch

2030 One bell
2100 Two bells
2130 Three
2200 Four
2230 Five
2300 Six
2330 Seven
0000 Eight

Middle Watch

0030 One bell
0100 Two bells
0130 Three
0200 Four
0230 Five
0300 Six
0330 Seven
0400 Eight

Morning Watch

0430 One bell
0500 Two bells
0530 Three
0600 Four
0630 Five
0700 Six
0730 Seven
0800 Eight

Forenoon Watch

0830 One bell
0900 Two bells
0930 Three
1000 Four
1030 Five
1100 Six
1130 Seven
1200 Eight

Afternoon Watch

1230 One bell
1300 Two bells
1330 Three
1400 Four
1430 Five
1500 Six
1530 Seven
1600 Eight

First Dog Watch

1630 One bell
1700 Two bells
1730 Three
1800 Four

Second Dog Watch

1830 One bell
1900 Two bells
1930 Three
2000 Eight

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, the bells are rung 16 times: eight to mark the end of the old year and eight for the beginning of the new.

There’s a brief pause after each two bells. So 1430 would sound like this: clang-clang, (pause), clang-clang (pause), clang.

Some starships still have actual bells, though most use recordings..

shoals. The area of space near a celestial body, within which particular care must be taken by a pilot. A term borrowed from ancient sailing.

shore allowance. Funds given to officers and midshipmen for shore leave.

shore leave. Free time in port granted to a starship’s crew.

short commons. Scanty rations.

shot boy. A belowdecks crewer given the task of fetching munitions from a ship’s magazine and bringing them to gun crews. A responsibility rather than a job description – shot boys aren’t necessarily young or male, though the role does typically go to dirtsiders not yet ready for more complicated tasks.

sick list. The roster of crew members ill and unable to perform their duties aboard a starship.

silent running. Operating a starship with as few systems engaged as possible in an effort to avoid detection.

slew. A maneuver by which a starship turns around on her own axis.

sloop. A small, fast starship with weapons. Sloops are smaller than corvettes and typically used for interplanetary voyages.

slop book. A register of items given to crewers by the purser. The cost of these items is subtracted from their pay or share of prize-money.

snack. A share of prize money given to a ship that was in firing range of a target vessel when it was captured. A tradition established to prevent violent clashes between pirates.

soft tack. Bread or cake, a treat during long cruises.

sonic emitter. A handheld weapon that stuns enemies with waves of extremely loud, incapacitating noise.

space. To expose someone deliberately to vacuum, with fatal results.

spacelane. A corridor through space near a planet, moon or asteroid, typically marked by buoys.

Spacer’s Farewell. A verse said as part of funerals held in space.

stand. To hold a course for a destination.

starship. Technically a starship is a spacegoing vessel capable of operating between planets or other distant points in space. In practice, any spacegoing vessel. Starships are called “she” or “her” with the exception of some commercial craft and small starships such as gigs, gunboats and pinnaces. Military ships serving nations are usually called warships.

starshipwright. A designer and/or maker of starships.

starboard. The right side of a starship, as seen from a crewer at the stern looking towards the bow. The starboard side of a starship is marked by green lights on the hull.

stateroom. A cabin or chamber reserved for a starship captain, another high-ranking officer or an important guest.

stern. The rear of a starship.

sternboard. A method of turning a starship when the pilot cannot maneuver forward. A real test of a pilot’s ability.

stern chaser. A gun mounted at a starship’s stern, used for firing at pursuing vessels.

sternpost. A thick beam rising from a starship’s keel at the stern and helping support her engines and reactor.

strike fighter. A short-range attack craft launched from a warship acting as a carrier. Smaller than a pinnace but more maneuverable.

straggler. A crewer absent from his or her ship.

summat. Something.

supercargo. A crewer in charge of a merchant vessel’s cargo. Typically not a regular member of the crew, but a representative of the shipping line or starship’s owner.

surgeon. A wardroom officer who serves as a doctor aboard a starship, with responsibilities that include treating everything from common illnesses to wounds suffered in battle.


tea wagon. A derisive term for a merchant vessel.

tender. A vessel that carries supplies, provisions and personal deliveries to a warship in port.

Themistians. The outermost family of the main asteroid belt, divided from the Cybeles from the 2:1 Kirkwood Gap. 24 Themis is the largest asteroid of the family.

ticket. A written document promising payment of wages or other compensation at a later date.

Titan. The dominant moon of Saturn, part of the Jovian Union. It is rich in minerals and valuable gases, with extensive mines, fuel refineries, factories and settlements.

Titania. The dominant moon of Uranus, part of the Jovian Union. Mined for fuel, water and minerals.

top deck. The uppermost deck of a starship. Often living quarters for the starship’s officers, and reserved for them.

transom. The aft wall of a ship at her stern. The transom is strong and heavily reinforced, helping support the engines and often the reactor.

transponder. An electronic system that automatically broadcasts a starship’s name, operating number, home port and nationality. Many civilian ships travel with their transponders disabled, and some broadcast false identities to confuse pirates and privateers.

Triton. A moon of Neptune that’s mined for gases and minerals, and a jumping-off point for exploration beyond the solar system’s frontier. Independent in the struggle between Earth and Jovian Union.

Trojans. Asteroids in the orbit of a planet, tugged along by its gravitational pull. The most famous Trojans in the solar system are those of Jupiter, found at the LaGrange points on either side of the planet and divided into the Trojan and Greek nodes. The asteroids in the Trojan node are named after Trojan heroes, with the exception of the misclassified 617 Patroclus, while those in the Greek node are named after Greek warriors, with the exception of the misclassified 624 Hektor. The Jovian Union claimed dominion over its Trojans, four of which were inhabited: 624 Hektor, 617 Patroclus, 911 Agamemnon and 1172 Aeneas.

tub. A slow, ungainly starship.


Uranus. The seventh planet of the solar system, a chilly gas giant. Its moons are members of the Jovian Union.


Vesta. Formally known as 4 Vesta, an asteroid located between the Floras and the Nysian family, and loyal to Earth. An industrial center and trade hub.

victualler. A starship that sells provisions to other starships in orbit above a port. Also: the owner of such a starship or his or her store in a port.

victualling yard. A part of a port where the stores of many victuallers, chandlers and other merchants are found.

viewport. A large window in a starship, typically found on the bridge/quarterdeck.


wardroom. The cabin belowdecks reserved for the warrant officer and spacers assigned significant roles by him or her. On many ships the wardroom doubles as an operating theater during battle for the ship’s surgeon. Wardroom also refers collectively to a ship’s complement of belowdecks officers. On the Shadow Comet, the wardroom consisted of the warrant officer, bosun, bosun’s mate, engineer, master gunner, gunner’s mate, master-at-arms, surgeon, quartermaster, armorer, purser and chaplain.

warrant officer. The ranking officer belowdecks, typically a spacer who has worked his or her way up through the ranks, but sometimes drawn from the bridge crew.

wash. The ion exhaust of a starship’s engines.

watch. A period of time during which an officer, crewer or group of crewers is responsible for certain operations aboard a starship. The day is divided into seven watches: The first watch lasts from 2000 to midnight, the middle watch from midnight to 0400 hours, the morning watch from 0400 to 0800, the forenoon watch from 0800 to 1200, the afternoon watch from 1200 to 1600, the first dog watch from 1600 to 1800, and the second dog watch from 1800 to 2000.

watch officer. The ranking officer during a given watch. The watch officer retains command in the event of an emergency during his or her watch unless relieved by the captain or first mate.

whist. A card game popular with belowdecks crewers.


yaw. A starship moving to port or starboard of the vertical axis, but maintaining the same horizontal bearing. Yaw only refers to an involuntary motion when a starship is damaged, malfunctioning or being piloted poorly. A deliberate move to port or starboard of the vertical axis is simply a turn.