Space Piracy (sometimes just piracy) is a set of illegal activities which includes, but is not limited to raids on celestial bodies, robberies, kidnappings, and hijackings conducted in outer space. In recent times, most of those who engage in space piracy are also the same as those who engage in normal piracy on planetary surfaces.
Human criminal activities in space had begun since the beginning of human space expansion, taking its roots from the naval piracy occurring on Earth. One of the first recorded space piracy incidents occurred in low earth orbit in 2048, when a shuttle carrying tourists was boarded by pirates which later demanded ransom.
As humanity expanded to the stars, so did the pirates. Extrasolar pirate raids were common in frontier systems, although due to the rapid expansion most spacefarers preferred to explore and pioneer rather than to pirate on others. However, as the systems began to settle down, the fledgling interstellar trade routes suddenly became lucrative for the criminals.
On the 26th century, raids on corporate vessels or individual miners were a routine occurrence. The URSS had formed a special anti-piracy force, but the pirates proved to be difficult to handle especially with the widening rift between the central government and some colony systems. During this period some major pirate "organizations" formed and made their own bases on bodies untouched by the rest of civilization e.g. Eonxe. In several space sectors, there were "no-go" zones which were, in essence, pirate-controlled space. Several "nations" grew inside these areas, but they were not recognized by the central government.
After the Confederacy of Humanity formed and consolidated its power, it began its crackdown on piracy which had disrupted trade and economy across the galaxy. It constructed military station in important trade transit systems and orbital stations around planets in order to protect travellers. This proved useful to reduce attacks on cargo vessels, but pirates continued to operate on frontier areas and asteroid belts.
In order to further pressures the pirates, the security forces slowly began raiding known pirate bases to destroy the pirate's facilities. While this only happened occasionally and new bases sprouted almost as soon as the old ones were destroyed, the attacks did disrupt the organization among the pirates and caused them to scatter throughout the galaxy, no longer major threats to local security forces. Slowly but steadily, the pirate "nations" surrendered and seceded to the Confederacy.
The largest of these raids were on the planet Eonxe on the year 5307. Eonxe by then had been the most important pirate base for over 2,000 years, and after the successful attack most pirate organizations were virtually disbanded.
However, the First Galactic War completely overturned the successes. With many fortresses destroyed and military vessels occupied, pirates devastated many trade routes and raided multiple planets with little resistance. During the 2 chaotic centuries the pirates managed to gain more than what they had lost within the past 6,000 years and established new organizations. In fact, some pirates settled down and declared independence from the Confederacy of Humanity entirely. When the war ended, the central government decided against fighting the established pirates and granted amnesty for those who settle peacefully. Routine pirate-chasing operations in various systems remain, however.
The Second Galactic War was a different story. The pirates was actively being hunted by the Molkor, who harbor an extreme dislike towards pirates. These anti-piracy operations were so harsh that the piracy rate during the war plummeted to levels never seen before. After the end of the war, piracy recovered to normal levels.
The most common modus operandi of the pirates is to cripple a loaded cargo ship with small, agile fighter ships and hijack it, selling it off with its cargo and demanding ransom for the captured crew. Some others prefer simply to raid the vessel for valuables and save themselves the problem of having a massive shuttle. In extremely rare cases, pirates destroyed the vessel in order to scavenge the cargo from space. Due to obvious reasons, this method is rarely used and is despised even among other pirates.
When the pirates managed to organize themselves into a large enough group, they may conduct surface raids on stations/colonies/towns which are less defended. Major cities are rarely targeted due to the defenses although there have been multiple cases of cities inhabited by millions being pillaged by pirates. By frequency, a significant majority of raids are conducted by small groups on asteroid mining outposts.
Most of a pirate's revenue comes from black market trading, since there was little alternative to trade their illegally obtained goods for cash. This often blurs the line between them and smugglers, and many pirates also conduct smuggling. This is especially true during periods where the security forces are cracking down on them.
Equipment and Personnel
Pirates are mostly limited to small combat vessels equipped with a multitude of weapons and speed upgrades in order to outmaneuver military vessels. They do have refitted, stolen cargo ships as carriers, however. These carriers act as troop transports and as heavy battleships, capable of bombarding a space station.
The background from which pirates originate from are extremely varied. The largest group are believed to be independent miners, but there are a good number of former corporate employees, disgraced entrepreneurs, farmers, former soldiers, ship crew, and many other jobs from all across the galaxy (and from outside the galaxy, in the case of Molkor pirates and young pirates in Andromeda and Rentxo). Many work as mercenaries to stronger pirates, and some flip-flop between legal and illegal jobs.
After the Confederate crackdown on piracy, the amount of organized piracy have decreased significantly. There is still multiple (informal, obviously) organizations operating from bases unknown to the confederacy which continue to gather intelligence on these locations. Some of these organizations are well-known to the populace, however, and have very different organizational "structures". Some are similar to democracies, while some others resemble a monarchy with "kings". The largest amount of them are essentially anarchic organizations, however.
Every 5 years, the heads of these organizations meet on a planet or moon, in a meeting known as "the Transit". All pirates with sufficient renown are allowed entry into this meeting. While the confederacy is extremely aware of this event, it does not intervene. This is since the selection of the venue is done only 3 days before the event, and many attendees "come" by holographic proxy. In addition, the event is conducted with essentially no preparation and the meeting have always been conducted in a remote, uncharted body outside Confederate-controlled space.