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Pirates of Uranus

Piracy is as old as the sea.  While space might be large, pirates in space use the same strategies as their seaborne ancestors before them.  They strike at chokepoints in regions where the law is weak.  In the years before the Martian-Belter War, most pirates operated out of the inner moonlets of Uranus.  The gas giant was the lowest cost -- in terms of escape velocity -- source of hydrogen and helium isotopes needed by older fusion plants.  And deep in the atmosphere, mining platforms harvested rare xenon gas, still used in smaller and specialized ion drives.  Corporations from both the Belt and Mars mined the Uranian atmosphere.  Yet Uranus had the smallest population of any outer world.  Discounting the reclusive Children of God on Oberon, the system had only about 10,000 residents, mostly on Ariel and Miranda.  And the military presence never amounted to more than a few patrol ships and fighters.

Of course nobody built and sold pirate ships.  The most notorious bands of marauders at Uranus used a variety of second-hand vessels.  The most common of these was a modified version of the Canard 300 series long range Belter scout singleship.  This vessel had the range and power required for long waits and quick attacks on passing ships.  With the standard manipulator arms replaced by a pair of 50mm X 7m gauss cannons, the "Black Canards" had the power to cripple or cow small and mid-sized freighters.  As the threat increased, most ships traveling to the outer system acquired their own gauss cannons for defense.

Pirates couldn't earn a living destroying ships.  And they could hardly fly a seized ship into any even marginally legal port.  Their goal was capture, with the cargo sold off and ship either cannibalized or held for ransom.  The same was true for the freighter's crews, though the former fate remains strictly unsubstantiated rumor.

-- Vrak Lawson Space Pirates!: Lawlessness in the Outer System, Ingot ePress 2548

 

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