The Free Corsairs Coalition
An overzealous name for an overzealous bunch, the Free Corsairs Coalition is the collective of pirates, raiders, smugglers, ship thieves, and bandits that bedevil the Rogue Traders of the Cloudburst Circuit. Though they number no more than a few million humans, a few Eldar, and a few Orks, this collective has already achieved shocking gains, including the capture of an entire world in the Circuit. This world, a tiny colony named Zlodziei, had never been a formal part of the Imperium of Man. It was, instead, an outlaw world, populated by humans who had left the Imperium in disgust towards its draconian conduct. This did not make them heretics, they insisted, and indeed shrines to Him on Terra exist in every major settlement. They reject the Adeptus Terra, and live for themselves.
This, however, was a foolish move. The first few centuries after the exodus from the greater Imperium were stable enough, if challenging. Environmental conditions and isolation made survival a great concern. After two hundred years of hard work, though, the Zlodziein had made great progress, carving farms, mines, factories, temples, offices, homes, and even a few small defensive structures from the rock.
Then, the pirates arrived. Nobody came to save Zlodziei.
As far as they are from the core of Imperial space, pirates can go more or less unchallenged at the extreme edges of the Astronomican. Pirate armies are rare, but fleets of thieves and killers looting Imperial shipping are both common and expected at the edges of Imperial territory. When pirates do rise above their survival and bloodlust, and focus their efforts on conquest of territory and resources, they can be murderously effective, especially if they have a true Navigator at their disposal. Unburdened by bureaucracy or the Ministorum, the Free Corsairs Coalition saw an opportunity in Zlodziei, and took it. The residents of the world had no warning, as they might have had if the Mechanicus had provided them with telescopes and radar Satellites. The world had no Sanctioned psychics, or psycrystal copies of the Tarot, and so had no means of predicting their problem or calling for help. When the first Coalition ships appeared at the edge of the system and started landing rough-clad invaders bearing flamers and shotguns, they took the Zlodziein wholly by surprise. Beset by thousands of pirates, the planet fell within hours, and now serves as the capital of the Coalition. The Coalition has elected to leave the population in place and put them to work. After culling the leadership of the planet’s government from their positions and putting them to work in the mines, the pirates left the remainder of the Zlodziein where they were, with the instruction to simply live as life goes. The Coalition did add new manufacturing and mining equipment to the planet, equipment they had stolen from the Mechanicus. Now producing at a surplus, the planet’s industry fuels the Coalition.
The FCC did not arise from nothing, however. The Coalition drew its members from dozens of smaller bands, from three different species. The group has Eldar in its leadership and Orks in its boarding teams, while the majority of the group and its present Admiral are human.
Its fleet is a large and diverse one, but consists almost exclusively of Escorts, with only freighters for cargo moving. The flag vessel of Admiral Reith is a Styx-class Heavy Cruiser, however, and to the surprise of the Ordo Hereticus spies that have begun to infiltrate the FCC, it is completely uncorrupted by Chaos. Precisely where Reith could have found the ship is unknown, but it has no stamps on its hull to indicate Cypra Mundi’s shipyards built it, as it did most. The fleet has a smattering of other ships of Light Cruiser tonnage or heavier, but over four fifths of its vessels are no larger than a heavy frigate, and most are much smaller.
Oddly for pirates, the FCC also deploys a variety of weapons that do not suit its overall goal of expanding its fleet as much as possible. Several smaller ships in the fleet mount potent plasma guns, which are possibly the worst deep-space weapon for taking something intact. The Eldar ships of the fleet (of which there are only three) mount the longest-ranged guns their hulls can hold, and generally protect the Styx. Reith’s name for the ship has not yet reached Imperial ears, but his followers know it to be the Inescapable.
The Orks of the FCC are an enigma to the Imperial Navy. They have the same genetic obsession with bloodshed and looting as Orks elsewhere in the galaxy, but the instinct to join up with other Orks and form a Waaagh! is lacking, or at least suppressed. So long as the FCC keeps the Orks supplied with loot and targets, the Orks seem content to work for them. The Eldar are equally confusing. The Inquisition does not know why they are even willing to work with Reith. So far, they have shown no connection with larger Corsair or Kabalite forces, and their ships have no hull markings.
Piracy is closely tied to the history of the Cloudburst Sector and its relationships with its neighbors. Battlefleet Drumnos has often driven pirate forces from its own frontiers into the voids of space beyond, and since that territory was unexplored and unclaimed at the time, there was little trouble there. However, now that void of space is the Cloudburst Sector, and Battlefleet Cloudburst does not appreciate that this slips the minds of their coreward brethren at times. As recently as M41.768, the Drumnos Sector Fleet has driven pirate groups out of their territory and into Cloudburst. The FCC is not one of them, but they have observed carefully the failures of their southern brethren, and are determined to avoid repeating their mistakes. The most obvious direct inspiration for the FCC is the Dark Winds pirate group, but obvious does not mean accurate. Dark Winds was more than a band of pirates and buccaneers, they were a revolutionary army, with worlds in their thrall and an STC in their fleet. The FCC are still very much mobile raiders in the majority. Their population of ship crewers exceeds the population of Zlodziei by several thousand, and they recruit from the crews of the ships they conquer as often as they do recruiting stations. Moreover, the FCC has very few assets under their control that the Adeptus Mechanicus covets, like a working Leman Russ STC in perfect condition as the Dark Winds did.
The FCC also avoided one mistake that wound up spelling death for the Dark Winds. The Dark Winds were foolish enough to try actually attacking the Battlefleet Cloudburst directly after being driven from their ancestral home in Drumnos, and did so with their mobile shipbuilding yard and STC in formation with the rest of their fleet. They also did so in a concurrent ground engagement, hoping to use their Leman Russes against the unprepared Cloudburst defenses. This merely allowed the Mechanicus to field their own ground forces against them, and STC tanks driven by criminals cannot overcome Forge World tanks driven by Skitarii. The Dark Winds also pressed their defenses against the Imperium, by repeatedly holding fixed territory against Imperial orbital forces and relying on terrestrial food production. No human force can withstand an Imperial Sector Battlefleet, let alone two, and the Dark Winds were fools for thinking so, in the mind of the FCC leader.
Reith instead relies on Zlodziei as little as he can. Having it is a great advantage for him, no question, and the occasional recruits he gets from their populace are a nice bonus. The majority source of his fleet’s income, however, was and remains piracy. Raiding and looting are more than a pastime or occupation for his forces: they are a lifestyle. His fleet is growing slower than Battlefleet Cloudburst, but he has no intention to charge headlong into battle with them. Reith knows about the Glasians, and suspects the hand of Chaos in their activity. The canny old Admiral is perfectly capable of telling when he’s outgunned, and knows that a single Glasian Cylinder could punch through Zlodziei’s defenses as if they weren’t there. Therefore, he has elected to install as little in the way of hardened defenses in the stolen world as he can get away with, in case he has to evacuate his forces.
Reith was born on Septiim Primus, and trained in the Imperial Navy officer corps before eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander on the Cobra destroyer Wildstar. Later, when he was passed over for command in favor of another Lieutenant Commander of higher birth on another ship, he killed the other candidate and stole the ship, and his crew mostly followed him. He cut and tore his way through the criminal underworld of the Cloudburst Sector and its hectic post-Glasian landscape, until he had amassed a sizable fleet. He didn’t achieve outstanding success as a pirate until he began recruiting non-humans, however. After acquiring the services of a gang of Orks to serve as his boarding specialists, his Corsairs went from being moderately able to board and capture ships of lesser weight to being able to capture ships of equal or greater tonnage. By combining that boarding effectiveness with Eldar technology and psychic tricks, his Coalition was suddenly punching well above its weight class. However, the Imperium took note of this, and chased the ambitious Admiral out of their space. In the Circuit, where only Rogue Traders and Explorators travel under arms, the Coalition was able to rampage through lesser-defended outposts and non-Imperial worlds with ease, eventually arriving at Zlodziei.
The Chief Quartermaster and Senior Advisor of the Free Corsair Coalition is the Eldar Corsair and notorious thief Ortam Lesarien, born to the Lugganath Craftworld. Though Lesarien wears a soulstone and the orange armor of his home, he has completely abandoned the Paths lifestyle and taken up the free blade. Many Eldar find humans distasteful and pirates almost as bad, but Lesarien loves his job. Under Reith’s leadership, Lesarien can loot, kill, and live as he chooses, fighting for pleasure and carving a path across the stars. Lesarien finds Reith a bit predictable, and he strongly dislikes working with Orks, but for now, the FCC is his home. The FCC’s second in command is Reith’s younger brother, about whom Imperial Naval Intelligence knows very little.
The FCC Fleet is a mixture of several smaller fleets, amalgamated together into the Coalition. The FCC itself has minuscule domestic shipbuilding capacity. What shipbuilding they can undertake is focused on building cargo shuttles and Lightning fighters. Their overall manufacturing strategy is to capture what large ships they can to serve as motherships for their raids, then build shuttles and fighters to attack Imperial vessels, immobilize them, and steal their cargo, then leave without the motherships ever having to fire a shot. They have stolen a single Mangonel Pursuit Cruiser, but most of their ships are basic Imperial Chartist and Naval models.