The Crimson Hand is a massive pirate band as large as many governments. They are well known for slavery and ship abductions, as well as simply taking the supplies being transported between systems. While few nations would ever work with them, most cannot hope to take them on directly. Instead the governments defend their own systems and allow transports limited weapons to defend themselves with. A few rare smaller governments actually let Crimson Hand vessels operate on their worlds openly, to cowed by the power this group holds to resist them. Even rarer yet are worlds that are actively partners to the Crimson Hand and the primary slave buyers.
No one is quite sure when exactly the Crimson Hand began and some say the earliest records of them predate the Civil War Era. While often being a ruthless and even mean bunch, they do need to sell their goods and they attract alot of greedy individuals from better known worlds. They even have dealings with certain Hypercorps who provide them with supplies in exchange for leaving their cargoes alone and providing them certain supplies from their competitors.
Ship Captains have a large amount of independence and can run their own vessels much as they wish, they only have to listen to the commodores and the Crimson Council. In fact ship’s captains do own their own ships, the way one becomes captain is to work your way up the ranks within a vessel, be brought in from another vessel and work your way up, Be given a vessel by the Crimson Council, or acquire one on your own while affiliated with the Crimson Hand. A good first officer can often be given a bounty ship by their ship’s captain, usually because the Captain thinks they are to ambitions and may arrange for an accident to befall them otherwise.
Commodores are appointed form the ranks of the Captain’s by the Council and command small sections of operation for the Crimson Hand, such as a single system or a cluster of systems next to each other. Most commodores have hidden bases they command and all ship captains who work in their area must heed a call from their commodore.
On top sits the Crimson Council who command the Crimson Hand from on high. Most people don’t even know that their exists a lower and upper council, the upper council only ever really shows their displeasure at acts the lower council makes that fails. Which usually means the death of the lower council members who initiated it. The lower council is the ones who make the big overreaching decisions for the Crimson Hand, deciding on long term goals, new ventures, dealing with governments (through intermediaries), etc.
While they do have some ‘custom’ designs, which are basically scavenged from other sources. However they have a large fleet of designs stolen outright from governments and private groups. They actually maintain a good number of cruisers spread over the systems they make use of as bases, which is why if they ever collected their ships into one spot even the big multi-system governments could not oppose them. Even so the bulk of their ships are modified Q-ship freighters or frigates and corvettes.