The Elite (Chronicle)
In the time since all the races came into contact with each other about 150 years ago inter-stellar trading has steadily increased, especially since the races started cooperating more closely through institutes such as CONCORD.
Today all space ships are equipped with a capsule, which makes control of the ship much more easy and efficient for the ship captains. Not just anybody can become a ship captain. Captains need special kind of neural riggings and the training is extremely rigorous and taxing, only a small fraction of students actually make it through. This makes able ship captains a unique breed that have a special status within society. The ship captains are regarded by the empires as an expensive investment and they carry huge prestige - the number of inter-stellar traders an empire has in many ways reflects the economic vitality of the empire.
Yet despite the desire of the empires to keep their ship captains on a leash things have developed differently. Because of the exalted status of the ship captains, they’ve managed as the years have passed to make themselves ever more independent from the empires that spawned them. Most ship captains are still employees of an empire company or organization, but what work they do is largely self-controlled. The ever-increasing number of ship captains entering the market alleviates this problem for the empires and has allowed them to increase the number of captains working for them despite the fact that proportionally more and more captains are going totally independent.
The prestige enjoyed by the ship captains is enormous. Apart from the celebrity status many of them enjoy, they receive a number of other privileges. The most important of these is their access to cloning, which is strictly supervised in all the empires. Although some rogue cloning stations are in operation, the vast majority of cloning facilities are empire controlled and who is allowed a clone is rigorously controlled. Ship captains are one of very few professions that have, because of the nature of their job, more or less unrestricted access to clones, although any special types of clones come at a price even captains are obliged to pay.