A pilot in a spacefaring empire, the Augustan Hegemony, has second thoughts when ordered to open fire upon an unarmed convoy accused of aiding and abetting enemies but claiming to transport medical supplies. Deserting their post after considering their ceremonial title "shield of the people", they find themselves a fugitive in a vast, retro-styled 2D galactic milieu where there is much work needing to be done and it turns out their former employer isn't very popular. The player's brief moment of ethical consideration leads to a career as a privateer, doing what they know and going on scanning missions of survival, campaigns to overthrow pirates, mercenaries and occupying capital ships in boss battles, mining asteroid belts and taming aggressive fauna of the breathless tracts of interstellar space.
The game is played as a series of discrete missions, each one a top-down vertically-scrolling space shoot'em'up. Mission success yields increases in reputation, money (for ship upgrades), and sometimes direct upgrades to maneuverability, firepower strength and reloading time, shield capacity and regeneration rate, and ability to enter areas choked with space dust. Upon assisting all the denizens of an area, the player is given the option of drawing upon one of the local spaceships for assistance, and ultimately the player leads a vanguard in rebel actions against the Augustan Hegemony in efforts to restore the People's Council from exile.