The plot of the original Escape Velocity involves disputes between the Confederation government and a Rebellion against it. As noted earlier, the player may choose sides (or not) based on who they believe is right, who they believe is stronger, who they believe it is more profitable to support, or any other criteria.
The Confederation is one of two main governments in the original game. According to the game, as humanity expanded into the Milky Way Galaxy, the new colonies operated independently of each other. However, an invasion by an unknown alien race forced the colonies to unify under Earth's leadership. This became known as the Confederation. The Confederation and the aliens fought a bloody war, with millions of humans being killed. Eventually the Confederation prevailed. At the start of the game, the Confederation and the Rebellion are locked in a bloody stalemate. The Confederation uses four ships in its military, namely the Confederate Patrol Ship, the Confederate Gunboat, the Confederate Frigate and the Confederate Cruiser.
The Rebellion is the other main government in Escape Velocity. According to the game, after winning the war with the aliens, the Confederation did not relinquish its naval power and began exploiting the resources of the outer worlds. Those worlds eventually seceded, provoking a civil war. The Rebellion is in turn criticized for its aggressive nature, support of quasi-criminal organizations, and attacks on civilian shipping and liners. The Rebellion uses four ships in their campaign against the Confederation, namely the Manta, the Rebel Destroyer, the Rebel Cruiser and the Escort Carrier?, the last of which is seen only when the player is working for the Confederation.
The Cydonians of New Cydonia and Letheans of Lethe Prime occupy two systems in the galactic southeast of the galaxy and are also locked in a war over water rights at the start of the game; more specific information regarding the conflict is never provided. Both sides utilize the Defender, the Argosy, and the Corvette when fighting in space. The Cydonians also use the Lightning, whereas the Letheans supplement these ships with the Rapier.
The game also includes several trading corporations, including Starbound Shipping, Consolidated Express, and United Galactic Express. Starbound Shipping and United Galactic Express are both in direct (and sometimes violent) competition with Consolidated Express, and are therefore de facto allies. Astex Mining Corporation is a mining company that works exclusively for the Confederation, and as a result is often targeted by the Rebellion and its sympathizers.
The Artemis Group are a family run organization devoted to eliminating pirates as well as ensure the galactic order remains balanced. They attempt to prevent either the Confederation or Rebellion from winning the civil war.
The starting planet, Levo, which is in a system by the same name, has a militia patrolling it to defend it from Pirates, though Pirates never appear in the system except when following the player because of valuable cargo in his possession.
There are a number of Pirates in the game, who immediately attempt to destroy any non-Pirate ship they spot, with the exception of the player once they have achieved a high combat rating. The Pirates do not plunder their targets due to limitations in the game; the player, however, is allowed to board ships, and may from there steal money, cargo, fuel, or ammunition, or attempt to capture the ship for use as their own or as an escort.