The Association of Free Traders is a loose guild of traders who banded together in the face of attacks from Pirates and harassment from the Federation bureaucracy. The Association is focused on mutual self-defense and "free trade," which the Federation charges is a euphemism for unrestricted smuggling. The AFT is not sanctioned by the Federation, but its members are generally ignored by military vessels as long as they behave themselves. The AFT is the bitter enemy of the Associated Guild of Free Traders, whose innocuous-sounding name does little to disguise their out-and-out piracy.
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The Nova ship identification system distinguishes between the rival groups by identifying members of the AFT as "Assoc," as opposed to the AGFT, who are identified as "Free Trad." The AFT are the protagonists of the so-called Pirate storyline, one of the major mission strings in Nova.