On the main subject I've been doing some thinking ...
What if organised crime in oolite was as it is in reality, by that I mean that it is divided by factions - some tolerate each other (begrudgingly) other are actively working against each other in order to take over territory.
What I am saying is that maybe you have to align yourself to a faction and so will receive co-operation and help from any systems that your faction controls (perhaps even assistance from other criminals within your faction), but may receive outright hostility from the criminal element in systems where another faction is present.
A faction could be small (maybe covering just 1 or 2 systems) or it could be huge and diverse (covering dozens of systems).
Rewards could be based on how much the faction has grown since the player joined said faction.
This would give the player a choice of difficulty and reward depending upon whether the player wants be:
a small cog in a huge machine (faction) where support and the area over which it is offered is vast but the rewards offered are rather diminutive
be a big cog in a small machine (faction) where support and the systems where it can be offered is limited but the rewards for helping a small faction grow are considerable
You could have missions offered that pit you against rival factions to try and take their rock hermit / pirate cove or salvage gang locations down (destroy).
Once successful in taking control of the system, you could then be tasked with ferrying raw materials to the location where your new pirate cove is to be based and defending it whilst it is being built until it is able to operate and look after itself (again the perks for this would probably be considerable but it would be a very tough task).
It could also be possible to change factions so that you are by no means tied to them for life, but you would have to think about the following:
1. Would a new faction trust someone from a rival faction (they could offer prospective talks as a ruse to ambush and eliminate a member of a rival faction.
2. After leaving your old faction you are not exactly going to be on their christmas card list (unless it ticks) infact you are going to be numero uno enemy.
Apologies for rambling on with ideas (unfortunately most of my ideas take on a life of their own which have children and then grand children!
I've no idea if any of what I have suggested is viable and it probably takes the game in totally different direction to regular elite.
Also I've no idea if any of this makes any sense (would be a first for me)
If any of my ideas are muddled (or just complete nonsense) please let me know