Star*Drive: Visions of the Verge
Many outsiders consider the survival of Austrin-Ontis Unlimited as evidence of a human obsession that stretches back for centuries. Of course, Austrin-Ontis accepts the tradition of supplying armaments with pride. Categorizing Austrin-Ontis remains a difficult task for diplomats and historians alike. It stands somewhere between a corporate stellar nation and a confederation of rugged colonies. Most Austrins see no contradiction between maximizing the profit line and exercising the desire to demonstrate their products whenever possible.
Arms dealers are nothing new to human history, and by the early half of the 21st century, the industry was booming. As new superpowers rose and corporations staked their claims to global power, both national and corporate armies felt the need for state-of-the-art, military-grade arms. Simultaneously, many free-minded citizens who were intimidated by the world’s changes soothed their fears by arming themselves. By 2050, personal firearms were rapidly spreading throughout otherwise civilized nations.
Austrin Arms and Ontis Ordnance devoured corporations of the previous century. Both companies had grown into diverse conglomerates with holdings in dozens of industries from transportation to agriculture. Austrin focused on personal arms, marketing itself to concerned citizens worried about protecting their homes and families. Ontis met the demands of a professional army. Over time, the possession of powerful, advanced weapons became popular in many frontier areas of the solar system. Ontis began to market itself to the public, and thus started an economic war between the corporations. Aggressive advertising pushed gun sales ever higher in those nations that allowed ownership, and corporate-sponsored smuggling sent weapons into the rest.
The competition ended in 2112 with Austrin Arms’ hostile takeover of its competitor. With its new military-grade weaponry and research facilities, Austrin-Ontis Unlimited became one of Earth’s most powerful corporations. It clung to monopolistic control of the arms trade and ruthlessly obliterated any attempts to encourage competition. Simultaneously, A-O trained a lavishly equipped corporate security force. The A-O private army mushroomed in size to exceed that of many nations. To command this ideal army, the megacorporation hired experienced military commanders from existing armies.
The result was never ideal. Given the newest toys to play with from the moment of enlistment, A-O soldiers tended to be highly individualistic. Competition among the troops in accuracy, speed, and nerve spread through the entire company. While sometimes these games were simple contests at a shooting range, duels and individual acts of violence also increased, plaguing the corporation’s ability to organize.
Most analysts believe that Austrin-Ontis would have consumed itself from within had existing trends continued. Fortunately for the Austrins, the stardrive arrived to transport humanity to other star systems. Like most multinationals that survived the century, Austrin-Ontis made the choice to leave Earth and the restrictions that governments could impose. The same rugged independence and boldness that plagued attempts to bring order to the corporate ladder served the Austrins web in space. Austrin-Ontis defied the trend of governments and corporations tightening down on their new colonies.
Without guidance or organization from above, many Austrin colonies failed. Fortunately, new groups of hardy adventurers always stood ready to take their places, and the Austrin-Ontis stellar nation rose on the backs of the fallen. Officially, the nation remains incorporated, and Austrins retain employment under the auspices of a board of directors and a CEO. In practice, the Austrins grew used to the freedoms and liberties that life on a faraway colony provided. During its early days, most Austrin-Ontis colonies met or exceeded production quotas, and the corporation didn’t tighten controls until the First Galactic War. Even today, A-O provides a far more relaxed atmosphere than that of other corporate nations, such as VoidCorp.
The First Galactic War came as a shock to most Austrins. At the war’s inception, the corporate management relocated to Powder one of Austrin-Ontis’s well-established worlds. As demand for A-O weapons rose, profits from the war filled the corporate treasury. At the same time that it was supplying arms, Austrin-Ontis fought against all of its neighbors at one time or another. The Terran Empire was the primary enemy, but Austrins also attacked the Leodal States and the fledgling Orion League. The Austrins pushed the Terrans out of their space and more than held their own against the stellar nations around them. Most important, Austrin-Ontis Unlimited kept its reputation as arms supplier to the interstellar community, even though it was both a supplier and a combatant.
The Second Galactic War
History texts lay the responsibility for inciting GW2 on Austrin-Ontis Unlimited. The accusation is well founded. Between the wars, A-O merchants roamed the galaxy as arms dealers and rogues. Desperate to increase sales, the Austrins soon gamed a reputation for creating business-stirring up trouble wherever they went to raise the demand for weaponry. No conclusive evidence has yet been found linking Austrin-Ontis operatives to the Mutant Uprising of Tau Ceti, though most of the rebels were armed with A-O arms. As A-O representatives point out, though, Austrin weapons are common throughout human space.
The war proved disastrous. Demand for A-O weapons fell as stellar nations saw the foolishness of fueling an enemy’s economy and built up their own weapons industries. After initial successes
the Leodal States fell in 2355 Austrin-Ontis fought the combined forces of the Nariac Domain and VoidCorp. By joining the Profit alliance and trading space for time, Austrin-Ontis survived. Self-interest motivated even the Orions to assist A-O occasionally, lest the members of the Expansion Pentad rest on their border instead of the Austrins. The systems between Austrin-Ontis and the Nariac Domain became a wasteland of battered planets that were eventually donated to Concord Prime. By the end of the war, even some Austrins admitted a certain exhaustion.
During the war, Austrin-Ontis joined an alliance motivated by a single goal: increasing the revenue of its members. The same goal extends throughout this stellar nation. Members travel the galaxy in search of deals and opportunities for profit. As long as a member of the society adds to the profit line, the corporation allows its people freedom to transact their business however they wish. Failure doesn’t meet with the same result; Austrins who fail to meet sales or production goals are consigned to serve in the A-O bureaucracy, pushing paper for the rest of their lives. Forbidden from transacting A-O business, these wretched failures suffer the highest indignity: Their right to bear arms is revoked.
The consequences of failure and the corporation’s blind eye toward method have promoted a popular image of Austrins as desperate, bullying tradesmen. While there is a great deal of truth in this public conception, most Austrins don’t confine their interests to making the deal of the century. Even while in search of making money, most Austrins are would-be heroes, rugged individuals who travel to the edges of known space and beyond. The same individualism has kept pistol duels as an accepted practice. If both parties agree to the duel, murder is legal in the A-O sphere of influence.
Military service is voluntary but common. The corporation lures volunteers by providing its soldiers with the best equipment – state-of-the-art firearms, for the most part. Three weeks into training, enlistees receive an automatic rifle, which they may keep after three years of service. Furthermore, the A-O military maintains its strength by lavishly supporting its troops. As a result, Austrins tend to be highly effective when operating alone or in small units. In large actions, Austrins sometimes fail to demonstrate strict discipline and training.
Thirteen fortress ships bear the Austrin-Ontis logo. The Austrin Navy mirrors the army’s strengths and weaknesses- fantastic equipment without direction. Despite the Navy’s successes in the war, the corporation favors a large standing army to this day. Even Navy troops and officers prefer personal combat; their specialty is disabling and boarding enemy ships. Once aboard an enemy vessel, Austrins take a mad delight in wholesale slaughter.
The A-O capital planet Powder is said to contain enough firepower to level dozens of star systems, though this may be an exaggeration. It is true, however, that Austrin-Ontis has devoted an substantial level of resources to the protection of the planet. Defense drones and cascading layers of roaming satellites cordon off the entire system into defensive sectors; the defenses combine strategies of strength and depth.
Playing An Austrin
There’s no polite way to say it: Austrins are a little gun-crazy. Sure, stellar nations, including the mighty Austrin-Ontis, consist of billions of inhabitants scattered over hundreds of worlds. In these massive collectives, each planet and each individual is unique-with diverse origins, opinions, and beliefs. Pundits claim to abandon notions such as the ‘typical Orion’ or the ‘typical Austrin’. Citizens of the 26th century can only laugh. The traits a nation shares are what hold it together. What holds the Austrins together is a love of firearms, the belief in violence as the crucible of character, and even a somewhat quaint notion of personal honor.
Within Austrin-Ontis, conditioning for a life of action and heroism
the true life of an Austrin begins soon after birth. In childhood games of marines and Bug-Eyed Monsters, school versus school battles, and serious adult duels, Austrins learn not to shy away from confrontation or competition. The Austrin psyche requires brave deeds. Austrin-Ontis wisdom recognizes the inbred human need for violence and doesn’t try to suppress it; instead, it provides healthy ways for Austrins to express their violent urges.
Violence, the Austrins hold, is merely a manifestation of change, discovery, and progress. Witness human history. War and conflict bring out the need for development: technologically, mentally, and even spiritually. Controlled violence keeps Austrin-Ontis a dynamic, growing entity ready for any challenge. Fortunately for the nation, this brew of aggression and competition has fostered a respectable esprit de carps. Recognition of kindred souls allows the rugged frontiersmen to survive the 26th century.
The long relationship between Austrins and their specialized material of trade has had its influence in the Austrin-Ontis character. Austrins tend to be direct, honest folk. Fans and foes alike agree that Austrins as a group lack deceit; they tell it as they see it. This trait and its fame serve the Austrins well in their trading throughout the galaxy. Integrity and lack of duplicity are points of pride. Austrins manifest these traits in their trading, too; frequent and willing demonstration of their finest military wares is a hallmark of Austrin-Ontis commerce.
In matters of spirituality, Austrins tend toward the conservative and traditional. Old Earth faiths predominate, though over the past century, missionaries from the Humanity Reformation and even the Hatire Community have enjoyed a little success. Indeed, the reformers have done so well that many wonder about a new openness in Austrin-Ontis thought. Having fought over much of the galaxy, Austrin society may now be slowing down to enjoy life’s more abstract pleasures. Of course, if war is declared, this cultural change may be quite short-lived.