Star*Drive: Visions of the Verge
One of the smallest and youngest of the stellar nations, the StarMech Collective has led a marginal existence for more than a century. Created by bureaucratic need, interstellar fiat, and hedonistic pleasure, the Collective has survived through the cleverness and technological ingenuity of its members. Specifically, StarMech survives because of its renowned ability to construct the finest ships and robots in the galaxy.
The region of space accepted today as the StarMech Collective lacked both organization and leadership during the 23rd century. The century before had seen the end of the 100-year peace imposed by the six Terran alliances. During the 23rd century, humanity undertook a massive leap to the stars, but many smaller countries left without much planning. Colonization was correspondingly chaotic. Dozens of small corporations and states carved out a niche in regions ignored by the larger powers, including the Taurus sector.
Almost unnoticed among the migrations was the relocation of StarMech Inc., a corporation specializing in the manufacture of advanced machinery. Specifically, the company focused on robotics. StarMech abandoned profitable contracts and fiscal security on Earth to maintain its independence in space.
As fledgling colonies sprang up and nations unified, the Taurus sector had no central power able to forge neighboring systems into a larger whole. Until 2299, the nation’s future citizens
already referred to as “Starmechs” suffered through a dark and confusing time. As the colonists civilized the new worlds, natural disasters and piracy took their toll. Without support from Earth, life itself was a struggle. Slowly, the colonies improved and even flourished, opening avenues for trade. But without a central government, StarMech success went unpublicized. Compared to other young nations, emigration to StarMech space was very low. The region’s reliance on robotic technology grew, and the Starmechs enjoyed the benefits of a large, artificial work force: time for recreation and play.
When the First Galactic War erupted, the inhabitants of the region were caught off guard by the intense conflict. Military readiness was a foreign idea. The region wasn’t a primary objective for forces on either side of the war. The greatest threat to the colonies came from pirates, who saw the war as a time to loot and pillage the undefended.
Despite the constant attrition of the weak, the colonies took the first steps toward cooperation and unification. As the war marched toward its conclusion, StarMech and the other regional powers formed a mutual defense force and patrolled the region, preserving a tense peace for all of the new colonies. In 2312, the war ended after thirteen bloody years.
In the following months, diplomats wrangled for advantage in the Treaty of Earth. At the time, StarMech Inc’s leadership wanted to use its robots to conquer the surrounding colonies. To do so, it needed permission from great powers that might intervene, especially the Thuldans and the Orlamus. The post-war treaty did more than dele borders between the new powers; it determined what the powers were. Since no true power existed in the Taurus sector, it was to be divided among its neighbors. StarMech Inc. pulled in favors and staged one of its infamous, often deviant, parties. Legend claims that when the diplomats awoke the next morning, StarMech had the signatures to guarantee a diplomatic coup. Partly through pure socializing and partly through closed-door arbitration, StarMech convinced the other treaty signatories to recognize the Collective as one of the 26 great powers. In 2312, the Collective was born as a nation, at least on paper.
In practice, the Collective remained a fiction for more than a decade. Over time, though, StarMech technical expertise paid off in unexpected ways. First, the corporation had thousands of construction orders to fulfill-and at reduced prices, as part of the deal that it had signed to secure its status as a recognized nation. With contracts flooding in, the overworked robots and their builders had little time to unify their neighbors. Besides, outfitting an army of conquest didn’t fit StarMech’s pleasure-seeking culture. Instead, for the next two decades, StarMech and its robots built hundreds of high-quality driveships.
At first, StarMech’s smaller neighbors were understandably nervous about StarMech’s plans. Many were angry at being included in the Collective, which they rightly considered a bureaucratic creation. But as the years passed, StarMech’s economic ties with its neighbors grew ever tighter. Even after the treaty commissions were filled, the quality of StarMech workmanship kept an economic boom going, and both materials and personnel were desperately needed in the shipyards. Fortunately, it was faster and easier to negotiate for new staff than to form a battle fleet. The Collective pulled together, and by 2331, it was not just a map sector; it was a stellar nation. Soon StarMech driveships set out to explore the galaxy.
The Second Galactic War
To a nation still struggling to bring its members together, still forming its first navy, still obsessed with feeding personal pleasures and amusements, the Mutant Uprising was an unrivaled cataclysm. StarMech’s members, caught up in carousing, were among the few who did not see the war coming. Their long-standing reliance on robots proved unfortunate as well; warrior robots fared poorly against well-armed soldiers.
Losses were acceptably low in the first years of the war, until the collapse of Sothvec Industries, a StarMech neighbor, brought the Thuldan Empire to StarMech’s border. Faced with overwhelming force, the Collective’s military fell back, abandoning systems to buy time to construct more ships. In 2361, the Rigunmors proposed an alliance, and the Orions and Orlamus promised support-or at least neutrality-during the Thuldan invasion. With only one enemy to focus on, StarMech forces halted Thuldan advances by the turn of the century. The StarMech-Thuldan front was one of the fiercest in the war, and losses on both sides remained high until the end.
The Second Galactic War saw the loss of 40% of StarMech’s former territories, and the shrunken nation struggles to pull itself into shape. Many valuable star systems were lost to the Thuldans, including ravaged Delight, Tallis, and even Liber, once the economic and political center of the Collective. While the Collective has relocated its capital to the planet Chance, rebuilding its current territories will be the effort of a lifetime. In an effort to share the burden, StarMech CEO Adam Spiner donated several sectors of ravaged planets and battlefields to the Galactic Concord Neutrality of Concord Taurus. In the process, he reduced the Collective to one of the smallest nations in area.
Today’s Collective embraces a level of unification and organization that only two galactic wars could bring. The rule of the Collective is finally recognized throughout all of StarMech space. Still, the destiny of StarMech Inc. would have surprised its founders. Although the Collective retains the pretense of corporate existence, StarMech’s disorganized neighbors never accepted the transition to a corporate way of life. The Collective’s leadership found it necessary to form a de facto republic.
Every citizen of the Collective is also a shareholder in StarMech, Inc., possessing one share of the company and the ability to elect the administration. The Collective society grants most democratic freedoms to its citizens-freedom of speech, religion, and leisure is taken for granted. But the Collective retains its corporate roots. The Starmechs vote for leaders who hold offices such as CEO, CF0, and C00; the elections are called ’shareholder referenda: Starmechs also vote to appoint members of the Board of Directors, which oversees the executive officers and heads the judicial and legislative departments of the Collective.
The Collective’s economy walks a delicate line between free republic and corporation. Independent traders and small corporations exist throughout the Collective, sometimes even competing with an official division of the StarMech Collective itself. Still, the Collective’s economy, independent or tied to the corporation, relies on the superior workmanship and production facilities about planets such as Chance. StarMech shipyards are rightfully the pride of the Collective and the source of most of its interstellar trade. While the StarMech specialization has created a dependence on interstellar trade, the high quality of StarMech material has created de facto allies out of several stellar nations, especially the affluent Rigunmor Star Consortium. No one wants to see StarMech robotic shipyards cease operation.
The StarMech military has been rebuilt since GW2. Today, StarMech boasts a young and new navy easily able to defend the Collective’s borders. StarMech military vessels, like all StarMech craft, are at the leading edge of starship design, with systems and sensors of unrivaled sophistication. More important, to StarMech minds, is the unquestioned reliability of StarMech engineering; their ships never fail to pass inspection. As StarMech naval forces grow, many Starmechs see a day when fortune may smile, and they may take vengeance on the Thuldans. Three new fortress ships are already being assembled by the nation’s robotic fitting yards.
Playing A StarMech
StarMech engineers conceive brilliant theories, unorthodox designs, and fantastic models. Then the robots do the work. The Starmechs enjoy the opportunity to have a good time. They don’t suffer from any overpowering need to collect material possessions, or even to acquire wealth. Neither do StarMech citizens separate themselves from the galaxy and seek meaning in abstraction and exploration of arcane theories. What they do have is a special cleverness that goes into manufacturing ships and robots. StarMech construction and engineering robots fulfill most of the needs of the society, and Starmechs are comfortable with their mechanical servants, treating them as other cultures treat dogs Or children. Most Starmechs prefer to travel with at least One robot servant.
StarMech culture lives and breathes in the technical advances of the day. For instance, they seem more comfortable when surrounded by their own robotic creations rather than other humans, Even Starmechs who never leave the planet of their birth appreciate the StarMech devotion to the engineering. They’re baffled by foreign cultures, such as the Hatire, which reject technical advances. How can one reject the instruments of creation? The applications of robots in industry, especially heavy industry, fill all comers of StarMech society.
Ultimately, starmechs accept that the world is run for profit. Most will admit that their frolicking, no matter how attached they’ve become to it and no matter how enjoyable may be, can’t form the basis for a real existence. Most Starmechs in- stead dream of the realization of the next ship, the next building, the next project, and the next hope to bring into reality. Not that a Starmech necessarily wants to get started on that glorious project right away. Idleness and unemployment among the Collective are common, despite the constant work to be done.
Given the lack of a StarMech work ethic and the acceptance of technology in all parts of their lives, the Starmechs would seem to have little need for religion. Ironically, most Starmechs do profess a religious affiliation, with Humanity Reformation and 01d Earth faiths claiming the largest followings.
Finally, although Starmechs have a fierce interest in science, most also have an odd streak of superstition. A Starmech expects terrible events to follow breaking a reflector, crossing green and yellow wires, and making a red starfall. Many Starmechs have their own quirks of superstition; even their robots are sometimes programmed to take these into account.