Drake Interplanetary is ostensibly a legitimate company, it’s an open secret that they manufacture cheap, well-armed craft favored by pirates, to the point that they’re named in that vein: Cutlass, Buccaneer, Privateer, and Marauder, etc.
Drake Interplanetary builds ships which are ostensibly for legal purposes (local militias, etc.) but are obviously for pirates: so it has the appearance of a military fighter, but mated to an awkwardly larger hull for collecting loot; it should have visible forward-facing tractor beams and a seat for a second crewman even though there’s no turret (as you’ll need a second man to board an enemy ship.)
Drake Interplanetary Ships
Drake Interplanetary became incorporated soon after the Cutlass was re-appropriated as a civilian craft after having lost a UEE "contest" in 2922. The purpose of the contest was to create a ship that could be constructed rapidly, to outfit distant home defense squadrons in times of need.
Jan Dredge became CEO, along with a seven member board which consisted mainly of designers that had worked on the Cutlass. Drake was not the surname of anyone involved in the project; it was selected as an acceptably “smooth-sounding” name, chosen specifically in the hopes that it would make their spacecraft more appealing. This was the first of a series of money-over-all decisions that would quickly come to define the company.
The second decision was also telling: rather than incorporate on one of the UEE’s traditional “homeworlds” like Earth or Terra, Drake based itself in the economically embattled system of Magnus. Basing both corporate governance and key factories on Borea (Magnus II), Drake’s outlaw image became well established before the first production model Cutlass left the factory floor.
The initial pitch was to private militia groups. The plan was that private squadrons in more distant areas of the galaxy would welcome a low-cost spacecraft solution. Regions specifically classified high insurance risks, the Drake board reasoned, would especially welcome an easier way to replenish lost spacecraft.
Sales were phenomenal: within nine months, Drake had opened six offworld factories and had licensed dealerships in nine systems. In another year, the company had quadrupled again. Within five years they were the fifth largest spacecraft manufacturing concern and couldn’t license subsystems manufacturers quickly enough. The successful company was credited in financial magazines as the little engine that could — finally a competitor that would change how companies like Roberts Space Industries and Musashi Industrial ran their businesses. From the numbers alone, it looked like everyone would be flying a Cutlass in ten years.
The question that soon became apparent regarding the Cutlass sales was who was buying thousands upon thousands of the ships and what were they doing with them? As long as the star credits kept coming in, no one at Drake was especially interested. The answer, of course, was pirate organizations. Now, thanks to the affordable Cutlass, it was the new tool of choice. Smugglers and pirates, long cut off from the standard insurance system available to Citizens, had mostly been operating with obsolete discards: an armada of varied designs including patchwork Constellation Mk. Is, military surplus Strike Hawks and even century-old MISC flying wings. Now, they had a readily replaceable spacecraft that fit their budget.
An analysis soon found that Cutlasses were suddenly transporting narcotics, raiding cargo convoys and even daring to engage police patrols with increasing frequency.
It has become clear, though wholly unacknowledged, that the company realized they had made a deal with the devil and the money was too good to step back. Instead of restricting Cutlass sales to recognized military units, they began designing spacecraft with an increasingly piratical bent. The Caterpillar transport, for instance, mounted more tractor beams and heavy weapons than anything in the same class. Advertising became more obvious as well, with showroom model Cutlasses appearing in black stealth schemes and skull-and-crossbones logos.