June 26th 2015
It is said that if you want to see the farthest corners of the Empire, join the Navy. If you want to see even farther than that, join Covalex shipping. With hubs across dozens of systems and contracted transports hauling goods to almost everywhere else, Covalex has become an indispensable part of everyday life in the UEE. Many are surprised to learn that this auspicious conglomerate can trace its origins to less than legal beginnings.
Near the end of the Messer Era, the government, desperate to fund an ever-growing military complex, increased taxes on interplanetary shipments till off-world goods were rapidly becoming inaffordable luxuries. With the UEE’s tight control over the flow of goods, many had begun to count on black market smugglers to provide the everyday things they needed to survive. Though extremely lucrative, smuggling was even more dangerous than it is today. The Navy was instructed to take extreme measures to protect this important tax revenue stream and smugglers were dealt with harshly and with lethal force. Yet thousands of men and women, known at the time as “conveyors,” braved jump points and blockades to secretly haul goods throughout the Empire.
One such conveyor, Hanso Malloy, decided that there had to be a better way. If she could get an official transport license, she would be able to smuggle goods more easily than any of her competitors and be fast tracked through the often risky scan stations. Unfortunately for her, only a handful of new licenses were allotted in any year, and to earn one was a lengthy and costly proposition. If she tried to acquire one through the normal means, she would have little to no chance — but for Hanso, the normal way was never her way.
She figured that if she wanted to acquire one of those licenses she would have to find something to ship that everyone needed but no one wanted to deal with. The answer came to her when a farmer, Covantino Lexly, requested she smuggle in a load of a fertilizer called moly-nitronese to the newly terraformed world where he was settling. He was at his wits end trying to get it through normal trade since most haulers refused to deal with the highly hazardous animal waste derivative. The problem was that though it was a better fertilizer for terraformed soil, there were cheaper, safer, if poor performing, alternatives. The small boost in harvest gain was not worth the Credits it would cost to ship it all the way to the frontier …at least for a normal hauler.
With the Empire eager to encourage the development of these new planets, Hanso saw her opportunity. She sidestepped the TDD licensing board and petitioned the Agriculture Ministry directly for a special license to specifically haul moly-nitronese. She name her company Covalex in honor of the farmer who inspired her. The best part, though, was that the fertilizer was by nature hard to scan through, and very few customs agents were willing to search the horrible stuff by hand. She had not only gotten her license, but she had also found the perfect way to smuggle goods.
With license in hand, Hanso began hauling ‘fertilizer’ to systems far and wide. Never one to rest on her laurels, she realized that the terms of her license could be applied to sub-contractors as well. Soon conveyors far and wide were paying Hanso to fly her colors. The only rule was they had to carry the moly-nitronese and more importantly, they had to charge a fair price for the goods they were smuggling. She knew that the good will of the people was almost as valuable for the safeguarding of her livelihood as anything else. It was this longsighted vision that soon made a Covalex-flagged ship landing in your town something to be celebrated. These ships heralded the arrival of not only cheap fertilizer (if you were into such a thing) but more importantly, black market goods at a reasonable price.
It wasn’t long before the UEE administrators took notice of this positive reputation as well. Their own popularity waning, they were in need of a service provider they could trust to move goods through systems that had grown hostile towards their occupation. Covalex was approached by the Messer government and issued a charter to become an official vendor. Given clear access across all borders and military lines, Covalex ships were soon providing Messer troops with supplies and for the first time officially carrying something beyond fertilizer.
A smuggler at heart, and ever a prudent business woman, Hanso saw that despite this high paying contract, times were changing and the tide was turning against the Messers. She decided to stick to her usual company motto of keep the people happy. Therefore, Covalex ships began to smuggle weapons to rebel forces while providing dry goods to the Navy. Their deliveries in many ways could be attributed with fueling the success of the uprising.
When the revolution finally ended, and the Messers ousted from power, Covalex had firmly established itself as indispensable and a true company of the people; the place to turn to when you really wanted to ensure something got to where you needed it to go. In a short time, Covalex had become so profitable that Hanso decided the company should give up smuggling altogether and focus entirely on transporting legal goods.
Today Covalex has one of the largest fleets in the ’verse; thanks to its policy of contracting with independent ship operators. It has discovered that owners who fly their own ships are more invested in the success of the company and that their wholehearted commitment ensures a higher level of performance. In most systems, at any given time, a majority percentage of the ships flying are working under contract to Covalex.
In addition to its hauling arm, Covalex owns a number of orbital platforms in a variety of systems. These platforms, while owned and operated by Covalex, act as transfer hubs for many other shipping companies as well. Interestingly enough, and to its credit, there is no additional charge or tax on non-Covalex companies that patronize these centers. Not charging other businesses is viewed both as a means to expand its influence and as a way for it to give back to the Empire.
Some of the bigger platforms have even become tourist destinations. Shops, simulations arcades, and eateries line most of the available real estate not taken up by the shipping business. Originally developed as a way to entertain haulers in-between jobs, they have become a place to visit for anybody passing nearby looking for a hot meal, and some company.
While today Covalex is seen as a stalwart company that is responsible for transporting a large amount of cargo across the Empire, the formula to its success continues to be as much a part of its DNA as are the many crates it uses:
Always keep the people happy.