February 14th 2018
There’s an ancient Human axiom that states: you ain’t going nowhere on an empty tank. In a galaxy where high-tech weapon manufacturers compete to build ever-more scientifically advanced laser systems and jump drive scientists study new ways to traverse across the universe, it’s somewhat reassuring that ultimately nothing is possible without good, old-fashioned fuel to get you there. Hence, the rise of the ubiquitous service station, where ships can refuel and rearm.
With tens of thousands of ships in for repair and refueling around the universe at any given moment, it was only a matter of time before an organized system of service stations would come into existence. While there are countless independent refueling options (including advanced self-refueling equipment found on some ships) there are three main companies that have come to define the standard depot: stately Fuel Pump, upstart Cry-Astro and alien newcomer CTR. While most pilots view fuel, arming and repair as an ‘any port in the storm’ situation, familiarizing yourself with possible options ahead of time can save credits and time.
Last of the old guard is Fuel Pump, a chain of service stations started in 2665 whose installations now dot the known universe. Often referred to as ‘retro themed,’ Fuel Pump’s ‘good old days’ vibe, perfectly capturing Croshaw culture in the 2690s, has been carefully cultivated with an eye towards keeping it a relevant part of Human culture rather than simply a disposable waystation. The Fuel Pump corporation goes out of its way to sponsor family-friendly activities to reinforce this impression: their name and logo can be found everywhere from sataball arenas to racing teams, giving them a wholesome, active reputation.
While the days of the free spit-shine have passed, standard Fuel Pump stations are still built around the concept of offering traditional full-service refueling/rearming options. Fuel Pump prides themselves on offering a higher class of technician, with individual stations typically having at least one professionally trained repair crew leader on site at all times. While other companies generally focus on standard maintenance and do-it-yourself options, Fuel Pump continues to offer everything from tune-ups to ground-up frame rebuilds. Additionally, the company offers ‘safe space’ tractor towing, but will not venture into sectors with high TSAS ratings for any sort of repair or recovery operation.
Fuel Pump is also known around the Empire for its annual ‘Fuel Pump Ship’ toy event, in which a different toy spacecraft is issued every August 10th in honor of the chain’s founding. The initial issues represented traditional fueling ships, such as the Starfarer and Hull D, while recent issues have been more action-oriented spacecraft (such as a military-style Hornet) presented in Fuel Pump livery. Fuel Pump ships remain a favorite of both children and collectors.
Where Fuel Pump represents the old guard, Cry-Astro is the upstart reaching for the growing market of younger pilots. Where Fuel Pump offers a full service solution to everything, Cry-Astro offers a cheaper, hands-on alternative while promoting the question: shouldn’t you be the one making the decisions about the ship that’s keeping you alive? Walls of do-it-yourself components and berths for self-installation are a common sight at Cry-Astro service bases. While technicians are available to perform work, pilots who visit Cry-Astro are encouraged to take part in the process rather than sit in an uncomfortable waiting room reading years-old issues of Weekly Star!
Another well-known offering at Cry-Astro is the food. Many Cry-Astro stations serve what has become known as ‘rubber meals,’ a vast menu of fast food options ranging from comfort favorites such as TipTop dumplings to simplified takes on boumbo, Croshaw’s signature dish. Most reviewers agree: it’s not good, it’s not good for you … but it’s a comfort to find familiar food ten jumps from home.
Cry-Astro is likely best known for their ‘hip’ promotional gimmicks aimed at a younger market, which range from the ‘Can’t Miss!’ discount missile reload program to the utterly ridiculous ‘Run Flat Out’ program (in which attendants applied a comically squashed flatcat decal to a visiting ship’s cockpit). These marketing campaigns serve their purpose: in the eyes of much of the public, Cry-Astro is synonymous with ship refueling.
Owned by the Jysho Corporation, CTR was the first fully Xi’an-owned businesses to open and operate in UEE space. If nothing else, this would be enough to distinguish the company from its Human competitors … but the stations do indeed offer a distinctly different level of service. Xi’an culture prides itself on efficiency, and repair operations conducted by CTR are a prime example: in a study, researchers found a 23% improvement over Human companies in terms of repair speed, with very little differential in terms of quality.
Those familiar with Xi’an ship design (such as the increasingly popular Khartu-al) will find no surprises in the overall layout of CTR locations: they feature a clean organic design with distinct spindles and ribs for different service options. CTR hires Human customer service agents, but often imports Xi’an technicians for actual installation work, creating a language barrier for captains seeking to interact directly with those repairing their ships. The work is good and affordable, though, and an increasing number of pilots are becoming comfortable leaving their ships in Xi’an hands.
Today, Citizens and civilians the galaxy around are likely most familiar (most would say unfortunately so) with CTR’s bizarre, energetic commercial jingle: “SEE TEE ARE! SEE TEE ARE! NAHH NAHH NOOOORB!” Utterly meaningless in any language (Xi’an included), the song and its accompanying commercial have cemented CTR’s presence in the mind of a younger generation that already has fewer issues equipping their ship via an alien company.