Writer’s Note: Portfolio: Greycat Industrial was published originally as a Subscriber Exclusive on December 12, 2018.
Step onto almost any industrial site in the universe and you’ll likely find something made by Greycat. Be it a Pyro Multi-Tool safely slicing through metal or a heavy-duty suit protecting a miner against falling debris, the company’s extensive line of industrial equipment and armor make it one of the most respected brand names around. Greycat has remained a UEE staple for centuries thanks to their streamlined-yet-inventive designs, exacting safety standards, and a diverse product line.
Similar to RSI, Shubin, and Tarsus, the company’s long history makes it a corporate cornerstone of the modern UEE. While Greycat experienced success early on, it only really became a household name after releasing the Personal Transport Vehicle (PTV) centuries later. These days, it’s hard to imagine the Empire without Greycat’s PTVs buzzing across expansive hangars or their massive mining bots extracting ore from asteroids. Most analysts credit Greycat’s growth into a manufacturing empire to shrewd managerial moves made by the company’s founding family — the Broussards. However, a growing number of historians believe that much of the company’s success can be attributed to Ruben Pardue, the until-recently forgotten engineer responsible for designing and developing some of Greycat’s most important products. Neither Pardue nor the Broussards alone could have made Greycat what it is today, but together their combined vision and ambition created a company that has become an essential part of the Empire.
Arrogance of Youth
Ruben Pardue first made a name for himself while attending the University of Rhetor. After publishing his graduate dissertation exploring future applications of geohacking tech, he attracted the attention of Titania Terraforming. The company courted the ambitious young engineer to aid their efforts in terraforming Uriel — an experimental undertaking to raise the planet’s core temperature to compensate for the lack of heat generated by the Oberon system’s neutron star. Pardue was undaunted by the immense task. In fact, he jumped at the chance to try and crack the riddle of ‘fixing a planet’.
Pardue quickly distinguished himself as an adept problem solver with a caustic tongue; many who worked with Pardue bristled at his unchecked arrogance but never questioned his competence and dedication to the project. He rocketed through the ranks and was soon asked to lead the construction of a network of tunnels under the planet’s surface to house another team’s experimental thermal device. Pardue spent months in the tunnels obsessing over every last detail. In his downtime, he sketched ideas for new equipment that would’ve been useful to his operations. These included initial designs for what would eventually become the Pyro Multi-Tool. Yet, these sketches wouldn’t be realized for years due to a tragedy that changed the trajectory of Pardue’s life and career.
On May 23, 2381, a section of the underground operations hub collapsed, tragically killing thirty-seven and injuring dozens more. Trapped in a connecting tunnel, rescuers barely made it to Pardue in time to save his life. Unfortunately, his dominant left arm required amputation above the elbow. With Titania obligated to cover medical costs, Pardue could’ve had the finest prosthetics available at the time, but he refused. A choice Pardue’s biographer Jing Fermi believes was self-imposed penance for his failure to prevent the catastrophe. Pardue quietly left the company after the accident. Titania investigated the incident, but never publicly released their report. The tragedy was yet another setback to the grand plan of terraforming Uriel. The company dissolved years later after deeming their attempt to manipulate the core temperature an utter failure.
Upon hearing that Pardue had left Titania, former university classmate Pippa Broussard reached out and offered him a job. Her family owned a small yet respected industrial goods manufacturer and she was eager to put her stamp on the brand by infusing it with new ideas. Though never officially declared responsible, Pardue’s tarnished reputation after the accident had left him without any other options, so he agreed to the comparatively low salary offered by Broussard. A mere three months after the collapse, Pardue began his career at Greycat.
In 2337, Odis Broussard founded Greycat Industrial, with the goal of producing and supplying safety equipment to miners seeking their fortune among the stars. The company’s moniker was a nod to the family’s nickname for Odis, whose hair unexpectedly turned grey when he was still in his twenties. By the mid-24th century, Greycat was manufacturing a number of well-regarded and affordable products from their Mars headquarters. It was successful, but their market presence was minimal.
When Odis’ daughter, Pippa, took control of the company in 2380, her ascendance coincided with the creation of the United Nations of Earth (UNE) and the completion of terraforming projects in the Croshaw system. Inspired by the expansionist spirit, Pippa’s first act as Greycat CEO was to open their second manufacturing facility on Angeli. Away from the watchful eye of her father, who still maintained control of the Board, Pippa hired Pardue to expand Greycat’s product line.
Pardue’s first design was a line of industrial armor. Incorporating new safety features and advanced alloy plating that would have been critical to helping workers in the Uriel tunnel collapse, the ‘Aril’ industrial armor became a huge success. Its clean, functional design would come to set the standard for Greycat products going forward. Today, Aril armor remains a bestseller for Greycat, with only minimal changes made to Pardue’s classic concept.
Inspired by the Aril’s success, Pippa asked Pardue to head up Greycat’s engineering department, but he politely declined. Pardue refused any promotions for the remainder of his career, avoiding all managerial positions so he could simply focus on building. This also ensured that every one of his designs would be thoroughly vetted and implemented by others. While his vision and style are now synonymous with Greycat, his preference for the drafting table over the boardroom table meant his influence was not well known until the release of Jing Fermi’s biography, Hidden Design, in the early 30th century. The book became a bestseller by juxtaposing Pardue’s incredibly fertile yet uncelebrated professional career at Greycat with a tumultuous personal life, which the events on Uriel haunted until his death in 2458.
Meanwhile, Pippa discovered that expanding Greycat’s influence and production pipeline wasn’t without problems. The popularity of the Pyro Multi-Tool upon its release so overwhelmed the company’s supply chain that the backlog kept most customers waiting months for their order. This gave competitors time to design and sell cheap knockoffs. The ongoing battle with copycats and counterfeiters would consume significant company resources for centuries.
When profits plateaued in the early 27th century, CEO Liana Broussard implemented a controversial plan to overhaul their production chain in an attempt to fix the issues that plagued them. The ultimate goal was to have a manufacturing facility in every UEE system. Since building and managing all of these new plants would be costly and time-consuming, Liana outsourced much of the work to regional manufacturers. This turned out to be a costly miscalculation. Many of the regional plants either chose to ignore or failed to meet the strict standards set by Greycat. To make matters worse, some of these unreliable third parties leaked (or outright sold) design specs to counterfeiters. Soon, most knockoffs carried the exact same color scheme and design specifications as the real thing. Many of them even claimed to be made by Greycat Industries, not Greycat Industrial; a distinction lost on many casual consumers.
The fallout from this strategic blunder harmed Greycat’s bottom line and led to a power struggle within the Broussard family for control of the company. When the dust settled, Liana became the only Greycat CEO to ever be ousted. Her brother, Marcel, became CEO and embarked on an equally ambitious plan of his own.
Bigger is Better
As CEO, Marcel Broussard enacted a two-pronged plan to keep Greycat solvent. He aggressively lobbied the UEE to clamp down on counterfeiters. Even with the eventual passage of a bill that introduced harsher penalties for those convicted, government intervention could only go so far. Documents would later reveal that Marcel also contracted private security forces to find counterfeiters and convince them “by any means necessary” to shutter their operations.
However, what was considered Marcel’s most daring gamble would come with expanding Greycat’s product line. Up until the early 27th century, the company mainly made handheld tools, safety devices, and industrial armor – products that could easily be copied. To insulate the company’s sales, Marcel argued that Greycat should make big tickets items that would be harder to counterfeit. Many were skeptical and scared of the upfront costs, but undaunted, Marcel pushed the plan forward.
Marcel knew the success of the plan hinged on the products, so he dug through the company’s archives and uncovered old Pardue designs that were explored, but not implemented. Among the designs Marcel moved into production were the PTV (buggy), massive Cydnus mining bot, and their series of mining lasers and tractor beams. While most of their larger industrial devices took time to turn a profit, the buggy proved to be more popular than expected. Pardue initially designed the vehicle to navigate cramped mining tunnels, but Greycat employees discovered that early test models were perfect for cruising across the expansive factory floor where the buggies were being made. After a few minor changes to Pardue’s design, like removing the heavy protective roof, the purely industrial vehicle was transitioned to be more general purpose, allowing the PTV to be marketed to a larger audience. It has since become ubiquitous across the UEE.
Marcel’s controversial but inspired leadership finally made Greycat a household name and ensured that the company would remain strong for centuries. He told the Terra Gazette that “Greycat needed to reinvent itself to remain relevant.” Doing so without losing one’s identity or alienating loyal customers was an impressive feat. Greycat pulled it off because it combined the Broussards’ focus, dedication to quality, and daring to try something new with the strong yet distinct design stylings of Ruben Pardue. Simply, Greycat became a household name because of their commitment to making the right business choices; not just the easy ones.