This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 9.10.
When Cousin Crow’s Custom Crafts opened its new flagship store on Orison in 2949, the event was so massive that the Providence platform registered a record-setting number of controlled bursts to maintain its proper altitude. People packed the store and overflowed up the stairs in both directions, overrunning the Crusader Discovery Center and Covalex store. Crusader Security considered ending the raucous event early but worried about how the already rambunctious crowd might react. As culture reporter Sabastien Frost remarked, “Half of Lo spent their life savings to attend this thing, and they aren’t leaving until all the booze is gone.”
The store was built out of a series of old repair bays that had formerly been used to maintain Crusader’s fleet of cargo haulers. The open design allows customers to see ship customization in action. Yet for the opening extravaganza, these repair bays held classic ships, or pieces of them that showcased Cousin Crow’s most famous mods and paints. “Each ship you see is part of my story. Part of what got me here,” recounted Nampo Vasko, or as he’s known under his more popular moniker ‘Cousin Crow,’ before pointing to a small piece of the first Kraken Privateer, “For example, that’s the ship that made all this possible.” The shop features a triptych of vibrant graffiti-style murals that pay homage to Vasko’s home neighborhood of North Block in New Junction. Designed by friend and frequent collaborator ‘Tufo’ Donato, the murals are meant as both a reflection of where Cousin Crow started and a reminder that no matter how much his life has changed, a part of him remains the same kid from the wrong side of New Junction.
Born in New Junction (Lo, Corel system) in 2883, Nampo Vasko spent his days raising hell with friends instead of working on his Equivalency. He would later state that his primary education came from the smuggling runs his mother took him on. Seeking to pay off the debts accrued from her gambling addiction, Nampo’s mother would frequently sneak contraband in and out of New Junction. Nampo’s role on these trips would be to provide a cover story and act as a distraction if any authorities paid their ship unwanted attention.
When Nampo was twelve, his mother suffered her biggest loss wagering on the Murray Cup. In order to pay her debt, she agreed to “loan” Nampo to a local Banu criminal souli. The Banu put him to work on a wide variety of tasks, but Nampo fell in love with stripping ships for parts. It was through this work that Nampo would acquire the first ship he ever attempted to repair himself. That 2894 Cutlass was featured prominently at the opening event, with a sign describing it as “the ship that made Cousin Crow fall in love with ships.” Even after helping pay off his mother’s debt, Nampo became a regular at the Banu chopshop and grew more and more entangled with New Junction’s criminal underworld. Nampo continued to work on ships and absorbed the Banu philosophy that no design was sacred, and everything could be improved to look or work better. He created ship liveries for fake companies, modified internal layouts to build smuggler’s holds, and more. Yet as Nampo grew, so did his ambitions. Seeing the amount of credits smugglers made compared to chopshop workers, Nampo assembled a group of friends and stole a Constellation. Under Nampo’s direction, the group reworked it into a smuggling ship and used his underworld connections to do small runs. A replica of that Connie’s smuggler’s hold was on display at the opening and described as “his first failed design” for not properly concealing contraband. In 2905, Advocacy, operating on an anonymous tip, arrested Nampo and his crew for smuggling and sent them all to a rehabilitation facility.
BECOMING COUSIN CROW
Nampo found prison life both excruciatingly mundane and terribly dangerous. As his friends fell into gangs, Nampo instead used his boisterous and affable personality to survive. His jet-black hair and ability to float between groups earned him the nickname Cousin Crow, “cousin” being slang at that facility for someone who could be trusted. After hard work earned him an early release, Nampo returned to his North Block neighborhood. He scraped together credits by doing ship repairs and modifications for people he met through connections made in prison. Since they all knew him as Cousin Crow, he went with the name when opening a small ship customization shop in 2924.
Cousin Crow’s Custom Crafts grew into a North Block sanctuary where folks could hang out safely. Though he stayed on the straight-and-narrow, Cousin Crow happily and expertly tricked out ships to be as audacious or inconspicuous as their owner desired. Often he hired friends fresh out of prison or looking to leave the outlaw life to work at his shop. The most notable being ‘Tufo’ Donato, who would go on to design some of the company’s most famous liveries and the graffitistyle murals currently adorning the Orison store.
The original shop’s reputation slowly spread and attracted customers from outside the Corel system. Cousin Crow’s big break came in 2942 after partnering with a luxury tourline company to modify an old Genesis Starliner into the ultimate party ship. A massive marketing campaign saturated spectrum with images of the starliner and made Cousin Crow’s a name in ship conversion circles across the empire. A piece of that party ship was also on display at the store opening described with the ad campaign’s infamous tagline, “So much fun, it shouldn’t be legal.”
Not long after, Drake executives invited him to visit their headquarters on Magnus. There they showed Cousin Crow plans for their first capital ship and offered him a chance to make an exclusive livery for the launch. Cousin Crow countered with an even bolder idea. Over the years, many of his clients had hired him to convert their ship’s holds into Banu-like marketplaces. Rather than have to do an after-market retrofit, how much better would it be if he could work with Drake directly? The executives loved the idea and soon the Kraken Privateer was born, sealing Cousin Crow’s reputation as one of the premier conversion shops in the UEE.
Soon, Cousin Crow found himself successful beyond his wildest dreams and with more credits than he could ever spend. He became a connoisseur of high-end street fashion, a generous patron of his favorite artists, and a classic ship collector. He also poured credits into his business by drastically expanding his shop in North Block and hiring friends and family at sky-high salaries to curb any lingering temptations to running afoul of the law.
In 2944, following his recent success and his earlier impressive “party ship” starliner conversion, Crusader Industries reached out to Cousin Crow to see if he was interested in overseeing its engineering team responsible for converting branded starliners to customer specifications. As part of the deal, Cousin Crow negotiated for a flagship store on one of Orison’s most heavily trafficked platforms.
From wild child to wildly successful entrepreneur, Cousin Crow has become a beloved hero to North Block residents for achieving success without turning his back on where it all began. A feat he achieved by adapting to any situation and seeing the potential for change in himself, other people, and most importantly ships.