This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 10.3.
Despite an illustrious career, Gratia Katsaros never forgot her first infield assignment. A recent Rhetor University business school graduate, Katsaros rejected job offers from prominent investment banks to join a crew of “turf-techs,” 24th-century slang for workers hired by terraforming companies to visit planets being actively terraformed. A mixture of scientist and repair technician, some turf-techs took important readings to track the process while others fixed essential ground-based equipment. The work wavered between exhilarating and extremely dangerous, which Katsaros, as an amateur climatologist and thrillseeker, admitted attracted her to the gig. While suiting up for her first mission, Team Leader Clark Rissolo handed her some extra homemade protective gear and explained that the company didn’t require that she wear it, but he did. Clark was a lifelong turf-tech who knew how quickly conditions could change and how ineffectual the standard environmental suit could be against unexpected elements like egg-sized hail suddenly falling from the sky.
In her memoir, Protection for the People, Katsaros revisits this first gig on Terra IV and some of the dangers her team faced.
“There was a sudden drop in air pressure followed by a cold, stiff breeze. It didn’t seem that strange to me, but Clark immediately called for an emergency evacuation. I took a moment to tighten another bolt when, suddenly, I was knocked down by a rock whipped up by the wind. Thankfully, Clark pulled me up and guided me into the ship. Once safe, I looked down and saw a rock embedded into Clark’s extra layer of armor. For that, I owe him not only my life but my eternal gratitude for setting us on a new path.”
Katsaros jokingly called these extra protective layers “Clark’s defense system,” and her experiences on the job pushed her to advocate for increased safety standards for turf-techs. In 2539, she convinced Clark and a few others to start a company manufacturing specialized environmental armor. The team established their operation in Najita on Keene, Killian system, and picked the name Clark Defense Systems (CDS) in honor of their inspiration. Yet this slight name change wouldn’t be the only early adjustment the company made. Shortly after launching their inaugural line, the First Tevarin War erupted and the UPE desperately needed combat armor. Sluggish sales of their environmental suits drove CDS to apply for and land a military contract. “We jumped at the chance to expand our product line thanks to some government funding,” Katsoros wrote, “but believed we’d be back to environmental suits the moment the war was over. We couldn’t have been more wrong.”
GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK
Clark Defense Systems refined their environmental suits to comply with military standards and quickly converted their production line to create a variety of field armor and combat undersuits. With the UPE on the verge of winning the First Tevarin War, a cadre of government officials visited CDS headquarters for the first time in 2546 and disclosed that their armor was the most well-regarded equipment among combat forces as well as pilots. They were so effective and well-liked that much of it was reserved for special forces or soldiers in the most dangerous areas of operation. The visit ended with UPE officials offering CDS a massive new government contract to expand upon their output to the military. Though the offer would keep them from being able to return to the environment suit market, it was too good to refuse.
CDS dedicated all the company’s resources to manufacturing combat armor and consulted extensively with veterans of the Tevarin War on what features they responded to best in the field as well as what they would need and want for future models. This led to the development of some of their most famous lines of armor, including the Omni-Role Combat (ORC) and Advanced Defensive Protection (ADP) series. The outbreak of the Second Tevarin War in 2603 brought about another substantial increase to CDS’ government contracts and further real-world testing. The company’s willingness to adapt and improve their armor kept it as a favorite of soldiers who, when the war finally ended in 2610, would return home raving about a brand unavailable on the civilian market. This word of mouth created a bustling secondhand market for CDS armor, with entire companies being created to procure and refurbish the prized pieces.
With demand so high, CDS considered pivoting to the private sector. The company’s long-term commitment to making armor exclusively for the UPE/UEE military was a boon, but company executives understood the dangers of being associated with the increasingly authoritarian Messer regime. CDS lawyers looked into ways to get out of the exclusivity clause in their government contract, but the Messer regime got wind of their plan and informed the company that their armor was of “strategic importance to the Empire.” The UEE argued in documents released centuries later under the Historical Truth Act that none of the armor developed for the military, or even modified versions of it, could ever be publicly released and that any attempt to backout of their manufacturing commitment would lead to the UEE taking full control of the company, its facilities, assets, and patents. Sufficiently scared, CDS officials dropped their plans and sat back, waiting and hoping that the company could outlast the regime.
PROTECTION FOR THE PEOPLE
By the late 28th century, Messer regime power was weak enough for CDS to resurrect their plans to expand into the public sector. Their first move came in 2789 and coincided with the former military system of Castra being opened to the public. The company bought office and manufacturing space on Cascom (Castra II) with the hopes of creating a separate company focused on developing armor for the public. CDS hoped that siloing this entity, its product, and development cycles from anything previously done for the military would shield them from government interference or retaliation. But these plans quickly became moot when, in 2792, the Messers finally fell.
Free from the iron-grip of the former regime, CDS held lengthy discussions with senators and members of Imperator Erin Toi’s administration. The new government wanted to cut ties to companies associated with the Messers, a fate most famously dealt to Aegis, but the evidence of CDS’s attempt to sever their contracts and the regime’s subsequent takeover threats saved them from losing everything. Instead, the two sides agreed to dramatically reduce the size of CDS’ contracts but allowed them to enter the civilian market to sell legacy versions of their combat armor.
Before entering the civilian market, CDS enacted a master plan to set up the brand for future success. In 2802, the company officially moved their headquarters to Cascom, Castra system, and significantly increased their manufacturing capacity there. Today, most of their civilian operations are based out of Cascom while their facilities on Keene focus on supplying and developing the next lines of groundbreaking armor for the UEE military; an area where CDS continues to excel as evidenced by them being awarded a government contract in 2945 to research and develop next-generation light armor. Today, Clark Defense Systems maintains a significant foothold in both the civilian and government sectors and is considered by many to be a cornerstone company of the empire.