Portfolio: Esperia

This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 4.12.

There’s an old saying that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” That has never been more true than with Esperia. The company produces fully-functional recreations of both historic and alien ships, and most recently, historic alien ships. Esperia’s ability to seamlessly blend modern function and luxury with classic and long-lost ship designs makes it utterly unique in the aerospace marketplace.

Interestingly enough, Esperia’s founding in 2873 was about history, not commerce. The company only became a major player in the aerospace industry thanks to a bit of luck, a big controversy, and the tireless drive of its two founders: Jovi and Theo Ingstrom. The Esperia story is truly about these brothers who hated, loved, and pushed each other to do what no one else dared.

Sibling Rivalry

The Ingstrom brothers were born and raised in Quasi, Terra. Their parents owned and operated a vast luxury hotel that catered to the tourists that visited this picturesque, mountainside city. As a kid, older brother Jovi was fascinated by the strange alien ruins just outside Quasi and would spend hours exploring them. Meanwhile, Theo hung out in the hotel’s hangar. There, he ogled the rare and expensive ships that came and went with the guests.

According to hotel staff at the time, while Jovi and Theo were a pleasure to be around individually, they became a terror when together; the brothers constantly antagonizing or daring each other to do reckless things. Edwin Kelce, author of Resurrecting Icons (the definitive biography on the brothers), suggests that the most notable incident occurred when they were teenagers, in 2866. Jovi dared Theo to stand on the railing of one of the hotel’s third story observation decks. Once his brother finally was perched on top, Jovi bumped the railing. Somehow Theo survived the fall, suffering only a broken arm.

Despite this rambunctiousness, their father detected a strong entrepreneurial instinct in Jovi and wanted him to learn the family business. Jovi refused and instead attended the University of Jalan to study xenoarchaeology. The following year, Theo began attending the University of Rhetor to learn aerospace engineering. Theo proved to be a gifted and motivated student. Jovi was expelled his sophomore year.

Following his expulsion, Jovi worked at the family hotel for a few months. He quickly tired of his parents’ constant scrutiny and wanted to return to his studies. His parents agreed to financially support him under the condition that he attend the University of Rhetor with his brother. Reportedly, his parents, both alumni, played the legacy card and made a sizable donation to the institution to ensure his application would be accepted.

Jovi moved in with Theo the next semester. The arrangement annoyed both brothers. Theo felt that his parents had burdened him with the additional responsibility of keeping his brother in line, while Jovi resented his younger brother looking over his shoulder. Then, in 2872, the two took a trip to the Intergalactic Aerospace Expo (IAE) that would not only change their relationship, but also their futures.

Digital Archaeology

For years, Theo had been trying to get his hands on a Gailforce-model ship, known among engineering enthusiasts because it never made it to market after cost overruns drove its manufacturer out of business. While touring the show floor, Theo found a broken shell of a Gailforce for sale. Yet despite his efforts, he couldn’t talk down the private collector’s exorbitant purchase price. For the rest of the day, Theo rambled incessantly about the ship until Jovi decided to take matters into his own hands. Before anyone attributes Jovi’s actions as altruism, Resurrecting Icons claims that Jovi’s actual motivation was “to make Theo shut up.” He tracked down the collector that evening in the hotel bar and after a night of drinks, was able to talk down the price. Not only that, he managed to get a set of the ship’s original blueprints thrown in as well.

Theo used the blueprints to repair the ship, but ran into a snag when data corruption rendered a number of the pages unreadable. Jovi researched where they could obtain copies of the corrupted pages and was shocked to discover that blueprints were often harder to find than the ships themselves. The fact that the Gailforce’s blueprints had virtually vanished after only a few decades stunned Jovi.

After watching Theo repair and restore the Gailforce, he understood that ship blueprints were an essential part of aerospace history and was surprised that no one had thought to compile any kind of archive of these documents. Jovi saw an opportunity to combine his natural business acumen with his passion for history.

In 2873, Jovi dropped out of school, liquidated his trust fund, and started Esperia with the help of Theo. The company was named after a small-scale ship manufacturer, renowned in collector circles, that was tragically wiped out when the Orion System fell to the Vanduul. Esperia’s initial goal was to collect and preserve ship blueprints so more wouldn’t be lost to the sands of time.

Jovi and Theo began to buy as many ship blueprints as possible. Then they charged a recurring fee for access to these records, so collectors could restore their precious ships to the original specs. Jovi scoured the universe, paying good money for any blueprint he could find. It wasn’t long before Esperia had accumulated an impressive database, and had made a name for itself among collectors as a go-to source.

But the subscription model wasn’t lucrative and Esperia struggled to turn a profit. After Theo graduated from university, he began to buy and sell old ships he’d restored from Esperia blueprints. Jovi heavily advertised these restorations to show what was possible with their service. It wasn’t long before Theo’s reputation as a talented restorer drew more interest than the blueprints. One morning Victor Hurston was patiently waiting for them outside their small office in Kutaram, Terra. What he proposed would permanently alter the company’s course.

The Imitation Game

Victor Hurston was best known as a playboy with a penchant for exotic ships. Even so, what he proposed to the Ingstrom brothers was nothing short of shocking. Victor had come into possession of a Vanduul Glaive and asked if Esperia could get it up and running. Though they lacked blueprints and any knowledge of the Vanduul language, the Esperia team somehow got it working. A few months later, Victor Hurston unveiled the Glaive to a shocked audience at the 2877 IAE, the crowd reaching fever pitch when he climbed into the cockpit and took off. Afterwards, Victor personally thanked Esperia for their hard work on getting the ship flight ready.

Overnight, the name Esperia spread across the Empire. Many marveled at how this small restoration company had mastered Vanduul technology, while others cursed them for turning the enemy’s weapon of war into a rich kid’s toy. Theo recoiled from the controversy. Jovi embraced it, using it to advance their image and start building a brand.

Then the UEE Navy was at Esperia’s door. Government engineers had never quite figured out how to make captured Vanduul ships function properly, certainly not to the level that Victor Hurston had demonstrated, so they hired Esperia as consultants. After Theo and his team proved their worth, the government approached Esperia with an even more ambitious project — building replica Vanduul ships to be used in Navy training exercises. Esperia needed to quickly expand their operations to fulfill the government contract. Jovi worked tirelessly to make this happen and it paid off. Esperia has been on the Navy’s payroll ever since.

After expanding their operations to fulfill their government contract, Esperia finally had the facilities to produce quality replicas for the private sector too. Before long, several near-extinct spacecraft were to be found flying the Empire once again in the form of Esperia reproductions. Wealthy clients flocked for the chance to fly these limited-run collector ships.

Recently, Esperia’s special relationship with the UEE government allowed them access to the Kabal System to catalog and assess the ancient Tevarin ships found there. They have since brought to market the Prowler, the famed Tevarin boarding craft, which has been painstakingly constructed to recreate the spirit of the original ship while updating it with contemporary features and comforts. The Prowler joins replicas of the Vanduul Glaive and Blade that the company recently sold to the public under a new business plan pushed by current CEO Charlotte Hussion.

Esperia has come a long way since Jovi and Theo started it as an archive for vanishing ship blueprints. Still, the company’s dedication to preserving the past stays alive and well and continues to influence the future. Each year, eight students at the University of Rhetor receive the Ingstrom Fellowship for their work in the field of xenoarchaeology.

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Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/spectrum-dispatch/16959-Portfolio-Esperia