This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 5.6.
This simple adage has been the mantra of a company that has stayed on the forefront of agricultural technology for almost two hundred years. This mantra has been the motivation behind all the company’s pursuits and has driven their cutting-edge research. Although many know Rayari for their multiple initiatives and charities committed to ending hunger, and as the administrators of Reza’s Landing arcology on Vosca, not many know the origins of the company itself, particularly that its founders met while working for Imperator Messer XI.
A Dark Origin
The year was 2778. Ulysses Messer X was currently fixated on what he hoped would be his legacy: the Khanos Stadium on Angeli. The Imperator had been steadily implementing an Empire-wide ‘renaissance of architecture’ that was intended to exalt Humanity and his family line for millennia to come. Something had changed in the public, though. After centuries of oppression, the seeds of rebellion were taking root. With the death of Anthony Tanaka in 2757, the population was beginning to pull against the chains of its imprisonment.
During this time, Ulysses Messer may have been obsessed with his buildings, but he wasn’t completely ignorant of the growing dissatisfaction in the public. Though he ultimately believed that the completion of the Khanos Stadium would inspire and unify the populace, he wasn’t averse to throwing the people a bone or two to pacify them in the meantime.
The Imperator drafted a challenge throughout the various Imperial departments, looking for public projects entirely intended to act as morale boosters until the stadium could be completed. Selected proposals would receive full funding under the condition that they could be implemented quickly and cheaply. Messer X didn’t care where the ideas came from, he just wanted them fast.
Meanwhile, deep in a research lab on Persei, Edward Kesamyn, Clara Douglas, and Asif Reader had hit a wall. The three young scientists, all fresh graduates of UPARQ, had been hired by the Agriculture Department and tasked with developing a new fermentation compound that could act as a preservative. Edward’s specialty was biochemistry, Clara focused on agricultural biotechnology, and Asif’s degree was in genetics. They were six months into the project and had little to show for it when the Imperator’s proposition arrived.
The three initially disregarded the contest, but found themselves brainstorming ideas while having drinks one night in the neighborhood bar. The conversation became more and more intense as they ordered more rounds; by the end of the night, they had an idea.
Clara had grown up in a very poor family on Hyperion. Her father had always attempted to farm the windswept property outside their modest home in the hopes of producing their own food. And he had always said, “it doesn’t need to be anything special, just a basic vegetable we can cook.” Unfortunately, if the soil didn’t reject the plant outright, the desert’s consistent windstorms would finish the job.
The three started discussing the Revenant Tree (altrucia lacus) and how that was able to quickly adapt to Hyperion’s wind patterns and dry soil. Inspired by the wine they were drinking, Edward recounted the ancient Phylloxera aphid plague that threatened Earth’s vineyards. Entomologists figured out that they could graft aphid-resistant rootstock to the bottom of the susceptible vines to avoid the deadly bug. They wondered if a similar solution could be used for her family on Hyperion. In fact, figuring out a way to graft roots of indigenous plants to common crops could open up numerous agricultural opportunities to the entire Empire. They knew that the larger companies could pull off this kind of procedure, but not independent farmers, so they decided to see if they could come up with a simple, affordable way to put this technology in the public’s hands.
The bar closed and the three went straight back to the lab. For the next month, they spent every waking moment examining the feasibility of the idea and constructed a pitch to submit to the Imperator’s office.
To their surprise, they were one of sixteen projects selected to receive funding. The three happily bid farewell to the fermentation project to which they’d been consigned and set up a new facility and team to realize their idea.
Three years later, however, the Empire took a turn. Linton Messer instigated a coup against his father on the night the Khanos Stadium was set to open, and was empowered as Messer XI. The new Imperator was considerably more vicious and petty than his father, so many in the government simply tried to keep their heads down and go unnoticed. To that end, Edward, Clara, and Asif hoped that they would be allowed to quietly continue on their work.
When sentient life was discovered on Garron II, their 20 project came to a swift end. Asif was selected to join Dr. Michael Shiherlis and the team tasked with studying the planet, thanks to his expertise with xenogenetics. When Edward tried to respectfully protest the dissolution of their agricultural project, the Imperator’s office suspended their funding. Edward was sent to a research station on Yar and Clara was tasked to Bremen where she would ultimately enter the private sector to work for Terra Mills.
The separation wouldn’t last long, because in 2792 a revolution finally came.
A New Venture
In the wake of the uprising, Asif decided the time had come for him to leave working for the government. He reached out to his old colleagues to reconnect. Even though they didn’t have access to their original UEE project, their experience working together had been a singularly unique one, a dynamic that none of them had experienced in any of their labs since. Clara left her position at Terra Mills to join the team and Edward was all too eager to get off the barren rock he’d been consigned to. They formed Rayari as a private agrochemical thinktank and got back to work. The three scientists quickly found that, having spent so many years apart and developing as independent scientists, they clashed a lot more often than they did in their youth, but their desire to innovate was just as strong. The bright side, however, was that they challenged each other in ways that they hadn’t before, which opened up their thinking.
Adopting the motto ‘promote growth,’ the team wanted to explore everything. No area of science was off-limits if it could lead to innovation that could help Humanity. Although many of the initial employees cited the combative environment between the three founders, none could deny the exciting scientific atmosphere that allowed them to try and fail.
Garron would intervene once again though. The Senate announced its intention to restore Garron II to its original form. Although Dr. Shiherlis’ team had kept extremely detailed notes, the planetwide devastation caused by the terraformers was going to be a monumental task to reverse, so they put the word out for scientists to lead the charge.
Asif proposed returning to Garron II. As detailed in his memoirs, even though he was just a researcher on Dr. Shiherlis’ team, being even remotely associated with the Massacre of Garron II haunted him. He saw this as an opportunity to undo some of the damage that Humanity had wrought on the planet.
Edward and Clara quickly agreed, as they knew that by signing on, they would be able to regain access to their old project files and potentially apply that research to Garron II. In 2803, Rayari was catapulted into the public consciousness when they unveiled a complete line of indigenous plants, painstakingly reconstructed from the original planet’s genetic code, but grafted to heartier flora that could withstand the changes in the soil composition. The experiment was a success and a concerted effort to reseed the planet was launched.
After their success in Garron, funding for the company began to pour in to examine other agricultural issues around the Empire. Rayari incorporated to handle the influx of new opportunities. What was fascinating is that although the three founders remained as Board Members, they were all unwilling to walk away from “front line research,” so they hired a CEO to run the administrative aspect of the company.
For the next fifty years, the company steadily expanded. Although they built labs around the Empire, their commitment to exploring riskier scientific ventures prevented the company from truly flourishing. Edward, Clara, and Asif never saw each other socially and continue to attack each other over their work while in the office. It was always about ‘the work.’ That was the ‘Rayari experience,’ as one former employee put it. The company did well enough to slightly grow, but never thrive.
When Clara died in 2863, the last of the original founders had passed away and Michael Vicar, the current CEO, decided it was time to transition the company to focus more on increasing their profit while diminishing their wasteful spending. Provisions in the original corporate charter prevented him from downsizing their research department, but Vicar was a savvy enough businessman to direct more of the funding towards the more commercially viable ventures.
Today, Rayari, Inc. has maintained its place at the forefront of agricultural technology and development. Despite the more commercial direction the company has taken in the past eighty years, Edward, Clara, and Asif’s original vision remains intact as Rayari labs can be found all around the universe, performing a wide variety of groundbreaking experiments in space and on planets, all in the hopes of finding the next breakthrough that propels Humanity further into the future.