This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 8.6.
Dependable, effective, and visually distinct. Since 2921, Lightning Bolt Company has carved out a unique roster of weapons around these core principles and garnered a legion of loyal customers across the Empire. The company’s success is typically credited to the exacting eye of CEO Irina Arkadova. While she infamously stopped the initial run of Korolev shotguns from shipping after becoming convinced the safety should be moved millimeters to provide a better user response time, these tales of meticulousness are often eclipsed by more scandalous stories.
“I’ve heard lots of interesting things about myself,” Arkadova disclosed to Total Defense in their July 2939 issue, “Unfortunately, far too few of them are true.” However, despite publicly denying the veracity of these tales, some believe that Lightning Bolt Co. intentionally allows these stories to spread for the sake of notoriety. Though Arkadova dislikes discussing specifics, there’s one thing she freely admits: she used to kill people for a living.
Prior to founding Lightning Bolt Company, Irina Arkadova ran a private security force out of Odyssa, Magnus. Her handpicked team earned a reputation in the VIP protection industry for being effective but quick to escalate confrontations. While most of the company’s operations went unnoticed, one infamous assignment played out live across the spectrum as Odyssa residents watched Arkadova and her team defend their clients from a series of increasingly dramatic armed attacks. In the aftermath of the very public and destructive contract, Odyssa authorities launched a full investigation into the circumstances around the attack and discovered that Arkadova’s clients were linked to the notorious Otoni Syndicate. Arkadova claimed ironclad non-disclosure agreements prevented her from revealing information about her clients or the attack, so the authorities, left with no real evidence, were forced to close the case.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that one,” Arkadova told Total Defense when asked about the rumors of an Otoni connection. “If that’s true, then I’m lucky to be alive. Working for them seems like a good way to make enemies, and I’m not that hard to track down.”
The only operation Arkadova cares to discuss is the one that started her journey to becoming a weapon manufacturer. Amidst an intense firefight, Arkadova watched in horror as her new laser rifle lost power while she was pinned down. She managed to survive thanks to a little luck and the quick rescue efforts of her team. The incident shook Arkadova to her core and revealed to her a troubling question: were the people designing these guns actually firing them?
When her anger subsided, Arkadova curiously dismantled the defective weapon. Biagio Bhandari, a friend, fellow merc, and former Drake engineer diagnosed the failure while Arkadova probed him with questions. Bhandi later recounted, “She noticed everything. Why is this bolt here? Wouldn’t it be better if this thing was reversed? I remember joking that she should have been an engineer. Turns out it wasn’t much of a joke.” Other team members joined the discussion, swapping stories about legendarily terrible weapon designs and close calls caused by failures. Sure, companies like Behring and Gemini had military and security consultants on staff, but how often did their experience line up with the chaos that PMC had to deal with on a typical op? During that discussion, Arkadova came to realize something important about weapon design: knowing what not to do was half the battle.
That brush with death and the birth of her first child swayed Arkadova to be more selective with her assignments. When not active, she repaired and modified weapons, proving to be a quick study who swiftly expanded her expertise to ship weapons. Then, in 2921, Bhandari approached her with the idea that changed everything. Equally inspired by their discussion, he had designed a new electron cannon. Bhandari represented the weapon’s crackling power with a few hastily sketched lightning bolts, so Arkadova honored the artistic flourish by naming the venture Lightning Bolt Company.
For the next few years, Arkadova and Bhandari obsessed over the prototype. Arkadova described the initial version as “functional but unimpressive.” She further claimed that “Nothing about it stood out or felt special, so why go through the money and time to make it?” They tabled the project only to return to it months later after a bout of inspiration. Thus began a five-year iterative process that left Bhandari vacillating between being angered and energized by Arkadova’s obsession over every detail. Arkadova poured any extra credits she made into the weapon’s development and often crewed extra missions during particularly expensive parts of the process to help make ends meet. Finally, after clearing the safety testing and getting certified, they had everything in place to start producing their first run of Mayak electron cannons, but only enough money to make at most a few dozen models. Arkadova turned to her team and offered them shares in the company in exchange for capital. They almost all contributed. The extra credits allowed the company to double their initial production run.
Hanging by a financial thread, Arkadova sold the first run of Mayak electron cannons through word of mouth. Most went to friends and agreeable fellow mercs in Magnus. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the influx of orders required Arkadova to stop being a mercenary and become a full-time weapons manufacturer. However, Arkadova knew that her team relied on her for work and insisted she wouldn’t shutter the merc operation until she could hire and train her entire crew for positions in the new company.
That glorious day came in 2932. Those that didn’t want to walk away from the merc life worked for Lightning Bolt part time or left with a considerable care package. Those that stayed met with Arkadova every week to discuss weapon ideas and desired features. Arkadova continued to be influenced by these personal accounts of field use, such as inspiring her to add a series of heat activated vents along a sniper rifle barrel. This practical yet visually distinct flourish coincided with advances Bhandari made to the cooling system for the device that generated the electron charge. It would be these two advances that would make the Atkav sniper rifle possible.
The Atkav, Lightning Bolt Company’s first mass produced personal weapon, was released to rave reviews and strong sales. The weapon became a quick favorite among security professionals who loved it for quick and effective crowd control, utilizing one charged electron shot that could spread to nearby conductive targets. The Yubarev pistol, utilizing the same charged electron technology, arrived the following year and cemented the company’s current reputation for producing meticulously crafted, cutting-edge, and cool weapons.
Some weapon industry experts have criticized the Lightning Bolt Company for not fully capitalizing on its potential; citing the company’s slow development cycle and focus on features preferred by security professionals that alienate too many in the civilian market. Arkadova doesn’t seem to mind leaving money on the table. Her goal for Lightning Bolt Company has always been to properly pay her team and produce reliable weapons that they would actually use.
“Look, I’m such a pain in the ass about the small things because I’ve been under fire,” Arkadova admitted. “And in those moments, only two things matter: the details and whoever’s got your back.”