The Cobra MKII was meant to be the successor to the popular Cobra trading vessel, with increased cargo capacity and defensive capabilities. The project was ultimately a failure due to design flaws in the hull, as well as an ambitious design that was beyond the production capabilities of the time. The basic design was revived decades later for the Cobra MKIII, which slightly expanded the hull, both to fix its design flaws and give it extra cargo and weapon space.
The Rise and Fall of the Mark II Project
In 2972, following the success of the initial Cobra, Paynou, Prossett and Salem (PPS) banked the future of their company on it successor, the Mark II (sometimes referred to as Mark X due to its experimental nature). Financing was arranged by GalCop, but the PR campaign alone cost a fortune, making huge promises that many thought would be difficult for them to deliver.
The company heavily courted naval interests, promoting the Mark II as a potential game changer – a ship that could be used in long range patrols, border system combat, resupply duty, as well as be a capable combat fighter. With a fifty percent boost in its energy banks, improved maneuverability, four missiles instead of one, and a revolutionary new cargo system with increased potential for capacity, the Mark II promised a lot.
The Navy was intrigued, but refused to provide additional backing unless the company could provide a working prototype. By 2974, after a number of failed workshop simulations and under a tight deadline with high expectations to meet, the designers ultimately fudged some numbers in the hull just to get it to prototype stage.
The first prototype was completed in 2982, but was destroyed during launch due to shearing stresses on the hull. The next year a second prototype was scrapped just before the test flight due to malformed alloys. It took another two years for a third prototype to be commissioned, once Faulcon deLacy became involved. This financial support was given on the promise of their focus returning to a medium scale independent trader rather than a Naval jack-of-all-trades.
Three years later the third prototype was launched. The initial trials were a success, but the inherent flaws began to show over the next couple of years of testing and the ship was ultimately scrapped in 2990.
Paynou, Prossett and Salem went bankrupt four years later, despite strong sales of the Cobra MKI. At first the company was incorporated into Faulcon deLacy, who used some of the ideas of the MKII Project to improve the tried and tested MKI.
Decades later, PPS was bought out by Cowell & MgRath, who redesigned the structural and internal layout from the ground up whilst retaining the best of its design features, expanding upon them with the addition of extra cargo space and port and starboard weapons, resulting in the Cobra MKIII.
The Missing Cobra MKII
With a hundred years between the failure of the MKII and the unveiling of the MKIII, the MKII project became something of a legend, a “what might have been” that captured the imagination of space enthusiasts all over. Many believed that the ship concept was ahead of its time and its failure was because the technology simply wasn’t ready for the ambitious multi-role vessel.
There is some truth to this. The elements of the MKII that made the MKIII so popular were ultimately beyond the technical capabilities of the day, such as the modular design of its internal workspace—a concept that ended up being used by all ship manufacturers once perfected. Like the MKIII, it was designed for a crew of two. The first two prototypes (meant to attract funding from the Navy) allowed for the co-pilot to control the rear weapon mount in a narrow range turret (30 degree arc) for improved rear defense.
Rumors circulated for ages that not all of the prototypes had been scrapped. For a time stories and movies were made involving the near-mythical ship, alternately portrayed as a deadly advanced fighter or a hearty explorer ship. Truth was largely lost to science fiction.
These theories were not unfounded, however. The second prototype was not scrapped, as officially stated. Instead, a rich enthusiast, Maximillian Prefect, took possession of it in exchange for some much needed additional funding of the MKII project. He spent the next twenty years working on the flaws on the hull from the inside out as his own personal hobby, even improving the vessel beyond initial design specs, and pumping a fortune into a single ship. He died never having flown it beyond his own planet’s orbit.
Over the next century the ship changed hands from collector to collector, though it was never made publicly available or confirmed to even exist until twenty years ago. The current owner, Fitzroy Smith, is said to have an extensive collection of rare ships in his private space station, located in an asteroid field, and is not currently for sale. Smith is said to be rather eccentric, sometimes offering unique missions to visiting pilots.