The mission and ship design for a merchant cruiser seems applicable to Star*Drive technical assumptions, in fact on a smaller scale, similar to how I've speculated
(and I think some history of the Verge systems implies) the stellar nations would explore, or have explored open space.
The station at Berengaria, at the edge of an unclaimed region of space (edit: an interspiral region of possibly, though not drastically, reduced stellar density) might match to Hammer's Star or one of the other borders of stellar nation territory. The rival employers might be corporations, as listed, or representatives of particular stellar nations - Rigunmor versus StarMech might fit.
The Zhodani are probably, in broad terms, a set of Externals. This post has been edited by uncle_jimbo on Sep 2 2018, 06:51