Finding Dragon Eggs

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So by now, you know that the slog-formerly-known-as-a-Handbook project is now officially out. (As in, currently can be bought as a PDF and soon-to-be hitting store shelves in print form.) Yes, it’s true. Handbook: House Kurita is a reality at long last.

I was skimming it the other day and realized I’d put a number of little ‘Easter eggs’ within the project. Not to be confused with pop culture references – not all Easter eggs are such things – these are more little quirks and nods to other things of note. Or secrets. Or, possibly, simply born from side discussions that suddenly spawned into fictional reality.

For example, the Wakamiya-class salvage destroyer is such an item. The idea came from a long discussion with a close friend of mine on the way back from a day of gaming; I’d been trying to figure out what new wet navy type of ship to put into the book. (Every Handbook in the series has a different type of wet navy vessel, so no repeating.) Somehow, we got to talking about Project: AZORIAN (since I’d just written an article on it) and then my friend (that’d be Brian, of Jadehellbringer fame) said I should build a ship along those lines.

I didn’t think about it too hard, and instead tasked him with it. Now, building a surface vessel under our support rules system is an exercise in spreadsheet algebra – something I personally loathe – and he couldn’t quite replicate it. So we passed it off to Brent, a mutual friend, who snapped into shape the vessel now proudly displayed in this book.

Some other Easter eggs:

  • Several headers and subheaders are actually haikus, when strung together.
  • Lovecraft makes an appearance with a fake cult that pops up from time to time, never boding well tidings for the citizenry affected.
  • One of the chain gangs listed is derived from my DC gaming group’s name.
  • The Obuzaabaa and Sasayaku vehicles were inspired by my old college Shadowrun (2Ed) group, who modified CityMasters into robotic killing machines (much to our GM’s regret for allowing it).
  • Yes, a particularly bad BattleTech novel is mentioned as a popular fantasy movie, along with an updated version of a popular monster franchise.
  • The Gossamer drone is directly derived from the Schatten airships I created for TRO:VA.
  • The Snapping Dragon came from a throwaway line by Ray: “We need more killer plants in this universe.”
  • The actual location of the Kensai Kami is put on a planet that becomes fairly important later into the Jihad; that was a decision I made about halfway through the Jihad plot, as I needed the Kuritans to hold onto some of their elite status and traditions. Putting it on a planet that would go under harm’s way was not ideal.
  • The Pachirisu is the most obvious nod to a very popular Japanese pastime, known as Pokemon. Herb, then the Line Developer, mentioned that it was only right we pay homage to that particular bend in Japanese culture. So I took the Pokemon pachirisu, a popular character in the series/game, and crafted the Kuritan ‘lightning squirrel.’
  • A ‘popular’ character from the Somerset Strikers does make a surprisingly detailed appearance, as part of the current royal family.
  • The ‘modernist haiku’ was written by a friend who graciously helped me with some cultural translation and adaptations.
  • The light bulb jokes came from a particularly hilarious gaming session between friends, when we came up with a long list of these for almost every faction.

And there’s more, but why spoil all the fun?

Secret Police and Colored Dragons

Battle on Soverzene

[Quick note: the BattleTech LEGOs you’ve seen here on my blog are the work of other LEGO fans on Flickr. I’m using the photos of their amazing creations under the Creative Commons license. If you like them, click on the photo to check out their other sets. I’d love to claim their creativity as mine, but I’m not quite that good a LEGO creator yet.]

I’ve taken notice of an interesting discussion on the official BattleTech boards lately, as fans of the Combine debate the current “modern era” purpose of both the Internal Security Force and the Order of Five Pillars (ISF and O5P, respectively). Setting aside some of the more…obtuse…arguments, I decided to kick out one more post with “preview content” from the upcoming-but-in-a-holding-pattern HBHK.

Before I do that, however, I have to say one thing: When you argue from a position where you’re using your own assumptions as fact and then relentlessly bludgeoning others with such a position, you’re doing it wrong. Egregiously so. Conducting effective nerd debates about fictional game history is all about using only established published canon to lay out your theory so others can debate it. (Key word: debate. There’s no ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ in nerd debates about a fictional game universe.) It’s not about taking your stand and then wielding your constructed argument as “the Hand of Inarguable Fact.” Because all you’re doing is annoying everyone and, possibly, trolling.

I, the current shepherd of various factions and crafter of stories and plots involving such factions, sometimes step in to correct such mishandled material. It’s amusing when I get told I’m wrong… The humor in such irony is, unfortunately, sad.

Anyway, I wanted to lay down some information for fans or the curious bystanders wanting to know more about the ISF, the O5P, and the Kokuryu-kai. Note that this information is being presented from the fictional year of 3067.

Internal Security Force [from the Pillar of Gold]

The ISF is not under the jurisdiction of any ministry. Its doings are shrouded in such secrecy that it officially does not exist. No one branch of government can claim control over the ISF, as its agents are everywhere, and their first and only allegiance is to the Coordinator.

Subdivided into five main branches, all of which operate independently of one another, the ISF has no central administration outside the director. This arrangement helps foster internal security among the various branches by compartmentalizing operations.

Currently, the ISF’s primary mission is to locate and destroy the surviving elements of the Black Dragon Society while simultaneously protecting the Combine against external threats. The Clan and Federated Suns fronts remain hotbeds of activity for the latter activities, which suggests that Theodore does not fully trust his neighbors.

It should be noted that recent efforts by the Coordinator to strengthen Japanese culture among his people has led to an influx of new Japanese names for agencies previously tagged with generic labels. Curiously enough, the ISF and DEST entities have not received this treatment, most likely because their names are recognized and feared even in foreign space.

[and from the Pillar of Steel]

Citizens of the Draconis Combine rarely mention the ISF, but they all think about it constantly. Responsible for many abductions, killings, and interrogations, the secret police fosters fear, paranoia, and devotion to the state. Those who follow the way of the samurai have little to fear from the ISF, however, unless their honor conflicts with the honor of the Draconis Combine.

Few members of the ISF are visible to the general public. Most agents belong to other groups or governmental departments, and few know about these operatives’ affiliation with the secret police. The ISF has infiltrated every organization in Kurita space and many others in the other Great Houses. Its reach is even longer, as citizens may collect a reward for reporting treasonous activity or talk by others. When military operations are called for, the ISF can take command of any Special Forces unit as needed, even without notifying that district’s Warlord.

Inside the secret police is an even more secret society. Called the “Sons of the Dragon,” the society is a group of agents who are more loyal to the Director of the ISF and the Coordinator. Few beyond the ISF, high-ranking officials in the Order of Five Pillars, and the Coordinator’s family are aware of the existence of the group, though many rumors persists in varying form among the common people.
[Please refer to the more extensive information on the ISF in the Pillar of Gold section, as the agency does not fall under the command or purview of the DCMS. —MK]

Order of the Five Pillars [from the Pillar of Gold]

The O5P is a curious agency, neither officially part of the Combine’s intelligence apparatus nor technically opposed to it. The Order is a self-sufficient organization that maintains the dual roles of protecting the spiritual honor of House Kurita while at the same time keeping watch over its people. This quasi-agency falls under the purview of the Ministry of the Court but answers directly to the Coordinator. The Order’s ministry ties exist so it can requisition materials and work with the various Court bureaus to provide assistance as needed.

In order to facilitate its own goals, the O5P has evolved its own bureaucracy and intelligence network that pervades all of Combine space and possibly beyond. They have the ear of many of the Dragon’s officials.

[from the Pillar of Ivory]

Modern Day

The ISF remains wary of the Order’s infiltration of all aspects of Combine society, a situation that rivals the secret police’s own machinations. Agents have attempted to infiltrate the O5P and compete with the quality of its training. Because of the ISF’s lack of women—many O5P adepts and illuminati are female—and the Order’s own counter-penetration of the agency, ISF success has been limited. This rivalry continues unabated, lasting more than five centuries, but neither side will openly admit to such disharmony. Such an admission could have disastrous ramifications on the Combine, a situation neither agency wishes to see occur.

Nonetheless, during the Keepership of Constance Kurita, efforts to reconcile differences between the two agencies were initiated. The détente continued under the Keepership of the Coordinator’s daughter Omi, who tested both sides when she asked them to relay a message to the Dragon’s enemies during the Clan Invasion. Her request sought help in freeing the Heir-Designate trapped on Teniente. Emboldened by the mission’s success, Omi continued to build on that alliance of expediency through the rest of her years.

Tragically, Omi’s death at the hands of an assassin in 3064 seems to have shattered the fragile alliance. While the two agencies might have cooperated individually with the Coordinator’s son Minoru in tracking Omi’s killer, such reports cannot be independently verified. It remains unclear at present exactly how Minoru found and executed the assassin and avenged the Dragon’s loss.

The current head of the Order and Keeper of the House Honor is Miyako Kurita, daughter of Isoroku Kurita, the Warlord of the Dieron Military District. The Abbess is Tomade Yamiro, who was recently under rigorous investigation by the ISF for possible links to the Black Dragons. Ultimately proven innocent, the Abbess has since cut the Order’s ties with the agency, forming a crack in the already tattered alliance that neither group can afford at this time.

The Kokuryu-kai Enigma [from History of the Nation]

Not all within the Combine’s nobility agreed with the changes enacted by Coordinator Takashi and his son. The Dragon’s newfound focus and more liberal policies were at odds with those of many hardline, conservative nobles. Within this environment the Kokuryu-kai—the Black Dragon Society—grew exponentially. Originally confined to the mad fancy of Combine nobles wrapped in the trappings of history dominated by Shinjiro and Hohiro Kurita, the Black Dragons found prestige, money, and strength. Bolstered through this renaissance of thought, these elder nobles found new life in their younger protégés and began suborning those who could assist them in standing against the Coordinator. Not even our own people were immune. Echoing shreds of the past, we found ourselves divided once again, though such an ideological division would not surface for several years.

In 3054, Coordinator Takashi Kurita suffered a severe stroke that would end his life, leaving Theodore as his heir. Despite the new Coordinator’s uncharacteristically open and public testimony, supported with reports from within this agency, many subversive Combine news agencies began circulating rumors that Takashi had not gone to his death willingly. These independent sources, a product of the Combine’s loosening strictures over the last few decades, bolstered the Black Dragons’ cause through persistence and casting a modicum of doubt among the populace. These reactionary elements sought a premature return to the Combine’s original doctrine of conquest and glory, before Theodore’s reforms could destroy the honor and prestige of the DCMS and the Combine.

The Kokuryu-kai claims five grievances with the Coordinator:

  • The continuing détente with the Federated Commonwealth.
  • According common soldiers equal honors alongside noble officers.
  • Building BattleMech regiments out of yakuza and other criminals, insulting the well-born and properly bred citizens.
  • Permitting the secession of the Rasalhague people.
  • Opposing the noble and heroic efforts of Marcus Kurita and his followers in their attempt to redeem the Combine’s honor.

When examined thoroughly, the Black Dragons are simply using a myopic view of the past in order to claim authority over the Draconis Combine. Because this ideology is against the purposes and integrity of the Dragon, it is the ISF’s duty to completely oppose it.

—Memo attributed to Ninyu Kerai from Subhash Indrahar, 3058; Imperial Court Archives, 3067

[and from Pillar of Gold]

The ancient Black Dragon society, with roots as far back as Richard Kurita, is considered the greatest internal threat to the stability of the Combine since the Shadow War of the previous century. The Kokuryu-kai has always moved in the shadows, influencing nobles and other officials as needed to protect the Dragon from harming itself. Only in the last few decades has this society moved in a more overt manner, bringing bold violence into the realm.

The Black Dragons’ first blatant militaristic move was an attack on the Davion world of Towne, launched after the FedCom split apart in the face of a Marik-Liao invasion. Although hoping to bring back the Combine’s glory days with this unsanctioned invasion, the Society found its plans thwarted by mercenaries employed by the Coordinator’s cousin, Chandrasekhar Kurita. After the incident, a purge of the DCMS was believed to put an end to the secretive sect, but two months later, the Kokuryu-kai struck again with an assassination attempt on the Coordinator.

The 3058 incident was aided by a large number of sympathizers within the ISF and Otomo, including General Hohiro Kiguri, head of DEST. A second, more widespread purge, including within the ISF, attempted to destroy the Black Dragons for good. The ISF’s vital role in the operations to destroy the Smoke Jaguars and end the Clan crusade showed few indications that any of the Kokuryu-kai had survived. One incident, an attempt on Victor Steiner-Davion’s life during his visit to Luthien, has not been officially linked to the Society, though many among the nobility believe it to be so.

After the Clans’ defeat, much of the ISF assisted the reclamation of the worlds liberated by BULLDOG. Nearly a decade of rebellion against the occupying Clans produced planetary populations grown accustomed to resistance, which made it nearly as difficult for the ISF to assimilate these reclaimed worlds as it was to bring the remains of Clan Nova Cat into the Combine. The resource drain on both the agency and the overall economy of the Combine created a great deal of internal dissent that once again awakened the Black Dragons, who moved forward a few years later with their most ambitious plans yet.

In just a handful of isolated incidents, the latest actions attributed to the Black Dragons have provoked some of the hardest fighting and the most terrible tragedies in recent years. With the renegade attack on Alshain by the Alshain Avengers in 3062, the Society instigated the biggest conflict on the Clan front since BULLDOG. Along with the DCMS seizing worlds in the Lyons Thumb after Lyran and mercenary troops struck Combine garrisons, the Federated Suns’s Draconis March launched their own assault over the border.

These conflicts savaged the Combine military and stretched thin the already-depleted ISF resources. To save face among his people and forestall any more “renegade” adventurism, the Coordinator annexed territories along the Lyran and FedSuns borders and redistributed the DCMS to locations near hostile enemy worlds. Tensing for the next dissident attack, the Combine stands on the verge of losing most of the reforms the Coordinator has spent his life putting into effect for the nation’s own survival.

—Star League Intel Briefing 53-1; Office of the Star League Intelligence Command, 3065

Closing the Dragon’s Door

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Well, you’d think this would be another update…and you would be correct. Except that it isn’t anymore.

Despite my (paltry) efforts in trying to sneak open looks into the forthcoming HBHK, interest in this book has never really taken off aside from a relative few Kurita fans. Which, in all honesty, isn’t that surprising. The book’s been near-vaporware for several years, the victim of other priority projects that kept leapfrogging it. It’s sadly become somewhat of an afterthought, a “let’s get this out to finish off the series because we’re completists at heart” project.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. I think because of the book’s specific nature, there’s little in it to appeal to other diehard faction fans of the universe. I mean, staunch Capellan loyalists aren’t going to much care about what goes on in Kurita space or how citizens of the Dragon live. It’s the inherent nature of the beast.

With the end of the 3067 Era now decently behind us and the Jihad/Dawn of the Republic drawing to a close, it makes this book even more anachronistic. I tried to mitigate that somewhat by putting in information that I’ve accumulated over the last 7-8 years while writing a lot of the Combine’s material. Knowing that the book would eventually come out, it was important to me that concepts or story threads that seemingly “popped up” in various Jihad-era books (and to a smaller extent, Dark Age material) be grounded in this Housebook. Like how the Nova Cats are really perceived by the citizen at large and the Dragon’s bureaucratic monolith. Or why Aix-La-Chapelle was a viable alternative to begin rebuilding the Combine war machine. Or why the Black Dragons seemingly never died but kept resurging. Or the bubbling cauldron of class warfare that ends up exploding well after 3067…

But, sadly, there’s just little interest in the project. My site stats don’t really lie; I barely see a ripple on these posts. (Interesting side note: My Wars of Reaving articles – now nearly two years after the project’s publication – still sees constant traffic.) On days when a HBHK peek debuts, those pages still see less activity than those hitting various Wars of Reaving pages. And never mind the anemic thread on the official BattleTech forums… I love the fact there are 5-6 constant readers…but it’s also disheartening there’s little discussion on a lot of the previews I’ve posted. When selecting material to post, I try to put up stuff that is interesting, fresh, and new to spur some chatter – but it’s just not happening.

Now, understand – I’m not complaining. The book’s getting printed this year regardless of who reads these previews (or not). I just had high hopes the process would spur more interest and drive the book into a higher bracket than the bestseller of the line, House Davion.

So, this’ll probably be the last on the topic until it is released in print. In the meantime, please enjoy my limited weekly series on the Clan Box Set strategy and tactics guide (every Friday). I’ll get around to finishing the Lego Death Star construction project as well, don’t worry!

The Dragon’s Honorable Daimyo

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Some more sectional peeks at HBHK. This go-round, we’ve got a district overview, a vehicle of history, and a look at a planetary crossroads.

From Pillar of Gold

Galedon Governmental District

As the birthplace of the Draconis Combine, the Galedon Governmental District had its days of glory but now suffers the lingering aftereffects of the Succession Wars. This combination of special history and bloody suffering has instilled great pride in the Galedonians. No district is truer to the Combine and none, save the former Rasalhague District, has so much pride in its own region.

The Tabayama, Kaznejoy, and Matsuida Prefectures have only recently begun receiving back former citizens who were relocated into Pesht due to the severe Davion assaults of the Third and Fourth Succession Wars. Citizens from Alshain and Benjamin were also relocated back into these three prefectures, providing a small boost to local economies and general well-being. With rumors of Clan Snow Raven taking over the Outworlds Alliance, many citizens are nervous—not from imminent attack, but from another round of relocations.

The New Samarkand Prefecture maintains a not-so-friendly rivalry with the Kagoshima Prefecture. Many citizens of the New Samarkand worlds hold fast to their place in Combine history. Claiming both Shiro Kurita’s birthworld and the home of the Combine’s beginnings within their borders, the people of New Samarkand believe their prefecture is the jewel of the Combine. Residents in Kagoshima, of course, believe they are deserving of the honor because of Luthien’s presence. Several planetary chairmen have used this rivalry to great effect by pitting militias against each other in yearly war games on several prefecture proving grounds. The more emotional contests occur on Miyada, Sighisoara, and Worrell ever since they were reabsorbed within the Pesht Governmental District.

Of the district’s five prefectures, Oshika is the tamest. Several longstanding industrial facilities remain operational within the prefecture. The recent boom in naval construction and technological developments have made this prefecture a more appealing location for the Combine’s brighter minds.

From History of the Nation

The Honor of the Daimyo

Under Jinjiro’s orders, the ISF conducted an intensive investigation into the matter of who provided ComStar with the data footage that made its way out to the other Houses. The inquiry lasted less than a week, as the transmission’s video data contained coding that was traced back to the crew of a Daiymo HQ 67-K. The crew was arrested and brought before the Coordinator, who killed each of them with a single laser pulse to the brain.

During a standard maintenance routine in 2910, mechanics from the Second Sword of Light discovered the headquarters vehicle in a motor pool on Luthien. The vehicle had been transported without record from the bloody fields of Kentares and left on the capital world, possibly as some disagreeable officer’s quiet notion of rebellion.

The vehicle was reclaimed and refitted for duty and its battle history made known to the Second Sword’s command staff. From then on, the regiment used it in every campaign as a distinct reminder of Sworder history. Crews volunteered for assignment to the mobile HQ, knowing full well the dishonor that came with its operation.

In 3051, the Daimyo was an active participant in the defense of Luthien from the Smoke Jaguar and Nova Cat assault. During the later stages of battle, both Takashi Kurita and Shin Yodama commanded from the vehicle as the Combine successfully repelled the invasion.
After the battle and seeing the crew operate with no regard for their personal safety as they assisted the Coordinator in his command, Takashi declared the vehicle cleansed from its historic stain. The Coordinator personally paid for the vehicle’s repair and refurbishment and it proudly occupies a place in the Second Sword of Light’s order of battle.

—Quirks of the Kuritan Army; Orestes Public Press, 3062

From Touring the Realm

Isesaki

Planetary Ruler: Shugo Sophia Franklin
Star Type (Recharge Time): Close Binary M0V (196 hours)
Position in System: 1
Time to Jump Point: 5.89 days
Number of Satellites: 5 (Hoshide, Yui, Furukawa, Onishi, Yamazaki)
Surface Gravity: 0.80
Atmospheric Pressure: Standard (Breathable)
Equatorial Temperature: 25° C (Temperate)
Surface Water: 80 percent
Recharging Station: Zenith, Nadir
HPG Class Type: A
Highest Native Life: Mammal
Population: 9,320,000
Socio-Economic Levels: B-A-D-A-D

A single world orbiting a close binary, Isesaki was surveyed in 2281 and then promptly ignored, as it was deemed of little value to the resource-hungry Combine at the time. Though its surface is primarily water, the oceans contain a heavy amount of poisonous bacteria and alkaline compounds. Fluctuating tides caused by the small, close moons made coastal settlements extremely difficult and costly. The small amount of fresh water on the continental surface comes from underground springs and is difficult to access in large quantities.

In 2612, Isesaki Shipping sponsored and built the first colony on the surface of the lone planet. Taken by the world’s vast aquatic beauty, dazzling views of the binaries and moons, and the hundreds of rich, verdant forest islands and atolls, Uchio Randolph, Isesaki’s founder, petitioned the Coordinator for corporate possession of the entire system. Within two centuries, the corporation built two JumpShip yards, several zero-G manufacturing facilities, and converted an entire island into a small spacecraft manufacturing complex. The system became a major transportation hub for Combine traffic traversing the Rift and vaulted Isesaki Shipping into the top tier of commercial corporations in the realm.

The main continent of Uchio is home to all of the planet’s residents. The two smaller continents, Isoroku and Matsubushi, have remained unsettled and wild to provide a peaceful retreat for Isesaki employees. Both located along the equator, they are covered in verdant forests, rolling hills, and sparkling springs. Several lodges dot the landscape, most crafted in a minimalist style, to keep the focus on the natural beauty of the area. The more magnificent palatial compounds are hardwired to the planetary network. Security protocols keep these locked down so that executives are forced to spend time away from their workplace, refreshing their body, mind, and spirit.

Due in part to the spectacular solar display in the sky, citizens of Isesaki are obsessed with spaceflight and exploration. One of ComStar’s major Explorer Corps administrative hubs was located on the outskirts of the Toyohiro Akiyama Spacecraft Complex. With ComStar’s recent abandonment of the site, Isesaki employees have petitioned that it be converted into an astronomical observatory and historical library.

The capital city of Ukonsoi dominates the central plains of Uchio. Its architecture is a blend of Rasalhagian, Shōwa, Buddhist, and neo-Qing designs centered around the four towers of Isesaki headquarters. The entire eastern sector of the city contains rows upon rows of massive warehouses. These facilities hold products and shipments from across the Inner Sphere under heavy security. Bulk items are stored here for varying durations as determined by the Isesaki Transportation Control Division. (Items of perishable or critical importance are transferred at one of the two spacedocks located near the system’s recharge stations.) Roku Royal trains steadily crawl through the sector in a complicated but efficient balancing act; despite the intense traffic flow, there have been only two collisions in the last fifty years.

Several Combine and corporate administrative clusters dot the rest of Uchio’s surface. Each cluster is surrounded by residential and commercial districts, laid out in concentric patterns. At night, the lights from the continent’s surface give the impression of perfectly placed scales, symbolic of the Dragon’s ever-present influence on Isesaki and its employees.

The Dragon’s Potpourri

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The final chapter of Handbook House Kurita is still somewhat stuck, largely due to me losing an evening’s worth of writing earlier this week. Typically I hit CTRL-S every few minutes to save my work as I write but for some reason, I didn’t the other night. When I went to close down, I got a “do you wish to save the recent version” message and, thinking it was for a new document I’d opened to facilitate some shuffling, hit “Cancel.” And it closed the document I’d been working on. I didn’t catch it until 30 seconds later…and by then it was too late.

Ah well. That’s the writer’s risk at times.

So in recreating the content, I think I strengthened what I had. It’ll all work out.

Here’s a snippet from a critter and a vehicle entry, and two sidebars from the history section for this week’s sneak peek. Enjoy.

From Rules Annex

Kaosu/Chi no Hebi
Kaosus reproduce asexually based on the amount of food it digests. Infestations can quickly spiral out of control if not contained early. Several industrial pesticides and electricity traps are available on the market and found at nearly every spaceport and station in the Combine.

A mutated version of the kaosu has been reported, though rarely. Found mainly on derelict vessels and in abandoned ruins, these chi no hebi enter through any available opening on an organism. The chi are drawn towards bone marrow. While feeding, the worm secrets a poisonous enzyme that burns nerve endings. The victim feels as if they are burning from the inside out; death comes within seventy-two hours. Rumors that the ISF uses chi no hebi as part of a torture regimen are unfounded.

Hoshiryokou
Initially conceived as a standard cargo and passenger hauler, the Hoshiryokou served passably in the role. Its modular cargo containers were interchangeable with utilitarian passenger versions. The Dragonstar succeeded where the Hoshiryokou failed to deliver in amenities, comfort, and space. Kintetsu Stellar Systems faced bankruptcy when Yakima Enterprises’ offering pushed the Hoshiryokou out of the market. Rather than fold, Kintetsu found a new way to use its cargo hauler using extensive grants from the Combine government.

The structure of the Hoshiryokou was reinforced and a space tug adapter fitted to its front. Free upgrades to all owners of the vessel sent Kintetsu into deep debt to the government. Isesaki Shipping bought the company for little more than a handful of ryu and a two-hundred year agreement to produce the space tug for the DCA under cost.

From History of the Nation

Jinjiro Kurita: A Study in Calm Violence
The Heir Designate to Coordinator Minoru Kurita during the opening moves of the First Succession War, Jinjiro Kurita suffered during his upbringing. The son of a concubine—Minoru’s first wife Clarissa was barren—Jinjiro spent most of his early years embroiled in the center of heated Court politics.

His mother’s maiden name has been lost to the mists of time, though her adornment name (customary for royal concubines) was Heaven’s Gate. She was a native of Radstadt whose non-Oriental features made her popular in the ukiyos (pleasure districts) until Minoru bought her contract. After Jinjiro’s birth, Heaven’s Gate used every persuasive art—and some apparent blackmail—to get Minoru to adopt the child and make him the legal heir. Her access to the Imperial Court allowed her to poison the other contracted concubines with chemical that forced miscarriages. (It is also suspected that one strong overdose caused Clarissa’s death.) Believing the fates and his ancestors against him for his failure to save Drago Kurita and his family from Amaris, Minoru recognized ten-year-old Jinjiro as his son and heir just before learning his second wife, Yvonne Toshi, was pregnant.

A whispering campaign within the Court suggested that the Coordinator was under the charms of his concubine. True or not, the rumors were relentless until Yvonne, days from giving birth to Zabu Kurita, shoved Heaven’s Gate from the parapets of Unity Palace in the middle of the night. Jinjiro discovered the bloody, broken form of his mother early the next morning. She had survived the night and died in her son’s arms.

Combine historians and psychoanalysts believe this was the catalyzing event that began Jinjiro’s slow slide from sanity. The pain and shock of witnessing such an event was enough to push the sensitive child along the road to madness and eventually, planetary atrocity.

The Bloody Coordinator: Seeds of Kentares; Proserpina Publications, Ltd., 2971

Fall of the Cherry Blossom
Tai-shu Tomoe Sakade entered the Combine-Dominion war through less than auspicious means. Reassigned to the position by the Coordinator—also her husband—she faced not only the ferocity of the Ghost Bear assault but also lingering prejudices inherent to the Combine’s culture. A woman had never before been promoted to the prestigious position of warlord of a military district, and many under her command did not know how to take the promotion.

Sakade was a capable commander and a superb tactician. She was also very outspoken, though played the part of the Coordinator’s wife well. She was previously the military commander of the Kagoshima Prefecture, a position given to her by Theodore partly to assuage her warrior spirit. The honor of being entrusted with the protection of Luthien was not lost on the former tai-sho. By several accounts, she actually resisted Theodore’s command to step into the tai-shu’s role after the death of Teyasu Ashora.

The Ghost Bears penetrated into the Combine in their initial wave, striking Schulyer and ten other worlds in the Albiero Prefecture. With limited defensive forces available, Sakade knew another push by the Bears would easily swallow the rest of the district. The Tai-shu proposed a daring plan, one the Coordinator was intimately familiar with: strike back into the teeth of the Clan’s assault and fool the Bears into thinking the Combine was stronger than it was. This plan was identical in theory and in general operation to the one Theodore had carried out in the War of 3039.

Sakade targeted several Dominion worlds for the counterattack, using ISF and O5P data to select areas where sizable manufacturing centers or military depots were located. On 25 December 3062, most of the forces assigned to the Pesht Military District jumped out and struck twelve Dominion systems. The DCMS units were to hold their assigned targets for as long as they could and then retreat before receiving more than twenty-five percent losses.

The plan was solid and could have succeeded, save a few critical factors. Many of the commanders under Sakade believed her plan was flawed. As such, they took liberties to amend their assaults—including timing—to incorporate what they deemed more “honorable elements.” Others refused to believe a woman could come up with any type of strategy and found ways to stall or circumvent their orders.

Whatever the reason, only half of the operation went off as planned, leaving several regiments without appropriate support or needed firepower. Those forces that did follow orders were not enough to stop the Bear advance cold, though it did contribute to the Bears’ reconsideration of launching the second wave. Nonetheless, Tai-shu Sakade’s forces were severely damaged by the botched operation, which her enemies used as evidence of her unfitness for command.

Shamed by the actions of her subordinates, Sakade returned to Luthien to discuss the situation with the Coordinator. The Courcheval Challenge was the Tai-shu’s idea, along with several other small mini-offensives designed to keep the Bears in stalemate. Knowing she could not return to her command without the full respect and honor due her as warlord, she opted to take the samurai’s path out. By committing seppuku, she opened the way for the Coordinator to salvage the situation with a new warlord at the helm. Her honorable death also proved her detractors wrong; shamed, they were awarded the Honor of the Wakizashi at the end of the conflict.

The Coordinator named Tai-shu Tomoe Sakade as the first female recipient of the Glory of the Fallen Samurai in 3064.

The Dragon’s Tears Flow in Many Forms; Imperial Press, 3065

In Kurita Space, No One Can Hear You Complain

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HBHK writing is in the winding down stage; I would’ve been done the other day except I completely forgot the role playing notes in the Rules Annex. A little shock there when I discovered I still had a bit more to write.

But then again, it covers more of the “general life” of a Combine citizen, by region…and that promises to be fun. So I’ll continue pecking away at it. Almost there…

In the meantime, the remaining chapters are complete and in various stages of factchecking and editing. The last piece of the puzzle is the short fiction story for the intro. Because Randall has been a huge factor in the Combine’s story for many years before handing the line off, I felt it only right to offer him the chance to write that story. Now, if I don’t get something from him soon… I will say, the original story he pitched was pretty sweet – but it was different than the pattern we’ve established with the other five handbooks. So we’ll see.

Obviously, you’re here not to listen to me ramble, but to devour more hints and teases from the book. And it’s time I oblige. Here’s some random stuff:

From History of the Nation

In 2620, Sanethia resigned as Coordinator on the same day Urizen II celebrated his thirtieth birthday. The Nineteenth Coordinator inherited his mother’s ambitious program on Luthien. Though Urizen was ultimately credited with the rise of Luthien as the jewel of the Combine, the project’s success came largely from both Sanethia and Siriwan’s oversight. The two “advisers” were tasked by Urizen to shepherd the project, leaving only the most major of decisions to the Coordinator. When it was completed, Imperial City would become the most ambitious, most expensive, most energy-consuming project ever undertaken by the Combine. The two women were also responsible for the placement of several other city locations on the planet and crafting the infrastructure design that persists today.

The project was plagued with problems from the start. It took five years to drain the enormous swamp that occupied the designated location for the new capital city. More than ten million laborers and craftsmen from all parts of the Combine were tasked with construction. Due to Sanethia’s original plan, the entire city was built without the use of modern construction technology. For inspiration, Siriwan and Sanethia patterned the city’s architecture and design elements after that of ancient Japan. Unity Palace was modeled after Himeji Castle on Terra and much of the outlying buildings maintained elements from the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Sections of the city remain dedicated to various Japanese styles throughout the millennia, including the neo-Fujimoto facades of the twenty-third century.

Most of the laborers employed in the construction of Imperial City comprised of low-echelon members of the Kuritan military or chain gang criminals. As the project progressed, many of the lower castes on other Combine worlds clamored to join volunteer labor groups that were brought in to bolster the workforce. Because of the insistence the city be built without modern machinery, the brute labor jobs were dangerous. It was a good day if less than 500 workers were killed from accidents or other related incidents.

The massive project created an economic boom across the realm and bolstered the flagging spirits of the populace. Archaic building materials such as teak, granite, marble, and mosaic tile were in great demand. Progress reports became highly anticipated news items on other worlds.

The flow of materials and labor to Luthien prompted the need for lesser cities around the capital, a situation already prepared for by Sanethia and Siriwan. These support cities and infrastructure followed the careful planning and guidance of the Coordinator’s advisors, keeping order amidst the growing chaos. Within ten years of the first block being laid, Luthien’s population blossomed to fifty million and showed no sign of slowing.

From Pillar of Gold

Son of deceased Donal Kurita and grandson of the treacherous Marcus Kurita, Graeme is the planetary chairman of Multan in Qandahar Prefecture. Graeme was dishonored when the Black Dragons manipulated his son Angus into a failed plot to assassinate Theodore in 3057. By decree of the Coordinator, Graeme’s bloodline is no longer eligible for the throne. The governor has opted to remain celibate as an act of penance for his son’s choices.

From Touring the Realm

Founded during the twenty-seventh century, Matamoras has never been considered more than a collection of mines and heavy industry. Few choose to travel to the world; fewer still remain to eke out a living. For a time, the DCMS maintained a prison facility on Siberia, the southernmost continent. Notorious for its small guard detail and highly corrupt administration, the complex was abandoned in the mid-2700s—with over three thousand male and female prisoners still locked down within. A NSM shuttle made an emergency landing at the prison in 2913 and discovered a small but thriving community. The citizens of Krasnogorsk were welcomed back into the fold; the Red Clay yakuza clan made its presence known shortly thereafter.

New Samarkand Metals is the primary employer on Matamoras, with more than two million workers scattered across fifty mine and processing sites. Tozama Daimyo Voskoboynikov is the CEO of NSM’s Matamoras operation and is known to be fair and partial when carrying out official state business. He recently awarded a major contract to Deep Ores, which struck a large gold vein in the Black Urals in 3065. Rumors of Voskoboynikov’s affiliation with the Red Clay yakuza are still under ISF investigation.

From Rules Annex

In the mid-2900s, People’s Protection introduced the H-T Spec-5a, a low-cost, light sub-machine gun built for security personnel and private protection details. The -5a was popular despite its horrible reliability; the firing mechanism needed replaced every forty to fifty rounds. The latest version of the widespread SMG is the -7a, which debuted in 3053. Using composite materials, the weapon is extremely light, small, and sturdy. A self-enclosed magazine holds seven bullets in the grip. The bull-pup design includes an integral flash and sound suppressor, making it a favorite hold-out weapon for intelligence agents and important personages. Reloading is a bit complicated, as it requires sliding off the grip and then seating a new clip.

Rumors broke in early 3052 that People’s Protection were using Clan-occupied worlds as a test bed for the design. The rumors were proven true when the company used footage taken from Schuyler showing several children wielding the -7a in a firefight with a Clan police squad.