Enter the Dragon (Almost)

The noble yakuza of the Draconis Combine.

The noble yakuza of the Draconis Combine.

 

Whew. Almost there.

  • First outline written in 2006.
  • Final draft turned in 2011.
  • Edited version posted to layout 2013.
  • Printing (soon) in mid-2015.

Here’s a taste: ToC Preview.

Enter the Dragon.

independence

Akuma-mataata!

 

A Dragon’s Death Angel With a Gun

Back a few months ago, Jason Schmetzer asked me if I was interested in writing all of the upcoming TRO:3145 House Kurita entries.

Despite my self-imposed hiatus.

I took a couple days to think about it. In the end, I agreed for a couple reasons:

1. This TRO project is being written along the parameters born from a conversation with Jason several months ago. We wanted to bring back the ‘classic’ feel of the FASA-era technical readouts, such as the classic 3025, 2750, and 3050 tomes. The focus in those were on battles, history, and “can I replicate that encounter on the tabletop?” After a glut of TROs the last several years that focused more on the corporate and bureaucratic wrangling, it seemed like this was the best place to do it.

2. During this time, we also decided to challenge our writer pool. Who could follow directions? Who could turn in stuff on time? Who was capable of crafting great, compelling entries that didn’t use the word “design” or re-state the stat blocks in written form? If we were challenging them, then it was also up to Jason and I to put our money where our mouths were.

3. Entries like these are in the 500-750 word range. That’s about 45 min for me to crank out, something that I can do quite easily during my lunch hour or while my wife does normal garden maintenance in the evening.

4. I needed a modern House Kurita fix. After letting Geoff Swift take the reigns for a while after the Jihad, I needed to infuse some old-school Combine combat honor into the Dark Age.

So after a few weeks – and a nice helpful assist from Jason when I got hit with an unexpected video project at work – the TRO:3145 Draconis Combine was written, reviewed, edited, and drawn. It’s the next in line to release as a PDF, with several entries finding their way into the printed TRO later this year. The primary focus for the battle histories in this TRO (and in the upcoming FedSuns one) is the Combine invasion of the Federated Suns, and was an absolute blast to forge.

There are two units in particular I absolutely loved. I didn’t craft the stats for any of these – that hard work was a project unto itself, headed by Jan Prowell (owner of warrenborn.com), Patrick Wynne (MWDA automaton), and Johannes Heidler, among several others. But I fell in love with the Kamakiri (and its Shi variant) and the Tenshi.

Thought I’d share a little about the Tenshi (which means ‘angel’ in Romanized Japanese), to stoke the fires of fans of House Kurita…

Deployment

The first Tenshis were assigned to the Ghost Regiments. The DCMS believed that if the Tenshi proved to be a tactical failure—much as the Daboku nearly a century before—it would be confined to the  more “honorless” regiments. Ghost pilots embraced the new OmniMech and quickly realized its battlefield potential. In 3103, the First Ghost dropped two lances of Tenshis on Grumium in the Ghost Bear Dominion in a fast raiding action to seize a large weapons stockpile. Chu-i Albert Olmstead led his Tenshis straight to their target, blasting through a Striker Star before being stopped cold by a Dominion Nova from the First Freeman Cluster. Olmstead challenged the Bear commander to a Trial of Possession and was refused; the Ghosts were then surrounded by the Bears. Using their massed firepower, the Tenshis moved from target to target, cutting down Clan ’Mechs in short order as they shrugged off the Bears’ return fire. Six of the eight Tenshis met their DropShip at the facility and several hundred tons of Clan technology was claimed for the Dragon.

The assault company of the Sixteenth Galedon Regulars is comprised entirely of Tenshis, all at the request of Tai-i Michelle Taharski. The Wall, as the company is unofficially known, was responsible for the mass destruction of the capital city of Kirstie on Rowe. Taharski configured all of her Tenshis with as many  destructive weapons as possible. When the Wall moved on Kirstie, they were opposed by a regiment of planetary militia. The gaggle of Davion infantry and vehicles was no match for the twelve assault ’Mechs. After making short work of the militia, the company set about destroying more than three-fourths of the city.

Notable Units

Tai-i Michelle Taharski: Orphaned at a young age by to a Davion raid on her homeworld of Capra, Taharski has nurtured a fiery hate against all things Davion. Pragmatic about her future advancement within the Sixteenth, the tai-i has made the most of her position as company commander. That her request for an entire company of Tenshis was accepted by the Regulars’ command and the Procurement Department was unexpected but gratefully received.

Her hatred of the Federated Suns—and the Sandoval family in particular—came to the forefront when the Sixteenth was reassigned to the border of the Draconis March. She is methodical and somewhat predictable in her tactics. Those few who joke that the tai-i must be Lyran due to her LCAF-like approach to tactics find themselves nursing broken bones or suffering a mild concussion.

The Tenshi, by Justin Nelson.

The Tenshi, by Justin Nelson.

The Dragon’s Potpourri

DSC_0941

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

Life Amongst the Dragon’s Stars

Black Marble - Asia and Australia
[“Black Marble” by NASA Goddard Photo and Video]

And we’re back with a look at the ongoing work in Handbook: House Kurita.

One of the more popular bits of the Handbook series is the Touring the Realm section, which provides a wide look at various worlds in the interstellar nation. Each author picks the worlds listed in the book for various reasons. I selected mine based on a few criteria. Each planet fits at least two from the following list:

  • Randall listed it in the original outline
  • It’s a District / Prefecture capital world
  • It has a role of some sort in the history of the Combine (mentioned in the History section)
  • It showcases a slice of life within the Combine borders
  • I wanted a ‘fresh’ world to tinker with

So what we have are the four military districts with six to eight worlds highlighted from each area.

Rather than sneak a couple of the complete atlas entries, I’ll do something a little different. I’ll give a couple sentences from various entries, to whet the appetite. This is still a work-in-progress, as I’m still finishing it – along with finalizing editing notes on the other sections and bugging Randall for the opening fiction.

Luthien

The crown jewel is the sprawling Imperial City, home of the ruling Kurita family. It is a virtual fairy-tale of a city, surrounded by verdant gardens and hectares of natural forest. The impressive Unity Palace, which contains the seat of Kurita power, appears to hover on the horizon. Each of the five towers that form the palace is distinct, built along the aesthetics of a different architectural period from ancient Japan.

Bjarred

Evidence was presented that although exports were re-routed to Jaguar worlds, those raw materials were of much lesser quality and quantity. More importantly, a high percentage of smelted metals and manufactured steel contained numerous defects and weak spots. This created a substandard product that increased breakdowns and other trouble spots in Clan equipment and materials fashioned from Bjarred exports.

Irece

The response was overwhelming; the Bureau of Friendly Interior Comfort and Concerns constantly processes requests and handles the transport of citizens to designated worlds in the Bjarred and Qandahar prefectures. Because of the situation, the Bureau formed “resident zones” on all other systems in the prefecture. These zones are nothing more than large, sufficient enclaves under the domain of the Clan. Combine citizens are not permitted on the grounds unless they possess proper documentation and authorization.

Matamoras

Founded during the Age of Colonization by Soviet expatriates, 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.

Aix-la-Chapelle

The most famous is the Diplan Mechyard near Belnet. The factory uses an architectural design and construction similar to a Castle Brian and easily holds up against Class 9 storms (425+ kph winds). Such facilities were built with typical Kuritan foresight, as they easily serve as defensive bulwarks during times of crisis.

Proserpina

A series of industries centers around the study, capture, processing, and research of this tenacious predator. The blood limpet is indirectly responsible for scientific breakthroughs in such technologies as battle armor, MASC systems, genetic therapy, synthetic fabrics, and anesthetics. Regardless of industry, civilians who work with the blood limpet undergo a year’s worth of intensive training on the reptile.

Xinyang

The oyabun, Sean O’Clannahan, declared a vendetta against Robert Ivankov. The conflict escalated out of hand very quickly. For the next fifty years, several yakuza clans—headed by the Fuji Snow—invaded Xinyang and systematically pushed the vory v zakone from power. By 2960, the yakuza dominated the Xinyang underworld and remained in control despite two subsequent attempts from outside mafia families.

Galedon V

The hills of Paphos are renowned for its wine industry, often preparing vintages served in the Imperial Court. The volcanic chain—Steps of the Dragon—that border the eastern coastline of the continent is the source of valuable Galdeonian black and red diamonds. Strict security measures keep a tight grip on the production and export of these gems, making them one of the rarest and most expensive diamonds in the Inner Sphere.

Enif

Enivians dislike “the Newcomers” as they feel their pace of life is challenged and belittled. Loyal to the Kurita family and steadfast supporters of the Dragon, these citizens are nonetheless mocked for their simplistic lifestyle and nonconfrontational attitudes by the Newcomers. Because of Enif’s chronically poor educational system—even by lower class standards—Enivians are rarely accepted into military academies and few find their way past the lower ranks of the DCMS.

Hachiman

Partly due to the influence of its unofficial lord Chandrasekhar Kurita, Hachiman is considered the place to find everything from forbidden Steiner entertainment discs to shadowy mercenary assassins. The Coordinators of the Combine have allowed this well of depravity to exist within the Combine’s walls, primarily as a funnel for foreign spies and malcontents. With the superior electronics produced by the planet’s hard-working citizenry over the centuries, the Kuritas have permitted Masamori’s existence as a form of stress relief.

The Two-Headed Snake

DSC_9490

This will be the last update on Handbook: House Kurita for 2012. Principal writing is winding down and during the upcoming holiday week, most of the book will be (hopefully) completed. I’m also hoping to start seeing some of the art soon; it’s been far too quiet on that front.

One of the primary things that has struck me about the Draconis Combine is the stark divide between the two societal classes – noble and worker. While each has several subdivisions within them, the main divide is exceptionally noticeable within the Kuritan realm. Of all the Great Houses, the Combine’s society and economy is the most “realistic” when it comes to reconciling “real world” theories against the sci-fi pulp universe of BattleTech. The worker class is truly poor within the Dragon’s realm and the nobles are truly wealthy. It explains much as to why such cultural iconography (namely, the “Japanification” of the House) is deep-seated within the society. Adherence and reverence for the Kuritan ideals is indelibly strong within the poor classes; it’s the one thing they can well and truly grasp to live for. The reverse is true of the nobility (of which the merchants reside on the lower tiers); they are more adept at manipulating the cultural norms to get what they want, while showing the face of subservience to the Imperial throne.

Isn’t it interesting, then, that the Black Dragon Society finds most of its members within the nobility…

***

So before I share one sidebar from the history section, here’s a nice juicy tidbit:

In HBHK, we reveal the identity of Snow Fire.

Chew on that little nugget for a bit. When you’re ready, look at a little bit of foreshadowing from a sidebar in the History of a Nation section:

The Deadly Double Cobra

Scientists and medical experts from systems near the affected prefectures were called in by the Coordinator to combat the “Albiero Consumption.” Using samples gained through strict protocols, this special medical task force—coordinating across eight different systems and facilities—finally struck success in 2904. As a result, millions of people were spared a lingering death from the fast-spreading virus. Removing the quarantine kept the Dragon’s stretched economy from going under completely.

The DCMS special warfare labs also benefited from the research. After the crisis had passed, the medical facilities were closed down, except for two. Research moved from vaccinations and public health into that of biowarfare. While not a common option used during the previous Succession Wars, the DCMS High Command considered it an avenue in the event of an overwhelming assault by its neighbors.

After several months of extensive testing, a weaponized version of the plague was created. The new virus, called the “Double Cobra” for its two transmission vectors, was capable of infecting an entire planet within weeks, depending on extraneous environmental factors. The Double Cobra was theoretically more lethal than any other chemical or biological weapon posited during the height of the Star League era. When the full range of the virus and its effects were disclosed to Coordinator Shinjiro, he immediately ordered the samples sealed and locked down. Only in a case of extreme emergency—such as the imminent downfall of the Dragon—would such a weapon be unleashed.

The DCMS High Command placed the Double Cobra in a buried vault complex in a sparsely populated region of Galedon. The district capital world was chosen for its proximity to the Federated Suns border, as the Dragon believed that if any enemy was capable of pushing the Combine to the brink, it would be the realm of the hated Davions. If that inconceivable situation happened, the Double Cobra would be ready for use.

Bunker SX-RT3; Luthien Court Library, 2933

Merry Christmas, readers!

HBHK: Arrogance in Character

DRK-5K Grand Dragon (v2)

Been a few weeks, so I thought I’d share a bit more from the ongoing HBHK project.

One of the biggest challenges to this particular book is trying to convey the arrogance of the Kuritas (as it’s from the perspective of a Combine historian) without sounding overdone and silly but still convey important information. The trick is to use the proper turns of phrase and word choice, which makes the entire process a tad challenging. By a factor of ten.

The only other option is a textbook-style read, which is, to be frank…BORING. With the difficulties this series already faces, I’ll do whatever I can to boost this last installment’s success.

Initial feedback from my reviewers has indicated I’ve been pretty successful in hitting that arrogant-yet-informative balance I want. Hopefully those who do read it in full will agree.

Okay, enough rambling. Continue reading