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Hachiman, Hard Boiled (Golden Lion AU) Cover Art

Chapter 1 - The Expo[]

Dream of Double Heatsinks in the Floating City[]

06/18/3046 - Location: Masamori - Hachiman, Draconis Combine

The Floating City glowed brightly in neon light reflected off the Yamato River and the Expo Center's mirrored glass. Each side connected by brightly painted charter boats with red lanterns hanging off the gunwales. A storm rolled in ensuring that even more of the particularly brisk business was behind closed doors tonight much to the dismay of the establishments further from the docks.

Far above them within the Sen'nendai Hotel's penthouse Theodore Kurita, Gunji-no-Kanrei of the DCMS, shot up in his bed disturbing his wife Tomoe's graceful curls but importantly her rest. She propped herself up. “What is it, Theodore?”

Theodore stood up opening the blinds to look out over the electric city of the Draconis Combine. “I had a terrible dream. That the NAIS had invented a heat sink with double the current capacity at no additional weight.”

Tomoe sighed, getting up to stand beside her husband to look out over the light show dancing across the skyscrapers. “What a relief that would be. I wouldn't have to pilot my Crusader topless.”

“You could buy a cooling vest if you wanted.”

She pulled him close. “Maybe I don't want to...Now back to bed.”

Business Dealings of Chandrasekhar Kurita[]

06/19/3046 - Location: Masamori - Hachiman, Draconis Combine

Chandrasekhar Kurita sat in a comfortable chair within one of the many conference rooms that looked out over the expo center's floor. Coordinator Takashi Kurita's reforms and deal with COMSTAR had transformed the Draconis Combine into a major export power and they were looking for customers for all the overcapacity with the scale-down of the COMGUARDs. With all Successor States within reach of the Combine's vast borders their biggest hurdle was a bad reputation and a lack of jumpships due to COMSTAR's sphere wide increase in collar rates for their affiliated lines.

The First Universal Export Expo, sponsored by his company, Hachiman-Taro Enterprises, had drawn visitors from as far away as the Magistracy of Canopus.

A gruff voice spoke behind him. “Chairman Kurita, The Floating City Syndicate would like to place a formal grievance regarding Ambassadrix Aurea Centrella.”

He turned the chair to face a handsome fit middle aged man with mirrored sunglasses, a sharp suit, and slick hair. “Is Watanabe upset she brought a pleasure circus with her?”

“He does not appreciate competition. You promised him exclusive access in return for our concessions.”

“They came in a 'diplomatic pouch' so there is nothing I can do about them. I think they should get together and compare notes. Or fight it out. Bedroom, boardroom, battlefield I don't care.

He has plenty of business with so many VIPs in the city. I steer them to his establishments as agreed. Tell Watanabe that if Dawn Circus was not here I doubt his people would make it through the week. Turnout has been much higher than expected with the expected exception of the Federated Suns.”

“I will do so promptly. Expect more messages until they depart.”

“As long as they are actual messages not 'messages' as agreed.” The Yakuza enforcer tensed slightly, “Next time call me Fujio. I have a phone, and more appointments. Please send in Sharrell on your way out.”

A dark skinned young woman appeared wearing the standard office lady uniform found in any of the dozen large corporations within Masamori itself. “You asked for me, sir.”

“Have Ahmed and his people arrived yet?”

She consulted her noteputer. “I'm afraid they have been slightly delayed due to traffic.”

Chandrasekhar's stomach grumbled, he couldn't wait for the Azami financiers to show up, that meant a lamb lunch. “Then I'm going to need a snack and some tea.”

The woman bowed meekly. “Right away, sir. I will inform you when they are nearby.”

“Much appreciated.”

As she closed the door he stood up to look out over the expo floor. New companies outnumbered and outproduced the old Zaibatsus that held sway since the Von Rohrs. From the commotion surrounding him he could see Theodore and Tomoe walking about pressing the flesh and learning what the new Combine was capable of.

“The future is looking bright for the Draconis Combine. Yet we should remain vigilant.”

Chandreskar and his aides sat on one side of the table clad in tailored dark suits or in Chandrasekar’s case a loose kimono. Five Azami men dressed in elaborately embroidered and richly dyed kaftans sat on the other side of a hardwood table inlaid with precious metals and ivory handcrafted by the finest artisans on Highspire.

“Ahmed Ahlan wa sahlan. I trust your journey from Markab was fruitful.”

“The needs of our people have been met, for now.”

“Splendid. Coffee?”

A brass coffee service made its way around the table filling each of the rich china cups with a half cup as the traditional greeting required. This was followed by platters of steaming couscous, aromatic lamb, grilled flatbreads, and the finest produce grown in vertical farms scattered through Masamori. After dinner the group moved to a different room to talk business.

“We appreciate your hospitality, Chairman. However this will not sway The Bank of Markab’s judgement that we have not diversified enough to secure our reserves. Our Chief thinks our capital will be more secure outside of the manufacturing sector. Based on our current forecasts H.T.E. and other companies particularly in this sector will run out of working capital by year’s end.”

The Azami weren’t wrong. If he hadn’t gotten a new infusion of capital and a break in his raw material costs from New Samarkand Metals, he would have been forced to lay off a third of his staff and shutter half his factories just as they were coming online.

“I assure you that the present challenges will not cripple our ability to make payments on our outstanding liabilities.

The COMGUARDs sudden dissolution and COMSTAR’s recent ‘adjustments’ to their cost of their HPG and Jumpship services have vexed every interstellar corporation since last year.

You will not find a more secure place for your capital than Hachiman-Taro Enterprises. We are actively managing the difficulties. I recently lobbied the Coordinator to allow the Outworlds Alliance Trade Guilds into Combine space without harassment by the Port Authority. That was no trivial matter and it’s something that only someone with my respectability could accomplish.”

“The Director doesn’t believe you, Chandreskar. We are here to audit the books for you and many of the new firms we have helped bankroll over the past thirty years since we were allowed to operate. Many of them have abused our trust and damaged our joint ventures souring the whole enterprise.”

“An enterprise that I was instrumental in advocating.” Chandreskar told them

“Because the normal banks would not loan you money after your first failed venture. Our Caliphate’s Sovereign Wealth is not something you can use on a whim. You have a long leash and have a record of trustworthiness. However, our patience is finite as are our funds and both are diminishing at an unsustainable pace.

This expo of yours had better lead to more sales abroad for your affiliated enterprises.”

“It already has.” he told them

Chandreskar tapped his fingers on the table. “Now, if I may interest you. I understand you want to move away from manufacturing in the Combine; however Doering Electronics and Hachiman-Taro have reached a tentative agreement to buy Galileo Instruments of New Oslo. We are looking for a bank to facilitate the exchange which will come with a banking license in the Republic and Commonwealth.”

Ahmed stopped for a moment and conferred in rapid fire Arabic with his fellows. Chandreskar listened in having learned the Azami’s language early on when he started doing business with them and that was just smart. A presence for the Bank of Markab so close to Dar-es-Salaam, the center of the Islamic faith in the Lyran Commonwealth and thus a major growth market for a Sharia bank, could be very lucrative.

They broke out from the huddle and settled back in their chairs with the coffee cups still in front of them. “We will of course need to confer with Doering and have everything clearly defined in writing. The Bank of Markab appreciates you extending this offer to us and looks forward to our continued partnership.”

Parents with their newly reunited son[]

Theodore, Tomoe and Minoru Kurita watched the Ibuki Robotics demonstration in one of the darkened chambers in the Expo Center. Myomer actuated robots with attached Kendogu armor covering their sensor laden heads conducted a slow motion duel with one another to the accompaniment of live classical Japanese music. As the music reached crescendo the robots engaged one another furiously until a shinai broke under the strain to the crowd's applause. The robots paused, bowed to one another and their helmeted controllers appeared from the darkened corners and each performer including the robots bowed to the audience.

His son tugged at his suit. “May I speak with the engineers, father.”

He signaled the engineers who paused packing up. “Certainly, Minoru.”

As the crowd dispersed Minoru stepped forward to talk to the operators avoiding the cleaning drone sweeping the floor of debris. Operators who removed the consoles mounted on their harnesses to show his son in greater detail.

Tomoe remained at his side watching her son put on a set of data-gloves and neural band. “These past couple of days have been very good for him. I've never seen him so happy.”

The young boy was filled with questions and the engineers answered each to his satisfaction. The operators placed the control console on a bench. With only rudimentary instruction and some coaching one of the drones came 'alive.' It began to execute a perfect karate kata under Minoru's control to the surprise of the Ibuki engineers.

“He's very smart. If he weren't the future Coordinator's son he would've excelled in COMSTAR. I remember how excited he was to depart with the Precentor.”

Minoru's drone was joined by the other one in a paired kata as he laughed and tried to trip up the other operator. One of the robot's helmets fell off exposing the flimsy but ominous looking mask atop an off-white plastic head.

“It was not easy for me to convince him to return. I still worry about him. He spent almost three years in Fortress Dieron. Who knows what they did to him there.”

“He's still young, whatever they did we can undo.” Minoru looked over to him with pride answered by his parent's nods.

“We are his parents and I want each of my children to be at their best.”

Lost in Yoshi-Town[]

City (High Tech - Night)

Floating City, Yoshi Town

Yoshi-Town, the blue collar and dock district of Masamori, was buzzing with activity. Silent Kei vans delivered produce and fish all day to bustling and boisterous open air markets always lit with strings of bright lights. These lights were omnipresent illuminating streets, little more than alleys, that existed in constant shadow of tenements, warehouses, and workshops. No police operated here but patrols of Yakuza toting staves and brass knuckles kept the peace among the population in exchange for gifts.

Two young women wearing shorts and brightly dyed Haori style jackets with Mindstar Entertainment's logo on them walked through the tangled streets. They spoke a strange language to the locals who kept their eyes on them and distance.

“I cannot believe you made me miss the shuttle, Juliana. We are in so much trouble.”

“We had to work last night. How did they expect us to wake up, get ready, and reach the expo center in time? I didn't get done until almost four.” Juliana commented

“Its why they have the shuttle. The Ring-mistress is probably going to make us work tonight now. I need a break. My muscles can only take so much.”

She stopped in the middle of the street while looking at the pamphlet. “Why is this metro station so hard to find!?”

A smooth man's voice interrupted them. “Apologies. I couldn't help but overhear that you seem to be in a bit of distress.”

Both women looked over to a man leaning against a Matabushi Mach V sports car. They noticed he appeared to be in his mid-20s with a tailored suit, fedora, and just a hint of a colorful tattoo under an open collar. He tossed his cigarette into a nearby drain.

They looked at each other. “You speak Portuguese?”

“Among other languages. I travel a lot for business, lots of time on a dropship with not enough to do.”

The women walked closer with Juliana flirtily joining him against the car. “What kind of business do you do? Mister?”


Franklin Sakamoto.

I work for Isesaki Shipping on the Unity Kwaidan. Its a small freighter so we spend a lot of time on Hachiman. Electronics shipping is good business to have.”

Caskata got on the other side drawing his attention. “Must be very good business to have such a nice car.”

“We've had a good year. Its a pity I can't take it with me when I'm traveling.”

“So you must know Masamori pretty well. Can you give us a ride?”

“Well you're certainly not making it to Expo Center now via metro. Unfortunately I only have two seats.”

He looked at both women in turn until Caskata slightly opened her jacket to show off her bustier and more. “One of you ladies will have to sit on my lap.”

They both pushed up against him and whispered. “It's no problem, Mister Sakamoto. We're used to it.”

The uniformed Valet stood behind his booth as a Matabushi Mach V pulled up to the Expo Center to his astonishment. A fellow valet pushed forward but his efforts were resisted. “I'll get this one Hiro. You go take a break.”

Two sets of long legs belonging to gorgeous giggling half-dressed women exited through its wing doors. “No. I can wait, Gin.”

They were followed by a tall hafu man with a serious demeanor and just visible irezumi tattoos under his collar. He walked over to the other side pointed, said something in a language he didn't understand, received some kind of card from the women (if you've ever been to Vegas you know which type), and watched them depart while putting the card into his suit pocket. “On second thought...”

Gin stopped in his tracks as the man looked at them. “Know what I think I need some water.” He pushed Hiro forward.  “All yours.”

The intimidating man reached inside his jacket to remove a cigarette from a metallic case inside. “You got a light, kid?”

Hiro nervously flicked the electric lighter which buzzed softly as an arc of electricity jumped between the contacts. “Thanks”

Puffs of white smoke erupted from the slim cigarette. “I know I'm not allowed to smoke inside.”

He looked across the river toward an unlit The Floating City. During the day it looked like any group of commercial buildings with restaurants and more inside rather than a neon Babylon. “Figured I would get it out of the way.”

Sparks continued erupting from the lighter in his hand. “Sir, Are you here for the Expo? If so I'll need to see your ticket.”

Reaching out with his left hand Hiro noticed a prosthetic where he was missing part of his left pinkie which flicked the lighter closed. Afterwards he pulled an Expo badge out of his back pocket. 'Franklin Sakamoto' with a picture and 'Isesaki Shipping' logo printed in holographic ink underneath along with the Expo info. “Welcome to the First Universal Export Expo...”

Franklin held out his hand and Hiro stuttered before going silent. “Give me the valet ticket and point toward the garage.”

“I'm afraid...” Franklin stared at him and handed him some Yen.

“Don't be afraid of me, kid. I'm safe unless you do something to piss me off. Like waste my time.”

Without another word Franklin pulled a valet ticket book from Hiro's vest. The young man pointed toward the garage. “Thanks for the light.”

Wing doors closed and the car flew down the road before drifted into the underground parking garage. Its lights came on as the light changed until Franklin found a suitable spot among the other high value cars under supervision of their drivers while the bosses worked above. The muscle watched him carefully as he headed toward the elevator.

A familiar voice echoed off the concrete parking garage. “You got a lot of balls showing yourself round here, Yoshi Yak.”

Franklin turned around snapping the expanding baton secreted in his coat. A middle-aged man in an open shirt but well tailored jacket stood in the center of a group of younger ones.

“I'm here on Isesaki business Fujio. Not looking for a fight this time.” he told them

Fujio nonchalantly neared holding the bokken out toward Franklin's car which was surrounded by punks. A red Mach V idled in front of it. “You parked in my spot, Franklin.”

With a smooth motion Franklin returning the collapsed baton to his jacket. “Since your car blocked me in I guess you'll have to find another.” Franklin turned at the incoming elevator chime. “Besides it's a company car.”

One of the punks leaned against it and leapt away with a scream of pain that echoed off the concrete following by Franklin's laughter in the elevator. “and it's electric.”

Buying at the Expo and getting deadly notice[]

Franklin's trip up the sluggish elevator was accompanied by an irritating melodic noise that could have been music if it wasn't seemingly running at x5 speed on repeat. He exited to a mercifully quiet atrium surrounded by sunlight filtered through tinted glass.

Outside the riverfront bustled with people enjoying lunch and fresh air. Docked yachts flew flags of no fewer than a dozen megacorps. Each was operating as an expansion to the Expo's conference rooms while offering even greater privacy. Exhausted salary-men and office ladies fanned themselves in the atrium whispering to one another with sly smiles and coy gestures.

“Yoshi Yak. Over here!”
He looked toward the shouting security officer. From the pin on his suit's lapel he was a member of a Yakuza group known more for cybercrime than street toughs like the Yoshi warehouse types. One of many that had their Ghost Regiment contributions disappear from DCMS rolls and go 'private' over the past year.

“Weapons check.” Franklin placed his baton, keys, commpad, and cigarette case in the tray before passing through the metal detector. Nothing was detected but he was still patted down. His gilded cigarette case was locked away while the officer filled out a digital claim check. The officer saw him looking at the case. “No smoking in the Expo Center.”

The security officer held up the tubular expanding baton. “What's this?”

“Lighter?” Franklin coyly answers

“Very funny Mister Sakamoto. No weapons either unless you are security.” the guard told him

Looking out over the expo center he saw gray clad DCMS soldiers guarding 'sensitive items' and Yakuza 'private contractors' removing 'trouble makers.' “I feel safer already.”

His comm-pad beeped with the wireless drop of the claim check. “We do what we can. Now get moving.”

Franklin wandered the Expo Center where exhibitions consumed every possible square meter. Even the entrance lobby had been given over to tables for lesser manufacturers who paid handsomely for their prime position. With Takashi's reforms Luthien Armor Works no longer had the iron grip of the Combine's defense sector and the old Zaibatsus had to compete in a way they were not accustomed.

He found himself draw to the Ibuki Robotics/Osaka Heavy Metrics exhibition with two scale mocks ups of very different looking Battlemechs loomed over the space like the bodies of metal dinosaurs. Industrial Exoskeletons, plastic Androids, and smaller drones existed in their shadows illuminated by their own internal lighting.

With a frightful noise the angular monstrosities animated. One squeezed its hands crushing some unseen object and the other moved its arms as if in mid-stride. The display awed the onlookers although Franklin was more impressed by the armament the systems seemed to carry.

A smiling salesmen appeared beside him having used the noise of the animated mechs to disguise his footfall. “Sir, Are you interested in hearing more about out Komodo and Kyudo battlemechs?”

“As a matter of fact I am. I like their look.” Franklin told the salesman

The Komodo had a sloped predatory look with three laser barrels behind each hand. It evoked the Crusader CRD-3K's ascetics quite well while the Kyudo had 20 missile tubes over its left shoulder and a large barreled PPC for a right arm.

The salesmen gleamed at the comment. “We put a lot of work into them. Approvals are necessary however before I continue.”

A DCMS guard took notice of the pair. Franklin sent Isesaki Shipping's approval documents from the DCMS Procurement Department on world to the salesmen. In turn he gave Franklin access to the technical specs and options. While scrolling through them Franklin had a few questions. “I'll take one of each. When can I pick them up and finalize payment?”

“Standard ninety day net, Mister Sakamoto. You intend to pick them up. From the Factory?” asked the man

“It's only one jump away and I have my own dropship with a pair of cubes. Although it is presently undergoing an overhaul.” Franklin told him

“Of course, sir. While you are here could I interest you in an upgrade your mech bays?”

This comment caught him by surprise Mech Bays were fairly standardized throughout the Inner Sphere. “What do you mean an upgrade?”

“We can partially automate it at a minor increase in upkeep. For basic repairs and maintenance only. Frees up techs for more advanced tasks.”

“Give me a quote.”

Franklin's eyes grew wide at the quote. His bozos (Bosozuko) were somewhat capable as Mechtechs, but some robots would be a nice addition. “Does this include labor?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I'll take it on the condition that the Kwaidon receives a single trip contract for electrical components imported from Hachiman to Togura.”

“I will have to discuss that with our shipping department but I am certain your dropship is capable of supplying our needs in order to secure the sale.” The salesmen bowed, “Pleasure doing business with you.” then returned to work the crowd.

Finally, Franklin ended up at his final destination, Isesaki Shipping's shareholder conference where he would represent the Kuroi-Ryu syndicate. Armed Hachiman-Taro Enterprises 'blue-coats' checked everyone under the careful eyes of DCMS Security Officers because the Gunji-no-Kanrei would be there for at least a portion of the meeting. Franklin caught sight of a middle aged red haired man behind them and scowled.

The Security Officers flagged him for additional screening due to his behavior and pulled him into a side room.

“What's your problem, Mister Sakamoto?”

“Just thinking about some bad fish.” commented Franklin

Tai-I Ninyu Kerai Indrahar, adopted son of Subhash Indrahar, Chief of the ISF, observed the interaction behind the one way mirror stroking his ginger goatee. "I want a full background check on this Franklin Sakamoto and someone to keep an eye on him."

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