Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
The Cronian Revolution
At first glance, Cronus (technically 46CronusD, the fourth planet in the nearly dead Cronus system) seems like an unlikely place to play such a critical role in the future of humanity. It is a hostile, barren world with a poisonous atmosphere, incessant volcanic and seismic activity, and an unexceptional collection of minerals easily mined from hundreds of thousands of more accessible asteroids and moons, not to mention the handful of human-colonized worlds.
However, when a deep space probe sent to the system to collect scientific data for cataloging purposes detected chemically compelling organic material in soil samples, the United Corporate Authority (UCA) was formed by three dominant mega corporations (Andra Biomechanics, Armacham Technology Corporation, and Shogo Industries) and a jointly funded manned expedition was launched.
That early venture found rich deposits of the organic material, dubbed kato for the probe that discovered it (the Shogo DSP Katoki).
It would be over a decade before the benefits of kato energy would become apparent and interstellar travel would change forever…
The Mega Corporations and the UCA
Each of the mega corporations contributing to the Cronus expedition had a vested interest in the mission at hand. Andra Biomechanics, founded in Moscow in the early 21st century by Natalya Andropov, a renowned researcher on the Human Genome Project, grew to specialize in a variety of genetic engineering, cybernetic, and mechanical engineering interests. Their products included medical bioengineering technologies, cybernetically assisted prosthetics, and even anthropomorphic mobile engineering vehicles (MEVs) used in construction, mining (terrestrial and otherwise), and demolition. They also did early research and development of mobile combat armor (MCAs) and armaments.
Shogo Industries, a Japanese conglomerate, had interests ranging from technology to publishing to the manufacture of children’s clothing. With the advent of MEVs and MCAs, Shogo decided to offer their own highly advanced line of giant mechanized suits. Their designs were well received both for functionality and aesthetics. They also distinguished themselves for space-based product lines and microcomputer technology.
Armacham Technology Corporation got its start with the manufacture of commercial satellites and ground-based communication systems. Eventually, they would expand to encompass civilian and military vehicle manufacture, musical equipment, security systems, and, predictably enough, MEV and MCA technologies. Their MCAs (they discontinued their MEV lines after some early experiments) immediately caught the attention of the private sector and various military organizations alike. Sleeker and sexier than the offerings of their competitors, Armacham’s MCAs were and still are considered the most striking MCAs available. Of course, form without function is useless, and Armacham delivers there as well. While not as rugged as Andra MCAs or as sophisticated as Shogo MCAs, Armacham’s designs are reliable and hardy.
The UCA, originally intended as a joint venture that would ensure the continued profitability and expansion of the three organizations that founded it, took on a life of its own almost immediately. With its status as the primary regulatory agency for interstellar commerce, the UCA quickly swelled into an unwieldy bureaucracy. It was only after dissociating itself from its progenitors that it was able to restructure itself and become more efficient, simultaneously forming the United Corporate Authority Security Force (UCASF), which would soon become the dominant military power in existence. Within a decade, it was involved in the manufacture of deep space vessels, aircraft, ground-based vehicles, and MCAs. While the UCA’s early entries in the MCA market were poorly received, subsequent models, especially the Defender and Enforcer, rank as some of the best MCAs available.
What makes Kato especially enticing and useful is its unique chemical composition. Being of an organic nature, Kato at first seemed comparable to petroleum-a vestigial remnant of ancient indigenous life. On further examination, however, it was discovered that Kato is actually alive in some sense, although no more sentient than algae.
The importance of Kato derives from its reaction to high temperatures. When burned, Kato passes through several stages of re-composition before losing its volatility. Each of these stages produces an impressive amount of energy, but it’s what happens at the subatomic level that proves the most beneficial.
In the course of its chemical breakdown, Kato emits a tachyon field that can be harnessed to allow an object (such as a vehicle) contained within the field to tunnel (i.e. move from one place to another without passing through each increment of space in between), thereby traveling at superluminal speeds. Space travel without Kato energy would be like walking from New York to Los Angeles versus flying there in a Concorde. As you can imagine, interplanetary travel without Kato energy is entirely impractical.
Developments on Cronus
The population of Cronus grew steadily and rapidly, even when the first underground colony, Avernus, was devastated by a series of powerful earthquakes that led to a mass migration to the burgeoning city of Maritropa.
Avernus, although abandoned, continued an eerie quasi-life of its own, for its geothermal energy supply still pumped life through the city, powering streetlamps, heating ducts, atmospheric processors, hydroponic farms, and condensation collectors. Those few who had chosen to remain behind were able to sustain themselves with a minimal amount of maintenance and repair.
Many of these holdouts (dubbed stragglers) were former miners driven to psychological breakdown by the pressures of long hours, horrible working conditions, and long-term exposure to raw Kato residue, which had been demonstrated to have a corrosive effect on unprotected flesh even in particulate form, leading to respiratory ailments, skin rashes, and even blindness. Though the term “straggler” was originally aimed at those who had remained in Avernus, it eventually grew to encompass anyone displaying these characteristics.
A Shining City
Maritropa, unlike its ailing sister city, was intended from its incorporation to be a sparkling metropolis that afforded all the accustomed luxuries of other, comparatively vital colony worlds to its diverse inhabitants. The vast, snaking reinforced cavern system that housed Maritropa flourished with greenery, artificial light, and cosmopolitan life.
For all its self-imposed glory, Maritropa wasn’t the utopia it pretended to be, though. The lower sectors of the city eventually began to fall into disrepair as the aristocracy moved to the Canopy Section, a series of buildings suspended from the cavern ceiling. Using a material called Stion™ (developed by Armacham) which becomes highly tensile when charged with an electrical current; engineers devised a support structure with a tremendous load-bearing capacity. The view from the slums affords an ironic perspective of the hierarchical structure of Maritropan society.
By the time the revolution began in earnest, the Cronian Mining Consortium (CMC)-the governing body on the planet-had long been eager for autonomy from the UCA and various corporate interests. The importance of Kato energy gave the CMC a powerful bargaining chip offset only by Cronus’ military insignificance. So the CMC began bolstering its military in secret, aided by a covert treaty with Andra Biomechanics.
The UCA was aware of the buildup, of course, but Akkaraju was instructed not to interfere for reasons that were not shared with him. Unfortunately, Akkaraju’s superiors had apparently underestimated the extent of the CMC’s efforts. A sizable mercenary fleet arrived in the system a mere two standard hours before the CMC officially proclaimed its independence and issued its terms. The UCA was hit unprepared and forced to retreat from Cronus’ high orbit under heavy fire.
For the next 18 months, the UCA executed a series of covert operations designed to undermine the Cronian resistance by removing key individuals. Although the overall success rate of these missions was marginal at best, the plan eventually succeeded and the Cronians agreed to negotiate an accord.
It was around this time that a terrorist group calling themselves the Fallen surfaced. Their initial attacks were designed to undermine UCA faith in the CMC and, indeed, delayed the treaty process by several months. Once the existence of the terrorists was established, the CMC requested UCA assistance in rounding up the faction.
The Rise of Gabriel
The Fallen, meanwhile, grew stronger and more organized. Military intelligence attributed the transformation to a new leader elected to replace Ivan Isarevich, who was killed in the Avernus incident. The new leader, known only as Gabriel, rallied the historically fragmented Fallen into a fighting force capable of posing a serious threat to the CMC.
Following is an extract from a public statement issued by Gabriel to the population of Cronus and the various interests in orbit around her:
“We, the fallen children of earth, our ancestral home, are the rightful heirs and stewards of Coth. We will tolerate no further exploitation of her bounty, no further taking of her gifts. Those who oppose the will of Coth shall be expunged. Those who leave will do so with our blessing. Those who remain will perish.”
Final proof of the Fallen’s viability came mere hours after they seized a remote but well defended CMC geological station. The CMC’s military fragmented, nearly a third of its soldiers declaring loyalty to Gabriel and the Fallen.
The ensuing chaos presented a variety of opportunities and problems for the UCA. Akkaraju’s prime directive was to recapture Cronus for the UCA, thereby ensuring the continued harvest of Kato. The UCA and CMC had been on the verge of compromise that wasn’t especially satisfying to either party but at least provided a foundation upon which to build.
With the CMC hobbled by its own partial collapse and a fanatical army preparing a massive and potentially apocalyptic assault on Maritropa, the situation had changed dramatically in a short amount of time. Neither the UCA nor the CMC considered abandoning Cronus (or Coth, as the Fallen called it) a palatable option. But the CMC was no longer capable of defending itself. They could hold out for a while, but ultimately they would fall. Their predicament afforded the UCA a certain amount of leverage.
The UCA, meanwhile, might be able to intervene and overcome the Fallen, but the battle for Cronus would take a heavy toll and might lead to a less than desirable outcome considering the obvious fanaticism and newfound discipline of the Fallen’s legions.
Akkaraju’s recommendation to the UCA high command was simple: eliminate Gabriel by any means necessary and watch as the Fallen crumble. After all, the admiral asserted, it was Gabriel who had united the terrorists into a fighting force. Likewise, it was his charisma that had lured a third of the Cronian militia away from the CMC. How he had spread his influence so thoroughly was unknown, but its effects were self-evident. He was the key.