(01 March 3049)
The large office smells of incense and warmed oils. The room is dark, except for the holographic display casting an eerie glow that hardly illuminates beyond its pool of brilliance in the center of the room.
An obese man sits in a centuries-old teak chair; a gold-leafed dragon carving wends its way across the high back. Ring-encrusted pudgy fingers extend from the sleeves of an ultra-modern suit-kimono fashioned of the finest silk money can acquire. The colour is hard to discern in the spectral light, but I’m confident it is red. The bald pate atop the obese frame caps a much-too-wide face, whose eternal grin sparks comparison with the Smiling Buddha. The glint of merriment in the eyes completes the picture of an affable fool sitting uncomfortably at a businessman’s desk. He’s branded with the perfect moniker: “Uncle Chandy”.
And no graver mistake is made around this man, as incumbent corporations across the Draconis Combine have discovered in the last two decades, during which Hachiman Taro Electronics has risen to prominence with this conundrum at its helm.
“Do you see the never-ending symmetry of whorls undulating across the Dragon’s empire and beyond?” The soft voice emanating from the vast flesh is incongruous, startling.
I glance at the holo display and see the Draconis Combine and her hundreds of worlds, as well as the bordering empires of the Free Rasalhague Republic, Federated Commonwealth and the inconsequential Periphery rabble. There are multiple skeins wending their way across the Dragon’s realm; tenuous, spidery webs of greens and blues and blacks. They crisscross, bunching at various focal points. All my research leading to this interview sparks nascent understanding.
“The black is Isesaki Shipping,” I respond, just as softly, as though to avoid disturbing the chi of the master’s lair.
I look again and see webs of JumpShip trade routes, commodities markets from resource-rich to resource-poor worlds…and more. Then I see black lines spreading beyond the Combine’s borders. I point in several locations, shuffling forward, drawn as inexorably toward the display as an accretion disk around any vast body. “I know these trade routes to other empires and the commodities sold. But those others, they don’t exist.”
“So ka? And who is to say what exists. Can it exist if you don’t know of it?”
“Then they must exist.”
I stood stunned, speechless. Hachiman Taro Electronics has risen to dizzying heights over the past two decades. Thanks to this man, but also thanks to the social reforms pushed by Theodore Kurita following the disastrous Fourth Succession War. Yet in my wildest dreams I never imagined the skein of the company’s power and influence reaching so far. None for centuries have dared pierce the veil of Combine xenophobia as freely as this man appears to have accomplished it.
“Why are you telling me this? I cannot possibly publish it.”
“And yet you must. It is almost the middle point of the thirty-first century. It is time for the Combine to know its power extends well beyond its samurai warriors. The Lyran merchants have held their monopoly on interstellar trade long enough. It is the Dragon’s time to increase its hoard of gold.”
My eyes are drawn away from the massive skein of power to the eyes of the Smiling Buddha…to the vast intelligence behind the façade, and the brilliant acumen of Chandrasekhar Kurita. And the knowledge that as much as he’s sharing, there are vast depths still hidden…yet all for the greater glory of the Dragon.
—Shintaro Maku, Combine Press