The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness

The Sign of the Dragon
Mission Briefing

Date: August 10th 1999

From: Geoff Blaize, Chief of Operations, SITU

To: Maddy Hooke, Robert Turing, Nora McShane, Joe Maranello, Greg Wentworth, Daniel Masterton, Robert Montague Flint

Subject: Tackling Inoshiro Yashimoto

Code: Q/34A/03

1. Background Information

Most of you are experienced operatives and have proved your capabilities many times in previous missions. For the new operatives in the group, what I have to say here will sound strange to you. You have my assurance that every word is true. My intention is to fill you in on the minimum necessary background detail to this mission. I am trusting the experienced members of the team to answer any other questions you may have. However, do not think that I do not expect you to play a full part in proceedings. For this mission to be a success it will take every person working to the best of his / her own ability.

Therefore: Ylids. These creatures, inhabiting earth long before mankind became a powerful force are our most dangerous enemy. They are more or less immortal and possess extraordinary powers. Their aims vary: some work together, some alone.

2. Inoshiro Yashimoto

The Ylid known as Yashimoto has his power base in Japan. Working alone (as far as we know there are no other Ylids in Japan) his current aims are unclear – as is his current persona. What is known is printed below.

3a. The state of the Japanese government.

The Japanese economic collapse made world news, of course, and has necessitated the resignation of the Prime Minister. There have been other resignations since. Japan’s justice minister resigned after a scandal over his allowing of American actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger into the country without a passport. Lawmaker Takao Jinnouchi, 65, has been named as his successor. Mr Nakamura apologised that his actions had obstructed the workings of parliament. He is the second minister to resign from Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s cabinet.

The head of the defence agency had to go last November over a scandal involving the procurement of military equipment.

The new Justice Minister, Takao Jinnouchi, was a senior member of Japan’s upper House of Councilors.

His appointment to the post was announced on Monday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka.

Mr Jinnouchi belongs to the party’s largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

3b – Religious schism.

The two religions of Japan – Shinto and Buddhism have existed side by side for centuries, with Shinto shrines usually set in the grounds of Buddhist temples. However, in a rising wave of racism across Japan there has been significant anti-Buddhist feeling. ‘Shinto is the original religion of Japan,’ one newspaper reported. “Buddhism, imported from China, had already been polluted with Hindu elements by the time it reached these shores. We are in favour of freedom of worship in this country, but our people should remember that what they are worshipping is essentially foreign. Maybe they will think of that next time they buy charms in a temple.”

The same paper carried an article on foreigners earning big money in Japan on short-term contracts – contracts that could be undertaken by the Japanese themselves.

3c – Mafia activity and earthquakes.

Members of the yakuza – the Japanese Mafia have been seen in the Hakone area. An hour’s train journey from Tokyo, Hakone is part of south Japan’s most famous national park and supports numerous small villages and hotel complexes. Some of these hotels have closed in the past season and it is known that people in several of the villages have been applying for jobs in the city.

A recent ‘American Scientist’ article reported on a an American, Dr Aidan Stanley, who is carrying out research into earthquakes in the Hakone National Park. The area, featuring ‘Boiling Hell Valley’ with it’s sulphur pools and hot springs is prime earthquake territory, he says. Details of the project were vague, but seemed to involve setting off controlled quakes along existing fault lines.

4. Conclusions. Please note, the conclusions here are of necessity hypothesis and educated guesswork.

It is our belief that Yashimoto is behind the recent changes in government, probably putting his agents into key positions.

The unprecedented and sudden split between Buddhism and Shinto also appears to be his work. Why he is doing this is unknown but would probably be to do with extending his own power base.

We know that Yashimoto has links with the yakuza. Their sudden activity suggests that he has some stake in what happens here.

5. Your Mission.

There are no specific mission objectives, rather a general goal. Find out what Yashimoto is doing and cause him as much harm as possible. This will, of course, be very dangerous. We have come up against Yashimoto’s agents in the past (some of you will remember) and they have proved very powerful enemies. Added to this, Yashimoto is aware of SITU’s existence and will probably be expecting another attack.

For this reason, you should be very wary of revealing yourselves too early, and you should take maximum precautions to ensure your own safety at all times.

6. Resources.

We can put you into immediate contact with Mosaku Miyage, priest of the Kudanshita temple in central Tokyo. In the interests of safe-guarding the Buddhist faith, he has agreed to give you whatever help he can.

Dubhium serum. In general, Ylids may not approach each other. Something in their body chemistry causes them to suffer what can only be described as spontaneous combustion if they come into close proximity to another of their kind. The dubhium serum protects them against this. We’re not sure what use the serum will have, other than as a bait for Yashimoto, but you are being issued with some in case you can use it.

Your identities. Some of you are already travelling under false identities. Those who are not, will be issued with fake passports and papers as a precautionary measure.

7. Final notes.

Tickets to Tokyo Narita airport are enclosed. You will be travelling as a group of tourists – foreign groups are common enough now to raise little interest. Please do your best to keep a low profile for as long as possible.

With a mission of this type, there is no point holding you to the usual rules about extra-legal activities. Please be aware that the Japanese police are very thorough, very well trained. Assassinating government ministers – even if they are agents of Yashimoto – is not going to be an option. You will need to find another way. You should avoid doing anything illegal unless it is strictly necessary. SITU will give you all the help it can, but please bear in mind that we do not have the influence to bail you out of a Japanese prison.

Good luck.

The Sign of the Dragon
Chapter 1

Robert Turing is dreaming of the plane crash again. The rush of air around him crescendos to a roar but he hangs weightless, hovering over the seats. Desperately, he grabs the passengers below him and shakes them. The head of one of them falls back and creamy, lifeless eyes stare up at him. He tries to scream but the sound sticks in his throat and chokes him.

“Sir? Are you all right?”

Turing comes awake with a start. A steward is bending over him, frowning in concern. Turing smiles back. “I’m fine. Sorry. A dream.”

Something makes him look down at his hands. He blinks hard.

He is clutching a miniature paper aeroplane, made from a sheet of notepaper. He must have folded it in his sleep.

The trip from Australia to Japan is a pleasant one. Nora McShane sits back and watches the clouds roll by beneath the wings of the plane. This could be her big story, she thinks. A conspiracy involving several government ministers and two of the oldest religions in the world. More to the point, this is a chance to get in first: to go directly up against one of the Ylids rather than spending all her time waiting and reacting.

She smiles to herself, tossing back her blonde hair. They do say that attack is the best form of defence.

Greg Wentworth is less than happy. He’s already travelling under a false name and he can’t help wondering what will happen if anyone recognises him and realises that the lawyer Anthony Marwood is none other than the disgraced American senator.

So far, no one seems to have noticed the similarity. Several people have stopped and turned back to looked at him, but that is normal and Greg is used to it. Tall, his dark brown hair shot through with auburn, a voice that carries twice around the aeroplane whether he wants it to or not, he is a difficult man to ignore. Will anyone in Japan recognise him, he wonders again.

‘Welcome to Japan. Enjoy your stay but obey the rules,’ the sign says. It is repeated in four languages right across the customs desks. Maddy looks up at it warily.

“Does anyone know what the rules are?” she asks in the tone of voice that suggests she’d like to find out so she can break them all at once.

In her orange sari, her hair henna-dyed, cheap jewellery swinging from her neck and wrists, she has been drawing more than her fair share of attention so far, especially from the few children who are waiting in line. She smiles at the nearest one but when he pulls towards her, his father frowns and says something sharply to him. Maddy heaves a theatrical sigh. “Are we nearly there yet?”

“Nearly,” Daniel murmurs, scanning the queue ahead. One thing can be said for Japan: it’s efficient. Everyone seems to know where to go and, at the desks, passports are checked and stamped in a matter of seconds. A pity they don’t appear to have heard of air-conditioning, though. Despite its size, the place is stifling. Daniel pulls at his T shirt, unsticking the damp cotton from his skin and grimacing to himself. Momentarily, his thoughts go to his fiancée, Belle-Marie. A pity SITU didn’t send her along as well, but probably for the best. She’s been in enough danger in her life as it is.

Behind him, Joe Maranello amuses himself by making a hundred yen coin appear and disappear between his knuckles. He has already dumped his leather jacket and his normally pristine white T shirt is grey under the arms. First thing he’s going to do when they get to the hotel, he promises himself, is to get some clean clothes. He turns and stares at the people around them. Most of them are Japanese; the few foreigners are looking uncomfortably obvious. Joe watches them lazily while the coin vanishes one last time. The rest of the team are supposed to be meeting them here, he thinks. He wonders which ones they are.

Robert Montague Flint has decided along with Maddy that he’d like to break every rule in the country just for the hell of it. His brown eyes come alight when he reads the notice. So this is Japan. He wonders where the geisha girls are. The queue moves forward another few paces and folds his jacket neatly over his arm and walks on, keeping pace with the others.

“I wonder what they do for entertainment around here?” he murmurs. Daniel, ahead of him, shrugs, lost in his own thoughts.

The whole team meet up in the seating area that leads down to the trains. The constant rumble of engines and occasional softly spoken announcement punctuate the conversation.

“I suggest we get straight to the hotel to clean up,” Greg says. His voice echoes slightly in the open space.

Joe grins at him. “Seconded. When do we get to see this Miyage person?” He glances at Nora, who has her notebook out.

“We contact him from the hotel,” she tells him, reading. “According to the map, the temple he’s head of is only a few minutes walk from there. It should be easy enough to find.”

11 am. August 13th 1999
Narita airport.

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