Hikagemono, like The Lancer Killer, has a bit of history to it. I had just gotten The Lance Killer accepted for publication on the Battlecorps site, when the call went out for stories for the 25th anniversary book --- Battletech: 25 years of Art and Fiction. A copy of this call landed in my E-mail box, and for the first time, I was part of the process. This anniversary book was my first experience in pitching for products. I will write a post of that process at a later date.
The concept was to draw inspiration from any of the art pieces included with the email. If you have a copy of the book, you see the art we have to chose from. The ones that are matched up with the stories.
Well, I outlined at least two stories and sent them in. Well, as you can guess, I didn't get my story into the book (I was told it was Loren Coleman himself who said no, but that isn't a given). I was a little disappointed, but then when I obtained a copy of the book and saw those who had stories in the book, well, I didn't feel so bad. After all, how is a guy with one (still unpublished at that time ) Battlecorps story (along with a co-author credit on a single Battletechnology story) going to compete against people like Ilsa Bick, Randall Bills, Robert Charrette, Loren Coleman, Keith DeCandido, Craig Erne, Thomas Gressman, William H. Keith, Jr., Kevin Killiany, Jim Long, David L. McCulloch, Victor Milán, Steven Mohan, Jr., Blaine Lee Pardoe, Jason Schmetzer, Adam Sherwood, Michael A. Stackpole, Robert Thurston and Phaedra Weldon? I would say 80-90% of all the Battletech novels were written by that group, and more than a few have their own original universe novels to their credit.
But Jason Schmetzer said he like the story pitches and said "write them for Battlecorps." So, I chose Hikagemono as the first story to flesh out.
I drew of the Techmanual cover art for inspiration (Marsh Owl by Kevin Killiany was the story chosen for that slot.) I felt that the story had to take place in the Combine, and the idea that a 'Mech, especially if it's been around for a long time, develops a "personality". (I revisited this idea in Thirteen). I thought that a discarded weapon (If you can really discard an 85-ton BattleMech) needed a discarded pilot. Enter Chu-i Tomosuki Okudara, a man who has been discarded by his powerful father because Okudara chose to go to another military school (Sun Tzu) instead of Sun Zhang.To the mix, I added Kume, the tech assigned to the damaged BattleMaster, who himself is not a model DCMS soldier.
The BattleMaster has seen three pilots die in it, and was left behind by the unit that had it. Okudara feels a kinship with the BattleMaster; both have been discarded, but together they can prove people who threw them away were wrong to do so.
From there, I built the story along with the BattleMaster (Hikagemono means "Outsider", and is what Okudara decides to name it) as Okudara uses his skills (and sake) to get the parts and help he needs to get the BattleMaster running again. Even when Okudara is assigned another BattleMech, circumstances bring him back to Hikagemono.
As I reread the story, I see a few places where I could have phrased things better, but I like this story. I hope you do too.