|Author||Craig A. Reed|
|First published||27 March 2009|
|Era||Civil War era|
|Timeline||12 March-24 November 3062|
|“||The samurai believe that a sword—or a ‘Mech—can be an extension of a warrior’s soul. When that warrior is an outcast, must he find a cast-off ‘Mech to match?||”|
At Fort Nitobe on Kiesen, Chu-i Tomosuki Okudara is assigned an old, decreipt BattleMaster to pilot. On 12 March 3062 he inspects the 'Mech and meets the wizened tech, Senior Technician Kume. Offering him Black Pearl sake, Okudara befriends Kume and inquires about the 'Mech. Kume tells him that it seems to be cursed with bad luck, with at least three pilots killed in training accidents; the Avengers (presumably referring to the Alshain Avengers) simply left it behind when it quit moving and this is how it ended up with the Twelfth (apparently the Twelfth Dieron Regulars regiment who were typically stationed on Kiesen; the unit's full name is never spelled out throughout the story). Kume himself is something of an outcast with three years to retirement, but he refused to go early and was thus assigned to the unwanted 'Mech.
Okudara resolves to bring the 'Mech, which he has come to name Hikagemono ("Outcast"), back to working order together with Kume. Handing out the coveted Black Pearl sake Okudara convinces various techs and other people across the regiment to help out. They make some progress, but on 22 April Okudara is assigned a new permanent 'Mech, a KIM-2A Komodo, and regretfully stops working on Hikagemono.
By 15 September the Komodo has racked up a maintenance log exceeding two hundred pages, with more downtime than the rest of the company combined. Although his superior officers suspect Okudara (or Kume) of sabotage, no evidence can be found. It does turn out, however, that Okudara is the son of Sho-sho Shigeru Yoshida of the First Sword of Light, which apparently helps him procure spare parts (beyond generously handing out sake). Although still under surveillance for possible sabotage, he is reassigned to the BattleMaster.
In mid-November two clusters from Clan Ghost Bear attack Kiesen, and headhunter forces take out the defenders' regimental command. Okudara's Komodo has meanwhile been confirmed to suffer from manufacturing problems that were not properly checked, and should never have left the factory; he has officially been assigned the BattleMaster instead now. In the battle, Okudara and his Hikagemono, now working properly and realiably, shine, and he manages to seize an important pass from the enemy forces. Overall, the regiment suffers heavy losses in the fighting.
In the aftermath, the Twelfth evacuates from Kiesen and board their DropShips on November 24th, to be replaced by the Fifth Ghost regiment. Okudara reveals that his great-uncle owns the Okudara Distillery and provided him with three crates of the expensive Black Pearl sake that he has been handing out. In light of his performance against the Ghost Bears, his superior officers decide to let the matter rest and accept a bottle each.