Society of Mandarins
The Society of Mandarins was a secret organization within the Terran Confederation consisting of Terran traitors who supported the Kilrathi Empire during the Terran-Kilrathi War. Their main goal was to assist the Empire in defeating humanity.
The Society of Mandarins was known to be active since at least the 2650s and was comprised of humans who had become disillusioned with the ideals of the Terran Confederation. It is possible that the Mandarins had no faith that the Confederation would win the Kilrathi War, and instead sought political asylum with the Kilrathi so that they would be spared when the Empire ultimately won. Some traitors were promised high positions within the Kilrathi Empire if they agreed to help the Kilrathi to defeat the Confederation.
The term "Mandarins" originated from the ancient Mandarins, the ruling class of the region on Earth historically known as China, which was constantly invaded by nomadic "barbarian" peoples such as the Mongols from the northern steppes of Asia. The Mandarins were said to have defeated the Mongol threat by converting the Mongols over to their own society and lifestyle, just as the Mandarins sought accommodation with Imperial Kilrathi rule.
The network of Mandarins extended across the entire Terran Confederation and possibly into the Union of Border Worlds. The group grew to the point where it was considered a grave threat to the Confederation war effort and established a base of operations on Ayer's Rock, a secret facility hidden deep within an asteroid field in the Ayer's System.
The Mandarins were eventually successful in establishing an alliance with the Kilrathi Empire, and since then became some of the Kilrathi's most prized series of agents. The Mandarins posed as ordinary Confederation personnel, and therefore were able to work behind the scenes easily without prying eyes. They adopted a campaign of murder and terrorism, destroying Terran vessels by luring them out into the open or keeping the Kilrathi informed of their movements. They murdered any pilots or servicemen who could threaten their plans, and did everything in their power to impede humanity's war efforts.
The first Mandarins were discovered in 2655 on the TCS Winterrowd, a Confederation fleet carrier. Two Confederation personnel accused of disloyalty were found to be Mandarin agents, a discovery which shocked many of their comrades. This initial discovery passed without further public news, however, revealing little about the true extent of the Mandarin network.
In 2655, Major Zachary Colson of the TCS Austin became disillusioned with the Terran Confederation following the destruction of Goddard in 2654. In that attack, the Kilrathi destroyed the Goddard Colony using an experimental prototype of the Proton Accelerator Gun, which left the entire population dead. Among the victims was Colson's brother, a loss that had a profound effect on his loyalty towards humanity. Colson eventually learned that the TCS Tiger's Claw had been in the vicinity of Goddard at the time of the attack, but failed to prevent it because they had detoured to destroy a Kilrathi troopship beforehand. Convinced that the Claw had betrayed his brother and the people of Goddard to the Kilrathi, Colson silently swore allegiance to the Kilrathi Empire, and enacted his plans for revenge.
In 2656, Colson put his plans in motion when the Tiger's Claw was reassigned to the Enigma Sector to locate and destroy the Kilrathi Sector Command at K'tithrak Mang. Colson leaked the coordinates of the vessel to the Kilrathi, who sent a large force of stealth fighters to destroy the Claw. The Claw was completely destroyed in an overwhelming torpedo attack, dealing a heavy blow to the Confederation war effort in the sector. Colonel Christopher Blair was the only witness to the attack, so Colson stole his flight recorder to discredit his claims of stealth fighters, marking him as a traitor to the Confederation. Though the charges could not be proved without evidence, Blair was nonetheless demoted and reassigned to In-System Security, effectively removing him from the Kilrathi War.
From the 2650s into the 2660s, the Mandarins continued to hamper the Terran war effort, with Colson eventually gaining distinction as the most lethal Mandarin agent in the network. By 2665, he was serving on the TCS Concordia, the flagship of the fleet commanded by Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn. Colson continued to operate on behalf of the Mandarins through the Enigma Sector Campaign, while maintaining a mask of innocence and concern in front of his comrades.
Colson's reign of terror made itself evident once again after the unexpected arrival of Christopher Blair on the Concordia. During operations at Niven, Colson transmitted classified data to the Kilrathi in the vessel's communications room, and then murdered Communications Specialist McGuffin when he found Colson making the transmission. He then framed pilot Dirk "Stingray" Wright for the murder, throwing suspicion on to him. He was responsible for numerous acts of sabotage and terrorism on the ship, which led to several more injuries and hindered the Concordia's operations.
In 2667, Colson anonymously offered pilot Mariko "Spirit" Tanaka an opportunity to join the Mandarins, and when she refused, he blackmailed her with the life of her long-lost fiancé Philip, who was a prisoner of war to the Kilrathi. Tanaka refused to join but did not report the incident in full, prompting Colson to retaliate by sabotaging her fighter. Colson informed the Kilrathi of the Concordia's imminent attack on the Heaven's Gate Starbase, forcing the Confederation to launch the assault early and then retreat. Tanaka and Blair carried out the attack, but Colson detonated a bomb on Tanaka's fighter, killing her gunner and damaging her craft. Rather than eject, Spirit rammed the star base, taking her own life and destroying the station in the process.
Colson's campaign took a new turn at K'tithrak Mang when the Concordia was sent to attempt a second assault on the main Kilrathi base. During the assault, Colson leaked intelligence to the Kilrathi and tracked incoming Confederation warships. However, his treachery was finally discovered by Colonel Jeannette Devereaux when he mistakenly revealed more knowledge of the operation than he otherwise should, and promptly fled after a failed attempt to murder the Colonel. Blair was ordered to intercept Colson while still on patrol, and after a one-on-one engagement he shot down and captured Colson, ending his treacherous actions on the Concordia. Blair was cleared of guilt in the Claw's destruction after Security officers recovered the flight recorder from the attack, and Colson was later formally charged with murder and treason against humanity.
The Morningstar Project
Despite Colson's arrest and his failed effort to disrupt the attack on K'tithrak Mang, the Mandarins continued to harass the Confederation. In 2668, the F-95 Morningstar was introduced as the most advanced fighter in the Confederation. Eager to acquire it for their Kilrathi allies, the Mandarins made plans to steal a prototype.
Zachary Colson was eventually found guilty of all charges at his tribunal, and was subsequently sentenced to death. The Mandarins learned he was to be executed on Earth, and launched a rescue operation. Mandarins agents posing as ordinary Confederation crew hijacked Colson's prison ship, and simultaneously distracted its escorts by staging an attack on a civilian convoy. Colson resumed his services to the Mandarins and enlisted several Mandarin sympathizers with the task of capturing a Morningstar.
Afterwards, the Mandarins made an attempt on Colonel Blair's life by agreeing to release the captured crews of the freighters involved in Colson's transfer to Earth in exchange for three operatives. They demanded a single pilot be sent to oversee the exchange, namely Colonel Blair. Blair complied, given the possibility that Colson would be present, but he was instead ambushed by the Kilrathi. The attack failed however and Blair rescued the hostages.
During this time, an elite squadron of pilots known as the Wild Eagles, led by Major Todd Marshall arrived on the TCS Concordia with the purpose of testing the Morningstar in combat. During one such combat trial, one of the Wild Eagles, Captain Maria Grimaldi revealed herself as a Mandarin agent and hijacked a Morningstar prototype to deliver to the Mandarins. To cover her escape, she detonated an explosion on the flight deck, killing one crew member and injuring two more. Colonel Blair and Major Marshall pursued her, but she ultimately escaped.
With the Mandarins growing in strength, the Special Operations Division authorized a mission to locate and destroy the Mandarin headquarters in order to cripple the traitor network. This team would be led by James Taggart, who recruited Colonel Blair and the remaining Wild Eagle pilots, Major Marshall and Captain Burkheimer to join the operation.
During the interrogation of the captured Mandarin operatives, the Confederation learned of a top-secret meeting that was to commence at the Mandarins' main base, where their Kilrathi allies and more importantly, Major Zachary Colson would also be present. In addition to this, Scorpion a Confederation spy contacted Taggart to inform him that he had infiltrated the Mandarin base at Ayer's Rock in the remote Ayer's System. Taggart and his team of operatives arrived in the system aboard the TCS Grimalkin, a captured Dorkathi-Class Transport formerly christened the KIS Gamal Gan. The ship had been refitted to house two Morningstars, piloted by Blair and Major Marshall. Using the intelligence delivered by Scorpion, the team made their way towards Ayer's Rock, clearing Kilrathi and Mandarin resistance in the process. Eventually, the Mandarins learned of the Grimalkin's presence in the system as well as Scorpion's allegiance, and promptly had him executed. The Mandarins went to full alert and attacked the Special Operations team, so the Colonel Blair and Major Marshall launched a direct assault on Ayer's Rock.
Blair and Marshall attacked Ayer's Rock directly, wreaking havoc among the Mandarin defenders in their Morningstars. After a concentrated assault, Ayer's Rock was completely destroyed, killing all of the Mandarin leaders. Major Colson and Captain Grimaldi managed to escape the destruction of the base, however, with Colson flying the stolen Morningstar. Grimaldi was caught in the base's radioactive blast and was left for dead by Colson, and urged Blair to kill Colson in her dying moments. Blair pursued Colson out of the system and, after a vicious duel, Blair finally shot down and killed Colson, ending his terrorist activities.
With the loss of Ayer's Rock, their leaders, and their most lethal operative, the Society of Mandarins was effectively destroyed.