Tianchao - Background Briefing | Starborne

Tianchao - Background Briefing

Tue Aug 16 2022 (Updated: Tue Aug 16 2022) - 4 min read


Background Briefing for Trusted Clients/Private Dissemination
Cypher Key #TI-221LK094XCO510#
Security Level: 4
Last Updated: 21.02.2420
Access granted by: EDL (FA-SE)

Executive Summary:

With a history that stretches back as far as Old Earth, the Tianchao clan has always dealt in secrets. Fronted by the legitimate Tianchao Organization, the clan’s true power as an information broker is made up of an intricate network of independent spy cells, headed by a largely anonymous council.

Tianchao agents are faceless, highly skilled, and lethally efficient. Having little to no direct contact with members from other cells, they are often asked to play a role without knowing the details of the plot. At times their orders may seem counter-intuitive, but there is no ambiguity at the clan’s highest levels. Behind every action lies the hand of Xian Ren, the “immortal one”, and their inner circle who guide the clan’s fortunes from the shadows.

Faction Goals & Values:

The Tianchao clan is defined by their ongoing fight against social and technological control, though their precise ideology is constantly under refinement. Many current members of Tianchao have previously been exiled or enslaved by other factions, so securing justice for past transgressions and protecting the clan's interests from outside interference are often high priorities.

On one hand, the clan’s highest values are individual freedom and autonomy. On the other, defending these values requires strict secrecy and personal loyalty. Tianchao is a network of compartmentalized cells governed by a rigid hierarchy and sense of duty. Its agents may be asked to lay down their lives at any time, trusting that their sacrifice represents a small but essential play in a much larger plan.


Tianchao never trades in falsehoods, as its leadership is well aware that their reputation for providing reliable information is their greatest asset. An often quoted aphorism within the clan is “sell a lie, void one thousand truths.”

However, the inner workings of Tianchao itself are often complex and always veiled by secrecy. Peeling back one layer of intent merely reveals another, and another below that. To outsiders, the clan’s operations may appear arbitrary, but in truth Tianchao always moves with purpose, furthering plans calculated several steps in advance. Clients are accepted or denied based on a secret internal agenda, and often the clan itself will make the first move towards a prospective buyer.

At the heart of all the clan’s operations are its agents. Their exploits are legendary even outside the clan, and have inspired everything from dramas to fashion across the galaxy. On the ground, Tianchao operatives are chameleons, blending in seamlessly with any target culture. Their dedication to spycraft and the clan’s purpose is extreme, with agents often undergoing extensive facial reconstruction and body modifications before undertaking a mission.

Because they spend so much of their lives as “someone else", many agents adopt an ostentatious personal style when not on assignment. Incorporating a mix of Old Earth influences, they prefer bold colors, jewelry, and cybernetic ornamentation. Given the dominant role that agents play within Tianchao culture, this aesthetic has come to define the community as a whole.

Political and Social Organization:

The Tianchao clan consists of an organized network of independent cells. Operatives form close bonds within their immediate cell, while remaining largely unaware of the existence or location of other clan members. Cells with closer contact to the clan’s center of power tend to hold even stricter informational hierarchies, where the descendents and proteges of the original Tianchao members form a well-protected inner circle. Like a lizard abandoning its tail, a compromised cell can be instantly cut loose without damage to the wider network or its leadership.

Information gathered by Tianchao agents is encrypted using a complex combination of biometric and quantum data ports. Highly sensitive data is stored directly within an agent’s neural pathways. Once the transfer of information has taken place, those parts of the agent's brain are wiped clean. This practice not only prevents the theft of the information, but also the possible coercion or defection of the agent, a lesson learned from the time the Children of Mars managed an infiltration.

Overlaying this clandestine spy network is the visible face of “The Tianchao Organization”, an information services conglomerate that acts as both an intermediary and a front for the clan's agenda. It also controls some of the more overt activities such as contracting out some of the clan's fighter squads to interested commanders. The connections between the visible and invisible sides of Tianchao are many, but for both sections true power always remains with the core leadership.

Technology and Specialities:

While Tianchao has long maintained a technological advantage in the areas of stealth combat and data security, the clan does not consider these a significant edge. Instead, the clan’s pride lies in its impressive training practices. Attention to social-cultural anthropology, psychological manipulation, and spycraft allow clan members to infiltrate any group or society with ease. A Tianchao agent can be thought of as a thespian, linguist, psychologist, and soldier all in one.

Tianchao ships are often sleek and fast craft that trade in heavy armor for the ability to outmaneuver and ambush opposing forces. Tianchao is the leading faction in the application of stealth technology, based on sensor spoofing and signal manipulation, that allows their ships to avoid enemy fire and choose their engagements. Combined with their ability to disrupt enemy systems and precise strikes, this makes Tianchao fleets supreme ambushers.