Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Changsha Fire

Wenxi Fire
On October 25, 1938, the city of Wuhan fell to the Empire of Japan. Soon after, a great number of refugees and injured soldiers, in addition to government institutions and factories, were relocated to Changsha. This caused a population boom in the city, and the number of residents jumped from 300,000 to more than 500,000. Though the city did prepare for this type of scenario for a long time, due to the limited transport capacity of Changsha, it still could not hold this amount of goods and people.

On October 8, the Imperial Japanese Army entered northern Hunan. On the 11th, Yueyang fell. Soon, Chinese and Japanese armies faced off along the Xinqiang River just outside of Changsha. The situation in the city became increasingly tense.

Because of a lack of confidence in holding the city, Chiang Kai-shek decided to burn the entire city.It was reasoned that with the city burned to the ground, Japan would gain nothing even if it chose to forcefully enter it. On November 10, the chairman of the Hunan government, Zhang Zhizhong, passed Chiang's idea to his subordinates in a meeting. An arson team was immediately organized. The team was dispatched to every corner of the city and was ordered to set the fire once a signal fire was set off on the top of Tianxin Building in the southwest of Changsha.


At around 2 o'clock in the morning of November 13, 1938, there was a fire in a military hospital just outside of the South Gate (to this day, it remains a mystery whether the fire was a signal or an accident). The arson team took it as a signal and started to set the fire. The burning lasted for five days, also destroying several 2,500-years old historical antiques. City residents tried their best to escape, resulting in a severe boat accident at a river ford on the Xiang River.

- Wikipedia

While the main fire was intentionally set, this disaster does have a mystery at it's core that could be useful to us as a plot hook. Why was a fire set in the hospital? We could assume that this was an intentional fire designed to spark the rest of the destruction... but that wouldn't be much fun.

A more interesting spin on this would be that someone was trying to make absolutely sure that something was covered up at the hospital. Maybe the Chinese were working on some abomination in the hospital, designed to help fend off the Japanese advance, but it either failed, or wasn't finished on time. Maybe the Japanese infiltrated and destroyed an experiment, or Allied investigators had infiltrated the city in order to prevent a summoning, or misuse of mystical artifacts.

One idea that appeals to me is that the Chinese are experimenting with an artifact that mutates a number of individuals (probably wounded soldiers) in an attempt to counter the Japanese advances in the area. Despite the allies not wanting to step in between the two forces here, they aren't likely to want to stand by and see artifacts used like this as who knows where it would end; especially with Japan closing in on the city. A group of investigators are set to infiltrate the city, stop the experiments and destroy any evidence of it's existence. This could tie in nicely with Interface 19.40 book we're getting in the Modiphius kickstarter...

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