Slackers of the Inner Sphere
Chapter 1: Starting out
The Chaos March
1st July, 3064
Major Ricardo 'Swindle' Swindelli groaned as he awoke, his head feeling two sizes too small for his head. His mirrored shades were at an odd angle and he was in desperate need of a shave. Lifting his aching head off of his desk, he looked out of his office window to see Outreach's distant sun just start to rise above the cityscape.
Confused memories of the night before started to filter through his hanger over, as well as the dread that he had every morning when he remembered just how badly his life was going.
It had sounded like the perfect job when he'd first arrived on Outreach, his old unit having been mangled by Clan Jade Falcon on Coventry. All he had to do was recruit a band of MechWarriors and tech's willing to go up against Word of Blake and other forces within the Chaos March.
The thing that worried Swindelli the most was he'd never met the people who were putting up the cash and owned the unit: his only contact was a Davion lawyer named Kobayashi, who refused pint-blank to tell him just who was calling the shots.
Whoever the owner were, they had more money, influence and contacts this side of God, and didn't ask too many questions, as long as the job was done.
Recruiting had been a pain in the ass: despite having as much money as he needed to flash around, Swindelli had found it almost impossible to higher anyone with good combat experience. Even units with a low Mercenary Review & Bonding Commission ratings found it easier to find recruits than a newly found unit with only one member.
Kobayashi insisted on vetting every potential recruit to keep Word of Blake or some other potentially hostile agency from slipping an agent in. This grated on Swindelli's nerves, but he had to admit that the lawyer had an almost superhuman ability to smell a rat.
A loud thud and a string of curses from the outer office woke Swindelli from his daydreaming, and he went to investigate.
A low groaning came from a lump on the floor, and Swindelli finally remember why he'd gotten so drunk the night before: one of the few potential recruits who'd been worth investigating.
Jeff 'Buckshot' Baker was a former student at the prestigious New Avalon Institute of Science who'd joined a pro-Victor resistance cell at the start of the Civil War that was threatening to rip the Federated Commonwealth apart. A skilled technetium and chemist, Bake had been making bombs and bobby-traps since he was a kid, only now they tended to be deadly rather then than just harmless jokes.
But New Avalon had become too hot for Baker, and he'd been smuggled off world, finally ending up on Outreach with nothing but a duffle-bag and his Mech, a battle-worn Templar that he'd picked up somewhere between the Davion capital and the Mercenaries world.
Swindelli had at first interned to just trick him out of his valuable OmniMech, but had changed his mind after seeing Baker in a bar-brawl: despite his rather bookish persona, the former Davion agent was like a rabid wolf when cornered, completely unconcerned with his own safety when it came to a fight.
A quick jab with a stun gun had ended the fight when Swindelli finely decided to intervene. The look in Baker's eye when he realised that someone had involved themselves in his fight without permission was worrying, but the sound of approaching security officers proved that Baker was also surprisingly quick on his feet when he needed to be.
Swindelli offered to buy the still fuming MechWarrior a drink at another bar, never letting on that he knew the other mans story from the file Kobayashi has given him at their last meeting. As soon as Baker had said that he was looking to sign on with a Mercenary unit, Swindelli had offered him a place with his unit.
Baker had almost laughed at the name, and Swindelli regretted choosing the name 'The Slackers of the Inner Sphere' in an attempt to goad his employers into showing their hand.
Despite Swindelli's best efforts, Baker had at first turned him down flat, but several hours of hard drinking later had dissolved the Davion's resolve, as well as robbing him of the power of speech and the ability to walk. One rather scribbled signature on a contract later, and Swindelli had another recruit.
"Get up!" Swindelli kicked Baker, "Time to get to work…" A bloodshot eye opened, and Swindelli found himself looking down the barrels of a saw-off shotgun.
"What the hell?" Baker blinked, stretching his other arm as he yawned, "Who are you?"
"I'm your new CO." Swindelli pulled Baker's contract out of his pocket and dangled it in front of a pair of half open eyes, "Now get up and get cleaned up before I through you in the brig."
"You don't have a brig." Baker groaned, the shotgun disappearing back into his long black trenchcoat, "I there any coffee?"
"Yeah: downstairs with the rest of the unit."
"You managed to get some other losers to sign up to this circus? I'm impressed."
"Don't be: they're just like you, slackers."
"That explains you." Baker dragged himself to his feet, swaying slightly, "How much did I drink last night."
"Don't ask me; I was drunk." Swindelli led the way to the door.
The huge warehouse was almost deserted: Mech-bay after Mech-bay lay empty, making the space feel even larger than it was. The only light in the room came from a few dirty skylights, but row after row of fluorescent bulbs hung from the high ceiling.
Swindelli clapped his hands and the lights flashed on, several bulbs exploding in a shower of sparks. The increased lights reviled a number of BattleMechs standing in the bays nearest the doors.
Baker did a quick mental inventory: a Rifleman, a Sunder, a Men Shen, a Catapult and a Zeus. The ancient Rifleman looked like it was half way through a major overhaul, while the other Mech's were in various states of disrepair. A Galleon light tank and a heavily customised Wheeled APC stood in the very corner, and were surrounded by what looked like a shantytown.
"I was hoping that the others would be up by now…" Swindelli took of his glasses and rubbed his eyes, "You'd better come meet the rest of the unit."
"You call five BattleMechs a unit?" Baker raised an eyebrow as they made their way down the metal staircase to the ground floor, "What is this, a Clan?"
"No, but two of them are former Clanners." Swindelli kicked the side of the APC, "Get up you lezzy sons-of-bitches!"
There was a chorus of complaints from inside the vehicle, but finally four rather scruffy looking men in a collection of uniforms and civilian clothing stumbled out into the daylight.
"Ok guys, this is Baker, call sign Buckshot, our newest recruit." Swindelli smiled, "This is Captain Marcus, formally on Clan Coyote. He goes by the call sign Dyrewolf, and he rides the Sunder. The guy next to him is Dimitri, out other resident Canister-Mopper, but he won't saw what clan he's from. He rides the Zeus. Then we have James Taplin, call sign Biggles. He's in the Catapult. The guy on the end there goes only by his call sign, Humansquish, and he's in the Men Shen. That old Rifleman is mine, but she'd down until we get the parts we need."
"And my name is Ethan Kobayashi." A new voice called from across the room, and a tall, balding man in his late forties walked over, "I am the owners representatives on Outreach, and any problems, quires and the such come to me. I have already arranged for your Templar to be moved here from the spaceport, and paid off your bill at the hotel you were staying at."
"Yeah, thanks Kobayashi." Swindelli glared at the other man, "Any more new recruits?"
"Several: I suggest that Lance-leaders handle the interviews." The lawyer handed over a stack of files, "I believe that Mr Baker will be leading the new Fire Lance?"
"Yeah, probably." Swindelli handed out the folders to the other men, "Anything else?"
"Only that your first mission has been arranged." Kobayashi started to walk away, "The DropShip lifts-off at noon on the 6th. Be there."
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