by RougeBaron and Ulquiorra9000

Note from Rouge: Three months ago I didn't know if I would be in this position again. Writing I,Kerensky series was a fun experience, but it also took a lot of time and energy. I was a college student when I started it. Now I am a full-time employee and a family man. I don't have that much time and energy any more. I already stated at the end of IK3 that it was the end of IK series.

However, two events changed my mind. Recently a friend working for Catalyst Game Labs told me that the Ridinghood Cavaliers would be featured in a campaign at Calgary BattleTech League. That event is sponsored by the CGL. We all know what that means. If this campaign is a success, the Cavs may go to a CGL book. Canada today, the world tomorrow. Who knows?

Then another friend Ulquiorra9000 is interested in doing a collaboration with the Cavaliers. Some of you probably know Ulqiorra's work MECHWARRIOR:Prodigy. It was a very complex story with interesting interactions among myriads of unique characters. The scale of this work is a testament of Ulquiorra's imagination power, and its word count shows his determination to see his work finished (400 thousand words at the completed stage. That's no joke).

So I thought what the hell, I'll do it again. I still don't have much time but now I have a partner who will share the burden (and probably carry most of the burden once in a while.). This story is a departure from the typical IK series where it's written in 3rd-person POV, and it's a 1-to-1 collaboration with Ulquiorra9000. That's because it is easier to write and to coordinate the flow of the story if it's written in 3rd-person POV.

So I hope you enjoy the 4th installment of I,Kerensky series. Also, don't forget that I like to sketch scenes from my story. If you enjoy illustrated reading materials, be sure to stop by my deviantArt account. Some pictures of this chapter are already there.

BattleTech/MechWarrior and all its components are copyright of FASA,Wizkids,Topps,CatalystGameLabs,Infocom,ActiVision,MicroProse,Micro$oftEntertainment, and Smith&Tinker. All rights reserved.


by RougeBaron

Fogerty Suite, Aquene,
Tchamba, Former Free Worlds Territory,
April 21, 3079

The backwater world of Tchamba used to offer a lot more than mercenary business. A soaring, snow-capped mountain range, though short, provided a buffer between the greenish sky overhead and the brown sand below. The Baleena Submarine rides attracted nature lovers who wanted to see the magnificent underwater kingdom that was still untouched by the industrial spread of mankind. The life forms here were exotic, bizarre, and beautiful to the eyes of marine biologists and gawking tourists. For years, Tchamba had been a tourism paradise. Nowadays, however, that was no longer the case.

The year was 3079, the twilight of Jihad and the Word of Blake. Outreach, the mercenary haven of old, had been deemed unusable after getting nuked by the Word of Blake. All the mercenary businesses relocated to dozens other planets such as backwaters like Tchamba. And Tchamba's unprecedented rise to fame was catapulted by the fallout of Free Worlds League. Now standing by itself in the free zone, Tchamba's dignitaries made every effort to become the central mercenary traders in the former Free Worlds area.

This was the reason why Parker and Evee went to Tchamba. The Victoria campaign had reduced the Ridinghood Cavaliers to a two-dispossessed-person unit. It was the hardest, most grueling campaign in Parker's memory, the kind that he thought he and Evee could never recover from. But Evee was always optimistic. She still nurtured her dreams about commanding an RCT alive, so they spent some time in Tchamba to scout for new recruits. During their stay, they also learned about some local Battlemech traders in Tchamba, and if the stocks matched their expectations, they could go back to New St. Andrews with a small Battlemech unit.

The clock showed that it was close to midnight, but for Parker and Evee, time lost its significance the moment they spent entwined into each other. Five years in Victoria had deprived them from one another. They were thrown into a constant physical and mental abuse, so much that when it ended, they became different persons. They saw each other as war compatriots that bled and died with them. They had forgotten that they were a married couple... and once passionate lovers. They still were, as they gladly found out, from their fierce and protracted lovemaking.

"I miss you," Parker murmured in Evee's ear, half whispering. "I miss you so much."

"Oh honey, I miss you too," Evee sobbed; the explosion of emotion was a little overwhelming. "Where have you been these years?"

"I'm always here," Parker replied and buried his lips between hers. Her soft, moist, and salty lips reignited his desire, and he tensed up at the ready. But Evee was still shaking, and the thought that he might have been too physical on her for the last hour prompted him to quickly disentangle himself from her. "Am I hurting you?"

"Mm hmm," Evee languidly shook her head. "I'm sorry, honey, but I'm old, fat, and out of shape. Just give me a couple of minutes."

"Alright, let's sit here for a while," Parker sat up and heaved her from the bed. Her body slid down on his chest as if there were no bones in it, and her contented sigh interspersed with her sniffles. "Do you want to check on our ad? We may have some responses."

Evee replied with a soft chuckle. She took hold of her comlink and hooked it up with a holoprojector. The projector whined for a few seconds, then spouted a hologram of MRBC website in the middle of the room. Evee browsed the site for her ad she posted earlier, and let out a faint whistle when she saw a dozen replies.

"Looks like the end of Jihad had rendered a lot of mercenaries jobless," she quipped as she highlighted the first response. "Hauptmann Dietrich from the 5th Donnegal, Kentares veteran in '63. Wasn't the Donnegal beaten by a local crack team? It's not a good thing to begin with, but otherwise his record looks clean. Worth checking out.

"Chu-I Yamashita, went to Strana Mechty during Operation Bulldog," she rambled on. "He must be proud of that. Okay, Subaltern Cynthia from Small World... she is listed as a Davion but Small World hasn't been a Davion world since '57, has it? Anyway, her resume looks good, and that's what matters to me. Ah, this is interesting: Corporal Monaghan, used to work for the Northwind Highlanders as a chief tech. We've been stressing on the front-liners so much that we forget about back up personnel like this. I'm glad he applied."

Parker didn't have to look into Evee's eyes to see the glitter of excitement. He kissed Evee's sweat-drenched hair while she continued browsing. "How about this Connor Neils? He was in the Lorin family for 6 years, then left to become a free lance mercenary. He mentioned that the reason he left the Lorins was because the family had become a control freak in the ex Free World region. Sometimes a guy with this attitude proves to be a strong character."

"Isn't it the family that is in a feud with some independent worlds on the former Free Worlds?" Parker mused. "If I remember correctly the Lorin family has a long history of honor and perfection."

"That is true," Evee huffed and rested her head on his chest. "But things changed a lot, especially since the Free Worlds League collapsed. Maybe the Lorins are great during FWL era, but now it's everybody against everybody. The Lorins must have adjusted to this new situation. We just don't know which way. So Connor's motivation to leave the Lorin family is dubious, depending which side the Lorins are on."

"I see your point," Parker submitted to her argument. "Just give him a chance, see what happens."

Evee hummed for a while, thinking about Parker's input on the possible new recruit. In the end, she highlighted Connor's profile with a short "M'kay", then moved on to the next ones. "Hey, do we need medics? There are these two Kuritans, both are trained medics. The gal can even practice field surgery. The dude claims to be proficient in drugs. We never had field medics before, and I just thought these guys can help us."

"I'd take the girl," Parker said dryly. "We do need a field surgeon. I don't think we need a drug guy."

"Trying some variations, I see," Evee purred jovially and reached back to caress Parker's face. "She's young, hot, and cute. You have good taste in women."

Parker snuffed Evee's deliberate mockery with a shove on her shoulder, to which she snickered amiably.

"Oh wow, look at this!" Evee continued after the brief but very enjoyable gag. "An entire unit of helicopters is up for grabs. They have Warriors and Yellow Jackets, so they must be looking for fire-support-type employment. But I want them as scouts. Imagine the range these choppers can cover. We can spot the enemies from mountains away.

"Next is Leftenant Rocher, a Davion loyalist, fought other houses and periphery nations for FedSun, 6-to-1 kill ratio on Battlemech, recently left FedSun for 'personal reason' but couldn't stay away from the battlefield. His record is very appealing, although his 'personal reason' sounds vague. And look what he have here... a Capie. Tiger Wong, fought in Styk, then left and joined the Lafayette Legion." She paused and stiffened her body. "It's a pirate band, isn't it? That's rather strange. Capellans are usually fanatic, self disciplined, and proud of their heritage."

"Lafayette Legion is a sanctuary for disgruntled Capellans," Parker pointed out. "Maybe he was sick of Sun-Tzu, or sick of his superior, or sick of being a Capellan. But regardless, I am eager to work with him. If he has those Capellan traits you mentioned, he'll be a good addition to the Cavaliers."

"OK," Evee sagged back down and rested on Parker's chest while browsing for more. "There's one more, and this you've got to like. Mechwarrior Diego from Hell's Horses. You know, Duke Liam has been very pleased with your performance. I don't think he'll mind another Clanner in our lineup, especially when the salary is minimal."

"But first of all, Clans look down on mercenaries," Parker cringed at the thought of hiring an ex Clan warrior. "What is he doing here? Second of all, assuming he's genuinely interested in being a paid soldier, he'll be taking orders from an ex-Wolf. How well, or how badly, will he act on it?"

"I don't know," Evee shrugged and shut off the holodisk player. "Why don't I bring those questions up in the interview? I'll tell them to meet me at the lobby tomorrow. I don't think it'll take more than a day."

"Let me just stay with you," Parker wrapped his arms around her tightly.

"That is very sweet, honey, but we agreed on this: I'll take care of the personnel, you'll take care of the hardware. Don't worry, I can defend myself." Evee turned her head and kissed Parker deeply. "You know, this recruitment talk makes me rather excited. How about we pick up where we left off?"

"With pleasure, if you've recovered," Parker took a quick glance over the nightstand and noticed the clock showed the time just after midnight. "It's seven hours 'till dawn."

"Then let's not waste a moment," Evee chuckled and turned around, now facing Parker. "We only have seven hours left."

Fogerty Suite Lobby, Aquene,
Tchamba, Former Free Worlds Territory,
April 22, 3079

Evee took a sip from her coffee mug and flipped through her notepad. It was still early in the morning, but she had already met and liked Dietrich the ex-Lyran and Monaghan the Northwind Highlander alum. Dietrich was just a typical mercenary looking for a job. His Lyran background might present a problem with Parker who emphasized strongly on speed, but he was very modest. Training him would be straightforward. Monaghan, like Evee herself, came from a long lineage of Scotsmen, so they clicked right away. In fact, he was the first one that she was comfortable hiring.

Sorting through new hires was always fun, and Evee wished she could share it with Parker. But they didn't have enough time, so they had to split the day. Earlier that morning Parker left the suite - painfully - to visit one of the battlemech traders in town. He had some battlemech training long time ago, so he would be the better one to talk about battlemech gizmos to the vendor. Evee would handle the interviewing.

Just then, another man came and presented himself to her. He was in his early thirties, with dark wavy hair and medium frame. He was about her height but leaner and trimmer. He looked quite different than the picture on his profile, but Evee couldn't miss the Asian traits in his features.

"Miss Ridinghood? I am Tiger Wong. Thank you for the opportunity."

"It's a pleasure, Mr. Wong," Evee stood to greet him. "I think your background can be beneficial to my unit. Please, have a seat." She flipped through her notes on the notepad until she found her inquiries for Tiger. "Your profile said that you graduated with honor from Capellan academy. You were involved in a campaign at Styk, then you left and joined a pirate band. It strikes me as odd that a high-standard Capellan like you had a tenure with a pirate band."

Tiger's expression turned dark, and Evee caught a hint of gloom in his eyes. She put a quick note on her notepad as Tiger started his story, "I was put under the leadership of somebody that does not regard human lives. All he wanted was to win the war. At some point I was in charge of destroying enemy's weapons who were sited on a village. My superior called an airstrike to mop up everything, including non-combatants."

"It's war, Mr. Wong. It's a blurry line between combatants and non-combatants."

"Look, I could do it," Tiger's voice turned intense. "I could destroy the weapons without hurting women and children. My team was highly-trained in precision shooting. We were capable of inflicting great damage to enemy's military with minimal collateral. But the saturated bombing... well, it killed them all."

"You seem to pride yourself in your precision. So what happened next?"

Tiger exhaled sharply, as if he reached the part where he wished he didn't have to go through. "When the war was over, I reported the incident. But the Capellan military closed its eyes, so I left and joined the Lafayette Legion, as any other disappointed ex-Capellan would. It was just the natural move for me."

"How did you do there?" Evee asked while sipping her cooling coffee. "Did you enjoy pirate life?"

"Miserable. They were brutal, disorganized, and stupid. But I didn't have much choice. No Capellan unit would take me, so I stuck with them for some time. After the Jihad faded, I left them to find a better unit."

"I can't say the Cavaliers is a better unit than the Legion, but it certainly doesn't include saturated bombings," Evee stated, then added a quip, "... yet." She waited for his reaction, but was rather surprised when Tiger didn't react at all. "The job you're applying for is a low-profile one. The Cavaliers will station at New St. Andrews, a periphery nation far from everything. The conflict will be mostly against rival families. I don't expect a glitzy campaign like Styk anytime soon. Can you handle it, or do you think you'll get bored by it?"

"I will give it my best, Miss Ridinghood," Tiger nodded with a small smile. "I read your campaign in Victoria, and I am impressed by your professionalism. I think my skill will contribute a lot for your unit. I have my own battlemech, a Hellspawn 8E. It has 2 LRM10 with Artemis IV for added precision, and 3 med lasers."

"Excellent," Evee got up, slowly, as to not put pressure on her body too much. "I will call you."

As Tiger went, a couple immediately met her. Both of them were young adults with thick Oriental traits, just like Tiger, but it was easy to tell that they were not mechwarriors. Evee only sent an invitation for the girl, and she immediately knew what the guy was trying to do.

"Miss Ridinghood, my name is Jomei, and this is my girlfriend Hotaru," the young guy introduced for them both. The anxiety in his voice was transparent. "I know you didn't invite me, but we are a great team together. I... no, um, we have been working together since the academy, and we complement each other. S-so, um... you will have a great benefit having both of us, a-and..."

"OK, stop, stop," Evee interjected sharply. "I have only one spot for a medic. A field surgeon is more desirable than a pharmacist, so..."

"We'll share my salary," Hotaru quickly responded. "Therefore you get two heads for the price of one."

"Really?" Evee was caught off guard. "I still have to feed you. Would you share food? And water?"

"Anything, Ma'am," Hotaru pleaded. "But please, don't separate us."

Evee looked at them interchangeably, first at Jomei, then at Hotaru. It was the first time she met a couple who would split salary, food, space, and whatever else they could obtain from their employer. Either they were madly in love, or in terrible fear. And that possibility made her nervous.

"What are you running from?" she inquired. "What prompts you to work underpaid for a periphery unit in the middle of nowhere? What are you so terribly afraid of?"

"Nothing, Miss," Jomei explained. "We are not running from anything. We just don't have anybody but each other. So please accept both of us. We will work hard for the cost of one, and we will benefit you in many ways."

Evee had been a tough girl since she was a toddler, but she had a soft spot for couples struggling to be together against impossible hardships. Jomei and Hotaru reminded her of Sandra Tseng and Hans Jorgensson, or even her own 8-year relationship ordeal with Parker. It would be hypocritical of her to deny them, if they were telling the truth. Unfortunately, there was no telling if they were.

"Do you have your own equipment?" she asked.

"Yes Ma'am," Hotaru chimed eagerly. "I bring my field surgery kit everywhere with me. The equipment is not new but it's all functional and dependable. Jomei has a variety of drugs that are good for three years. He can heal anything. You can opt for traditional herbs or state-of-the-art chemicals. They can speed up the healing process of the surgery I have to perform."

"All right, you sold me," Evee finally relented with a sigh. "I will call you when we are ready to leave. But if I find out that you are lying," she shot a stern stare, first at Hotaru, then at Jomei, "I will kill you. Understand?"

"Thank you... thank you... domo arigato!" the two smiled, bowed, and happily hopped out of the suite. From the Cavaliers standpoint, Evee just made a bargain. But she was still uncomfortable by their over-enthusiasm to work for her. She wrote a note to remind herself to do some background check about the two. One could never be too cautious.

"Good morning," a tall young man greeted her as she was still writing notes. "Are you the Ridinghood Cavaliers representative?"

"I am," Evee quickly stood up to shake the guy's hand, and was amazed by how much he towered over her. "I am Evee Ridinghood, CO of the Cavaliers. You must be..."

"Connor, Connor Neils," the guy nodded. "I submitted my application for the position in your unit."

"I indeed reviewed it," Evee acknowledged his claim. "Your background is impressive. The Lorin family set a benchmark of how mechwarrior are trained. But 'Neils'? You don't want your Lorin status known?"

"It helps me keep a lower profile. I don't like attracting too much attention. It's just who I am," Connor shrugged.

"All right," Evee nodded. "But still. I hope you carry that Lorin standard to my unit."

"I will try," Connor took a seat in front of her, with resolve in his ice-blue eyes. Evee noted that it was difficult to see much else in those eyes. "I was involved in building training modules, standard operating procedures, manuals, handbooks, tactics and maneuver tutorials, as well as simple battlemech engineering. You'll be amazed how much your life expectancy is increased if you know just a little bit about your battlemechs. But of course, those are on paper. Real life experience can't be taught. That's a common Lorin saying."

"Are you saying your experience doesn't mean anything?"

"My experience provides me attitudes inside and outside a battlemech. It is not a measure of how well I perform in combat. That is the most important aspect you want from me, isn't it, Miss Ridinghood?"

Evee leaned back on the couch, observing the man in front of him. He was the first person that did not try to impress her with past glories which, more often than not, sounded fabricated than realistic. She knew she could expect a quality individual with 'Lorin' stamp in his resume. She began to build respect for him.

"That's true," she replied with a small smile. "Then how would you rate your skill in combat? Mediocre? Adequate? Proficient? Kai-Allard Liao?"

"Kai I am not," Connor flashed a grin, "and my Crusader is the only witness of my combat skill. However I can guarantee that I will carry your orders until death. You know that we Lorins pride ourselves in discipline. You can count on me on almost any situation. My skill in combat is only secondary to my dependability, and I am very dependable. It was the way I was trained as a Lorin."

Evee was impressed enough she decided to hire Connor. "If you read the job description, you'll see that this is not a high profile position. I am afraid a man of your quality won't be challenged enough by the job."

"Challenges don't come just from the battlefield," Connor answered. "We talked about my experience building training modules. You can take advantage of that. I'm fine with it."

"Very good, Mr. Neils," Evee rose and offered him a warm handshake. "I've heard enough. You can expect a call from me within a day or two."

"Connor, please," he took her hand. "And the honor is mine. I will sure wait for your call."

The two exchanged nods of acknowledgment, then parted. As soon as Connor left, Evee saw three more people waiting for her. One of them was a reddish female wearing feathers as earrings. The one in a middle was a man with attributes Evee knew all too well from Parker. The last one was a red haired man with a cocky smile and a mischievous stare, traits that reminded her much of her Kuritan compatriot in the past.

"Ladies first," Evee called the female applicant. She came and quickly offered her a handshake.

"Captain Chilali, at your service," she wasted no time. "I appreciate your time, Miss Ridinghood."

"Thank you," Evee flashed a quick grin, then went back to the couch. "So, am I interviewing you or your entire unit?"

"My FlyCats squadron goes wherever I go," Chilali explained. "So if you're interested only in one person or a part of it, I'm afraid I'm going to waste your time."

"Actually I'm interested in you all," Evee's quickly answered. "My unit has been in need of good recon team, one that can spot the enemies from afar and provide some back up before the ground units arrive."

"Well," Chilali cringed at Evee's comment. "We are fire support team, Ma'am. We don't do scouting."

"Fine, you can do fire support, but what are you gonna shoot? You'll have to find your targets first. In my dictionary, that's scouting. You can do both at the same time without you even knowing it."

Chilali looked at Evee funny, trying to decide if she wanted to accept Evee's concept or not. In the end she yielded in a mild grumble, "I've never looked at it that way, but all right. Just give us plenty of chances to do some shooting."

"That can be arranged," Evee put down a quick note in her notepad. "Now, you've been with the Laws Flight practically all your lives. Are you saying that you started flying helicopters at the age of four?"

Chilali grinned at Evee's deliberate humor. "My father joined Laws Flight when I was four. Laws Flight was the only life I know. I never went to school. At the age of ten I started riding on ordnance cars that carry missiles. At the age of thirteen I learned how to mount them on the aircraft. At sixteen I flew my first helicopter. Then at nineteen I became my father's XO. At twenty he retired, so I succeeded him as the CO of the FlyCats."

"If the Laws Flight was your life," Evee's brows cocked, "why did you leave?"

"I want to join you. I read about your campaign in Victoria and I'm very impressed by it."

"So you quit Laws Flight to join the Cavaliers? Wow," Evee was taken aback by Chilali's comment. Once again, Chilali might have not told the truth, or told only part of the truth, but she still felt flattered. She began to wonder how it would've gone with Parker by her side, because on her last two decisions her feelings seemed to interfere. But she knew she couldn't rely on Parker all the time. She was capable of making logical decisions. "That was you. How do your crew think about working for me?"

"Like I said, they go wherever I go." Chilali gauged Evee's reaction, but when she got none, she continued, "So, Ma'am, what do I tell my crew about working for your unit?"

"Tell them that if they like a backwater periphery planet with rare to no action going on, they can tag along with me."

"I'm sure they have no problem with that," Chilali concurred. "Thank you for the invitation. I will let them know. Here's my number. Call me when you're ready."

Chilali handed Evee a card with a number in it. She gave a courtesy nod, then turned around and left. Evee gave a gesture to the last two gentlemen to come forward, and the one with Clan attributes responded. The red-haired one stayed behind.

"Mechwarrior Diego, I presume," she said, pompously, as if she was the trueborn and he was the freeborn. "I never expect to see a Clansman in mercenary business. What brings you here?"

"Changes," Diego stared deep into Evee's eyes, which staggered her confidence a bit. "The Clans have changed. The Inner Sphere has changed. Humanity has changed. I am no different than you are. I offer better quality than the other mechwarriors. I have better reflexes, better perception of the battlefield, better view, and implants…"

"Oh, don't you talk about genetic enhancements," Evee cut him off. "I know about them all too well. Still, they don't answer my question why you are in a mercenary business. If I remember correctly, your Clan principle looks down on fighting for money."

"It does, but like I said, everything is different now," Diego rebutted. "My touman was beaten by the Drakons. I was taken bondsman by a Drakonian mechwarrior who taught me many things about your life standard. We fought together for a long time, and we developed a trust relationship. Then my bondsmaster was killed by the Word of Blake. I became masterless."

"That means you're free," Evee stated. "You can do whatever you want. Why didn't you find a job that best fits your Clan standard… like, join the Drakons, or the Kuritans?"

"You do not like Clansmen very much, quineg?"

Evee burst out laughing. "I am sorry, I don't mean to be rude," she said, biting her lips to stop her laughter. "I do not hate Clanners. I am trying to avoid trouble in the future, because you will have to take orders from freeborns, you will receive money for something you do best, and there is little honor in this kind of job. Do you seriously think you can accept them?"

"I took orders from a freeborn for a long time, I demand little money, and Clan honor did not mean anything to me anymore," Diego insisted. "I am well versed in your standard, Miss Ridinghood."

"What do you think about the Wolf Clan?"

"Wolf?" Diego cocked his brows, trying to see what Evee was implying. "Wolf is a friend to Hell's Horses. Why did you ask?"

"Avoiding trouble," Evee nodded and smiled. "Very good, Mechwarrior. You made your case well. I am happy to have you on board. Do you have your own 'mech?"

"No, but I will take anything available." Diego shook Evee's hand. "I am grateful that you think me worthy of working as your lancemate. I will not let you down."

"Good to hear, Mechwarrior Diego," Evee replied with a smile. "I will call you whenever I am ready."

Diego nodded at Evee, then did the same at the red-haired man. He didn't return it, instead he went straight at Evee without even looking at Diego. Evee quickly put a negative note about the incident. She didn't want that attitude to be a part of her unit. But the guy's record was impressive, so she let it slide, but not forgotten.

"Miss Ridinghood, my name is Leftenant Rocher," the man said, clearly proud of his affiliation. "My dossier highlights everything you need to know about my credentials. Davion is a great household name. You can't go wrong with Davions."

"That is an overstatement, Mr. Rocher," Evee replied, half mumbling. "In fact, I am debating with myself if I should end our session now, because I don't like your attitude."

"Well," Rocher broke out in goofy chuckle, "if my language gives you the impression of overconfidence, that's because I can't help it. It's hereditary."

"How come?"

"I have a big dick."

Evee never expected that answer. Her words got stuck in her throat.

"More than 70 percent of well-endowed males have confident level higher than normal-girthed men do," Rocher rambled. "It doesn't necessarily mean overconfident. Confidence is the real ingredient on the battlefield. How do you think I get a very high killing ratio? Implants, like the loser you talked to before me? Everything is in here," he pointed at his groin. "Cojones, Miss Ridinghood, cojones. That's what keeping you alive."

Evee slammed shut her notepad. "We're done here."

"What? Wait, you misunderstood me…"

"Farewell, Leftenant," Evee brusquely left the couch, leaving Rocher standing like a fool. It was hard for her not to bang his head onto the coffee table. That man was a total embarrassment. She pulled out her personal comlink and dialed number 1. "Honey, you gotta listen to this…"

Yuri BattleMecherie, Aquene,
Tchamba, Former Free Worlds Territory,
April 22, 3079

Evee was not a whiner. There were few times when she needed to vent, but most of the time she handled her problems well. So when she called him to rant in the middle of her interview - with high-pitched voice, no less - Parker knew that something went terribly wrong.

"It really is a shame because he's got good profile," Evee let loose her steam full force. "His kill ratio is impressive, but he credited everything to the size of his wee-wee."

"His what?" Parker winced. Over the years he had learned many kinks and quirks about Spheroids. It was an uncomfortable and wasteful subject to learn, but it was important because Evee was a Spheroid. However, it was the first time Parker heard a Spheroid that made a big deal about his genital. "There is no known research, or logical explanation for that matter, that links genital size with intelligent, reflexes, or skill. Why would he do that?"

"Because he was a moron, that's why," Evee resumed her tirade. "At some point he claimed his girth could beat Clan's implants, or something to that effect. Really? I'd love to see you stomp the hell outta him."

"Don't mind him, " Parker tried to puff her rage. "We don't want a mechwarrior with mental morbidity in our unit. Aren't we still up to 2 lances even without him?"

"We are," Evee calmed down a little. "I've decided for Dietrich, Tiger, Connor, Diego, and the entire helicopter squadron. They're all good assets. Tiger, Connor, and the helicopter squadron come fully equipped. Oh, I had to take the drug man along with the field surgeon. They won't be separated."

"But we don't have two places..."

"They'll share everything, including food and payment. Let's give them a chance. Who knows? We can take advantage of their expertise. I have yet to meet two more mechwarriors, but I don't think they own battlemechs. However, since Connor and Tiger already have ones, you have some extra budget. Buy me a nice one, will you? You know what I like."

"I'll keep that in mind," Parker folded his comlink and started walking inside a small warehouse. The squat building didn't stand out in a sea of warehouses in the storage complex. But as soon as he walked in, the smell of grease and coolant hit him with the long-lost battlemech craving. The sound of his walking cane alerted several technicians, and they quickly called a man at the very back of the warehouse.

"Ah, velcome, velcome kamerrad!" a large guy with thick facial hair and an unusual accent greeted him warmly. "Velcome to Yurri's Battle Mecherrie! You have come to the rright place! Yurri has a grreat rreputation of selling high quality combat apparratuses with cheap prrizes and extrraorrdinarry conditions! Vhat can I help you with, my frriend?"

"I'm Parker, we talked yesterday," Parker gave him a courtesy nod. "I'm looking for battlemechs to rebuild my unit."

"Ah yes, Parrkerr frrom the Rriddinghood Cavalierrs, yes?" Yuri shook Parker's hand with childlike gusto. "Come, let me show you my goods! They arre in verree good condition, and my technicians keep them in verree good condition! I have a Crrab, a Chimerra, a Wolfhound, a Enforrcerr, and a Bushwackerr. They are in verree good condition!"

Although his tech skill was not extensive, Parker could distinguish running battlemechs from pieces of junk. The Bushwacker looked all right, missing only patches of armor here and there. But the rest of them were not even worth considering.

"Are these all?" he said, swallowing his disappointment. "Do you have something between 50 to 70 tons?"

"Ah, you want Yurri's special!" the large guy grinned, and although his mouth was concealed behind a thick bush, Parker could see he did a good job keeping his teeth tidy. "I have something veerrree special for you! Come, follow me, this one does not come veerree often!"

They went through the double door to another room that didn't seem to exist. Yuri seemed to store his private collection there. Parker could immediately see that the quality of the battlemechs in this room was far superior than the ones in the main showroom. As to why Yuri didn't expose them to him the first time, he couldn't guess. But quality increased linearly with price, and Parker wouldn't be surprised if Yuri demanded ridiculous money for the mechs.

"Check theese out!" Yuri brought Parker to the biggest mech in the center. "A Turrkeena! Yurri have to kill some men to get the Turrkeena, but don't worry, they arre all bad men. This is verree good! All weapons arre functional! You can kill many battlemechs with this one! People afraid of Turrkeena! You will be the king of the battlefield! With the prrize of 30 million C-Bills, you can have it!"

As much as Parker liked the idea of going back to a 95-ton Clan assault 'mech, he couldn't afford it. He could buy 4 medium mechs with the price of one Turkina. His mission was to replenish the Cavaliers, not to find the best mech for himself. Added to that, the Jade Falcon assault ran only 55 kph, a fact his speed-minded combat style deemed unacceptable.

"I can't take it Mr. Yuri," Parker shook his head. "It is too expensive. What about the others?"

"You arre a verree tough customerr, Meesterr Parrkerr," Yuri mumbled. Gone was his warm façade, replaced by irk and aggravation. "How about a Warrhammeerr 9D? Less weapons, more speed and agility. Rruns 86 kph, jumps 90 meterrs. It is not forr the faint of hearrt. And this one, Arrcherr-4M. It has double LRM20 with Arrtemis IV on them. Verree deadly on the battlefield."

Now Parker couldn't contain his smile. A jumping, fast Warhammer? The 'mech seemed like it was tailored for him. At 86 kph, nothing excited him more than to outmaneuver most of heavy and assault mechs, and even some of the mediums. And he couldn't wait to see Evee's face when he told her about the Archer-4M.

"I see you smiling, kamerrad!" Yurri grinned, showing off his nice teeth. "I know you like them! Yurri likes happy customerrs! You can have them with 15 million C-Bills each! So instead of one Turrkeena, you will have two mechs!"

"These mechs are not worth 15 millions each, Mr. Yuri, even when they're new," Parker quickly rebuked. "You don't assume that I don't read the technical readout for these mechs, do you?"

"But these arre custom made! Custom-made mechs arre morre expensive than mass-prroduce 'mechs!"

"They are not custom-made, Mr. Yuri. They are as mass-produced as the mechs on your front showroom. How about 25 millions for the Warhammer, Archer, and Bushwacker?"

"Bah! Arre you trrying to fool Yurri?" the shop owner raised his voice. "These mechs cost morre than 8 millions each! The Warrhammeerr alone costs 10 millions C-Bills at least!"

"It is, but the Bushwacker is worth only 5," Parker tried to intimidate the large man. "Bear in mind that not a lot of customers stop by to purchase battlemechs on Tchamba. The next customer may come three or even four months from now, and we both know he will not buy your battlemechs at my price. My offer may be your best deal in half a year. I'm willing to entertain one more offer from you, but if you keep pushing me, I will bid my farewell."

Yurri took a moment to think. He knew his stunt was a dud, and he could not make a sale as much as he wanted. So he thought of the way he could benefit the most from that situation. "Thirrty two forr the Warrhammeerr, Arrcherr, Bushwackerr, Crrab, and Chimerra."

Parker knew that the Crab and Chimera were in a bad shape, and they were not worth even 2 million apiece. But his judgment was based on a glance, not a thorough checkup. Additionally, the Crab had 2 PPCs as its primary weapons. He could always cannibalize the Crab as the part mech for the Warhammer, and the Chimera for the Bushwacker. "Thirty million, and that's final."

An aura of anger and disappointment flashed on Yurri's face. But he knew he couldn't get a better deal, so he painfully settled for it. "Verree well, Meesterr Parrkerr. Thirrty million is your prrize. Now let's go to my office. I need yourr account numberr to make this purrchase final."

Parker flashed a small smile and followed Yuri. As the large guy rushed to his office, Parker took his time and unfolded his comlink. "Eev, I spent 30 mil on five total 'mechs, and I bought you an Archer 4M. It's in good condition, doesn't look like it has been in too many battles, and it has an Artemis IV linked to its LRM20's. It's as deadly as your old Longbow, but with much more efficient missile consumption."

He could hear her grinning ear to ear from her reply, "Thank you, honey. I love you."