This is my first fanfic, so go easy on me when reviewing...

Assumes basic knowledge of the Battletech universe

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Mercenary Sector

Old Connaught, Arc-Royal

The Lyran Alliance

1st August, 3079

Steven 'Peregrine' McEvedy cracked his eyes open as the first rays of dawn insolently poked through the venetian blinds over the window. His head felt like it had been hit with a Highlander's death from above attack, and his jaw-length mop of red hair was more rumpled than usual. As his eyes finally began forming recognizable shapes out of the swirling mass of colors before them, he slowly lifted his aching head from the hardwood desk that had served as a pillow. Flipping the bird towards the sunlight in vengeance for its disturbing of his slumber, he put his head in his hands as he leaned his elbows on the desk. This had sounded like the perfect job when he'd arrived on Arc-Royal after his unit had been mangled during Devlin Stone's liberation of Terra from the Word of Blake; form up a small mercenary unit with the help of an overly-rich sponsor – who he had absolutely no knowledge about. According to his liaison, his status as a veteran MechWarrior from the war against the Blakists would help him gain some much needed clout with potential recruits. Still, even with the help of his employer's generous supplies of cash, Steven had yet to recruit more then two or three people who he felt truly confident in. His sponsors demanded that all of his recruits be vetted and thoroughly background checked before he let them join the unit, and there weren't that many veteran recruits out there these days.

If the blinds had been up, Steven would have been able to look out the window of his office to view the reconstruction effort that was still going on in Old Connaught following the wake of the Blakist retreat several years ago. With the war against the Word of Blake pretty much over and done with, many of the surviving mercenary commands were trying desperately to shore up their losses. That ended up leaving few if any experienced soldiers available for a startup unit like Steven's. Not only that, but God forbid if he would be able to get his hands on any really new pieces of combat equipment here. A loud thud and a string of mumbled curses from outside the office suddenly snapped Steven out of his thoughts, and he went to investigate.

A low groaning came from the lump on the floor outside the door, and Steven finally remembered what had caused his hangover. Paul "Buckshot" Rhodes was one of the recruits that had been worth investigating, according to the files given to him by his employer's liaison, Kobayashi. A former student at the New Avalon Institute of Science, Rhodes had joined a resistance cell fighting against the Blakists after graduating. A skilled technetium and chemist, Rhodes had apparently been making bombs and booby traps since he was a kid, though now they tended to be deadly killers rather than just harmless pranks.

However, New Avalon had eventually become too hot for the man, and he'd been smuggled off world, eventually ending up on Arc-Royal with nothing more than a single duffle bag of personal possessions and his mech, a battle-worn Templar that he'd managed to pick up somewhere between the Davion capital and the Lyran mercenaries world. While Steven had originally been tempted to try and con the man out of his valuable OmniMech, his opinion had quickly changed after seeing Rhodes in a bar fight; despite his rather bookish initial persona, the former Davion agent had fought like a rabid wolf when cornered, completely unconcerned with his own safety when it came down to a serious fight.

A few quick jabs with a stun gun had ended the fight when Steven finally decided to intervene. While the look on Rhodes' face had seemed a bit troublesome at first, once he'd realized someone had interrupted his fight without being asked, the sound of approaching security personnel had proven that he was also surprisingly quick on his feet when he had to be. Steven had offered to buy the still fuming MechWarrior a drink at another bar, careful to never let on that he knew the man's story from the file Kobayashi had given him earlier on. As soon as Rhodes had mentioned that he was looking to sign on with a mercenary unit, Steven had offered him a place with the Sturmoviks. Despite his best efforts, Rhodes had initially turned him down flat. However, several hours of hard drinking eventually dissipated the Davion's resolve – as well as robbing him of the power of speech and the ability to walk. One rather scribbled name on a contract later, and Steven had snagged himself another recruit.

"Oi, rise and shine, Buckshot." Steven gave Rhodes a kick. "Time to get to work…" A semi-bloodshot eye cracked open, and Steven suddenly found himself staring down the twin barrels of a sawed-off shotgun.

"Whada hell?" He blinked, stretching his other arm as he yawned. "Who're you?"

"I'm your new CO," Steven grinned, pulling the man's contract out of his pocket and waving it in his face. "Now get up and get cleaned up 'afore I throw you in the brig."

"You don't even got a brig…" Rhodes groaned, the shotgun disappearing back into his brown trench coat. "There any coffee round here?"

"Yeah, downstairs with the rest of the unit."

"You actually managed to get some other losers to sign up with this circus? I'm impressed."

"Don't be; most of 'em are slackers, like you and me."

"That explains a lot." Rhodes dragged himself to his feet, swaying slightly as he did. "Doh… How much did I drink last night, anyways?"

"Don't ask me, I was drunk." Steven said with a grin as he led the way to the door.

While the size of the huge warehouse connected to the office was certainly impressive, the deserted rows of empty mech bays were a dismal sight, making the space feel even larger than it was. Sunlight filtered in through dirty skylights in the roof, but row after row of fluorescent lights hung from the high ceiling. Steven clapped his hands and the lights flashed on, a number of them exploding in a shower of sparks. The increased level of light revealed a number of BattleMechs standing in the bays nearest the main doors.

Rhodes did a quick mental inventory of the equipment there; a Sunder, a Catapult, a Men Shen, a Zeus, and a Marauder. The ancient Marauder, a Star League MAD-2R model, looked like it was halfway through a major overhaul, while the other mechs were in various states of disrepair. A Galleon light tank and a beat up Maxim hover transport sat in the far corner, surrounded by stacks of crates and tarp covered piles.

"I was hoping the others would be up already…" Steven grumbled. "Well, you'd better come and meet the rest of the unit."

"You call five BattleMechs a unit?" Rhodes raised an eyebrow at his new commander as they made their way down the metal staircase to the ground floor. "What is this, some kind of Clan?"

"No, but two of them are former Clanners," Steven chuckled and slammed his plasteel boot into the side of the Maxim. "Alright, up and at it, you lazy sons a' guns!"

There was a muffled chorus of complaints from inside the vehicle, but finally the rear hatch opened and four rather disheveled looking men dressed in a motley collection of uniforms and civilian clothing stumbled out into the light.

"Alright, fellas, this here is Rhodes, call sign 'Buckshot', our newest recruit." Steven smiled slightly. "This is Captain Steele, formerly of Clan Coyote. He goes by the call sign 'Howler', and he rides the Sunder. The guy next to him is Dmitri, our other resident Clanner, but he won't say what Clan he's from. He drives the Zeus. Then we have James O'Connor, call sign 'Pounder'. He's in the Catapult. The guy on the end there goes only by his call sign, 'Six gun', and he's in the Men Shen. That old Marauder is mine, but she's down until we can get a hold of the parts we need."

"And my name is Daniel Kobayashi." A new voice sounded from the other end of the room, and a tall, brown-haired man in his late forties walked over to the group. "I am the owner's representative here on Outreach, so any problems, inquiries and the like should be brought to me." He looked at Rhodes. "I've already arranged for your Templar to be moved here from its current residence in the spaceport, and taken the liberty of paying off your bill at the hotel you were previously staying at."

"Yeah, thanks Kobayashi." Steven glared slightly at the other man. "Any more new recruits?"

"Several, actually. I would suggest that you let the Lance-leaders handle the interviews." The lawyer handed over a decent-sized stack of files. "I assume that Mr. Rhodes will be taking command of the new Fire lance?"

"Yeah, most likely." Steven handed off the folders to the other men. "Anything else I should know?"

"Only that your first mission has been arranged." Kobayashi turned and started to walk away. "The DropShip lifts off at noon on the 6th. Be there."