World name: Lyons
Affiliation: Federated Commonwealth (Lyran Commonwealth)
City: Clovis' Point
"Him? Are you sure? He looks a bit... worse for wear."
"Trust me. He's who we're looking for. He'll look better once we sober him up."
"I think that's more than just alcohol."
"All part of the charm."
The voices pierced the fog clouding Duch's brain and despite it, his trained mind recognised that there were people talking about him. He struggled with his eyelids but managed to look up, his vision slowly focusing. Standing before him were two figures; a tall man and a much shorter woman, both dressed in clothing that did not suit the dive bar that he’d chosen for this night’s attempt to quieten the voices. He blinked a couple of times, staring at them, whilst his brain attempted to organise his chemical-fuddled thoughts into something coherent.
“Hauptmann-Kommandant Duch?” the man asked, leaning forwards. “We would like to speak to you.”
“Not haptman anymore. Quit,” Duch replied, slurring his words. His eyes narrowed as thoughts popped into his mind. “Where’s that son-of-a-can Aske? H’supposed to keep p’ple ‘way.”
“It was Aske who pointed you out,” the man said. “He’s a good man to you, I think he deserves better. Considering.”
The woman looked at the man. “Can’t you give him anything? You know? To sober him up?”
There was a pause as the man gave Duch a considered look. “Maybe.” He said. Straightening up, he looked behind him and spoke to someone else. “Think you can carry him out of here? I’d rather discuss this elsewhere.”
The man and the woman stepped aside and a familiar figure moved forwards, reaching out to pull Duch up, supporting him. “Aske. I oughta fire your ass for this,” he mumbled.
“You know you cannot do that,” the man called Aske replied. “You are stuck with me for life, as much as either of us would prefer it differently.”
There were several minutes of movement, as Aske helped Duch out of the smoky room and out into the night. A few more steps and Duch realised he was being placed in a vehicle; a comfortable one from the feel of things. A moment or two more and the outside sounds muffled as doors closed. He felt a sharp sting in his arm and a sudden clarity of mind, as if the fog in his brain was burnt away by fire.
“By all that is sacred, what the hell did you do?” Duch asked gripping his upper arm.
“Gave you a shot of something that should keep you alert for a few hours,” the tall man replied from the car seat next to him. “You’ll crash after that, and feel shockingly bad in the morning, but it will do for now.”
Duch looked around. They were in a large ground car, a hover capable one from the looks of it, and large enough in the back to comfortably sit four people. As well as himself, and the tall man beside him, opposite was the woman from inside the bar and a guilty looking Aske, who seemed very out of place. He gave Duch a wry smile and a slight shrug in response to Duch’s raised eyebrow.
“Major Duch,” the woman began. She had Asian looks, and was dressed in expensive looking clothing. Unusually, she was wearing spectacles; an anachronism in today’s day and age for the wealthy.
“I said before,” Duch interrupted. “I’m not a major anymore. I resigned my commission, last week.”
“We know,” the woman said. “My name is Lang Xiulan, my associate here is Dr. Armand Rodin. We have a proposal for you.”
Three weeks later
Coordinates: -3.109 : -34.688
World name: Outreach
Affiliation: Federated Commonwealth (Federated Suns)
Most planets had a hiring hall, sometimes just a building, often an entire complex, with hangers for 'mechs, repair bays, corporate offices, shops, brothels; everything a mercenary band would need to find work, get paid and spend money. The planet of Outreach was somewhat of an exception, in that the entire continent of Romulus was considered its hiring hall. Cities and towns existed purely for the purpose of attracting mercenary groups, either as a place to get job offers, or to spend the money from said jobs. The central hub, however, and where everyone arrived first, was Harlech. Not only was it the biggest, and the home of the Mercenary Review and Bonding Commission with whom all official mercs had to register, but it had the planet's DropPort; almost a hundred square kilometres of concrete, bristling with the mounds and points of hundreds of DropShips. Encircling this technological plaza were the buildings and offices of Harlech proper. Any mercenary company could hire space in this town, whether it be to house their equipment, or to present an 'official' front to clients and potential employees.
One of the buildings around the edge of the DropPort was a tall office block, shiny and reflective in Harlech's almost constant sunshine. A large video screen above the main entrance listed the current occupants; something that changed on almost a weekly basis as groups came and went from this most transient of cities. Standing in front of the building, looking up at the screen, were three figures; a tall man in an expensive looking suit, a short woman in an equally expensive looking qipao, and another man, dressed in dark red military fatigues. Standing nearby, was another man in similar fatigues.
"Well, there we are, on the list of occupants. It's all official," Duch said. "I'm still a little unbelieving that we've gotten this far. Seems like only yesterday you were dragging my ass out of that bar."
"We were looking for a candidate, and your name came highly recommended," Rodin said. "That and your man over there practically begged us."
Duch let out a breath. "Yes. I didn't deserve that. I cut one of his cords."
Lang raised her eyebrows. "I am impressed, Major Duch, I didn't think you would do that for him, given history."
Duch shrugged. "He's a man of honour. It was the least I could do, and the most he would accept."
"Regardless, we're here now. The advertisements have gone out and we have a number of prime candidates already for some of the open roles," Rodin said. "As their commanding officer, it is only right that you conduct the interviews and make the decisions, at least for the combat and support staff. I think Ms Lang and I can hire the administration staff." He handed over a noteputer. "There's a list on there, along with their interview times," he smiled. "Number four is particularly interesting. You don't get many landed nobles slumming it with mercenaries, I'll be interested to hear his backstory. Most MechWarrior candidates have their own 'mechs. Which will save us time, and money."
Nodding, the three figures, along with their more silent companion, entered the building.
The room for the interviews had been chosen for this specific purpose. It was largely empty aside from a desk and three chairs. Two chairs were on opposite sides of the desk, with the other chair against the far wall. The wall behind the desk was almost entirely window, giving a clear view of the DropPort and, dominating the foreground, was the aerodyne lines of a Leopard class dropship. Most of its external surfaces were standard DropShip light grey, but right in the centre at eye-level was the company name and logo; a large red letter C, with a smaller blue C within it.
Sitting in the other chair, and the person who opens the door when required, was another man. Only just taller than the other, and dressed in similar clothing, although without the black rank insignia on the sleeve. His jet black hair was shaven around the back and sides, but longer on top, pulled back into a thick braid at the back. A green tattoo of some kind of bird of prey had been inked onto the side of his scalp. His blue eyes were bright and wary, and when not escorting people into the room, he sat with an almost unnatural stillness.
Each applicant was required to bring with them whatever resume they felt appropriate, but as with most interviews, it was conduct within that tended to trump actual words.