A harried woman was having a moment of peace in her field, tending the rows of coffee shrubs. Her crop was in tiered rows, up the hill toward one of six mouths into the cavernous mine that McDonough’s Rest was built into. The plants went all the way to the tall, electric wire fence that abutted the edge of the lush jungle. The fence kept out the worst of the predators on the planet, but was irritatingly ineffective against the arboreal herbivores, who had developed a taste for the leaves and branches of the coffee plants.
A boom, and a shift in the air made her look up. There was a ship, just now arriving in the atmosphere, and moving quickly toward McDonough’s Rest. The woman looked at it with a mixture of curiosity and confusion. She switched to outrage as the ship - some basic sort of shuttle - landed on the outskirts of the field, crushing a segment of the security fence.
“Patrick!” the woman shrieked over her shoulder, back toward the sheltered supply shed, “Get the slathe-gun!” There was an indistinct response from within, but a moment later a man in dirty coveralls stepped out with a large bored, revolving rifle. He was moving with a bewildered caution toward the ship, while his wife stalked furiously ahead of him. As they approached, the ramp unfolded from the bottom hatch, revealing a wide entrance into the belly of the shuttle. A man stepped out. He had jet black, unnaturally neat hair, and a tan complexion. He was dressed in all black as well, the collar of his long jacket coming almost to his chin.
“And I suppose you’ll be paying for those crops you just ruin’d?” the woman asked in a fury.
He looked at her, a cruel laughter behind his eyes. “You suppose wrongly. As I own this land, anything planted here is mine to keep, or destroy, as I please.”
She was apoplectic. “I was born here! Ain’t no prissy space man gonna land his ship on my land, squish my crops, and then look me in the face and tell me it’s his!”
“I think you’ll find,” he began silkily as the woman crossed her arms and glared, “That my paperwork is-”
He was reaching into an interior pocket, presumably to produce said paperwork, when she interrupted him. “Patrick, shoot ‘im.”
As Patrick was bringing his slathe-gun to bear, an enormous metal arm reached out from the mouth of the shuttle, and put itself between the stranger and them. It was followed by a similarly black clad mech, which had to duck its way out of the ship’s belly.
“If that’s the way you will play this,” he said, ice creeping into his voice, “I think you’ll find my armament is every bit as orderly as my paperwork. If you would be so kind as to allow an introduction - I am Hector Federico Alvarez. And you are?” The mech had moved its hand away so that they could speak face to face, but it had a nasty looking gun trained on the both of them.
“Maggie McDonough,” she replied through clenched teeth. Other townsfolk were gathering to this side of the mine, peering from the opening, or approaching from around one side or the other.
“Patrick,” Patrick said simply, holding his rifle down at his side.
“McDonough as well..?” He asked, pointing slyly between the two of them.
“Well, always nice to have good company. Either by rule of law, or rule of gun, I think you’ll find this land to be every bit mine. You are in some amount of luck, however. My equipment and workforce is a few weeks behind me, so you have the fortune of a bit of a grace period. I will be returning in,” He waved his hand in front of him, producing a holographic screen that he consulted, “Sixteen standard days. You have until then to vacate the premises. When we arrive, we will use whatever Force is necessary to clear out all of… this. It has been quite the pleasure, Mrs. McDonough, Mr. McDonough. I hope I won’t see you again. Fairwell.” He turned on his heel and marched back into the shuttle. The sleek black mech seemed to look them over a moment longer before following suit as the ship’s engines began to came to life with a whine.
Patrick set out with the settlement’s only shuttle to look for help. He was met with any number of combinations in sympathy, apathy, and general unhelpfulness. Some towns simply couldn’t spare their militia, some were watched over by mercenaries who might have helped, if he had the money to outbid their current employers. One place had already heard of his plight and asked him to leave before he had even finished landing. At his last stop, Patrick was offered a crate of rifles and ammunition by the local militia captain, with the promise of a hogshead of tobacco and barrel of coffee beans from their latest crop, should they survive.
And so, already in debt and without any extra men, Patrick was loading the crates in the town’s landing bay, with little hope that they would help, when he heard a voice from nearby.
“You might need a bit more than that.”
“You think I don’...” his voice trailed off as he turned and saw what she had parked nearby. “Aye, but I can’t afford that.”
“I know, that’s why I’m approaching you. I heard about your little problem. Me and Rec here can help, and maybe a couple others. You got plas-carts and fusion cores?”
“Aye. Nuthin’ military grade, but…”
“I’ll make them work. Here’s the deal. As many of those as we need to keep our mechs running and gunning, all the spoils of the fight… and half those rifles when it’s done. I’ll be there, and however many other good souls I can get.”
“Sounds a little too good to be true.”
“Sounds like you don’t have a choice. Have faith.”
A mechanical voice boomed out from the mech crouched in the corner of the bay. “Have faith.”
On another fine day, the people of McDonough's Rest looked to the sky to watch a ship landing. Quite unlike the sleek shuttle of two weeks prior, this was a utilitarian freighter provided under license by the Frontier Branch Mercenary Union. Also unlike the shuttle, this ship was both expected and welcome. It landed, directed to do so by the townsfolk, on a field that had only recently been harvested of its corn. The engines were still winding down when the cavernous loading ramp opened up to show a bay that was positively crammed with the titanic forms of mechs lines up as neatly as could be managed. At the forefront, a woman walked briskly down the still-lowering ramp, but others could be seen behind her.
She carried a data pad, which she immediately handed to Patrick McDonough as he approached to greet them.
"Er, what is this?" he said, looking it over.
"Contract," she answered shortly, "We need something to turn into the Union after all this is over, to show we did some work. Look around, boys!" she shouted this last over her shoulder, "We need a battle plan ASAP. I wouldn't put it past this Alvarez guy to show early."