Synopsis: On an unnamed desert world in the Draconis Combine, Lieutenant "Max" Maximillan is the leader of a squad of four dispossessed MechWarriors (himself, Quinton, Han and Antonio), the "Dispossessed of the Seventh Battalion". Regarded as worthless without their BattleMechs, they are summoned before Field Marshall Chiba, who sends them to a honorable death in a suicide mission—a banzai charge against advancing enemy forces of House Steiner. (Descending DropShips in the opening narrative, with the Steiner crest visible on a Leopard, establish that House Steiner is the attacking party.)
Max's unit takes point in the charge and marches into the rocky desert during the night. Sneaking through a mountainous area they chance upon a forward Lyran Commonwealth operation, kill the enemy soldiers and find out that they have stumbled into the leading elements of an enemy advance. Quickly fighting their way past some sentries they arrive at a valley where a 'Mech lance (a Locust, a Scorpion, a Thunderbolt and a fourth 'Mech, apparently another Thunderbolt) is camping, having secretly moved behind the Draconis Combine lines through a tunnel. With the element of surprise on their side Max and his comrades manage to storm in and hijack three of the 'Mechs. Engaged by infantry, tanks and the fourth 'Mech they manage to down the other 'Mech in the ensuing running fight. At that point the rest of the banzai charge arrives and suicide troopers storm the Lyran compound just as the Lyran commander calls down an artillery strike, adding to the overall confusion. Max's three 'Mechs escape and destroy the enemy compound which they have identified as a supply and fuel dump.
Upon returning to their base, Max and his men learn that they had been declared dead when they received orders for their banzai charge. Chiba explains that the only honorable way out for them is to commit seppuku. A funeral ceremony is held on the same evening in their presence, and Max and his men are supposed to kill themselves in the morning. Appalled, they decide to escape and become mercenaries. During the night they sneak to the 'Mechs they have captured, but Quinton, who regards their plan as dishonorable, turns against his comrades, draws a gun on Antonio and alerts the guards.