yep that's exactly what happened. It wouldn't boot from any other PCs either so I reinstalled it on the HDD from the USB stick and it works fine now. I'm up and running but it's still a little buggy, I suspect because I don't have any way to kill the power except flipping off the power supply. It's not getting the startup signal to tell it to turn on and off so the POST and BIOS are a little wacky.
Anyway, tomorrow I am going to try to get the dc-dc psu up and running and go from there.
Anyway, once it's starting up / stopping reliably...then what? Just stick it in my car and go to town? It took like 5 min to install Fedora lol
Or perhaps there are some things I should download first...what would you all say is the next step?