« on: 08 December 2013, 19:17:01 »
Bribery and kicked shins, the secrets to successful child-rearing.
Vindemiatrix System, Donegal Province
31 August 3145
“A pleasure to see you again, Major Kwan.” Matthew Summit began as he met her outside the Skyvault’s briefing room. “Given the circumstances, this may be the last time we have a chance to talk.”
“Understood, Commander Summit.” Juanita nodded back to the other man. Handsome in a rough and rugged way, Matt Summit was the commander of their current operational partner unit, their allies in the hair-brained scheme she’d signed up for. Summit’s Sky Commanders were an Aerospace mercenary unit, one who’s reputation Red had vouched for. That alone was enough for Junaita to trust them. “Was there something in particular on your mind?”
“I gathered that there were some among your men who weren’t happy with taking a contract from the Lyrans.” He stated, lowering his voice a little. “Given what happened with the Light Horse, I can’t say that I blame them. For what it’s worth, you’re not alone in that sentiment.”
She nodded. “Thank you, Commander. It’s good to know that we’re not the only ones feeling a bit put out by that whole mess. I’m going to say now that I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the job either, but at the same time, well, we needed the money.”
“And of course, the opportunity to help your fellow mercenaries.” Summit added.
Classy, Jay. Nice way to show your priorities. “Of course.” She corrected. “Getting them out has to be our top priority.” Sell that fake sincerity
“Either way, there is something that I wanted to add.” He continued. “I know that we both don’t fully trust the Lyrans. However, I also want you to know that you can trust us fully. My men will be providing aerospace cover for yours and the rescue operation, and I will ensure that you are covered at all times.” He glanced into the briefing room for a second. “Unlike some, we don’t abandon our allies.”
That bought a smile to her face. Solidarity. Not letting the employer screw you over. Taking care of each other. Good to know that there’s some people who believe in that. “Thank you, Commander. I appreciate it a lot, and it’s good to know that we’ll be covered while doing our job. For what it’s worth, we’d do the same for you.” Because you’ve been such an honest person in past, Jay. Just your luck to be partnered with the nicest merc in the business.
The fact that she’d met her lover and the father of her child while working under an alias only made her wince inside a little more. “Might as well head on in. The Elsies are expecting us.” She managed, diverting the subject a little.
Kommandant Hudson Roarke, the LCAF liaison and nominal commander of the mission was waiting, giving the smallest of nods as the two commanders entered the room. Several other officers had joined them, Natan sitting right by her and gently squeezing her hand. “How’s JJ?” She asked.
“He’s not happy, and I can’t blame him.” Natan admitted. “He doesn’t like the ship or the crew here, and I know he’s going to kick up a fuss when we leave too.”
She nodded, feeling more than a little guilty about the whole situation. “We’ll see him before we set off.” Juanita decided. “Hell, if we have to delay the dropship launch just so I get to hug my son before we go, I’m all for it.”
Natan laughed. “That’s what I married you for.”
She shot him a sideways glance. “You know we’re not actually married, right?”
That produced another small laugh. “My point.”
A small and distinctly unimpressed cough from Rorke cut off the discussion, making his feelings on the matter clear. “If we’re all done…” He simply began, not a hint of humour in his voice. “As per our contract, this operation is a raid on Solaris VII, aimed at liberating the occupants of a Wolf Empire internment camp. This camp is being used to house a large number of mercenaries who have been captured during the Empire’s war on the Lyran Commonwealth and its people.”
A holographic display bought up a map of Solaris, slowly rotating as Roarke continued. “If you’re a mercenary, you might have heard of this obscure world.” Natan whispered, Juanita barely suppressing a giggle in reply.
The map zoomed in on one continent, then further in on a largely forested area of it. “Our Intel puts the camp here, in outer Greyland, well removed from Solaris City itself. It is also largely removed from the Wolves on-world, as their interests lie mainly in Solaris City and its industries. The facility is likely guarded by conventional infantry and light armour.”
“But we still have to get there.” Natan spoke up. “And they’re not just going to let us walk in.”
“Agreed.” Rorke nodded. “Which is why the Sky Commanders will be covering our approach. Our intelligence puts the Theta Galaxy’s 9th Wolf Cavalry on-world; they are a veteran rated unity, but their ranks are largely made up of left-over vehicles palmed off on them from other formations. What few BattleMechs they possess are mostly Marik-Steward salvage.” There was a hint of anger in Rorke’s voice at that last point.
“Salvage that should have been Lyran had the Wolves not gotten other ideas.” Natan whispered.
“The 9th do have access to Aerospace Fighters, which is why the Sky Commanders and their dropship will remain on-station above Solaris while we execute the operation.” Rorke continued. “And they will be available for airstrikes and support should we encounter any Wolf forces.”
Several points lit up on the display as he spoke. “Our dropships will put down here, at an abandoned LIC listening post. The site has been inactive for decades and is known to very few, so it will be secure. It also features a reinforced landing pad that is ideally suited for our ships, which will enable us to lift off in a hurry if needs be.”
“They’ve thought this through.” Juanita whispered. “Surprisingly so for Lyrans.”
“Clearly they must want those guys out.” Natan agreed. “Makes me wonder if they’re not even worse off then we’d been lead to believe.”
“Aw come on, they could be genuinely concerned for the fate of their hired soldiers.” She paused. “Yeah, right.”
Juanita hated jumps. It wasn’t that she suffered from anything as extreme as Transit Disorientation Syndrome or the like, it was just that feeling of awkward nausea afterwards. To make it worse, every time she jumped, she remembered the one time she’d done it while pregnant and how she’d been throwing up for hours afterwards. Never again.
In theory, as soon as the Skyvault was in the Solaris system, the operation was a go, In practice, even Rorke would have to admit that waiting for people to stop heaving their guts up was a good move. Juanita and Natan had taken advantage of the situation to perform one last, very important duty before leaving.
“Mummy and daddy have to go to work now.” Juanita began, kneeling down in front of JJ. “We’ll be back real soon, okay?”
“Okay.” He managed without a hint of conviction, the tears welling up in the corners of his eyes.
I hate this part. Never gets any easier. JJ was used to the pair of them leaving for long periods on missions, even if he had no idea of what they were doing. Even on a raid like this, the Horde would bring him and other dependants along as far as the Jumpship in order to minimise the time away from family. And after being stuck in Regulan quarantine for so long, I feel even more like an arse now.
“Now be good for me, okay?” She asked. “Don’t be mean to the nice people or the other kids.” This trip is going to end in a lot of kicked shins, I can tell.
“Okay.” He continued with as much conviction as before.
“We both love you and we’ll see you soon.” She finished as she leaned in, kissing him on the forehad before standing. This yielded even more sniffiles as Natan took her place.
“Come on, big man.” He smiled. “Going to be brave for me?”
“Okay.” It was all he wanted to say today, and she couldn’t blame him.
“That’s the spirit.” Natan nodded. “And if you’re really good, we’ll get you a present when you get back, how’s that?”
JJ managed a small smile. Bribery allways works, Juanita told herself. Christ, you can’t half tell he’s our kid.
“Big hug from my big man?” Natan finished, arms opened wide, only to be all but crushed in his son’s embrace. “That’s the spirit.” He replied as he hugged back.
And, in the end, there was more than a little sobbing as he was returned to the ship’s child care, just as there always was. And, as always, Juantia couldn’t help but keep glancing backwards, even after they were well out of sight. “I always hate that part.” She admitted.
“Me too, Jay.” Natan replied, gently squeezing her hand. “Even if the little tyke keeps pulverising my ribs.”
She laughed in spite of herself. “Okay, you won that.” She admitted. “So what should we get him while we’re planetside?”
“Toy ‘Mech? Baseball cap with a team logo on it?” Natan suggested. “It’s Solaris after all.”
“Hmm… I’m thinking that any souvenirs of the ’43 season we bring back could be worth a lot of money.” She countered. “Collectors would go ape-snot over memorabilia from the season that the Wolves squished half way”
“Thinking of engaging in some light looting if the chance comes to it?” Natan quipped.
“What do you take me for?” She replied with mock indignation.
“A former thief who, while turned good, hasn’t lost sight of how she got there and knows when’s the time to fall back on those skills?”
“You got me there.” Juanita laughed. “Anyone would think we were married or something.”