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Author Topic: A Warrior's Family  (Read 11023 times)

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #150 on: 23 August 2020, 08:14:53 »
Chapter 39

Hap stepped in first, and found a neatly appointed viewing room. It had a couch, a few end tables, and a holo table. Hap looked around anxiously, but everything seemed normal. He could see Anastasia was also concerned. The acolyte cleared his throat. "Is everything in order?"

Hap nodded and tried to relax. Everything was so strange. Everything around him seemed normal, but in the back of his mind he felt on edge. He felt like he was waiting for someone to play a terrible joke on him. He sat down on the couch and tried to act normal. Anastasia sat next to him. Hap could sense that she was equally uneasy, but outwardly she appeared fine.

As Hap calmed himself the Acolyte setup the holoviewer. "Before I replay the Countess's holo, she also sent several pages of text. With your permission, and by Blake's will, I will go print them as you watch."

"Thank you." Anastasia said as the Acolyte hit play and left the room.

The lights dimmed and a holographic projection of the head and shoulders of woman appeared. It was perfectly adjusted to make it feel like she was in the room with them. She looked very similar to Anastasia. Unlike her daughter she wore cat eye glasses. Her long reddish chestnut hair was in a similar braid and wrap, like Anastasia favored, but she had a shock of silver hair, and her jaw was slightly squarer compared to Anastasia. Hap knew she had to be Anastasia's mother.

She smiled warmly and began speaking in French. Hap had no idea what she was saying but she was so charming he could've watched her all day. His fears of ComStar assassins were all but forgotten. The woman's mannerisms were almost identical to Anastasia. A few times he saw her reach up to her shoulder to play with a braid of hair that wasn't there, just like her daughter would. Hap glanced over at Anastasia. Her head was cocked to the side and she was smiling as she played with the braid of her she had draped over her shoulder.

After a few minutes the Countess paused and said, "'Arold," She smiled demurely, "s'il vous plait excuse me, Harold." As she spoke she switched from French to the flawless clipped English accent like Anastasia, "When I sent Annie to the Academy she would write me letters weekly."

"Annie?" Hap whispered

"Pay attention, a Countess is personally addressing you." Anastasia said without looking at him.

The countess showed several neatly folded papers, "These letters would say things like, 'Dear mother I am learning to make the galaxy a better place with math and science'." She set the letter to the side and held up another folded sheet, "or 'Dear mother I took the class in common law as you insisted, I find many of these concepts to be very inefficient'." She rolled her eyes, pursed her lips, and shook her head.

She gently set down the letter and held up several unfolded sheets. "Then there was her latest correspondence. 'Dear mama'." She looked up, "We should note, dear Harold, this child almost exclusively refers to me as Mother." She adjusted her glasses, "Dear Mama I have found the most wonderful man."

The countess lowered the papers, "When Annie was at the academy I had hoped I would receive letters about times with friends, going to sporting events, or having adventures, but most of what I received was as I read, her opinions on classes, things she learned, or discussing military drills. I received nothing of extracurricular events or even romantic infatuations. I knew my bébé well enough to know that she would pursue her academics and neglect a social life, but a mother can dream." The countess sighed.

"I tell you all this, my dear Harold, because when I read she had found a man, who," She glanced down at the paper, "made her feel special and loved.' I was a little taken aback. How would my dear child who can rarely be bothered to look up from her books, happen to find such a man? In a war zone no less?"

"Of course I could see, by your own admittance, you're 'fond' of her." The countess paused and gave them a sardonic look, "I could tell you are more than just fond of her. By your honor as an officer, I need your word that you will bring her back to me. She may play your soldier games for a season, but you will watch over her, and you are responsible for her safety. Your next leave will be on Hazelhurst. I assure you I will personally make certain you have a relaxing stay. In the meantime, my dear Harold, be safe and ensure my daughter does the same. Finally, I would love a bit of correspondence from you."

The countess smiled for a moment then resumed speaking in French. This time it was more emotional as the countess closed her message to her daughter. Hap wanted to give her a hug and assure her he would personally try to solve her problem, whatever it was. The countess dabbed the corner of her eye with a lace trimmed kerchief. Then blew a kiss to them and the camera faded to black.

Hap glanced over to see Anastasia dab her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. Hap gave her a moment, "That's odd, she still seems to think I'm a commissioned officer. I think she also just ordered us to report to her, as soon as possible."

"First, she doesn't make mistakes." Anastasia answered, as she pulled out a few sheets of paper from the end table, "and second we need to go and tell Rowyena that my Mother's lawyer is about to contact her. It should all be good news, but I'd prefer we at least give her the context."

"And what is the context?" Hap asked as he accepted the paper and pen Anastasia gave him.

"I'll tell you after we write letters to Mother. She asked us each for letters, and now I see she keeps each of them, either for reference or as mementos, or likely both, so write with care."

Hap sighed. He glanced down at the paper, and looked back to Anastasia, "What is your Mother's complete title?"

"High Lady and Protector of Hazelhurst, Countess of Calais Parmi Les Étoiles." Anastasia said.

Hap wrote down the Countess's title and started the letter, "Ma'am, Greetings." He paused, that look stupid. Anastasia leaned over his shoulder, "Is that how you're starting your letter to Mother?"

"How are you starting your letter?"

"Well it's in French, and she's my mother, so-"

Hap playfully pushed her and went back to his letter. He tried to think what he would ask the countess or talk to her about if she were here. It would probably be easier if he was writing her father. Hap glanced over at Anastasia. She was sitting cross legged and rapidly writing. Hap was always amused by how serious she took things like this. Hap was also amused at how much Anastasia was like her mother. He had envisioned the Countess would be a stern and serious woman and somehow finding her to be a very charming and older version of Anastasia just made him love both of them more.

Hap started writing again, "as you figured out I am more than fond-"

"I would say she 'deduced' or 'inferred' that your feelings were greater than fondness." Anastasia said.

"Write your own letter."

"I'm nearly done, and you've hardly started. Also, I'm starting to suspect you're not much of a writer and probably need my assistance."

Hap shook his head and went back to the letter, "of Anastasia. As I suspect you know I'm in love with her. Before I ask her hand in marriage I would like your blessing. I know you've only seen me once in a video, and I have no idea what Anastasia wrote about me, but things are moving quickly with us, and I thought I should seek your blessing before I propose to her."

"Oh Harold, I don't know where to start, with the content or your grammar."

"We are never writing letters like this again." Harold wasn't sure if Anastasia was trying to frustrate him.

"I think that's for the best. In the future you just tell me what you want to say, and I'll write it for you. For now though, let's work on your grammar. That is quite a run-on sentence. I would suggest making it several sentences. You should probably start over again. Let me get you a clean sheet."

"You're not going to comment on me asking you mother for her blessing before we've really talked about marriage?"

"We talked about marriage, I told you I'd be a better wife than your previous. I recognize that is a low standard, but you've never disagreed. We just have to sort out the minutia." Anastasia shrugged. "The concern I have is that once you tell her that she'll insist that the actual wedding be on Hazelhurst."

"Do you have a better suggestion? Should I not ask for her blessing? Is it bad form to do this in a letter?"

"Oh no. She'll be delighted, and writing is probably the best way to ask. Given the time and distance of the Galaxy it's probably the only way. This is likely the sort of memento she would want."

The door opened and the Acolyte returned. Hap immediately remembered where he was and was suddenly overcome with a vague sense of dread.

"I apologize, I had trouble printing." The acolyte explained as he stepped into the room. "Was everything acceptable with the Countess's video?"

"Yes. Thank you." Anastasia answered.

"Then all is in accordance with Blake's will." The acolyte handed Anastasia an envelope.

As Anastasia explained that she needed to send additional notes to Hazelhurst, Hap quickly wrote, "I do hope this letter finds you well, and you approve of my marriage to your daughter and give your blessing. I acknowledge I will keep Annie safe, and we will visit you as soon as we can. Very Respectfully, Harold Calahad." Hap handed his sheet of paper to the Acolyte as he led Anastasia and Hap out of the suite.

"Mother will appreciate your note." Anastasia said quietly. Hap sensed she had more to say, but she stopped talking as they re-entered the main room. The sun shined in through the windows and people went about their business. Everything was normal and ordinary, but it somehow felt malevolent.

Hap glanced around expecting to see the "boxer" glowering at them from some vantage point, or the Precentor, flanked by armed guards, preparing to stop them, but everything about the ComStar offices seemed benign and routine. Hap saw Brother Hyek. He locked eyes with him for a moment, but Brother Hyek looked surprised to see them. He immediately looked down and busied himself at the desk.

Hap was tempted to approach Brother Hyek, but the Acolyte that had assisted him and Anastasia was leading them to the exit. The Acolyte assured them he would send their letters, and get them to Hazelhurst as quickly as, "Blake's good will would allow". As Hap and Anastasia climbed down the stairs and walked away the sense of impending doom changed from relief, and then to elation.

They walked a few blocks away before looking at each other. When they looked at each other they both burst out laughing. When Hap could compose himself he asked, "Is it possible we've imagined ComStar to be something more than it is? Nothing against Cody, but maybe they only killed his dad because he was a renegade adept or something like that."

Anastasia shook her head and shrugged, "Perhaps. If Cody was right though, we are safe for today, but I must admit, it feels like we cheated death. I feel like I could do something impossible now. I'm glad Joker isn't here right now. He'd either kill this mood or possibly convince me to participate in some grand and regrettable foolishness."

Hap nodded, that was how he felt too, "Yeah, there's so many mistakes we could make together right now, like getting tattoos or eloping."

Anastasia gave Hap a shrewd look, "Yes…" she said slowly, "those would be mistakes. To be clear we are going to have a large extravagant wedding and if you think I'd settle for anything less you are mistaken."

"What about the matching tattoos?" Hap teased

"Look, a food store let's see what they have in here." Anastasia said, ignoring his comment, and playfully pushing him into the store.

Hap was puzzled as he looked around. When Anastasia said "food store" he imagined a grocery store. Half the store was actually a very elegant looking café with a "U" shaped lunch counter surrounding a cooking range, and several smaller tables placed around the counter. The store had short shelves arranged almost randomly for ambient foods, and a large quantity of refrigerated shelves for everything else. The store had a very open and sophisticated sensibility.

The back wall had a large display of bright stemless flowers in glassed refrigeration units. Hap was drawn toward them. He saw the description was "edible flowers" and the price was more than he would pay for an entire salad, let alone one ingredient. He glanced around and saw truffles, Greyel wings, meat lettuces, caviar, binsby berries, foie gras, and foods he had never heard of, let alone tasted. He realized this was a gourmet food store, and not a grocery store like the one his mother had cashiered at.

Anastasia looked around searching for a particular item as she walked the refrigerator area.

There was a middle-aged store clerk discussing mushrooms with another patron. She glanced over at Anastasia and smiled, "I'll be with you in a moment." She made another suggestion and pointed her customer toward a climate controlled room in the corner.

"May I help you Ma'am?" The clerk said to Anastasia.

I was looking for Kincha." Anastasia said.

The woman looked apologetic, "It's out of season, and a rarity for us, but we do have some wines that are blended with Kincha juice." The woman led her toward a wall that was floor to ceiling wine racks.

"Harold, could you get us a table at the café?" Anastasia called over her shoulder as she followed the clerk.

Harold walked up to the lunch counter and examined the chalkboard menu. The items were in a flowery cursive script that he had a hard time reading. He saw steak tartare, a chowder with an ingredient he didn't quite recognize. As he puzzled over the menu he glanced down at the other patrons, and noticed a young woman sitting across the counter for him. Their eyes met for a moment.

She looked familiar. Her makeup was impeccable, and her jet black hair was styled perfectly. She was wearing a long black jacket. Under it she had a white blouse, and wore a silver necklace made of interlocking hoops. Hap looked at her for a long moment. He knew her, but he didn't know from where.

"Hey. Do I know-", Hap walked around the counter, but he stopped suddenly as he realized she was the woman from the ComStar office from weeks ago.

She shook her head at him and then leaned so she could look beyond his shoulder. She nodded to someone behind Hap.

Hap spun around quickly ready to defend himself. No one was behind him and he could see Anastasia and the clerk talking. There was also a young man with a ladder trying to reach a particular wine bottle that the clerk was pointing too. The scene was almost comical. The young man was trying to impress Anastasia, the clerk was trying to make a sale, and Anastasia was being herself, trying to get the best wine for her and Hap, and almost oblivious to the other two's ambitions.

Hap remembered the ComStar agent, and turned around quickly. When he looked back she was gone. The only indication that she had been there at all was a half drunk cocktail. Hap walked around to the side of the lunch counter just to make sure she wasn't crouching down and hiding.

Hap felt foolish for falling for an unspoken, "what's that behind you" trick. He also was mortified that he had almost believed the threat from ComStar was nonexistent. He stepped around the counter to find the agent gone, but she had left a large woman's handbag.

The bartender raised a questioning eyebrow as Hap grabbed the bag and dropped it on the counter. Hap opened it to find a mini stun stick, a camera with a long telephoto lens, and a notebook. There was no wallet, but there was a roll of c- bills in a side pocket. He also felt a knife in sewn-in-sheath.

"Pardon me sir, that woman followed you, and has been watching you the whole time. She left shortly after you saw her. Do you and her have a problem? Is she your ex?"

Hap dug through the bag not sure what he hoped to find, "Something like that. She, uh, stole my car when she left. I was hoping she left the keys in here." Hap picked up the camera and looked under it.

The bartender took the bag, "Perhaps I should hold onto this."

Hap nodded, "Sure, my keys aren't there anyway, she'll want her purse." As he spoke he held the camera below the counter and ejected the camera's memory card and palmed it. "She'll probably want her life back, I know I do." Hap said as he passed the camera to the bartender.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #151 on: 23 August 2020, 08:15:34 »
Chapter 40

Hap found Anastasia looking over cheeses. She had selected three bottles of wine and had them in a very nice, and Hap was certain, very expensive basket.

Anastasia looked up at Hap, "Hey you."

"Hey. Hello. Look, we should probably leave soon. As soon as we can." Hap said.

"Café menu too gourmet?" Anastasia teased.

"Let's just say I saw something I didn't like." Hap looked around making sure no other familiar faces were watching them.

Anastasia saw his worried expression, "Do we need to leave right now? Can I finish shopping?

Hap nodded as she held up two cheeses and asked, "Smoked goat cheese or dill and-"

"Smoked." Hap said as Anastasia handed the basket to him and dropped in the smoked cheese. "Sorry, I shouldn't interrupt." Hap apologized. "I'm always going to choose the smoked option, and I really think we need to go."

"I was thinking that we need a few more things. " Anastasia said, looking around.

"I think we have enough." Hap told her as he examined the contents of the basket. There was a few apples, a sweet pepper, the wine, cheeses, crackers, a few jars of sauces or condiments Hap couldn't recognize, a tin of some seafood something, a large jar of a chocolate and tree nut spread, and strawberries.

"It's probably fine, and I know where we can find a few herbs." Anastasia said mysteriously as she walked to the checkout counter. There were few customers, and they were able to pay and leave quickly. Hap was taken back by the price, a few of the items, to include one of the wine bottles, was much cheaper than he would have guessed, but he felt it was pricey.

They left the store as Hap told her about the ROM agent and the contents of her purse. Hap was sure it was a kit bag for spies and assassins. As he explained the contents, Hap realized it didn't have a needle gun or hypodermic poison dispenser. There was no deadly weapon in the bag. They concluded it was likely ComStar was only observing them for now. They returned to the company area without incident

Hap and Anastasia found Cody and Mal in the loft of the 'mech bay, and gave them the memory card. Hap explained how he got it and what he thought it might contain. Mal put the card into her computer and started pulling up images of Anastasia and her Valkyrie from the previous weeks.

"I can try to figure out where these were taken from, but it would help if you could tell me what sort of lens was on the camera." Mal said as she scrolled through the images.

"Why don't you see if the global positioning data is included?" Cody said.

Mal closed the images and pulled up another menu, "Oh it is. Give me a second." Mal started typing furiously in a console window.

As Mal typed Anastasia asked, "Cody, how do you live with the idea that ComStar seeks to kill you?"

"You're looking at it. I don't get out much. I keep a low profile. I move around with this company a lot. I'm about to go through all these pictures and see if they seem to have taken much notice of me."

"How do you send messages to your family?" Anastasia asked.

"I don't think I have any. Once Mom died, it was just Dad and me. Now it's just me."

"And me." Mal added.

"Me and Mal." Cody said. "So I got all I need here, and I stay away from the ComStar offices."

"What would you do if they did discover you were still with McFinnigan and Sons?" Anastasia asked.

"Well they sort of already know I'm here, but they think I'm a simpleton. I had a long talk with Kelly about this. We decided if we ever thought ComStar was looking for me again, I'd go into hiding. He has family on Donegal that know how to hide people. He told me I'd probably end up helping 'them', which I think is Heimdall. I'm okay with that, but I don't think Kelly wants to lose me."

"Really Kelly doesn't want to lose me, because we all know we're inseparable." Mal said as she kept typing.

Cody nodded, "So Kelly tells me to keep a low profile, and don't draw attention to myself."

Anastasia got quiet as Mal loaded a map on her screen, "Alright I think I got it."

Red circles popped up all over the map. Many of them were overlapping. Mal touched one of them and a picture of Anastasia's Valkyrie was displayed. The date and time were in the picture's corner. "Well this is you on patrol about a week ago. It was taken near Turquois Lake." Mal touched another dot. This time it showed Anastasia's Valkyrie being rearmed during the fight with the Immortals.

Hap looked over the map. "The ROM agent took a lot of pictures around Turquoise Lake."

Cody looked for a long time, "None of the pictures were taken inside the fence line. So at least we don't have to worry about ComStar hiding right outside the door."

"I think we should go and talk to the commander." Anastasia said. "We need to talk to him about this and about some of the things my mother told me."

"You never did tell me what your mother told you, or why she thought I was still an officer." Hap said

"Sorry, everything was so strange at the ComStar office and then we were just so giddy and excited. Mother told me that she hadn't heard anything from AFFS High Command and generally there was a comms blackout from Klathandu. She knew it was a siege and it was going poorly, but she couldn't get more information than that, nor would AFFS high command talk to her about me."

"According to Mother and our lawyer, we made every reasonable effort to follow orders and protect ourselves. The facts are we were in a tactically indefensible position, cut off from our unit. Additionally our last orders were to report to a starport which implied a high likelihood of evacuation from the planet. Our lawyer feels we can hardly be faulted for accepting the offer to be extracted."

"That seems reasonable, except we failed to report to the local AFFS representation once we realized that we were mistaken." Hap said

Anastasia shrugged, "We sought legal advice first. Given our circumstances, this is still a reasonable action. It's best now to let the lawyers work this out amongst themselves. This is why we need to speak with Rowyena. Our lawyer will have a lot of questions, and will want the video for our rescue."

"Yeah you should probably go talk to Rowyena, she can be a little defensive when she gets surprised by other lawyers. We'll keep looking at these pictures and see if there is anything interesting." Cody said.

Anastasia and Hap went to the ops building. Fletch, Kelly, and Rowyena had their offices on the top floor. Anastasia and Hap had not yet visited their offices, and were surprised to find the top floor contained only the three large offices connected by a central room. In the central room was a large desk and Elinor was sitting at it. There were also a few children playing with toys and sitting at child size tables in a corner. Hap had seen these children before, but he wasn't sure exactly whose they were.

Elinor looked surprised as they walked into her office. "Master Haphazard and Ms. Vallois are here." Elinor called out. She smiled pleasantly them, "Fancy that, we were jest speaking about you."

"I'm sorry. Are we allowed to just enter?" Anastasia asked, "Is this your office?"

"Well yes, but seeing as I'm the secretary, it's fine. Ye can come here any time child, but if ye want to speak to the XO, Commander, or Legal ye may need an appointment."

Rowyena stepped into the center room. She appeared irritated, "Who is Henry C. Le'Cebra? And why has he sent me a list of demands for," She read off from the paper in her hand, "'Copies of any videos, pictures, documentary evidence, or other artifacts of the ex-filtration of Anastasia Maria Capetian-Vallois and Harold Fedrick Calahad from the planet Klathandu on or about the 15th of August 3029.'"

"Henry C. Le'Cebra is my family lawyer." Anastasia said, "He is attempting to clear up the nature of our sudden departure from Klathandu. I sent a note to my mother and explained the specifics of how we left Klathandu, and my concern that we would be charged with desertion. Mr. Le'Cebra is trying best a case that we did not desert our command, rather we had limited options and choose the best option to preserve our lives and prevent additional combat equipment from falling into enemy hands."

Rowyena nodded and seemed eager to help, "Oh, aye, I see. Yes. Certainly. I'll help yer lawyer. I'll even get sworn statements from Hawkins and my father. Seems simple and reasonable."

"Yer not plannin' to leave us child?" Kelly asked from the door of his office.

"No." Anastasia said, "I am not, but I was concerned, given what you had said about the cadets who were told their parents would lose their titles. I worried that the AFFS high command or other nobles may try to punish my mother for my actions."

Kelly nodded, "We always respect taking care o' family."

"That's why we came now." Hap said, "Sorry. It didn't occur to us that you would get a surprise note from Anastasia's family lawyer. We were coming to give you context before he contacted you."

Rowyena shrugged, "It's fine, if I were him I'd be doing the same thing.

"There is another issue I wanted to speak to you about." Anastasia said, "I believe I've been targeted by ComStar for assassination."

Kelly pulled out his pipe and tobacco pouch, "Oh? What would make ye think that?"

Anatasia explained how she was part of an AFFS special weapons research team, her father's mysterious death, and their strange experiences at the ComStar office and at the gourmet food store. As she described her experiences Fletch and Tatyana joined them.

Kelly smoked as he listened. Finally he asked, "I'm guessing you've shared your experiences with Cody?"

"We have, Sir." Hap said. "He told us about his father, and how you threw ComStar off his trail. We even gave him and Mal the memory card from the camera that the ROM agent left behind."

Kelly looked over at Tatyana, "What do you think?"

"I must see pictures." Tatyana replied, "But I was analyst, and HUMINT collector, not assassin, and only know Maskirovka techniques, not ComStar."

"What would Maskirovka do, kokhanyy?" Fletch asked.

Tatyana shook her head, "Maskirovka likes to make statement, they like fear. Fear is weapon. ComStar likes" She seemed to think, "to be nevydymyy, invisible. You never know was ComStar. Maskirovka has policy, you push us, we knock you down. You knock us down, we break leg. You hurt us, we hurt you more, and we make sure you know we hurt you, maybe hurt your kid too. ComStar policy is patience and be unknown. Maybe ComStar kill you, maybe was avariya, accident. Long time to plan accident."

"How long do you think ComStar has been targeting you?" Fletch asked Hap and Anastasia.

"They had pictures from the day we fought the Immortals. That was the day after we had the odd experience in the ComStar office."

Tatyana moved her head from side to side as she thought, "A few weeks not long enough to plan 'accident'. Operation likely in observation and planning phase."

"The ROM agent didn't seem to take any pictures inside our company area, so our security seems to be keeping them out." Hap said.

"They are rent-a-cops. Lowest of Mercenaries." Tatyana replied, "Easy to bribe, easy to…charm, easy to get past. This assumes ComStar agents not working as guards. I would not trust them to protect us."

"How do you want to handle this boss?" Fletch asked.

Kelly exhaled smoke through his nose, "Yer honestly not tryin' to get out of yer contract?"

"No. If I was I would just ask my mother to buy me out of my contract." Anastasia said.

Kelly nodded. "Alright, give me a few days to think how I'm going to fool the bastards that have the best intelligence apparatus in the sphere. Tatyana, get with Cody and Mal and see if you can figure out anything that might be helpful from those pictures."

"Dah!"

Kelly seemed lost in thought, "We could stage your death. I have a cousin that can get you a whole new identity. I jest don't know what we'd tell your mother."

"I would prefer not to worry my mother." Anastasia said.

"That's always the trick, not worrying mother." Rowyena sighed.

Elinor's eyes flashed, "Is there somethin' ye need to tell me?"

Hap sensed it was time to leave. "I believe we'll be going, and I apologize that we did not come to talk to you sooner." Hap said

Kelly shrugged, "I understand, and appreciate ye came without us havin' to find you. Come back in a few days, and hopefully I'll have an answer as to how we're going to solve yer 'little' problem."

Hap and Anastasia walked down the stairs hand in hand. "Feel better?" Hap asked.

"Maybe." Anastasia said. "It's been another day where we've gone from one emotional extreme to the other. I just want a nice quiet place for us to be together." She sighed. "I sort of found one."

"Sort of found one?" Hap asked.

Anastasia nodded, "While you were convalescing I was wandering around looking for a quiet place to read and found the door to the barrack's roof unlocked. Someone had made a rooftop garden up there. Most of what was planted was perennial flowers, and some herbs. The herbs box has become the plant equivalent to a Solaris VII arena, and it appears the mint is winning the competition. The flowers still look good though, particularly the roses.

Hap noticed Anastasia still had her picnic basket full of wine, cheeses and other exotic foods. "I'm guessing you'd like to have a rooftop picnic."

"Since I found this curious garden I've been thinking, 'if I had Hap with me, this would be perfect.'"

"Does anyone else know it?" Hap asked as he opened the door leading outside.

"Mags and Kate. Mag's is pretty good at keeping things to herself, and Kate appreciates the solitude and likes working on the various plants. It appears to be a hobby of hers. She tells me if she can rehabilitate enough of the basil, and get her tomatoes to grow, she'll make us all bruschetta." Anastasia replied.

"Sounds good for the future, but for tonight, the sun will be setting in soon. Are you planning a private moonlit picnic for us?"

Anastasia nodded excitedly, "yes a quiet, private, moonlit picnic just for us."

ThePW

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #152 on: 28 August 2020, 09:17:36 »
*claps*  :D

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #153 on: 13 September 2020, 16:12:21 »
Chapter 41

Anastasia showed Hap the barracks rooftop. Even though she had described it as a garden, he was surprised to find a comfortable area nestled between the barrack's HVAC infrastructure. Someone had installed an awning, setup planter boxes, and a large ceramic and iron "fire pit" bowl. They also left weather-beaten furniture under the awning and a pile of seasoned firewood.

Hap and Anastasia walked up to one of the planters that had a clear glass-like case on it. "When you said there were flowers up here, I wondered how it was possible in November." Hap examined the planter's case. The material was hard and clear like glass but Hap assumed it was a plastic. The roof was designed to drain water into the case, and there were vent holes for insects to move in and out of the cases.

"We were surprised to find the plants and the 'green house' boxes. Whoever had built this had invested some time and energy in the plants." Anastasia said as Hap looked around. He could see roses in one of the boxes, other boxes had thick bushes, or exotic the flowers. Some of the boxes had missing or damaged toppers. Those boxes had some plants that were still clinging to life, but it was evident the cold fall weather had ended the growing season for most of the exposed plants.

One of the boxes seemed to contain weeds. When Hap opened the box he got the strong scent of mint. He recognized the leaf from the packing of "mint flavored" food products. There were a few other plants among the mints, but the mint was the most prevalent.

"This is an amazing find." Hap said as he looked over the area. He picked a worn, and sun-bleached lounge chair and moved it to a good vantage point for the starport's lights when the sun went down.

"Some of what you're seeing is actually just the potential of this garden. Kate assured us, next spring all this should bloom beautifully." Anastasia dragged a lounger right next to Hap's chair. "Do you mind starting a fire? I'd like to go change into something more comfortable." Anastasia said.

Hap nodded. He wasn't going to argue with that. As Anastasia left he found a small stack of dry wood and a half used book of matches from a ration pack. He stacked up a few small pieces of wood in the fire bowl and dug in the picnic basket for paper wrappers and the receipt to use for kindling. He managed to start a fire with little effort.

Hap repositioned the loungers closer to the fire pit. It hadn't felt cold, but now that he had a fire he wanted to be near it. He laid out the contents of the picnic basket as he waited for Anastasia to return. Hap wasn't sure about everything that she had purchased, but it did look like a complete meal for two. In the bottom of the basket he found a knife, a corkscrew, a small cutting board, and wine glasses.

Hap had finished cutting the apple and pepper when Anastasia returned. She was wearing a simple loose-fitting off-white shirt and skirt. Hap noted most of Anastasia's clothes were fitted to her, but this particular outfit was not. She smiled as she sat down next to Hap and selected a bottle of wine.

"Sorry I took so long, I was reading my mother's letter." She said as she expertly removed the wine cork.

Hap watched her pour, and accepted a glass of wine, "What didn't the countess have to say?"

"She's struggling. The loss of daddy effects in her ways she wouldn't have guessed. She knows how to run a whole planet, but she still misses his advice and having her chief confidant. She made a comment about how his love and friendship added little to her day to day business, but it made everything she did valuable and worthwhile. I think that sums up half of her letter." Anastasia selected a piece of cheese

Hap sliced the cured sausage, "That's a pretty astute observation." Hap reflected on how his relationships probably kept him going and made life worthwhile. He glanced up at Anastasia.

Anastasia tasted her wine, "The rest of the letter was about us. She was immensely pleased that I was doing well, by which I think she meant that I had friends, and particularly you."

Hap sampled his wine. He didn't normally drink dry reds, but the combination of the food and wine did something to temper and enhance the flavors of both. "Before seeing your mother I would have assumed she was a stern noble woman that was strong and independent. I don't know why, but I figured your mother was someone who wouldn't have cared if her daughter was in a relationship."

"You can be strong, and still have someone in your life. I think that is my Mother's point. Her world is paler without my father. I think she is also concerned she might lose me as well." Anastasia said.

"Does she want you to come back to Hazelhurst?" Hap asked.

"She would prefer that, but you have to understand, our family hasn't produced a 'mech warrior in over a century. A noble family without a few AFFS services members every couple generations starts to lose prestige. Granted the Capetian family is known for producing some real beauties."

"I had noticed that." Hap said as he pulled Anastasia closer to him.

Anastasia leaned on Hap, "Mother had noticed her political capital on New Avalon seemed to increase once I went to war. She sees the utility in having me improve the status of our family name, but she made it clear that I am not a careerist. I will do my tour, perform my duty to the Federation as a mechwarrior, and then return to the people of Hazelhurst and prepare to do my duty as countess."

"She's not worried that we'll be charged with desertion and she'll be stripped of her title and land?"

"That would be unprecedented," Anastasia said flatly, "but she indicated a living daughter, charged with cowardice, desertion, or any other 'dishonorable' title is worth more to her than her title, and significantly more to her than a dead war hero, even if that made her a duchess. She stated plainly that I made the right choice in leaving Klathandu. I believe she told you that it was your chief responsibility to ensure I return to her safely."

"I didn't know it was my chief responsibility, but I wasn't planning not to ensure your safety."

"Good." Anastasia said as she refilled her wine glass, and topped off his. "Don't use double negatives when you're getting me drunk."

Hap started to spread chocolate on the strawberries and considered pointing out that she was pouring the wine instead he asked, "How's your Dad's business doing without him?"

"There was an offer to purchase it, and Mother asked my opinion. She doesn't feel comfortable selling it without my input, but Daddy's partners thought the offer was almost too good to be true. The purchaser wanted complete and exclusive rights to all patents, research, and proprietary technology. They also intended to move the company off of Hazelhurst, but promised that it wouldn't leave the Federation. Because we were doing research for NAIS their legal department had to go over the agreement."

"How do you feel about that? Do you think your mom is selling part of your Dad's legacy?" Hap asked as Anastasia scooped more chocolate spread onto a strawberry.

"No. Not exactly. I understand she doesn't want to run his business. While we don't need the money, Dad has two business partners, and they probably do. One was a consummate businessman, so he likely has a few bills to pay, and then he'll reinvest the rest. The other was like dad, a naturally curious gentleman that was always trying to figure out or improve the world around him. He wasn't very good with money though. I told mother to go ahead and sell our shares. Daddy's legacy and work is something I'll carry on, and he wouldn't want it tied to a business."

Anastasia got quiet and Hap could sense that she was probably being a little more cavalier about this decision than she really felt. They quietly drank their wine as the sun set and the street lights came on. Hap put another log on the fire and Anastasia put the remaining food in the picnic basket.

Hap opened the second bottle of wine and poured a generous glass full for each of them. He sat back down next to her and she pulled out his blanket and covered both of them. Anastasia sighed contentedly as she sipped her wine. The sun had fully set and now the city lights stretched before them like a glittering jewel.

Hap could feel the wine take effect. He was warm and a little dizzy. Anastasia was neatly nestled next to him. The fire cracked and hissed and Hap let his mind drift to other campfires in other places. The smell of pine as it burned reminded Hap of the hunting trips and camp outs from his youth.

"Let's finish this bottle of wine, and then we can take advantage of the privacy." Anastasia said.

Hap took a long drink, "You know that's what I thought your plans were when you said you were going to 'slip into something more comfortable' but then you when you came back I was confused."

"I slipped into something more comfortable." Anastasia said.

"Yeah, usually when a girl says that she comes back in lingerie. Are you wearing lingerie underneath these clothes?"

Anastasia shook her head. "I'm not wearing anything underneath my clothes."

Before Hap could respond the door to the stairs opened and they heard the voices of Hawkins and Kate.

"So the loadmaster or the techs will push out the drop pods?" Kate asked.

"Damn it" Anastasia hissed as Hap mumbled a few choice expletives under his breath.

"For most drop shuttles, including ours, we can control that from the command deck. Generally, if we're dropping mechs from orbit I like to keep the techs out of the bays. Not a lot of oxygen once you open the bays up in orbit." Hawkins said.

"Right, of course." Kate said. "So the 'mechs and mechwarriors are ready to drop, the pods are set, what do I do to ensure they actually hit the drop zone, and maintain some level of lance cohesion?"

"Well ideally, you would get into a geostationary orbit, but that requires you calculate the appropriate speed based on your height from the planet's surface and the planet's rotation. It works best when the lance is dropping on a planet's equator and it's completely uncontested space." Hawkins said.

"That seems rare." Kate replied thoughtfully. They hadn't noticed the fire so Hap assumed they were standing by the door talking.

"It's incredibly rare, so you try to do it like a bombing run, you have the navigator figure out the complicated maths of how far you're likely to throw the poor bastards, based on your speed, their mass, and the planet's atmosphere and gravity. It seems chaotic, but don't worry the drop pods are designed to get them on target, or at least alive and within a couple kilometers. The Navigator tells you when to drop the pods, but honestly I figure if the navigator was so smart, he'd be a pilot, so I usually do my calculations and do whatever my gut tells me. It all usually works out." Hawkins sounded nonchalant.

"Oh lord." Kate said, "You treat the mechwarriors like dumb bombs?"

"I've never hated the idea of drop pods so much in my life." Hap whispered.

"Kinda." Hawkins sounded a little apologetic, "Drops are chaotic, and don't get me wrong, I love those violent bastards and their death machines. You have to understand, the drop pods have a bunch of guidance and thrusters to generally keep them on target. Plus enough armor to get them to the ground in one piece. Also we only use drop pods on the Tir a nOg. For the Phaidin we drop off the lance, pull for atmosphere, and then come back for the ex-fill." Hawkins said. "It's not that I don't care about the mechwarriors I've just launched enough drop pods to know it works."

"Think I'd still rather be pulling escort." Kate replied.

"I'll let you be my escort." Hawkins shot back.

"I was talking about fighter escort." Kate said, "but play your cards right and we'll see."

They got quiet for a moment, then Hawkins said loudly, "Is there anyone up here?"

"Hap and Anastasia." Hap called out.

Hawkins and Kate walked over to the fire. "Mind if we join you?"

Anastasia sighed as Hap nodded and Kate pulled a chair close to the fire. She had a grocery bag and started taking out boxes of crackers, a bag of marshmallows and a few chocolate bars. "You know when McFinnigan referred to this company as a family I thought he was exaggerating the closeness, but I had three sisters and two brothers, and there was never privacy and no way to get away. If that is what he meant, then that's exactly how this company feels."

"I was an only child, but I certainly agree with that sentiment." Anastasia said.

"You have no idea." Hap added.

"Oh you get used to it." Hawkins said dismissively as he put a chair next to Kate. He reached into his field jacket's large pockets and pulled out a thermos and a coffee cup. "What are you guys doing?"

"A moonlit picnic." Anastasia said.

"We've been in the simulator trying to get Kate to the point where she can pass a check flight with Mitchellin and get certified on the leopard. We missed dinner, and the shoppette didn't really have much. We were going to roast frankfurters up here, but there were no buns, so we decided on s'mores."

Hap looked over at Anastasia, "We got some leftover 'picnic' and no good way to save it, maybe we could trade for some s'mores." Hap pushed the basket across the floor to Hawkins.

Hawkins nodded as he picked up the basket and tilted it to the light of the fire, He whistled low, "Smoked cheese, dry salami, and, sturgeon roe, is that caviar?"

Anastasia nodded, "It's not the best caviar, but it's still good."

"Honey, I'm a simple man, who was planning to roast frankfurters or bratwurst for dinner, and I can barely tell you the difference between those. I can't tell good from bad caviar." Hawkins said as he pulled out the caviar tin and used a cracker to scoop it out.

"We had wine, but we drank most of that." Hap said apologetically

"We have coffee, fortified with Kelly's own Irish cream, so we're good for drink." Hawkins said as he passed the basket to Kate. He started pouring coffee as Kate started pulling food from the basket.

Anastasia was annoyed, she had been planning a romantic and private evening with Hap for nearly a week, but she decided to be polite, "How does piloting a leopard compare to a Stuka, Kate?"

"Well it's a lot less maneuverable, and there is a crew to do things like gunnery and navigation. I prefer my Stuka, but I'd rather be working for Kelly than Gibson, so it all works out." Kate said.

"She's doing great, already I'd trust her as a co-pilot for most tasks that don't concern, take-off, landing, docking, or dropping the mechs."

"So all the parts that can be done by the auto-pilot?" Kate asked

"No…yeah, I guess those parts." Hawkins tried not to laugh as took a piece of salami.

Kate gave him a disapproving look, "Keep talking like that and you can escort yourself."

The four continued to banter as Kate and Hawkins ate. When they were done Kate found a few long sticks in the wood pile and passed out sticks and marshmallows. Anastasia started to feel the effects of the wine go from making her feel uninhibited, to making her sleepy.

Anastasia watched as Hap, Kate and Hawkins started to carefully roast their marshmallows, "What are s'mores?" Anastasia asked trying to figure out exactly what they were doing .

"You never had these as a kid?" Hawkins asked, "Someone mentioned you were nobility and grew up sheltered, but I never thought that would mean you wouldn't know about s'mores."

"Jacaob!" Kate said

"What? Am I wrong?" Hawkins answered.

"No. I was sheltered." Anastasia said quietly. "I didn't go camping or roast marshmallows."

"S'mores are the whole reason kids like me loved camping, at least until we were old enough to appreciate the aspects of hunting and fishing, and just getting away from everything." Hap said as he pulled his marshmallow off the fire, and blew its flame out. Hawkins passed him a couple thick brown crackers and a chocolate bar. Hap handed one of the crackers to Anastasia.

"So you break the cracker in half, put half the chocolate here." Hap explained as he built the s'more in Anastasia's hand. "Then the marshmallow goes on top of the chocolate, and you press the top cracker so that it squeezes hot marshmallow onto the chocolate and melts it a little. Try that."

Anastasia took a bite and hummed happily, "Oh this is good. Much better than I would have guessed."

They continued to talk and eat until they ran out of chocolate bars. The way Hap, Kate, and Hawkins talked it sounded to Anastasia like they had come from the same rural small town that just happened to be on three different planets. They exchanged similar stories of miserable failed hunting trips, cold days spent outside when the weather was "too bad" for schools to open but perfect for sledding or ice skating, and they had worked similar entry level jobs until they found a way to get to a military academy.

Anastasia understood the similarities in their childhoods gave them a small bond. She was struck by how unlikely it was that she would meet someone with a similar childhood. Even worse she tended to be annoyed or detest most of the nobles she met at the academy. She snuggled up to Hap and thought. Even though she didn't quite feel like part of the group, she didn't feel like an outcast either. Hap could do the talking, and she was content to not be noticed and retreat to her own thoughts. In some ways it was enough she had her own bound with Hap. Like Cody said, maybe all she needed was here now.

As they spoke Anastasia's mind drifted to the odd lancemates she found herself with on Klathandu. They simply referred to each other by last name. There was Shafer, she was the lance leader, and piloted a Phoenix Hawk. Schmit piloted a Commando and Fisher piloted a Vulcan. They claimed to be new lieutenants straight from Nagelring. Anastasia noted they seemed to actively avoid the other cadets from Nagelring, and they also seemed a little old for cadets or lieutenants. They also didn't seem to like Anastasia at all, and she was never part of their group. That was a time in her life, where no one seemed to like her so that wasn't noteworthy for Anastasia.

It wasn't a surprise to Anastasia when they found themselves confronted by the recon Hunter-Killer team that they left her for dead. She had seen that they had a drop shuttle waiting for them. She wondered where they were now, if they had been repatriated back into the LCAF, or if they had gone mercenary. Perhaps they had found some other option.

The evening wore on, and the fire died down. The friendly conversation died away and the late hour and alcohol made everyone drowsy. The pilots and mechwarriors put out the fire, and cleaned up the area, and wished each other a good night.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #154 on: 13 September 2020, 16:13:38 »
Chapter 42

November 3029
Monhegan

The next day Hap and David were cleared to return to pilot their 'mechs, and Tomax convinced Kelly that part of the reason they had failed to destroy the Immortals was due to lack of training discipline. This meant, in addition to the patrols, there were now small arms ranges, 'mech gunnery tables, training exercises, classes, and morning calisthenics.

The week went by in a blur. Between the calisthenics, training, gunnery, and patrols Hap was exhausted as they finished their last patrol of the week. As they passed the lake Anastasia made a special effort to spot the ComStar agents that were likely photographing her. They had modified the patrol times to try and throw off ComStar but the lake area was a popular spot for the locals, so there was no way to know if she was still being surveilled.

As the Coyotes got onto the main road the lance channel flashed and Hap turned to hear Joker, "Until this week being in a mercenary unit was pretty fun. But lately it's been like being back in a line unit."

"It's not that bad, we're in a training phase, but there isn't the dumb 'rock painting' discipline nonsense." Hap said.

"Yeah? What do we have after our patrol?" Joker asked

"'Mech stables, and then the afternoon is marked no training." Anastasia replied

"See? Dust off your 'mech, do a little routine maintenance, then touch up the paint, and you're done for the day." Hap said.

"Tomax is a hard ass, but he knows better than to make us do dumb shit." Mags said, "My dad always told me you see a 'mech that is well maintained, and well painted, you knew you were dealing with a professional. Only amateurs or desperate fools go to war without maintaining their equipment."

"Yeah. I get that, but morning calisthenics, and other shit that doesn't have to do with piloting my 'Mech, it feels like bullshit."

"The training and drills make me feel like a badass." Mags said.

"What would you be doing if you weren't drilling? Do you even have weekend plans?" Hap said.

"Mags and I were going to go to Charley's, we'll see where things go from there." Joker replied

They were now back at the starport. Anastasia called in the completion of their patrol to Ops and they moved into the Mech bay. As Mike helped Hap open the cockpit he said, "You and the Professor have been ordered to report to the commander."

"You know why?" Hap asked

"No one tells me shit, but as near as I can tell you haven't screwed anything up lately, so you're probably not in trouble." Mike said. "Maybe it's something one of the other dumbass 'mech-jocks did."

"Thanks Mike." Hap said as he pulled himself out of his cockpit and onto the gantry. He could see Anastasia talking to Maja and Taja. He could see the female techs shaking their heads as Anastasia had a similar conversation with her techs.

Hap met Anastasia on the floor of the 'mech bay. "Do you know why the commander is looking for us?"

"Perhaps he has figured out how to solve our problem with ComStar." Anastasia said.

Hap nodded, but didn't have anything to add as they walked to the command building and climbed to the top floor. When they arrived they found Elinor. She gave them a bemused look before smiling and saying over her shoulder, "Yer AFFS liaisons are here, love.

Kelly walked out of his office and looked over Anastasia and Hap like he had never seen them before. "Well I'd expect them to be in uniform, and to look a little sharper and more militant."

Hap and Anastasia exchanged confused looks as Fletch walked out of his office, "I gotta say boss, we've never had offers like this. Being an allied mercenary with the Fed Suns has come with some of the most lucrative contracts I've ever seen. There is one here for a raid on Capricorn that's three times the-"

Kelly cleared his throat and nodded toward Hap and Anastasia, "The liaisons finally reported in."

Fletch looked at Hap and Anastasia for a moment, "And they're out of uniform too."

"Aye, let's help the Hauptmann and Lieutenant-"

"Captain and Subaltern" Fletch quickly interjected.

"Aye, that's right yer AFFS officers. Captain and Subaltern get in the proper uniform."

"Sir, what's going on?" Hap asked.

Roweyna was standing at her office door, "Yer Mother's lawyer worked some damn miracles. Yer both now assigned as military liaisons to the McFinnigan's and Sons, and our company was given favored mercenary company status. You've both received battlefield promotions. Additionally, Ms. Vallois NAIS has considered you to have met the requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering with minors in political science and military science. I, of course, have some paperwork for you to sign."

"But first, those uniforms." Kelly reached into his pocket and pulled out two epaulettes. One was white, and the other was red with a white trim. There was a flap underneath Hap's name tag that was made for rank epaulettes. Had and Anastasia had removed their ranks when they thought they had become mercenaries. Kelly unhooked the flap and slid the red and white epaulette onto it and re-hooked it, then gave Hap a solid punch on his epaulette. "Wear it proudly and lead well, lad."

Kelly shook Hap's hand and pressed something into it. When Kelly released his hand Hap looked down to find a black triangle with a blue "V" bordering two sides. Hap looked at Kelly quizzically.

"That was Richard's Hauptmann rank. He didn't wear it long enough before he chose to follow his fool father. Pin it under a pocket flap, and do me proud." He winked at Hap, "Yer always part of the family, lad."

As Kelly started to put the white epaulette on Anastasia's vest Fletch approached Hap. He punched the rank just like Kelly, and then shook Hap's hand. "I'm glad this worked out this way. I know it means you'll be leaving us in a year, but you have a lot of potential and it was a shame to steal you away from AFFS."

"Thank you, Sir."

"Yeah, well now you need to start shaving, and get a haircut." Fletch snapped, but his voice softened as he said, "You're a pretty good tactical leader, but you're moving into the big leagues now, and you need to think operationally. Before you return to the regular forces, we'll drink a couple beers and I'll explain to you how everything in the military all comes down to risk mitigation or risk avoidance. Once you understand that, you'll be ahead of your peers."

Before Hap could reply Fletch stepped over to Anastasia. He hit her epaulette with just as much force as he had hit Hap's and nearly knocked her over. "Congratulations. This is also well earned. I saw your orders, once you're done with us you're assigned to the NAIS library and research division, which I assume is a code name for Team Banzia."

"No, that's the special advanced weapon research division. For Team Banzai one must request to join, endure Dr. Banzai's completely random entrance exam, and then the other team members vote you in or out. My experiences with the Team was that I wasn't eccentric enough for them." Anastasia said.

Fetch looked perplexed, "So a gorgeous socially challenged super genius daughter of a noble that can quote doctrine and explain advanced weapons isn't 'quirky enough' for team Banzai."

"That is correct, sir." Anastasia said.

"I'll never understand Prince Davion." Fletch mumbled as he walked back to his office.

Hap looked up and saw Elinor looking at him. She looked like a proud mother, "I remember when Kelly, Richard, and Patrick were made Hauptmans, those were proud moments for us. Congratulations to you." Without

"Thank you Ma'am." Hap turned to Kelly, "Sir, are we still leading the Coyote lance?"

Kelly nodded, "Yes, nothing really changes at least for the time being. You two can go tell yer mates-."

"Wait, I need your signatures." Roweyna said as she grabbed them both, and pulled into her office.

Rowyena's office was, to Hap's surprise, a chaotic mess of books, piles of papers, several stacks of holo recording disks, a noteputer on one large stack of folders, and a computer with multiple sticky-notes on the monitor in the corner. She pulled a stack of papers and a pair of pens from the disorder, and started to explain what they were signing and where they needed to sign. She had a small table in her office, but had to move the tea service and rearrange more stacks of things to clear enough space.

They left Roweyna's office, and were passing through Elinor's area when Tomax appeared suddenly at the door to the stairs. "I hear we got us a new LT." Tomax smiled madly, "and I got some LT work."

"Actually I'm a Subaltern." Anastasia said, "but what can I do for you?"

"Well as you know, I've been trying to bring some discipline back to company, and as I recall, from my glorious days as Sergeant Major in LCAF, that one of the best training exercises for a new LT was conducting a range."

"I assume we're talking about a small arms range. Lasers or Slug Throwers?" Anastasia said.

"Slug throwers, I prefer the smell of gunpowder in the morning." Tomax said.

"Is there a budget?" Anastasia asked.

"Why would there be a budget?" Tomax snapped.

"First, for catering lunch." Anastasia spoke in a polite, almost placating, tone.

"Damn, spoiled officers. No. Everyone eatin' rations. Not duck livers on silver plates." Yorik growled.

"Second, we're making mercenaries do something they might not want to do, so offering prizes, cash prizes, might incentivize them to compete, and actually get the most out of a range." Anastasia said.

Yorik looked over at Kelly.

Kelly shrugged, "Let everyone know they'll be prizes for the top three marksmen."

"Very good. Next question, I know not everyone uses the same side arms or weapons, so are we-"

"Train as we fight, Professor, they should use their preferred side arm. Figure it out." Tomax said.

"Noted. Have you done a multi-caliber small arms range before? Do you have any of the documents-"

Yorik realized Anastasia was intentionally pestering him, "Damn it Lieutenant, you and the Hauptmann-"

"Subaltern and Captain." Anastasia corrected

"Get the hell out of my office." Yorik yelled.

The children in the corner looked at Yorik in shock and one of them started crying. Elinor's eyes flashed and she straightened her back and appeared much taller, "Mr. Yorik, this is my office, and you'll keep a civil tongue and not shout when you're here."

"The two of you just figure out." Yorik grumbled as he disappeared as suddenly as he appeared.

Hap could see Anastasia's subtle smug smile as they walked back to the barracks.

When they passed the day room Joker called out to them, "Hey what did the old man want? Are you two in trouble?" Joker asked. Before Hap could answer Joker noticed the epaulettes on their cooling vests. "Why are you guys wearing those? You're not officers any more, and Harold you were never a captain."

"Apparently we still are. That is what Commander Kelly wanted to tell us. Also Anastasia and I each received a battlefield promotion." Hap said.

"McFinnigan and sons had also been granted favored mercenary status by the Federated Suns, and we were made the AFFS liaisons for the company." Anastasia added.

Joker looked at each of them for a confused moment, "What about me?"

"What about you?" Anastasia answered. There was a pregnant pause, then Anastasia continued, "Since the time we found ourselves in the employment of Commander McFinnigan you have stated how much you 'love being a mercenary'. When I spoke to my mother I intentionally did not mention you."

"Oh." Joker said, "For a second I thought you had forgotten about me."

"Although it may seem like inaction, I thought this is what you wanted. You're now a mercenary, you can even claim that you stole a 'mech from AFFS or Hanse Davion himself, if you prefer."

As Anastasia spoke Hap looked at Joker. He was never an 'ideal' corporal, but Joker was generally a solid performer. At that moment he was sitting on a coach in a T-shirt and sports shorts. It was midafternoon and he had an open beer in one hand and his other hand was casually half-down Mags' shirt. He might never have been a professional soldier, but in the last few months he had certainly taken to his new profession of mercenary. Mags seemed to grow more concerned as Anastasia spoke.

"Yeah." Joker laughed, "I love this life, and hell yeah I stole a 'mech from the first prince himself. I'm a f'n badass mercenary."

Joker kissed Mags on the cheek. Mags looked concerned, and seemed to ignore the kiss.

"You okay Mags?" Hap asked.

"You're just a liaison, not part of the company? Does this mean you're not my lance leader." Mags said.

Hap sensed there was something more to this question, "I'm still your lance leader, till further notice."

She nodded, "okay".

Hap waited to see if she had any more questions. When she didn't say anything he gestured down the hall, "We're going to get cleaned up. We'll talk more about this later."

As they walked Hap quietly asked Anastasia, "Did you intentionally not ask your Mom to help Joker?"

"I intentionally don't talk about Joker if I can help it. However, if I had thought about it, I would have tried to get him the same deal we received." Anastasia said apologetically, "I was embarrassed I had failed to help him, or at least not given him the choice. I felt the need to justify myself, please don't tell him."

"I won't. Joker will be fine, you probably did do him a favor." Hap said. "He fits right in here, almost a little too well."
« Last Edit: 14 September 2020, 16:44:56 by HFC05 »

Elmoth

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #155 on: 13 September 2020, 19:02:29 »
Poor mags.
And now I know that they are never going to be laid down. Running joke in the story. Next time they try a C* assassin will try to jump them.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #156 on: 14 September 2020, 16:33:19 »
Poor mags.
And now I know that they are never going to be laid down. Running joke in the story. Next time they try a C* assassin will try to jump them.

Don't worry about Mags, she might be concerned about losing her new favorite lance leader, but if worse comes to worse Anastasia knows a Countess that could always use a little more muscle on her Personal Security Detachment.

As for Anastasia and Hap, never say never...

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #157 on: 26 September 2020, 18:37:29 »
Chapter 43
Necromo System
November 3029

"Alright, gents, gather round. I need to walk you through the Op." Patrick said. He was standing in front of the view screen in the lounge of the Phaidin the McFinnigan and Son's Leopard class dropship. Hap, Grizzly, and David were sitting on the semi-circle couch as Patrick started his brief.

"This should be a simple raid. For reasons not included in the intel report, this moon has some extreme long range radar, telescopes and a radio telescope." As he spoke the screen showed the image of a gray colored crater scared planet. Patrick stepped back and pointed to the gray planet that was taking up much of the starboard window. "That moon, is right there"

Patrick stepped back to the screen, "Our mission is to destroy a long range surveillance system and radar site. Also, because it's AFFS, the contract specified we should not destroy any habitation or life support systems on the site unless it's absolutely necessary. But, I'd note, there was no bonus, or incentive to not destroy or compromise the life support. It was just a request. AFFS liaison, you got anything to add."

Everyone looked to Hap, as the AFFS liaison, he knew this came with the job, "No reason to waste ammo, or build up extra heat."

"That's fair. Missiles cost money, Kelly warned me if I was sloppy with my missiles I'd have to pay for my own reloads." David said.

"Never had Kelly talk to me about that." Grizzly said eyeing David suspiciously.

"Uncle Kelly is always finding something to complain about. If it's not reloads, it's my drinkin' or Roweyena's need to settle down, find a man, and start making him grandchildren." As he spoke Patrick rubbed his chin and looked at the bottles of alcohol on the shelf behind the bar.

"Or clean her office?" Hap asked

"Aye? No. That's more Auntie Ellie, of course, so is the grandchildren. Back to the brief, the AFFS liaison recommends we save lives by following our contract and save money. To me that sounds pretty hollow coming from the great house that prides itself as being the shining light of human rights and dignity."

"If you want a speech on the sanctity of life, and how AFFS believes in human freedoms, I could probably give you one, but if that's what you want, you should ask your other AFFS liaison." Hap offered.

"Ask the professor for a lecture? No thanks, mate." Patrick laughed, "I'm happy with the client asking us to think about saving lives and saving money. Let's look at the actual target."

The screen changed to show a large parabolic "satellite dish" antenna, a few dome shaped shelters for radars or telescopes, and a field filled with directional antennas. "This, according to the intel, is a very capable extreme long range early warning radar system, with high fidelity radio and light telescopes, and a few other electronic collection systems. That radar tracks everything that comes through the jump point, and the radio telescope can damn near see New Avalon from here."

"So is this an early warning system or intelligence collecting post?" Hap asked

"The report didn't say." Patrick shrugged, "It just states, 'Necromo is a traditional logistics hub between Capella and the St. Ives Commonalities.' Tatayana thinks this operation is likely a feint. We destroy a big expensive radar or collection site on the boarder of Federated Sun and Capellan space. The Capellan's will likely think it's a precursor to an invasion, and the Suns will likely invade somewhere else. This site thing probably annoys Prince Davion or some General so they're killing two birds with one stone."

"Is it valuable enough for a Garrison or are we just looking at automated defense turrets?" Grizzly asked.

"Both." Patrick answered, "We have defense turrets here and here." Patrick pointed to two squat buildings with turrets bristling with laser cannons. He changed images and there was an overhead photo of the site. Patrick pointed out three more turrets. "A total of five turrets in a star pattern around the site."

The screen changed to show another overhead photo, "This is the garrison, it's a mixed unit of tanks and a pair of LCT-1V Locusts. The image is a little blurry but this appears to be an LRM carrier, and this one is an SRM carrier. Each can put up a nasty amount of missiles, but they don't take abuse-"

"So abuse them on sight." Grizzly interrupted.

"Aye. This brings us to the last two tanks." Patrick pointed to a tracked vehicle with three long narrow barrels, "This is a Pike tank. Relatively new invention by the Magistracy of Canopus, if yer not familiar It has three AC2s and 9 tons of armor. It can harass us just outside the effective range of our weapons. Normally I'd say nothin', but this is a lunar atmosphere a simple blow to your cockpit could be lethal."

"So abuse it on site too." Grizzly said

"Tell ye what, mate. Everyone, save ye, is packing long range arms. We'll make sure to take down the missile tanks, while ye run yer Wolverine at the tank formation and stomp on them." Patrick said

"That was my plan." Grizzly laughed.

"What's that last tank?" Hap asked

"Can't tell from the image." Patrick said, "It's big, and it looks like someone welded a turret on top of some other tank. Kelly thought it might be a custom job based on a Vedette. It looks like it has two LRM racks on the lower body and an energy weapon or autocannon on the turret."

"It's much bigger than the other tanks, though, and its shadows are weird." David said.

"Maybe it's in a defilade." Hap said thoughtfully, "Also there's no tank tracks behind it, maybe it hovers or maybe it's permanently parked there."

"Maybe it's a star league era tank." David offered, "And it's too heavy to move off the planet."

"Now you sound like Rolf with one of his crazy 'glow lamp' stories that he heard from some tech that works for pirates in the deep periphery." Grizzly said.

"The last time we mis-identified a vehicle it ended badly for me. Are we sure there aren't any more pictures?" Hap asked, "Usually a long range recon probe will do multiple passes."

Patrick shook his head, "The probe was supposed to circle back around but it was destroyed. That brings us to another item in the intel report. There is an aerofighter wing based on another moon. They'll scramble once we're detected, and the report says we'll have three to six hours before they reach us."

"How easily can the enemy detect us?" David asked.

"Right now we're part of the normal system traffic headed to Necromo proper, but once we pass the moon we're going to turn hard and try to approach the site from the rear. We likely won't be detected till we start taking shots at the compound." Patrick said.

Patrick changed the image to a three dimensional map around the radar site. "Here's the plan. The shuttle does two false insertions before it drops us off here." He pointed to the base of a ridgeline located behind the red hex marking the target compound. "Then it will do a few more false insertions and move to this DZ." The blue leopard moved to the left and landed away from the target.

"We'll climb the ridge and destroy the compound from behind. If we haven't been detected by then we should certainly consider ourselves on the clock. From there we haul ass to the LZ. If we run into the garrison, we destroy them, but the contract only pays for destroying the compound." As he spoke four blue triangles climbed the hill, blasted the compound's red hex, ran through it and moved to the DZ."

Patrick paused for a moment, "If ye have no questions we need to get into our 'mechs. We're about ten minutes from the hard turn, and then it's full thrust until we're planet side."

The four men quietly left the lounge and proceeded to the 'mech bay. As Hap walked up to his mech he looked up to see the familiar black paint pattern with the McFinnigan Tartan. On the chest was the Federated Suns' Sword and Sword above the McFinnigan and Sons Celtic knot. Hap paused to look at the Sun and Sword. He had never thought himself a great patriot, but seeing the symbol of his country on his 'mech again made him feel good.

As Hap walked to the ladder he glanced over at David's Valkyrie, his mech was painted identical to Anastasia's mech. There was enough variety in the camo-spec guide to avoid this even on the same 'mech. "David, your Valkyrie looks just like Anastasia's."

"Yeah, I like her style, also Patrick told Grizzly and me that we needed to have the Fed Suns emblem on our 'Mechs for this job. I saw how she painted her 'Mech after you two became our liaisons. I just thought I'd copy her." David started to climb the ladder leading to the gantry.

Hap pulled himself up his ladder. He shook his head trying to ignore David's "innocent" obsession with Anastasia. Hap figured it was harmless. On the gantry he found Mike. His usual coveralls were replaced with a light environmental suit, with a survival respirator around his neck. "So you're taking that toy into combat?" Mike said without looking up from his clipboard.

Hap was confused for a moment, he glanced into his cockpit and saw the stuffed Coyote. "Yeah, Sophie gave that to me when I was recovering in the hospital. Thought I'd keep it there as a good luck charm."

Mike looked up, "Sophie? Tatyana and Fletch's little girl? They all visited you in the hospital? I was going to visit you, but I had two weeks of work ahead of me to fix the mech you damn near destroyed."

"That's what I figured." Hap replied as he climbed into his command couch. He almost thanked Mike, but remembered that usually ended in an insult. Hap moved the Coyote to the side of the cockpit away from the HUD. "You missed Sophie trying to teach me to howl. I couldn't do it to her satisfaction, but it was pretty cute watching her get more and more frustrated with me."

"Yeah she's going to be a real heart breaker when she grows up." Mike said absent-mindedly, "Glad you taught her early that Mechwarriors are a difficult and frustrating bunch when it comes to teaching them anything." He lowered his clipboard so he could see an indicator light on Hap's panel.

"I wonder what's Russian for, 'little coyote.'" Hap said ignoring Mike's grumbling.

"Couldn't say. I'm from the Suns like you. I only speak English." Mike started to lower the canopy.

"Mike I never thought to ask. I just-"

"By the way, the Sun and Sword look good on the Griffin." Mike said as the cockpit sealed.

Mike secured the combat locks. Looked over the Griffin one more time, and then quickly retreated down the ladder and out of the bay. Hap knew the techs had to clear of the 'mech bay before they landed and opened the doors to the empty lunar atmosphere. Hap saw the lights flashed in the 'mech bay and heard Kate's voice on the Leopard's 1MC and in his neurohelmet, "Prepare for hard turn in 30 seconds."

Hap felt himself pushed to the side of the command couch as the ship turned, the ship righted itself and everything felt normal. "Turn complete, drop in 30 minutes." Kate informed the ship.

Hap settled into his command couch. He reminded himself combat was like this, waiting, trying not to think about the worst that could happen. Tuna once told him the gods of war made it so that before you could fight for thirty seconds you'd spend three hours waiting. In Hap's experience that seemed right.

He looked at his knee board, Patrick had given them printouts with a topo map and a few other pieces of key information, frequencies, time hacks, there was even some Gaelic proverb at the bottom. The topo map had the target area, drop zone and landing zone marked. Hap tried to decipher the Gaelic proverb, but he couldn't read it. Knowing Patrick it was probably some blessing about stacking skulls and drinking ale. Hap adjusted his NAV computer to look like the kneeboard map.

Hap checked his watch and referred to the knee board's time hack. He still had another 25 minutes. He glanced over to see David nervously adjusting systems on his 'mech. Hap wondered what Anastasia would be doing. Probably read a book Hap figured. This was the first time they'd been apart in months. He wondered how she was doing. When they left she was becoming increasingly paranoid about ComStar trying to kill her. Hap was now convinced it was a real threat, but he didn't know how to help her. Kelly couldn't think of anything either, he just assured them that once the current contract ended and they started moving around again things would be better.

Hap reminded himself that he was glad to have a break from Anastasia. He was annoyed with her insistence that they not make love until they had a private space where no one could interrupt them. His annoyance was growing too. He caught himself getting angry about things that he had originally found cute. He was especially irritated that every couple nights she would want insist she sleep with him. He knew this had much to do with fears, and being held reassured her.

He explained how if they were just having sex she could sleep there every night, but she wanted her first time to be special, and private, and even implied she might want to wait for marriage. This almost led to a fight, and Hap considered giving her an ultimatum, but he also knew this was how things started to go bad during his first marriage. It was probably for the best that he got picked for this mission, and they have this break.

Hap sighed. On the other hand he wished she had come with them. The operation hadn't even started and he regretted that he wouldn't have her calm quiet voice in his ear. He also missed holding her, and scent of hair. He reassured himself that he and Anastasia were going to make this relationship work.

The bay lights flashed again, "We're entering the atmosphere now. Drop in ten." Kate said there was a shake and the shift in the reaction gravity as the thrusters altered their direction and they entered the moon's gravity. It took a moment before the leopard righted itself and started toward the planet's surface.

"Hap, mate, Ye ready?" Patrick's voice brought Hap out of his musings.

"Think so." Hap answered glancing around making sure he was ready.

"Good, good. Listen I picked ye for this mission for a couple reasons. First, we have to bring at least one of our liaisons for each combat op. Ye don't have to be in a 'mech, but it's a waste not to bring the Griffin's fire power. Also I wanted some range for this mission, so I traded ye for Volchitsa's Kintaro. Finally, Uncle Kelly thought it good to get ye back in the saddle for a combat op. Same went for David."

"I wondered why you didn't take Anastasia with her advanced Valkyrie." Dave said.

"David, if yer going to spend a week or more with a few people ye make sure it's people ye like and can drink with. Miss Vallois tends to annoy me. She's fine to look at, and generally quiet, but-"

"She opens her mouth and won't shut-up." Grizzly interrupted.

"Aye. That mouth." Patrick agreed.

"Don't get me wrong" Grizzly said, "I like her, but her lectures are almost as bad as Rolf's weird stories."

"When I talk to Anastasia I feel smarter, and Rolf gives me a lot to think about." David said. "Hap what do you think?"

Before Hap could answer Patrick said, "David, ye have to understand, Hap's opinion is a little tainted, ye can put up with a hell of a lot from woman as long as yer making love 'd be surprised how all the little things she does that annoy a man become damn near delightful."

"Yeah David, Patrick's right." Hap said. Hap realized this was the most he had ever really heard Patrick talk. Usually Patrick spent most of his time drunk and sitting in the corner making snide comments. He stopped drinking sometime yesterday afternoon, sobered up and finalized the mission planning. To Hap's surprise sober Patrick was pleasant, a good briefer, and his plan was tactically sound. Hap wasn't exactly sure about his advice on love, although he knew Patrick wasn't wrong either.

"I feel I should defend Anastasia here." Hap said, "She knows she can be socially awkward. But, if she's talking, it means she feels comfortable enough to give her opinion and values you enough to share it with you. "

"Aye that's fair." Patrick said, "We're mercenaries. We're all a little strange, and I'm glad yer all part of the family. Just know I prefer to be around some members more than others."

"Changing topics." Hap said, "What's the Gaelic verse at the bottom of our mission handout?"

"It's from an ancient poem. 'I have no strategy; I make unshadowed by thought my strategy.' I was reading it the other day and thought that's you, not thinkin' jest achieving victory. Thought it'd be somethin' good for us to carry into combat today."

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #158 on: 26 September 2020, 18:38:58 »
Chapter 44

The lights in the Mech bay turned red. If there were any techs still in the bay this was their final warning. They were now on final approach to the moon's surface and in about 30 seconds the doors would open.

Hap was pressed down into the command couch as the thrusters fired to slow the descent of the dropship. The doors started to open and a few small items went flying as the bay depressurized. Hap could now see the gray lifeless surface of the moon. The Leopard was moving swiftly close to the ground.

"I'm going to do two false insertions." Kate said. "We'll be down for a second then up again, twice. Before the third insertion I'll release the locks on your 'mechs."

"And we un-ass the Leopard." Grizzly said.

The Leopard dropped and hit the ground kicking up a huge dust cloud. Hap fought his nerves as the Leopard paused for a moment then lifted off. The Leopard pulled out of the dust cloud and before Hap knew it they were descending again. Another moment on the ground and it was above the cloud it created. Half a minute later they headed down for the actual insertion.

"There's going to be a lot of dust as we dismount, take three steps and turn to heading mark 345. After a few hundred meters you should find yourself going uphill. Stay close together." Patrick said.

"Standby Mechwarriors." Kate told them over the ship's intercom. The clamps and systems securing his 'mech were released, and Hap had to immediately steady his mech.

Hap felt the drop shuttle drop, and his stomach churned. Without warning the shuttle stopped, and dust flew up blocking the view of the moonscape. Patrick yelled, "Go. Go. Go."

Hap got his 'mech jogging and after a few steps wheeled his 'mech around to face mark 345. The Leopard took off and he could feel the engines nearly blow him over as it passed low overhead. The fine dust cleared for a moment and Hap caught a glimpse of his lance mates.

The shuttle kicked up more dust as it sped low over the ground trying to stay below any radar. Hap ignored the gray outside his cockpit and used his NAV computer to guide the 'mech. He could see the three Mechwarriors moving closer together and followed their lead. He still couldn't see anything, but this was common for lunar landings. After a few minutes the dust died down and the four mercenaries found themselves at the bottom of a large ridgeline in a colorless world of gray hills and black starry sky.

Patrick led the way climbing the hill. The incline was easy for the 'mechs to navigate, but Hap had to fight the urge to use his jump jets. Patrick's Dragon lacked jump jets and Hap knew it was important to maintain lance integrity and mass firepower. Patrick crested the hill first and stopped. He used his 'mech's arm to motion to the other Mechwarriors to form up beside him.

The compound spread out in the valley. Everything about it seemed quiet and peaceful. The turrets were pointed away from them. "I don't think we've been detected yet." Patrick said. "Let's start with the turrets and then get to the business of disassembling the radar and telescopes."

Hap lined up his cross hairs on the tower just below them. He squeezed the PPC's trigger and watched as the stream of ions arced toward the turret. It was probably the distance, but in the moon's thin atmosphere it seemed to take longer for the particles to hit the turret. Hap sent a brace of missiles to follow the ion beam. Patrick fired his Dragon's PPC and missiles. Before the last missile connected the turret exploded.

Several lights flashed throughout the compound and the turrets began to swivel around. "Well gents, we're now on the clock. Grizzly, you and Hap go left and work your way around. David you're with me." Patrick started to move his 'mech down the hill and began engaging the next turret.

Grizzly used his jump jets to send his Wolverine sailing into the sky and shot his AC5 at the turret on the left. Hap remembered the lack of an atmosphere would make heat cling to a 'mech. He half jogged, half slid down the hill. When his targeting computer indicated the turret was in range he launched an azure beam of charged particles and missiles at the target. Grizzly landed hard and kicked up more dust as he shot his autocannon and short range missiles at the turret. Smoke and sparks came out of the turret for a moment as it traversed to face the Wolverine. There was a flash as autocannons and lasers shot out but only two of the lasers found their mark, and melted a little of the Wolverine's leg and chest armor.

"Oh God." David said. Hap glanced over to see another turret fire a barrage of lasers at the Valkyrie. From Hap's vantage it looked like most of the shots missed the smaller 'mech.

"David, stay calm, and keep moving. Automated turrets are notorious bad shots. Jump around a little and I assure you they won't be able to hit you." Patrick ran his 'mech into the antenna field and trampled the directional antenna array. Hap saw what Patrick was doing and used his 'mech's large hand to swipe the antennas off the building next to him.

"Boys, I've seen the garrison, they're patrolling two or three klicks east of the compound." Kate reported

"Did they see you?" Patrick asked

"Probably. I was trying to stay low to avoid the radar, but I was kicking up a lot of dust."

"We noticed." Grizzly snarled as his Wolverine's medium laser finished off the turret.

"Also, in case you're wondering, there is a lot of military comms chatter. I think they're requesting that aerofighter support." Kate added.

"Aye. Any word on what their 'time on target' is going to be?" Patrick asked as he shot at the turret trying to engage David.

"No. We can only decode some of it, but I wouldn't lollygag on the objective."

"What does lollygag mean?" David asked.

"It means move your ass." Grizzly said as he ran toward one of the remaining turrets. The turret launched a barrage of lasers at the Wolverine, but, like the other turret, most of the shots failed to hit. Grizzly fired all his weapons creating a hole that smoked and sparked until the air was exhausted.

"Jest keep to the task at hand, gents." Patrick said as his missiles destroyed the fourth turret.

Hap aimed for the hole Grizzly had created in the last turret. He sent a beam of energy and missiles into the breach and the final turret exploded. Hap took in a deep breath and tried to steady his nerves. He glanced down at his scanners. There were no other targets.

"Turrets are down." Patrick said. "Grizzly, David destroy those telescope or radar shelters, and whatever they're protecting. Hap help me with the main parabolic dish." Patrick stomped on more of the directional antennas before moving his 'mech across the compound, "Miss Berlin, have ye seen or heard anything on your sensors?"

"Negative Mr. McFinnigan." Kate said imitating his tone, "but I'm also parked in a crater, so long range sensors aren't as capable as…Oh! I got something. Looks like one of the garrison's Locusts."

"Alright, lads sounds like the garrison is either trying to cut us off or destroy our bird." Patrick said.

"Well in a second they're going to have to do it with one less 'mech." Kate replied.

Hap moved his Griffin next to Patrick's Dragon and aimed for the feed horn on the dish. He watched the beam strike the strut holding the focusing antenna. The lightning like ion beam danced around the strut and dish as missiles impacted the dish making pot marks and blowing out sections. As Hap waited for his PPC to recharge and the missiles to reload, he watched Patrick's Dragon destroy the motor to turn the dish and his missiles blew more holes in the dish. It tipped to one side and swayed with no resistance.

"Aye, it's a careful art to destroy somethin' jest enough to make it more difficult to tear down, than to just replace it, but impossible to fix. Now they'll have to figure out the logistics of all that." Patrick said.

Hap surveyed the damage around them. The turrets were broken, and a few stray sparks and electricity arced from the holes blow in them. Anything resembling an antenna or telescope was broken and laying on ground. Hap noted there would normally be fire and smoke but the lack of atmosphere prevented it.

"I've flattened what I think was a radio telescope." Grizzly reported.

"Same. Well I don't know what it was, but I'm sure it's destroyed." David said

"I've destroyed one curious Locust." Kate added

"Not part of the contract, but appreciated." Patrick replied.

"Just wanted to let you know I did my part. I'm more than just a pretty face that pilots your drop ship."

"Drop ship pilot is more than a pretty face. I'll note that in my report." Hap said. He noticed there was a large tower with several more antennas. He assumed they were for short range ground base radios but on principle he shot it with his PPC. Patrick followed up with his PPC and the antenna fell over.

"Looks like we're done. Form up in a V and move out. Hap take the left tip, Grizzly on the right. Fan out a hundred meters. David stay close to me." Patrick said. "How are we doing for ammo?"

"I've got fifteen AC rounds, and eleven missile reloads." Grizzly said.

"I've got missiles for days." Hap checked his systems. He was sharing his information with Patrick, "twenty reloads." Hap wondered if Patrick was trying to make sure the lance knew everyone's status.

"I'm down to six reloads for my LRM." David reported.

"Aye. Stay close to me and make them count." Patrick said.

The LZ was several kilometers away and even at full speed it was going to be a few minutes. Hap carefully watched the scanner. He didn't want to walk into an ambush. After a minute there was a red marker on Hap's scanner, designated 20 ton mech.

When the system confirmed LCT-1V Locust and the weapons lock engaged Hap launched his missiles. He brought the cross hairs up on the PPC and waited for the missiles to hit. He saw the Locust pilot slow, try to dodge as most of the missiles struck across the legs and chest of the 'mech. Hap squeezed the trigger of his PPC and the azure beam struck the 'mech's leg, melting through armor and endoskeleton. The 'mech toppled forward as its leg buckled.

Grizzly jogged his Wolverine toward the fallen Locust and started putting missiles, autocannon shells and lasers into the prone 'mech. Hap thought he saw the stars on the horizon twinkle. The dust in front of his 'mech kicked up and then Hap's systems registered light damage to the chest and arm. "I think I just got engaged by the Pike." Hap glanced down, and then searched the horizon, "but it's outside of sensor range." As he spoke there were several dozen small explosions on a distant ridgeline. "Oh, damn I have a visual on the LRM carrier."

"Run for cover" Patrick yelled, "heading 280. Use that ridge line for cover."

Hap triggered his jump jets hoping to make his 'mech more difficult for the missiles to hit. The wave of missiles passed him as he soared into the sky. For a moment he caught a glimpse of the tanks on the ridgeline. The mystery tank shot its PPC and launched missiles from both tubes below its turret. The missiles caused shadows that made it appear like the large tank was on gigantic treads.

Hap hit the ground as the PPC passed harmlessly overhead, but a few of the missiles struck his 'mech causing dents and cracks across his armor. Patrick cursed as his 'mech shook under the barrage of missiles from the LRM carrier. Hap turned his 'mech's torso to see Dragon's pit marked and damaged armor. Patrick staggered next to the other three 'mechs hiding in the shadow of a ridge.

"Give me a moment gents I took a few missiles to the cockpit and need to run the diagnostics." Patrick said, "Dave if you see a 60 ton vehicle get a sensor lock on it, and Hap light it up with missiles."

"Gents I'm pretty sure those aerofighters are coming, so I would suggest taking the most direct route next to me." Kate said.

A 60 ton tank entered sensor range. There was a pause before Hap's computer received the targeting data from David's Valkyrie. Hap saw SRM Carrier marked on his targeting computer. He selected the target and launched missiles as quickly as he could.

Patrick followed up with his missiles. Hap's targeting computer confirmed that the majority of missiles had hit, but both missile spreads had dispersed too much to destroy the vehicle. Patrick cursed.

"Something wrong with your life support or the fact we didn't kill the tank?" Hap asked as he lost the sensor lock and waited for David to regain it.

"Tank. Life support's fine." Patrick replied, "David we need to kill-"

The SRM Carrier lumbered up the hill and into view. It was severely damaged and one of the SRM racks was destroyed. Hap could see occasional sparks and a thin trail of smoke from one of the holes in the tank's armor. The tank's life support system was bleeding air. Before he could target the breach the tank fired its functioning missile racks. Hap clenched his teeth as the salvo flew at David's Valkyrie.

No one said anything as the missiles mostly flew past the Valkyrie. A few struck Hap and Grizzly, but when the smoke and dust cleared. David reported, "I've taken hits all over, but my armor's intact."

Before Hap could line up his shot Grizzly launched everything he had at the tank, causing it to explode. There was a flash of fire and sparks, then the remaining pieces of the tank's hulk flashed and glowed.

"I feel invincible." David shouted.

"Don't be stupid." Grizzly growled, "That's the sort of thing a dumb ass says right before he gets killed."

Hap searched his scanners, the other tanks were still outside scanning range. Hap looked over at Grizzly's Wolverine. It had taken some damage, but it was still in pretty good shape. "If Grizzly and I jump the ridge we can and distract the remaining tanks, while you and 'Mr. Invincible' flank them." Hap said.

"Aye. Very well. David yer with me, and remember yer not invincible. Jest very lucky so far." Patrick said.

Hap watched the Dragon and Valkyrie jog away while staying behind the ridge-line. "Grizzly, we need to engage the LRM Carrier, and then the Pike. I caught a glimpse of the other "tank" I don't know what it is, but it's big, but the load out looked like just a PPC and two missile racks."

"Let's just get it done." Grizzly said.

Hap triggered his jump jets and went sailing into the air again. He saw the muzzle blast from the Pike but ignored the shots as he hit the ground and shot his PPC and missiles at the LRM carrier. Grizzly landed next to him and shot his Autocannon. The autocannon shell found a breach in the vehicle's armor and the LRM Carrier exploded.

A PPC bolt arched at Hap from the ridgeline. He threw up his left arm to let his armored forearm absorb the blast. Hap glanced down at the targeting computer. Next to the Pike tank was an 80 ton 'mech marked GOL-1H Goliath. Hap looked up and his mouth went dry as he watched the massive four legged 'mech that was crouching down rise to its full height.

worktroll

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #159 on: 26 September 2020, 18:52:33 »
Whoops! That's going to hurt if they stick around. And nicely played, HFC05. I was expecting a Manticore. This is ... better.
* No, FASA wasn't big on errata - ColBosch
* The Housebook series is from the 80's and is the foundation of Btech, the 80's heart wrapped in heavy metal that beats to this day - Sigma
* To sum it up: FASAnomics: By Cthulhu, for Cthulhu - Moonsword
* Because Battletech is a conspiracy by Habsburg & Bourbon pretenders - MadCapellan
* The Hellbringer is cool, either way. It's not cool because it's bad, it's cool because it's bad with balls - Nightsky
* It was a glorious time for people who felt that we didn't have enough Marauder variants - HABeas2, re "Empires Aflame"

snakespinner

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #160 on: 26 September 2020, 20:41:22 »
A Goliath pretending to be a Vedette, suprise. :thumbsup:
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.

Elmoth

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #161 on: 27 September 2020, 16:53:55 »
Is this a federated suns facility or a Capellan one? You mention it as a Feddie location at the start several times, so it looks weird to be ordered by the Feddie's to attack it....

Nice battle. Only criticism is that the locust pilots spear to be very green behind the ears if they are dispatched so easily.

Given the unnecessary carnage that the Goliath entanglement can cause, a better course of action could be to have the leopard pick them up somewhere else and ignore the mech as muchas they can before it kills the invincible valky.
« Last Edit: 27 September 2020, 16:56:15 by Elmoth »

Iron Grenadier

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #162 on: 28 September 2020, 02:17:09 »
Is this a federated suns facility or a Capellan one? You mention it as a Feddie location at the start several times, so it looks weird to be ordered by the Feddie's to attack it....

Nice battle. Only criticism is that the locust pilots spear to be very green behind the ears if they are dispatched so easily.

Given the unnecessary carnage that the Goliath entanglement can cause, a better course of action could be to have the leopard pick them up somewhere else and ignore the mech as muchas they can before it kills the invincible valky.

It's a Capellan location / AFFS contract.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #163 on: 28 September 2020, 15:28:17 »
Is this a federated suns facility or a Capellan one? You mention it as a Feddie location at the start several times, so it looks weird to be ordered by the Feddie's to attack it....

Nice battle. Only criticism is that the locust pilots spear to be very green behind the ears if they are dispatched so easily.

Given the unnecessary carnage that the Goliath entanglement can cause, a better course of action could be to have the leopard pick them up somewhere else and ignore the mech as muchas they can before it kills the invincible valky.

Elmoth, thank you. Sorry it wasn't clear, I went back and re-read it, and see how I didn't do a good job of making it obvious.

As Iron Grenadier (Thanks IG!) said, it's a Capellen Facility and it's an AFFS contract. Necromo is in Capellen space and McFinnigan and Sons Mercenary Company is currently allied with the Federated Sons, so I think I relied to heavily on the implications of the alliance, and the fact they were giving Hap a hard time to imply the job was against the Capellen. I'll try to make things more clear in the future, I really should have had Patrick state it in the intro.
« Last Edit: 28 September 2020, 15:30:23 by HFC05 »

Elmoth

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #164 on: 28 September 2020, 15:35:33 »
Yeah yeah. I just felt puzzled because it was obvious that the Finnigans were AFFS-bound.
I reread the passage and it is a thing about where you put the stop in the sentence. It was clearer the second time around, but it made me reread the part to make sure it was not a devious plan of "oh the cappiesdid strike at us, poor AFFS, and caused some material damage, so now we will utterly annihilate all life in 10 or so of their systems AND DROWN THEIR FIELDS IN SALT as a small reprisal for our suffering. C-bills matter!" Or something like that. It was more obvious than that. I didn't check the star map to see where they were striking.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #165 on: 28 September 2020, 15:52:48 »
Yeah yeah. I just felt puzzled because it was obvious that the Finnigans were AFFS-bound.
I reread the passage and it is a thing about where you put the stop in the sentence. It was clearer the second time around, but it made me reread the part to make sure it was not a devious plan of "oh the cappiesdid strike at us, poor AFFS, and caused some material damage, so now we will utterly annihilate all life in 10 or so of their systems AND DROWN THEIR FIELDS IN SALT as a small reprisal for our suffering. C-bills matter!" Or something like that. It was more obvious than that. I didn't check the star map to see where they were striking.

Cool, and thanks again for reading and commenting, and giving something to improve my writing.  :thumbsup:

In all the things I have going on a classic "use our mercenaries to attack us, and then use that as a pretext for war" isn't one of them. Might be something I put in the notes for later, or for a different story though. It's a classic!

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #166 on: 12 October 2020, 17:30:25 »
Chapter 45

"Hap, what the hell did ye find?" Patrick asked "I'm seeing an 80 ton 'Mech, where did that come from?"

The Goliath fired both missile racks at Grizzly, as Hap replied, "It's the tank we couldn't identify."

Grizzly howled, "Damn it Hap, that's not a tank. When you said-" Hap could hear the missiles hitting the Wolverine over the neurohelmet's mic. "Sunavabitch, when you said, 'lets jump the ridge and charge the tanks' I thought we'd be stomping on tanks."

"Do you ever stop complaining?" Hap asked as he debated between engaging the tank or trying to address the problem of the assault mech.

"No." David and Patrick said in unison

"Honestly, I don't have to have a command link to know Grizzly's status, as long as he's bitching I know he's fine and his 'mech is functional." Patrick added.

Hap jumped his 'mech to the side to try to encourage the Goliath to turn. The Goliath was moving, but it was a slow lumbering monster. Hap could see the Dragon and Valkyrie on his scanners, they needed to move more north. Hap hoped to keep the Goliath pilot distracted while David and Patrick flanked him.

"Hap the Goliath his limited short range weapons, you should close with it." David suggested

"I don't have short range weapons either." Hap replied

"Oh yeah. Sorry." David mumbled.

"Don't apologize. Just get your asses behind the Goliath and take him down." Grizzly yelled as he jumped backwards and fired his autocannon. His jump brought him close enough to the Pike that it engaged him with its pair of short range missile racks. "I've had about enough of your shit too." Grizzly yelled at the tank.

Hap was partially relieved the tank was focusing on someone else, just as he saw another small explosion in the dust and in front of him, then felt a slight impact to his left torso and chest. Apparently the gunner in the turret was keeping Hap in his crosshair. Hap instinctively shot back at the Pike tank. "I've had about enough of that tank too."

The Goliath fired the PPC at the Wolverine as it sent a salvo of ten missiles at Hap. Hap kept his left side facing the mech as half a dozen missiles hit him across the left arm, leg and torso. Hap grimly noted the Goliath's choice to only fire one missile launcher meant he was managing his heat. This meant it was an experienced pilot, and they were in for a long fight.

Hap saw Patrick's Dragon crest the ridge behind the Goliath, and level his PPC. There was a flash of lightening and the smoke of missiles from the Dragon and from David's Valkyrie behind the ridge. The Goliath pitched forward as it was struck by the PPC and Patrick and David's missiles. The Goliath started to turn slowly to get the Dragon and Valkyrie out his rear arc.

"Hap I don't think it's worth our time to take down this bastard." Patrick said.

"Agreed." Hap said flatly. "Grizzly let's-" As he spoke he turned his 'mech's torso to see Grizzly send his 'mech sailing into the air and land squarely on the Pike tank. The tank tipped up on its side, and buckled under the 'mech's weight. As the Wolverine staggered backwards it knocked one of the tank tracks off.

The Goliath pilot stopped and rotated its PPC turret to shoot Grizzly. The blast caught him squarely in the chest. Grizzly continued to backpedal to maintain his balance. The Goliath shuffled to turn and fire both missile racks. Grizzly cursed as his 'mech was struck by the missiles and started to fall backwards.

Patrick fired another salvo of PPC and missiles into the assault mech's back as Hap shot his PPC and jumped his mech toward his prone comrade. Hap saw David put more missiles into the Goliath's back.

The Goliath ignored the attack and continued to turn and bring all its weapons to focus on Grizzly.

"Think he's mad I kicked his friend's tank." Grizzly said as he got his 'mech into a crouch. "I'm not sure I can take another hit like that. I vote to disengage and go home. I stomped my tank, I had my fun."

Hap could see the tank looked mostly intact but hadn't moved to engage either him or Grizzly. He put his 'mech between the Wolverine and the enemy 'mech as Grizzly got his Wolverine standing again. This time Hap lined up his right side. He didn't think he could take much more damage to the left side either. It was dangerous because all his weapons and ammo were on the right side.

"We have to disengage, or we'll start losing 'Mechs." Hap said, "Grizzly get moving I'll cover you."

"But we can take him" David replied, "Let me line up another shot. We've almost penetrated his rear armor and if we can-"

"Not if we all want to go home." Patrick said, "David start moving toward the shuttle, we'll need you to establish an overwatch position so you can harass him while we try disengage."

"Let me just get behind him." David said as he jumped his Valkyrie out from behind the cover of the ridge and shot his missiles and lasers at the giant 'mech. The Goliath did a surprising side shuffled on its four legs and got close enough to kick the Valkyrie and rake the light 'mech over his machine guns. The smaller 'mech's leg bent sideways and Hap could the actuator bundle in the lower leg snap.

"Damn it' David" Patrick yelled, "Get back." He put another barrage into the assault 'mech, but it had repositioned itself so that all of Patrick's weapons hit its legs and side.

"Hap the tank crew must have been stunned, if you attack the tank it will distract the Goliath, give Mr. Invincible a chance to survive." Grizzle said. Hap looked down. The Pike was trying to move but the bogie wheels just spun and kicked up lunar surface. The turret started to turn toward Hap.

At point blank range he had few options so he chose to stomp the armor where Grizzly had put a significant dent. As he stomped it felt like he was stepping on a large insect with an exoskeleton. He thought he heard the "whoosh" of air as he felt his 'mech's foot being pushed back by the explosive decompression of breaching the crew cabin.

The Goliath hit Hap's Griffin with an alpha strike. Hap lost nearly a ton of armor from his right torso as the PPC struck him and missiles hit him across the body. Hap could see David jump away from the monster 'mech with his leg barely holding on by a few iron threads of the internal structure.

"Now whose plan is getting who killed?" Hap asked as he checked his system status to ensure his 'mech was still intact.

Grizzly jumped down the hill and in the general direction of the LZ, said "Now who's complaining?" He said as he shot autocannon at the Goliath.

"I think my leg actuator was damaged, but my weapons are good. We can still lead the Goliath into an ambush." David said.

"David, jest get your 'mech to the drop ship while it's still in one piece." Patrick sounded exasperated.

Hap jumped his 'mech near Grizzly's Wolverine. He turned to fire his weapons at the Goliath. He saw his heat start to climb and it didn't look like he hardly damaged the Goliath. "Go, I'll start laying down covering fire."

Grizzly started jogging away as the Goliath tried to hit him with his PPC and missiles. The PPC missed but over a dozen missiles hit Grizzly in the rear armor and legs.

"Jokes on him, I think I got more rear armor than front armor right now." Grizzly said

"I still believe we could still defeat him." David said as shot

Patrick sighed, "This is that waste of heat and missiles that we talked about." Patrick shot another mixed salvo of missiles and PPC at the quad 'mech and moved back down the ridge out of the Goliath's view.

Hap's targeting computer indicated his PPC was recharged and his missiles reloaded. He stepped back nearly a hundred meters and sent a volley at the Goliath. He was approaching the end of his weapons effective range but the Goliath was large enough to easily target even at half a kilometer away. He was also standing high enough on the hill to create a silhouette against the starry sky.

Hap watched David limp as he ran toward him, and the Goliath started to lumber after Patrick. When Patrick moved behind the ridgeline Hap's targeting computer lost the telemetry data needed to calculate engagement ranges. Hap switched his weapons to manual, and lined up the crosshairs with the Goliath and then moved the cross hair just past him to lead the lumbering brute.

He squeezed the trigger and watched the ball of lightning sailed toward the Goliath. Without a missile lock he'd have to override the missiles safety and fire with a flat trajectory which would reduce their range. Hap considered the effort as he zoomed in his rangefinder to watch the PPC bolt passed between the quad 'mech's legs.

"Well that's a one-in-million miss." Grizzly said.

"I don't think I could do it again if I tried." Hap said. The Goliath paused and seemed to be thinking about his good fortune, or Hap's improbable bad luck.

"Can't be that hard." Grizzly moved his Wolverine next to Hap's Griffin and brought his autocannon up. The cannon belched out a round and sent it into the ground dozens of meters short of the Goliath.

"Part of the trick is to shoot past the target." Hap said as Grizzly cursed.

"Well I got knocked down. I might have a concussion, or my sights were damaged."

"Grizzly, what the hell are you giving out about now?" Patrick asked as he set his Dragon to run.

"Nothin' We're just harassing the enemy to cover your asses." Grizzly answered.

Hap's PPC recycled and he had the green light to fire again. He fired center mass as the Goliath. This shot hit the 'mech in the lower leg. The Goliath launched all it's missiles and took a parting shot with its PPC. Then performed a sideways crab walk off the ridgeline and disappeared from view. The PPC was wide and over Hap's head, but a few of the missiles struck Hap and Grizzly.

"Grizzly your armor still intact?" Hap asked as he looked over his own armor

"Barely." Grizzly answered.

"Stop gossip' and Charlie Mike, gents. We're still on the clock." Patrick said as he caught up to his lancemates.

"Skies still clear, but I would prefer to leave before that changes." Kate said.

The 'mech warriors started to run to the LZ, but they were slowed down due to the damage to the Valkyrie's leg. Eventually they came to the crater where the Leopard was waiting to take them to the jump point. Hap could see the broken locust. It was obvious the 'Mech had wandered into range of the Leopard's PPCs and missile batteries. It looked like the 'mech had sustained several direct shots to the center torso, and at least one PPC bolt to the cockpit. Hap wondered how the pilot could have been so foolish to go anywhere near the Leopard. Hap's scanners warned him the 'mech was dangerously warm.

"I still wish we would have stayed to have defeated the Goliath." David sulked.

"I wish you could faster than 75 kilometers an hour right now." Grizzly replied

A pocket of trapped air escaped and the Locust's magazine of machine gun ammunition exploded, causing an engine breach that released a brilliant flash of escaping plasma. When everyone's vision returned all that remained of the Locust were red hot melting portions of the battlemech's skeleton.

"Miss Berlin, what happened with the Locust here?" Patrick asked.

"When we started to come in for a landing he broke off from the rest of his lance and came by to check us out. We made a low pass over the crater which kicked up a lot of dust and then landed in the back here. I think he got lost in the dust or didn't think we'd see him on our scanners. Either way, he got too close and became gunnery practice."

"David, this pilot was too aggressive, and he paid the price for his foolishness, like you nearly did with that Goliath." Patrick said.

"A Locust versus a Leopard is not the same thing." David replied.

"No, but going against an assault 'mech with a lance that is already seriously damaged could have the same outcome. Someone could have ended up dead." Patrick said.

David cleared his throat, "A Goliath-"

"Is armored from hell to breakfast." Kate interrupted, "I remember making strafing runs on an assault lance with a Goliath and I don't think he paid any attention to me until the third or fourth pass."

"In a Stuka?" The voice had a strong German accent. Hap recognized this as Mitchelin the company's master pilot. Hap had played enough poker with him to know he didn't really get sarcasm or hyperbole. He was on this mission because he had to administer Kate's final check ride before she would be a qualified drop ship pilot.

"Yes sir." Kate replied

"It is not possible they did not notice you, young lady." Mitchelin said, "The 'mech pilot chose to not engage you, but I assure you the fire power STU-K5 Stuka is sufficient to disable any battlemech."

"Oh I eventually disabled him, but my point was the damn thing was so armored even my Stuka had a hard time piercing its hide."

"Ah, I see, once more you are trying humor." Mitchelin said with a patronizing tone. "I should expect this from a woman with the callsign of 'giggles'."

"That's all beside the point." David cut in, "A Goliath is a 'mech like any other. We had him outnumbered four to one. A few more shots to his back and we could have hit the LRM magazine in his center torso. He would have blown up like that Locust."

"Enough David." Patrick now sounded like a frustrated parent, "listen to me. When I make a decision during a combat operation, it's final. Cross me again like that, and you'll be looking for a new lance."

"Yes. I'm sorry." David replied.

"You would be even more sorry if your Valkyrie had been destroyed, or if your lancemates had been hurt." Patrick added. There is a time to go all in, and there's a time to run. But I choose that, not you."

"I am sorry Grizzly." David said quietly.

"It wasn't your dumb idea to charge the Goliath, which was all Hap's stupid plan." Grizzly answered.

"Yeah, I was thinking I needed to give you something different to complain about." Hap answered.

"I'm sorry to you as well Hap, I mean Captain Calahad."

"Hap is fine. I've had a lot of similar talks with Mags. She can get a little aggressive too. It's like Patrick said, it's always a balance David." Hap said.

"Jest get loaded up. We'll talk more underway." Patrick said as the doors of the drop shuttle opened up and the lance maneuvered their 'mechs inside.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #167 on: 12 October 2020, 17:31:21 »
Chapter 46
Monhegan
December 3029

The flight back to Monhegan was uneventful. They were off planet and back to the jump point before the Cappellan aero fighters could catch up with them. Grizzly and Patrick were both put into medical observation for the duration of the return flight. Patrick's 'mech cockpit had sustained several hits from missiles and Grizzly's mech had fallen during the raid. According to the docs both of those events required several days in the sick bay even though both mechwarriors weren't feeling injured.

Hap spent most of his time helping the techs repair armor and reassuring David that Patrick wasn't going to kick him out of his lance. David said he understood but he still moped around the ship for the week it took to return to Monhegan.

When the drop ship finally landed Hap was glad to get off of it. As Hap parked his Griffin he saw Mags and Joker in the 'mech bay touching-up the paint job on their 'mechs. They saw him they walked across the gantry to speak to him.

"Glad to see you're back Jefe." Mags said

"Yeah Anastasia has gone crazy since you left." Joker added

Hap looked at their 'Mechs and noticed that Anastasia had repainted her Mech but it seemed to be an inverted version of the McFinnigan "tartan" camo specs. "I see she repainted her mech." Hap said.

"Yeah, she put the tartan on the other shoulder, when I asked why she said, because she is left-handed." Mags said.

"That's not cray." Hap said, "I thought you were going to tell me she weaponized the mint in the garden on the barrack's roof."

"Is that she meant when she said mint's probably the apex predator of the herb world?" Joker asked.

Mags shook her head, "No, she was trying to explain to you why there was mostly mint in the herb box."

"That still sounds normal for Anastasia." Hap said. "Did you guys all go out and get matching tattoos?"

"You're laughing now," Joker said, "but wait till you see your room."

"What has she done with my room?" Hap asked

Joker and Mags exchanged looks. Joker cleared his throat. "Well we need to get cleaned up."

Hap slung his back pack. "I'd better go see what Anastasia has been up to."

As Hap walked through the 'mech bay he could feel the cold air blowing in from the open bay doors. One of the techs piloted Patrick's Dragon, and as it entered the bay another tech was already closing the giant doors. Hap could feel a few hot air blowers as he walked to one of the man-doors.

Hap stepped out into a cold crisp fall day. The sky was a clear blue and the sun was out, but it was cold. Small piles of snow were gathered in the corners of buildings and other shady spots. Hap took in a deep breath. It was good to be off the drop shuttle. He made a mental note he'd need to get a lightweight jacket or something warm for his go-bag. He walked as quickly as he could to the barracks, glad that Anastasia had him purchase new and warm clothes before ComStar effectively restricted them to the company area. He was looking forward to a hot shower and thicker clothes.

It was mid-afternoon and Hap assumed the barracks would be mostly empty. He heard Rolf's heavy metal music and found him in the spare room that he had turned into a weight room. As he walked past Rolph looked up from the bench where he was doing curls, "Hey Hap, everyone make it back?"

Hap stepped into the room and nodded as Rolph turned down the music, "Yeah Patrick and Grizzly got scuffed up a little, but I think the Doc's already cleared Grizzly, and Patrick should be fine in a few days."

Rolph nodded, "Good. Nothing new around here. You guys blow up some Cappellan shit?"

"Yeah, we also ran into a Goliath."

Rolph dropped his weights, "No shit, a GOL-1H Goliath? I thought they only had tanks?"

"Yeah the intel that was based off of pictures, and from overhead that Goliath looked like a tank."

Rolph nodded. "I could see how someone could make that mistake. Did you bring down the Goliath?"

"No." Hap shook his head, "We had gotten hit pretty badly before we realized that we were up against a Goliath. Patrick didn't feel confident about trying to take on the Goliath, and I couldn't argue. I took a couple shots at it and all I managed to do was chip his paint, and piss him off."

Rolph picked up his weights, "Only a few 'mechs have more armor than a Goliath, and it was a raid, so you wouldn't have been able to salvage the 'mech anyway." Rolph did a few reps, "still it would have been badass to have a Goliath in our company. I'd trade my Trebuchet for that in a heartbeat."

"Yeah, who wouldn't?" Hap agreed, "I think I'll leave you to your workout." Hap said and Rolph nodded and turned his music back up.

Hap walked down the hall and moved aside the privacy screen. His room looked completely different. There were rich burgundy and purple curtains over the window. Two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves had been installed in addition to a wardrobe, and another wall locker had been placed into the room.

His bed had a burgundy and purple quilt that had a shield divided into four with a fox in the upper left hand corner, and a raven in the lower right. The upper right corner had a blue and gold checkered pattern and the lower left was a fleur-de-lis.

In the corner of the room Anastasia was sitting at a small writing desk in the corner. Anastasia was wearing her silk robe. She was applying makeup using a small table top mirror. She saw Hap's reflection in the mirror and stood up so quickly she knocked her chair over. "Harold, you're back."

Before Hap could react she almost tackled him with a hug. Hap found himself pulled down to kiss her. He enjoyed the moment and the embrace and then took a careful step toward the bed.

Anastasia gently pushed back, "You smell like a drop shuttle."

"I've been on a drop shuttle for nearly two weeks." Hap replied

"Exactly. You need a shower and then you need to get into your dress uniform." Anastasia playfully turned him around and then pushed him toward the water closet.

Hap decided to tease Anastasia by walking slowly, "Why do I need to get into my dress uniform?" Hap glanced over his shoulder and noticed Anastasia was wearing her Davion green dress trousers."

"We're meeting with the MRB representative and the AFFS mercenary liaison for dinner." She gave him another gentle shove, "Now get in the shower while I lay out your dress uniform."

"The MRB and AFFS reps are coming here to see us?" Hap asked as he started to undress in the bathroom and Anastasia retreated to his wall locker.

"This is the most inquisitive I've ever seen you, and it's at the worst time. Yes. They are coming to see us, and meet the company leadership." Anastasia said as she gathered clothes. "Now that McFinnigan and Sons is affiliated with AFFS wants to see what they've gotten out of the alliance, and I believe the MRB is taking this opportunity for a routine inspection of the company."

"Sounds like a lovely evening." Hap said sarcastically as he got into the shower and pulled the curtain.

"Agreed. If it were up to me, we'd enjoy a quiet evening in." Anastasia said. Hap could hear her putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. "Now I smell like a drop shuttle's air filtration system." She moaned.

"You want to join me in the shower?" Hap asked half kidding, half hopeful.

"We really don't have time for that. We'll likely be late as it is." Anastasia said.

As Hap started to wash himself he heard Anastasia set her makeup kit on the bathroom sink. "Anastasia" Hap called out, "Where did the furniture come from? Did you to risk assassination to go shopping?"

"No, our personal effects arrived." Anastasia said "Before deploying I had put all my room furnishings in storage. Now that we're assigned to McFinnigan and Son's our possessions were shipped to us."

Hap thought for a moment, he hadn't seen anything of his. "Our personal effects? I think all I saw were the furnishings for a young countess's dorm room."

"I'm not a countess yet, and three of your duffel bags, a weapons case, and a tough box arrived. The bags mostly contained uniforms, a few clothes and field gear. I unpacked those. I secured your weapons in the company armory. The tough box contained equipment for making beer, and is under the bed. There was also a rather obnoxious lamp. I assumed this was most of your worldly possessions seeing as how you generally live a Spartan lifestyle, and I assumed that your mean spirited ex-wife took any furniture or items of material value in the divorce." Anastasia said.

Hap mentally reviewed what he had locked away in the company storage area before they deployed to Klathandu. She was correct he lived a pretty minimalist lifestyle, The BOQ was furnished and he had let his ex take most of his furniture. One item didn't make sense, "What lamp are you talking about?"

"It was a lurid wall lamp of a buxom trollop with a very low cut blouse. She was leaning over in such a way that she was about to spill out more than just the beer glasses in her hands." Anastasia said.

"Oh The Yangtze Pale Ale Gal." Hap said, "I won her in a promotional event the Yangtze brewing company did with the militia. I had almost forgotten about her."

"Well now you've contributed her to the Tir na nOg's galley." Anastasia said.

If it had been anything else he would have been angry that she had just given it away without asking him. He was still annoyed, just on principal, but he had never known what to do with the lamp. It was obnoxious, and not his style. "I'm surprised Joker didn't try to steal it."

"He did, and Mags suggested it go to the galley. When I took it there Kelly was happy to find a place for it, but Elinor was less than pleased with your contribution."

"My involuntary contribution." Hap clarified, "What did the grand dame of the company say about it?"

"Oh we'll hang up trash and treat it like fine art, but we crack my fine china because we don't know how to treat centuries old heirlooms." Anastasia said perfectly mimicking Elinor's annoyance and accent.

Hap thrust his head out of the shower expecting to see Elinor standing beside Anastasia. Anastasia was alone applying the last touches to her eye makeup. She glanced over at Hap, "I'm sorry I've spent a lot of time with Elinor and Roweyna lately. That accent starts to grow on you. Elinor's also quite nice, and rarely goes anywhere, she seems to watch all the children."

"I get the sense she really loves children." Hap said as he rinsed off and finished his shower.

"Roweyna gets that sense as well, or rather Elinor often tells her how much she greatly desires 'proper' grandchildren." Anastasia said as she started to put away her makeup kit. "Although Patrick has a son and wife back on Donegal. She left because of Patrick's alcoholism. Elinor wishes they were here."

"The funny thing is, when Patrick's sober he's a good lance leader and nice guy." Hap said, "even drunk he's not that bad." Hap dried off and was glad to see Anastasia had put out clean undergarments.

"Given how little we see him sober, and how generally surly and sarcastic he is, I can understand why his wife isn't living with him."

Anastasia left the bathroom as Hap pulled on the dress trousers and buttoned up his dress shirt. He walked into his bedroom to find Anastasia trying to button her sunburst vest to her jacket. He helped her get it buttoned, and then she returned the favor. They paused to admire their reflection in the large mirror that had also been delivered with Anastasia's things.

Anastasia turned to look at the real Hap. She ran her fingers along one of the sun rays of the vest and carefully adjusted Hap's service ribbons and a regional medal had been awarded. "You look good, my love." She looked again at her reflection, "and I look like someone's daughter playing mechwarrior."

"You look fine, and you were rushing me to get dressed, so we'd better go." Hap gave her a playful nudge, "It's not like you have ball gowns or cocktail dresses to choose from."

Anastasia quietly opened the wardrobe revealing it was stuffed full of gowns and dresses, "I have several dresses that would perfectly complement Davion Green, or the yellow in the sunburst."

"Alright, so this uniform isn't flattering on you, but you earned the right to wear it." Hap told her, "There will be other times and places to wear those dresses."

Anastasia gave the dresses a longing look before closing the wardrobe. As they left the barracks Hap asked, "What happened with you and Mags that you decided to take over my room?"

"A few things changed while you were gone." Anastasia said dismissively.

"What things changed?" Hap asked

"I'm just glad your back and you weren't hurt during your mission. I heard Grizzly and Patrick were injured." Anastasia said.

"Yeah" Hap replied. He decided to ignore, for the moment, the way she was changing the subject. "We ran into a Goliath. If you'd been there it probably wouldn't have been a nasty surprise."

"I sense that Patrick doesn't care for me, and he already has a Valkyrie pilot organic to his lance."

"David nearly got fired so if you're looking for an opening you can talk to Patrick." Hap buttoned his own service jacket and found his sun burst vest .

"I'm content with my current lance." Anastasia replied, "I like my lancemates, particularly my lance leader. I also understand Grizzly complains incessantly."

"That's an understatement." Hap said as he opened the door to the stairwell. "Where are we going?"

"The Tir na nOg's the formal dining room." Anastasia said as she started walking down the stairs.

"The Tir na nOg has a formal dining room?" Hap asked.

"Yes, it's below the command deck. It's rarely used because Elinor feels the members of the company are generally too rowdy for formal meals. She only allows the room and her fine china to be used for very special occasions." Anastasia explained as they stepped outside. "Roweyna told me there was an incident, but she refused to elaborate. I will be on my best behavior, and I suggest you do the same."

"I doubt Elinor is concerned with you getting too rowdy." Hap smiled as he tried to imagine what was considered too rowdy for McFinnigan and Sons and how Anastasia could be drawn into it.

"As long as the commander isn't forcing me to help him finish a bottle of whiskey you're probably right." Anastasia said.

"Yeah that evening did get a little rowdy now that you mention it." Hap said.

"I don't recall ever being that sick in my life." Anastasia said as they started up the drop ship's ramp.

Hap chuckled, "So you worried about meeting a new member of ComStar?"

"No. Roweyna said the MRB usually sends," her voice changed to mimic Rowyena, "'ah simperin' little man in a robe that speaks incessantly of the good will of a long dead man that has so far been unable to stop centuries of war."

"We'll that's too bad, I know how you prefer your acolytes to be of the sarcastic and bitter variety." Hap said as he punched in his pass code.

A man behind them cleared his throat. Hap and Anastasia turned to see a tall man in an expensive black dress suit briskly coming up the ramp. He was easily more than half a century old, his silver hair was slicked back but he looked strong and athletic. He had an aristocratic air of authority about him. He had an elegant walking cane in one hand, but it was obviously just for fashion.

"Subaltern Vallois and Captain Calahad. I too happen to be running late, this is quite fortuitous, some might even say, by Blake's good will." Both officers were surprised at how quickly and effortlessly he climbed the ramp, "I'm Kristoff Tempes, the Comstar's representative for the Mercenary Review Board."
« Last Edit: 01 November 2020, 11:12:10 by HFC05 »

snakespinner

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #168 on: 13 October 2020, 00:47:28 »
Something about that MRBC rep doesn't seem right.
I wonder what nasty surprises you have planned. >:D :thumbsup:
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.

ThePW

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #169 on: 13 October 2020, 01:22:03 »
I'm just glad nobody got wacked. A hulled down classic Goliath is a neat trick to play...

Elmoth

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #170 on: 13 October 2020, 05:44:22 »
I was half expecting David to give Hap a run for his money. A dead love rival is no longer a rival et al.

I didn't find the Goliath to be much of a veteran, really. He was shooting all around instead of going for the killing agaist David and after that, Grizzly. If you already failed abysmally defending your charges (the base) you go for a costly victory for the attackers. A few armor plates is not a costly victory. Losing a mech or 2 on the other hand... And he could do that. At least from my reading on the story.

So, he does not seem to have been a veteran. He was duped easily. Having him claimed to have been a veteran looked weird to me.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #171 on: 01 November 2020, 11:08:45 »
Chapter 47

Tempes approached the officers. He knew he had surprised them, he preferred this. He wanted them to be off balance. He was annoyed he even had to be here. He smiled politely, "I'm sorry I did not intend to startle you." This was a lie, one of many he assumed he would be telling tonight.

"I apologize, sir." Anastasia looked ashamed of herself, "I did not mean to offend."

"Oh, I couldn't hear what you were saying child. My cane was making too much noise as I came up the ramp," Tempes replied. This was another lie. He didn't mind her statement though. He hated the simpering fools that always spoke of "Blake's will" and "Blake's blessings". Tempes certainly believed Blake's teachings, and zealously worked to protect humanity from itself and preserve knowledge and technology by ensuring that the Succession States ultimately weakened each other, thus allowing ComStar to recreate the Star League, but he was far too practical to assume Blake was some prophet.

"I'm sorry, I've haven't met many of your order, but I thought you wore robes all the time." Hap said.

"Ah yes. I've found sometimes my robes can be a bit of distraction." This was actually a true statement, but probably not for the reason Hap or Anastasia would have guessed. "When I'm with my sisters and brothers it is good and acceptable to be in robes. This is so as we know each other's ranks and roles by the subtle colors and embroidery of our robes, but here this suit is more practical."

The real reason Kristoff Tempes chose to wear a black suit was because he could not bear to wear the yellow robes that would be appropriate for a representative of the MRB. He was a ROM Demi-Precentor and it was humiliating enough to impersonate an MRB representative let alone wear their robes. Further, depending on the events of the night, ComStar may need the ability to deny that a member of their order had even visited McFinnigan and Sons mercenary company.

Tempes smiled kindly as he looked at the reason he was here, Anastasia Capetian-Vallois. This child had somehow cheated death, and then turned up at the doorstep of ComStar. The local fools found that she was mistakenly reported dead, and managed to give her enough clues to know that she was of special interest to them. To make matters worse one of the ROM agents surveilling her, was nearly caught and lost the memory card from her camera. Tempes was so furious he nearly had the ROM cell liquidated. The hit team that was originally tasked with killing her were given an opportunity to redeem themselves, and Tempes had enough respect for the local cell's director to give them a second chance as well.

The ROM Precentor, had ordered Tempes to ascertain how much the Mercenary company knew, and then determine who would die, and how the survivors would never suspect ComStar. He was instructed to plan the execution of young Lady Vallois personally and visit the company himself. These orders were meant to punish him for his sections failures, and shame the other members ROM. Today he would come and see everything for himself, tomorrow he would plan the perfect execution, and then resume ensuring the great houses did not achieve a technological edge over each other or ComStar.

Tempes could end her life right here and now. His cane had a sword, and with one quick motion he could disable Hap and stab Anastasia. In seconds they would both be bleeding to death, but he chose not to. It had been sometime since he had personally executed anyone. The agent sent to kill her father had underestimated him, or his wife's security, and it had cost him his life. ROM policy mandated that these sort of operations be done with the utmost finesse and deniability. He was here to plan, not execute, but the ease of ending it all was tempting.

Tempes nodded to Hap, "Captain, I believe you were about to open the door, perhaps-"

"Oh yeah, sorry." Hap started to type his access code, "You just seemed to appear out of nowhere."

"Yes, I'm often told that." Tempes replied, or at least he was back when he was part of a hit team.

The door lock buzzed and Anastasia opened it. Tempes stepped inside as the junior officers followed.

"I'm sorry, but we have to climb stairs now. The company has done a lot to modify the shuttle, but they haven't extended the elevators to the bottom decks." Hap said apologetically.

Tempes shrugged, "lead on." As he walked up the stairs he wondered about the modifications. There was another incident with this company and a rogue adept. It wasn't exactly handled to ROM's satisfaction. If Tempes saw an opportunity to correct that wrong he would do it as well.

Tempes could see the ship was well maintained. This section had been recently painted, and there was good welding and professionally installed conduit that protected some electrical modifications or repair. Tempes was slightly impressed. He had been on ComGuard ships that were not kept to this standard.

Tempes easily kept up with the two young officers, and soon they had ascended to the main deck and used the elevator to take them to the command section of the drop shuttle. Anastasia led them down a short flight of stairs and through a set of double doors. On the outside it appeared to be a standard crew door in a standard drop ship hallway. When they stepped through the door it felt like they had been transported to a luxury cruise ship. The room was appointed with dark wood accents, highly polished brass, and a thick red carpet. There were a few tall tables with trays of fruits, cheeses and meats, and a bar in the corner manned by twin redheads with mischievous smiles.

Tempes quickly looked at the occupants of the room. On his trip to Monehegan he had studied everything ROM could provide on every member of McFinnigan and Sons. The room contained the company's leadership and their spouses, and Tempes easily recognized all of them.

The men were wearing kilts and dress jackets with their various medals, badges, and awards from their previous military careers neatly pinned on the jacket's breast. The ROM reports even explained that the McFinnigan and Son's tartan was associated with one of the Irish enclaves that had migrated to Donegal. The reports implied there were a Scottish traditions mixed in with the McFinnigan's "Irish" traditions, but it was all Celtic, and the McFinnigan Clan, by all accounts, wallowed in all things Celtic.

The commander was easily recognized. The short Kelly McFinnigan had a loose circle around him as he stood at the bar carefully pouring out samples of Scotch as he told stories about each bottle. Near him was his XO talking to a Leftenant Colonel in a poor fitting Davion dress uniform. Tempes didn't recognize the man or his medals so he assumed he was the commander of the local militia. McFinnigan's nephew, Patrick, sampled the scotch and added commentary to his uncle's stories. Beside him Fiona McFinnigan, a distant cousin to Kelly, was shaking her head as she sipped her scotch. Next to her was a short woman of Asian ancestry. Tempes knew she was the company's supply officer Jin-seon Jessica Lan. She was from the Cappellan Confederation but her ancestry was from earth's Korean peninsula.

The support leadership were also present. The tall master pilot with his bushy short cropped mustache, Matthew Mitchell, was a classic Steiner officer of Germanic descent. There was also the powerful master tech, Eric Heilezberg, he had been Kelly's personal mech tech going back to when Kelly was a junior officer in the Donnegal Guards. The husband and wife medical doctors, Jackson and Leslie Morgan, sampled the liquor and contributed to the conversation. Coming from the highly structured and ordered ComStar sect, Tempes found the support staff mingling with the warriors to be distasteful.

The tall dark skinned First Sergeant was talking with a man in an AFFS uniform. Yorik Tomax was a consummate professional and maintained the discipline of the company, at least when it came to combat operations. McFinnigan and Sons were notoriously unruly outside their cockpits, but, by all accounts professional mechwarriors on the battlefield.

The man in the AFFS uniform was Major Don Braun. He had an eye patch over his left eye, and his right sleeve was neatly folded and pinned up. He wore the sunburst vest like Hap and Anastasia over his dress tunic, but he had several more medals and ribbons, and on his right breast was a black disk with a golden sunburst. He had won the Federated Suns Star on Rigil Kentarus, where he led a lance that had single handedly delayed two Kuritan 'mech companies so the AFFS forces could rally and hold a strategic air field. His lancemates had been killed and he was grievously injured. He could no longer pilot a 'mech so the AFFS high command had placed him in charge of a program where Jr. Officers are embedded in Mercenary units.

Standing where Braun's right arm would have been was Henna Duke. Tempes could immediately see from her body language and her closeness to the man that she was literally his right hand woman. She had been Braun's physical therapist as he learned to walk on two prosthetic legs. In a story that was ripe for making into a Holo they had fallen in love and were engaged to be married.

While the men wore kilts the women had chosen their own attire. The eldest McFinnigan woman, Elinor, was wearing a richly embroidered green dress that seemed to have a built in cape and high collar. The embroidery was gold, jade and cobalt thread that complimented the colors of the McFinnigan tartan. Even to Tempes, she looked like a queen. Her daughter, Roweyna, wore a similar green colored traditional irish dress. It lacked the embroidery of mother's dress, but it had an intricate bodice over an extravagant and frilly white blouse. Fiona wore a similar dress but she had a bar of small medals pinned over the right breast of her bodice. There was another young woman with the same type of dress, and bushy red hair. Tempes couldn't place her as leadership so she was likely someone's date for the evening, probably the Militia leader given her proximity to him.

Aside from the Irish themed dresses, the blonde former Maskirovka agent, Tatyana Fletcher, had a short red cocktail dress that left little to the imagination. The supply officer was dressed in a simple business suit with Capellan decorations pinned to her suit. The Company's female doctor had a blue gown that complimented the blue in the kilt's tartan that her husband and the other men wore. Major Braun's fiancee wore a bright yellow dress that complimented his uniform.

Tempes was brought out of his reflections by Hap slightly bowing to whisper to Anastasia, "Thank you"

She looked at him questioning. Hap saw her look and whispered, "If you hadn't gotten us reinstated I'd be wearing a kilt right now."

Anastasia deadpanned, "oh you'd look fine in a kilt, you have the legs for it, and it looks like I could have worn any ball gown I wanted, or one of those dresses like Rowyena, Kitty, and Fiona have."

Roweyna saw the new arrivals and approached them, "Hap, Anastasia, who did ye have here?"

Hap motioned to Tempes, "This is Kristoff Tempes. He is our MRB representative. Mr. Tempes this is Rowena McFinnigan, the company's legal counsel. I'm sure you've spoken before, over-"

"We have not." Roweyna said suspiciously, "Yer not wearin' a robe. I've never seen yer lot not in robes."

"How would you know?" Tempes said dismissively. "You've likely seen hundreds of us and didn't realize it." Tempes lied. Odds were good if she saw ComStar members not in robes they were ROM. And if she had encountered ROM she'd be dead.

"I went to a Catholic Girl's school Mr. Tempes," Roweyna replied, "a nun out of her habit is still a mean-spirited woman lookin' to put the fear of god into wayward young ladies, while talkin' nonstop of God's grace. Ye may be able to take off yer robes, but the blessins and will o' Blake would still be on yer lips."

Tempes smiled. "You do speak the truth of Blake, my child. Blake's words are ever on my lips. I thought I would forego the robes for just one night. We are, of course, allowed to dress in the fashion of the world when we're away from the Order's holdings. Sometimes, it is even encouraged for our safety."

Rowyena looked even more suspicious, "Ye feel threatened here?"

Anastasia cleared her throat, "Mr. Tempes, Sir, are you sure you don't prefer Adept?"

"Mr. Tempes is fine." Tempes replied, "Again you're not part of my order. You wouldn't expect some civilian to know your proper military rank, would you, Subaltern?" Tempes had worked too hard to be a demi-precentor to be called, 'adept' by the likes of Anastasia Vallois. He was also seeing how Rowyena's suspicious nature might make presenting himself as a demi-precentor difficult to explain.

Rowyena's eyes narrowed, "I think I'm going to need to see some papers from you."

"Of course." Tempes reached into his jacket and pulled out a tightly folded bundle of papers on official ComStar letterhead. They included a letter of introduction, a memorandum of purpose, and other documents that had specific information about the company. It would persuade a suspicious lawyer.

As Roweyna looked over the papers Kelly McFinnigan and Major Braun approached, "Captain Calahad, Subaltern Lady Vallois this is Major Don Braun, our AFFS contract representative and the man you actually report to." McFinnigan said.

Hap started to reach to shake the Major's hand but caught himself. The slight gesture was not missed on Braun and he made a subtle wave with his left hand, and smiled wryly. "I'm glad to finally meet both of you, I wanted to talk to you before the evening started." He nodded toward a corner of the bar.

Roweyna continued to scan the papers. Without looking up she told her father, "This is Kristoff Tempes, the representative the MRB sent to us."

As the AFFS officers retreated to the corner of the room Kelly looked up from reading over his daughter's shoulder. "I'm Kelly McFinnigan, owner and commander of this company." He paused and looked Tempes over carefully, "I daresay we've never met a ComStar representative like yerself."

"You really haven't." Tempes smiled uncontrollably. This was almost too rich for him.

"No. Most are either true believers constantly tellin' us about 'Blake's good will', or the evil bureaucrats that jest count numbers of things," Kelly said, "but ye have a certain look and smell about you."

That was an odd statement. Tempes didn't like the look in Kelly's eyes. "Oh?" Tempes asked.

"Perhaps ye'd like a drink. I'd like look over these papers" As Kelly spoke Roweyna handed him the papers she had already read. Kelly nodded toward the bar.

Tempes shrugged. They could look over the papers all night, they wouldn't betray who he was. The dossier on McFinnigan had mentioned he collected Scotch and Whiskey from all over the inner sphere. Tempes wouldn't consider himself a connoisseur of either liquors, but if he had to be here he may as well enjoy himself. Kelly followed Tempes as he chose a spot near the Federated Suns Officers.

"John, give Mr. Tempes a glass from the blue bottle. Ah bit o' Macallans to start his evening." Kelly said as he continued reading. The twin nodded and carefully poured Tempes a small glass.

Tempes sipped his scotch and eavesdropped. "So the reason why I'm here, and not Lady Cunningham is because you two are part of a special program." Major Braun said, "The High Prince thought it wise to give promising Jr. Officers, like you, Captain Calahad, an opportunity to get experience with a mercenary unit in deep penetration raids, long range reconnaissance, quick strikes, and similar skills."

"I don't think I've heard of this program." Hap said.

"It's limited and not well advertised." Major Braun said. "So far it's just a hand full of Jr. Officers embedded with Eridani Light Horse, Lindon's Company, and Markson's Marauders. It's considered a broadening assignment but it's only for young officers that excel at raids and armed reconnaissance. Looking over your evals, you're a good fit for this. The RDMM commander and even your TAC officers at Albion thought you would benefit from this program, and then do well in a unit like the Ceti Hussars."

Major Braun took a sip and then continued, "I oversee the officers in the program and work directly with the mercenary company. I've read the reports from this company and this is a good unit for you and the program. I've even heard you just came back from a raid."

"Yes." Hap nodded, "I'll have the report typed up, but it's on-"

Major Braun shook his head, "Actually Commander McFinnigan tends to do a good job of having his people review missions and work on performance improvement. The video and reports were sent once your drop ship got in system. I've seen the footage. It was a good choice to break contact with the Goliath, and I apologize our intel was a little spotty on this operation. That Goliath did look like a tank from the probe's imagery.."

"Thank you sir." Hap said.

Major Braun took another sip, then turned so he could see Anastasia better, "As for you Subaltern, you have a choice to make. You can stay here, or come back with me to New Avalon. I think we can all agree. You're a lot more valuable to the Federation continuing your father's research."

"It is my choice." Anastasia said, but it almost sounded like she was asking.

"When this was discussed, your mother, the Countess, made it clear this would be your decision, but it seemed to me she would prefer you weren't in a line unit." Major Braun said, "but yes. It's your choice."

The room grew quiet as everyone waited for her answer. Tempes doubted anyone knew the true significance of her choice, though. ComStar had intercepted transmissions about this, and knew if she chose to return to New Avalon that would put Anastasia in one of the few places in the galaxy that ComStar struggled to access, and her technical acumen was a potential threat to ComStar's plans. This meant Tempes would have to ensure she died tonight. It was the other reason Tempes was not in his robes.

The plan was to have a ROM agent perform a very sloppy break-in of the barracks, stab her to death and any witnesses. Then the ComStar office would report their MRB rep was dead, robbed of his papers, and create a murder scene with a homeless man clothed in bloody adept robes. McFinnigan would report a strange person claiming to be an MRB rep visited them, but he wasn't wearing the usual ComStar robes. They'd kill a few more short brunettes or women in mercenary units, make it look like a serial killer's work. The result would be the local constabulary chasing ghosts, rumors, and Tempes would disappear while no one suspected ComStar.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #172 on: 01 November 2020, 11:09:57 »
Chapter 48

Anastasia glanced at Hap. Tempes could see some unsaid communication between them. Tempes knew of their relationship, and, if it wasn't for the fact Anastasia was ordered for termination, this could have been a lever to control her. He took a sip of scotch to cover his snort at the foolishness of love.

She looked around the room and seemed to be balancing out her choices. Tempes could tell she felt some obligation to this company. He might have thought that the sentimentality of love was ridiculous, but he respected loyalty, he depended on it in his people, and he felt it for ComStar.

"Lass, We've appreciated yer help, but yer are a soldier. If yer generals say ye need to…" Kelly said.

"Major Braun, these people, and particularly Captain Calahad, have saved my life, and took us in. I feel guilty just leaving them, or at least all of them." Anastasia said, "Is it possible to assign Captain Calahad to NAIS with me?"

Braun shook his head stiffly, "New Avalon has more MechWarriors than nearly anywhere else in the Federation. His skills are best used here, and then I need to get him to get back to the force, where he can take his experiences here, and really use them. I don't know if you've noticed, but another Succession War is starting."

Anastasia looked around again. Tempes could almost see her squirm as she had to make this choice. He savored her discomfort more than the scotch, "I choose to stay." Anastasia told Major Braun.

Braun looked annoyed, but Tempes wasn't sure if it was the fact that a valuable R&D asset appeared to want to play MechWarrior, or as Tempes knew, and suspected Braun understood, a valuable R&D asset had decided not to leave her man's side. The High Prince's dream of double heatsinks, advanced weapons, and lighter armor would wait for 'love'. Tempes couldn't hide his amusement at this.

Braun was staring down Anastasia but when he heard Tempes snicker Braun fixed his one good eye on him. "What are you laughing at? You have some 'wisdom of Blake' to share?"

Braun was an easily angered man, Tempes noted. Tempes smiled, he now planned to spend his evening provoking the man. "There is much of Blake's wisdom I have to share." Tempes replied.

Braun's head snapped back to look at Anastasia as she said, "My mother said my service had raised the prestige of our family. To run away and hide on New Avalon, especially after Klathandu, would invalidate that. I would appear to be the spoiled daughter of a noble that capriciously became a mechwarrior and then used noble privilege to avoid the risks of war, a war that I have noticed is starting."

Braun took in a deep breath, "You are a spoiled daughter of a noble. You did become a mechwarrior on a caprice, and on Klathandu-"

McFinnigan cleared his throat, "The meal is ready, if ye all would follow me to the main dining room."

Tempes had watched Hap as Braun started to down dress the young noble woman. Tempes noticed the change in Hap's posture and saw the anger in his eyes. He wondered what the young officer would have said or done had the Major not be interrupted. Tonight was about to get more interesting.

The crowd followed McFinnigan into another richly decorated room, with the same wood paneling, polished brass and thick carpet as the bar area. This room had a long table with plush high backed chairs. There were cards with each person's name on the place settings. Tempes was pleased to see that he was sitting next to Major Braun and across from Hap and Anastasia.

As the people gathered behind their chairs Kelly took his position at the head of the table. He reached for one of carafes of wine and said, "If ye all will fill yer glasses, we'll start the evenin' with a few toasts."

Everyone reached for the nearest carafe. Tempes had to wait for Henna to fill Braun's glass and her's before she passed him the wine. Kelly looked around to ensure everyone's glasses were filled before he lifted his glass, "To the Lyran Commonwealth, the Archon, and the house of Steiner."

Most of the room responded with, "To the Archon." And drank.

Patrick lifted his glass and looked at Major Braun, "To the Federated Suns, and the house of Davion."

Several members answered back, "The Federated suns." And everyone drank.

Major Braun lifted his own glass, "To the company, and your family, may you continue to enjoy success."

The Mercenaries answered with a near deafening, "gnó teaghlaigh." and drank.

Tempes felt obliged to lift his glass and say, "To the nobles that rule us, may they continue to show as much wisdom in ruling, as they demonstrate in their personal lives." His toast was answered with, "To the nobles" as everyone took another drink, he gave Anastasia a wink and a sly smile as he lowered his glass.

Roweyna was next to Tempes. She lifted her glass, "To the MRB and Comstar-"

"May they continue to be a shining light of fairness and the virtues of the star league" Anastasia added. Tempes could hear the sarcasm in her voice, actually it wasn't sarcasm it was almost an accusation. He wondered how much his quarry knew of his purpose, as most of the room replied, "To ComStar."

Kelly held up his hand. "Gents, if ye'd like to seat the ladies near you, I think Hauptman Calahad will give us one last toast." The men moved to seat their dates. Hap had to give Braun extra time, but once Henna was seated Hap lifted his glass, "To the ladies."

There was a reply of "to the ladies." And after drinking the men sat down and Kelly announced that he'd say grace before the first course was served. As he prayed Tempes tried to speculate what Anastasia knew of how ComStar was interfering in her life. Those fools at the ComStar office had tipped her off, or at least she had nearly gone to ground after they failed to hide their surprise at discovering her alive.

The only exception was she would perform her job in her 'Mech, and she came back to the offices to receive her mother's message, then took a field trip to a local food market. Which resulted in more amateur buffoonery from ROM agents that should have known better. Tempes had assumed her love for her mother had brought her out of hiding. He now wondered why she risked going to the market.

The prayer ended and several young men dressed in kilts, and young women in traditional Irish dresses came out with trays of soup. It was a pea soup. Tempes had been on traveling for several weeks and was looking forward to fresh fruits and vegetables. He stirred the soup, it wasn't a reconstituted ration, but it wasn't what he had hoped for. Tempes decided it was time to start amusing himself.

Tempes leaned toward Major Braun, "You asked for the wisdom of Blake, and I believe, if he were here, the blessed founder of my holy order would advise the young heir to Hazlehurst that, 'Service and sacrifice are greater than honor'."

"It's not really about honor it's about duty." Major Braun replied as he glared over his soup at Anastasia.

"I performed my duty. I was abandoned by my lance, and I was forced to withdraw to what quickly became a tactically indefensible position." Anastasia replied

"And here you are now, safe and warm while the rest of your company is cold and tired and fighting a desperate guerrilla war." Major Braun snapped.

"We were surrounded, and the Combine forces were closing on us." Hap said. "If we had stayed we would have been killed or captured."

"What would you have done?" Anastasia asked.

Braun slammed his fist on the table, "I would have held the line." He stood up and shouted. "Just like I did on Rigil Kentarus."

Henna gently pulled him back down to his seat, "and it nearly cost you everything."

"Mind your cups tonight, Patrick, Auntie Elinor says to me," Patrick mumbled, "It's going to be a polite evenin' with no shoutin' or breakin' things."

Roweyena quietly shushed him.

"I apologize." Braun looked sheepish "Everyone, I'm sorry. That was uncalled for." He stirred his soup.

"This is why I feel the need to stay here and redeem myself." Anastasia said quietly.

Major Braun nodded, "Granted, Subaltern Vallois, but you should reconsider returning with me to New Avalon. I was wrong to snap at you. I know on Klathandu, you had few options."

"What options did you have Rigil Kentarus, Major Braun?" Tempes asked innocently

"None, Field Marshall Felsner and General Squire had performed a lightning raid to seize an air field that the Combine was using for their aero fighters. My lance was ordered to perform screening and advanced reconnaissance north of the air field. We detected a large 'Mech force moving on the air field. We were ordered to delay the advancing force while the Filed Marshall moved his own Aero fighters and additional 'Mechs to hold the air field."

Braun took in a deep breath, "We harassed the forces and lured them into a box canyon. We knew we were trapping ourselves, but we hoped we could delay them long enough for our aero fighters to catch them in the canyon. We made a miscalculation. The canyon channelized their forces, so we could even the odds, until they started using lighter 'mech's to jump over the cliff walls, and we were quickly overwhelmed. I do remember as my ammunition exploded, and my engine's shielding was destroyed, I saw a flight Corsairs start their strafing run. I slammed my fist on the ejection button but I knew I was dead, but I felt good I had done my duty."

Braun pushed his soup away from him and Henna reached over and rubbed his shoulders. "When I woke up at a field hospital I was told the good news that, not only had our actions allowed us to hold the air field, but our aerofighters were able to destroy nearly two companies worth of 'mechs. It was enough of a loss the Kuritan forces withdrew from the planet. The bad news was I had sustained serious burns, lost both my legs, an arm and an eye. My lancemates were dead, and my Shadowhawk was destroyed."

Braun fixed his eye on Tempes, "Before he left the planet Field Marshall Felsner came personally and thanked me for my sacrifice. I was given the title Baronet, awarded the Sunburst medal." Brauns voice became stern, "I don't live in an academic or cloistered world, when I talk about duty and sacrifice it's not some philosophical idea to me, I know what I'm saying."

"And you'd like you to teach Subaltren Vallois about sacrifice and how to perform her duty in a 'life-threatening' cloistered university?" Tempes asked, trying to goad the man. "That seems paradoxical."

"No. Subaltern Vallois has a rare talent that could do a lot of good for the Federation." MAjor Braun moved his head to look at Anastasia, "We all have our roles for the Federation. As a crippled dispossessed MechWarrior my role is to work with officers like Captain Calahad and mercenaries units like this to help AFFS improve tactically. You're a genius who needs to use her talents to improve our technology base."

"What exactly will the Subaltern do to 'improve' the technology of the Federated Suns?" Tempes asked

"I'm honestly not sure." Braun answered as the wait staff collected the bowls of soup and replaced them with plates that had ceramic ramekins filled with shepherd's pie. "I got a hold of a few of her papers and there were a lot of things I couldn't understand. Near as I can figure she and her father were working on magnets and composite materials. I believe it was for some industrial application." Tempes wondered if he was just ignorant, or lying to cover up what Tempes knew was a top secret weapons program.

Tempes had seen some of the papers that Anastasia had written. Like Braun he couldn't make much sense of them, but the analysts assured him she was dangerously smart and her work could be used to help the Federated Suns make breakthroughs on several different technologies. When the ROM agents paid a visit to her father's work associate they discovered that they were working on Gauss Rifles, had done some research on advanced sensors, more efficient heat sinks, and even had reasoned out most of the theory and work of how to build their own Hyperpulse generator.

The ROM agents left shortly after the man "committed suicide". When they departed it appeared that some local crime element had broken into the man's apartment and taken everything of value, to include his computer and a safe that contained his work and important papers. The data from the man's computer and his papers had validated his execution and the death of Edmund Vallois and his daughter. ROM had used a shell company to purchase Vallois Solutions, and made most of their products and technology disappear, leaving Anastasia as the only loose end.

Tempes was lost in his own thoughts as the evening progressed. He was content that Anastasia would be staying with the company. This would give him some room to maneuver and plan her death. He decided she needed to die sooner rather than later, but he had time to plan a proper operation.

When the evening concluded Tempes started to leave but Kelly met him at the door and followed him out, "We should talk. When I said I had never met a ComStar representative like you, I lied, jest like you've been lying to tonight. You remind me of the MRB representatives that met us on Buckminster."

Tempes felt a chill go down his spine, Buckminister is where a ROM agent had assassinated a rogue adept that had joined McFinnigan and Sons. The agent had died and several ROM members went directly to Kelly posing as MRB agents to tie up some loose ends of the operation, "I don't know-"

Kelly leaned close to him, and whispered, "Ye know. And I'll tell you what I told those sons of whores. You threaten my family again, and I will ensure you pay a very nasty and very high price. I have powerful friends, that'll ensure if I'm crossed you'll regret it. Don't doubt, family takes care of its own."

Tempes knew this was no idle threat. The ROM cell on Buckminster had continued to surveil McFinnigan and Sons, until the surveillance team failed to report. Mysteriously all their effects and equipment appeared in the Buckminster ROM's office the next day, but their bodies were never found. Even more telling the camera had been shot through the lens with a high powered rifle. To add insult to injury, the components to make a car bomb were stolen from their armory and laid out on the Buckminister Precentor's desk.

This was taken as a message from Heimdall to leave McFinnigan and Sons alone. There had long been circumstantial evidence that McFinnigan and Sons supported Heimdall, or were possibly a cell. As with all things related to Heimdall, the links could never be truly proven, and that McFinnigan and Sons was somehow protected by them seemed a stretch. But the fact remained, somehow someone had killed two ROM agents and then infiltrated a high security ComStar facilities, just to leave an almost cryptic message.

This caused a problem for ROM. Finding a Heimdall cell was difficult, and killing one would have just invited a blood war with terrorists that could strike with enough precision to kill key leadership in ComStar if they felt motivated. Given their alleged ideological links to House Steiner and Heimdall's exclusive involvement in maintaining and protecting the royal house it was best to write off the incident as "eye for an eye". As far as ROM was concerned the matter was closed. This was also during the time when ComStar was investigating Wolf's Dragoons so the amount of extra resources was limited.

Tempes nodded, and they quietly descended the stairs together. Tempes was enraged. He was a powerful ROM demi-precentor, and was being threatened by a third tier mercenary company. He was the one that usually issued very real, very startling threats in these sorts of conversations and he hated the idea he was at a disadvantage.

At the ramp both men bid each other a polite, but cold farewells. Tempes slipped out into the cold night, warm with the rage and anger he felt toward Kelly McFinnigan. All of Tempes's questions had been answered. He had almost decided that Anastasia was the only person that needed to die, now it was the whole company. He'd certainly need to plan this carefully, as it would need to be sudden and complete. Tempes could not allow this insult to be ignored, no entity should be allowed to threaten the order of ComStar. He reasoned that destroying them properly would take time. This would prove unfortunate for Anastasia, Tempes concluded, he would move up her execution just so he could have more time to focus on destroying McFinnigan and Sons. He got into his ground car already putting the finishing touches on his perfect plan to execute her.

PsylockeSmythe

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #173 on: 03 November 2020, 11:17:45 »
Nice update.  Can't wait for the next two chapters.

Psy

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #174 on: 21 November 2020, 16:44:19 »
Chapter 49

Hap leaned heavily on Anastasia as they returned to the barracks. He had drank too much at the Company's formal meal, and now just wanted to sleep. He was surprised that Anastasia wasn't as drunk as he was, he was also glad because she was the only thing keeping him upright.

"You're a lot stronger than you look." He told her as they walked down the drop ship ramp.

"You saw how well I got along with Major Braun, now imagine that with every TAC officer at NAIS for three years." Anastasia sighed, "I did a lot of push-ups. Some days it seemed push-ups were all I did."

"Yeah, I noticed you rubbed him the wrong way." Hap said, "Also why am I more drunk than you?"

"I mostly drank wine." Anastasia said, "It's something Elinor recommended. When Commander McFinnigan came around with scotch or whiskey, I made sure I was in the middle of a glass of wine. I grew up in a French home, my love, I can drink wine all night and let its warm kiss gently put me to sleep and wake up feeling rested and ready for another day."

Hap half slipped on a patch of ice, but Anastasia's kept him from falling. "Didn't we do this once before, but you were falling down drunk."

"Yes, Harold, and had you carried me back to your bed that night-"

"You would have gotten sick all over my bed." Hap smiled at her, "Think you could carry me?"

"What do you think I'm doing?" Anastasia groaned as they came to the barracks stairs. She half-pulled him up the stairs. "Are going to be sick?"

Hap shook his head, he was dizzy and would probably have fallen a few times if not for her help, but he wasn't sick. "I just want to collapse into bed." Hap kept one arm on Anastasia's shoulder and used his free hand to pull himself up the railing. He thought of getting into his bed, and remembered his room, and that Anastasia had moved in, "We need to talk to about how you moved into my room."

"You want to do that while you're falling down drunk?" Anastasia asked as got to the top of the stairs.

"No, but we should do it first thing tomorrow morning." Hap said as he opened the door, "What happened with you and Mags anyway?"

Anastasia nodded down the hall, and led Hap to her and Mag's old room. They stopped in the doorway. The moon showed through the window onto the two beds that Joker and Mags had pushed together. In the pale moonlight it was easy to see they were tangled up in the blankets. Joker was snoring loudly and Mags elbowed him in the side. Joker turned and pulled the blankets revealing they were both naked. Mags covered them both and promptly fell back asleep.

Hap looked confused, "Alright, I'm really drunk." He whispered, "but are they, or when, how?"

Anastasia pulled him into his room and covered the door with a privacy screen. She turned on the bedside lamp as she quietly explained, "Shortly after you left Kelly threw a party to celebrate the founding of the company and to have a memorial for all the deceased members. Mags and Joker were pretty drunk by the end of it, and when I woke up the next day I found them…similar to how they are now."

"So you moved into my room?" Hap was still looking around trying to figure out how angry he should be.

"Not at first." Anastasia said as she unbuttoned her vest and tunic. "On the third night-"

"Third night? So they've been doing this a while. Good to know they didn't start hating each other after hooking up." Hap started taking off his vest.

Anastasia nodded as she hung up her dress clothes, "Yes. That has proven good, I suppose. Once they started sleeping together I put the privacy screen between our beds in the hopes of encouraging a little discretion or just modesty on their part."

Hap opened his wall locker, "How'd that work out for you?"

"Not well." Anastasia said as she moved behind her privacy screen that she had put in the corner. "As I was going to say, on the third night they were vigorously…not hating each other, and Joker knocked over the screen onto me. I yelled at him, and he suggested I join them. This upset Mags, and subsequently their intimate congress ended. I left to sleep in here while they argued. The next day we all talked. I suggested they move into Joker's room since David was with you. They pointed out David would return. They countered that I should move into your room, because I sleep here occasionally."

"So the three of you rearranged room assignments without talking to me." Hap asked watching Anastasia pile her clothes onto the privacy screen.

"You were gone, and as assistant lance leader I assumed it fell under my purview." Anastasia answered

Hap hung up his jacket as he admired the organization of his closet. Anastasia had hung up his jackets, sweaters and dress shirts, and she had folded his other clothes. Anastasia had a habit of raising his quality of life, but she often did it without asking him. Hap generally liked what she did, he just wished she would ask.

Anastasia emerged from behind the screen. She was wearing a burgundy silk nightgown "You okay?"

Hap was feeling worse and just wanted to sleep. "I'll be alright. I just need to sleep. Tomorrow we'll talk."

Anastasia could sense he was annoyed. She decided not to press the issue, and instead nodded and went to the bathroom. Hap changed into a clean pair of pajama pants, and sat down on his bed. The mattress felt soft and the sheets smelled clean and slightly perfumed. He laid down for a moment as he waited for Anastasia to finish.

Hap woke up several hours later. The dizziness was now a dull headache. There was a glass of water and the tube for his vitamin tabs on the nightstand. He put a tab in the water and let it dissolve. He looked around, but couldn't see Anastasia. He drank the vitamin water and went to the bathroom.

As he walked back to his bed he found Anastasia asleep on the futon under a quilt. He thought about waking her, seeing if she wanted to sleep together, but he just wanted to get back to sleep, and the thought of getting situated with her was unappealing to him. He went to his bed alone and slid under the sheets, blankets, and quilt on his bed. The bed was soft and the blankets were heavy. Hap could faintly smell the scent of Anastasia's shampoo on his pillow. He fell asleep thinking that he hadn't slept in a proper bed like this in a long time.

A few hours later Anastasia shook Hap awake, "Harold, we have an inspection in 0900."

Hap opened his eyes. The sun had risen recently and his room was filled with the gray light of morning. Anastasia was sitting on the edge of his bed in her black coveralls. As she leaned over Hap noticed her name tag was new. The leather patch had a silver silhouette of a Valkyrie, and "Anastasia Valois" in silver letters. Below her name was her rank "Subaltern" in silver, and "the Professor" in pink.

Hap sat up in bed, "Alright two questions. 'The Professor'? Did we decide that was your call sign?"

"I asked Joker and Mags to get a new name tag made for me. I gave them the old name tag, as a reference. I specified that the new would be like it, except it should have my rank, and it should not have 'Princess'."

"So Joker had it replaced with, 'Professor'. That's the quality work I'd expect from him." Hap said. He slid over next to Anastasia and put his arm around her to pull her close, "What's this about an inspection?"

Anastasia laid her head on his shoulder, "It's for the ComStar and AFFS visit. They want to see the complete 'mech stable and roster of personnel. We need to have our lance in formation in a few hours."

"Damn, I was hoping we wouldn't have to deal with the MRB agent again, he was one creepy bastard."

Hap could feel Anastasia shudder, "Yes. He kept looking at me like I was a petit four that he was going to devour. After this inspection we shouldn't see him or anyone else from the MRB again for at least a year." She snuggled with him for a moment before saying, "If you want breakfast, we should get up."

Hap reluctantly got up. He still had a slight headache but he knew it would go away once he had some breakfast and coffee. By the time he was dressed Anastasia had ensured the rest of the floor was up and moving. Hap made a note to try and pull Joker aside and make sure he knew that he had better play things straight with Mags. Hap considered that Joker had never had a girlfriend longer than a four day pass, so if he and Mags were together for a couple weeks that was at least promising.

Breakfast was set up in the 'mech bay with folding tables. The 'mech bay was the only place large enough to seat everyone at once, and everyone needed to eat before the inspection. Before getting in line at breakfast Hap pulled Joker aside, "What's going on with you and Mags?"

"Yeah, about that" Joker looked sheepish, "We got really drunk one night, and you know how I'm always kidding with her about getting together, and whatever. So we'd been drinking half the night away, and I asked her if she was 'drunk enough' to sleep with me. She nodded and said 'sure'. We went back to her room, and the next morning we had a long talk."

"Really." Hap glanced over to see Mags and Anastasia talking while they stood in the line, "I've never had a long talk with Mags, she either gives you a lot of shrugs and non-committal answers, or she tells you exactly what she thinks." Hap could see Anastasia was talking and Mags responded with shrugs and nods.

"Oh, she was pretty direct and committal. She told me if I cheated on her, left her, or if I was messing with her, she'd cut me. I guess the moral of the story is be careful what you wish for."

"So you're committed to her?" Hap asked.

"I guess. Mom told me if you find a girl you like, and she lets you touch her, do what she says."

"Joker, there were a lot of girls before Mags." Hap said. "Please tell me she is different then the others."

"She is. Those other girls were just dumb bitches I wanted to sleep with, I actually, I dunno, I guess, I like Mags. I could see us sticking together."

"Promise me you're not going to get bored and screw everything up, because I'll cut you too." Hap said.

"I'll try boss, but really I'm just following your lead." Joker said.

"Following my lead? What do you mean? Is Mag's mad that Anastasia got us back in AFFS or that we're leaving in a year?"

"Naw, she was mad at first, but she and Anastasia talked it out. When Mag's dad wanted to retire he went and talked to Kelly about letting Mag's pilot his 'mech and stay on with the company. The old man didn't think it was a good idea. Kelly thought she needed more time to grow and mature. He wanted to bring up one of his other young warriors, but somehow Macho Camacho talked Kelly into it. Anastasia convinced Mag's that's what her mother did, only it was with some AFFS generals. Mag's respects a good hustle."

"It's not a-" Hap realized it wasn't worth it, "So what do you mean you're 'following my lead'?"

"You and Anastasia are together. Why shouldn't Mags and I be together?" Joker asked.

"Because Anastasia and I are probably going to be together for a long time, but you usually hook up with a woman, and after one night you intentionally never see her again." Hap said.

"Well maybe this time will be different, for both of us. Did you think about that?" Joker said

"I doubt that." Hap replied

"What do you think of what Anastasia did to your room?" Before Hap could answer Joker saw the change on his face, "Ah! I knew it would piss you off. I know you don't like having your stuff messed with, and I also know you don't like it when other people make decisions for you."

"I do need to set some ground rules with her, but that doesn't mean we're destined to fight with each other all the time, or that I'm going to lover her and leave her, I'm just not that guy."

Joker shrugged, "We'll see."

"Just get in line." Hap snapped, "We need to eat before they tear everything down." As the two men got in the queue Hap added, "you don't really think Anastasia and I aren't going to work?"

Joker shook his head, "No. You're right, you're the committed relationship type. I just know you, and I see how Anastasia pushes all your buttons, good and bad. I was also giving you shit, because you're giving me a hard time about Mags. I mean it though, things are different with Mags. She has her hooks in me. It's crazy."

They were soon at the front of the line. Breakfast was porridge, eggs, and blood pudding. They had to eat quickly and put everything away, so they could move their 'mechs to the designated marshalling area, an unused section of the air strip near the Ops center.

The company put their lances into squares along the air strip. The MechWarriors stood between the front two 'mechs in the formation. There was also a formation for the Tech's, and another for the support personnel next to the line of 'mechs.

The Coyotes were in a neat two-by-two formation between Hap's Griffin and Anastasia's Valkyrie. Hap reflected he hadn't stood in a formation like this since before Klathandu. Hap glanced to his left. Anastasia looked like a mix of professionalism, feminine charm, and military chic. Hap glanced over his shoulder. Joker was already starting to look more like a mercenary. He had traded some of his AFFS issue for what looked like an LCAF load carrying kit, and he was wearing woodland camo coveralls like Mags. Somehow Mags and Joker looked like they were in one unit and Hap and Anastasia in another.

Mags and Joker both had their sleeves rolled up and Hap could see they each sported new looking tattoos of a stylized coyote howling to a full moon that contained a celtic knot. Hap mentally noted, they now had matching tattoos, maybe Joker was serious about his relationship.

Hap leaned slightly toward Anastasia, "I see Joker and Mags now have matching tattoos.

Anastasia, continued to look forward, staying at the position of attention, but replied with a slight nod

"Is this a lance thing? Did you get one? Should I?" Hap asked.

Anastasia leaned slightly toward Hap and, still looking forward, "God made me perfect. You don't allow another artist to add to a completed piece of fine art." She whispered. "and no you shouldn't either."

Hap smiled, "We should probably get Mag's design on all 'mechs though. It looks good."

Anastasia gave a subtle nod, "Yes, certainly. It is a good design."

The Comstar representative, Major Braun, Kelly, and Roweyna were walking down the line of 'mechs and mercenaries. Hap was relieved to see ComStar had sent a different member of their order. This man was wearing bright yellow robes, and carrying a clipboard. Hap could hear the ComStar representative talking to Patrick. Hap could detect a slight German accent as the adept spoke.

The adept was asking Patrick technical questions about his lance. Then he had several questions about the company's use of mission specific tailored response lances. Finally the adept seemed satisfied, and the leadership group proceeded to the Coyotes. The Adept stood in front of Hap. The adept flipped through several pages on his clipboard before looking down at Hap.

"Captain Harold Frederick Calahad. Ja?" The adept asked. "You are the lance leader for this Recon Lance?"

"Yes." Hap felt like he was a cadet again, being drilled, to see if he was technically proficient. Hap glanced at Kelly to see if he would give him a sign, but Kelly just gave him a wry grin while he smoked his pipe. Hap glanced over to Major Braun. He was wearing an AFFS military utility uniform with the right sleeve cut off. He had a very bulky metal prosthetic arm. Hap wondered why he wasn't wearing it last night.

"Very good, What is the drop weight of your lance?" The adept asked.

Without thinking Hap replied "155 tons." He reminded himself he needed to focus.

"What is the maximum speed of your slowest 'mech?"

"86 kilometers per hour." Hap said. He almost gave more information, but he had learned at Albion to just answer the question you're asked.

The adept looked over his pages, then looked up at the 'mechs. "The VLK-QA has a similar weapons configuration to your GRF-1N, but both mech's are significantly slower than the JR7-D. How does this inform your tactics?"

"I generally keep the Valkyrie and Griffin back and use their LRMs to fix an enemy while the Jenner and Firestarter close. Also the Valkyrie's medium laser fills in for the Griffin's lack of short range." Hap said.

The Adept nodded, "Very good. So you keep the VLK-QA near you. This is a good strategy." He flipped his page to the top. "This company performs daily patrols of the area. When is your next patrol?"

Hap glanced sideways at Anastasia and saw a subtle shake of her head. Patrol schedules were usually posted in Ops, but they hadn't had a chance to go by Ops today. "This afternoon." Hap guessed.

"Very good." The Adept replied, "I have seen enough Commander, let us see your support staff."

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #175 on: 21 November 2020, 16:46:01 »
Chapter 50

The company stood in formation in the cold clear sunny morning for another quarter hour as the ComStar MRB adept, Major Braun, Kelly and Roweyna finished walking the line of mercenaries. Hap was glad when they were ordered to get out of the cold, and put their 'mechs back in the bay.

After the 'mechs were parked in the bay, Hap met up with the lancemates at the foot of his Griffin. "Let's go to ops, see when we're scheduled to patrol." Hap suggested.

As they started toward the operation center Hap glanced at Mags, "Mags, how are you doing? We haven't talked since I got back."

"Good, Jefe, good. I heard you ran into Goliath, but Patrick got scared and ran."

"We had been chewed up by tanks going into that fight, and David nearly got his 'mech destroyed."

"If I had been there, the Goliath would have tried to run, and failed." Mags said.

Before Hap could answer, Anastasia said, "I know you're an aggressive Jenner pilot, and at close range your weapon platform can melt or destroy nearly two tons of armor in one salvo, but a Goliath's rear armor would likely sustain a full volley from your Jenner."

"Then I'd give him two." Mags said.

"Next raid I'll be sure to bring you along Mags" Hap said as he opened the door to the ops center.

"Good, because we should never run like candy asses." Mags said as they approached the holo monitors and the watch officer of the day, Mark nodded to them.

"Mags, there are times when a tactical withdrawal is the correct answer." Anastasia said.

"No. You go down stacking skulls, or make their victory shit, running is what you do to get to the enemy." Mags said.

"Oh coffee," Joker said, "I'm so glad to see you." Joker broke off from his lancemates and went straight to the refreshment table.

"Harold, would you like coffee?" Anastasia asked as she followed Joker.

"Yes please." Hap replied as he approached the ops officer, "Mark, when are we patrolling?"

"Not today, Hap my man, Dullahan's are keeping us safe for the next 24. You guys are in reserve."

"That's good to hear." Hap said as Anastasia handed him a cup of coffee. Hap sipped the coffee and looked down at her. "Thanks for the coffee, but I prefer it black."

Anastasia took the coffee and took a drink, "I don't know Harold, It's warm and sweet, and nearly perfect, like me. Are you sure you don't prefer it this way." She told him with a coy smile.

Hap took the coffee back, "Did you take flirting lessons while I was gone?"

Anastasia gave an enigmatic shrug, "I've spent a lot of time with Roweyena and Elinor, they might have suggested a few things."

Hap glanced past Anastasia to see Major Braun across the room. He looked up from talking with Kitty and watched Hap and Anastasia. Kitty handed him a few data disks and he started walking toward Hap.

"Captain Calahad, Subaltern Vallois, a word." Major Braun said. Anastasia jumped as she heard his voice.

"Major Braun, Sir, have you seen the ComStar Adept. I misinformed him of our next patrol." Hap said

"No he left. He said he needed to file reports and had other pressing business. Between last night's representative not being able to return today, and Adept Heinrich needing to make a hasty exit it seems ComStar is pretty busy." Major Braun looked at the watch built into his prosthetic arm, "I also can't stay long. I have to go find Edrinia Light Horse, and see how one of your peers is doing."

"Very good sir." Hap said.

"Before I go I need you to be honest with me, I know you two are a couple-"

Anastasia looked at Kitty, "Did you tell?"

"When he asked, he looked at me with the eye, it's like it sees into yer soul." Kitty said. Braun glanced over his shoulder at her and she made a strange squeak, "Aye! Like that." She exclaimed.

Braun shook his head then looked back to Hap and Anastasia, "I need to know if you two are serious, and if Lady Valois knows."

"Yes to both, and mother approves." Anastasia said soberly.

"Good. I don't want to cross her. I met her on New Avalon, and I can't tell you how infuriating it is to be pushed around by a meter and a half of irresistible charm and indomitable will. She's like a 50 kilogram 'mech fist, in a velvet glove."

Joker snickered, "Sound familiar Hap?"

Braun turned his attention to Joker, "Corporal Cameron, shut your mouth now and I'll keep my blind eye in your direction. Talk again and I'll charge you for desertion and theft of a 'mech."

"Andale, burro." Mags said quietly, pushing him out of the Major's line of sight.

"Kitty's right, it's like that eye can see your soul." Joker whispered as Mags led him away.

Major Braun turned his gaze back on Hap and Anastasia. "What were we talking about?" he shook his head, "Doesn't matter. Hap, I need you to get all the experience you can from this assignment."

"Aye, Hap, ye need more experience?" Patrick called from across the room, "Ye can lead my lance today."

Hap looked at Major Braun. He raised a questioning eyebrow, but between the scars and eye patch it was difficult to read the man's expression. If given the choice Hap would prefer an afternoon with flirty Anastasia, but he instead nodded, "Sure, Patrick. I'll take the patrol."

Patrick laughed, "Good, 'cause the docs haven't cleared me to pilot a 'mech yet, so ye were likely to do it one way or another."

Major Braun looked annoyed, "we need privacy" he mumbled to himself. He focused on Anastasia, "The corporation that bought Vallois Solutions is trying to claim all technical information along with their patents. A lot of the project data is locked up because of it. This is making it hard to do research. I know you recently received your personal goods from NAIS. Do you have any research data on your noteputer, and would you copy it for me to take back to NAIS?"

"I'll give you what I have, but I can't gaurentee it will be helpful."

"I'll take whatever you can give me. You mind if we go to the barracks now?"

Anastasia nodded, and they left the ops center. As they walked Anastasia said, "You should really speak with George Zinclair, he was Daddy's business partner. Daddy was convinced he was the smartest man he knew. I'll concede he was an eccentric, and Daddy more less look out for him, but still-"

"Hopefully this doesn't come as a shock, but he shot himself a few weeks ago. He lived alone, and since the business where he worked had been sold, no one noticed for a while. Which gave thieves ample opportunity to break in and steal anything of value."

Anastasia frowned, "George shot himself…that's…George was highly intelligent, and Daddy was his only friend. I'm shocked but not necessarily surprised."

"You might be surprised to learn how high the suicide and fatal accident rates are for scientist across the inner sphere." Major Braun said, "I learned about it when I got pulled into a brief so secret that I'm probably in trouble for even eluding to it." Major Braun dropped his voice to a whisper, "You should know, once you've been identified as someone that can recover los tech or make new advancements in science youe life expectancy is measured in months. It's why security is so high around NAIS, and the reason I wish you'd choose to go there."

Anastasia didn't answer, so Hap said, "Major Braun, Sir, why don't you just order her to return to NAIS?"

"I can't. Aside from Lady Vallois making it clear that it was the Subaltern's choice. There is more to it. You have to understand as we go into another war, or as the previous war drags on, the media loves to report on stories of young nobles 'shirking' their duties and using class and privilege to avoid combat. Lady Vallois told the members of the nobility that Anastasia could be held up as a noble that fought and did her duty. The generals want her for the weapons program. So I'm in this uncomfortable position where I got Dukes and Countesses telling me to let her fight, and I got officer in my chain saying, get her to NAIS."

"The nobles want to use me as a symbol, even though I technically ran at Klathandu?" Anastasia said.

"There was a military tribunal where your family's lawyer brought in enough generals, tacticians and military historians who all agreed your only options were death or capture, and you were ordered to withdraw. It was obvious there was no strategic or even tactical reason to sacrifice yourselves."

"Then your attorney gave a stirring speech about your patriotism and bravery, with a subtle condemnation of the leadership that would put you and your peers in the meat grinder that Klathandu had become. After that you were cleared. The tribunal is public record, no one can really question you."

"Last night you told us we should have 'held the line'." Hap said as they walked up the barracks stairs. They quickly passed through the empty barracks and came to Hap's room.

"If I'm being honest, I'm jealous, or I was jealous. All three of us were put in terrible situations, you got lucky, and got pulled out. I got a title, and a shiny medal, and" Major Braun held up his robotic arm and to point to his missing eye and added bitterly "an eyepatch, and three prosthetics." Major Braun paused. "Last night Henna pointed out your escape doesn't cheapen my sacrifice, it just makes life seem unfair."

"I know there are a lot of people that hate me because they think I live sort of a 'charmed life', but you're probably the first person that I feel is justified in your animosity." Anastasia said as she sat down at her desk and pulled out her noteputer.

"I don't hate you Subaltern, you annoy me, but I don't hate you." Major Braun said. "Now I've been honest with you, and if you're honest with me, I can help you two. Subaltern I understand you don't want to leave Captain Calahad. I convinced Henna she should give up her career to marry me, and follow me around. Subaltern I can't stress enough to you that you are considered a high priority military R&D asset. You do not have the same luxury as Henna. Your nation needs you, you have a higher duty."

"This sounds like one of the talks I would have with mother, except about the weight of being a noble." Anastasia put a disk into her noteputer. "It will take a moment to copy and encrypt the files."

"Thank you, and yes you have a double burden," Major Braun looked to Hap, "but Captain Calahad-"

Hap looked uncertain, "Are you suggesting I resign my commission?"

"That's one way, but no, AFFS needs all the mechwarriors it can get. What I'm suggesting is if you two were married." Major Braun looked at both of them and his scares and bitterness seemed to fade, "AFFS regulations for dual military couples is to try and keep them together, or at least on the same planet. Captain Calahad if you come out of this assignment as an expert on small unit tactics, lightning raids, and armed reconnaissance I can get you assigned as Cadre at NAIS. You might have to spend a year with the Davion Guards to get 're-greened' on conventional tactics, but this is why I need you to get as much experience as possible while you're here."

Anastasia had sat up straighter and looked excited once Major Braun mentioned marriage. "We'll have to get Hazelhurst. Mother will certainly want a large wedding ceremony in the chapel that we've been married in for generations. It will likely take a month one way just to travel there though."

"By regulation you don't require a wedding. Really a simple elopement officiated by Commander McFinnigan and that sharp little lawyer daughter of his would be sufficient." Major Braun said.

Anastasia gave Major Braun a quick shake of her head and the reproachful look that Hap was all too familiar with, "Just because it is sufficient for AFFSs regulation does not make it acceptable to the Countess of Calais Parmi Les Étoiles."

Major Braun turned to Hap, "This is what I meant when I said, '50 kilogram 'mech fist in a velvet glove'."

Anastasia gave Hap a questioning look, confirming Major Braun's sentiment. Hap carefully said, "I'm sure you and Ms. Duke have had your own 'charming' disagreements, Sir." Hap said.

"Well, it's a little different for us. One time I pissed off Henna to the point she took my legs and left the room." Major Braun chuckled, "After an hour I crawled into my wheelchair and we both apologized."

"Sir, the disk is ready to encrypt, you'll just need to enter the decryption key." Anastasia told him.

He used his left hand to type in a quick sequence of numbers and letters then stepped back to let Anastasia finish the recording process, "Speaking of Henna I'm supposed to meet her soon. She was packing up our room. I'll let you two figure out what you want to do, but I leave you with this, be honest with me, and I'll do everything I can to help you. Subaltern Valois, don't take unnecessary risks, get your experience, raise your family's prestige, but do it as safely as possible. Captain Calahad, watch over her."

The noteputer ejected the disk and Anastasia handed it to Major Braun. As he took the disk he said, "One more thing, don't use ComStar to communicate with me if you can help it. I can't explain why, but use diplomatic patch, or military courier, unless it's time sensitive or I tell you differently." The officers exchanged salutes and Major Braun left.

Anastasia sat back down and started to shut off her noteputer, "Major Braun turned out to be surprisingly helpful. We'll have to send Mother a note through diplomatic pouch and figure out how to get back to Hazelhurst. It hadn't occurred to me that if we were married AFFS would try to keep us together."

Hap sat down on his bed across from her, "You know I haven't even asked you to marry me."

"You asked my mother for her blessing. The practicalities of how and when you ask me are just details. How could we not get married Harold? I'd already told you I'd be your wife."

"When you said you'd be my wife, you were drunk, it sounded like a joke, and we had just met."

"I rarely joke." Anastasia replied, "and just because I happened to have been drunk and had only known you a few days doesn't make my assessment of us any less accurate, or the fact I'll be a superior wife."

"You're not interested in romance and the perfect proposal to accompany your ideal wedding?"

Anastasia looked at Hap for a long moment. She moved to sit next to him on his bed and face him, "You've looked annoyed since you got back, Harold, what's really bothering you."

Hap felt the annoyance of having his room disturbed and how it felt like Anastasia was making all the decisions without asking him. "Alright, if I'm being honest, I'm a little annoyed you just moved into my room. No warning, no asking, just all your stuff arrived, and suddenly this is all now your space."

Anastasia nodded, "That's fair, but in my defense you weren't here and I had to do something with all my things, and they wouldn't fit in my room even if it was just me. I assumed you would have agreed."

"That's the problem Anastasia, you just assume that whatever decision you make is for the best and instead of talking to me you just assume I'll either agree with you, or come around eventually."

Anastasia looked wounded, "I have been taking too much liberty with your things, and your space. You hadn't complained until this moment, but I see how I was wrong. I'm treating you the way my mother treated daddy. However they were married, so I recognize their relationship was different. I apologize."

Anastasia used her sleeve to dab at her eyes, "Harold, I recognize I've been talking about marriage like it is a foregone conclusion. I apologize for that too. I'm also sorry that I 'invaded your room' with my things. I can have them boxed up and stored on the Tir na nOg. I'll also move back into the room with Mags. Joker and Mags will have to figure out their own sleeping arrangement."

Hap's annoyance was giving way to guilt, "That's not necessarily want."

"What do you want?" Anastasia snapped, "I know I'm not perfect, but I'm trying hard to be the best girlfriend or fiancée or whatever I am to you, that I can be. You keep telling me you want to talk about things, but we rarely get a chance before decisions have to be made. Further, you generally go through life reacting to things. You seem to prefer not making direct choices. I try to make the best decision I can, and I like to think that everything I do for you, for us, is mutually beneficial. Apparently it's not, so tell me what you want."

Somehow her sudden flash of anger fueled Hap's own rage. "I'll tell you what I want-"

"Excuse me," David said from across the doorway.

"What!" Both Anastasia and Harold said in unison turning to stare at David.

David jumped a little, then got his composure, "Captain Hap, it's time for the mission brief. You're needed in Ops."

Hap turned back to Anastasia, every instinct told him that leaving this conversation unresolved was a bad choice, but he knew he had to go, "We'll have to finish this when I get back."

Anastasia nodded slowly and crossed her arms across her chest, "I'm not changing anything then."

"Fine." Hap said grimly.

"Fine." Anastasia imitated.

"Let's go David." Hap said as he walked out of the room.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #176 on: 29 November 2020, 18:34:43 »
Chapter 51
Monhegan
December 3029

Hap stormed out of the barracks with David on his heels. David got along side of Hap and cleared his throat, "Is, uh, everything okay with you and Anastasia."

"Yeah. We just had a small disagreement. I think she makes too many decisions, she thinks I don't make enough, and somehow we're arguing about marriage."

"Oh that sounds serious." David said.

Hap shook his head, "don't get too excited. We both want to get married. We're just…I don't want to talk about this." Suddenly David's "innocent infatuation" made Hap more annoyed.

"I've seen Anastasia mad at Joker a lot and she never looked that angry." David told him.

"It just means she cares more about our relationship." Hap said. "Let's get to ops."

Hap could sense that David wanted to ask him more questions, but it would have made him even more irritated. Hap struggled to concentrate as Mark gave the pre-mission brief. Hap was able to focus long enough to get the basic route, and he noticed that Rolph and Crow were supporting them today, they would be shadowing the patrol from Starport's fence line.

When the pre-mission brief had finished Hap approached Crow and Rolph. "You guys are walking the fence line while we patrol around the star port?"

"Yeah, we get bored just sitting in our 'mechs. We figured we'd go on our own walk about. Besides it keeps the patrolling lance in support range." Crow said.

As Hap walked to the 'mech bay he caught up with the Grizzly and Tatyana as David told them. "Anastasia and Hap had a fight. It sounded real serious."

"So? James and I fight." Tatyana said, "James says he is sorry, I forgive. We make up, maybe Sophie becomes big sister."

"James always says he's sorry? You never make a mistake?" Grizzly asked.

"Dah, I make mistakes, but James is smart. He apologizes always, sometimes for me." Tatyana said.

Hap had enough, "David, I told you, couples fight." He said. "It's natural. Anastasia and I will be fine, we just need to work it out. Let's do this patrol so I can go and start apologizing."

"Is good start." Tatyana smirked as they walked into the 'mech bay.

Hap found Mike preparing the 'mech. He grunted as Hap walked past, and Hap nodded in return. If Mike said anything Hap didn't notice. Hap robotically went through the startup procedures as he questioned if he actually had to apologize. In his mind Anastasia was wrong. Soon the gantry was raised and Hap stepped out of the 'mech bay. Without thinking he got the lance formed up and moving on their patrol.

Everything seemed to be routine. Crow and Rolph shadowed them at the parts near the starport. When they moved to the long stretch along swamps north of the star port they were on their own. Grizzly complained about having to pull a patrol the first day on Monhegan. David noted that his 'mech's newly repaired foot unit was working perfectly. Hap was quiet as he relived his argument with Anastasia. He alternated between feeling the victim, annoyed with her, sad for her, and regretting the argument.

Hap was tempted to call up Tatyana on a private channel and see if she had any advice, but he didn't really know her that well, and since she was Fletch's wife her advice would probably be "don't be a dumbass". Hap imagined how that would sound with a thick Russian accent. Hap really needed to talk to Roweyna or Fiona, except those women were probably more on Anastasia's side than his. Hap realized that he was on good terms with almost everyone in the Mercenary unit, but Anastasia was his confident and closest friend. Now that he had a problem with her he wasn't sure where he could go.

Hap was brought out of his musings when David said, "You are very quiet, Hap."

"Sorry, I was thinking about…things. I'm glad the repairs we did to your 'mech are working though. I agree with Grizzly that it's annoying to do a patrol the day after getting back, but I'm sure the Coyotes welcome the break." Hap said then added, "Tatyana you haven't had much to say."

"There is nothing to say." Tatyana answered.

"You have to understand, Hap, Tatyana is either complaining about something that can't be fixed, or she is talking in Russian which none of us can understand. We all decided it's best if she is quiet."

"Dah, Dah, 'I am Grizzly, I am big powerful man but I burchannya like suka'."

"See what I mean Hap. You can't understand half of what she says." Grizzly said.

"Tatyana, Did you just say Grizzly 'bitches like a little girl'?" Hap asked.

"Nyet" Tatyana laughed, "but is good guess, I say he…growls like bitch. Growl like dog is burchannya, girl like Sophia is divchyna. You speak Russian or try to learn Ukraine?"

"No, I just thought the same thing about Grizzly, and sort of guessed." Hap replied.

Tatyana laughed again, "I like you Hap, You are smart coyote."

"You two can both go to hell." Grizzly snapped.

They were now getting close to Turquoise lake which meant they were close to the star port again. Hap glanced down at his sensors noting that Crow and Rolph were moving along a similar route. Hap's sensors also detected a lance of 60 ton vehicles maneuvering on the ridge line above the lake. "I think there is a tank lance doing drills around those tank defilades. Is this new? Have they been here before?"

"Nyet." Tatyana said slowly. "Perhaps we call ops?"

"Ops this is Coyote-disregard-Dulla-this is McFinnigan Patrol."

"Go ahead, Hap." Mark replied. Hap could hear his mischievous smile even over the radio.

"There is a tank lance maneuvering around the ridge. Can you guys confirm if they are part of the militia or another mercenary unit doing drills?"

"Wait one." Mark said.

As they passed the lake's deep end David asked, "How did Anastasia map out the entire lake?"

"She has an advanced sensor suite that acts like a synthetic radar, or something like it. She made us stand around for a good 20 or 30 minutes as she adjusted the radar to scan every meter of the lake bed." Hap said. It occurred to him that Anastasia was making him smarter, or at least sound smarter.

"Oh." David said as they passed the middle of the lake, "I'll have to ask her to show me how they work."

Hap was getting annoyed with David's obsession with Anastasia. He was about to say something when his system warned, "SENSORS DETECT BATTLEMECHS REACTOR STARTUP". Hap glanced down at his sensors to see four new red triangles appear behind them.

"Contact Six" Grizzly yelled.

Hap turned his 'mech around as he brought his PPC up. To his surprise there were no 'mechs. He glanced back at his sensors confirming the marks, then looked up to the tree line on the far side of the lake. It didn't make sense, then it clicked, before he could speak Tatyana yelled, "In shuttle, pid vodoyu…uh…under vodya". Hearing the normally cool Tatyana who would smoothly switch between English and Russian struggle with her words alarmed Hap.

"They're underwater." Hap said as he glanced down at his sensors. He could see the four 'mechs moving under the water from behind the downed shuttle. He also saw the tank lance was now lining up, and one of the tanks was moving toward them. Hap leaned forward to see the blocky form of an SRM carrier crest the ridgeline and drive into the spot that Mag's had marked as a TRP weeks ago. A chill went down his spine. They were in the perfect ambush.

"I've been sensor locked." David sounded confused.

"David, Punch out." Hap said as he turned his Mech to face the ridgeline. Instinctively he knew he'd have to close the distance with the tanks, otherwise they'd rain down missiles with murderous impunity.

"What?"

"Vykynuty! Eject!" Tatyana screamed

Hap started to run toward the lake as the ridgeline appeared to erupt like a volcano. The smoke of hundreds of missiles rose into the air as the missiles streaked toward David's Valkyrie. Hap gunned his jump jets sending his Griffin rocketing over the lake. As his 'mech climbed he could clearly see three LRM carriers with their smoking missile launchers. He targeted the furthest tank and shot as his Griffin reached the apex of its jump. As his 'mech plunged into the water Hap ignored David's screams. He refused to acknowledge what they meant.

"What the hell just happened?" Crow asked.

"Hammer lance, I have a fire mission" Hap said as he sent his 'mech rocketing over the lake again.

"Send it." Rolph snarled

"TRP 3, Armored vehicle, in defilade" Hap touched the icon for TRP3, "Danger Close. Fire for effect."

"TRP 3, armor, in defilade, Danger close." Crow repeated, "Splash over"

Hap's 'mech continued to climb as he angled his 'mech to land on the SRM carrier. He could see the tank he had shot at, it was damaged but operational. Black smoke poured from one of the LRM racks but the other two appeared functional, it was backing out of the defilade as he landed hard on the SRM carrier.

He could feel the tank crack and break under the force of 55 tons of 'mech falling on it. There was also the sickening sensation of his 'mech's foot stepping in something soft. He felt the tank's crew section collapse as he stomped and shuffled off the tank trying to keep his balance.

Hap steadied his 'mech as he got his bearings. The tank in TRP 3 was to his left. In front of him was another LRM carrier, and the damaged tank was to his right. He was within 90 meters of all three vehicles, this meant he was inside the minimum range of their weapon systems. Before he could make another move the combined salvos of the Crow's Catapult and Rolph's Trebuchet rained down from a high angle into the defilade and LRM carrier in TRP 3. The tank exploded as Hap reported, "Splash out. Good contact, vehicle destroyed"

"Hammer Lance, I could use some of that love over here." Grizzly said as Hap watched the damaged LRM Carrier chew through the gravel of the unimproved road as it tried to get further away from Hap. When it got about 120 meters away it wheeled around hard spraying gravel as it brought its missile racks to face Hap.

Hap clenched his teeth as the tank crew fired their two operational LRM systems. Hap saw missiles impact all over his Griffin and he had to struggle to keep his 'mech upright as half the missiles hit him while the others sailed past or impacted the ground.

Hap put a PPC bolt into the tank's breached armor and watched as the tank seemed to slightly expand and give a little jump in the air then black smoke poured out from every port and hole. One of the emergency hatches opened and a member of the tank crew members emerged followed by a second, both were engulfed in flames. They took a few steps before stumbling to the ground.

Hap could also see the last LRM Carrier was on the otherside of the defilade facing sideways to him. It was not moving, and the LRM carrier didn't have a turret. Hap cautiously stepped up onto the berm to look down at the tank. It looked like the crew had panicked when they tried to back out of the defilade and had gotten their tank stuck by driving off the road, knocking over trees and getting stuck half off the road and tangled up in the trees.

Hap leveled his PPC, but as he reached to disable the PPC's field inhibitor the crew's main hatch opened. A tanker slowly rose from inside the vehicle holding his open hands up in the air.

Hap switched on his external speakers, "I accept your surrender. You have wounded, collect your first aid equipment and proceed over the defilade." Hap ordered him.

The crew member disappeared then returned a moment later with a large white box. He jumped off the tank and ran up the berm. He was followed by three more tankers. They got to the top of the defilade and stopped. One of the burned crew members moved and his company mates ran down to him.

Hap watched the grim scene as the tank crew tried to help their hopelessly injured comrades. He glanced at his lance command monitor. David's Valkyrie was destroyed, and his vitals were flat. There was a possibility he could have ejected, and he could be fine, but Hap knew David was dead.

Hap looked up again. These people had just killed one of his lancemate, someone he was personally responsible for, and he had responded by destroying three tanks and possibly killing a dozen troopers. Hap felt numb. In his rational mind he knew it was always kill or be killed in a battle. He also knew tank crews inherently understood their risks against 'mechs, but he felt bad about all the destruction and death he had caused in such a short time.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #177 on: 29 November 2020, 18:38:21 »
Chapter 52

Hap could feel the post combat "buck fever". His hands shook and he felt sick. When he was fighting it felt like time had been stretched out and slowed down, suddenly it was back to normal. He had also been highly focused. Now he was aware of more things. He could hear the radio chatter as Grizzly was coordinating with Crow and Rolph. Tatyana had calmed down enough to just mutter what Hap was certain were Russian obscenities.

Hap stepped to the ridgeline. David's Valkyrie was destroyed. The fusion reactor had exploded and the whole right side was demolished. Hap could also see damage to the cockpit, but it was obvious David had not ejected. Hap took it all in a moment, but refused to let himself feel the impact of it.

There was a destroyed Commando 'mech broken and half underwater next to Grizzly's Wolverine. He was being harassed by a Spider and Tatyana was engaging a Vulcan. Rolph and Crow were bounding over the road and moving closer. As they moved Rolph and Crow alternated firing their missile at the Vulcan and Spider.

The Vulcan jumped close to Tatyana and raked her Kintaro with its medium laser, flamer, and machine gun. The Vulcan had its back to Hap and without thinking he dropped his crosshairs on it and fired both his PPC and missiles. The PPC's electric bolt destroyed the rear armor on the mech's left shoulder and the missiles hit all around its back. One of the missiles found the machine gun ammunition magazine and there was an explosion as the ammo cooked off.

"McFinigan Patrol, this is Ops, report." Kelly said

Hap stepped back and turned back the tank crew. The one that had stayed on the berm was now smoking. Two of the other three were trying to help one of the other burn victims. It appeared one of the burn victims had succumbed to their injuries, and so they were focused only on the one that was still moving. The burned crew member was clawing and struggling as two of the other tankers tried to hold him still. One crew member pulled out a bright red auto-injector from the med kit.

Hap knew the red auto-injectors were a powerful synthetic opioid sedative. One injector was usually sufficient to relieve pain and would often render a patient unconscious. Two would almost induce a coma, and should only be administered by a skilled medic, or preferably, a doctor. A third dose would be, in most cases, a lethal dose. Hap watched as one of the tank crews administered the first auto-injector, and pulled out a second.

"Ops, this is patrol, vicinity of Turquois lake. We've been ambushed by a lance of 'mechs and a lance tanks. One friendly 'mech destroyed. Tanks are neutralized, still engaging enemy 'mechs. Request prisoner escort."

"Do ye require medical assistance?" Kitty asked.

The scene in front of him changed as two tank crew members started arguing and the third pulled out another auto-injector. Hap exhaled slowly, even from his 'mech he knew he was part of this. "I have four prisoners in good condition. Need confirmation on Dullahan 4's condition."

"Need to secure the battlefield first, but Dullahan 4's 'mech was cored, cockpit destroyed. No ejection. Life signs are negative." Grizzly said flatly, "Right now I need help with this Damn Spider it won't stay still. Crow can't you hit him? Tatyana-"

"De suka shlyukha Phoenix Hawk?" Tatayan said, "Hap, you see Phoenix Hawk."

Hap stepped back toward the cliff edge. He could see a 'mech moving quickly south, the rangefinder indicated it was over 600 meters away. This was outside the effective range of his PPC, but he got a lock with his LRMs and took a hurried shot. The missiles struck the Phoenix hawk in the legs and back, but didn't pierce the 'mech's armor.

Crow jumped his Catapult next to Hap, "Damn, look at him run." Crow turned in place, waited a moment then launched a salvo at the Spider. Hap couldn't see the light 'mech, but the red icon on his targeting computer disappeared. "Alright Grizzly, that solves that problem. Now about the Phoenix Hawk."

"I'm on it." Kate said. "Commander McFinnigan authorized the use of the Stuka. I'm preparing to launch now. I need you to vector me in on the target."

"You're looking for a Phoenix Hawk, moving along the road about a kilometer south of Turquoise Lake. It's probably under full throttle, I think that's about 100 kilometers an hour." Hap said.

"No, he's got a damaged leg or something, I'm keeping up with him, and I'm going 85 kilometers an hour. I just can't get him in range of my missiles." Rolph said.

"Hammer 3 continue to pursue." Kelly said. "Coyote 3 and 4 will be joining you soon. Need you to keep eyes on the Phoenix Hawk. I want to talk to that pilot, so take him alive. Coyote 1, Hammer 2, Dullahan 2 and 3 hold position and secure the battlefield. Escort for prisoners is en route. Remaining Anvil, Hammer, and Coyote elements will secure the star port."

Hap glanced again at the prisoners. They had pulled out the emergency blankets and covered their dead. Two of the prisoners were sitting on the berm smoking, the third was next to them laying on his back with his arm covering his eyes. The fourth prisoner was a few meters from his crewmates sitting with his head between his knees. Hap could see he was holding all three bright red auto-injectors.

"Crow, what happens to these guys?" Hap asked over the radio.

"Well it depends." Crow said, "If they're mercenaries we take 'em back to base, call up the MRB, they'll talk to their holding company, bank, or employer and see if anyone will pay a ransom for 'em. ComStar does the prisoner exchange. If they're part of a Successor State military we turn them over to the local military. If they're criminals we give them to law enforcement. Roweyna handles most of it."

"Just making sure, when you're in an AFFS military unit you usually hold a prisoner until the MPs show up and they take care of the rest."

The Stuka went screaming overhead. "Rolph, sweety, you still got a visual?" Kate asked.

"I did, but he just went into the mountain pass. I'm trying to catch up with him." Rolph said.

"I'm headed your way too, don't let him get away Rolph." Mags said. Hap turned his 'mech's torso to watch Mags's Jenner run across the star port's runway and sail gracelessly through the air over the fence. Joker was behind her, but he was rapidly losing ground as she ran her 'mech at full throttle. They were sending 'mechs across the runways which meant the Star Port had ceased operations.

Hap watched Kate start to bank into a turn. A second aerospace fighter rocketed up from the mountains. It was climbing high and fast and away from the Stuka. Kate brought her aerospace fighter out of the turn and corkscrewed upwards, elegantly putting her Stuka into position to pursue the fighter. Hap was impressed by the Stuka's fluid maneuvers.

"I'll be damned." Kate said, "Ops, you're not going to believe this, but I got a Phoenix Hawk LAM on my scopes and it's pulling hard for black. I think all things being equal…well we're equal for thrust. If I can catch him, I can put the hurt on him, but he's got a good lead, and he's out of weapons range."

"Aye." Kelly said. There was a pause before he spoke again, "Come back Ms. Berlin. If he has friends or a drop ship waiting in orbit you'll be at a disadvantage. If he plans to run and hide in an asteroid field or on a moon, his LAM gives him some interesting tactical advantages. Stay here among friends."

"Acknowledge Sir. Returning to base."

"Loiter about the star port air space for a bit, and make sure there are no more villains about." Kelly said. "Hammer 3, Coyote 3 and 4, link up and take the long way back to the base. Look for any additional trouble. If ye run into problems, call Ms. Berlin, she'll 'put the hurt on 'em'."

Kate, Rolph, Joker and Mags acknowledged their orders, and Hap watched Kate send her fighter into a series of barrel rolls to drop altitude and then started taking a long lazy turn over the star port. Hap could distantly see a convoy of company vehicles driving toward them. He settled in to wait.

He wished he had Anastasia with him to talk. The "business" aspect that Crow described bothered him. Hap wasn't sure how he should feel right now. He had been irritated with David right before the ambush started, and now felt he felt guilty. Guilty he couldn't save him, guilty his leadership and skill failed him. Guilty that he had been angry with him.

Then there were the three destroyed tanks around Hap. The burned out hull of the LRM carrier that was in TRP3, the twisted and broken SRM carrier that he had jumped on, and still burning LRM carrier he had shot full of missiles and ion particles. These represented a dozen men and women he had killed. This was part of the business though. Bringing a tank, especially a support vehicle like an LRM carrier, to fight 'mechs was like bringing a knife to a gunfight. It was easier to think of it all as "just business".

Hap wondered if the tank crew hated him. As if to answer his question the prisoner with the auto-injectors stood up and started shouting at his crew mates. The smokers watched him idly, but the man on his back aggressively jumped to his feet and started stalking toward him.

Crow shot his small lasers into the berm, "Hey! Be cool, or we'll zip tie and blind fold you. Escort vehicles are on the way. Just relax." Both men responded by sitting back down.

A minute later one of the company's short flatbed truck came up and stopped about a hundred meters from the prisoners. John stepped out of the vehicle and two of the burlier techs stood up in the back. The techs both had Federated long rifles which they steadied on the truck's roof as John slowly approached the prisoners. Hap watched as John quickly searched the tank crew, and put them on the back on the flatbed. It looked like a quick and well-rehearsed POW reception and movement.

As they drove the prisoners away Kelly asked, "Can anyone confirm who attacked us?" Kelly asked.

"'Mech's were black with Liao Green trim. There symbols a skull on a green Liao triangle." Grizzly said

"Is Death Commandos camo spec." Tatyana added.

"Death Commandos aye? So ye think this was revenge for the raid?" Kelly asked

"They do not fight like Death Commandos." Tatyana observed.

"The lads you picked up John, what did they tell you?" Kelly asked

"They are or were Mernard's Missileers. It's one of the mercenary companies based here. They claim they were hired to ambush a rogue 'mech lance."

"Death Commandos would not hire help." Tatyana said.

"Sorry Tatyana, I forgot your beloved Capellans are the biggest bad asses in the galaxy." Grizzly said. "I'd hate to bismerch your view of the great Capellan Death Commandos with the idea that may be they might need a little help."

"I have no love for Confederation. They left me to rot in League prison. I am zhinka bez krayiny now. I have no country. I am mama to Sophie, druzhuna to James, and mercenary like you, nothing else. I tell you truthfully, Death Commandos would never trust mercenaries with their work."

"Enough you two." Kelly sounded like a father that shouldn't be questioned. I know tempers are running high because we lost one of our own, but now is not the time. John, if they're mercenaries, we treat 'em with respect. Assume nothing they did today was personal. Tatyana, return to base. I'll want you to talk with them while we get this sorted out."

"Dah" Tatyana replied.

Hap looked down into the valley to see the techs and support personnel picking through the remains of the battlefield and pulling out salvage. Hap glanced over to Crow's Catapult and saw Crow was sitting on top of his Catapult's LRM launcher. Hap cracked open his cockpit, "Crow, what are you doing out there?"

"I'm just thinking about David. Sometimes it's just good to take a moment after a battle and think about things, especially when we lose someone. It's quieter up here" Crow said.

"You mad at those guys for killing David?"

"No." Crow said. "They're mercenaries like us. It's like Kelly said, it's not personal, just business. The MRB will tell us what to do with them. We'll give David a good send off, and we'll all feel better, eventually. We'll do more patrols, we'll get other jobs, and life will go on. I'll still miss him though."

Hap nodded, "I was about to chew him out for his obsession with Anastasia."

Crow smiled, "Yeah, he really liked her." Crow stood up and started walking along the top of his 'mech. "He was a good kid, had a lot of potential. It's like they say though, only the good die young. People like you and me we'll probably live long enough to screw up and upset the people we love. Lucky David made it out before he had the chance."

"Maybe you and I should try to do better, and not upset the people we love." Hap said.

"I'm trying, brother." Crow acrobatically slid into Catapult's access hatch, "I'm trying real hard."

Hap reached up to pull his cockpit closed, "Me too."

Hap watched as the tech crews came to pick through the wreckages littering the battlefield. Grizzly and Hap used their 'mechs to put heavy pieces onto the trucks or move some of the broken 'mechs or tanks so the techs could find useful parts among the destroyed components. Rolph came back to help too.

As the sun was setting David's Valkyrie was the last thing to load up. They carefully lifted it onto the back of one of the Company's flat bed trucks. Crow's Catapult, Rolph's Trebuchet, Grizzly's Wolverine and Hap's Griffin formed a box around the fallen 'mech as it was driven back to their base. As they escorted their fallen comrade Hap could see the Dullahan channel flashing with activity. He switched over.

"Remember how he wanted to make a Manga about his life?" Rolph asked.

"Yeah but he couldn't draw." Grizzly replied, "gawd I'm going to miss him."

"He could write though." Crow said, "Did he show you his script for his Immortal Warrior movie."

"It wasn't that great either." Grizzly replied.

"Hey! Some parts had potential." Crow said.

"I told him to save his money, so someday he could buy his own manga or movie studio and hire people to write and draw." Grizzly said, "damn thing was I think he actually listened to me."

"Yeah, that's what I liked about him, he always listened to us." Rolph said. "He always wanted to learn."

"I got annoyed with his questions sometimes." Grizzly said, "He was a better friend to me than I was to him." Hap could hear the emotion in Grizzly's voice.

"I was thinking the same." Hap said. "He was a good man. He looked up to me more than I deserved."

"To be fair, he was trying to steal your girl, brother." Crow said, "But yeah, he was still good people."

Patrick's Dragon appeared on their sensors coming down the road toward them, "I heard you lot over the radio and wondered why ye were talkin' like it was some funeral procession."

"The docs clear you to pilot your 'mech?" Crow asked.

"No. I didn't bother to ask. I thought 'listen to those bastards cryin' in their neuro helmets all because some little orphan died on a battlefield', and then I thought, 'how can I be part of that?' So I jumped in my 'mech and hauled ass here." As he spoke he turned his 'mech around fell in step at the front.

"To be clear," Kelly said, "When we found him, he was an orphan, but he died part of this family. Fightin' next to his brothers and sisters, and we'll see to it he's long remembered by his brothers and sisters."

"Gnó Teaghlaigh." The mercenaries replied.

"Because that's the family business." Kelly added.

As they neared the 'mech bay the other members of their company had put their mech's into a line on either side of the road. As the broken Valkyrie passed each 'mech bowed its head and fell instep behind the escorts. They all followed the fallen 'mech into the bay and parked their 'mechs.

Hap went through the shut off procedures and answered Mike's questions. Mike seemed more subdued and more business-like than usual. He took a few notes and then wandered off to do his work.

When they were done Hap grabbed his go-bag and climbed down the access ladder. As he climbed he saw something fall from his Griffin's left hand. When he got to the main floor he found a small shard of David's armor that had gotten caught in the 'mech hand when he had helped lift the Valkyrie onto the flatbed truck.

Hap rolled the armor between his fingers. He always thought the armor shards felt strangely light, even though the patches and sheets of armor were heavy and dense. This piece was painted black, and Hap could see part of one of the loops from the McFinnigan and Sons Celtic knot.

Hap dug in his bag and pulled out the cloth that he used to keep the pieces of armor from Lucky and Tuna's mechs. Hap gently laid the piece of David's armor next to the others and carefully folded the cloth. As he held the small cloth bundle he was surprised by how heavy it was.

ThePW

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #178 on: 30 November 2020, 00:31:44 »
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DOC_Agren

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #179 on: 10 December 2020, 23:30:18 »
A possible Heimdall cell hiding as a Merc Unit McFinnigan and Sons.

Interesting   8)

And David died without knowing for the woman he pined for Anastasia.
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

 

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