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Author Topic: A Warrior's Family  (Read 10813 times)


  • Sergeant
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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #180 on: 20 December 2020, 19:55:41 »
Chapter 53

Hap walked into Ops to discover he was the last to arrive. Kelly had the holotable setup and the whole company was present. "Perfect timing lad. I know you're tired and ready to eat and get cleaned up, but we need to review everything with everyone while it's fresh."

Hap nodded and approached the table. He could see this three dimensional holographic map was set up just before the ambush was initiated. The Death Commando Lance was behind the submerged Leopard and the tank lance was on the ridge. "You want me to start?"

"Whenever yer ready." Kelly answered.

Hap nodded. He described detecting the missile carriers and then the 'mechs starting up. He saw the SRM carrier and guessed the other three vehicles were missile carriers, so he chose to close with them before they had an opportunity to destroy another member of the lance.

"Ye have no close range weapons? It didn't occur to you to send Tatyana or Grizzly?" Kelly said.

"I didn't think, I just reacted. I was trying to get David to eject from his 'mech, and I knew seconds counted." Hap said. "I attempted to engage one of the LRM carriers, while calling down fire on another and I intentionally jumped on the SRM carrier."

"Thereby reminding everyone that an LRM carrier's life expectancy is measured in seconds once they are engaged directly." Patrick went to the refreshment table. "even against the wrong 'mech for the job."

Kelly shook his head, "It's fine Hap, from what the tank crew says, your quick action disrupted the ambush. We'll come back to you. Let's step back a moment. Tatyana is still interviewing the tank crew, but we'll use the BattleROM from her Kintaro."

The screens showed what looked like a view from the cockpit of Tatyana's battlemech. Hap had seen this a few times before. This was Kelly's preferred way of doing after action reviews. The BattleROM showed some of what the pilot could see, plus the mech's status and targeting data. The recording started just as they turned around, and the camera was looking at the lake and tree line, but the two dimensional targeting data implied 'mechs should be in front of them.

Kelly usually disabled the audio and had the 'mechwarrior give commentary. Without Tatyanna Grizzly explained, "Our sensors detected enemy 'mechs and we turned around to find nothing there. Then David said he got sensor locked. Tatyana and Hap told him to eject. Hap started hauling ass to the ridge.

The 'mech and camera turned, and Hap could see the back of his Griffin running toward the lake. At the same time the ridgeline erupted with the smoke of hundreds of missiles.

"This is when the whole damn mountain seemed to explode with missiles." Grizzly said quietly.

The camera turned to watch the missiles start to impact the Valkyrie. David instinctively threw up his mech's arms to try and protect his 'mech's chest and head, but the onslaught of missiles was too great. Hap watched in horror as the 'mech left side was destroyed. The torrent of missiles just kept coming. The Valkyrie fell backwards as it disappeared in the smoke and explosions of the missiles, then there was a bright flash as the fusion engine's shielding was destroyed and the missiles pierced the reactor core.

Kelly sighed and stopped the recording. He looked across the room. "Conner, Noah, I wanted you to see this. You lads are going to start performing more missions, and ye have to know these are the risks."

The boys looked worried but they nodded. Kelly continued, "David would be here with us now if he had immediately ejected like Hap and Tatyana told him. So, this is the other lesson I want ye to learn, in real combat if yer lance leader or one of the old hands tell you something, listen, an' listen quick."

The nodded vigorously and Kelly said, "Good" as the video continued. The Kintaro went rocketing into the air and the camera showed blue for a moment. When the Kintaro came down the camera showed a Commando waist deep in water. The Kintaro's missiles and lasers engulfed the Commando. Hap could see the heat climb on the weapons display. It was nearly halfway to shutdown.

"We saw the enemy 'mechs coming out of the water. Tatyana saw the Commando and jumped at him and fired everything. You can't see it, but at the same time I saw a Spider next to him. I tried to attack him, but he was a squirrely bastard and all I managed to do was take off one of its arms." Grizzly said.

The 'Kintaro twisted its torso and for a moment it looked at a Spider. It was missing its left arm and jumped out view as a Phoenix Hawk and Vulcan emerged from the water. Hap could see Tatyanna pause for a moment as she waited for her 'mech's heat to drop. She fired the Kintaro's left arm SRM rack at the Vulcan as he jumped away from her.

Hap looked at the Holo table. As the video was progressing the mech's moved on the holotable. He could see his Griffin engaging the damaged LRM carrier as Rolph and Crow were getting closer.

"About this time I called in fire on my Spider, hoping to put a quick end to him." Grizzly said. "Hap had disappeared onto the ridgeline, Tatyana was engaging the Vulcan and the Spider was giving me grief."

"Yeah, the Spider pilot was pretty good, or at least hard to hit." Crow said, "He moved around a lot."

"I got the Phoenix Hawk's attention, and he started to run." Rolph added. "So I chased him."

Hap stared at the video from the Tatyanna's cockpit. He watched as the Vulcan tried to keep away from her Kintaro and she carefully managed her heat and continued to chase him until Hap shot him from the cliff. Grizzly, Rolph and Crow continued to explain their actions but Hap's mind kept going back to seeing David's mech get destroyed. He could still hear his scream that ended when his radio was destroyed.

Tatyana and Fletch entered Ops. The after action review stopped as they walked in. Sophia ran from Elinor's lap to her mother. A very tired looking Tatyana picked up her daughter and sat in the chair that Mark offered her. Sophia looked content as she laid on her mother's chest, and Tatyana rested her chin on her daughter's head. Hap could see that Tatyana was just as exhausted as he felt.

"I think we've gotten all we can from the Tank crew." Fletch said. "They got hired to ambush a lance of rogue 'mechs. From what the surviving crew can tell us it was a job too good to be true. They were supposed to be sitting in defensive positions engaging a target from the high ground on the other side of an uncross-able lake. They were also promised a generous cut of the salvage."

"Until Hap crossed their uncross-able lake and made their positions indefensible." Patrick said.

"Yeah." Fletch opened his first aid kit, "Patrick, have you got any smokes?"

"Fresh out mate." Patrick said. There was a general murmur from around the ops center and Kitty held up a pack and tossed it to Fletch.

Fletch caught it, and shook his head, "Menthols? Really?"

Tatyana murmured in Russian, and Fletch nodded slowly, "Thank you Kitty, it's very generous."

"I'm tryin' to quit, and we know you're a right nasty terror when ye can't have a cigarette." Kitty said.

Fletch shook a cigarette out of the pack and tossed it back to her, "So I've been told."

"Could they say who hired them?" Kelly asked.

Fletch shook his head, "No. This crew wasn't part of the leadership team. They did tell us about the 'mechwarriors they were supporting though. They mechwarriors claimed to be part of a special Davion unit which is why their 'mechs were painted like Capellan Death Commandos."

"Damn. Did we just tangle with our employer?" Grizzly asked.

"Probably not." Kelly said coolly.

"Even if we did, they attacked us, so it was self-defense." Rowyena added.

"The tank crew thought the mechwarriors were lying about being special forces, but they didn't think they were Capellans." Fletch said. "The money was good and the job looked easy. In their shoes I might have done the same thing. Ignored my clients weirdness and just taken the money"

"Ye think Farrah Ahmed was somehow behind this?" Kelly asked

Fletch and Tatyana exchanged looks, "Unlikely" Tatyana replied.

"The tank crew thought the mechwarriors were Lyran Commonwealth. They had Lyran field kit, and their names were Shafer, Schmit, and Fisher or something like that. The tank crew was also told they would be fighting with a light lance led by a Griffin. They were supposed to attack the 'mechs as they were signaled by the mechwarriors."

"They were told to target Valkyrie first, not Patrick's Dragon." Tatyana said.

Kelly nodded. "Lucky them since Patrick didn't take the field." Kelly pulled out his pipe and tobacco bag.

"They also thought 'mechwarriors were green." Tatyana added.

Kelly raised a curious eyebrow as he prepared his pipe.

Fletch shrugged, "You'd have to talk to the tankers, but they basically told us the mechwarriors didn't act like they had much combat experience and all their gear looked new. It sounded like they were some young soldiers with more empowerment than common sense."

Kelly lit his pipe, "They initiated an ambush by engaging the weakest mech with roughly two tons of missiles." He smoked for a moment, "not real experienced warriors indeed."

"What are you thinking Dad?" Roweyana asked

"We have a lance of 'mechs painted like Capellan Death Commandos, but their pilots claim to be from the Federated Suns Armed Forces, but they hired another group of mercenaries that thought they were from the Lyran Commonwealth, and together they attacked a lance of mercenaries hired by the Federation. I'm thinking we need to finish this debriefing so I can try to make sense of it." Kelly said.

The mercenary commander motioned to Grizzly and he continued explaining the battle from his command couch. Hap's mind drifted back to the barrage of missiles striking David. He had destroyed his share of 'mechs and seen a lot of 'mechs ruined but there was something about the merciless onslaught of the tank lance that haunted Hap. It felt unfair to him, especially for David to die like that.

The briefing ended and everyone was dismissed. Hap looked around as everyone started to leave. Crow found Fiona and put his arm around her and they left together. Rolph and Grizzly started joking loudly as they left Ops, Hap knew they were trying to forget about David, or act like his death didn't matter. Hap saw Joker and Mags talking quietly to each other as they followed the crowd out of Ops. Fletch took Sophie from his wife and held the half asleep child as he spoke to her in hushed tones.

Kelly called for Fletch and Tatyana, and Hap looked over to see Anastasia talking to Kelly. Hap concluded it was better to just go to bed and put this terrible day behind him. He followed his peers to the barracks. Hap could hear Dillon crying and Rolph put his arm over his shoulder and Grizzly talked to him about David and how he was in a better place. It was somber as they walked up the stairs and everyone retired to their rooms.

Hap undressed and got into his shower. He let the warm water wash over him. He scrubbed away the dirt and grime and dried sweat. His mind drifted again to David's death and watching the tank crew mercy kill one of their own. The warm water felt good, and stepping out of the shower seemed to mean dealing with everything. He was hesitant to leave, but he couldn't stay there forever.

Hap shut off the water, dried off, and wrapped a towel around himself and stepped out of the shower. He walked into his bedroom to find Anastasia standing in the middle of the room. She was still in her coveralls, but her hair was down and she had her boots off. She looked shorter and somehow more vulnerable, "Hey you. Can we talk?"

Hap had every intention of telling her no, and telling her to wait till the morning, but he nodded. "Sure."

"Let me get cleaned up and changed." Anastasia said. She looked relieved. "you should put on your pajamas while you wait."

Hap went to his wall locker and dressed for bed, as Anastasia grabbed her shower things and disappeared into the bathroom. Hap examined the contents of his wall locker again. Anastasia had unpacked his uniforms and the few clothes that he had. To his surprise his leather jacket was among the dress shirts and uniform blouses. He pulled out the jacket and looked at it. The rank had been updated and the RDMM patch had been replaced with the McFinnigan and Sons patch. He started to put it on when he noticed that his initials were not embroidered in the collar.

He looked closely and realized this was not his jacket. Anastasia must have sent someone to the AFFS clothing sales store to get this jacket. Hap sighed. The fact she had recognized how much he wanted a leather jacket made him recognize how much she paid attention to what he was saying. It was hard to be angry with her when she did things like this.

He closed his locker and heard the shower shut off. He sat down on the bed and waited for Anastasia. She came into the room wearing a silk robe and with her hair wrapped up in a towel. She walked over to him and looked cautious, "I have a proposal for you."


"I was wrong to snap at you, and I'm sorry. Tomorrow you can really let me have it."

"Really let you have it?" Hap asked.

"Yes. Really let me have it, but not now. Tomorrow you can yell at me, and say hurtful things we'll regret, and we can argue as long as you promise we'll work to solve our problems-."

"That seems unnecessary." He felt too tired to really fight with her or anyone.

"-but tonight I just want to know you love me, and I want you to hold me, because I love you."

Hap nodded and started to pull back the sheets and blankets, "I think I'd like to be held too."

"Oh! You're just agreeing to it. I thought-." Anastasia seemed surprised as she reached her hand out to Hap and he pulled over to the bed.

She slipped between the sheets and Hap followed her. They laid on their sides and faced each other. Hap held her as she buried her head into his chest. He could feel her tremble.

"I was so mad at you when you left." Anastasia said. "I was sitting here thinking of things I should have said, or I was going to say. I was debating about getting an impact hammer and making sure you couldn't remove my shelves, just so you knew I wasn't going anywhere. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I was wrong. I think I was mad at myself."

"I was having a similar talk with myself." Hap said. "Only it didn't involve industrial tools."

"Then the call went out to report to our mechs. We had troops in contact and a 'mech destroyed. I was terrified it was you. I was horrified our last words would be spoken in anger." Anastasia sobbed.

Hap held her tightly and let her cry. For the last several hours he'd been longing to talk to her, just for the companionship, he had no idea what she had been going through.

"And it's my fault David is dead." She added between ragged breaths.

Hap thought he was responsible, "What makes you think that?"

"When I was on Klathandu the lance I was assigned to was a Phoenix Hawk, a Commando and a Vulcan. I assume they picked up the Spider to round out the lance, but it's too much of a coincidence. Shafer was my lance leader, and Schmit, and Fisher were the Commando and Vulcan pilots. I don't know how they did it, but they're ComStar. They got themselves assigned to the First FedCom, and they were supposed to kill me on Klathandu."

She looked up at Hap, "That's why they abandoned me to be killed by the Thunderbolt and Quickdraw. This was their second attempt to kill me, this time they didn't leave it to chance. This is what I was talking to the Commander and Tatyana about after the brief. They all agree it's very likely. The only way we'll know for sure is if the MRB comes by tomorrow asking questions about me."

"Well if it was comstar they got the wrong Valkyrie."

Hap could feel her start to cry again. "It's alright though, we're here together and they failed again." He told her.

He could feel her nod as he continued to hold her close and comfort her.


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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #181 on: 20 December 2020, 19:56:25 »
Chapter 54

The Thunderbolt moved like a prowling jungle cat. It stalked through the small pass in the Klathandu canyon and unleashed a barrage of missiles and lasers at Tuna's Hunchback. Tuna struggled against the onslaught, and had to fight to steady his 'Mech as the Thunderbolt kept coming.

Anastasia shot her Valkyrie's arm mounted medium laser, but it only did superficial damage to the Thunderbolt's chest. Joker jumped behind the heavy mech, and bathed it in fire, lasers, and bullets, but the Thunderbolt pilot seemed unconcerned. The cannon on Tuna's Hunchback launched a pitiless blast. The powerful autocannon put a hole in the 'mech's armor, but it didn't stop the Thunderbolt.

Hap sent a salvo of missiles into the heavy 'mech, but they failed to hit the breach in its armor. The Griffin's PPC stabbed at the armor of the 'Mech's chest, but only managed to melt off the armor below the smoking hole in the Thunderbolt's right breast.

In a brutal display the Thunderbolt raised its fist overhead and brought it down on the Hunchback. The large shoulder mounted autocannon blocked Hap from seeing where the blow landed, but Hap knew Tuna was dead as the Hunchback fell backwards. Joker hit the Thunderbolt again with everything his Firestarter had, and smoke billowed from holes in the Thunderbolt's armor, but it seemed unaffected.

The Thunderbolt turned quickly to face Joker's Firestarter, but as the smoke and fire cleared Hap could see it was Lucky's Javelin. With one fluid motion the Thunderbolt brought its up arm mounted large laser, and an azure particle bolt flew from the barrel and evaporated the Javelin's cockpit.

Before Hap could react the Thunderbolt turned and trained the missile pod the Valkyrie next to Hap. The missile pod erupted with countless missiles. Hap could see the missiles start to impact the Valkyrie. Anastasia instinctively threw up her mech's arms to try and protect the 'mech's chest and head, but the onslaught of missiles was too great.

Hap watched in horror as the 'mech left side was destroyed, and the torrent of missiles just kept coming. The Valkyrie fell backwards as it disappeared in the smoke and explosions of the missiles, then there was a bright flash as the fusion engine's shielding was destroyed and the missiles pierced the reactor core. Hap could hear Anastasia scream until the cockpit's radio was destroyed.

Hap looked back as the Thunderbolt leveled its large laser at his cockpit. Hap tried to fire but suddenly there was a flash like lightning as the blast hit his cockpit. Hap's vision blurred, and electricity danced around the cockpit as his mech started to fall forward.

Hap sat up in bed. His heart was racing, his mouth was dry. Nothing made sense and he knew he needed to get his 'mech up again before the Thunderbolt killed him. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself as he realized it was all a dream.

He reached for Anastasia, but she wasn't there. His heart started to race again as he searched the bed for her. Hap threw the blankets aside just to make sure the small woman wasn't hidden in the bedding. After a moment he realized he was alone in the bed and panic set in again as it occurred to him that maybe Anastasia had died and he was so grief stricken he had convinced himself it was David.

Before that horror of the idea he couldn't trust his own sense of reality set in, Hap heard the sink in his bathroom and a glass being filled. He watched as the ghostly form of Anastasia approached his bed.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you, I was thirsty and wanted to put my hair down and braid it." Anastasia told him.

Hap was instantly relieved to see her. "I was having a bad dream," Hap said as he moved the blankets aside and helped her back into bed. He cradled her back with one arm as she laid next to him and rested her head on his shoulder. He covered them with the blanket and held her hand under the blankets. He calmed down as he smelled the exotic perfume of her hair and felt her warmth and softness against him.

Hap could feel her relax too as she rested on him and almost melted into his arms, "I've been waiting for this for this for two weeks." Anastasia told him, "I really missed you."

Hap kissed her forehead. "I missed you too. I missed you today. I've needed someone to talk to all day. Even without David dying it's been a rough day. This whole business of war is surreal sometimes. We didn't really get much of a chance to get reacquainted yesterday, not like I thought we would."

Anastasia pressed herself more into Hap, "Last night you were pretty drunk."

"Yeah I passed out while you were in the bathroom."

"I may have passed out too." Anastasia said quietly.

Hap gave her a wry smile, "I thought you're beloved French wine would gently put you to bed."

"Well that wasn't really French wine." Anastasia said, "also I could sense there was some tension between us. I knew it was because I moved into your room, but I wasn't sure how to address it. Honestly there seemed to be building tension between us for a while. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think we should address it."

Without thinking Hap kissed her on the lips. She let go of his hand and pulled him closer to her. She opened her mouth slightly as he began to caress her thigh. Hap could feel his physical and emotional exhaustion melt away as they kissed. He slid his hand under her robe expecting to find her night dress, but, to his surprise, he found soft warm skin.

He continued to gently caress her as they kissed deeper. When his hand came to her side he could feel her skin slightly tremble. He started to move his hand when she grabbed his elbow and used her arm to press his hand back down.

They began to kiss more intensely as their hands explored each other's bodies in ways they never had before. Hap could feel her rubbing his shoulder and back. She communicated her desire as she squeezed his muscles and pulled him closer to her.

Hap let his hands wander to the places he had respectfully avoided in the past. Wordlessly Hap tugged at her robe belt and slipped her robe off her shoulder as she pulled his shirt over his head. Once they were done undressing they began kissing again.

Anastasia gave a quiet gasp of momentary pain as their passion was fully realized, but her pain gave way to pleasure almost as quickly as it came. Anastasia and Harold seemed to easily understand each other's desires as they quickly found their perfect rhythm.

As they approached ecstasy Hap pulled the elastic band from the end of Anastasia hair. With one smooth motion, she ran her hand through her hair and shook it out to let it cascade like a rich silken curtain around them and surrounded them with the sweet scent of exotic flowers.

Together they reached the zenith of physical pleasure and Anastasia collapsed back into Harold's arms. They were both breathless as they laid together catching their breath. Harold held her hand and waited for her to respond, uncertain what to say. She nestled up to him and said, "Harold, I love you. I mean I love you now more than ever."

They settled into a comfortable embrace. That was exactly how he felt as he said, "I love you too." He could feel her relax again and melt into his arms. They had a new sense of oneness as they held each other and slept.

Hap woke up before Anastasia. He was on his back and she was on her side with her head on his shoulder. The sun was up and the room was brightly lit. Hap was careful not to move as he looked around his room. He looked at the bookshelves and thought about her comment about the impact hammer. It was clear, she had no plans of going anywhere. Hap pulled the blankets up around them.

He had spent the last two weeks thinking about how he wanted to be with her, then he got upset when she started moving in and making their relationship more permanent. He was ashamed of himself for being annoyed with her, especially after last night. If this was going to be their life together now he was happy with that.

Anastasia stirred. She stretched and half rose on one elbow. She looked up at Hap and smiled. "Good morning." Her eyes twinkled as she added, "lover." She crossed her arms over Hap's chest and rested her chin on them so she could look up at Hap.

Hap rubbed her shoulders and back, "Good morning."

Anastasia smiled mischievously, "So are you mad at me?"

"No." Hap answered quickly, surprised at the question, "That's not usually-

"I'm mad at me. I didn't realize how I was holding out on you, us. We should have made love weeks, maybe months, ago."

"Yeah, what was holding us up?" Hap answered dryly, and gave her a suspicious look

Anastasia shrugged "perhaps, moi". She blew a stray lock of hair out of her face, "You have to admit it was worth the wait though. I'm sorry I had all my little hang-ups about privacy, and waiting for the right moment and wanting it to be magical, which it was, and not being sure if I would like it."

"Wait. You weren't sure if you would like sex?"

"Well, not everyone does." Anastasia said nonchalantly

"Most people do, most men certainly. I assume most women. I mean it's pretty important to most relationships, it's why it's a big deal in most songs, and holos, and those books you read."

"Those books are fantasy, and most songs are full of poetic exaggeration. And sex sells to a male audience, for obvious reasons. Of course, now I understand. I was being a little naïve I suppose."

"I would agree with that, both that sex sells, and you were being naïve, but-"

"Don't be mean." Anastasia said sleepily as she rolled onto her back and stretched.

"You said your roommate at NAIS was regularly sleeping with her boyfriends."

"She told me most of the time she didn't enjoy it, she was really doing it to keep her current boyfriend around. Also they always talked about how great it was to get drunk, but they drank cheap spirits to the point of passing out and then having a terrible hangover the next day. There concepts of 'pleasurable' activities seemed a bit spurious to me."

"Alright that's fair, but didn't your parents give you 'the talk'?"

"Time with Daddy and Mother was precious and limited. They weren't going to waste it with uncomfortable discussions about anatomy. When I turned thirteen several books 'magically' appeared on my bed. My tutor nervously asked me if I had found the books and told me he could answer any questions I might have."

"Did you?" Hap asked.

"No. The books were technically thorough and complete. Before you ask, they described an orgasm much similar to a sneeze or a gag reflex, only more pleasurable. I was also swapping harlequin novels with the staff, and the maid told me my tutor probably had never been with girl and I should come to her or my mom with questions. Ultimately I assumed I had learned enough from my reading."

"Apparently you hadn't."

"You don't know what you don't know until you experience something." She looked up at him coyly, as she snuggled up to him and put her head on his shoulder "I could probably use more experience."

Hap pulled her closer, "I don't think you're ever going to find me opposed to that, but we're probably going to have to get up and earn our pay."

"Probably." Anastasia said as she rubbed his chest.

"We probably need to get some breakfast too." Hap caressed her back.

"I have a case of ration biscuits. Three are all the calories and nutrients you need for a day. I can easily live off of two. Between us we probably have a week's worth. We really don't need to go anywhere."

"So you just want to stay here, make love, snack on rations, maybe nap, and just keep doing that until someone comes looking for us."

"Yes please." Anastasia said, "but first we do need to talk about everything."

"I'm not going to yell at you, and 'let you have it'."

"I know." Anastasia said as she reached around under the blankets, "Still I think we can both agree we need to address a few things, and make sure they are resolved before we make love again."

"That's probably wise, but what are you doing?"

"I'm looking for my robe. I have a notecard in my pocket. Yesterday I was sitting in my 'mech waiting for nothing to happen and once I knew you were alive I started working out the things we needed to talk about to resolve our fight. I believe unresolved problems led to your divorce, so I made notes."

She found the robe and laid back down next to Hap as she fished the notecard out of the pocket and the casually tossed the rob onto the foot of the bed. She cuddled up to Hap again so he could read the notecard in her hand. "You can start." She told him.

Hap glanced down to read:

1) Marriage

2) Moving in together

3) The Lamp.

Hap nodded, "So when it comes to Marriage I wanted to ask you to marry me-"

"I accept." Anastasia interrupted and gave him another impish grin.

"If you're not going to take this seriously, I probably am going to 'let you have it'." Hap said

"Harold, I want to be your wife. I wanted to have a permanent intimate exclusive relationship with you almost from the first time we met. It's like I made a 'Haphazard choice' about you and in the months we've traveled together everything has reaffirmed that was the best choice."

"A 'haphazard choice'?"

"Harold, my love, you make instinctive choices that tend to be amazingly correct. Usually I have to look at options, weigh them, try to choose what is best, but somehow you just know. Being with you I'm learning there are times when you just know what the best choice is, and it requires no further examination. You tend to do this as a habit, for me...choosing you is the only time I've done it, but I maintain it was the correct choice."

"Okay, but you don't want some amazing surprise proposal, and an expensive ring?"

Anastasia shrugged, "Expensive ring yes, but the perfect proposal is unnecessary. Honestly you're on the clock now that you've spoken to my mother. Once we tell her we can travel home, she'll set a date."

"Noted, I'll get you a ring." Hap wasn't sure if this was a stroke of luck, or foreshadowing.

Anastasia nodded, "Moving onto the next item, you seemed upset about me moving into your room."

"I was." Hap said slowly, "I get that you felt a little forced based on the arrival of your household goods, and Joker and Mags were making things uncomfortable in your room. I think I was surprised." Hap looked at her and debated saying more, "I was annoyed at how close we were, and it was like you kept encroaching on my space, and taking over my life, but part of our relationship wasn't going any further."

Anastasia nodded, "but if this is us now, and we share everything, and sleep together…and go as far as you like, you're not going to be annoyed with me encroaching on your space, or taking over your life?"

"You make it sound like I don't have much choice in the matter."

"You do" Anastasia said, then added as she nuzzled him, "but you really don't."

"Yeah, I see my problem." Hap said, "So let's talk about the last item. Is this my Yangtze Pale Ale lamp? I did want to talk about that. Anastasia, You shouldn't give my stuff away without asking."

"That's fair. I shouldn't have done that." Anastasia said, "and I probably won't do anything like that again, but what I want to talk about is, if we're going to have a relationship like this, you can't have things like that, nothing pornographic or lurid. I should be enough for you."

"I won that in a contest, and the reason I still had it was because I couldn't get rid of it." Hap said.

"I want to be clear on this, I won't compete with other woman real or imagined." Anastasia told him.

"You got rid of it before our relationship got to this level of intimacy." Hap said.

"If we hadn't passed out last night, there was a chance we would have done this the first night when you returned. I was seriously considering it."

Hap sighed, "Alright Anastasia, this isn't something you have to worry about from me, but if it makes you feel better, I assure you, you're the only woman for me. You're probably too much a woman for me. But you need to promise that we'll talk before you make decisions like moving in, or giving away my things."

"Okay, I agree to talk to you more, and take less freedoms with your things." Anastasia said, "and your not going to collect anything pornographic?"

Hap nodded in response.

"Also, next time you see Major Braun you tell him I'm not 50 kilograms of mech fist in a velvet glove, I'm exactly 41.2 Kilograms."


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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #182 on: 09 January 2021, 18:00:59 »
Chapter 55

"Hap, are ye there." Hap and Anastasia could hear Roweyena yelling down the hallway.

Anastasia clutched the blankets to her chest as Hap answered, "In my room."

Roweyena pushed the privacy screen out of her way and stepped into the room, "Oh good yer both here. Hap yer needed at ops. Anastasia ye cannot leave the barracks." She was out of breath and excited, making her thick Irish accent even more difficult to understand.

"Why am I needed in Ops?" Hap asked

"It's Adept Heinrich, from the MRB He's-" Roweyena stopped and looked at Anastasia and Hap shrewdly. She smiled wolfishly, "Did you two finally-" She stopped, glanced around, and closed the privacy screen, and whispered, "so you've finally made love."

"I'd prefer not to draw attention to how Harold and I express our love for each other." Anastasia said.

"Oh, most of the company think ye've been jaggin' for some time now." Roweyna said dismissively, then excitedly added. "So, how was it?"

"Roweyna!" Anastasia cried, "I'm trying to maintain our privacy, and avoid having conversations like this. I don't want the company thinking about Harold and I-."

"Aye, and I'll not tell the rest of the company, but I have to know." Roweyna said.

"Roweyna, we are not having this conversation." Anastasia said, "at least not in front of Harold."

"Oh given the way ye've talked I'd assume anything you have to say yer 'Harold' could hear too."

Hap could see Anastasia's face getting redder, "Roweyna, Why did you come looking for me?"

Roweyna seemed to be enjoying Anastasia's discomfort. She realized she was staring and looked at Hap, "Oh, aye, yes. Adept Heinrich came to pick up the prisoners and pay their ransom. He asked to talk to you about the death of Ms. Vallois. Seems ComStar has a soft spot for Countess Valois and wanted to let you know they'd allow you to send her a message, free of charge, about her daughter's death."

"That's odd." Hap said, "Anastasia's not-"

There was a long pause as Hap and Anastasia stared at each other, "Oh, ComStar thinks I'm dead." Anastasia finally said.

"Yes. And if we're going to keep up the illusion Hap needs to go talk to Adept Heinrich." Roweyna said.

Hap nodded, "let me get changed."

"We'll have tea later" Roweyna told Anastasia with a wink, "But right now ye have to stay in the barracks. It's absolutely important that ye not be seen."

Roweyna retreated to the hallway while adding, "Do hurry Mr. Calahad. I'm sure the Adept will understand if, in your grief stricken state, yer a little hard to rouse, but ye shouldn't keep him waiting."

Hap set out his shaving things Anastasia followed him into the bathroom, "Don't shave. You should appear disheveled. It will help you put on a good act. Imagine you had a nightmare and couldn't sleep."

"I did have a nightmare and I couldn't sleep." Hap said, turning to look at her. "Of course you're the reason I couldn't sleep."

"Well then Imagine you didn't have your amoureuse to keep you up then." Anastasia said. She saw his expression darken. "On second thought, that's probably not something you want to think about."

"It's probably the right thing to think about if I'm going to fool the adept." Hap said.

Anastasia nodded, and hugged Hap. "Also you must not send my Mother any message about my death."

"Yeah I was trying to figure out a polite and non suspicious way to decline ComStar's offer."

"Simple. It's against AFFS regulations. Next of kin notification has to be done in person by an AFFS officer and a Chaplain or certified counselor." Anastasia said.

Hap nodded. "I knew that. When Lucky died I had to send a letter for his family to the AFFS office on his home planet."

"I'll write her a note that we can send in a diplomatic pouch, just in case she hears anything odd she'll know what is going on. She'll also need to know why I'm avoiding ComStar offices."

Hap quickly got dressed and left Anastasia to go with Roweyna to Ops. As they walked Hap asked, "Is it normal for an MRB rep to be this concerned about a dead mechwarrior"?

"No. It's not normal at all. When Uncle Lleywn died, one of the Adepts we worked with regularly was very polite and came to the funeral, but I believe it was professional courtesy." Roweyna said. "This whole damn talk with Adept Henrich has been unprecedented."

"Well hopefully this is going to be the end of this problem with Anastasia and ComStar." Hap said

"Oh Father is probably going to talk to 'his people' and have them pay nasty Mr. Tempes a visit. Dad says if someone thinks they're invulnerable, it's good to remind them they can still bleed."

"I don't know if that's a good idea." Hap groaned.

"Leave that to dad. He apparently had a talk with that rogue Mr. Tempes. Dad thinks if he doesn't respond now it might be more suspicious. Mr. Tempes knows my father isn't someone to let a thing like this go unanswered. There really isn't much choice." Roweyna shrugged.

Hap looked at her, "What can you tell me about your father's 'people'? I know they're Heimdall, but I don't know much about Heimdall. Actually all I know is what Fletch said about them being terrorists."

"Oh there not terrorists Hap, they're just a different type of patriot." Roweyena said with a shrug, "Let's jest say they watch the watcher, and the less an AFFS officer knows the better I'd say. I assure ye, this company isn't a bunch of terrorists, and most of 'em are as ignorant of Heimdall as you. If ye must know, Father and Mother have some friends that sometimes need favors, sometimes Father or Mother call in those favors, it's nothing more than that."

Hap nodded as he held open the door to the ops building. "You're probably right about the less I know."

Roweyna smiled at Hap opening the door for her, "Yer arm-a-roo is a lucky lass."

"Amoureuse? Were you listening to us as I was getting ready?" Hap chuckled.

"Ye weren't particularly quiet, Mr. Calahad." Roweyna said with a smirk.

The door closed and Roweyna stopped, "Alright now it's time to get into character. Ye can't give this villain reason to think they didn't kill Anastasia. Let Dad and Fletch do the talkin', ye jest look sad, and don't be surprised if I get angry. This man has been vexin' me all mornin'."

Hap agreed and she led him to one of the small conference rooms on the first floor. They entered to find the Adept sitting at a conference room table with several folders and papers spread out before him and a mug of coffee. Kelly was sitting to the side and was looking bemused as he smoked his pipe. Fletch and Doctor Jackson Morgan were also there. Each had their own cup of coffee. Roweyna walked to the silver carafe and poured herself a cup of coffee.

"Look we're all just a little surprised that you're taking such an interest in one of our dead." Fletch said.

"I do not mean to sound ghoulish, but you must admit it is a tragic story. The beautiful young scion of a noble family is killed by happenstance while in garrison." Adept Heinrich said in his German accent. He looked up at Hap, "Ah, Captain Calahad, please sit." He motioned to one of the chairs. "Is there coffee for the young Captain?"

As Hap slumped into a chair as Roweyna poured Hap a cup and handed it to him. Adept Heinrich watched and nodded, "Good. You are comfortable, jah? I am sorry to summon you in these circumstances, but it came to my attention that you were close to the daughter of Countess Valois."

Hap shrugged as Fletch eyed Heinrich with suspicion, "None of us said anything about Captain Calahad and Subaltern Valois's relationship, just like none of us said anything about her dying."

"One of our adepts happened to be at Turquoise Lake, as it is a popular open space. She saw that your Valkyrie 'mech had been destroyed and she was skeptical the pilot survived. I was going to ask why you had not reported the loss of 'mech and pilot yet." Heinrich said.

"It's real convenient that your adept just happened to be at Turquoise lake." Fletch said.

"Jah it is." Adept Heinrich said as he sipped his coffee seemingly oblivious to the XO's sarcasm.

"The reason I had-nah reported anything because we have 72 hours to assess damage, salvage-ability, and replace a pilot before reporting a reduction in our company's capability." Roweyna said angrily.

"A rule many companies abuse to-" Adept Heinrich started to say

Kelly held up a hand toward his daughter, "Our techs are readying an old Shadowhawk that we had in pieces. I have a few mechwarrior trainees that we'll put on active status. Our company's capacity hasn't been reduced, jest some of the particulars have changed." Kelly shifted in his chair to lean toward Heinrich, "We're not tryin' to deceive the MRB, or yer holy order. Now ye've asked to speak to one of my mechwarriors, and here he is, ask him what ye like."

"Captain Calahad, I understand ye were close to Subaltern Valois, and I wanted to offer-"

"How do you know I'm close to Anastasia?" Hap asked trying to sound sad.

Heinrich arched an eyebrow, "You say, 'I'm close', as in I am close, do you not mean you were close?"

Hap tried not to show his panic. He realized this was the reason Rowyena told him not to talk.

Dr. Morgan cleared his throat, "The boy's still coming to terms with the loss. This is common. He probably woke up in the middle of the night looking for her."

"I actually did." Hap said.

Dr. Morgan stood up, "Hap, you don't need to be here for this, we'll get you connected with a therapist. I suppose I'll get some type of medical report for the MRB, if that is required. There wasn't enough left to do an autopsy, though. The cockpit was nearly obliterated."

"A DNA sample would suffice for your report, if the autopsy is impossible. We will take cause of death at face value, though I would like to see the remains of the mech, and perhaps the remains of the mechwarrior, such as they are."

"You're just not taking no for an answer." Fletch said.

"The MRB has never asked for an autopsy of a dead mechwarrior before." Roweyna added.

"It is right to request proof of changes to a company, the MRB has this right." Adept Heinrich looked angry, but then he stopped and ran his hand through his hair. "You think we are evil bureaucrats, Jah? We are not. Blake, our blessed founder, spoke of using our technologies for kindness and good, which is why I requested to speak to the young captain." Adept Heinrich said. He cleared his throat and looked at Hap, "Captain Calahad, we are willing to allow you to send a message, video or otherwise to the Countess Vallois, free of charge."

"I'd still don't understand how you know about Anastasia and me." Hap said.

"Jah" Adept Heinrich answered as he took a sip from his coffee, "The adept that transcribed the message to the Countess recalled you asked for her blessing in marrying her daughter. I know many have the idea that ComStar reads and records messages, but I would remind you that messages like yours must be transcribed to be sent, and it was only a few weeks ago. It was the fortune of Blake that the Adept who did the transcribing remembered your message and the relationship. We thought it was a holy sign that we should extend this kindness."

"Say, that is fortunate." Fletch said sarcastically. "I need to make sure I understand everything you've been saying this morning. 'Cause todaym ComStar seems real generous, is it Blake's birthday? Is It ComStar's Christ-Blake-mas?"

"I do not understand." Adept Heinrich answered. "What are you trying to ask?"

"Aside from the nice deal you're offering Captain Calahad, You also told us that if we return the bodies of the mechwarriors we fought yesterday and the salvage of their mechs there is a significant monetary reward." Fletch explained. "In all my years, I've never heard of anything quite like that."

"Jah" Adept Heinrich replied. "As I said, you will be receive eight million c-bills if you return the bodies and surrender all of the salvage of the Commando, Spider and Vulcan 'mechs."

"But you won't tell us who employed them, only that there happened to be an escrow account that had a substantial pay out for the return of the warriors and the salvage of their mechs. In what I'm sure was viewed as the 'unlikely' event of their death." Roweyna said. "We've never heard of anythin' like this."

The adept shrugged. "These are rare, but certain organizations include such riders in their contracts. It seems that you just happened to have never encountered them."

Roweyna shook her head in disbelief, Fletch looked at Kelly, "You wanna just give him everything, and be done with this?"

Kelly nodded, "We'll talk the remains of yesterday's battle in a bit. First, Hap, ye interested in sending the countess a message about her daughter?"

"I shouldn't." Hap said, "AFFS regulations require she be notified by an AFFS officer and a chaplain in person. I need to talk to Major Braun about all of this as well."

"There ye have it." Kelly said standing up, "Let's go look at the 'mechs, and discuss this escrow."

Hap followed the mercenaries and the adept as they left the room. He debated going back to the barracks, but part of him wanted to see what remained of David's Valkyrie.

They walked to the 'mech bay and Kelly led them up on the gantry. From there they could look down on Valkyrie that was still on the back of the flatbed truck. The right leg had been removed, as well as a few of the other components that had been undamaged. Two techs were working to remove the left hand. The holes in the fusion engine had been filled with a sealant to prevent any radioactive leakage. The cockpit had been battered by missiles to the point that Hap could see there was a portion of the command couch missing, and part of the truck bed could be seen through the holes in the shattered cockpit.

"Ye content now, Adept Heinrich?" Kelly said. "There is little left of the mech, let alone the pilot."

Adept Heinrich leaned to get a better view of the cockpit, "Was nothing left, perhaps a hand or foot?"

"I cremated what I received that last night." Dr. Morgan said, "Which is why I'm hesitant to give you a medical report. The mechwarrior is certainly dead, but the remains were hardly enough to fill an urn let alone prove anything medically. I prepared something to intern, because it's important everyone has a chance to say goodbye, but it's all ash now."

Adept Heinrich nodded, "Jah, and I know that I am probably not helping that." He looked around the 'mech bay and his eyes fell on Anastasia's Valkyrie. "You have another Valkyrie pilot, perhaps I could speak with him, or he could send-"

"No." Kelly said, "You've got all the answers you need. Let's talk about your pilots and 'mechs."

"My 'mechs? Please understand commander, these could not be ComStar 'mechs, what few-"

"What would you say if I told ye the mechwarriors we fought yesterday poisoned themselves rather than eject, and they had tattoos with ComStar stars and words of Blake on their shoulders and arms."

"They would not have-" Adept Heinrich stopped himself suddenly. "This is not possible. I-I-I-"

"It might be fortunate if we all considered this a false flag operation done by that mysterious company with their convenient escrow account." Fletch said. "I'm sure that's what your blessed Blake would want us to consider."

"Jah" Adept Heinrich nodded vigorously and pointed at Fletch, "It must be false flag. You speak with Blake's wisdom."

"So you think this mysterious company is seeking to impugn your blessed order?" Rowyena asked.

"I can think of no other explanation." Adept Heinrich said.

"I suppose ye can't." Kelly said. "Since that company isn't doin' ye any favors, how about ye give us all that they have in their escrow account, I'm guessing it is close to fifteen million c-bills."

"I am not authorized-" Adept Heinrich stopped himself again, "I believe it was twelve million."

"Twelve million. I think for twelve million we can return what yer asking for, but if we got fifteen million I'd imagine we'd forget about those strange tattoos or curious way the mechwarriors died."

"It is not possible to get more than twelve million." Adept Heinrich said. He seemed desperate. "But I assure you this was a false flag operation as your XO has suggested."

Kelly and Fletch exchanged glances. "We're agreed then, Twelve million." Kelly said, "We'll return the 'mechs and bodies to your people, and you'll stop pesterin' my daughter for a medical report that we really can't right. We lost a pilot yesterday, your people will just have to accept it."

"Very good commander, I will get the money released to you, and I would suggest you try to forget about this false flag operation."

"One more thing." Kelly pulled a small metal figure out of his pocket. "Give this to Mr. Tempes."

The adept looked at the figure. It was a small man wearing ancient armor and wielding a large sword and a large horn standing on a rainbow tile. "Is this a leprechaun? I know how your company values its Celtic heritage. Also Demi Precentor Tempes has returned to earth."

"Nay. That's Norse. It's the dwarf Heimdall." Kelly said darkly, "Mr. Tempes" He stopped and smiled wolfishly, "Demi Precentor Tempes will understand. Ye make sure he gets it and be sure to tell him Kelly McFinnigan sends the Demi Precentor his best."


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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #183 on: 09 January 2021, 18:01:41 »
Chapter 56

Hap watched as Rowyena led Adept Heinrich away to finish the paperwork and Dr. Morgan went to go and prepare the bodies for transport.

"What do you think Heinrich is going to tell his superiors?" Fletch asked.

"As little of the truth as possible." Kelly said with a wink. "I suspect he was told to get evidence that Ms. Vallois had been successfully slaughtered, and to recover anything that would prove ComStar was behind it."

Kelly leaned on the banister, "I'm sure he'll swear on a stack of technical manuals that Anastasia is dead, and he saw her remains himself, and then tell a fantastic series of lies of how he had to use the wisdom of Blake to bamboozle us, and convince us that we had uncovered a false flag operation. In order to perfect the lie he had to have ComStar demonstrate their generosity and give us all the extra escrow money."

Fletch shook his head, "You could sell the story, maybe, but that man is an evil bureaucrat and probably just wants to put all this behind him. I doubt he's the type to lie with any of the finesse or creativity that you habitually use."

"Mr. Fletcher, I'm a right honest businessman that may spin the occasional yarn, but I assure ye, you can trust what I tell ye."

"Not to hear your wife tell it." Fletch said, "She says you're a bad influence on her daughter who's a lawyer."

Kelly raised his eyebrows, "Oh she's decided to claim Roweyna as her own again."

Fletch shook a cigarette out of its box, "So are your terrorist friends going to visit Tempes? Also Demi Precentor, headed back to earth, who the hell were we entertaining?"

"I have no idea, but it explains why he was so arrogant, as for my 'friends' I'll talk to them." Kelly said with a shrug, "I've recently found myself with a windfall of c-bills and I was thinking I might donate to a certain charity for rough and wayward lads and lasses. They might be willing to do a small favor for me with some of that money. Seems like a poetic reinvestment."

"I think I'd prefer to mount more weapons on the Tir a nOg, or get another fighter and fighter pilot." Fletch said, "After Klathandu I'm going to be distracted when we do hot drops in contested airspace."

Kelly nodded, "We'll have money remaining. Either is probably a good investment."

Both men smoked and said nothing as they watched the techs work on the mechs. "Ye reckon we were visited by ROM last night?" Kelly asked.

"Couldn't say." Fletch said. "After our talk with the professor I got down here and the techs had already cleaned up the 'mech. The cockpit was hosed down, and David's tech had a med cooler of whatever was left and gave it to Doc Jack. I think it actually was an arm and a foot. I walked with Jack back to the Tir a nOg and he cremated the remains. If they did visit us, they didn't get anything."

Kelly looked over his shoulder. "Well Hap, ye've been listening quietly, have any questions?"

"Why don't you turn over these 'mechs to House Davion or House Steiner?" Hap asked.

"All we have is some 'mech scrap and some odd pilots. Having 'mechs painted like Liao death commandos, and the pilots on the record as claiming to be from one house, but dressed in uniforms and equipment from another house gives ComStar a lot of deniability."

"But ComStar is concerned enough to get their pilots and equipment back." Hap said.

"They may jest want their troops back for the sake of friends and family." Kelly shrugged. "It's like how we intend to give David a good memorial service. As for the 'mechs, they're interesting in that they were in good condition, well maintained, and such, and clearly star league era 'mechs but not royal variants."

"My experience with LCAF high command is this is sort of thing you either know, or don't care about." Fletch said. "Between fighting with Marik and Kurita, buying rank, and speculating how the treaty with House Davion will impact the economy, most Steiner officers couldn't care less about ComStar."

"I'm just not sure what I'm going to tell Major Braun." Hap said.

"Tell him the truth, you were in an ambush that one of the company was killed." Fletch said. "It wasn't you or the other AFFS officer, and you led well and fought competently. I'll vouch for that, and there isn't much else to say, really."

"Aye, you don't have to tell him anything about our internal company dealings, yer not here to learn how a mercenary company runs. I'm not askin' ye to lie, lad, jest keep some of the truth to yourself. Understand?"

"Yes Sir. I understand." Hap said.

"Good I don't need Major Braun feeling overly cautious and taking another mechwarrior and 'mech from me. Besides, I'd argue that Ms. Vallois is safer now with us anyway, at least until ComStar forgets about her." Kelly smoked his pipe for a moment then continued, "Which brings up another point, you'll have to keep Anastasia in the barracks, save for patrols, she can't be seen, not till we leave Monhegan."

"That shouldn't be too hard, she's been living like that since our last run in with ComStar. I think as long as I can keep her in wine and good books she'll be fine." Hap said.

"Yeah it's lucky for us the Professor is an introvert." Fletch deadpanned.

Kelly gave Fletch a surprised glance, Fletch responded, "Sorry, I actually meant that. It's been an odd morning, once I realized that Heinrich couldn't understand sarcasm. I've been saying every sarcastic thing that comes to mind. It's not like Tatyana was here to stop me. Seriously though, it is lucky, Anastasia won't mind staying out of sight."

"Alright, Haphazard, off ye go." Kelly said. "Go get yer Coyotes ready for a patrol. I'd like you to step off in two hours. Plenty of time to get the Valkyrie partially repainted. The AFFS sunburst needs to be removed, and any personal identification should also be sterilized."

"Understood sir, but I thought you'd want to move Anastasia to the Dullahans?"

Kelly shook his head, "Nay, The most tactical sense for our lances is to keep a small tonnage recon lance, and the medium size pursuit lance, and yer lance has good chemistry." Kelly said. "Besides if ComStar is still suspicious it's the last thing they'd expect. You keep her out of sight, let me worry about the rest."

Hap acknowledged and went down to the main floor of the 'mech bay. He explained to Maja and Taja, Anastasia's techs, what needed to be repainted, and made sure that his mech's armor had been repaired. He got back to the barracks in time to let his lance know to get ready for a patrol.

Hap and Anastaia left Joker and Mags to get ready. Hap explained to her the restrictions that Kelly had for her as they changed clothes. Hap noted, Anastasia was still secluded behind the door of her wall locker, and out of line of sight from the door, but they could see each other as they changed.

"Honestly this doesn't change much for me." Anastasia said as she pulled on her black skin tight shorts.

"I told the Commander and XO that as long as I kept you in wine and good books you'd be fine." Hap said as he pulled on his own shorts.

"Harold, you have that backwards, the wine needs to be good, not the books." Anastasia said, then gave Hap a coy glance, "Although after last night, it's more about the company, and the good wine."

"Noted. You'll have to give me a list or something and I'll go back to that one grocery store."

"I think we'll have to send someone to get wine." Anastasia said as she slipped into her coveralls, "I'll put up with house arrest but only as long as you're here with me." Anastasia pulled the name tag off her coveralls, and removed the rank from her cooling vest and placed them in a drawer in her locker. "It's part of our mutual suffering death pact."

Hap pulled on his coveralls, "Didn't you say our relationship wasn't going to be a mutual pain and suffering death pact."

"No. I said marriage isn't a mutual pain and suffering death pact. Being members of the same lance generally is. You have to endure the same field environment-"

"Put up with the same ass-hats, and dangerous conditions." Hap added.

Anastasia nodded, "and dodge the threats and designs of a murderous cult and telecom provider."

"You know, bad field conditions, annoying people, and danger were pretty common for me, but ComStar was never a problem until you came along."

Anastasia shrugged, "We all bring things with us into each relationship. I'd like to think the other things I bring into our relationship outweigh the minor inconvenience that accompany me." As she spoke she slid her braid under the coveralls.

"That's fair." Hap said as they left the room and met up with Joker and Mags.

Joker looked over Anastasia's sterilized uniform. "You going on a secret mission?"

"I'll explain more in 'mechs but for the moment I need to be unrecognizable just in case ComStar is still watching." Anastasia said as she put on her neurohelmet, and held her cooling vest in front of her chest.

Hap put on his neurohelmet as they stepped out of the barracks. Mags gave him a curious look, "Looks weird if only one of us is wearing our helmet." He told her.

Mags nodded and put on her helmet as they walked to Ops. Joker shook his head in response, "I'm not putting my on till I'm in my Firestarter. That thing is a pain in the neck, awkward, and smells bed."

"Sounds like someone I know." Anastasia said.

"Joker, if your neurohelmet smells bad, you need to clean it." Hap said

Before Joker could answer they arrived at Ops. The patrol briefing was generally normal. The route would take them by the lake first, and then swing north. Hap was glad to hear they'd do the lake first as he just wanted to get that part done. Fiona and Crow would be performing fire support duty.

As they left the ops center Hap asked, "Crow, didn't you pull duty yesterday?"

"I'm here for you brother." Crow replied

Fiona glanced over her shoulder as they descended the stairs, "Actually he's here for Dillon. Dillon is taking David's death particularly bad and so Rolph is with him helping him work through it."

"Well I'm here for you brother, as much as I'm here for brother Dillon." Crow gave Hap a fist bump.

"Glad you're here Crow, thanks." Hap answered.

"Instead of being here, may I suggest you get your asses in your 'mechs, gentlemen." Fiona said.

Hap climbed the gantry he saw Mike with his usual glower and clipboard. "Some of your armor patches are still fresh, and the sealant has had enough time to cure."

"I'll try to avoid getting shot at for the next 15 minutes." Hap said as he climbed into the cockpit.

"It's all I ask." Mike said as he checked items off the clipboard. "Also that little death-from-above stunt you pulled yesterday should be avoided. There wasn't any damage to your actuators, but we had to pull all the armor off your left leg. The plate was too damaged to patch."

"It was a desperate maneuver." Hap said as he remembered the ambush and a chill went down his spine

"The XO heard me bitching and made me watch the ROM playback. He said your quick action saved some lives yesterday. So you probably did the right thing, just try to avoid it if you can."

Hap nodded, "Yeah. It was a bad day yesterday and I wished I could have saved everyone."

Mike switched the computer out of diagnostic mode and the computer began reporting all systems as nominal. "That's the difference between us. I can always replace or repair or rebuild, you can't always make people do the right thing, like eject, or kill the enemy before he kills one of us."

Hap wasn't sure how to answer as Mike closed and locked the canopy.

In a minute the gantry was cleared and lifted and Hap and his patrol stepped off on their patrol. Hap set his lance into a wedge with Joker on point Anastasia behind him and Mags pulling up the rear.

As they settled into their patrol route Anastasia explained what she knew of yesterday's attack. Hap filled in what he had learned that morning. There was a long pause while Hap waited for Joker and Mags to process everything. He was worried they might blame Anastasia for David's death. He still felt he was mostly responsible for it.

"So Anastasia basically committed the perfect crime and staged her own death?" Joker asked.

"I would hardly consider scientific research a crime-" Anastasia started to say.

"William, don't say stupid shit that cheapens David's death." Mags told Joker.

"Mags you don't think it was Anastasia's fault that David died?" Hap asked.

"No." Mags was quick to say, "David chose not to punch out, that's on him, and besides the tank gunners pulled the trigger and ComStar set the whole thing up. My old man, Macho Commacho, used to say, 'when your times up, your times up, so go fast and hit hard'."

"That's a good philosophy for a Jenner pilot." Hap said, He was relieved, and then embarrassed he didn't have more faith in Mags. Then he worried he had sounded sarcastic, "I could see why everyone respected your dad."

"Not everyone respected him, his enemies feared him." Mags added with pride. Hap smiled knowing that she wasn't kidding.

"For me, it's like my TAC officer used to say, 'It's not the bullet with your name on it that you have to worry about, it's all the ones addressed 'to occupant'.' David got hit by hundreds of missiles marked 'to occupant'." Joker said.

"Too soon Joker." Hap said, not sure if Joker was kidding.

"I wasn't trying to-." Joker said, but a hush fell over them as they approached the lake. Hap checked his scanners and didn't see any unidentified vehicles or 'mechs. Fiona's Jagermech and Crow's Catapult were within weapons range, but the rest of the area was clear of any odd military hardware.

Hap could see a lot of activity around yesterday's battlefield. There were people with metal detectors and hand carts walking around. He could see several small groups collecting scrap metal and whatever components the company techs had overlooked or ignored. Hap also saw a small boat in the lake. He watched as a diver came out of the water and emptied a mesh bag full of brass shell casings into the boat. Hap assumed the boat was near where the Vulcan had been fighting and destroyed.

"What's that guy doing?" Joker asked.

"Collecting scrap." Anastasia said, "When you were in school didn't you ever read, 'The Heatsink, the true currency of the Inner Sphere.' It's the treatise that explains the true values of our currency are tied less to how ComStar values their c-bill, and more to the rarity of war materials and how that actually determines the true economic strength of the Inner Sphere nations."

"Professor, one day you're going to figure out if I read anything in school it was because I had to know it to get into a mechwarrior tech school."

"Or it was between pictures of naked women and it happened to look interesting to you." Mags added.

"Naw, that didn't usually work on me. I was looking at those magazines for the pictures." Joker said, "What I really meant is what is that guy doing with all that brass?"

"Seems like on every planet there is some guy that will make the coolest things from recovered brass." Crow said, "Hey Fiona, remember when I found you that bustier with the brass-"

"No. I don't remember that, and if you want to see me in it again, you'll forget it too." Fiona snapped.

"Changing subjects, for Brother Crow's sake," Joker said as Crow thanked him, "Anastasia are you going to cut your hair?"

"No." Anastasia said flatly.

"Wait, I'm serious, your hair is super long. If you're really going to try to avoid ComStar you should cut it and dye it." Joker said. "It's what they do in those good spy movies, you know the ones with John Stallion."

Anastasia ignored the bait, "My hair is the perfect color, and I need it long." Anastasia said.

"Why?" Joker asked. "When you have it up it's in those braids or complicated wraps, you stick out. When it's down it's past your waist. Either way it's a pretty easy way to identify you."

"Believe it or not there is a minimum weight that a 'mechwarrior needs to be in order for the ejection system to work properly. I'm right at that weight, and every gram counts." Anastasia explained. "I'll keep my hair thank you."

"We can get you a bigger gun or a wicked big knife." Joker said excitedly.

"I would just discard it in a survival situation, so it would be a waste." Anastasia said.

"Fine, just put a brick in a pouch on your cooling vest, then just throw that away."

"Whoa! A brick can be an important survival tool." Crow said.

"Before I regret this, no one ask him about the brick as a survival tool." Fiona added.

"And let's stop talking about my hair as well." Anastasia said.

The mechwarriors quieted down and settled into their patrol. Hap found himself feeling less anxious as the patrol went on. He still didn't know what to think about the economies and business of war. Between yesterday's interaction with the other mercenary company and watching people glean the battlefield it still seemed surreal to him.

He sighed. When they were done with the patrol he could ask Anastasia to explain the true currency of the inner sphere, or share a hot shower with her, polish off a few bottles of wine, and forget the whole messy business of war. The latter sounded like a much better use of their time and better for their mental health.


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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #184 on: 12 January 2021, 00:55:34 »
*claps* Moar, please?