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BattleTech Player Boards => Fan Fiction => Topic started by: HFC05 on 22 April 2020, 15:31:28

Title: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 22 April 2020, 15:31:28
Forward: I recently got back into Battletech, mostly because of the new games, and many nostalgic hours on Sarna.net. As a kid in the 80s I was fascinated by the giant 'Mechs, the detailed miniatures, and the gigantic galaxy. Now that I'm older I appreciate the universe with it's complex political intrigue and extensive mythos, and I still love those giant 'Mechs.

Like many of you I find myself with more time on my hands so I decided to write a fan fiction, but I wanted to focus on a few individuals that had to survive in this wonderful and lethal galaxy. I hope you enjoy it, and if there is interest I'll keep posting.

A Warrior's Family
Chapter 1
August 3029
Klathandu IV

Leftenant Harold "Haphazard" or "Hap" Calahad eased his Griffin over the hill. He could see his Lancemate Corporal "Joker" Cameron moving his Firestarter down the hill carefully using the forest for cover. Hap and his lance were, on the books, a pursuit lance for the Raman Draconis March Militia or RDMM, but at that moment Hap suspected he was leading the lance of misfits that had been tasked to screen while everyone else was fighting.

Hap checked his scanners again. There was no enemy, and from the looks of the smoke they were east of most of the fighting. On his scanners Hap could see his other lancemate, Sergeant "Tuna" Kam'achi just about hundred meters behind him. Hap knew Tuna was trudging up the hill in his Hunchback. It wasn't as fast as Joker's Firestarter or Hap's own Griffin, but it brought a lot of firepower, and it was better armored than either 'Mech.

Hap searched a moment for his fourth lancemate, and then remembered Corporal "Lucky" Tirado wasn't there. He earned his handle during an ambush where he jumped his Javelin behind a Panther, but he didn't see an enemy Enforcer following the Panther. When the Enforcer leveled its autocannon nothing happened. After his lancemates recovered from the shock of the weapon jamming they blasted the Enforcer to pieces, and Corporal Tirado would forever be called "Lucky".

But it wasn't just that one incident, if everyone was getting sick on the beef rations, Lucky would have happened to have gotten chicken. When Sergeant Major planned the worst field problem, Lucky contracted some local flu that had him on light duty just long enough to avoid it. One time the barracks weekly poker game had a pot worth several months of pay and Lucky won it with a pair of 3s. That was Lucky, when it came to chance he always came out ahead.

That all changed yesterday with one stray particle projection beam. One minute Joker and Lucky were arguing about characters in a holovid, and the next minute the head of Lucky's Javelin had evaporated. Hap didn't even see where the shot had come from. It was so random and shocking. The worst part was the fight between the RDMM and the 9th Benjamin Regulars was going so poorly there was no time for a memorial, and his 'Mech was cannibalized for spare parts. Now it was a day later, and here they were screening for an enemy that wasn't there.

A light flashed on Hap's radio, and he switched channels. "This is Hooligan four" Hap said as his mind drifted from his musings back to the present.

Hap's company commander, Captain Holman, broke the static. "Hooligan four, this is Hooligan six. Hap, where the hell are you?"

"Sir, I'm on the east ridge screening just as the intel-"

"Yeah, intel got it wrong again. Move to hill 182. Our Fire Support Company is getting their asses handed to them. The recon element you were supposed to be screening came from the west."

"Acknowledge sir."

"Hurry Hap, seconds count. Hooligan Six out."

Hap switched to the lance's radio channel, "Tuna, Joker, we got to move to hill 182. Looks like intel got it wrong again."

"Man, I gotta get those guys in a poker game." Joker said as he turned his Firestarter around, and used the 'Mech's jump jets to send it flying into the air over the tops of trees and onto the side of hill by Hap's Griffin.

"Yeah bro, we'd take them for all their money." Tuna replied with a chuckle. Hearing the big husky Polynesian man's laugh made Hap smile. This was the first time since Lucky's death that any of them had dared to really laugh.

Hap hit the jump jets on his Griffin and turned in mid-air as he sailed over the hill and landed in the forest on the other side. Joker's Firestarter made another jump jet assisted leap over the trees as Hap checked his balance and then prepared to jump again. He glanced at his Heads Up Display (HUD) and saw that in the time it had taken him and Joker to turn their 'Mechs around Tuna was, again, nearly a hundred meters behind them, now trudging down the hill. Not only was the Hunchback slower than the other 'Mechs, it also didn't have jump jets.

"We gotta hurry Tuna. Captain H was clear that, 'seconds count'." Hap said as he watched the Hunchback's indicator on his HUD slowly crawl down the hill.

"It's like my neighbor used to say about the police, 'when seconds count, help is minutes away.'" Joker laughed.

"I got the throttle open all the way." Tuna huffed

"Captain H is going to make me put you in a faster 'Mech." Hap said as he weighed out how he liked having the Hunchback's large auto cannon, but hated that when he had to move his lance the Hunchback was always lagging behind.

"Yeah it's going to have to be a big 'Mech, for Tuna. I heard when he was in training they put him in a Locust and the legs snapped." Joker again laughed at his own joke.

"That wasn't me that was your mom." Tuna quipped.

"Oh you want to talk about moms?" Joker sounded agitated.

"Quiet down and stay sharp. Slow it down Joker we need to arrive quickly, but together." Hap told his subordinates. He knew if he let them continue they'd be arguing and insulting each other all day, even in the middle of a fire fight. Hap cursed to himself thinking how he would have just headed off the argument by sending Lucky and Joker on ahead as he and Tuna took up the rear.

Hap settled his throttle at a speed Tuna could keep up with and started to work the route to the hill. His mind drifted again. He was a young Leftenant, but he knew the campaign to hold Klathandu was going poorly. The local militia only had tanks and jump infantry but they had managed to keep the Draconis Combine's 9th Benjamin Regulars at bay until the RDMM could get there. After they arrived the tank commander had briefed the entire Regiment that part of the militia's success was, in his opinion, that the 9th Benjamin Regulars didn't take the militia seriously because they lacked 'Mechs.

When the RDMM arrived on planet the 9th was taking them dangerously seriously. The landing was contested, and part of the RDMM's leadership were killed before they were even on planet. Somehow the RDMM managed to hold the 9th long enough for the Federated Commonwealth leadership to send in the First Federated Commonwealth BattleMech Regiment. The First FedCom was a new regiment and they arrived with shiny new 'Mechs. Most of the RDMM troops were excited, until they realized they were untested Subalterns straight from the Davion and Steiner military academies. As if having a regiment full of the most junior of junior officers wasn't bad enough, Hap had even heard rumors some of them were still cadets.

The First FedCom was led by a pompous son of a noble that put them on vanguard duty or other simple, and relatively safe, missions. The First FedCom had some easy wins, and that just made the young officers more arrogant. Hap didn't blame them though, a few years back when he left the academy he was the same way. Today the First FedCom was in their first real fight with the 9th and from what Hap had heard over the radio it was going badly.

Hap's lance was now close to the hill. The fastest way looked like a narrow pass in the high cliffs. It was the perfect place for an ambush. Joker was already there and had his 'Mech looking up at the top of the cliff. It looked too tall for Hap's Griffin to jump to the top of it, but the Firestarter might just make it.

"Joker you see something or are you trying to figure out if you can jump it?"

"Jump it, but It's too high for me. Guess we gotta just risk it." Joker replied.

"I'll go first" Hap replied as he walked his 'Mech into the path going between the two high cliffs. He felt claustrophobic as his 'Mech scrapped against the side. "Tuna it's going to be hard to turn in this passage. You might want to go into this backwards, if someone catches us-"

"I'll make it real unpleasant for them, boss." Tuna finished

Hap started up the pass. It was level at first, but after a hundred meters it started to slope up the hill. Within another hundred he was high enough that he could jump onto the cliff top. Hap pulled up his long range sensors. He could now see the indicators of two friendly units and several smaller enemy 'Mechs engaging them. Hap felt sick in his stomach. He knew the Fire Support Company had been reduced due to causalities, but it should have been more than two. Hap flipped his radio to the Fire Support lance's channel.

"This is Hooligan four" Hap had to stop for a moment to remember the company's radio designation, "Spear element, are you there?"

"This is Spear six, where the hell are you?"

"Coming up the cliff pass."

"I needed you here yesterday, Hooligan four." Spear six replied angrily.

Hap's HUD started to receive updates from Spear six's 'Mech. He could see the enemy was a lance of Jenners and a Cicada. Hap knew these were fast 'Mechs, but poorly armored. He locked onto one of the Jenners that had its back to him, and sent a salvo of ten long range missiles flying in its direction. Hap was hoping to distract or slow the 'Mech down, instead to his surprise his computer marked a kill.

"Good shooting Hooligan four. You hit his magazine. Now if you had just gotten here before these bastards tore my company apart that would have been some real help." Spear six snarled, it sounded like he was going to say more but there was the sound of missiles hitting his 'Mech.

Hap switched back to his lance channel, "Joker get up there now, we'll catch up."

The Firestarter jumped over the Griffin and started running up the path between the cliffs. In a moment the Firestarter was in the fight, and the Griffin and Hunchback followed a few seconds behind. Hap could see they were too late. The hill side was littered with broken and battered 'Mechs. There was an RDMM Trebuchet and Catapult still standing, but they were being harassed be the smaller and faster Cicada and Jenners.

Both RDMM 'Mechs were in bad shape. The Catapult was missing the missile pod on its right side, and smoke and sparks were pouring out of multiple holes in its armor. The Trebuchet was in similar condition and was clearly favoring one leg.

Hap sent another salvo of missiles at one of the Jenners. The missile spread went wide and only two connected, doing little damage. He then shot his Particle Projection Cannon (PPC) at the 'Mech and that melted through the 'Mech's arm, and the blast bit into the torso. Joker put two medium lasers into the breach, and hit the engine shielding of the 'Mech. It stopped mid stride and then exploded.

The 'Mech's of the Fire Company had few close range weapons so when the smaller faster 'Mechs closed with them they were in trouble. Hap realized his Griffin had the same problem but he also knew he could just punch the enemy or perform the dangerous Death From Above attack.

As if he here thinking the same thing the Catapult pilot sent his 'Mech flying into the air then landed on one of the Jenners. The Jenner twisted and contorted under the weight of the heavier 'Mech. For a moment the Catapult stood over its fallen enemy, then the remaining Jenner hit it with a barrage of missiles and lasers. The Catapult fell forward and somehow Hap knew he wasn't getting back up.

Tuna shot the Jenner with his large autocannon and the shot passed through the 'Mech's left side and into its center. Tuna followed it up with his medium lasers and the Jenner exploded. Hap changed his focus to the remaining enemy 'Mech. The Cicada was trying to get behind the Trebuchet and the Trebuchet was slowly turning to prevent it. It seemed the 'Mech's gyro was damaged as well as its leg.

Joker jumped his Firestarter down next to Cicada, and fired everything he had, machine guns, medium lasers and flamers. The Cicada dodged part of the Alpha Strike but couldn't dodge the spray of fire the flamers put out. Even so the Cicada continued and when it had the angle it wanted it fired on the Trebuchet with its PPC and machine guns. The shot hit one the Trebuchet's ammo bin and the barrage of machine gun fire set off a chain reaction in the center torso.

Hap cringed as the last member of the Fire Support Company exploded. In unison Hap and Tuna fired their weapons and destroyed the remaining enemy 'Mech. Hap paused for a moment feeling the rush of emotion and adrenaline. It took him a moment before he was ready to report. He switched his radio to the command net.

"Hooligan six, this is Hooligan four, over."

"Hooligan four, Report"

"We weren't fast enough, sir. The Fire Support Company has been destroyed, but we neutralized the enemy 'Mechs. Over."

There was a pause, and Hap imagined Captain Holman cursing, then the Captain was back on the net. "The enemy broke through our lines, and we're pulling back to Rendezvous Point Zed. Get any friendly you can, and proceed to the rendezvous point."

"Understood, sir." Hap's mouth went dry. Rendezvous Point Zed was a military star port. This meant the RDMM was probably in full retreat.

"Hap, one more thing, the First FedCom is getting the shit kicked out of 'em. We're probably going to lose the better part of that year group of officers. If you see any of them, bring them along. Hooligan six out."

Hap switched back to his lance's channel, "Tuna, Joker, check for any friendly signs of life, and then we're pulling back to rendezvous point Zed."

"Way ahead of you boss" Tuna replied, "We're negative on life signs. This fight was pretty fierce."

"Alright let's-" Hap stopped mid-sentence, there was a light flashing over the emergency guard channel. "Wait one."

Hap switched to the guard channel, and heard a female voice. She sounded controlled, but stressed, "Requesting immediate assistance or evac. I repeat, this is Cadet Valois. I'm isolated, and being pursued by a heavy lance. Requesting immediate assistance or evac."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: shadowdancer on 22 April 2020, 17:24:04
Keep writing. Enjoyed it.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: David CGB on 22 April 2020, 21:01:47
Please keep writing, good stories are needed in this time!
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: snakespinner on 23 April 2020, 02:06:07
Enjoyable read, i was a bit put out when you said that the Hunchback was a 100 kilometres behind.
But that was probably to keep us on our toes. ;) :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 23 April 2020, 05:06:56
TAGged!
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Artifex on 23 April 2020, 10:17:22
(...snip...)
Hap checked his scanners again. There was no enemy, and from the looks of the smoke they were east of most of the fighting. On his scanners Hap could see his other lancemate, Sergeant "Tuna" Kam'achi just about hundred kilometers behind him. Hap knew Tuna was trudging up the hill in his Hunchback. It wasn't as fast as Joker's Firestarter or Hap's own Griffin, but it brought a lot of firepower, and it was better armored than either 'Mech.
(...snip...)

Like someone else pointed out ... but hey, that's one bigass radar, able to process that info! :D

Otherwise nice writing! Looking forwards to the follow ups!
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 23 April 2020, 15:56:58
Sorry about the kilometer thing. I'm not sure what I was thinking there. I went ahead and fixed it. More chapters coming up, and thanks for being constructive.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 23 April 2020, 15:59:41
Chapter 2
August 3029
Klathandu IV

The cadet started to request assistance again, "This is Cadet Valois. I'm-"

"Cadet, this is Hooligan four. Where are you, and can you move, over?" Hap interrupted her.

"I'm in the vicinity of Pheasant Run and moving south, but I'm being chased by a Quickdraw and a Thunderbolt."

A Quickdraw and a Thunderbolt were serious firepower, and Pheasant Run was, again, minutes away when second's counted. Hap prepared to start his lance moving, but then remembered the cliff leading up the hill, and how it was ideal for an ambush. Hap patched the guard channel into his lance's channel.

"Cadet, acknowledge you are being pursued by a Quickdraw and a Thunderbolt. Do you think you can get to hill 182, over?"

There was a pause. "Yes. Hooligan four."

"How does a Thunderbolt chase anything?" Joker asked.

Hap was about to tell Joker that "now wasn't the time", but the Cadet replied, "It has jump jets."

"Who the hell puts Jump Jets on a Thunderbolt? Those things are bigger than Tuna's mom." Joker responded

"Hey!" Tuna barked.

"Stow it Joker." Hap snapped, then softened his tone, "Alright Cadet. I need you to try and approach hill 182 from the east."

"Acknowledge." Cadet Valois replied coolly, she sounded calmer.

Hap could see a friendly Valkyrie just on the edge of his long range sensor range. A Valkyrie was a light 'Mech, and a little slow for its size, but still faster than Tuna's Hunchback Hap noted. A Quickdraw could keep pace with it, but she should have been able to outpace the Thunderbolt. This area was heavily wooded and with the forests and jump jets the Thunderbolt could probably keep within weapons range.

"Cadet I'm going to coordinate with my lance. I'm going to take you of our lance channel, but I'll still be monitoring the guard. Just keep moving to hill 182."

"Acknowledge all." She sounded confident again.

Hap took the guard channel out of the Lance's channel. "Alright Gents, we're not broadcasting to everyone in the clear. She's bringing two heavies our way, but we can use that pass in the cliff to-"

Joker interrupted Hap, "Hey Tuna was that the Princess?"

"What?" Haps asked

"Yeah, I think so. I mean I don't know till I see her, but probably." Tuna replied.

"What the hell are you two talking about?" Hap asked impatiently.

"We were in the galley one day and there was a bunch of First FedCom Subalterns and Cadets there, and hand to god truth, there was this cadet that was the most drop dead gorgeous woman we had ever seen. Lucky tried to ask her out, but when he talked to her she just stared at him, said 'no' and then left. One of the Subalterns told him that was the princess, aloof and concise. Lucky said Princess was embroidered on her name tag."

Hap almost asked why he wasn't with them, but he knew he was probably in a staff meeting. "And you think this was the same MechWarrior?" Hap asked

"Well Lucky said she was a Valkyrie pilot." Joker replied defensively

"The First FedCom is all Valkyrie, Centurion, and Enforcer pilots." Hap replied looking at the cliff and thinking how he wanted to set up the ambush.

"That's true bro." Tuna added.

"Yeah, but she sounds pretty hot, next time you talk to her ask her callsign." Joker said.

Hap was exasperated, "Look I don't care if she's Miss Federated Suns or Martha UrbanMech, we need to help her survive and take down the Quickdraw and Thunderbolt. Joker, light up the trees near the pass and hide in the fire and smoke. Tuna use the heat and smoke to hide but try to be close to the pass." Hap directed the other two 'Mech warriors.

Hap could see the Quickdraw and Thunderbolt on his scanner now. The Quickdraw was a heavy 'Mech with a big engine that meant it traded speed for armor. It was about as fast and jump capable as the Valkyrie, and he was trying to follow the same path as the Valkyrie. Hap didn't have a computer lock, but he could guess where the Quickdraw pilot next jump. He watched the Valkyrie jump, and targeted the same area. He launched a brace of missiles and saw them impact the Quickdraw just as he landed behind her.

Hap flipped the radio to the guard net as he moved his 'Mech to the end of the pass. Hap picked a good spot with plenty of trees and a good view of the pass. Tuna and Joker were in position now. Joker was facing Hap. When he jumped into the pass he would try to get behind the enemy so facing backwards made sense.

"What's your status cadet?" Hap asked

"Almost there. Good contact on the Quickdraw. Thanks." She replied.

Hap glanced back to his tactical display, the Quickdraw was now alternating its path, this was slowing it down, giving the Cadet more space. Hap tried to guess the Quickdraw's next move, but he was wrong and the missiles completely missed. Hap figured this was fine, it would keep the enemy guessing.

"There's a cliff here Hooligan four." Cadet Valois reported

"Yeah there's a pass to the south, proceed through the pass." Hap replied.

Hap saw the Valkyrie's icon move a few 'Mech paces south and hesitate. She probably felt the same way he did, it looked like the perfect place for an ambush. Hap's computer reported laser fire and missile fire from the vicinity of the enemy 'Mechs, and the Valkyrie started moving again. The Valkyrie came into view as she sprinted into the pass and then up to the Griffin.

As she was turning her 'Mech Hap could see Joker was holding up a piece of paper to the view port of his 'Mech. Hap cringed trying to think what crude joke he was going to play on the Cadet. Hap magnified the image and saw it was the lance's net information. Hap flipped his radio back to the lance net, still trying to guess what Joker was up to, and how he was going to discipline him. The cadet must have seen the paper because in a moment Hap started receiving data from her 'Mech.

"Are you 'Princess'?" Joker asked

"I hate that callsign." Princess said coldly. "Please just call me Valois."

"Anything you ask Princess" Joker replied cheerfully.

"Shut it Joker." Hap almost yelled. He would have to warn Princess the worst thing you can do with a call sign is show you hate it, but before he could say anything the Quickdraw entered the pass. Hap's computer reported the Quickdraw was peppered with missile shots, more than he had launched. Princess must have been putting down good fire as she retreated.

Princess shot a medium laser at the Quickdraw the moment she had a clear shot. Hap backed her up with a PPC shot and a salvo of missiles. The PPC struck the 'Mech's left breast and a few missiles hit the cliff, but the most of them struck the 'Mech. The Quickdraw responded by jumping deep into the pass and sending a barrage of lasers and missiles at Hap. The trees absorbed some of the damage, but armor melted from the right breast and arm of the Griffin.

Joker gracefully jumped into the pass and landed behind the Quickdraw. He bathed the enemy 'Mech in fire and followed up with lasers and machine guns. Hap knew that would probably not overheat the Quickdraw, but force the pilot to be careful with his lasers. The Quickdraw jumped out of the pass and spun backwards trying to target the Firestarter. This is when Tuna stepped out of the smoke and shot the Quickdraw in the back at point blank range, destroying the 'Mech.

Joker jumped his Firestarter out of the pass, just as the Thunderbolt entered. As the Firestarter sailed to safety Hap launched another volley of missiles and Princess joined him in hitting it with her laser, but the Thunderbolt ignored them. Tuna also shot him with his powerful cannon but it didn't seem penetrate the 'Mech's thick armor.

The Thunderbolt moved like something from a nightmare. It unleashed a barrage of missiles and lasers at the Hunchback as he stalked through the pass. Tuna was taken aback by the onslaught, and started to steady his 'Mech and prepare for another shot, but the Thunderbolt kept coming.

Princess shot her 'Mech's arm mounted medium laser again, but it only superficially melted some of the armor on the Thunderbolt's chest. Joker jumped behind him and performed another alpha strike, but the Thunderbolt pilot seemed unconcerned. The cannon on Tuna's Hunchback belched out another pitiless blast. This actually seemed to put a hole in the armor, but it didn't stop the Thunderbolt.

Hap sent another wave of missiles into the monster, but they failed to hit the breach that Tuna had created. 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 its 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 the Hunchback fell backwards with the force of the blow. Joker hit him again with everything his 'Mech had, and more smoke came out of the holes in the 'Mech's armor, but it still seemed fully functional.

Hap worried the Thunderbolt would turn on Joker or give Tuna a coup de grace, he wished he knew how to get the Thunderbolt to focus on him. The Thunderbolt turned and raised its right arm and pointed its large laser at Hap, and trained the missile pod on him. "be careful what you wish for" Hap thought as he fought the sense of panic and manually aimed his weapons trying to target the smoking hole.

Princess shot her laser and launched a salvo of ten missiles. The laser struck the gap in the Thunderbolts right torso and most of the missiles hit in and around the crack in the armor. The right side of the 'Mech separated in an explosion and the 'Mech's missile pod and right arm went flying away.

The breach in the armor was hard to miss now and Hap launched missiles as his PPC's azure beam slipped into the smoking hole and into the center of the 'Mech. Missiles followed the beam and then there was another explosion and more smoke and sparks poured out of the holes and breaches in the Thunderbolt's armor. The Thunderbolt staggered backwards then slumped drunkenly onto the side of the cliff.

Hap looked at the broken remains of the Thunderbolt. He had been in dozens of battles, but this was probably the biggest 'Mech he and his lance had taken on. He knew the Quickdraw was about the same tonnage as the Thunderbolt, but it was different. Hap shuddered, there was something about the way the Thunderbolt had moved, and the casual indifference it had toward everything his lance threw at it.

"I'm out of missiles." Princess said quietly and matter-of-factly. To Hap it was almost a quiet whisper, it took a moment for it to register with him.

Hap shook his head and focused. He glanced at his own ammo counter. He had about a dozen reloads remaining. He had been a little liberal with his missiles, but the Griffin carried two tons of missiles so he could afford it.

"Good copy Cadet." Hap said, debating what to call her Princess, Val, or keep calling her 'Cadet'. As he weighed his options he pulled up tactical information on Princess's Valkyrie. Her 'Mech seemed to have taken damage all over, it was all superficial, but she must have been in quite a fight. She had also emptied her missile magazine, which meant she had launched twelve salvos. Val seemed like a cool customer so Hap assumed she had shot each salvo with a purpose. Between this, the timely laser and missile shot on the Thunderbolt, and her disdain for a girly callsign like "Princess" Hap was starting to respect Cadet Valois.

As he scanned the Valkyrie he remembered that the Hunchback's autocannon rounds were also pretty limited. "Tuna, how much ammo do you have?"

There was no response. Hap glanced up and Tuna's Hunchback was still flat on the ground. Without looking Hap switched the scanner to the Hunchback. He glanced down and saw the cockpit was critically damaged and there was no life signs for Tuna. Hap swallowed hard and reminded himself damage to the cockpit could prevent the Hunchback from reporting the 'MechWarrior's life signs.

Joker was already moving toward the prone 'Mech. Hap walked his 'Mech over as well. Joker stopped his Firestarter and then starting howling, "No, no, no." Hap could see now the head of the Hunchback had been bashed in and there was a grizzly pool of blood around the smashed cockpit. Joker kneeled his 'Mech down and popped open the cockpit of his 'Mech.

"Hooligan four, we need to move." Princess said quietly.

Joker hadn't disconnected his neurohelmet when she spoke, and Hap could see Joker pause and look in the direction of the Valkyrie, "Go to hell princess." He snapped.

Hap knew he needed to correct the corporal, and in his gut he knew that Cadet Valois was right, but he wanted so badly for Sergeant Kam'achi to be alive. Joker slipped out of his 'Mech and ran to the Hunchback's head. He was carrying a survival axe rescue tool that he used to pry off the sheet of crushed safety glass.

Hap watched as Joker tossed the glass away and when he saw into the crushed remains of the cockpit, and his heart fell. Joker dropped the axe and his hands moved like he was trying to think about some sort of medical of first aid that could help, but it was obvious the body was too badly mangled.

"We are being cut off." Princess said quietly.

Hap looked at his scanners and didn't see anything. "I don't see…" before he could finish a 35 ton 'Mech showed up on his scanner, then two more.

Hap activated the external speakers, "Joker. We got company coming."

Joker still didn't move. "Corporal Cameron, get in your 'Mech." Hap ordered.

Joker finally started to move. He reached down for his axe, then noticed something in the broken Mech. He pulled out a skinny black bag, threw it over his shoulder and began to jog back to his Firestarter.

Hap looked at his scanners again there were about half a dozen light 'Mechs headed their way moving at different speeds. Hap knew the Draconis Combine tactics well enough to guess they were a mix of Panthers and Jenners. The Jenners would catch them and tear them apart with lasers and missiles at close range while the Panthers would blast them to pieces from a distance with their PPCs.

Hap watched as Joker put his neurohelmet back on. He shut off the PA, and keyed the lance net, "How did you see those 'Mechs before they showed up on my scanner?"

"My father owned an electronic company that makes advanced sensors and scanners for 'Mechs and aerospace fighters. My noble mother arranged for me to receive this 'Mech, and he had it outfitted with some of his company's best electronics." Princess spoke quietly like she was confessing a mistake.

Hap didn't say anything, maybe she was a spoiled little Princess whose parents could ensure she got a top of the line 'Mech fully kitted out. Of course if her 'Mech's advance gear kept them alive Hap wasn't going to complain. "Is there a clear way to Rendezvous Point Zed?"

There was a long pause and then Princess replied, "No."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 23 April 2020, 16:02:30
Chapter 3
August 3029
Klathandu IV


"What's the plan, boss." Joker said as he stood his 'Mech back up. His tone was cold, and he sounded like he was ready for a fight.

"We need to get to the rendezvous point, but there's a reinforced lance out there." Hap said as he glanced at his scanners. The six enemy 'Mechs were moving in a searching pattern, but they didn't seem to notice them yet. Then one started moving in their direction, followed by two more, then all of them.

Hap started to assess their situation. The RDMM was likely preparing to leave the planet, so they needed to get to the rendezvous point quickly, or risk being left behind. If they ran they'd be caught in the open, pinned down and then flanked. They had a defensible position, but they were low on ammo. Also they could be overwhelmed if enough 'Mechs tried to pour through the pass, or had the jump jets to clear the cliff. Also if the enemy had artillery or air support there was no good cover.

Hap watched as two 'Mechs waited just out of view at the other end of the pass. They were likely waiting for their lance mates and preparing to try and leap frog through the pass en masse. To Hap's surprise he started getting data on one of them and his long range missiles showed an option to lock.

"I have a sensor lock on one of the Jenners, and I'm sharing the data." Princess reported

Hap launched missiles on the target, with any luck that would compel the two 'Mechs to start into the pass early.

He could see the 'Mech take damage, but instead of running into the pass and charging it moved away and took cover in some trees. Hap's heart sank, these were disciplined soldiers, and to keep shooting would waste missiles. To make matters worse a warning tone notified him he was now sensor locked.

"I just got sensor locked." Joker added

"That's odd." Hap replied, "Panthers and Jenners don't have indirect weapons." Hap knew that in most circumstances a sensor lock would be followed up by a hailstorm of Long Range Missiles (LRMs), but neither of those 'Mech types had LRMs.

"Three 65 ton marks just entered my long range sensor range." Princess replied. "Likely Catapults or Archers."

"Hey boss, if she doesn't want to be called Princess, I'm thinking we change her call sign to 'Bad News'." Joker laughed, then added, "That is if we survive."

Hap's mind started to race. To stay here was death, to run didn't look much better.

"I've also been sensor locked." Princess said, then after a pause, "Hooligan 4, it's been a pleasure." Hap hadn't noticed it before, but Cadet Valois didn't put a lot of emotion in her voice, he sort of liked that about her. Maybe it was because Joker was always complaining.

"I'd like to say the same, Princess." Joker said, "but honestly, it really hasn't been."

"I agree." Princess deadpanned, "but I take comfort knowing that we're probably not going to the same place."

"Move into the pass." Hap said, "It might make it a little harder on the missiles and we'll still keep the light 'Mechs from swarming us."

"Yeah Princess, we might not go-" Joker started to stay then paused, "Wait, what are you saying?"

A light on Hap's radio flashed again letting him know someone was broadcasting on the guard channel. Hap didn't have time for another lost Cadet, but maybe it was someone he could ask for help.

"Griffin pilot you and your lance hold your position." A man with a thick Irish accent said.

"We've got indirect fire inbound." Hap said, as he tried to think who in the RDMM had an Irish accent.

"Aye. Just hold, and prepare for hot extraction."

Hap patched the guard channel back into the lance net, just as Princess reported, "Hooligan 4, there's a Leopard drop shuttle inbound for our position. They've painted the whole hill top as a DZ."

"Roger. They want us to wait here." Hap couldn't dare to hope, finally something might go right today.

Hap could see the Leopard on his scanners too. It was moving toward them at break neck speed, and it looked like the Jenners had noticed as well. Two of them had entered the pass and were sprinting toward them. Hap leveled his PPC at the Jenner he had a sensor lock on. The shot melted off its arm and two of its four medium lasers. Joker and Princess shot one of its leg out from under it causing it to trip and fall. The other Jenner had to make a wild jump to avoid tripping over its companion.

As the Jenner landed a barrage of lasers reduced the Jenner to scrap. Hap looked up to see the welcome underside of a Leopard drop shuttle. It was generally rectangular, and looked like an angular 'Mech garage with wings and weapon turrets. It had four 'Mech bays with two each on the port and starboard side. The inner sphere had made some truly gorgeous and elegant air and space crafts, the Leopard was not among them, but right now this was the most beautiful thing Hap had seen all day.

The Leopard pilot brought the drop shuttle down to about 100 meters above their heads and let it slide sideways as it burned off speed and momentum. As it glided around the hill it shot at some of the advancing enemy 'Mechs. Then it came to land on the southern corner of the hill.

"We're not stoppin' long children, ye need to hurry." The man with the Irish accent said on the radio.

Hap, Joker, and the Cadet quickly ran to the Leopard as the crew opened up three of the four Mech bays. Within seconds they were loaded on the drop shuttle, and it started to lift off before the bays closed.

As doors closed Hap started the shutdown procedures. The lights in the 'Mech bay started to warm up and Hap could feel they were taking off. A tech walked up on the gantry way and knocked on the armored glass. Hap popped the cockpit locks and the tech helped him push it open.

"Are you okay? Do you need any medical assistance?" The tech asked with a bored tone.

Hap took off the heavy Neurohelmet and started to remove the various neuro transmitters. "No, I'm fine." Hap didn't recognize this tech, and his uniform didn't look like an RDMM or First FedCom uniform. However he had just received an unrequested aerial evac. He assumed his commander had declared Planet Fall and he was lucky that someone stopped to grab him and the rest of his lance on the way out.

"Anything particular I should know about your 'Mech, or anything that happened in that last battle?" The tech was looking around at the cockpit, looking for damage or anything out of the ordinary. Hap could see he was going down the checklist on his clipboard.

"I didn't take any internal damage, but I lost some armor on my right flank. Also, I spent about half my missiles."

The tech was all business, and wrote a few notes on his clipboard. The tech pulled out a flash light and began inspecting the outside of the 'Mech as Hap finished disconnecting cables, and shutting down the Griffin.

Hap sat for a moment trying to figure out what to do next. The tech wrote a few more notes and without looking at him suggested, "Shouldn't you go check on your lancemates?"

Hap felt a pang of guilt as he wondered if Cadet Valois was hurt. Her 'Mech had a lot of damage, and he didn't know what had happened to her before she got to the hill. A stray laser or missile to a 'Mech's head might cause cosmetic damage to the armor, but usually gave the MechWarrior a concussion. The Cadet's mech had taken damage all over. Hap grabbed his kit bag and coveralls from the small storage area in his cockpit. As he pulled on the olive drab coveralls Hap felt the burden of responsibility for the Cadet, like he was for Joker, or Tuna or Lucky. The pang of losing Tuna and Lucky hit him again.

He put his pistol belt on, and slung the bag over his shoulder as he jogged to the ladder. He really hoped the Cadet was okay. Maybe he could keep her in his lance for a while. Her Valkyrie was complimentary to his Griffin. She was a good 'Mech pilot and gunner. He liked how she traded insults with Joker. That sensor package her 'Mech had paid off too. He put his hands and feet on the outside of the ladder and slid all the way down to the main deck. He just needed to make sure she was okay.

His feet hit the deck and he turned in the direction of the Valkyrie ran into a young woman. He started to fall but he managed to catch himself and steady the woman by putting his hands on her shoulders. Hap stood there starring at her with his hands resting on her shoulders.

She was the most gorgeous woman Hap had ever seen. She was about a meter and a half tall, had creamy white skin, and reddish chestnut hair that slightly curled and went past her shoulders. She had a small nose and green eyes. Her black coveralls were tailored to fit the curves of her trim athletic body. She also had a pistol belt across her right hip with a low slung laser pistol resting on her left thigh. On the right breast of her coveralls was a leather patch that had a silver silhouette of a Valkyrie on the side and "Anastasia Valois" written in clear silver letters, below her name in big pink letters was "Princess".

Hap didn't know what to say. Anastasia cocked her head to the side and locked eyes with him and smiled. After a long moment, she dropped her gaze down to the leather name patch on his coveralls. "Leftenant Harold Haphazard Calahad, You're Hooligan four?"

Hap was still in shock. "Yeah, I mean yes. I am. My friends call me Hap. Actually everyone calls me Hap. You can call me Hap." This was strange for Hap. He didn't usually have trouble with woman.

"May I call you Harold?" She asked.

"Sure. Yes." Hap said and realized he had to pull himself together. "I'm sorry, you're just very beautiful."

"I know." Anastasia replied. There was a tone of regret in her response, and Hap immediately understood. Most of the women around her probably hated her, and most men likely had the same problem tripping over themselves just trying to talk to her.

Hap was starting to compose himself. For all her beauty she suddenly looked lonely and vulnerable. "You don't have a lot of friends do you?"

"No." Anastasia replied, "and before you ask, I don't have a boyfriend either."

"I wasn't going to ask" Hap said sensing her bitterness. He took his hands off her shoulders but still stood close to her. Hap's experiences and training had taught him how to read people. She had mentioned her mother was a noble and her father owned a business. Her family had wealth and title, and she had beauty. This meant she had to pick her friends carefully and that would make her seem aloof which would add to the problem.

To make matters worse a place like a Davion military academy has a lot of nobles and their sycophants competing on every level. If you weren't careful it was easy to get betrayed. Hap's family wasn't nobility, and he had to work hard to earn his commission, but he had seen some of the weird and messed up things the nobles would do to each other just to get ahead.

Hap had also just seen Anastasia lead two 'Mechs that out-classed her 'Mech on a multi-kilometer chase. Money and title couldn't give her that skill, or composure. She clearly worked hard, and was smart. Something that would also make her a target of her peers. They probably goaded her by giving her an entitled and demeaning feminine call sign. Like most good call signs, it was a clever but cruel joke. She clearly knew she had to embrace it, but she had also made it clear that she hated it.

The door across the bay opened and a man that Hap didn't recognize was walking toward them with Joker at his heels. Hap and Anastasia only had a few more seconds of privacy. Hap turned back to look at her, he genuinely liked her and wanted to help her. She was looking him in the eyes with a curious expression.

"I want to be your friend, but I'd bet a year's salary you've been tricked or betrayed by people claiming to be a friend. But, until someone tells me different you're in my lance, and I take care of my lance."

Anastasia looked confused, "Okay."

He leaned in close to her, "You don't want to be 'Princess' anymore?"

Her eyes widened, and she shook her head, "No, and if you could help me get rid of that name-"

"Trust me." And with that Hap grabbed the leather patch on her coveralls and ripped it off. Before Hap could slip the patch into his pocket Joker and the older man walked up to them. The old man was short but wiry. He was dressed in green military pants and wore a khaki shirt under a camouflage jacket. He looked like he was in his fifties or sixties, with silver gray hair and large mutton chops, but a clean shaven face. His blue eyes twinkled and he had the air of a mischievous grandfather. He had a wood and ivory pipe in his hands.

On the breast pocket of the Jacket was an embroidered logo with a triangle made of three overlapping Celtic knots. The top knot had a gold harp in the center, the right knot had a skull and the left knot had a three leaf clover. Above the triangle was "McFinnigan" and underneath was "and Sons".

The old man cleared his throat. "Are you the Griffin pilot?" He asked in the same Irish accent.

"Yes sir." Hap replied, "I'm Leftenant Harold Calahad, this is Cadet Anna Valois, and I believe you've already met Corporal William Cameron."

"Aye, and I'm Kelly McFinnigan. Owner, Operator, and Commander of the McFinnigan and Sons Mercenary Company." McFinnigan looked over Hap and his eyes narrowed as he saw his name tag. "Haphazard?"

"I have a reputation for being a little unorthodox in some of my strategies, not careless, just a little unpredictable." Hap said with a mock humble shrug.

"I like unorthodox and unpredictable." McFinnigan smiled. He turned to look at Anastasia and whistled quietly. "My yer a looker. Not prettier than Mrs. McFinnigan. If she asks, I expect you all will tell her that I said that. I'd dare to wager you've broken your share of hearts."

"Not really" Anastasia replied.

McFinnigan shrugged, "If ye say so. Still ye got the looks that make fools do foolish things, and sadly I have to admit I've employed a few fools." He glanced over at Joker, then back to Hap and Anastasia. "As ye probably know they make good MechWarriors, but can be trouble out of the cockpit."

Hap spoke up, "Commander McFinnigan if you can return us to the Ramon Draconis March Militia, I'll take my fool and my little heart breaker and we won't trouble you anymore."

"Aye, and that's something we need to discuss."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 23 April 2020, 17:53:09
One. Ping. Only.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ckosacranoid on 23 April 2020, 19:34:17
nice writing and idea. a few things to point out. ejection seats would have been used for the ammo and engine going boom. unless you kill the head most pilots survive the mech unless to do six points of damage to the pilot. talk about leaving lots of salvage on the field they left behind. Night also want to look at the rules for aerodrome dropship for landing. can not remember if they can hover like that. the leopard also has her bays each by them selves. so the mechpilots would not get out to they left atmo they way they where running. just trying to help get the world and setting better for you.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 23 April 2020, 19:50:13
a) Some of us like "larger than life" fiction, some of us love gritty realism, but it's all personal. Love the Warrior trilogy myself for all its flaws.
b) Ejection seats can be turned off, and often are by people playing the game.
c) When bugging out before superior forces, yes, salvage is often left behind.
d) Not entirely sure the Leopard is out of atmosphere.
e) Rule of Cool rules ;)
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 23 April 2020, 20:27:17
a) Some of us like "larger than life" fiction, some of us love gritty realism, but it's all personal. Love the Warrior trilogy myself for all its flaws.
b) Ejection seats can be turned off, and often are by people playing the game.
c) When bugging out before superior forces, yes, salvage is often left behind.
d) Not entirely sure the Leopard is out of atmosphere.
e) Rule of Cool rules ;)

I'm wondering if the author's writing style is based on what he's seen in Battletech PC? That might explain the 'irregularities'? :)
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 23 April 2020, 21:24:04
Can't explain Stackpole's 'irregularities' ;) Still, enjoying it.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Dave Talley on 24 April 2020, 00:20:30
fun so far
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 24 April 2020, 16:31:27
Hey Everyone, thanks for reading, and generally being patient with me.

I have to confess I haven't played tabletop BattleTech since the early 90s (3050-ish era), but I have played the 2018 HBS/Paradox Game (you'll see a few references later in the writing) which is part of how I got back in. So I may not always be spot on in my interpretation of the rules, some of it's ignorance, some of it's just plain misunderstanding, some of it's inspired by the games, and some of it might be poor or unimaginative writing.

I want to tell a good story, and if I'm being honest, I will likely err on the side of story telling over strict rule interpretation (I'm that sort of Dungeon Master too). However, that doesn't mean if I'm grossly ignoring a rule or aspect of the game I want to remain ignorant, so please do point these things out.

As several of you mentioned Stackpole wasn't always in line with the rule books, and even some of the background/universe building materials were contradictory (i.e. if you have an Original TR 3025, and read the Notable Pilots under the Shadow Hawk on page 66 it references a pilot with a bionic left arm, like it's no big deal. However, one of the driving plot points for Warrior En Garde is a loss of limb makes Justin Allard unfit for service). I bring up this very trivial example because I think it points out just how big and hard it is to always know what is "canon" and what is "apocryphal". Even Sarna doesn't always make things clear. To make matters worse when I was playing in the 80s it was some of those "fluff pieces" that really inspired my imagination about BattleTech.
 
As my story progresses there will likely be more times when you'll have to suspend "rule book" disbelief, but I'll try to keep things in line with the rules as I understand them. There may also be times, where I'm implying something like a critical hit occurred, but I do a poor job of writing it clearly. And, I won't lie, there is probably going to be times where a scene is just too good in my mind (like that having a Leopard "gunship" in on it's way to the DZ). Please bear with me, but if you think I go to far, let me know.

Thanks again for reading.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 24 April 2020, 16:35:56
Chapter 4
August 3029
Klathandu System


"Did something happened to the RDMM?" Hap asked

"They've gotten themselves into a prolonged fight that is probably going to end in a bit o' guerrilla warfare, if they're lucky. I had a disagreement with yer commander and Lord High-ass Marshall Sandavol, and when they discovered who was actually paying my contract and what it entailed, they kicked me off the planet." McFinnigan explained.

Hap looked shocked, "You're not under the employ of the Draconis Combine?"

McFinnigan laughed for a moment then he wiped his eye, he looked at Hap, "Oh. Ye weren't kiddin'. Sorry. No, no. Takashi Kurita doesn't hire mercenaries, he kills 'em." McFinnigan took in a deep breath to try and stop laughing, "No. We were hired by some nobles who felt their cadets were 'press ganged' into the First FedCom. We were there to help train, assist, and generally shepherd the wee lambs."

"I don't remember seeing any of your 'Mechs, or any mercenaries." Anastasia said

"Well our employers arranged to have their precious little ones all moved to one company, so we probably weren't watching over your company. Also we figured the best approach to defending the little bastards was going on the offense. If those cadets were on a mission we ambushed any OpFor that took the field. We let something small or wounded through for them though" McFinnigan laughed, "to build their confidence."

"So what was the problem?" Hap asked

"Well it was a couple things. First yer commander was getting ready to close the spaceport. My contract had a stipulation that in the case of a siege or planet-fall we would extract the noble's children. Of course the First FedCom and RDMM leadership didn't like the idea that we would be taking 'Mechs and manpower away from them. This led to a bit of an argument with me, and the General and Marshall."

"So are you not going to get paid?" Hap asked

"Oh no, we'll get paid." McFinnigan again laughed. "We do a job, we get paid. But this leads to the second problem. See, we're not kidnappers and we made sure the contract specified the cadets had to choose to come with us. I explained the situation and the General and the Marshall marched all the cadets into the office and explained to them that if they chose to come with us they would be charged with desertion, branded traitors and cowards, and their families would likely lose their titles and land. So none of the cadets chose to come with me." McFinnigan shrugged.

"Once that was taken care of then General asked us to stay and help them with their plans for an insurgency. I quoted him my price for that, which he refused. So I told him we were leaving, and he told me I had till sundown to get the hell off his world." McFinnigan said.

"You're not taking us back, are you?" Anastasia asked

"Well like I said, I'm no kidnapper, but the spaceport is closed. I have my XO trying to get a line on another job, but given the conversation I had with the Marshall, it probably won't be around here. In a couple weeks I could probably drop you off at a major star port, but I'll have to charge you for passage. It won't be cheap. You may have to pay with yer 'Mechs."

"I'd prefer not to lose my 'mech and be disposed, or be branded a deserter or traitor." Hap replied.

"Would you prefer to be dead?" McFinnigan snapped, "What good is honor if it gets you left on the side of some nameless hill to die?"

There was an uncomfortable silence as McFinnigan pulled a small cloth bag out of his jacket pocket, filled his pipe. He put the bag away and pulled out a match, before he lit the pipe he pointed its stem of at Hap. "We were halfway off world when I watched this young vixen skillfully flee like a fox from hounds, and just when they almost got their teeth on her you guided her to bait an ambush for two mechs that, by all rights, should have destroyed your lance. Then I watched you turn the tables on both of them. All the while doing your damndest to keep everyone alive." McFinnigan's voice almost dropped to a whisper as he added, "I was cheering for you lad, while your commander forgot about you."

He brought his voice back to a normal volume, and his tone was frank, "Know this, Your brother was crushed by that Thunderbolt while your command packed up their papers and coffee cups and proceeded to a new fortified bunker. Your general was getting into his nice staff car to go for a ride to the spaceport while you were choosing the place to make your last stand. Do you know what I'm telling you? You didn't desert anyone, they deserted you." When McFinnigan finished he lit the match, and started to work on lighting the pipe.

Hap glanced at Anastasia she shrugged and with a shake of her head wordlessly communicated, "He's not wrong."

Hap looked back at McFinnigan, "So what choice do we have?"

"Join my company." McFinnigan inhaled deeply then exhaled a thick cloud of smoke. "I had sixteen 'Mechs when I came to Klathandu IV, now I have thirteen. I need you as much as you need me, and what I saw down there tells me you three will fit right in with the family."

"Where do I sign up?" Joker asked, "I've been trying to figure out how to get out of that chicken shit outfit for a while now."

McFinnigan gave Joker a sideways glance, "Well the fool has spoken." He nodded to Anastasia, "what says the little trouble maker?"

"I'm not sure." Anastasia asked.

"Aye. That's fair. Listen, ye keep your 'Mechs, I'll pay you fairly, and I'm planning on giving young master Haphazard there all my new potential discipline problems. So don't worry, ye can stay with yer friends." McFinnigan smiled as he took another pull on his pipe.

"Alright boss, we're keeping the Princess." Joker flashed Anastasia a smile as she gave him a cold stare.

Hap ignored Joker for a moment, and glanced at Anastasia, she was looking to him questioningly. She barely knew him, but she looked so uncertain what to do she was probably going to follow him. The burden of leadership felt uncomfortable for Hap. "You promise to take care of us?"

"Promise? Lad, it's in the name of my company. You'll be one of my sons. I assure you, you fight for me like you did down there and you'll be well compensated. Lead my other children like you did, and you'll be helping me take care of the rest of the family." McFinnigan thrust his hand, "Now take my hand, look me in the eye, and join my family. You won't be sorry."

Hap was reluctant, but he couldn't stop himself from reaching for the man's hand. "I'll join."

"Me too." Anastasia added almost immediately after Hap. McFinnigan gave her a deep smile and let go of Hap and gave her a warm hug. Hap could see her eyes just over McFinnigan's shoulder. He couldn't tell if she looked uncertain, overwhelmed, or terrified.

McFinnigan released Anastasia and stepped back. He looked at them and smiled broadly, "Welcome to the Family. It will take a few days before we'll join up with the rest of the Family on the Tir A Nog, but we can get your contracts signed, I'll have the flight surgeon give you each a look over. By the time we get to the jump point, you'll be a McFinnigan."

McFinnigan led them out of the 'Mechs bays and toward the crew decks. Hap and Joker had been on enough Leopards to know they were going toward the galley, but when they entered they were shocked to find themselves in what looked like an Irish Pub. It even had a bar with a sign declaring "Llewyn's Pub" over the bar.

"Here is an appropriate place to talk some business." McFinnigan smiled, "Pull some pints while I call down my lawyer."

Hap played bar tender while McFinnigan used the ship's intercom to page his lawyer. The four settled into one of the large booths. McFinnigan toasted each of them as they drank.

Anastasia looked at her cup, "This is good."

"This is Timbiqui Dark, best beer in the sphere, Princess." Joker told her.

"Actually. It's not." Hap corrected him. "It's a stout like Timbiqui, but this is deeper, smoother, and richer. Also most Timbiqui Dark I've had is nitro injected, and I had to pump the cask."

McFinnigan clinked glasses with Hap again, "Aye, family recipe, McFinnigan's Archon Imperial Stout. You know a few things about beers."

"My dad used to home brew. He taught me the art, and to know a good beer." Hap said as drank.

McFinnigan smiled, "Oh you'll fit right in indeed." McFinnigan looked at Anastasia, "So it's obvious why this one is called Joker, and I'm content to wait till later to learn more about Haphazard's unorthodoxy, but I'm wondering what's yer handle, darlin?"

"Sir, she's a cadet, she hadn't really-" Hap started to say

"Oh don't let him fool you. She's royalty" Joker said with a laugh.

"That true?" McFinnigan asked with his eyes narrowed.

"Not exactly. My mother is a Countess." Anastasia said quietly.

McFinnigan looked at her carefully, "Well there's only one title that matter in this company. Mine, and it's 'Father', cause you're all now a McFinnigan and I won't have what some lord telling anyone that one of my sons or daughters is worth more than another. Yer all equal." He almost roared, then dropped his voice "Though I do pay some a little more for certain skills or responsibilities."

The door opened and a young blonde woman wearing a gray business suit with the "McFinnigan and Sons" log on the pocket.

McFinnigan stood, "Well yer all equal, except this one, this is my actual daughter, Roweyna. I won't lie, I like you, but I love her." When she got to the table he introduced his daughter to the new mercenaries. "She's also my legal counsel so she also gets paid a lot more than you." He laughed, "Even draws hazardous duty bonus when she enters a court room."

She smiled good-naturedly and started passing out pens and thick contracts. She had an Irish accent like her father and quickly explained the specifics of the contract. All three Mechwarriors were given the same base salary, but there were other pay options, bonuses, and entitlements that would take effect after their thirty-day probation period, and first combat operation.

Joker quickly signed or initialed wherever Roweyna pointed. Hap scanned the document, and had to admit even with just the base pay he was making more than twice what he got as a Leftenant. What he saw looked good, or at least looked pretty common for a contract. He felt confident signing.

Anastasia had several questions. She also appeared to be able to read the document with a quick glance. Roweyna answered most of Anastasia's questions to her satisfaction. The one item that Anastasia noticed that Hap had ignored was a section on maternity leave and child care.

"Well if ye find yourself in a family way we still take care of you." McFinnigan answered, "Though I'd hope the father would be responsible. Still I'll take you out of active status, put you on a base pay salary and as long as you travel with us you get free room, board, and medical. After you've weened your new child we'll figure out child care and get you back on duty."

"Travel with you?" Anastasia asked as Hap flipped a few pages back and saw the long explanation on child care.

"Aye. The family travels together. I don't think you understand, 'MechWarriors, techs, wives, husbands, children, and all the rest of the family. They're all on the Tir A Nog. Are you pregnant child, or planning to get pregnant?"

Hap glanced over at Anastasia. "No. I was confused." She paused. "My parents hired personal security and their contracts didn't have half these entitlements, contingency packages, or agreements. If they were injured in the line of duty they, or more likely their next of kin, got a onetime pay-out."

McFinnigan snorted, "Family takes care of its own, not one time."

"Speaking of 'child care' reminds me of another portion of the contract I'd like to draw your attention to." Roweyna began to explain, "You'll note on page 17 that while your expected to maintain your physical fitness and martial skills on interplanetary voyages or while in garrison. However, you're also expected to help out with any skills you have, such as cooking, cleaning, vehicle maintenance, teaching-"

"Beer brewing." McFinnigan added.

"Oh! We got another brewer, which is it?" Roweyna actually looked excited.

McFinnigan nodded to Hap, and Roweyna gave him on appraising look and a smile. "Very good." She gave him a wink and then returned to the contract, "So again part of your duties is to use skills like that to help maintain the company's ability to deploy 'Mechs and have ready and able cadre of MechWarriors capable of performing high intensity combat operations as prescribed by our clients."

Roweyna went over a few more sections of the contract, answered a few more questions and then collected the signed and initialed contracts. They refilled their glasses and she drank a pint with them while McFinnigan explained more about the company.

McFinnigan and sons was a reinforced company of sixteen battlemechs divided into four lances. They had a command lance, a pursuit/raid lance, a fire support lance, and a recon lance. Most of the family was currently on the Tir A Nog an Excalibur class drop shuttle. The Leopard, the Phaidin, was used for various things depending on the mission. On some drops it was the command vehicle, on other drops it might be used to insert a team away from the main group, or perform a quick raid.

They didn't own their own jump ship so traveling between systems had to be done by either military transport or a civilian company.

McFinnigan and sons was founded in 3010 after Kelly and Llewyn McFinnigan had served their time in the Donnogal Guards, salvaged two additional mechs for their sons, and managed to gather enough money to buy the Phaidin. They worked hard doing a lot of high risk raids for anyone that would pay them. The McFinnigan's had been employed by every major house and several of the Periphery lords though they preferred to work for Steiner or Davion. Along the way Kelly built them up to the reinforced company but lost his brother and son to combat related deaths.

As McFinnigan explained the unit's lineage and heritage Hap looked around the bar and saw the various mementos and souvenirs of the things McFinnigan was telling them, and pictures of the family members in good times, and bad, and portraits of the ones that didn't come home.

McFinnigan also explained the unit motto was "Gnó Teaghlaigh" Irish for "Family Business". The logo had the celtic knot and harp that represented Ireland on old Terra and the Donegal. The skull was to represent that their business was generally death and destruction, and the three leaf clover in the McFinnigan logo was the stylized club-clover of the Donnagal Guards, where Kelly and Llewyn McFinnigan got their start, and Kelly said they had great respect for the unit.

They finished another round of pints and then McFinnigan excused himself to go and attend to business, and Roweyna gave them tour of the crew decks, showed them where their berths would be, and took them by the armory to secure their weapons. She also took them to the supply locker to get them linens and a few McFinnigan and Sons T-shirts, patches, and another set of coveralls. Finally Roweyna took them to the flight surgeon. The flight surgeon gave them each a clean bill of health, and released them to move freely about the ship.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 24 April 2020, 16:41:34
Chapter 5
August 3029
Klathandu System


The mechwarriors returned to the berthing area. The berths were simple rectangular sleeping cells built into the ship. They were about two meters long and a meter wide and a meter deep. They had a roll up door that could be locked from the inside or outside. There was also floor to ceiling wall lockers built into the bulwark. There were four berths in the section with two on one wall and two on the other.

Joker picked the bed above Anastasia and Hap chose the bed across from her. Hap set his bag down on his bed, but before he could open it Joker nudged him. "Hey I grabbed Tuna's bag before I got back in my 'Mech, you want to go through it?" Joker showed Hap a long black bag. It had blood stains and was ripped and had a few jagged pieces of metal and broken glass embedded in it.

Hap nodded, and suggested they go to the lounge attached to the berth area. The lounge was designed to be part ready room and part lounge, so it could be used mission briefs, debriefings, or just relaxing. It had a table and a few chairs, a large semi-circular couch in front of a viewing screen and a bar. In front of the couch was a circular coffee table. There was also a door that led to a shared head and showers.

Anastasia followed Hap and Joker into the lounge. Joker started emptying the contents on the bag onto the coffee table. In the sides of bag there was a war club and an axe. Joker pulled both of them out then opened the bag. There was dozens of food pouches marked with "Tuna", "Protein Paste, Tuna" and "Fish flavored protein." There was a wood box that had stylized fish engraved into it, a pouch marked, "Environment Suit, 24hour, X-Small" a water bottle with a water purification system, a paper wrapped parcel that had a wad of bills rubber-banded to it, a flare gun, a shot gun and an extra-large pistol belt fully extending. The pistol belt had pouches all over it including a large rear pouch. Joker opened the large pouch and pulled out three Armed Forces of the Federated Suns (AFFS) rations all marked, "Menu 13, Steak, Tuna, Teriyaki flavored – Melcher Food Corps".

Anastasia sat down on the couch, "Is this how he got the call sign 'Tuna'?"

Joker handed the paper parcel to Hap, "Sorta, but this isn't the half of it. If we asked Tuna where we wanted to go it was either a Sushi place, or a fish restaurant, and he'd order Tuna rolls or a Tuna steak."

Hap pulled off the rubber band and looked at the wad of Davion bills, "He had pretty good taste, but there was this one on Sushi restaurant where at least one of us seemed to get sick when we ate there."

"That was the one Nanni worked at." Joker said as he opened the wood box and revealed a fishing pole. "You want his fishing pole or his war club?"

"I'll take the pole, it reminds me how he always told us, 'if you can find water, you'll live.'" Hap said, "The parcel is addressed to his mom and sister. Is there a letter for Nanni?"

Joker searched the bag and pulled out a few more pieces of broken glass and metal. "No."

"What are you doing?" Anastasia asked, "This feels macabre."

"Cadets are worse than boots." Joker said to Hap.

Hap ignored Joker looked at Anastasia, "We made an agreement a while back, if any of us died, the survivor would send this" Hap held up the parcel, "back to whoever it was addressed to. If there was any money left over it was to buy drinks and celebrate the man, then we all take one thing to remember him, and then the rest goes back to family."

Hap looked over at Joker, "We're Mercenaries now. She's not a cadet, and she doesn't want to be called 'Princess'."

"Whatever you and Princess say, boss." Joker replied.

Hap sighed and held up the paper wrapped parcel. "I'll make sure this is sent back to his Mom and sister. It has a few personal things for them and a message Sammy wrote. Knowing Sammy it probably thanks his mom and sister for everything, has instructions on how to get his life insurance, and it probably forbids his sister from dating Joker in the unlikely event they ever meet."

"From the grave, man that's cold." Joker said with a head shake.

"Clearly he was a good brother." Anastasia quipped

Hap nodded, as he set the parcel down. Things got quiet as Hap and Joker sorted through the contents of bag. Hap picked up the axe. "Do you have one of these?" He asked as he handed it to Anastasia. "We got these about a week before we shipped out to Klathandu IV. It was a new issue item."

Anastasia shook her head as she took the axe. It was lighter than it looked, and the handle ended in a pry bar tip. In the axe head were two cut outs for hex bolts. The axe head itself had a large broad head on one side, and the other was a sharp spike. Anastasia tried to return the axe, "I can't keep this".

"Why?" Hap asked, "It's a good tool, made of titanium alloy. The hex bolts were supposed to be the two most common found on a mech's emergency access port, and the spike can puncture armor or safety glass. Most of us were skeptical enough to complain about it, but none of us turned them down."

"Worked good for me." Joker added as he continued to sort items.

"It's not that. I hardly knew 'Tuna' and this is this is all an agreement your lance made before I came around. There is nothing in my E3 bag you would want."

"E3 bag?" Joker asked

"Escape, Evade or Egress bag. What do you call them?" Anastasia asked.

"Go-bags, Princess. Man you really are a boot. What did you have in your little 'E3 bag'." Joker sneered

"Water, a few rations, a toiletry kit, underwear-" Anastasia replied

"Oh! I'd take your underwear." Joker interrupted.

"To wear or are you a pervert?" Anastasia asked, and gave Joker a look that made Hap wonder if she wasn't about to hit him. Hap was suddenly concerned about giving her the axe.

"You don't want to know. " Hap replied as he shot Joker a warning look. Hap sat down next to her "You're part of this lance now. You have to join in our traditions. Keep the axe, and take anything else you want. We're probably going to have to get rid of all this one way or another."

Anastasia nodded, "Okay. I'm fine with all this, except if something happens to me, I don't want Joker to get my underwear."

"You'll be dead, you don't-" Joker started to protest

Hap held up his hand, "I'll make sure your underwear is properly destroyed and Joker won't get it."

Anastasia smiled at Hap, "Thank you Harold."

Hap didn't like his first name, but when Anastasia said it, and smiled, he didn't care. He forgot what he was about to say and then Joker mockingly said "Thank you Harold" in a falsetto.

Hap and Anastasia both looked at Joker as he held up pistol belt, "Hey Princess, need a new pistol belt."

"Are you calling me fat?" Anastasia gave Joker another withering stare.

Hap threw a tuna package at Joker, "Damn it Joker stop making her angry. I'm worried her face is going to freeze in one of those looks."

Joker laughed as the packet bounced off his shoulder and he started to strip the pouches off the belt.

Anastasia tried to make her expression more neutral as she picked up the extra small environment suit. "I never met Tuna, but with all the food and that equipment belt it seems unlikely he would fit into this."

Joker looked at the silver envelope she was holding, then laughed. "Oh yeah, we were doing some lunar training and we were all told to draw an environmental suit, but by the time Tuna got there x-small was all they had left. Sergeant Fritz told them they were all baggy fit, but made to stretch, so he'd be fine."

"Baggy, but stretch? That makes no sense" Anastasia said.

"That's Sergeant Fritz" Hap remarked dryly as opened the wooden box and examined the fishing pole.

"So Tuna and Fritz got into an argument and when Sergeant Major McWilliams came he sided with Sergeant Fritz."

"Of course he did" Hap interjected. "Hey I'm taking the butt pack, unless you want it." Hap said as he closed the wooden box, and pulled the large pouch to him.

Joker nodded as he continued, "So Sergeant Major told Tuna if he didn't eject it wouldn't be a problem, and he didn't want problems, so Tuna shouldn't make problems."

Hap looked confused, "Is that how Sergeant Fritz got the black eye?"

"No that was Reynolds. The exact same thing happened with Reynolds except Reynolds told him to just keep the suit, but Fritz told him turn-ins were only on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that's when Reynolds grabbed him and slammed him into the supply room bars."

"Yeah, that makes sense. Tuna was a gentle giant, and I never heard why Reynolds got busted down to private. When I went to the XO and tried to get Tuna a new suit, he told me flat-out, everyone got what they were issued, and the topic wasn't up discussion. Then he kicked me out of his office."

They talked for another hour. Hap and Joker had dozens of stories about the big man and soon Anastasia felt she almost knew Sergeant Sammy "Tuna" Kam'achi. They also told her about Lucky and some of their general misadventures. When they had started to go through the bag Anastasia thought it was selfish and macabre, but she saw this was as close to a funeral as they could give their friend and brother-in-arms. She didn't know it, but she was also starting to feel like part of the family.

Hap carefully took a small finger size of shard of 'Mech armor. He pulled a blue cloth out of his pocket and opened it up to reveal another armor shard. He added the new piece and then wrapped them both up and put them back into his pocket. Anastasia noticed, but didn't say anything. They all chose to keep one of the rations, not to eat, because menu 13 was a notoriously terrible ration, but just to remember "Tuna". As they started to clean up Roweyna found them.

"Oh, Aye, that's a lot of Tuna packages."Roweyna said.

"We were going through our friends gear." Hap started to explain

"Very good. I noticed that that Anastasia had marked on her contract that she could cook. I was getting ready to prepare our evening meal and wanted to see if she would help."

Anastasia nodded, and said, "I'd love too." As she smiled and started to collect her things

Roweyna and Anastasia started to leave and then Roweyna stopped, "If you all aren't going to eat that fish, may I add them to the ship's larder?"

"Yes. Certainly." Hap replied

As Roweyna and Anastasia started to collect the tuna Joker whined, "Why'd you do that, now we're having tuna for dinner."

"Not tonight, Father already told me he wanted he wanted beef stew. And honestly I have no idea what to do with all this tuna, although there is enough to feed everyone."

"How many is 'everyone'?" Anastasia asked.

"Oh about twenty-five." Roweyna replied, "Have ye ever cooked for that many?"

Anastasia seemed to think, "yes, and I know what to do with the tuna. So I'll make dinner tomorrow."

"Oh. Wonderful." Roweyna replied, "I have to do all my reports with the Mercenary Review Board so I probably won't be able to help."

"Don't be surprised when I don't eat whatever you make." Joker told Anastasia.

"Knowing that I'm not cooking for you actually gives me greater joy in my work." Anastasia replied

"What?" Joker asked as Roweyna stifled a laugh.

"She's telling you she's happy not to cook for you." Hap replied as the woman left the room.

There was a pause before Joker asked "What do you think my chances are of with Princess?"

"Remember that one time you and Lucky took all your money and told Private Godfrey to buy you guys as many lottery tickets as he could get, and instead he somehow managed to lose that money betting on his team in the post-wide basketball tournament?"

"Yeah?" Joker answered.

"Your chances with Anastasia are much worse." Hap told him.

"You think yours are any better?" Joker asked.

"If I do it's because I listen to her, and try not to provoke her every chance I get." Hap replied

"Yeah but you treat everyone that way. What's to make her feel special? Now treat her like shit-"

"Has that ever actually gotten you anywhere with any woman, ever?" Hap asked

"Well no, but I think you gotta wear a woman down for awhile and then-" Joker started to say

"Good lord. Part of the reason I signed up was to protect the universe from you. You really need to tone down a little with Anastasia. I was worried she was about to go at you with that axe." Hap said.

"Yeah she's given me a lot of cold stares, but that one was evil. I may have gone too far." Joker admitted

"You think? You were talking about taking her underwear after she died and doing terrible things with it. I think you need to lay off calling her Princess for a while." Hap told him.

"I'll try to give her less crap, but that's her call sign, and the fact she hates it makes me love it."

"You know call signs can come and go when you get to a new organization, and I know she looks like a spoiled little rich girl, but she's a good 'Mech warrior. I'm going to talk to her about how she presents herself, but if you could help by not calling her Princess. I'd appreciate it." Hap said.

"I don't know, boss, maybe if she talked to me. I think her and I can work something out." Joker said.

Hap's eyes narrowed "I'm probably going to have to kick your ass before this is all said and down."

Joker laughed, "I knew you liked her, and not just like how you like me, but you really like her."

Hap blushed, "I just met her, and by all appearances she is way out of my league. All I really know is she's in our lance, and I have to keep her from killing you. Just help me keep the peace."

"I'll do what I can, boss."

"Besides there is reason why fraternization is forbidden in military law. It's just bad business to date people in your lance. Just too much of a risk." Hap added.

"Whatever you say, boss." Joker added as he laughed. "Of course, for a Princess, it's worth the risk."

Hap didn't say anything, but he did consider that, Princess or not, she was probably worth whatever he thought he might be risking.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 25 April 2020, 01:10:29
Great start, to your Family tale.
The Mech battle is well paced, and paints a great picture as read. Have a talent for clear concise storytelling.

The last chapter #5 was enjoyable to read, but the personal interaction was off a little.
I reread the chapter and can not say why it felt off.
Some of the interactions seem cumbersome, compared to your battle scenes. Possibly mention of the adrenaline crash after heavy combat and rescue from the heavens, to cover the initial meet up after exiting their mechs.
...... and that said I really like the story, thank you for sharing with us.


Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 25 April 2020, 16:03:58
Chapter 6
August 3029
Klathandu System

The next morning Hap, Joker and Anastasia were woken by a ship wide call announcing 0800 ship board time. They went to the galley to find several other crew members getting their breakfast, or dinner depending on their shift. They had their breakfast and then went to the bays to perform some calisthenics in the area marked off as a basketball half-court.

After lunch they went back to the 'Mech bay and helped the techs strip armor and performed basic level maintenance on their 'Mech. On the Leopard there were only four 'Mech techs. The master 'Mech tech for the whole company was Erik Heilezberg. He was a tall man with broad shoulders, shoulder length gray hair and neatly trimmed silver beard and mustache. He had two twin daughters, Maja and Taja, that were in there late teens or early twenties. They were tall women like their father, identical with long straight black hair and pleasant faces.

Hap had already met the fourth tech, Mike Elison. He was quiet and all business, and Hap suspected he would have preferred not to have the 'MechWarriors around, but Erik seemed happy for the help.

As the afternoon wore on Anastasia asked Maja and Taja if they could help her with making dinner. They told her if it wasn't pre-packaged they couldn't prepare it. Anastasia tried to explain she just needed someone to help cut a few things, and stir pots while she did most of the work. The girls politely refused.

"I'll help." Hap offered, "I know how to cut things, and I can manage to stir a pot." Hap looked over to Joker but he was suspiciously trying not to look at either Hap or Anastasia.

"Thank you Harold." Anastasia said and flashed Hap another smile.

"Joker you-" Hap turned to look at Joker

"I think you and I can make do." Anastasia said before Joker could respond.

Hap followed Anastasia as he figured it was probably for the best that it was just him and her. He needed to talk to her about how to be less "rich-girl-Princess-ey" before they met the rest of the mercenary company. He'd also need to talk to her about how to handle Joker.

Hap turned to glance at Anastasia. She was still smiling, which made him smile. "So, what's for dinner?"

"We're making tuna noodle casserole, and if we can find enough stuff we might make another casserole without the tuna."

"Joker will appreciate that." Hap told her.

The smile disappeared "When I mentioned my plan to Roweyna, she told me she didn't think her father would eat it and she was concerned about some of the other crew members. Even though, she thought it was the best thing to do with all that tuna."

Hap noted that she had responded without even mentioning Joker. Talking about him might have to wait. He also was curious about her culinary knowledge, "Anastasia, where'd you learn to cook?"

"My parents hired a woman from the planet Sierra. She migrated into the Federated Suns to cook for the rich and nobility. My parents weren't around a lot and she liked me. She even had me call her "Abuela". I liked being in the kitchen and she would generally put me to work, so I learned to cook."

Hap couldn't help himself, he chuckled, and shook his head. "I'm sorry, but tuna noodle casserole is something I'd eat, and I was the son of a 'Mech tech and a supermarket cashier. How often did a Countess and her successful business owner husband have tuna noodle casserole?"

"Mother and Father? Never." Anastasia declared, then laughed, "You have to understand we had a huge estate with maids, a butler, grounds keepers, drivers, even Abuela had another cook that helped her, well besides me. Most of the staff lived on the estate, so there were usually two menus. One menu was the gourmet food that my mother and father requested, and the others was the food the rest of the staff wanted or Abuela decided to make. When my parents traveled I told Abuela I'd eat whatever she was making for everyone else."

They were at the kitchen now, but before entering, Anastasia looked around like she was about to tell Hap a secret, "I have to be honest with you, if I had a choice between beef tar-tar or a thick juicy hamburger, I'm taking the hamburger."

Hap laughed and squeezed her shoulder as the smile came back. They walked through the door and she pointed Hap toward the vegetables and told him to chop a couple onions. She got to work on gathering ingredients as Hap found a knife and started to work on the first onion.

"You know if we're going to keep you from getting another Princess like call sign I need you to channel more of that girl that eats hamburgers and less of the girl whose parents bought her a new 'Mech. Also I think it might help if you went be Anna or Ana instead of Anastasia.

"No." she said from across the kitchen.

"You do know, Anastasia is the name of a Princess from an old Terran story." Hap replied.

Anastasia set her mixing bowl down and walked toward Hap, "Yes, but it's my name and I like it."

"Look, I'm trying to help you lose your call sign, 'Princess' but when you insist on being called-"

"my name" She interjected

Hap continued, "The name of a Princess doesn't help. Anna is a fine contraction of your name."

"Do you want to be called Harry?" Anastasia asked

"No, do you want be called Annie?" He shot back

"No Harold, I do not." She told him with a very formal tone. "I understand what you're trying to do, but it's not that simple."

"Fine Anastasia." Hap was frustrated. He was trying to help her, but she was being difficult. He turned back to the onion, but after making another slice Anastasia stopped him.

She slid under his arm and put herself between him and the counter. Hap was surprised by her forwardness. He didn't expect her to just enter his personal space. She laid her hands on his hands. "When you cut an onion you should do it like this" she said as she started guiding him in the proper way to cut an onion. To her it seemed like this was nothing, but Hap's heart started racing.

"And as far as the part about acting more middle class and less wealthy nobility it doesn't work." As she spoke she let him cut, but kept her hands on top of his. Hap was trying to figure out if this was some form of flirting, or if Anastasia was clueless as to how this looked and felt.

Anastasia continued to explain, "I tried exactly what you said when I got to New Avalon Institute of Science (NAIS). I lived in a normal dormitory with a girl that was not nobility and there on scholarship. We got along fine the first semester. I had private tutors growing up and didn't have a lot friends, I knew I was socially awkward, but we got along quite well." As she spoke Hap started to cut again, apparently wrongly, she gently adjusted his hands again.

"I was majoring in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis in communication technology and working on a dual minors in Political Administration and Military Science. My roommate and I did a few things together, went to some games, and campus activities. She was trying to get me to double date with her and her boyfriend, but I wasn't interested. All the guys I met just seemed to be interested in sex." Her voice had a bitter or annoyed tone. To Hap's surprise her hands just rested on top of his.

"Then something happened with the Military Science department and word got around that my mother was nobility, and my roommate hated me. She yelled at me about how I was some noble pretending to be normal as a joke, and accused of me knowing about all her money problems and other issues that I could have used my parents influence or money to fix. I really didn't realize how bad things were for her. I offered to help, but then she got mad because I was 'throwing my wealth and privilege in her face'."

Anastasia paused for a moment, "To make things worse people that I was happy not to know suddenly either wanted to be my friend, or ruin my life me because I was somehow competing with them. I got a single room, avoided anyone I didn't have to speak to and just worked on my studies, personal projects, or spent time in a 'Mech Simulator."

She seemed to be holding back tears, and she took in a raspy breath. "So one way or another that wealth and influence comes out, and then everyone treats you different. It's better to just be myself and let people make their choices about me when they meet me."

Hap wasn't sure what to say, his instincts told him to hold her and reassure her, but he knew that was a dangerous and slippery slope, at least for him. "Listen, if someone walks in, I'm just going to tell them you were trying to teach me to cut onions."

She nodded and he felt her weight on his chest. He put the knife down and gently spun her around so he could look her in the eyes, "You're free of this now though. Given what McFinnigan told us about the other cadets, it sounds like we're nothing to the Federated Suns now."

She shook her head, "You don't understand, my father died a few months ago, and mom fell apart. She's a strong woman who nearly ran a planet on her own, but she is almost mad with grief. Our family lawyer contacted me and told me my mother was so bad that he had already arranged for me to receive a doctorate in Electorate Engineering because some of the research I had done for my dad, and the white papers we had co-written. I don't even have a bachelor's degree, so I'm pretty sure my family probably gave a huge grant to NAIS. Also, our lawyer is really good."

"I would have lost my commission, but received a doctorate, and be home to help my mother. Selfishly, I refused, I wanted to really earn my degree. I wanted to prove something, maybe to myself. A month later, all the fourth year cadets were told we were deploying. That's how I ended up here."

"When we get to a planet with a Hyper Pulse Generator I have to contact my mother. I can't let her think she lost her daughter, too. Once our lawyer hears what happened to me, he'll have me back in good standing with whatever lord or general is going to try and charge me with desertion."

Hap nodded, "I'd do the same thing. If my parents were still alive I'd feel awful until I talked to them."

"I love my Mother, but the funny thing is, my Mother and I were never that close. In addition to be being a spoiled little rich girl, I'm a daddy's girl." She tried to laugh but it came through as a half sob, half chuckle. "I know you're trying to help me, and I'm being difficult, but I don't feel like I have a choice."

Hap nodded, "My Dad used to say sometimes the truest freedom is having nothing to lose."

Anastasia nodded and looked at Hap and smiled, she daubed her eyes with her sleeve. "Thanks Harold, I appreciate you listening to me, you're a good friend." Before he could stop her Anastasia hugged him. He pulled her close and enjoyed the moment, until she saw the clock. "Oh, it's almost dinner time. We have to hurry!"

The next half hour was a blur for Hap. Anastasia ran back to the other side of the kitchen and yelled out instructions to Hap as she worked. He wasn't sure exactly what he was doing for half of it, but soon Anastasia was directing him to open all the tuna packages while he was sautéing the onions and toasting bread crumbs.

He turned around and she had two giant bowls of cheese and noodles. She put the tuna in one bowl and then split the onions and bread crumbs between the two bowls and put them in the oven. They opened up a few cans of vegetables and had them heated just as members of the crew started filing in for dinner.

The Tuna noodle went over very well and both bowls were completely emptied. Joker joined Hap and Anastasia, and all three sat with the McFinnigans. They explained the origin of the tuna and the McFinnigan actually seemed interested in Tuna. He told them about a 'MechWarrior he knew that a similar obsession with a certain canned ham product. McFinnigan was a masterful storyteller and everyone was entertained as he told about his old companion.

After the meal, Anastasia, Hap and Joker returned to their berth area. As they were walking Joker turned to Anastasia and said, "Thanks for making the noodles without tuna. Tuna was probably my best friend, but I just never much cared for fish. My mom used to make tuna casserole till we were sick of it."

"You should have tried the tuna casserole, it wasn't anything like what my mom made. It was much better." Hap told him, but also mouthed 'thank you' to him.

Anastasia was nearly beaming as the men complimented her cooking. "You're very welcome Joker."

"So you were happy to prepare food just for me?" Joker asked.

"The bowl without tuna wasn't just for you. It was something Roweyna suggested." Anastasia said

"Sure, sure, I know deep down you really like me. It's fine you don't have to be shy." Joker said

Hap glanced sideways, Anastasia was no longer beaming. "Joker, why do you have to be like this?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Joker said innocently.

"Joker is clearly trying to bait me to say that I like you and not him." Anastasia said, "and I'm not going to give him the pleasure."

"You're no fun." Joker mumbled as they arrived at their living area.

Hap opened up his bed compartment and sat down to take off his boots. Anastasia sat down next to him and almost slipped off the bed. Hap had a camouflaged blanket as the top blanket of his bed. She caught herself and ran her hand on top of the blanket noting its smooth, almost silk-like, feel. "What is this?"

Hap rubbed his hand on the blanket "That, my dear, is a poncho liner. And if you can get ahold of one, you will have the lightest warmest coziest piece of kit any military developed ever."

"I wasn't issued one of these." Anastasia said as she ran her hand back and forth across the blanket.

"Me neither, I won this is a high stakes poker game. This had belonged to a jump infantry trooper. He had been a 'MechWarrior that had lost his 'Mech and was trying to build a new one. I was in the game because I had a refurbished gyro for my Griffin that just wasn't quite right and somehow I learned that one of the guys in the game had a spare gyro."

Hap pulled off his boot, "I had a good hand, and the gyro was up, and I was pretty sure I was going to win. The dispossessed warrior was out of money and then he pulled out this blanket. I wasn't going to accept it, but the infantrymen swore it was worth as much as some of the 'Mech parts. Also these sort of games are illegal because AFFS regs don't allow for hoarding or stockpiling 'Mech parts. So I accepted it because I didn't want any trouble. When it was all over, I got the gyro and this."

"So is it worth as much as a good gyro?"

"If you're an infantryman and this is all that's between you and a cold night, yeah, I could see why'd you say that. It's warmer than it looks and super light-weight. It's made of two pieces of parachute silk and then has some ultra-light insulator in the middle. It seems to always keep me the right temperature, and it fits neatly in my go-bag."

Anastasia got her boots off and she and Hap exchanged good nights as she slipped into her bed and closed the door for privacy as she changed her clothes. Hap bid Joker good night, and Hap got into his bed chamber and shut the door. He drifted to sleep thinking of Anastasia, and how stupid it was to let her get that close to him, and wondering when they would do it again.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 25 April 2020, 16:05:10
Chapter 7
August 3029
Klathandu System


Hap was jolted awake by the sounds of explosion followed by small arms fire. There was a small intercom speaker and a few lights in the sleep compartment. If the ship was under attack or if something had happened normally a warning light would be on or there would be announcements over the intercom. Hap tested the door, and it was unlocked. Another safety feature on some ships was that the beds would lock to protect sleepers against explosive decompression.

As he opened the door Hap could see strange lights coming from the lounge room. He leaned out of his bed looked into the room and saw the view screen was on. He immediately understood someone, probably Joker, was watching something in the lounge.

Hap rolled out of bed and realized it was a little cold for walking around in just his shorts. He grabbed his poncho liner and walked into the lounge. As Hap walked over to the large semi-circle couch he could see Joker laying on his side under a silver emergency blanket. He glanced up at Hap, "too loud?"

"Too loud." Hap replied as he sat down on the opposite side of the couch from Joker.

Joker turned down the volume, "I found some John Stallion movies, and I couldn't sleep."

Hap nodded, he figured he wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon so he got comfortable. The movie had just started and he had only missed the cold opening. The theme song started to play as Anastasia walked into the room. She was wearing an oversized black McFinnigan and Sons T-shirt that she was apparently using as a night shirt.

Anastasia walked to the side of the couch were Hap was slouching under his blanket. "Oh John Stallion."

"The Princess knows about John Stallion?" Joker asked looking at her.

"Sure. We got Hauptman Commonwealth's Uber HoloVideo Marathons every Saturday. He seemed to play a Brock Armstrong or John Stallion marathon once a month. Sometimes Father would take a whole Saturday off just so we could watch it together."

Hap smiled, "I remember watching Haupman Commonwealth with my dad too."

"You look a little cold, you want to join me?" Joker said as he flung his blanket back revealing that he was only wearing his shorts.

"I'm not that cold." Anastasia replied

"You sure Princess? I can see the tips of your royal cream puffs poking under your shirt." Joker laughed.

Hap glanced up at Anastasia. as she put her arms across her chest and was now giving Joker another murderous look. Hap cleared his throat, and pulled his blanket aside and nodded next to him. "You want to join us. He's usually pretty quiet during John Stallion movies."

She wordlessly sat down and pulled the blanket to cover her chest, which left Hap's side exposed.

Hap moved a few inches closer to her. "The one problem with the poncho liner is that it's made for one." He pulled the blanket back toward him, but she only let him have a little as she tried keep her chest covered.

"So you and your Dad would watch Haupman Commonwealth marathons together?" Hap asked trying to change the subject.

"If it was a John Stallion or Brock Armstrong Marathon He'd usually make time. Brock Armstrong was our favorite." Anastasia said with a faint smile.

"Brock Armstrong is good, but he's no John Stallion." Joker mumbled

Anastasia pulled the blankets again, "Yes, and that's to his credit. Brock Armstrong makes superior movies"

"No he doesn't" Joker said as he sat up. "John Stallion movies are way better."

Hap pulled the blankets back to him again, but moved a little closer to her. Hap had to be careful here. He might need to talk to her about boundaries. Having her in his arms earlier today was a little intoxicating. He wondered if she knew the effect she was having on him.

"John Stallion movies tend to be unrealistic and full of plot holes. They're fun, but Brock Armstrong is usually more believable and realistic." Anastasia explained as she tugged on the blanket.

"Name one unrealistic thing in a John Stallion movie." Joker challenged her

"Please don't" Hap said. He pulled back on the blanket. The only way they could both be comfortable was if they were next to each other, or if she was in his lap. In Hap's mind as long they weren't touching sharing the blanket wasn't a problem. It was purely plutonic he told himself.

"Well this is the 'Galaxy is Not Enough', and it has the infamous scene where he pilots a Shadowhawk that manages to shoot the LRM launcher off of an Orion with one magic bullet from its autocannon." Anastasia replied.

"Well now you've done it." Hap said grimly. It seemed they were finally comfortable though.

"It's perfectly realistic, that was a prototype Shadowhawk with a type 10 autocannon, and-"

"That weapon system is too heavy for a Shadowhawk. You'd have to strip off all its other weapons and jump jets or some armor to accommodate that autocannon." Anastasia interrupted.

"and, and, you can clearly see the bullet pass into one of the LRM ports which hit a missile and that obviously sets off a chain reaction that would blow the whole right torso off of an Orion."

Before she could refute what any MechWarrior should know is nonsense, Hap leaned over and whispered to her, "He will go on like this for days, please, just let him have this."

Anastasia made an uncertain nose, but nodded.

"I'll tell you something else too." Joker started

"After the movie." Anastasia said as the opening theme ended and John Stallion walked into a bar.

Hap had seen this movie a dozen times, but he was enjoying it. After the last two days this felt like normal and reminded him of simpler times. He was with his lance mates, watching a movie, and he had already headed off the first argument. As he started to get into the movie he could feel Anastasia adjusting herself then pulling on the blanket again. He responded by gently pulling back.

Anastasia seemed to finally get comfortable, but during the next scene she started moving and pulling on the blanket again. Hap held onto his blanket and she eventually stopped pulling. When the scene ended she once more adjusted herself, and tried to get more blanket. This time Hap got annoyed and reached over and grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her into him. She let a surprised "hey."

Hap immediately regretted pulling her into him. He knew he shouldn't take such liberties with her, and he knew this was going to come up when they had the necessary talk about boundaries. He was pretty sure he was about to receive one of her cold stares. He looked down at her and she was smiling but conspicuously looking straight at the view screen.

"Comfortable?" Hap asked her as he started to take his arm off her shoulder.

"Only if you don't move." She whispered, then added, "Shh. I'm trying to watch a movie."

Hap pulled the blanket up to her neck and left his arm across her shoulders. She tucked her feet under her side and pushed herself more into Hap. She was soft, and warm, and he could smell the sweet exotic fruit of her hair shampoo. Again it was intoxicating, and exciting, and he also knew very stupid.

Hap had been married once. He was a Subaltern straight out of the Albion Military Academy. Shortly after reporting to Raman, he met a girl at a bar, and married her a few weeks later. Six months later they divorced. The day he put on Leftenant was the same day he moved into the Bachelor Officer's Quarters.

The first month was fantastic, then they started to have disagreements about little things, money, time he spent working, housework. When he got home she wanted to go out dancing, he wanted to stay home. They tried counseling but that just brought out bigger problems. She wanted to have kids now, he wanted to wait. He wanted to change units which would take them off Raman, she wanted to stay with family. They realized they got married before they knew each other, and the differences seemed too great. Hap promised himself he wouldn't make the same mistake again, or try harder to make it work.

Hap convinced himself he would have find time tomorrow to get Anastasia alone and really discuss their relationship. Make sure she understood that they had to take things slow, and keep the physical contact to a minimum. Figure out how they were going to operate as Lancemates first, and ensure they were always professionals inside their 'Mechs. He tried to craft exactly what to say as he watched the movie. Hap was slightly distracted by the movie, and really distracted by how good it felt to hold a woman.

The lighting changed as the black cast screen rolled and dramatic music played. Hap woke up with Anastasia's head resting on his chest. He carefully turned to see Joker was asleep. He gently nudged Anastasia.

She murmured something, and seemed to push herself tighter into him and went back to sleep. Hap realized they were also holding hands now too. He detangled his fingers and gave her another gentle nudge, "Anastasia you need to get up. We need to go to bed." Then he added "our own beds."

She stretched and adjusted herself, "Why?"

Hap nodded toward Joker. Anastasia nodded, stood up and wrapped herself in the blanket and started to leave the room. Hap turned off the video screen, he adjust Joker's blanket so it covered him better, then followed her.

"Tomorrow we need to talk about us." He told her quietly, as they stood in front of her bed.

Anastasia nodded, she started to pull the blanket off her shoulders, then flashed Hap a mischievous grin. "Can we also talk about this blanket? Because you were right about how great it is. I need to know what it's going to take to get this from you."

"You're not going to get my poncho liner from me." Hap tried to make it sound definitive, but he knew that if anyone could bargain him out of the poncho liner it was her.

"So you and the blanket are a package deal?" She asked as she looked at him thoughtfully. "I think I can work with that."

Hap put his hand on the blanket, "Go to bed, we'll talk in the morning."

She nodded but kept the blanket wrapped around her as she tried to pull it out of Hap's grasp and climb into bed. In one smooth motion Hap reached down and swept her off her feet, rolled her into her bed and snatched the blanket from her before she could react.

"Good night Anastasia." He said as he rolled up the blanket while keeping it out of her reach.

Anastasia was trying to look hurt, but she was smiling and almost giggling, "If you had asked-"

"You would have given the blanket back?"

"No, Harold. I would have let you stay with your blanket and me." Anastasia flashed Hap a smile that further weakened his resolve.

He stopped rolling the blanket and thought about it for a moment. "We'll talk in the morning." Hap said as he shook his head, things had already gone too far and he had no idea how to reign it in.

The next morning started off similar to the previous. The 0800 bell woke them up. Joker asked them if they enjoyed the movie and Anastasia made the mistake of telling him it would have been better if it had been a Brock Armstrong movie. The walk to breakfast, breakfast, and morning calisthenics were filled with Joker detailing all the reasons why John Stallion was the greatest action-holo actor of the age.

Eventually, Mike the 'Mech Tech, overheard him and started to explain that anyone who thought John Stallion or Brock Armstrong were better than Phelan McQuaid knew nothing.

When Joker heard the tech mention Phelan McQuaid he dropped the cans of auto cannon rounds they were using for weights and began walking over to him while deriding a movie where McQuaid played a COMSTAR secret agent.

"When will this end?" Anastasia asked Hap.

"It won't." Hap shrugged as he started to put away the ammo cans. "Lucky and Joker had been arguing about this very thing since before I knew them." It pained Hap to remember this was what Joker and Lucky and were discussing when Lucky was killed. "You gotta understand with soldiers they have these arguments that actually have no end. Also congratulations, you're now part of the lance."

"At least it kept him from talking about last night." Anastasia said with a shrug.

"Yeah, if you need to distract Joker this is a way to do it." Hap told her. He felt anxious as he added, "And speaking of last night, let's find some where quiet to talk."

"You mean how you're going to give me that blanket? I promise to let you snuggle under it with me while we watch Brock Armstrong movies."

"Yeah that's part of it." Hap was looking around the 'Mech bay. They were on the side with Joker's Firestarter and a Highlander. "It looks like all the techs are over here, let's go to the other bay."

Hap and Anastasia walked into the hallway that led between the two bays and were met by Erik.

"Ah just the MechWarriors I wanted to see." He said with a big mischievous grin.

"Good morning Erik." Hap said, sensing there was a problem, and it had something to do with them.

"You." He said looking at Anastasia, "need to work on your armor repair work. I looked at what you did yesterday and it all needs to be redone."

Hap looked at Anastasia confused, "I was starting to think you were good at everything."

"Oh, there's actually a pretty big list of things Anastasia can't do." Anastasia told him.

Hap put his hand on her shoulder, "Come on I'll help you, and then we can talk."

"No. She needs to learn to do simple repairs to maintain her 'Mech, and she's going to learn by doing. As a Master Technician teaching is part of my job, as a 'MechWarrior breaking things I fixed is your job. So I got another job for you. Also, I looked over your armor repairs, and they're up to standard." Erik said.

"My father was a 'Mech Tech and he made sure I knew how to turn a wrench." Hap said.

"Yeah Mike said your welding 'didn't look like a bag of ass', which is a high compliment from him."

"So what do you want me to do?" Hap asked.

"Old man Kelly wants to know why it looks like he has a bunch of AFFS 'Mechs in the hold of his shuttle. That's his way of saying you three need to repaint your 'Mechs. Everything you need is there." Erik pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. "Includes a paint guide. I'd recommend the Tartan."

In spite of Hap's best efforts the day was spent either repairing or repainting 'Mechs. Erik had Anastasia replace several armor pieces before he was happy with her work, but he told her that she needed to keep practicing. Joker and Hap got their 'Mech's repainted, but Hap didn't get a chance to talk to Anastasia alone.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 25 April 2020, 18:17:26
 Great conversation  flow throughout this update.
The personal interactions moved along well enough I never had to reread a passage to follow along.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: shadowdancer on 25 April 2020, 20:03:07
Nicely done. More?
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 26 April 2020, 08:42:28
Chapter 8
August 3029
Klathandu System


After spending the day in the 'Mech bays Joker, Hap and Anastasia returned to the berths to clean up and then went to dinner. As they were eating McFinnigan sat down with them. "Tomorrow we will link up with a Jumpship and transfer over to the Tir A Nog before the jump. So tomorrow ye meet the rest of the family. Before we do that though, we got one more thing that I like to do with new hires. I'd like to play a few hands of poker with you. I think it's best way to get a feel for who I'm employing."

"I'm sorry, Sir, but I don't have any money." Hap said. He really wanted to talk to Anastasia and the poker game wasn't something he was really interested in.

"We'll give ye each a 200 C-bill advance." McFinnigan answered as if he was anticipating this.

"I don't know how to play poker." Anastasia said.

McFinnigan smiled, "Well this will be interesting, perhaps one of yer friends can help you."

Roweyna came with a metal cash box. She pulled out chips and handed her father an old deck of cards as Hap explained the basic rules and how betting worked to Anastasia. Hap then started to go through list of hands telling her that a royal flush beats a straight which beats, four of a kind, which beats a full house Anastasia stopped him and remarked, "So it's all math, the least probable hand wins?"

"No. Math has nothing to do with this. It's all about you against the other players." Joker corrected her.

Anastasia eyed him shrewdly, "I'm going to enjoy taking your money."

"You're both right." Hap said. "Probability generally determines the winning hand, but you can always bluff, and try to outsmart the other players."

McFinnigan nodded, "Aye. Let's get started." He said as he started shuffling, he turned to his master tech. "Erik, usually I have Fletch help me with this part of the interview, but he's not here. You want in?"

Erik nodded and pulled a chair up to the table as he told his daughters what to lay out for tomorrow's maintenance. As he gave Roweyna a wad of bills which she exchanged for poker chips as McFinnigan started passing out cards. When everyone had five he said, "Oh! One more thing." He looked to the bar, "Rowena, bring me a bottle of fine Irish whiskey and six glasses."

As she walked to the bar McFinnigan leaned over the table and said, "No one can leave the table till we finish the bottle, I also like to see how you hold your liquor."

Roweyna set a glass down in front of everyone including herself. He smiled as she uncorked the bottle and poured everyone a generous portion. Hap saw the bottle was still half full, and realized he probably wasn't going to talk to Anastasia tonight.

"I love being a mercenary" Joker said as he reached for his glass.

Hap glanced over at Anastasia, she was looking at her full glass of whiskey. She glanced over at him and mouthed, "that's a lot." He nodded in response.

McFinnigan picked up the glass, and everyone, including Roweyna did the same, then he called out "Gnó Teaghlaigh" and Roweyna and Erik replied, "to the family."

Everyone took a drink. Hap felt the burn and suppressed a cough as he set his glass down. He looked over at Anastasia as she coughed and gasped. He could already feel the warmth down his throat and into his gut.

"Irish truth serum?" Hap said trying hard not to rasp.

"Oh, no. Hap. This is no interrogation, just a friendly game." McFinnigan replied with mock innocence. Hap could see Roweyna nodding vigorously to him behind her father, as he added. "Though I do find sometimes you can see the truth of a man or woman after they've been in their cups."

They quickly settled into the game. Hap was not a great poker player, but he could usually hold his own. He strongly suspected that McFinnigan and Erik were probably much better than him, and if he walked away with half his C-bills it would be a miracle. He knew how to play against Joker. Joker had an obvious tell if he was bluffing he would generally make himself more obnoxious. Of course you had to know him to know when he was being extra obnoxious, but Hap could usually figure it out.

Roweyna didn't play but sat next to her father keeping the glasses filled, and participating in the banter as her father peppered Joker, Hap, and Anastasia with questions.

Hap had to admit that McFinnigan created a relaxing demeanor and it was hard not to like talking to the man. As he spoke to them he'd joke and tell them stories, but he seemed to be able to ask insightful and intrusive questions in the most unassuming ways. Hap had gone through several psychological evaluations and lie detector tests in his career and they were nothing like this, but this seemed to be a much more effective way to really know and understand someone.

Hap found himself learning things about Joker he had never known. Joker's father had died in the Third Succession war which was why his mother had to raise him alone. He had also been schooled on one the Jumpship Vagabond Schools. There were a few other details about Joker that Hap had guessed but it was strange how easily McFinnigan got him talking about himself, and not making stupid jokes.

McFinnigan turned his attention to Anastasia for a while. Hap found himself very excited to learn about her. Anastasia had decided to become a 'Mech Warrior almost by accident. She had gone to NAIS to study technology, specifically communications, so she could help her Father with his business. Her mother insisted she study political science, so, for her mother, she took it as a minor.

During the first week of her freshman year they School of Military Science had 'Mech simulators down at the student center and convinced nearly anyone walking by to give it try. This was supposed to be the way the Mil Sci department recruited for all the branches of service. A student would try the 'Mech simulator and then the recruiters would try to get them to take a few Mil Sci courses and the cadre would figure out if they had what it took to be a MechWarrior, or an Aerospace Pilot, or push them toward Infantry or Armor.

Since Anastasia was trying to come out of her shell and be more of her own person she tried the 'Mech Simulator. She loved the freedom and feeling of power. There was one problem though, she was terrible. During the few minutes she was in the simulator she fell down continuously and couldn't hit anything she aimed at.

To make matters worse, aside from her lack of inherent skill, Anastasia barely made the height requirement to be a MechWarrior, and she was 16 years old. She also knew her beauty wasn't exactly what you pictured behind a fierce combat vehicle. So the cadet recruiter told her that AFFS wasn't really looking for "cute little girls to pilot war machines, but if she wanted to be a MechWarrior's girlfriend he was personally looking for one of those."

Anastasia responded by calling her mother and then the Countess called the Corps of Cadets Commandant and wanted to know exactly why his cadets were using expensive military training equipment to solicit dates. He explained that it was a recruiting drive, and that's when the Countess demanded to know why her daughter was turned away from his program. Anastasia would later learn that her mother had given the General such a brutal verbal beating the Commandant was forced to agree to let Anastasia into the program, discipline the cadet that had harassed Anastasia, and retrain all his recruiters.

This would cause more problems for Anastasia than she could have ever imagined. The NAIS cadre had to ensure she became a MechWarrior while at the same time maintaining the high standards of their MechWarrior program, or convince the Countess they did everything they could. They made Anastasia the personal project of one the senior cadets and told them both that everything would be documented and Anastasia would either meet the standard or be washed out of the program. It was also implied that Anastasia's failure would reflect poorly on the senior cadet. After the discipline actions, additional training and the fact that one of the senior cadets was personally responsible for her meant nearly every cadet in the MechWarrior program hated her.

Anastasia felt guilty that her pride might hurt someone else. She worked herself to the bone during fall semester, and got better, but her gunnery and piloting scores barely met the standard. By spring semester her roommate wasn't talking to her, so she put more time in the simulators. During the summer break her parents got her a MechWarrior tutor and she spent most of that summer in a cockpit. When she returned to the school she was ahead of her peers.

During her second year she received awards and Commandant Recognition for her abilities. During her third year she managed to beat the cadet that had called her "a cute little girl." Unfortunately there was still enough cadets around to know how she got into the program which made her a pariah. Also in spite of her hard trained skills there was always a rumor that she was made a MechWarrior because her mommy ordered the Commandant to make her one.

For a while being in a Mech was liberating in. She wasn't a 'cute little girl' she was another MechWarrior, her mother might have gotten her the opportunity but she earned the right to stay in the program. Her fellow cadets didn't see it that way. They assumed her skills and abilities were because the Cadre made her equipment more likely to score a hit, less likely to get hit, or other things. The Cadre and Anastasia knew she was good, and the Commandant was relieved he didn't have to face her mother's wrath, and Anastasia had learned to be very careful about using her mother's clout.

In the science department she had some respect, but they also thought of her more as the "gorgeous beauty with brains" and not someone that would make a scientific breakthrough. The Political science department were full of people that were competing to be lords or ladies and they were openly polite, obviously covetous of her brains, beauty, and the fact she was MechWarrior, and behind her back they were constantly plotting ways to ruin her. For Anastasia, getting deployed to an active combat zone seemed like a welcome change to her three years at NAIS.

The game had gone on late into the night, and Hap had done alright. He had won a big pot, but lost several hands. He still had over half his money, so he figured he was doing fine. Anastasia was doing well. Hap wondered if it wasn't beginner's luck, but she seemed to know when to fold and when to bet large. Hap tried to figure out what her tell was, but she didn't seem to have one. He took another sip of his whiskey and wondered if the alcohol had dulled his senses.

Anastasia took in a large pot with a straight, and McFinnigan commented, "For a new player ye seem to be doing well."

"Beginner's luck" Joker snorted.

McFinnigan shrugged, "I have to confess. Most people have a tell when they bluff. Someway you know they're lying." He nodded to Joker, "This one gets more obnoxious, and that one." He dipped his head to Hap, "cracks the knuckles on his thumb."

Hap cracked his thumb knuckle, looked at his pair of 7s and then set the cards down, "Think I'll fold."

McFinnigan laughed, "Sorry, lad." Then he looked back to Anastasia, "but you darlin' I haven't figured your tell out yet."

Anastasia shrugged and took another careful drink of her whiskey. "Think I'll try to keep it a secret as long as I can." She was blushing but Hap wasn't certain if it was from the whiskey or just her trying not to betray herself.

Hap thought for a moment. Anastasia tended to fold if she didn't have anything better than a straight, so she had some strategy. The cards were also old and badly beaten up. He had seen McFinnigan flip a couple cards over probably to hide an obvious mark on the cards, but he doubted she would know how to count cards. She was able to quickly reason out that hand values were based on probability, but poker hands were also pretty common examples in any mathematics probability class. Still she had a big pile of chips in front of her. She had to be counting cards, or calculating the probabilities of hands, or both. Either way Hap knew, "You don't bluff."

Anastasia looked like she had just been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She glanced at Hap like she was trying to muster up a cold look, but instead she burst out laughing, and put her hand on his shoulder, "Harold, I'm very disappointed that you wouldn't help me keep my secret."

"Sorry. I've been drinking." Hap shrugged.

"Me too." She replied, and leaned heavily on him as she turned to the rest of the table. "But it's out there now. I was raised by a business man and a countess. They taught me if I wanted something articulate it clearly. I learned how to bargain, how to compromise, but I never got the hang of lying, even in the good business sense."

"Well can ye believe that? McFinnigan chuckled, "A woman that can't lie. I mean I know my own Roweyna would never lie-"

"No never, father. I'm an honest and virtuous woman like ye raised me." Roweyna said with mock innocence.

"If it's anything noble and virtuous it came from your mother." Erik corrected her.

McFinnigan laughed, "Aye it's true. Mrs. McFinnigan is a saint." As he spoke Roweyna and McFinnigan toasted each other and drank.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 26 April 2020, 08:43:21
Chapter 9

The game went on as Hap found himself the center of McFinnigan's attention. He started by asking about Hap's call sign. At Albion Hap had the odd reputation of turning left when everyone went right. On one notable exercise he was given multiple land navigation points and instructed to plot the most efficient course. The exercise was actually meant to be a "React to Ambush" drill, but Hap's course circumnavigated the ambush area. To the instructor's frustration, he had accidentally found an efficient course that went around an obvious choke point. Since he had made tactically and technically good choices they couldn't fault him.

Another time he was given the mission brief for the wrong exercise. He was told to perform a "Movement to Contact" of a highly mobile enemy that was actually a fortified bunker complex. Even though they were unprepared and had the wrong 'Mechs Hap managed to change tactics and destroy the bunkers with acceptable loss, all in spite of being unprepared. At the end of the semester one of the instructors wrote in his evaluation, "Cadet Calahad's greatest weakness is that he just haphazardly wonders through life, his greatest strength is that his haphazard attitude allows him to adjust to everything, improvise, and survive." Somehow word got out and the name "Haphazard", or "Hap" stuck.

As he spoke Anastasia looked at Harold. He was tall, almost two meters. Like most MechWarriors he kept his dark brown hair short on the sides, and had a short undercut on top. It gave him an unruly mop of hair he was always brushing to the side or back. He had a square jaw and hazel eyes. She knew he shaved every morning, but by the end of the day it looked like he hadn't shaved in days. His skin was slightly tanned, which made his few scars more obvious, and made him look more rugged. His mannerisms, easy going nature, and appearance made him seem haphazard to some, but not her.

Anastasia remembered how he was in combat. He seemed sharp and quick to her then. He had a calm voice guiding her south while he organized his Lance to create a trap for her pursuers. She parked her 'Mech next to his and watched his genius strategy take apart two 'Mechs that nearly killed her. As far as she was concerned he was clever, unassuming, and the man she wanted next to her in a fight. She knew it was a girlish crush, but she also wanted him next to her all the time.

Hap finished his story and Anastasia was still looking at Hap and thinking about him and her when McFinnigan set the deck next to her and said, "Your deal lass." She couldn't shuffle cards so, like she had all night, she passed the cards to Hap. He shuffled for her and she dealt. As she passed out cards Joker whined, "Aren't you going to make something wild?"

"Hadn't planned on it." Anastasia answered. She had been counting cards and calculating probability, so wild cards made it harder for her, and the whiskey wasn't doing her any favors.

"It makes the game more fun." McFinnigan told her with a wink, like Hap he had suspected she was counting cards, but he didn't care because he was doing the same thing. Except he was just trying to maintain the parity of the table and keep everyone in the game.

Anastasia nodded, "Fine, Aces." Anastasia said as she flopped back in her chair. She had finished her whiskey a few hands back but Roweyna then served everyone beer. She was halfway through hers, and realized she needed to stop. She looked at her cards. She had three aces. She exchanged cards for everyone, then exchanged two for herself. She pulled another ace and the King of Fists.

"So what did you study at Albion?" McFinnigan asked Hap.

"Psychology. I figured if the whole MechWarrior thing didn't work out, I'd go back to school and become a Psychologist." Hap said as he looked at his cards.

"Yeah, you already work with crazy people like me. So why not?" Joker snorted.

"Actually I think I'd try to go into family counseling." Hap told him.

"I've heard every officer come out of Albion has a 'Mech charm. Got one?" Erik asked.

Hap nodded and after throwing a few chips into the center of the table he reached under his shirt and pulled out a slender finger length piece of jagged metal attached to an ID tag chain. It was made of dull metal. The sharp edges were grounded down, but the long edges were rubbed smooth.

Anastasia watched as Hap passed the charm to Erik. He weighed it in his hand and rolled it in his fingers then gave it an appraising look like jeweler with a diamond. "Feels like Durralex light. Was it a Wasp?"

Hap nodded as Erik offered it back to him, but Anastasia took it from him instead. "Durralex light? So this is 'Mech armor?" She asked.

Hap nodded, "Cadets at Albion like to keep a piece of the armor from the first mech they get shot out from under them. We call it a 'Mech Charm. If you give it to someone it's supposed to keep them safe."

"Hey whose bet is it?" Joker asked.

"Yours." Hap replied.

Joker threw in a large stack of chips, then looked over at Hap, "So a piece of twisted and broken armor from a Mech that got destroyed is supposed to keep someone safe? How does that make sense?"

"It's like how your lucky rabbit's foot isn't lucky for the rabbit." Hap shrugged. Erik matched Joker's bet.

McFinnigan pushed in a stack of chips. "So how'd you lose the Wasp?" McFinnigan asked.

Hap smiled, "It was the classic 1 on 3 training scenario. Everyone goes with a Chameleon, overheats it, and get blown to pieces when the emergency shutdown starts. I thought I'd try it with a Wasp."

Anastasia raised as she replied, "I used the Chameleon, and followed doctrine."

"How'd that work out for you, Princess?" Joker asked sarcastically

"It worked fine. Like I said, I used doctrine. I fixed the fastest mech, stayed mobile to prevent being flanked, and prioritized the most dangerous mech. Finally I closed with the remaining 'Mech and overwhelmed it. Of course, I don't have one of these." She said as she held up the charm.

Joker squinted at her, "What do you mean by doctrine?"

Anastasia looked annoyed, "Armed Forces of the Federated Suns Combat Field Manual 17- 10 Tactical BattleMech and Armor Operations."

"Never heard of it." Joker replied with a shrug, "I still don't understand anything you just said."

Anastasia sighed, "I destroyed the Locust at long range while falling back to prevent the other 'Mechs from flanking me. I then targeted the Wasp since its missiles had better range than the Stinger's machine guns. I focused on the Wasp's ammo magazine which forced the pilot to eject. Then I closed with the Stinger and destroyed him with my superior fire power. I was careful to manage heat and only use the large laser at distances greater than the medium lasers range, and kept the smaller mechs outside the range of their point blank weapons. "

"Some of those cadets might have hated you for reasons other than your Mom throwing her weight around." Erik said as he adjusted his glasses and looked at his cards.

Anastasia shrugged, "Yes. I learned that always volunteering the right answer in class usually didn't endear me to my peers, but they hated me anyways so what was the point?"

"Yeah, so that's the text book doctrinal answer," Hap sighed, and matched Anastasia's wager. "I'm told that about 60% of the cadets that try that will finish the scenario successfully, but Anastasia is one of the first I've ever met that managed to do it."

"But when you're Haphazard ye don't follow doctrine." McFinnigan said with a roguish grin.

"You sure don't." Hap said as they clinked glasses, "Instead of doctrine, I ran like hell to the forest while snapping off shots at the Wasp. I thought like Anastasia, his short range missiles were the same range as the medium laser, so I forced the pilot to eject by aiming for the missile magazine. The Locust couldn't keep up with me and the Stinger in the woods, so he ran around the forest and tried to flank me while the Stinger kept trying to close and maneuver me into exposing my back to the Locust."

Joker pushed all his chips into the center. "I think the Princess is trying to bluff, but she doesn't know it will break Hap's heart to think that his Princess is liar."

"So what happened?" Anastasia ignored Joker as she continued to toy with the charm. Erik looked at the chips in the center of the table, licked his lips and pushed in another large stack of chips.

"I rushed the Stinger, and he jumped on my head." Hap said nonchalantly.

Anastasia looked at Hap wide-eyed. "NAIS would never allow a DFA attack in a training exercise."

"Albion had the same policy. When I got out of the hospital I learned the Cadet had been removed from the academy. He did me a favor though, I was out for so long that I got a guaranteed passing grade in all my classes. Which was perfect, because I would have failed astral physics."

McFinnigan laughed as he pushed chips into the center, "Once more haphazard carried you through."

Anastasia made a show of counting the same amount of chips that Joker had pushed into the center. She smiled smugly as she pushed them into the center, then added another large stack.

"Oh come on." Joker howled.

"I told you I was going to take your money." She replied

"Hap, I gotta a good hand, and I can pay you back. Spot me the money." Joker said.

"I don't think I have the money, to keep myself in the game." Hap said looking at his meager chip pile.

Anastasia leaned over Hap as she told Joker, "If you want to stay in, all you need to do is write on a sheet of paper that you will never call me "Princess" again."

"This is getting weird, Commander." Erik said.

"Aye. Anastasia, what is this all about?" McFinnigan asked.

"Princess is her call sign, and she hates it." Joker said, "Damn it. Someone please get me some paper."

"I've heard much worse call signs, missy." McFinnigan said as Roweyna handed Joker a pen and paper.

"You don't understand. I was the cadet that had a call sign the first time I walked into my first Mil Sci class. It was on my desk, where everyone else had their last name. When I got issued a Neurohelment it was hot pink and had Princess painted in gold. Everyone knew I was the girl that was only in the MechWarrior program because her noble mother made it so. For three plus years I was reminded that no matter how hard I tried, how good I was, or what I said or did, everyone thought I was the spoiled rich noble girl whose parents money and influence allowed me to 'play' MechWarrior."

"Well from where I sat most of the kids from NAIS, Nagerling and Albion were spoiled little rich noble children pretending to be MechWarriors at least until they survived first contact." McFinnigan said, "But I get yer point. You've proved to be a skilled enough MechWarrior to survive. Erik you think she's a spoiled little rich girl?"

"I made her spend the morning welding and gluing armor plates, she isn't too spoiled to work when it matters, she's bad at it, but not spoiled." Erik said as he crossed his arms and leaned back.

"She was happy to help me in the kitchen." Roweyna added.

"So Erik and Roweyna say you're not very spoiled, and you're clearly a MechWarrior, so depending on how this wager go, maybe you can earn yourself a new handle, or everyone will just call you by name."

Joker held up the folded piece of paper, "Done."

Anastasia snatched the paper from him and read it as Roweyna looked over her shoulder. "Does this look good to you?" Anastasia asked her.

"Well intergalactic law isn't exactly clear on written informal contracts used as wagers in games of chance." Roweyna said sarcastically, "Though some of the bandit kingdoms do allow you to remove fingers for unpaid debts, so perhaps that would apply here."

"That'll work." Anastasia replied, "I've wanted to cut him a few times now."

McFinigan cleared his throat, "Anastasia you can't hurt him to the point he can't pilot his 'Mech. Joker, if you can't keep your word and she hurts you, it's not a 'combat injury' so no compensation for lost limb."

"I agree to this." Anastasia said as she laid the paper in center of the table.

"Hey! Wait a minute. Since I'm risking fingers, I think this whole thing is worth more than what's in the pot." Joker said.

Anastasia's eyes narrowed, then she stretched her arm to Hap, "Hold my sleeve, please."

She pulled her arm into her coveralls and rolled and contorted her shoulders as her hand moved around her back. After a moment she reached into her coveralls with her other arm and pulled out a black lacey bra that had finely embroidered flowers and leaves in black silk thread on the cups.

"I'm out." Erik said as he pushed his cards forward.

"Aye. Same." McFinnigan said, "I can't be part of a game where those are wagered. If Mrs. McFinnigan-"

"We'll tell her you bid us good night before this happened and reminded us to go to Sunday school in the morning." Hap said as he looked up at the center of the table and back to the full house in his hand.

Roweyna laughed, "Oh she'll never believe that. He's been calling the pub 'Church' for so long, she'll think he was up to something else."

McFinnigan laughed, "Aye, but I like where your head is at lad."

Hap looked at his cards and cracked his knuckles. He had promised Anastasia that he wouldn't let Joker get a hold of her underwear. It also really bothered him to think of Joker having her bra. He looked over at Anastasia, "I promised you I wouldn't let him have that, can I stay, if I go 'all in'?"

"This will do." Anastasia said as she tossed the 'Mech Charm into the center.

"I think I'd rather go all in." Hap replied looking at his 'Mech charm on top of her bra.

"No, I think you should save that money so you can spend it on me later". Anastasia said with a smile.

McFinnigan laughed as Hap blushed. His talk with Anastasia couldn't come soon enough.

"Well Joker?" Anastasia said.

"I'm really more interested in what goes in your bra, and I thought it would be bigger."

Anastasia smirked, "Well it's as close as you're going to get to anything under my shirt."

"And it's a designer bra." Roweyna added like she was trying to sell it.

Anastasia looked at her incredulous, as McFinnigan said, "Aye. I don't know much about bras, but it doesn't seem like something you'd want to wear under a cooling vest."

"It's not. When I was packing my e, I mean, go-bag it was the bra I happened to grab." Anastasia replied. I meant to grab a sports bra, but I don't know, it was clean and I was in a hurry." Her voice dropped, "and it's sort of my favorite."

"You're such a boot. Go bags need to have important survival gear." Joker told her.

"Oh! A good lacy bra can be a key piece of survival equipment." Roweyna corrected him.

McFinnigan gave Roweyna a shocked wide-eyed look. She parodied his look and replied, "I don't know how you expect to get grandchildren."

McFinnigan pulled out his pipe and shook his head, "You all just tell Mrs. McFinnigan that I left before the bra came off, and all of ye should go to Sunday school tomorrow."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 26 April 2020, 08:46:31
Chapter 10

Hap laid down his hand, "I have a full house. What do you have Joker."

"Oh what do I have? Let's see." Joker started to slowly lay down his cards. He revealed a 10 of Fists, the Jack of Fists, and finally the Queen of Fists. He looked up at Anastasia, "I'll tell you what, Princess, you can see where this is going. I'll let you keep Hap's charm, because I'm hopeless romantic, if you don't make me reveal my cards. It's sort of one last gamble."

Anastasia smiled wolfishly, "Why would I do that?" she started revealing cards, "I have the King of Fists, and the Ace of Fists, and the Ace of Suns, and Ace of Eagles, and the Ace of Dragons. At best you have a flush, but I doubt you even have that."

Joker looked very annoyed as he revealed a 10 of Suns and a 3 of Dragons. Anastasia raked in her winnings. She gave Hap a sly grin as she put the 'Mech charm on, and flipped her hair over the chain. She shoved her bra in her coverall pocket. She carefully folded the paper as she grinned. She placed it in another pocket. She stood up and pointed at Joker, "And now you can't call me Princess."

"And you can't call me Princess." She said to Erik

"I didn't sign any paper." He replied. "But I won't call you Princess to your face."

"And you-" She pointed at McFinnigan, "I actually work for you."

"Aye. You do." McFinnigan looked at Roweyna. "Is Anastasia the Princess that forgot who she was and had to find her family?"

"Aye. You read me that story when I was a lass." Roweyna answered.

"I like that name, child, why would I call you anything else?" McFinnigan said with a shrug.

"Thank you, Commander." Anastasia replied, and gave McFinnigan and hug and a kiss on the forehead.

"Roweyna you've always been really kind to me." Anastasia said as she gave Roweyna a hug.

"Aye. Thank you, Anastasia."

Anastasia turned to Hap and took a step, "And you Harold-" She laughed and fell into his lap.

Hap stood up carefully and supported Anastasia as they both got to their feet, "I think it's time you went to bed." As he spoke he looked over at McFinnigan who was gave him a slow and certain nod.

"Wait what about the money?" Anastasia said as she put her arm around his waist.

Roweyna opened up the metal lock box and starting exchanging the chips for C-Bills. Anastasia stuffed the bills in her coverall pocket with her bra. Roweyna gave Hap a crisp 100 C-bill note. He didn't stop to wonder how, but he was happy that he had kept half his money. Anstasia and Hap bid everyone a good night and he half dragged, half pulled Anastasia back to the birthing.

"Hap, when you said you were going to help me get rid of the call sign 'Princess' I didn't imagine this would be how we'd do it."

"Neither did I."

"Also I've never drank this much, or gambled. It's very excited."

"It can be." Hap replied

"You've been wanting to talk to me all day, we're alone now. What did you want to talk about?"

"Us, but not now. Not while you're drunk."

"What about us?" Anastasia said happily.

Hap sighed, he knew better, but he said, "I think we need to slow down."

"I think so too, you're almost dragging me. You're not trying to rush to some lonely part of the ship where you'll-"

"Definitely Not!" Hap interrupted, "I'm going to put you to bed, then get in my own, but that's what I mean. Our relationship needs to slow down."

"What are you talking about?" Anastasia asked

"I like you, a lot-"

Anastasia interrupted him, "I like you too, Harold. Listen, I've only been on a few dates, and those men had only one thing on their mind. You're not like that. You genuinely care about me."

"I do." Harold hadn't realized it, but he did feel he had a strange connection with her. "But I've only known you for three days."

"Right, but I've met men that wanted to make love on a first blind date."

"Anastasia, I'm trying to explain something. I was married once, I rushed into that relationship, we were married in weeks, but after a few months I learned we didn't really know each other, and had a lot of problems that we couldn't solve. I don't want to make the same mistake."

"You had a wife?"

"Yes. I had a wife and it seemed like we fought all the time."

"You want a better wife? I'll fight with you only half the time."

Hap looked at her in disbelief. "This is exactly-" Hap could see she was trying not to smile, "You're playing with me." He said.

She shrugged and smiled, "Maybe. You ever think about calling my bluff? You never did tonight."

Hap looked at her, trying to figure out what she meant since he knew she couldn't bluff, "You're a cocky little thing when you're drunk."

He put his arm around her and started half-leading, half carrying her again. She put her head on his shoulder as they walked the decks.

When he got her back to their berthing area, Anastasia looked up at him, "Let's play one more game."

"Anastasia, you're drunk, and you're feeling very self-confident. You should quit while you're ahead."

"No. I really want your blanket."

"You won my 'Mech charm, haven't you taken enough from me."

"If you're first wife didn't manage to take it from you-"

"Anastasia." Hap warned

"Where's your cards? Do you have some in your go-bag?" She excitedly interrupted him

Hap nodded as he opened his locker, reached into his bag and pulled out a deck of cards. Anastasia snatched the cards tried to shuffle, then she remembered she couldn't and passed them back to Hap. As he shuffled she said, "Okay. High card, If I win I get your blanket."

"What do I get?" Hap asked her

Anastasia frowned, she hadn't thought of that. She shook her head and smiled, "Just imagine the most wonderful thing that I could give you. But you don't have to say anything, because I'm going to win."

Hap held out the deck of cards to Anastasia and she took the top card. She flipped up the Jack of Suns. Hap took the next card and flipped it over to reveal the Queen of Suns.

Anastasia suddenly felt very sober, and a little sick. She let out an "Oh." And then after a moment, "So, what do I owe you?" She remembered her roommate talking about all the degrading things that her boyfriend would ask her to do or, worse, talk her into. Harold didn't seem like that sort of man, but he was right, they really didn't know each other.

Hap looked at his 'Mech charm for a moment. Her zipper was low and he could see the charm nestled between her breasts. He considered asking for it back, but he liked the idea that she had it. To ask her for any sexual favors was inconceivable, she was drunk, and he did want a relationship with her, and she was going to be in his lance. His ex-wife would have been offended that he was not trying to seduce her, of course she was also constantly trying to pick fights with him. This was all too complicated.

Hap raised his vision to look her in the eyes, "Let's talk tomorrow." Hap said, then added quietly, "I don't know what I want."

Anastasia felt relieved that he wasn't asking for something disgusting, but she had noticed he stared at her chest and the 'Mech charm. She wondered for a moment if he was thinking about asking for her charm or something else. She was starting to feel slightly nauseous.

Hap put his cards away and started to take off his coveralls. Anastasia turned around, and unzipped her coveralls and quickly put on her oversized nightshirt. As she pulled off her boots and stepped out of the coveralls she felt sick and dizzy. "Harold, I feel sick"

Hap grabbed her hand and pulled her into the bathroom. She managed to keep from vomiting until she was at the toilet. He held her hair as she regurgitated everything she had. After a few minutes Anastasia was sure she had nothing else to vomit. Hap gave her a cup of water and then walked her out to the lounge where she promptly collapsed onto the couch. He walked back to his wall locker and then went to the bar and poured her another cup of water and dropped a large tablet into the water cup. As the tab hit the water it immediately dissolved and bubbled. He made a second glass for himself.

"Drink this." He said offering her the glass. "It's an electrolyte vitamin tab. It won't make you sober, but if you can drink all this, and keep it down, you probably won't have too-bad of a headache tomorrow."

Anastasia nodded, and took a drink. It tasted salty and slightly fruity. She was sick, and dizzy, but it didn't make her feel worse. "It feels like the shuttle is pulling a hard starboard turn, under full thrust."

Hap nodded, "It's not. You're very drunk. I think the whiskey caught up with you" Hap sat next to her.

"I just want to lay down." Anastasia told Hap as she leaned on him.

"Keep drinking the vitamin water. It's the only way to avoid a nasty hangover. I also want to make sure you don't get sick again."

Anastasia took another drink and pulled Hap's arm over her. She was feeling cold, and sick, but she appreciated that Hap was taking care of her. "Why aren't you drunk?" Anastasia asked.

"I am, but I have about 40 kilograms on you, and I had seconds on dinner, and I've been doing this for a long time, like while I was at the Academy." Hap said "See I had friends, and there were parties. I can't quote doctrine, but I can keep you alive after a night of drinking with mercenaries."

Anastasia groaned, "NAIS needs to change their curriculum."

After a few minutes Joker came by. "Hey Hap, you got any of those vitamin tabs"?

"Yeah. In my go-bag. Grab my blanket too." Hap told him as poured himself a glass of water.

Joker never returned, but an hour later he walked into the head. After he went back to bed Hap nudged Anastasia and asked her if she needed to go. She immediately got up, and Hap waited for her. He saw she had only drank half the water so he finished it. Anastasia staggered out of the bathroom and Hap helped her get to her bed chamber, then went to use the head before climbing into bed himself.

Hap stretched out on his bed and thought about how badly his conversation with Anastasia had gone. "Hey Anastasia last time I ruined a relationship with a woman was because I just rushed into things with her." "Great Harold, I hear you, but let's rush into things anyways." Then there was every time she called him Harold and how his heart melted a little. He shook his head, they had to work on getting to know each other, and being lancemates. He tried to not think about holding her again.

He also realized if Joker heard about him having a drunk Anastasia that owed him some unspecified debt he would never hear the end of it. Of course, by being a good guy and treating Anastasia with some respect he managed not to have her get sick in his bed. Once more he haphazardly came out ahead.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 26 April 2020, 10:19:54
*claps, with a big smile* Excellent Sunday Morning reading...
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 26 April 2020, 18:27:56
I'm reminded of why my wife - who's not into sci fi, let alone giant robots - loved Robotech. Come for planes with feet, stay for the story ;)
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 28 April 2020, 13:17:58
Interesting very interesting, I hope there is more to come
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: warhammer74 on 30 April 2020, 23:14:03
Good Story.   Whats a Lancer the mech Lucky died in?
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 01 May 2020, 02:01:27
Good Story.   Whats a Lancer the mech Lucky died in?

I'm sorry. Lucky's 'mech was a JVN-10N Javelin. I'm not sure why I wrote Lancer. I'm going to correct that. Thank you for reading.

Also more updates are coming soon. I had to slow down, and I've had a few things going on this week. I will have a few more chapters up this weekend.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 01 May 2020, 16:57:10
Chapter 11
August 3029
Kalathar System jump point.

To her surprise, Anastasia woke up with only a mild headache. She dressed quickly and looked down at the 'Mech charm. She stayed in the private cocoon of her bed chamber and thought about the events of last night. She probably owed Harold an apology for a few things she said, particularly the "better wife" comment. She also considered that maybe she was being a little too forward. She liked being close to Harold, and thought he felt the same way, but he seemed uncomfortable. Now she knew it wasn't that he didn't like her, he just wanted to get to know her before things got too serious.

Anastasia sighed, Harold was a class act, he'd been looking out for her since they met, and last night was an amazing display of constraint and kindness. He even held her hair while she was sick. If Harold wanted her to slow down she'd try, but it was going to be hard for her because she liked to be held, and snuggled, and put her head on his big muscular shoulder. When they were watching the movie and he had pulled her into him that was exactly what she wanted, which was why she was trying to pull him over to her when it happened.

She heard something large hit the deck and knew it was Joker jumping out of the bed above her. She waited a moment. She wasn't ready to deal with him yet. He enjoyed tormenting her, and she had taken his money last night. She also wanted to ask Harold if she owed Joker an apology for anything she had said or done. There were parts of last night that were a little foggy for her.

She opened up her bed chamber and found Hap sitting on the edge of his bed putting on his boots. He looked up at her and gave her a concerned look, "Hey. How are you feeling?"

Anastasia smiled, "Good morning Harold. I'm fine, just a mild headache." She said as she pushed herself off her bed. She wanted to sit with him and talk, really she wanted to get him into his bed compartment, close the door, and curl up under the blankets with him, and figure out their relationship. She was starting to understand how much she really didn't understand about relationships.

She rarely saw or interacted with anyone her own age growing up, and most of her relationships at NAIS were, at best, rivalries. She knew how to keep someone at arm's length. She saw how her parents interacted and they had a wonderful and healthy relationship. Anastasia had no idea of how to go from just meeting someone to what they had. She had also watched her freshman year roommate throw herself at men, get abused, and wonder why her "man of the month" didn't respect her. Anastasia knew her roommate was a fool, but now she knew she was doing similar things with Harold.

"May I sit with you?" Anastasia asked

Hap looked at her confused, "Yes. Of course, you don't have to ask."

She grabbed her boots as she stepped across the hall and sat down next to him. "I think I may need to apologize for some of the things I said or did last night."

"We were both drunk. I don't think either of us are going to remember last night too clearly. We might have said some things we probably shouldn't have, but I doubt there is anything to apologize for."

"Do you think we 'need to slow down'?"

Hap nodded, but instead of saying yes he asked, "You think you could be 'a better wife'?"

Better than the contentious shrew that hurt him and made him hesitant to take a chance on her. Oh easily, Anastasia thought to herself. She nodded, but said, "I probably shouldn't have said that."

Hap smiled, "You're not saying it, but I can tell you definitely think you could be a 'better wife'."

Before Anastasia could say anything Joker entered the hallway.

"Good morning Anastasia!" He said nearly shouting "How are you doing? Last night you weren't looking too good." She knew he was talking loud trying to aggravate her headache.

"Good morning Joker." Anastasia said quietly.

"Take it easy on Anastasia, Joker. She had a hard time sleeping last night." Hap said, "She had that big wad of poker winnings to sleep on."

"Some of that was your money." Joker huffed.

Before they could start fighting Hap suggested they get breakfast. McFinnigan was glad to see Anastasia up and moving. He was concerned she might have had too much to drink. Hap apologized for how the poker game ended and McFinnigan laughed. He reminded Hap the purpose of the game was to get to know them, and he certainly learned a lot. McFinnigan told them that they still had a few hours before they docked with the Jump Ship and he mentioned that would be enough time to repaint the Valkyrie.

Hap got the hint and took Anastasia and Joker down to the 'Mech Bays and got the Valkyrie painted with McFinnigan tartan colors before the ships docked. They cleaned up, packed their few belongings and met McFinnigan and Roweyna at the main hatch.

The Drop Shuttle docked with the Jump Ship and they started to get warnings and information from the Jump Ship. They had about 45 minutes to move between Drop Shuttles. It was a quick trot across several decks of the Jump Ship. but they made it with several minutes to spare.

At the main hatch for the Tir A Nog they were met by a lanky man smoking a cigarette, and a woman that looked like a slightly older and slightly taller version of Roweyna. Unlike her daughter her hair was red with blonde or silver streaks. She gave everyone a warm smile as McFinnigan introduced his wife to everyone and them to Mrs. Elinor McFinnigan. She was extremely likable and gracious. The man was James "Fletch" Fletcher. He was the XO for the mercenary company. He had a no nonsense demeanor and as McFinnigan started walking Fletch went down a list of various business matters.

Elinor and Roweyna started talking like mother and daughter as Joker, Hap and Anastasia followed behind. Anastasia noticed that the mother and daughter began whispering and Elinor gave Harold a few strange looks. Anastasia wondered what Roweyna was telling her mother.

Within a few minutes they found themselves in the galley of the shuttle. It was, like the other drop shuttle, setup like an Irish Pub, except this one had "Fiddler's Green" over the bar. It was full of people. There were families, children, Anastasia even noticed a cat on the bar.

When McFinnigan entered the room it got mostly quiet, a baby was cooing and there were a few young children running around but everyone else was still. He smiled at everyone and shook a few hands as he moved to the dais with its own table at the front of the bar.

The ship's public address system warned the jump was imminent. Hap, Anastasia, and Joker sat at a table in the center of the pub that happened to empty. The ten second count started and parents grabbed children. Roweyna picked up the cat as she sat on the bar stool. There was a low hum and everything started to shake, then everything seemed to stretch and suddenly there was a loud clap. Everything returned to normal. Anastasia had a momentary feeling of sickness, but it passed quickly.

McFinnigan stood up. "As some of you may know we're on our way to Monhegan. We're going to protect the planet's star port for a few weeks so the planet garrison can enjoy the holidays. It'll take a couple weeks to get there, but it will also be easy duty." As he spoke there were cheers from the crowd.

"And no cadets or new lieutenants?" Someone across the pub called out, and there were more cheers.

"We need to talk about that" McFinnigan held up his hands to calm the crowd, "I'm sure most of you have noticed I brought strangers with me. I know some of you are thinking, 'oh no the old man found another stray like David Lee'." There were a few laughs, and Anastasia saw commotion at the table next to them. There was a young Asian man sitting at the table and his table mates were nudging him.

McFinnigan continued, "Well I think we can all agree, David Lee's proven to be a valuable member of this company." There was a few cheers from the table next to Anastasia, "But let me show who I found."

The lights dimmed and wall mounted view screens flicked on. The screens were black but their speakers were on and everyone heard, "Commander, were getting a distress call on the guard channel."

McFinnigna's voice came next, "Aye. Push it into my chamber."

Anastasia heard her voice, "This is Cadet Valois. I'm isolated, and being pursued by a heavy lance. Requesting immediate assistance or evac."

"Do ye have a visual?" McFinnigan asked.

A picture popped up on the screen it looked like it was from a satellite or high altitude recon vehicle. The screen showed a large sweeping forested plain. The screen zoomed in and Anastasia saw her Valkyrie being pursued by the Quickdraw and the Thunderbolt.

Erik's voice came next, "This is a rabbit hunt. We know how this will end, the hounds will rip her apart."

McFinnigan replied, "Aye, perhaps." And they didn't speak for a few moments. Anastasia watched as she tried to out run the two 'Mechs. Instinctively she reached for Hap's hand as she remembered this moment. She was trying to lose the 'Mechs in a heavily forested area by jumping as far as the 'Mech would take her and every few leaps she'd spin around and launch a salvo of missiles at the Quickdraw.

Between the spinning and firing she accidentally jumped into a clearing and the Grasshopper went full throttle and closed the distance with her. As she tried to leap way he fired every weapon he had at her and at the same time the Thunderbolt hit her with his large laser and long range missiles. Although a few of the Quickdraw's lasers missed, and several of the missiles sailed past her, the barrage caught her mid-air. The lasers and missiles melted and blasted armor from all over her 'Mech and the sudden loss of weight and impact from the blows to make her 'Mech start to tumble in mid-air.

"I think that's it commander. She's gonna fall and they'll tear that her apart."

Anastasia's mouth went dry as she remembered her panic trying to keep the 'Mech upright. The Valkyrie landed hard on her left foot and the right foot swept backwards like a ballerina. The Quickdraw kept running and Valkyrie hit him with her own missiles and then with a snap of the arm the Valkyrie's medium laser shot a beam right into the Quickdraw's head. It wasn't powerful enough to breach the cockpit but it made the Quickdraw pilot pause.

There was a cheer from the tables around her as the Valkyrie started moving again and the Thunderbolt's laser missed her. Anastasia couldn't believe they were cheering for her.

"Looks like the rabbit hunt is still on." Erik's voice said over the monitor

"That's not a rabbit, that's a fox. It has some teeth and claws, and I dare say the hounds will remember next time they try to corner her." McFinnigan said. It was clear he was excited.

Anastasia heard her own voice start to request help again but this time it was interrupted by Harold. She squeezed his hand and felt the same reassuring pressure. The room full of Mercenaries laughed at the banter between Tuna and Joker as Hap directed Anastasia and yelled at his subordinates.

"Why do you think they aren't moving to help her?" Erik asked.

"Not sure. The FedCom and RDMM were in full retreat to their marshalling point. The fact anyone is still out here is a bit of a miracle."

The screen changed to a tactical view of a topographical map. In a moment it highlighted seven blue triangles and dozens of red triangles. The screen zoomed in on three blue triangles moving west from Anastasia's position. The computer reported it was a Commando, a Phoenix Hawk and a Vulcan.

"I think this is the fox's lance. They seem to have abandoned her. Those damn cadets, why'd they leave her?" There was anger in McFinnigan's voice. The screen zoomed back out then zoomed in on the other blue triangles. It identified the Griffin but the second triangle disappeared a few times before the system marked it, "unknown 35 tons". It struggled with the third triangle before marking it "unknown 50 tons".

"So these are the ones that are trying to help the Fox. That canyon looks like a good place for an ambush. I suspect Hooligan four and his lance are real soldiers, pity those damn bastards that left their lance mate can't see how real professionals work."

The view switched back to the live view. Anastasia watched as the Quickdraw was closely following her Valkyrie until a barrage of missiles hit him just as he landed. The Quickdraw started to deviate its path and the Valkyrie started to get further away from him.

There were more cheers as the recorded McFinnigan laughed, "Aye. They're pros."

There was a third voice. "Looks like the lance moving west is headed toward another drop zone. I have another Leopard on my scanners."

"Aye Hawkins. I should have guessed we weren't the only ones paid to pull these royal ass pains out." McFinnigan said annoyed.

Harold and Anastasia started talking on the radio again, and Anastasia saw herself pause in front of the cliff. The Thunderbolt and Quickdraw shot at her and she ran into the narrow crack in the stone. Just as the Valkyrie got in position next to the Griffin the Quickdraw entered the narrow canyon. Joker's Firestarter jumped out of the smoke and fire and attacked the Quickdraw from behind as there was a low murmur from around the room. When the Quickdraw turned to address the light 'Mech the Hunchback stepped out of the smoke. There was claps and cheers and someone yelled, "That'll teach you to pick on someone your own size."

"Hawkins, I'm looking at the tactical display, these poor bastards are good, but their cut off. Do we have enough fuel to burn to go and grab them?"

As he spoke the Hunchback destroyed the Quickdraw. There were more cheers from around the pub.

"Already made the calculations Commander." Hawkins replied

The camera lost the view of the battle field as the Leopard changed direction. When the canyon came back into view the Hunchback shot its main cannon at the Thunderbolt, but it seemed unphased.

"A Thunderbolts a hell of a machine," Erik said, "With it's thirteen tons of Ryerson 150 armor it can take a couple hits from the Hunchback's AC 20 before the pilot has to worry."

"Aye. It looks like the Firestarter harassed him though so that'll keep him from using his main-" McFinnigan stopped mid-sentence as the Hunchback shot the Thunderbolt again and the Thunderbolt responded by raising its fist overhead and bringing it down on the Hunchback's cockpit. From the higher angle of the Leopard's cameras it was obvious the head was crushed and the pilot was certainly dead.

There were curses and gasps around the room. Anastasia felt Harold squeeze her hand this time. She glanced over at him but his eyes were fixed on the screen, but she could see him blinking away a tear.

The battle continued as the three remaining 'mechs destroyed the Thunderbolt. As the right side of the Mech exploded there was more cheers. The way people reacted made Anastasia felt like they had just won a Solaris VII match. The Leopard dropped altitude again and the camera lost the view of the hill. The screen switched back to the topographical map. There was only three blue triangles now, but there seemed to be more red triangles.

"Commander, they're massing light 'Mechs on their position and bringing in indirects." Hawkins said.

"Aye, Patch me into the guard channel."

The screen went blank and lights came back up.

A dark haired young woman was walking between tables passing out cold pints of dark beer. She set out three in front of Anastasia and her lance mates. As Anastasia looked around she could see several of the men and woman were looking at her and her friends with respect. She got a couple nods and lifted glasses she grabbed her glass and returned the gestures as Harold and Joker did the same.

McFinnigan was back on the dais. "So now you know the caliber of the three MechWarriors I brought into the family. Before I introduce them, let's take a minute for their lance mate. I only saw him for a few moments, but he died a warrior's death. He held his position, fought next to brother and sister, stacked skulls, and gave his enemy hell. Somedays I think it's the best any of us can hope for."

Someone in the back yelled, "Gnó Teaghlaigh" and there were more shouts of the same.

McFinnigan smiled wryly, "Aye that's the Family Business." He drank and everyone followed. "To the family." He said as everyone drank again, "And the ones who can't be with us tonight." He added. Everyone finished their pint and again the dark haired girl was rushing between tables exchanging empty glasses for full ones.

McFinnigan accepted a fresh pint and motioned to Harold to stand. "This is Harold 'Haphazard' or 'Hap' Calahad. He piloted the Griffin. He tells me his strategies tend to be a little random or improvised, but I assure you he has a good head on his shoulder." Hap gave a small wave to the room before sitting down.

McFinnigan motioned to Joker. "This is William 'Joker' Cameron. Ye talk to him for a few minutes and you'll know why they call him Joker. Ye heard him on the radio transmission too. And you can see, like any good prankster and nuisance he's a good Firestarter pilot."

"Hap assigned me to a Firestarter, so I could be just as big a pain-in-the-ass to the enemy as I was to him."

"Aye, and that should tell ye all you need to know about Joker." McFinnigan said. "Now sit down."

As Joker sat down McFinnigan motioned to Anastasia, "Now I know how ye all loved working with the Federated Suns and the Commonwealth's finest cadets and new officers."

There was a collective groan from around the room.

"Aye, and as a good patriarch, I decided we should have one to keep." McFinnigan said magnanimously

There was laughter all around, and the loudmouth in the corner called out, "At least it's a cute one."

Anastasia blushed as McFinnigan replied, "I didn't hire her for her looks, or because she gave some sob story, Brendan. This is the Valkyrie pilot that eluded, harassed and, in the end, led two greater 'mechs and probably more experienced MechWarriors into an ambush. She might come from one of those elitist and entitled schools, but I assure you, she's a hard worker and has a place among us. This is Anastasia Valois. Now, welcome your new brothers and sister into the family."

Everyone was on their feet in an instant and Anastasia felt overwhelmed as men and woman from all over the galley came up and introduced themselves, congratulated her and Harold and Joker, and shook her hand or gave her a hug. She couldn't keep track of half the names or who the people were. There were also lots of children of all ages. It was the most bewildering thing for her.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 01 May 2020, 16:59:18
August 3029
Edwards System

Eventually food was served, it was classic fish and chips with squishy peas. The various groups broke off to their regular spots, and Anastasia, Harold and Joker found themselves alone for a moment. Joker poked at his peas with his fork, "It looks like someone forgot to add water to the pea soup concentrate."

Before Hap could answer Fletch sat down at their table. He had a pint and a cigarette in one hand. "Let me personally welcome you to the family. I'm James Fletcher the company XO. Everyone calls Fletch."

"Hello Jimmy-" Joker started to say.

"Shut up." Fletch snapped. He took a drag of his cigarette then continued, "The old man probably spent the last few days filling your heads with ideas that this family of his is damn near a charity that runs on kindness and home brewed beer, and everyone bakes each other's bread and sometimes we fight if someone offers us enough money.

Fletch's tone somehow got more serious, "Let me assure you, this is a professional mercenary outfit that has a notorious reputation for audacious lightning raids, and high risk, high intensity combat operations. We've worked for every major house, and if we're offered enough money there isn't too much we won't do. Are any of you going to have a problem with any of this?"

"No Sir!" Hap replied for his Lancemates.

"We'll see." Fletch said as he took another drink, then leaned forward again. "The Commander said-"

Fletch stopped and looked over his shoulder. There was a man with a blank look staring at Anastasia.

"You want something Dillon?" Fletch barked

"I wanted to ask Anastasia to dance." Dillon replied

Fletch looked up and cocked his head to the side, "There's no damn music, Dillon."

"Well I wanted to be the first-"

Before Anastasia could say "No." Hap held up both their hands and said, "She already has a dance partner." Anastasia wasn't sure what to make of that. She appreciated the gesture, but she had a great deal of practice telling men, "no".

"Uh, what about the second-" Dillon started to drawl.

"Get the hell out of here Dillon." Fletch yelled. Fletch took a long pull on his cigarette sighed heavily. He looked annoyed as he said, "Like I was saying the Commander said you" He pointed the two fingers that held his cigarette at Harold, "were going to be the lance leader for his recon lance. I want you to know that he doesn't usually let a new hire command a lance."

"Noted. Thank you sir."

"Stop calling me sir, and stop sitting up tall. You're not a Lieutenant or Leftenant or officer in the AFFS, you're a Mercenary, grow a beard. I see you've already decided to make mistakes with this one." He pointed at Anastasia and then took a long drink. He gave Hap a smirk "Don't look so shocked. I married into McFinnigas's Armored Circus. Let me set you straight on a few things"

He looked around the room and then spoke in fluent Russian.

A tall blonde modelesque woman walked up to the table and sat down on Fletch's lap. "This is my wife Tatyana." Not only was Tatyana gorgeous, she was wearing a plaid skirt and a low-cut blouse that was tailored to snugly fit around her thin waist and ample breasts.

"Hello" She purred with a thick Russian accent and gave everyone at the table a warm smile.

Tatyana took Fletch's cigarette and started smoking as he continued, "I used to be a fast tracking officer in the LCAF. Any of you ever remember General Horzdof? No. It was about ten years ago, probably before your time. He got caught accepting bribes and giving preferential military contracts to companies he owned stocks in. I was a Lieutenant Colonel and his Aide De Camp. When he went down I was pushed out of the military. I wasn't part of his schemes, so I kept my pension, but I was out."

Fletch took a drink, "I had plans to make general myself, and never made time for a life, and only had a few friends. All I knew was how to pilot a 'Mech and work LCAF bureaucracy. When they kicked my ass to the curb I was at a loss. Then one day I meet the she-wolf, here, at a bar."

"I am Volchitsa." Tatyana told them, as she exchanged Fletch's cigarette for his beer.

"Sorry. Her call sign is Volchitsa, Russian for she-wolf. So I meet her, thought at first she was some type of honey pot for Capellan intelligence. Shows you how desperate I was. We start talking and one thing leads to another and she re-introduces me to Kelly."

Fletch paused to light up another cigarette. "We'd hired McFinnigan to do personal security for the general when he wanted to tour the front. So I asked Kelly if he could use a disgraced LCAF Sr. Officer. He signed me on the spot. Even stranger Tatyana wasn't a spy, she just liked washed up bitter old men."

"Dah. I have a thing for bitter old men. Reminds me of my father." Tatyana said as she returned his beer.

Fletch shrugged, "A little while later I asked Tatyana to marry me." She laid her head on top of his, and for a moment Fletch appeared less mean. "My point is fraternization rules in a house army is a good idea, you don't want senior leaders pressuring junior subordinates into things, but now you're in a mercenary company with a pretty flat hierarchy. As long as you can keep your domestic disputes outside the cockpit, and not piss off your lance mates, no one really cares what two adults do. "

"I go put Sophia in bed now." Tatyana said as she kissed Fletch and gave him a tender squeeze.

He leaned back and watched her go, then looked back at the three of them, "Having said that, here are things you can't do. Don't screw around with anyone's wife or husband, or cheat on yours. Kelly and Elinor are serious Catholics, and they don't put up with that shit. Honestly, it's corrosive to the unit too."

He took another draw of his cigarette, "Don't use drugs unless the doc gives them to you. Also I know it looks like we're all alcoholics, but you need to stop drinking eight hours before mission time. Don't get caught lying, cheating, or stealing either, once the old man feels he can't trust you, he's going to release you from your contract." Fletch finished his pint and held it up to catch the eye of a bar maid.

"So fight hard, be a good family member, help out, and avoid adultery, drugs, lying, cheating, stealing, and drunk 'mech piloting and you'll make good money here." Fletch took another long draw on his cigarette, "Screw up, and I'll come down on you like an Atlas's fist."

There was a pause, then Hap asked "Is anyone going to have a problem with me getting a lance?"

"Mostly no. Like I said, usually the old man makes you earn the right, but you've already led half your lance in combat, and you were an AFFS officer. They saw you in action, they know you got the chops."

He received a new beer and stood up. "Now for the moment I've been looking forward too." He looked around and saw a crowd around a table in the corner. He motioned for them to follow as he started walking. When people noticed Fletch they cleared a space for him, he still had the air and bearing of a senior officer and even in this wild bunch it commanded respect. In the corner they could see a tall burly man sitting across the table from a short young woman with olive brown skin and silky black hair that was in a neat bun pinned to the back of her head with what looked like large steel pins.

The woman was wearing black track pants, and an olive drab tank top. On her shoulder was a tattoo of the Cerillos flag. She also had "La Familia" tattooed in script on one wrist, a cross on the other wrist, and the Virgin Mary could be partially seen on the back of her right shoulder. On the table were several large bottles one half filled with a clear alcohol, dozens of shot glasses, and a substantial pile of C-bills.

"Grizz, Mags, why don't you two call it a night?" Fletch suggested.

"What are they doing?" Anastasia asked

Grizzly, the burly man, carefully picked up a full shot glass. He looked at it blearily eyed, "Well we were going to scorpion wrestle, but the doc and the load master wouldn't let me bring scorpions on the ship." He said as he threw the shot back, and swallowed hard.

"Because they're candy asses." Mags said as she carefully lifted a shot glass and drank it. Then slowly set it down. For a moment it looked like she was about to lean out of her seat, but she caught herself.

"No, because no one wants to travel across the galaxy in a ship infested with scorpions." Fletch said.

"Then why the hell do we have a cat?" Grizzly asked

"One, because I can't trust you ****** not to try and bring shit like scorpions on a ship. Two, because it's Rowena's cat and the old man can't tell her no." Fletch replied

"Oi! What's this about me?" Roweyna called from across the pub.

"Just talking about your cat, we all think it's a lovely beast." Fletch called out as Grizzly slammed down another shot of alcohol.

"Very good." Roweyna sang out and went back to talking to her mother.

The man next to Fletch giggled, "Oh! Yer talkin' 'bout the boss's daughter's pus-."

"I swear to god I'll throat punch you Smitty." Fletch threatened.

Mags took another drink. Slammed the glass down and then pounded her fist on the table as she tried to swallow. Once she got the liquor down she smiled wide at her table mate.

Grizzly took another glass and threw it back. He choked it down and gave Mags a toothy grin, and promptly collapsed under the table. Mags smirked and held the table edge as she carefully looked under it. Satisfied she had won she took the money and shoved it into her bra as she gingerly stood up.

A few people exchanged bills and started to pull the big man out from under the table as an old man with a large khaki military bag that had a faded cross painted on it kneeled down beside Grizzly. He pulled out an IV bag as he looked over his shoulder at Fletch, "This shit has to stop," He then looked around the crowd, "one of you idiots is going to get alcohol poisoning and then I'm going to in act the three drink minimum again."

There were groans around the room and Joker whined, "Oh man, even in a mercenary outfit, one guy shits his pants and everyone has to wear diapers."

Fletch sighed, "Well it's not one guy, and the Doc is right. I should have stopped it, but sometimes they need to blow off some steam, and it's fun to watch." Fletch took another draw on his cigarette and then pointed at Mags, then pointed at the ground in front of him.

She looked sullen as she slowly walked over, "Yes, Fletch."

Fletch smiled like a cat that had caught a mouse, "Oh Mags, I think I finally found the solution to one of my biggest problems, which is you."

"Who are these fools?" She glowered at Hap, Anastasia and Joker

"Well this is Joker and Valois, they're your new lance mates. And this is Hap, he's your new your Lance Leader. Hap, Valois, Joker, this is Marietta Maria Rose "Mags" Camacho."

"No f'n way. Commander McFinnigan said I was just going to be on my own spotting for Hammer lance."

"Yes, until we found a new recon lance. Which we did, so it's your lucky day. Actually it's my lucky day, because now you're Hap's problem." Fletch laughed evilly.

"I saw the video. They pilot slow ass 'mechs." Mags nearly shouted.

Anastasia and Hap exchanged looks. "You know were right here, and our 'mechs aren't that slow."

"They are compared to my Jenner." She snapped then looked at Joker, "What are you looking at?"

"I think I'm in love." Joker said.

"Did your 'mech take too many hits to the head?"

"Oh it's a like a match made in heaven. I feel like one of those dating services." Fletch cackled, "Mags, show your new lancemates to their berths. Which I hope you cleaned out like I ordered you."

Mags turned took a few steps and almost fell over. Joker caught her and she said, "Hey what are you trying to do? Cop a feel or steal my money? Either way I'll cut you."

"Fantastic" Fletch said as he walked away chuckling.

"What have we gotten ourselves into?" Anastasia asked Hap as they followed Mags and Joker

"An Armored Circus" Hap said shaking his head.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 01 May 2020, 18:18:00
*LOL*
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 01 May 2020, 18:18:40
Well Mags and Joker are either going to endup besties or 1 of them ends up with a crushed throat.

Either way well done
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 08 May 2020, 16:59:59
Chapter 13

Hap had never been on an Excalibur class drop shuttle. As he followed Mags he was surprised how big it was. Hap had been on Leopards and Union shuttles, but those were small cramped vessels. They had already passed several decks designed for infantry squads and vehicle crews. Mags mentioned most of the families and couples had the larger suites. She eventually led them to their berthing area. Like the Leopard it was a series of sleeping chambers built into the walls. Mags took them to the last four chambers near a T juncture. She drunkenly motioned around her while mumbling this was their section.

Mags started to undress and Hap instinctively looked away. He glanced at Anastasia. She was looking at Mags in disbelief. "Pardon me, Mags, where's the ladies head?"

She motioned to the hallway and the left. Anastasia took her go-bag and turned left at the juncture. Hap choose a bed chamber and found clean sheets and blankets in his wall locker. He busied himself making his bed and not looking at Mags as she completely undressed changed clothes and climbed into the bed above Hap.

Joker had been watching Mags as she changed. He also started undressing in the hall. Anastasia returned with one arm strategically covering her chest.

"Hello Anastasia." He said as he turned to face her.

"You're a pervert." She eyes flashed as she walked around him.

Joker turned to keep facing her, "I might be a pervert, and you might be a little prettier than Tatyana, but she has those legs that won't quit, and that huge rack, so she'd beat you in a beauty contest."

"Rack?" Anastasia asked as she opened her wall locker.

"Boobs. Her boobs are bigger than yours." Joker laughed as he pantomimed holding large melons.

Mags pushed open her bed chamber, "Hey dumb ass if Fletch hears you talking about Volsheyka's tits, he's going to throat punch you."

Joker laughed, "Good looking out, lancemate. And just so you know your boobs are pretty nice too."

"When I'm sober, and there's only one of you, I'm going to cut you." Mags groaned.

"Mags, are you going to be okay?" Hap asked as he stopped making his bed to look at her.

"I've been drinking for a long time. I just need you all to shut up so I can sleep." She growled

Joker walked away toward the male head whistling. Anastasia turned to Hap, "I'm starting to understand now what it means to be part of this unit, and I'm not sure if it's good or bad." She turned around and put her things into her wall locker. As she opened her bed chamber she let out a hurt gasp. Hap couldn't see her bed chamber but he could sense whatever it was had immediately gone too far.

Hap stood up and looked over her shoulder. On her bed was part of a 'Mech's hand welded to form a rude gesture. Leaning against the Mech was a strangely dirty looking stuffed rabbit holding a sign that read, "Screw you Jerry". There was also soiled laundry spread all over the sleeping chamber.

"Who's Jerry" Anastasia cried quietly as her shoulders drooped.

Mags started laughing uncontrollably, "Oh my god, I forgot all about the middle 'mech finger joke with Jerry and Crow, and I wondered what happened to Mr. Fudgeypants."

Hap looked at the mess on the bed. Mags confirmed this was between two other MechWarriors and had nothing to do with Anastasia, but she was still in the middle of it. He didn't want to touch the laundry or the stuffed rabbit. The 'Mech hand looked heavy, and he wasn't sure he could lift it. Joker came back around the corner.

He saw the look on Hap and Anastasia's face, and then looked at the bed. He immediately giggled. "Wow Anastasia, we've only been here a few hours and already someone's sick of your shit."

"But I'm not Jerry." Anastasia answered.

A red headed 'MechWarrior with a red beard and clear blue eyes jogged up. "Oh. I'm sorry. Yeah, this is my mistake. When we heard we were getting new Mechwarriors I should have cleaned all this up."

"Why would you do this?" Anastasia asked.

"Well, see this started a while back with me and Jerry. I'm Eugene Harrison, I pilot the Catapult in Hammer lance, which is the Fire Support lance. Call sign is Crow. So one time Jerry and I-"

"Eugene or Crow." Hap interrupted, "I'm Hap, nice to meet you. I'm sure we'll laugh about this in the morning, but right now we all just want to get to sleep. So why don't you help me clean this up-"

"Yeah we're going to need an Ammo cart to move the hand, its super heavy. The Mech techs probably won't let us have one until the morning." Crow replied.

"Where am I going to sleep?" Anastasia asked.

"You can sleep in my bed." Crow offered.

Hap didn't need to look to feel the cold stare that Anastasia was giving Crow.

"Oh, no. Sorry. I didn't mean it like that, I was gonna…see there's an observation deck on deck 2, it has a bunch of recliners, we call it the 'Dog House' for when a husband needs a couch to sleep on because he upset the misses. I guess wives could sleep there too…" Crow started to ramble.

"Crow, brother, stop. Anastasia can have my bed, and I'll sleep in the dog house, but first thing tomorrow you get this all cleaned up, and get Anastasia a new mattress." Hap said firmly.

"Yeah, yeah sure man." Crow said and then held out his hand. As Hap shook hands with him Crow looked at Anastasia and shrugged, "Sorry, about this whole thing. Good to meet you." He told her.

Anastasia sighed, "I accept your apology, just please clean it all up tomorrow."

Crow nodded and left, and in a moment Hap was the only one in the hallway as Joker climbed into his chamber, and Anastasia got into Hap's bed. Hap opened his locker and started putting his things away. He glanced at Anastasia sitting on his bed with cross legged. She was looking up at him.

"Can we talk for a moment?" Anastasia asked

Hap nodded as he sat down, "That little joke seemed to really effect you, at least for a moment."

"It reminded me of some of the jokes they played on me on the academy. I thought I was passed all that, I could already tell some of the mercenaries were crazy, but I didn't think them cruel. Then I saw that hand, for a few seconds I felt like I was back at NAIS. It took a moment to realize this wasn't about me."

Hap nodded, "I thought the same thing, but it was a pretty mean trick. Are you going to be okay?"

"If I say 'no' will you stay here, tonight?" Anastasia asked.

Hap looked at her, "I don't think that's a good idea Anastasia." Even if it was something he wanted.

"Harold, I've been looking forward to some peace and quiet all day. I'm sure you have too. You don't want to sleep in 'the dog house.' Let's just agree to keep our hands to ourselves, and we'll be fine."

Hap hesitated, then said, "I have been trying to get you alone and talk for the last couple days."

Anastasia smiled, "See. It's perfect, we can talk tomorrow, and we'll be rested, sober, and all alone."

"The all alone part is what I'm afraid of." Hap sighed, "Promise to be good?"

Anastasia smiled and nodded eagerly, "I'm always good." Hap noted something mischievous in her tone

Hap shook his head, "Let me change and get ready for bed." He quickly prepared himself and in a few minutes they were enclosed together in the bed chamber, under the same blankets, back-to-back and comfortable. Anastasia was pleased with herself. This was exactly what she wanted, Harold all to herself. Tonight they'd sleep close to each other, and tomorrow they'd figure out their relationship.

As Anastasia started to fall sleep Hap adjusted himself, rolled onto his back and pushed Anastasia closer to the wall. Anastasia got comfortable again and then Hap started snoring. This irritated her, mostly because his snoring hurt Anastasia's idea that Hap was the perfect man. She tried to sleep but he was too loud. Obviously there were ways to fix this, so it wasn't a deal breaker, but it was annoying.

Anastasia tried to elbow him, but he didn't stop the snoring. She rolled over and gave him a good shake, and pushed him back over toward his side of the bed. Hap responded by rolling toward her, wrapping his arms around and pulling her to him. For a moment Anastasia wasn't sure what was happening,

Hap slipped on arm under the pillow to support her neck and the other arm rested on her side. In the confusion she had one arm on his waist, but her other arm was pinned between them. Harold seemed to go back to sleep almost immediately. Anastasia wasn't sure if he had even woken up.

Other than her pinned arm she was very comfortable. Anastasia certainly liked being held close, and he had stopped snoring. Anastasia decided not to disturb Harold. She was happy, and felt content. She slept for a little while, but woke up as her arm went numb. She was trying to adjust herself and move her pinned arm, when Hap pulled her closer and said, "We should make pancakes for breakfast."

"How about crepes?" Anastasia answered without thinking as she continued to get comforteable.

Hap shook himself awake and asked in surprise, "Anastasia?"

"Harold, how many woman do you bring into your bed?"

Hap exhaled, "Sorry. We agreed to keep our hands to ourselves." He helped her turn around and for a moment Anastasia was disappointed to think that Hap was going to turn away from her again, but then he pulled her back into his chest. He laid his arm on top of hers and intertwined their fingers and wrapped their arms around her waist. She had to stop herself from cooing in delight. She felt secure, comfortable, and very special, but her heart was beating like she was sprinting for a fitness test.

Hap's head was right behind hers, "It's been a long time since I shared my bed, Anastasia. I guess I was half asleep and holding you made me think I was holding my ex-wife. When I was married there was a time when Kasara and I would make up from a fight, make love, hold each other through the night, then the next morning make breakfast and spend the day together. Maybe we'd have a picnic, or go out to the theater or dancing. Then we'd be fine, like we were just married again. But, a few days later we'd be fighting again, and the fights got nastier and it took us longer to make up."

"Oh." Anastasia replied, "I'm sorry I asked."

"Don't be." Hap said, "but it's why I want us to take thing slow. Which is sort of ironic right now."

"Yes, it is ironic. What happened to keeping our hands to ourselves?" Anastasia teased, she was so comfortable and happy, even hearing Hap talk about his ex-wife was just a minor annoyance.

She could feel Hap shrug as he said, "It wasn't working. It's a small space, so I either need to go-"

Anastasia pulled on Hap's arm so that he was hugging her tighter, "You're not going anywhere Harold."

"-Or we're going to have improvise something else." Hap said. "But we should sleep now."

Anastasia was too excited to sleep, "What did you and your ex-wife fight about?"

"Same thing most couples fight about, money, time, sex, kids. Somedays it was just whatever we found."

"Really? You seem so easy going."

Hap groaned, "When you really know someone, you'd be surprised how easily you can provoke them."

"Joker seems to excel at that." Anastasia said

"Joker tends to figure out ways to annoy people, but what he does is mostly at a surface level." Hap squeezed Anastasia, "Over the last couple days you've been trying to snuggle up to me or hold my hand. I suspect you're the sort of girl that likes to be held. It's a way you know you're adored and cherished."

Anastasia had never thought of that before, but he was right. She was certainly feeling cherished at the moment. "Aren't most women?"

"Kasara wasn't. She preferred quality time, and experiences. She was also an extrovert and wanted to be out with her friends. That's not to say she didn't like being held, but she was happiest when we were doing things together, especially the things she wanted to do, outside the house."

"Okay. Can we not talk about your ex though?"

"I'm trying not too." Hap paused, "My point was, you like being held, now imagine you married a man that refused to hold your hand, or sit next to you, or let you sleep in his arms. How would you react?"

"I would…" Anastasia was puzzled. She pushed herself more into Hap, and pulled his arm around her tighter. "I wouldn't accept that, or I'd resent that. It would be like you were saying you didn't love me." Anastasia paused for a moment, then asked, "You didn't do that to your ex-wife did you?"

"Not on purpose." Hap said reluctantly, "I've had a lot of time to think about some of my mistakes. If I had been smart, or paying attention, I could have avoided some of our problems, or just not have married her. But, back to us. I've only known you a few days, I like what I've seen so far, but I hardly know you. I don't know your middle name, birthday, your favorite color, or favorite food. Which is why-"

Anastasia interrupted, "It seems a little trivial, but Maria, March eighth, burgundy, and croquet madam with onion soup, and what about you Harold?"

Harold meant to tell her they should get to really know each other before things got physical, instead he answered, "Fredrick, September ninth, blue, I guess, and probably a good thick steak with a baked potato with sour cream and chives, and grilled broccoli."

"Mmm, There is nothing like a good rare steak. What about desert?" Anastasia liked this game.

"I'm not much a desert guy, but my mom used to make this apple pie from scratch. One of the few times she'd go all, and it would take her all day to make. That has my favorite desert. What about you?"

"A good apple pie is delicious. Abuela would take tart apples and mix them with a cheese cake the she wrapped it in a tortilla and fry it, and coat it with cinnamon and sugar. For me, though, I love a good chocolate fondant, especially when it doesn't melt on your plate but just dissolves in your mouth."

"I was thinking you were going to say something gourmet with some expensive and rare ingredient."

"Like crème brulee on top of a kincha compote?"

"Yes. Exactly. Isn't kincha addictive and illegal?"

"Have you never had it? It's so good you won't care how addictive or illegal it is." Anastasia said excitedly.

"Considering it only grows on one planet that is hotly contested between the Free World's League and the Capellan Confederation I've never seen or had it. Even imitation kincha is too expensive for me."

Hap could feel Anastasia settling in and for a moment He thought she was going to sleep, but she said, "You're worried we won't be happy because I'm high class, expensive, and I sound pretentious."

"Not pretentious, you told me you like hamburgers over steak tar-tar, and you made tuna noodle casserole into something I could crave, which I guess was a little fancy, but-I'm just, I'm just getting to know you, and I still like everything about you. We really should continue this in the morning."

"Agreed, but I want you to know, that I may like some of the finer things, but I don't need those things, there are other things I need." She said as she squeezed his arm. "Good night Harold."

"Good night" Hap mumbled as he held her close and enjoyed the smell of hair, and her warmth and softness, he even liked the soft murmurs she made as he squeezed her. He also knew if he didn't put a stop to this soon, that they wouldn't have much choice in how things would go, and he could only hope it wouldn't end in disaster.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 08 May 2020, 17:00:26
Chapter 14

Hap heard a loud bang and felt Anastasia jump. It took him a moment to remember why Anastasia was in his bed, and what was going on. He felt the rush of mixed feelings for how he wanted to get to know her before things got physical and the enjoyment of holding her, and wanting to be more intimate.

As he sorted his thoughts, Hap could hear voices talking in the hallway outside his chamber, he figured it was Crow taking care of the mess on Anastasia's bed. He was partially relieved to know she had a place to sleep and disappointed at the same time.

Anastasia moved Hap's arm so she could read his watch, then carefully tucked his arm back around her.

"What time is it?" Hap asked

"Just after 0700." Anastasia replied as she pulled the blankets around her tighter.

Hap tried to reach up and turn on the light, but Anastasia held tightly onto his hand. He pulled harder and she grabbed it with his free hand. In a moment they were wrestling and Hap was surprised that Anastasia was stronger than he would have guessed. She giggled as he struggled, but eventually Hap managed to pin her arms with a bear hug and get his hand free and flipped the lights on.

Hap loosened his grip and Anastasia pushed herself onto her side. They looked at each other eye to eye for a moment. Hap noted that her hair was disheveled, and there were streaks of red mixed in with the chestnut and dark brown hair. Her brown eyes were soft and doe like. He could faintly see brown freckles across her cheeks and nose. She was gorgeous and everything about her was soft and inviting.

Anastasia blew a few stray hairs out of her face "Was that really necessary?"

"Manhandling you, or turning the light on?"

"The lights." Anastasia said. "The manhandling was fun."

"I thought you'd want to get up and start your day. I think your bed just got cleaned off."

"I heard, but I'm happy here, Harold." Anastasia said as she laid her head on Hap's chest.

Hap rubbed her shoulder and enjoyed the moment then asked, "Why do you insist on calling me Harold and not Hap?"

"When we first met, I thought 'This man saved me, and he's handsome.' You had your hands on my shoulders, and I was waiting or hoping you would sweep me off my feet. When you said your name was Harold, but everyone calls you Hap. I didn't want to be like everyone to you, I want to be special."

"Then a few seconds later you were annoyed with me when I asked you about your friends."

"Mmm, yes, I was a little mercurial at that moment. In my defense, I was going through a lot that day, and my lack of friends is always a sore subject, but I thought we had a connection, I still think that."

"We have a connection, and you want to be swept you off your feet? I don't want to make fun of you, but you sound like a sappy drama holo."

"Harold, if I tell you something, would you keep it to yourself?"

"Certainly." Hap said. If it were anyone else he'd have been joking, but he really did want her trust.

"I like romance novels. I know they're terrible, and only slightly better than fan fiction, but when I get tired of reading technical things, I just relax with a horrible Harlequin novel."

Hap looked at her confused, "You're kidding. I can't believe you enjoy something so…tawdry."

Anastasia shook her head. "It's not that, it's romance, and relationships, and love at first sight-"

"And heaving chests and quivering members." Hap added

"Yes there's that." Anastasia agreed sheepishly, "but there's more. It's the happily ever after. I know it's foolish but I like them. When I first saw you, you smiled, you put your hands on my shoulder, and for a moment it seemed like one of those scenes. I don't know if that makes me foolish, or a hopeless-"

"A paradox." Hap said. Anastasia raised a questioning eyebrow, so he explained, "I understand you crave intimacy but you are careful who you let close. I also understand you don't want to be pre-judged by a call sign, especially when you can quote military doctrine better than the instructors I had at Albion."

"There's a reason why NAIS is considered a better school." Anastasia said with a smirk.

Hap chuckled, "I'd bet you're better than some of the instructors at NAIS, but it isn't just that. You work hard, and study hard, you're intellectual. The paradox is you're secretly enamored with romance novels, and you fantasize about unrealistic relationships with people you hardly know."

"First, not people, you. That's important. Second, you are just as enamored by action holos as I am of romance novels." Anastasia corrected. "And we both know they are just as stupid and unrealistic."

"You're just as enamored with action holos as I am, and besides they're great cinema." Hap replied

"They are, in fact, terrible pieces of cinema. I enjoy them, but I'm not enamored."

"Well then I'm not enamored either." Hap quickly replied

"Too late you already admitted it."

"Damn" Hap said sarcastically and squeezed her.

"Third, I'm a young women, I'm allowed to read dumb novels where people fall in love at first sight, get swept off their feet, have witty repartee, and have whirlwind romances that end happily ever after."

"Alright, but you were fantasizing all of that about a total stranger, you hardly knew me."

"Hardly knew you? I had known you for a good hour, or at least thirty minutes."

"And it took you four days to get into my bed? That's a lifetime in those books you read."

"Oh? So you're an expert on Harlequin novels now? When did you stop reading Harlequin novels?"

"Very clever. Really what's important here is I don't want a relationship based on first encounter feelings. In my experience, those don't last. You want a relationship that lasts right?"

Anastasia sighed, "I do, but I also want a relationship with more of this, more of you holding me."

"I think we're getting ahead of ourselves. I think we need to work on other things first."

"I've read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies, usually the other things are-" There was a commotion outside the sleep chamber and Hap and Anastasia could hear Joker and Mags arguing. "I don't want my first time to be where everyone can hear us, or know what we are doing."

Now Hap raised a questioning eyebrow, "You need to read different books. I wasn't referring to that. I was talking about how relationships have emotional and psychological aspects. If it's all physical, then that's all you have, but if you want it to last you need the emotional and psychological connections."

Anastasia frowned, but before she could respond there was a banging on the door. Hap rolled it up to find Joker squatting beside his bed. "Hey Ana-Oh. Hap, I was looking for you." He tilted his head to see Anastasia, "Good morning Anastasia." As he smiled and laughed. "Fancy, meeting both of you here."

"Good morning Joker." Anastasia said as she threw herself down and pulled the blankets up to her chin.

"I thought you told me fraternization was a bad idea boss." Joker teased

"Well people gotta sleep somewhere Joker, and her bed had that mech hand in it." Hap answered

"Yeah, Crow just hauled that thing off, and all that other stuff. So are you and Anastasia-"

"What did you need, Joker?"

"Crow mentioned we should get breakfast, and that Fletch would probably be looking for us. I tried to get Mags up but she told me to 'Eff off'."

Hap nodded. He turned over to Anastasia, "You want to change in here, or are you going to the head?"

"Here. Could you get my things, please?" Anastasia answered. "They are on third shelf of my locker."

Hap slipped out of the bed and stepped across the hall to Anastasia's locker. He found her coveralls folded, and a gray sports-bra laid out on top. Everything in her locker was neatly folded and laid out on the various shelves. Hap was still living out of his bag, and he knew Joker's locker looked like someone had tossed a grenade in it. Hap handed Anastasia her clothes and closed the berthing chamber door.

Hap banged on Mags door. The door was instantly thrown open, and a sleepy-eyed Mags angrily looked around then saw Hap. "What?"

"We're getting ready to go get breakfast."

"Eff off." She said as she started to close the door.

Hap caught the door. "Hey, if you're not feeling well, I understand. You drank a lot last night. If it were me I know I'd be feeling pretty bad."

She looked at him cautiously, "What are you saying?"

"Joker can grab you a breakfast plate." Hap said with a nod in Joker's direction.

"Why do I have to bring her breakfast?" Joker complained.

"Don't whine Joker, If you were feeling weak because you drank too much I'd-" Hap said

Mags sat up with a wince and a groan, "Who are you calling weak?" She asked

"Yeah, and what are you saying about me whining?" Joker added

"Shutup puta." Mags snapped as she jumped off her bed. "I'm not weak, no one has to bring me shit." She told Hap. She then turned to wall locker and cursed under her breath as she grabbed a bundle of clothes and a hygiene bag and headed toward the ladies head.

Joker looked at Hap, "What's a 'puta'?"

Anastasia opened up the door to Hap's berthing chamber, gave Joker a mean smile and said, "female dog." As she walked past him and brushed up against Hap on her way to the head.

Joker looked at Hap quizzically, "Female dog? Does that makes sense to you?"

"Puta means bitch, as in Mags was calling you a bitch." Hap explained

"Mags is a bitch." Joker replied, "Why is Anastasia so happy." His eyes got wide as he looked at Hap, "Did you and her work out some of your sexual frustrations?"

"Remember when I said, 'before this is all over I'm probably going to have to kick your ass'?"

"Maybe you and Anastasia didn't do anything, because you still have some frustrations." Joker said, "What do you think of Mags?"

"Well she's a tough girl that wants to prove she's better than all the men around her. The real question we need to be asking is if she actually means it when she says she's going to cut you."

"Yeah I think Mags is cute too." Joker said.

Hap sighed, "I got my hands full with Anastasia, she has a high school girl crush on me, and I'm trying to figure out this new life as a mercenary. Do me a favor today and try not to annoy Mags or Anastasia. I could really use the time to straighten out things with Anastasia, and get our lance together."

"Not piss off off Anastasia? It's so easy, I mean just now she didn't even curse. I gotta mess with her."

Before Hap could answer Mags and Anastasia returned. "We need to hurry, they only serve breakfast till 0900, and it's almost 0830." Mags said as she tossed her bag on her bed and kept walking. Joker quick stepped to get beside her and Anastasia and Hap followed behind.

They arrived at the galley with a few minutes to spare. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, porridge and an arrangement of breads, cold meats and raw fruits and vegetables. Hap and his lance mates were joined by Crow and another MechWarrior named Rolph Horsteng. Rolph was in his 40s had been a 'Mech tech until somehow he managed to collect the parts to a Trebuchet. Rolph was short but stocky. He had short curly gray hair, a handlebar mustache and steel blue eyes.

Both men were friendly and Hap found himself in an easy conversation with them. Joker and Rolph even teased each other. Mags quietly ate her breakfast and, in spite of her act everyone knew she was hurting, but her general demeanor made them just leave her alone. Anastasia was quiet and seemed to be deep in thought. Hap caught her eye a few times, but she just shrugged.

The conversation went on and Hap's mind drifted to Anastasia. She was naïve, and young, and beautiful and she was clearly infatuated with Hap, and Hap would be lying if he wasn't also infatuated with her. He didn't want to push her away, but it was going to be hard to not let anything get any more physical, and his concept of being a professional Mechwarrior made him question if this relationship was a good idea. On the other hand if he had to spend every waking minute with someone he'd rather it be Anastasia than Joker.

Fletch came up, he had a large cup of coffee and cigarette in one hand. "Crow, Rolph, take our new recon lance to the training deck. I want to familiarize them with our equipment and run them through a few drills." Crow nodded and stood up as he finished his coffee.

Hap couldn't believe this mercenary unit had that sort of tech. "Does the unit have training simulators?"

"Sorta." Crow replied as he scratched the back of his head, and started walking.

"More like we took a bunch of broken mech cockpits and wired 'em to holo viewers." Mags explained

"They work fine." Rolph defended, "Besides I like to think we took the skulls of our enemy and made them into something useful."

"Daddy and I almost built something like that, but Mother told us to just find a trainer with a 'Mech stable, instead of wasting time and money on a 'science project'." Anastasia quietly told Hap as everyone started walking out of the galley.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 08 May 2020, 17:02:09
Chapter 15

They went down a few decks and entered a large vehicle bay. There were several ground cars and trucks, a large recovery vehicle and a few random 'Mech and vehicle parts, plus several large storage containers. All were chained down or locked into anchor points on the deck. Near the back end of the deck was an assortment of command couches, partial cockpits, power cables, tables, holo projectors, a large cylinder marked "Lennox 60" that had dozens of power cables plugged into it. The couches and tables were arranged in a circle around the cylinder. It was noticeably warmer on this part of the deck.

At the table was an assortment of computers, computer parts and screens. There was a skinny young man and a teenage girl dressed all in black with electric blue hair and too much makeup. Crow led them up to the table. "Hey Codey, Mal, these are the new Mechwarriors."

The young man stood up. He was tall, lanky, wearing baggy clothes and had a short hair and a scraggy mustache. Hap introduced Anastasia, Joker and himself. He nodded to Hap, "Hello. I'm Codey, the master electronics tech for McFinnigans, and this is Malicious Logic, but we call her 'Mal', she's our main programmer." He motioned to the young woman.

Mal turned to look at them. She was wearing lipstick that matched her blue hair. Her black clothes, heavy eye-liner, makeup and hair made her skin look paler. She gave them a quick wave said, "Hey" and turned back to her screen.

Next to them was a table that was bowing under the weight of a large holo viewer and a group of large screens behind it. There was a muscular dark skinned man standing by the holo. Hap remember him from last night, he was Yorik Tomax. The holo projector next to him showed a map with four blue triangles, and a four red triangles. Hap glanced around and could see four teenagers sitting in some of the simulator cockpits.

"Alright, alright. Form up. Noah, get in that square formation." Tomax yelled, "I swear to god, I'll make MechWarriors out of you even if it kills you." Tomax spoke like a Drill Sergeant.

Tomax watched as the blue triangles started to form into a loose square. "Alright let him have it." He said quietly to Codey and Mal and the red triangles moved to engage the blue triangles. The young MechWarriors yelled and tried to coordinate with each other.

Tomax looked over to the new MechWarriors, "Let me finish with these younglings, then we'll get you guys in there. Mal can start loading your 'mechs into the system while these boys get schooled."

Tomax looked back at the tactical display, then switched one of the sider monitors to display technical information on one of 'mechs. "Conner, you're left side is nearly blasted to hell, turn your 'mech."

As Mal loaded the new Mercenaries 'mech configuration into the system Codey explained the cockpit configuration and how it simulated their 'mech and the holo projector in front of the cockpit would generate an exterior view. The system could be configured to allow the warriors to fight each other or could generate Opposing Forces (OpFor) or friendly forces for different scenarios. The computer generated 'mechs were AI driven, but Mal and Codey could give them some direction, or tell them who or what to target, seek, or avoid.

Once Hap, Anastasia, Mags, and Joker were comfortable Fletch showed up and started putting them through drills. Crow and Rolph also participated and Tomax allowed the younglings to watch how the new Recon lance responded to their scenarios. Hap was glad to hear Tomax compliment their activities to the young trainees.

Fletch kept them busy for the whole day with various drills and scenarios, and a few inter-lance match-ups. Throughout the day other MechWarriors in the company showed up and ran through some of the same drills or fought them.

Fletch and Tomax felt the lance looked good, but each corrected Mags for running ahead of her lance mates. She preferred to go fast, be aggressive, and use her 'Mech's speed and agility to its greatest advantage. Hap tried to explain they needed to stay together, mass firepower, and wait till the right moment to use her 'Mech's superior swiftness to flank, or pursue an enemy. She didn't agree but after Fletch and Tomax yelled at her she at least complied during the training.

Through the day the new mercenaries learned the basic structure of the company. McFinnigan and Sons was arranged into four lances. The main lance was Dullahan lance. It was a pursuit and raiding lance that consisted of Medium and Heavy 'Mechs that had the ideal balance of speed and firepower. It was similar to Hap's recon lance, except the Mechs were bigger, and slightly slower. The pursuit lance was McFinnigan's main lance because raids were their core business.

Crow and Rolph were part of the Fire Support lance, it consisted of 'Mechs that had indirect fire weapons as their primary weapon systems. Everyone referred to them as the hammer lance. They would stand at the edge of the battlefield and rain down missiles on the enemy. One of the roles of Hap's recon lance was to spot for Hammer lance.

The final lance was the command and assault lance. All the Mechs in this lance weighed 80 tons or more and were generally used for defense or full scale assault and destruction. They rarely took to the field, but when they did it was for jobs where point defense, or overwhelming damage and devastation were a contractual requirement.

Fletch and McFinnigan would also organize Mission Tailored Force Package depending on a contract or a specific mission. Fletch pointed out to Hap that his Griffin was a pretty useful 'Mech so he shouldn't be surprised when he was mixed into one of these packages.

They finished at dinner time, and Hap was happy they had met and worked with most of the MechWarriors from the company. He now knew most of the men and woman he would be fighting with and he was feeling better and more confident about his decision to join the mercenary outfit.

After dinner Crow invited them to play Spades. They led them down to a lounge on the same deck as their berths. Like poker, it was something Anastasia had never played. Hap explained the basic rules to her, and they paired off against Crow and Rolph.

Crow and Rolph proved better than Hap and Anastasia and after a few hands they decided to sit out. Joker got Mags to be his partner and they were better competition for the members of the Hammer lance. Hap decided to watch because he enjoyed the general trash talking and camaraderie of the spade game. Anastasia sat next to him, and leaned on him while they watched the game.

David Lee, the company's other Valkyrie pilot, tried to talk to Anastasia about the model of 'Mech they shared. Anastasia gave him a few succinct answers until he decided to leave her alone. Hap wasn't sure if David was trying to flirt with Anastasia or if he was just being friendly. He also wasn't sure if Anastasia was being awkward or if she didn't want to talk. Hap suspected David was being friendly, but Anastasia was so used to pushing people away she didn't always know when or how to make small talk.

When Hap announced he was going to bed Anastasia did the same. They started back to their berths, but being new to the ship they got lost. As they retraced their steps Hap asked, "What do you think?"

Anastasia shrugged, "Most of these mercenaries are pretty good, or at least competent. I wish Mags would listen and stay in formation, or just stay within optimal LRM range of the lance."

"She'll figure it out." Hap replied. "I used to have the same problem with Joker. I'd pair him off with Lucky and tell them to stay within a few hundred meters of Tuna and me. Just so I could cover him, and we could quickly close when they found the enemy. We usually found ourselves in a lopsided square."

"A 'lopsided square' like a parallelogram? That's not doctrinal." Anastasia said.

"Yeah, a parallelogram. It was terrain and 'mech type dependent, so technically that's doctrinal."

She pursed her lips, and gave her head a small shake, "Not really. What we really should do is form a wedge. Place me on point with my advanced sensor package, have you and Joker behind me, and then have Mags trailing behind you."

"That sounds good, except I think I should be on point, because my armor is heavier." Hap said.

"No. Your Griffin's weapons are all long range so my medium laser makes up for your lack of short range, and give you that extra standoff to keep your PPC effective. Joker and Mags have highly maneuverable 'Mechs so they can quickly flank the enemy while we fix them at range. The wedge formation allows us to adjust to terrain and quickly bring our maximum fire power to bare."

Hap could see her point. "Why didn't you bring this up earlier?"

"Because Joker would have made some glib comment, and Mags would argue that her 'Mech is fast so we should keep up, or tell me to find better tactics for her 'Mech's speed. It's just giving them an opportunity to mock me, but if you suggest it, they won't question it." Anastasia said.

Hap was quiet for a moment. "You want to be my assistant lance leader?" Hap asked

"Giving me some title isn't going to make them listen to me."

"I know, but I actually need an assistant lance leader to give me advice, and more importantly to do the things I don't want to do, like fill out paperwork."

Anastasia's eyes narrowed, "We're in a mercenary company, how much paperwork can there be?"

"Doesn't matter because you're my assistant lance leader now, so you'll be doing it."

Anastasia shrugged, "The jokes on you, I actually like filling out paperwork."

Hap chuckled, "of course you do." They turned a corner and found themselves in their berthing area.

"Does assistant lance leader come with any perks, like private meetings?" Anastasia asked suggestively

"Uh…if it's necessary, yes." Hap said as she stepped into his personal space.

"Good, because if you're going to off load unpleasant tasks to me, and if I have to put up with Joker's terrible jokes, and Mag's threats I'm going to need some time alone."

"Okay, that's not a problem." Hap replied as he sat down on his bed.

"With you." Anastasia said as she sat down next to him.

"Anastasia, we'll spend time together. I do want a relationship with you, I just want to make sure we let our relationship grow in more ways than just the physical. And, you really need to figure out how to be friends with Joker and Mags. Honestly you might have it easier than me getting past Mags tough-girl exterior. Maybe you should talk to her and see if you two don't have something in common."

"Like shoes or clothes?" Anastasia said sarcastically, "I hardly think she knows what good shoes are, and her style, such as it is, could charitably be called 'tactical'."

"To be fair all I've seen you in is boots, military coveralls and an oversized T-shirt."

"That's because it's all I had in my 'Mech or what I could get from the Company store." Anastasia replied, "When we get to a civilized world, I assure you I'll dress differently. Although I don't really follow fashion trends. At least not the current wide shoulder nonsense. It looks ridiculous on me."

Hap laughed at Anastasia's annoyance, and gave her a gentle squeeze on the shoulder. Hap said, "This is our unit now. Joker is a pain in the ass, and Mags is undisciplined, but when the fighting starts I'm sure they'll have our backs. Besides the company is more than just Joker and Mags. Crow seems nice."

"The guy that put a mech hand in my bed?" Anastasia replied

"That was a misunderstanding, and he apologized. What about David Lee, he's seems friendly?"

Anastasia gave Hap a questioning look, "I'm not sure if he's being friendly or trying to be more than a friend. Either way conversations with him are awkward, even for me."

Hap shook his head, "Dillon also seemed to try and talk you up."

"I don't want to be mean, but Dillon's a…he's a simpleton. He's also made it clear that I still owe him a dance. I'm a little surprised he's a MechWarrior, but he seemed capable in the simulator."

"His lance leader was in the simulator next to mine. Fiona coaches him, not anything excessive, but she tells him which target to engage, and where to stand. His Dervish is mostly indirect fire, so it works."

Anastasia nodded, "So, are you going to be like Mother, and tell me that I need to make more friends?"

"Well not after you say it like that. No. However, I was impressed by everyone we met today. Usually Mercenaries have a reputation for being undisciplined, psychotic, and poor quality warriors. Everyone today, even Dillon, seemed pretty good. I'm also sort of enjoying the family atmosphere."

"I preferred the big bureaucracy of the AFFS, an organization spanning galaxies that a girl could get lost in. Everyone here wants to talk to me, and I just want a quiet place to read, or talk to you."

"Yeah, but no one is calling you Princess."

Anastasia shrugged, "That's true, I suppose. On a different subject, I still owe you something."

Hap looked at her confused, "What?"

"We had that wager. I lost when we played highest card to see who would get your blanket."

"Oh that. Yeah, I almost forgot about that."

"I really don't like being indebted to anyone, even you. Please tell me what I owe you. I could bake you something, or if you want some of my winnings from that night, just name it. If it were anyone else I'd be worried you'd ask me to do something degrading, but I know you're not that kind of man. "

Hap gave her a strange look, "What do you consider degrading?"

Anastasia gave him a startled look, "Harold, no. Just no. Whatever you're thinking the answer is no."

"I'm just curious. You don't use obscene language, but I know the books you read. So I have to wonder."

"I read 'those books' occasionally, and I think you know what is, and is not, degrading."

"One person's degrading sex act, is another's good time." Hap replied, as Anastasia gave him a sour look. "What if I got a luxury hotel room with good room service, and invited you to a topless weekend?"

Anastasia's eyes narrowed, "Would it be both of us, or just me."

"How about if I were just as undressed as you were?"

"If we're alone, and it's something you're willing to do, it's probably not degrading." Anastasia said. "Is that what you want? You want to see me nearly naked? That seems counter to what we talked about."

"I do want to see you naked, but I'm willing to wait, I'm not going to trade in this debt for something that I'll probably get eventually if I play my cards right. That would be foolish."

"What's foolish is if you keep talking about what degrading things I might or might not do."

"Alright Anastasia, I'm not going to take advantage of you. I was just taking the opportunity to learn about you and what you think about certain things, like sex, and how I should treat you."

"I like to be held, and cuddled. I don't like to talk about degrading sex acts."

Hap nodded, "Alright, I'm sorry. I thought I was being clever, but I may have gone too far."

Anastasia nodded, and her tone and looks softened, "Harold, I know you're not someone who would risk our relationship for a few moments of base pleasure, but I don't want to think about this." She sighed and added, "I'm just going to bake you some cookies tomorrow. Do you like chocolate chip?"

"Well actually I prefer chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips, but I didn't agree to accept that for the wager. I think we really need to talk more about what is or isn’t degrading.” Hap teased her.

Anastasia looked at Hap for a long moment before saying, “You’re getting the cookies, and I’m going to bed now. Next time we wager, I’m going to make some stipulations, like an expiration period, and limits. We’re not doing this again. Good night.”
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 15 May 2020, 16:25:55
Chapter 16
October 3029
Monhegan System

It took over a month to get from the Klathandu system to Monhegan system. After completing the last jump they still had a three day trip from the system jump point to the planet Monhegan. In the month of jumps Hap, Anastasia, and Joker were assimilated into McFinnigan and Sons. They continued to train with the other mercenaries daily, and during their chores they worked with other members of the family, everyone from techs and spouses, to children and other MechWarriors.

Hap thought having the children and families around was a little crazy. He asked Fletch about it and he replied, "I know it looks asinine, but it keeps a lot of costs down and it gives the Company a lot more reach and sustainment than Mercenary units that are twice or three times the size. There has been some harrowing moments where the drop ship has come under fire, or our supply dump got overrun, but we all agree having our families around is worth it. Makes the boys and girls fight a little harder too."

Hap couldn't argue with any of that, and he knew that between the home cooking and things like the training modules he was enjoying a lot of luxuries he didn't usually have on a deployment.

Hap was integrated into the leadership as well. McFinnigan's staff meetings were actually poker games. Kelly swore he had learned this from the great Patrick Kell himself. When anyone asked Kelly how or when he met the leader of the Kell Hounds he couldn't give a straight answer, but the poker game staff meeting was an institution for the McFinnigan and Sons mercenary company.

During the poker games Hap got to know the company's leadership. The Hammer Lance leader was Fiona "Angel" McFinnigan. She was Kelly's younger cousin and didn't have the same accent as the rest of the McFinnigans. Also, unlike her cousins, she was tall, and had black hair. As the Fire Support lance leader she believed that combat should really be based on the skills of meticulous long range professionals, not brawling belligerents punching and kicking in the mud. Hap found her to be a sarcastic professional.

The Pursuit lance leader was Kelly's nephew Patrick "Shillelagh" McFinnigan. He was the other founding member of the Mercenary Company. He was nearly forty and came across as cynical and war-weary. Hap could see the family resemblance between Patrick and Kelly, except Patrick was slightly taller and broader of chest. Patrick also had a long scare running down the left side of his face and his right shoulder and arm had large burn scars. He didn't say much, but Hap noticed he certainly could drink.

During the games Hap learned that Tomax was a retired Sergeant Major in the AFFS. Retirement didn't suit him and so he signed on with McFinnigan to pilot an Awesome. When Kelly learned Tomax had been an AFFS drill instructor Kelly made him the mercenaries lead trainer.

The staff was rounded out by Jessica Lan. She was a sixtyish year old short stocky Asian woman from the Capellan Confederation. She had a broad face, an easy smile and her once black hair was now silver and gray. She came across as kindly older aunt or grandmother type and served as the primary purchasing agent and negotiated supplies and equipment for the company. Hap initially thought she was only a purchasing agent, but she also piloted an 85 ton Stalker. Her call sign was Ahjumma.

Fletch, Elinor, and Roweyna were also in attendance for the staff meeting. Kelly held them weekly with the topics of discussion ranging from supply issues, training, crew morale, gossip, the company's status with the Mercenary Review Board, and new contracts. Like everything McFinnigan did the meetings seemed chaotic and ad hoc, but were somehow remarkably effective.

When Hap wasn't in meetings his time was divided between training, getting to know the rest of the mercenaries, and Anastasia. Their relationship was progressing slower than Anastasia had hoped. Anastasia had to concede that Hap was correct about boundaries and how they really couldn't sleep together without getting more intimate and she made it clear she just wasn't ready for that, yet. Hap was balancing learning to be friends and trying to be as close as Anastasia liked. They also struggled to find quiet spaces where they could talk and spend private time together.

Anastasia found the ships library and raided it for books on dating, marriage, or anything on maintaining an intimate relationship. When Hap was in a staff meeting or pulled into a game of chance Anastasia would usually sit in the corner of the lounge reading her books and ignoring the mayhem around her.

After weeks of travel Anastasia was struggling with the changes in her life. First she felt that her and Hap weren't getting enough quality time together, and they never had any privacy. Second, she didn't feel particular close to her lancemates, and third, she was very worried about her mother.

Today was especially bad. Anastasia had missed an easy shot in the simulator, and her lance failed to complete its objective. Joker and Mags ensured she knew it was all her fault all day long. After dinner she ended up stuck cleaning all the dishes, and it was a staff meeting night so Hap would be gone.

On top of this she was also annoyed with the dating book she was reading. She decided to take a shower and go to bed. She had also found a Harlequin novel in the library, so she decided to indulge in her guilty pleasure in the privacy of her sleep chamber, rather than being teased or annoyed by her fellow crazy mercenaries.

She found the berthing area completely empty, and Joker had left his locker open. When Anastasia tried to close it for him the leg of his coveralls got in the way. Anastasia folded the leg in, and noted the terrible mess of his locker. Clothes and hygiene items were everywhere, He had also acquired some pornography that he had taped inside the door. Anastasia shoved everything in, and slammed the door closed quickly.

Anastasia gathered her things and went to the shower. She took her time to dry her hair, braid it, and debated if she would risk going back to her bed without a bra. She remembered her first night with Hap and Joker and decided it wasn't worth it, but she figured she could get away with just her long night shirt. She stepped into the hall and heard voices.

When she came around the corner she was surprised to find half the MechWarriors of the company. Mags and Joker were sitting on Mag's bed, and David Lee and Dillon were sitting on her bed. Crow and Grizzly had brought their camp chairs into the crowded space, and Rolph was leaning against the wall. Anastasia was glad to see Hap alone his bed, but a little dismayed by everyone else.

Anastasia pulled nervously on her braid. She had gone through multiple psychological and personality tests at NAIS and knew she was an introvert. It never occurred to that it might cause problems for her until she was in situations like this. She knew she had to work through this. Anastasia mumbled a greeting to everyone as she crossed the hall to Hap's bed. She felt self conscious in just her sleepwear so she grabbed his poncho liner and wrapped herself up in it. As she sat down Hap pulled her close to him.

As Anastasia settled in she realized she had walked into the middle of a "the best recon 'Mech" argument. This was another long running and endless source of debate for her peers. She wasn't sure where it started, but as she got comfortable Grizzly looked up at Mags and scoffed, "If the Jenner is the perfect recon 'Mech, then why was your daddy able to take one down with an infantry weapon?"

"Because my father was a badass." Mags replied matter-of-factly, "and twice, no three times the man you are. That's how. He shot that Jenner up with infernos till the cowardly pilot ejected. That's how he won a 'Mech and became a 'Mechwarrior again. When he couldn't fight any more he gave it to me."

Anastasia laid her head on Hap's shoulder. She was annoyed to see everyone, but being next to Hap almost made up for it. She was tired, and wished everyone else would leave so they could be alone.

Hap chuckled, "I'll bite, How did he shoot that many infernos to overheat a Jenner?" As he spoke he tugged at the blanket and Anastasia put part of it around his back. Hap and Anastasia adjusted themselves so they could comfortably share the blanket. She felt less annoyed and got comfortable as Hap found her hand and held it.

Mags jumped down from her bed, "My father was a MechWarrior when he was young, but his 'Mech was destroyed and not only was he disposed he was taken a prisoner by the Capellans."

Grizzly interrupted her, "Let me make this short. After a couple of years as a Capellan POW he gets back to Cerillos to find his wife dead from the plague, and his little girl well on her way to woman hood. Well actually I'm sure what he found was his sweet little piggy-tailed chicka had become a brooding teenager well on her way to the violent, cursing, and undisciplined psychopath you see before you."

"Shut the hell-up Grizz or I'll cut you." Mags bawled. Her tone returned to normal. "Like usual Grizz is half right. My father tried to raise me, but being a MechWarrior is all he was good at, so he does the only thing a man in his position can do. He signs back up with the Free World's Leagues Military, leaves me with Abuella, and joins the jump infantry. Then one day, no shit, there my old man was at an ammo dump refueling and reloading."

"No shit? Well now it's a story." Hap said quietly to Anastasia. Anastasia was glad to at least have this time with Hap. Unfortunately this was emblematic of how the last couple weeks had been.

Mags continued "As he's getting his jump pack refueled this Jenner jumps out of the woods and starts shooting. So my old man loads an inferno round in his SRM launcher and hits the Jenner with it. Then he ran behind a smoking crate of missiles-" As she talked she pantomimed shooting and running.

"Just stands behind a burning box full of high explosives like it's nothing." Grizz told everyone

"Shutup, you weren't there, and yeah, he stands behind the box like it was nothing to him, 'cause he has cojones, unlike you. So he reloads and pops off another inferno. By now the poor bastard is trying to locate my dad, but my old man was quick and cunning. Dad loads up another inferno and hits the Jenner again. The Jenner pilot goes crazy and starts shooting everything. That is when my dad hits him one last time, and the pilot panics, ejects, and when the battle was over, Dad got the Jenner."

"So the Jenner is the best recon 'Mech, as long as you don't overheat it?" Hap asked

"Yeah. Can you think of a 'Mech that is as fast and heavily armed as a Jenner?"

"You forgot the toilet paper for armor." Grizzly added.

"You didn't need armor if you're fast." Mags replied

"Hey, what was your dad's original mech, the one he lost?" Joker asked, as he reached out to help her onto her bunk.

"An urbanmech." Mags said quietly.

"An urbanmech? The worst mech every made!" Joker howled and almost let go of her hand.

"Now wait" Rolph said, "An urbanmech can kill you just as dead as any mech. In the city, or canyons, or tight terrain, an Urbanmech pilot can be the king of death mountain."

"Joker you know this from working with Tuna and his Hunchback. If we could get that monster's autocannon into the right place and he'd blow an enemy to hell. That's how we took down that Thunderbolt and the Quickdraw." Hap told him

"Yeah, for the price, the Urbanmech is a good mech for defense ops." Rolph replied.

"Alright fine, so what do you think is the worst mech?" Joker asked

"I think every 'mech is good if you put it in the right role." Rolph replied. "But if I had to say… never liked the CGR-1A1 Charger, more than half its mass is taken up by its fusion reactor, it has less armor than a Marauder, and it's only armed with half a dozen small lasers. I get it's supposed to 'charge in' and start punching but it only has 10 tons or armor so it's going to be torn apart before it closes to melee range."

"Yeah, but isn't it just as good in the city as an Urbanmech?" Griff asked

"Not for that cost. I heard the HRB fixed it with the -SB Challenger refit, but the 1A1 is too specialized."

"Hey, back to recon 'Mechs." Joker said, "I think the best is the Phoenix Hawk LAM 'cause it's a 'Mech and an aero fighter. I mean imagine a mech where you can find the enemy, hit 'em, then fly off."

"Land-Air-'Mechs aren't real man." Crow said shaking his head.

Anastasia mind drifted as she wondered if she could convince Hap to spend some time with her, maybe if she could talk him into a "plutonic slumber party". She thought it would really turn her bad day around if they could spend a couple hours talking, then have him hold her through the night.

"Anastasia you seem to know a lot from your studies at NAIS, what do you think?" David Lee asked.

Anastasia was surprised to hear her name mentioned, she had to think for a moment to remember what they were talking about. "Land-Air-'Mechs? They're real, or at least they were. They had a display of a Phoenix Hawk LAM in its hybrid state at the Heroes of the Federation exhibit at the New Avalon national museum. The LAM on display had been part of a raid on Tybalt in the 2990s."

"Yeah brother, and I heard the CO for Crescent Hawks piloted one. Of course no one has heard from him since Pacifica got invaded by the Kuritans." Grizz told Crow.

"I've seen a lot of mechs man, and I've never seen one that can turn into an aero fighter." Crow replied.

"One day, back at Albion, we asked one of the instructors about LAMs and he said, 'why would someone want to pilot a 'mech that's bad at being at being a light mech and bad at being an aerofighter'. Then he ordered us out to the parade field and made us do extra drills for 'wasting his time'." Hap said.

Everyone laughed and then Hap said, "Rolph you seem to know a lot about mechs."

"Yeah, Rolph fixed a lot mechs long before he cobbled together his Trebuchet." Grizz said.

"So what Mech would you pick if you could have any Battlemech?" Hap followed up

"Anything?" Rolph asked with a whistle, "I mean if anything it's probably a Highlander HGN-732."

"A Highlander, like the old man pilots?" Grizz asked looking surprised

"No. A 732 is the original Star League era Highlander. It was a deluxe version the Commander's 'Mech. The 732 had double heat sinks, protected ammo bins, and instead of an AC 10 it had a Gauss rifle. It was a beast of a machine."

"The old man's Highlander is a beast even without all that." Grizz replied.

"What's a Gauss rifle?" David Lee asked.

Rolph's eyes lit up, "It's an autocannon, but it uses magnets, so it's super heavy, but it packs a punch like an AC 20, but it has the range of an AC 2. Oh! And, it doesn't generate any heat."

"Man that has to be bullshit." Grizz replied, "What makes you think something like that was ever real?"

"One of my 'Mech tech buddies had signed on with the mercenary company from the Aurigan Reach area. They discovered a star league cache and found an old Star League era Highlander and sure as shit, it had a Guass rifle. He was asking me about how to fabricate ammo."

Grizz laughed, "Really, your 'buddy'? Hap, Anastasia, you gotta understand, Rolph knows a shit ton of things about a shit ton of 'Mechs, but sometimes he gets tricked with bullshit like this."

Anastasia shook her head, "A gauss rifle is considered LosTech, but it's certainly real."

"How are they real? How do magnets make an autocannon shell go?" David asked.

"The theory is pretty simple. A gauss rifle doesn't fire a shell. It fires a solid slug, about the size of a rugby ball made of iron alloyed with something else magnetic like cobalt or nickel." Anastasia replied, "The rifle has a series of magnets to draw the shell. When the rifle is fired the magnets are activated in sequence and the round is propelled at near hypersonic speeds. The muzzle velocity was greater than a class 20 autocannon, and the size of the round was so large that it could nearly sheer off a ton of armor."

Everyone was quiet for a moment then Grizzly looked at Dillon, "Did you understand any of that?"

"Yeah. Magnets shooting rugby balls made of iron." Dillon replied. Everyone laughed including Anastasia. She knew Dillon was one of Kelly's "charity cases". He might be a simpleton, and lack the prerequisite intelligence to pilot a 'Mech in most house armies, but he seemed capable. He was also a loyal member of the family, and they took good care of him. Anastasia had to smile at the joke Dillon made at her expense, of course no one was sure if he was joking or trying to sound smart.

"I don't want to hear any more about weird aero 'Mechs, or have the Professor lecture me on LosTech miracle weapons. Anyone up for some poker?" Grizzly asked as he stood up and started folding his chair. There were murmurs of agreement and everyone except Hap and Anastasia started to leave.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 15 May 2020, 16:26:42
Chapter 17
Everyone left the berthing area and Hap turned to Anastasia, "You want to join everyone for cards?"

"No, not really, I'd rather spend some time alone with you. Can we do that?"

Hap nodded as he took off his boots. While taking off his coveralls he asked, "How's your day going?"

Anastasia got comfortable on the bed, and replied, "Badly. All my missiles went wide when I targeted the locust, which made us fail our mission. Then I had to do all the dishes, and the book I'm reading implies our relationship is doomed."

Hap cozied up next to her, "So now you think our relationship is doomed?"

"The book said statistically first love romances between teenagers end in breakup. " Anastasia said

"We're not teenagers" Hap said as he pulled her back so they could rest their backs on the bulkhead.

"I'm nineteen, but you're right it's not the age. Really the problem is the book said the same thing you told me about taking things slow, building a relationship, ensuring we know each other and want the same things in life." Anastasia said with mock sorrow as she got comfortable.

"What's wrong with that?" Hap asked

"Nothing really, but it shows how impatient I am." Anastasia said. "I want a whirlwind romance."

"No you want a relationship that lasts, but you want it right now." Hap told her.

"I'm not sure if I like how much you hear what I mean, and not what I'm saying." She said sarcastically.

"So are you annoyed with yourself, or everything around you?" Hap asked.

"Little bit of both. I'm annoyed we haven't had more time together. I feel our lives have been on pause for weeks, and I'm worried about my Mother. Do you think we've been reported MIA or AWOL?"

Hap thought for a moment, "It's hard to say. Unless we got tracked leaving the planet, we're probably considered MIA. That assumes the RDMM is sending out reports though, they might not be."

Anastasia nodded, "They've likely gone comms silent, either way I'm certain Mother is worried sick."

"When we land at Monhegan we can send her a message and let her know you're okay." Hap said, then flashed a wolfish grin "and you can also tell her about all the new friends you've made recently."

"Mother would love to know I actually have friends." Anastasia said thoughtfully ignoring his sarcasm.

"Even if they are psychotic bloodthirsty mercenaries." Hap said with more sarcastic excitement.

"That's almost how she describes most lobbyists and politicians, and she's surrounded by them every day." Anastasia replied. "Although I don't really feel that close to anyone except you."

"Just so you know, In spite of your hard work, you're generally well liked. David was commenting last week how you've stopped giving him cold stares and now you actually talk to him. Crow and Rolph think you're a pretty good MechWarrior. Mags and Joker like you as much as they like anyone. Oh, and Dillon is still convinced you owe him a dance, so you got that to look forward too."

"I remember he asked me to dance our first night on the Tir na nOg and I guess I didn't give him a definitive 'no'. Would you just tell him I'm your girl?" Anastasia pressed herself closer to Hap.

"I tried to but he said, 'after me and Anastasia and dance, we'll see'."

Anastasia sighed contentedly and put her head on Hap's shoulder, "I wouldn't worry too much about him. I don't think one dance is going to change my mind about how I feel about you."

"But I shouldn't let him get a second dance with you?" Hap said

"Oh I wouldn't." Anastasia replied with a laugh. "Seriously though, I probably won't have too much to say to Mother about anyone except you."

"I thought our relationship is doomed." Hap said with a chuckle.

"You know it isn't. You and I are going to make this work, because where else would you find someone as charming and attractive as me?" Anastasia teased

"I hear the Canopus Magistracy has girls that…"Hap stopped as Anastasia gave him a warning glance. "Yes Anastasia, we're going to make this work, but one of these days we're going to have to talk about why around everyone you're quiet, but when it's just you and me your…suddenly very confident."

"Harold, it's not that I get more confident, rather I'm always thinking these things, but when it's just us I feel comfortable enough to say them." She said, then grinned and added, "Now hold me."

"Our relationship may not be doomed, but I'm starting to worry I am." Hap put his arm around her.

"I have this book you should read. It has a chapter about how long term committed relationships are not 'mutual pain and suffering death pacts'." Anastasia said.

"Yeah, you can't divorce your way out of a death pact." Hap joked.

"It also has another chapter about how marriage is a 'no fail mission'." Anastasia said.

Hap gave Anastasia a bemused look "What sort of books are you reading?"

"Anything I can find on relationships. That particular book was the 'Warrior's Guide to Marriage'. It's really a relationship self-help book. It didn't have anything unique, but it put everything in a pretentious context of war or battle." Anastasia told him with a laugh. "Most of the books are pretty derivative, but there was a book you might like is the 'linguistics of love' it talked about some of the things you mentioned. How everyone says 'I love you' or how they want to be told 'I love you' in their own way."

Hap nodded, "After the divorce someone recommended that book. I read it, and realized I studied psychology, but I never tried to learn anything practical. After the divorce I started to work on how to improve myself and how to understand relationships. That book was good, but I'm curious about all the information you had the gauss rifle, do you have a lostech technical readout?"

"No. At NAIS I had access to the Halstead Station library and the Helm memory core." Anastasia said.

Hap couldn't believe she had casual access to two sources of rare information on lost technology. "Can any NAIS cadet access those things?"

"Not exactly. It required special permission from the Dean of the College of Engineering, and a professor had to sign off on what I wanted to research. Normally it would have required an extensive background check too, but my father's company was one of several that had been approached to attempt to recover the gauss rifle for the Federated Suns."

"I thought your Dad's company just made advanced sensor packages."

"Dad's company is…complicated. He would tell you it is a practical R&D company. Dad had an odd way of looking at problems and finding strange solutions. For all his brilliance though, he usually looked for simple problems that people took for granted and tried to make things that could easily turn a profit."

"So, what's the story with the advanced sensor package on your Valkyrie?"

"You understand how standard sensors work?"

"Sure, the sensor broadcasts an energy wave and interprets the interference for the targeting system."

"Right. The sensor antenna is designed for a specific wavelength based on some ancient star league standard. Some mechs are designed to be hard to scan, and there are ways to jam it. So Dad removed the antenna on my Valkyrie and replaced it with struts that he embedded with a grid of wires that would work as antennas. He programmed the system to energize the right amount of "antenna" to scan an object based on the optimal wavelength for the range. It has the advantages of about 20% greater range than most standard sensors, it can't be jammed, and it can give the same fidelity of information at any range. He also fixed the Valkyrie's 'quirky' sensor problems, and he made it a refit kit for several mechs."

"Alright, I'm not sure I understand all that, but I'm starting to see your Dad's genius. I wouldn't have thought money was a problem, though. I assumed your mother's title came with wealth and riches."

"It does, she can tax her holdings as she sees fit, and she is also the sole landlord for some major portions of Hazelhurst's starport and capital city, and we have investments that go back centuries. My family was granted holdings on Hazelhurst after it was taken from the Outworld's alliance."

"So why did your Dad focus only on projects that would 'turn a profit'?"

"He was looking to subsidize his real project, which was to make a competitive technology to ComStar's Hyper Pulse Generator network, and that's extremely expensive."

"Okay, now I'm starting to suspect your Dad was one of those eccentric genius types."

"Look at it from his perspective, what do you think ComStar is?"

"Never thought about it, but I'd say they're an intergalactic telecom that flirts with being a techno cult."

"First, problems that people 'never thought about' were the ones Dad was looking for. Second, ComStar is a techno cult that has a side business as the only intergalactic telecom. Dad would often tell me everything about that situation was wrong. He didn't trust ComStar and suspected they used their access to everyone's messages to meddle in the affairs of every major house."

"That sounds a little conspiratorial. I mean if that were true wouldn't someone catch them at it?"

"What could you do if you caught them? They have a monopoly on intergalactic communications. Even if you're a powerful House Lord, you have to use them to control your empire. This is why Dad thought some competition would make them honest. He was also a patriot for the Federated Suns, so if the government wanted to pay him to develop it exclusively for the Federated Suns he would have been happy to do that too. Which is the other reason he wanted to work on government projects."

"What did your mom think of your Dad's theories?"

"She loved her eccentric genius. Mother spent most of her time around the political elite, which were, as she put it, generally a bunch of back stabbing sycophants and liars. Dad just wanted to solve problems, and make things better. I think he also liked solving puzzles. Mother loved him, and found his conspiracy theorizing to be part of his mad scientist charm."

Hap laughed as he asked, "So were you and your dad able to recreate a gauss rifle?"

"No, and it wasn't just us, we were part of a team. There were members of Team Banzai, scientist and engineer fellows from NAIS, and a few professors and grad students. The military even pulled an ancient Fury tank out of some vault so we could see its gauss rifle. Team Banzai was more interested in the tank's C2 computer system so they mostly focused on that, but the rest of us were working on the rifle."

"So is the team about to bring the gauss rifle back into production?"

"Probably not. Dad and I were working on the massive capacitors needed to store the energy for the magnets, and the magnetic coil mechanism. We also had to ruggedize everything, since most 'Mech warriors find themselves using their weapons as clubs when they run out of ammunition."

"It's a proven technique."

Anastasia rolled her eyes, "Once you go to all the work to build one of these weapons, you start to realize how dumb that is. Anyway, Dad had contacted me and told me he had a new idea and wanted to send me the data to have the team start making composite materials. Before he sent the data he…"

Anastasia got quiet and Hap gave her a few moments before asking, "How did your father die?"

Anastasia shook her head and breathed in a wet sob, "There was an accident in his workshop." She took another moment to control her voice. "It was a large explosion. Mother said there was almost nothing left of the workshop, and half the windows in the house were blown out."

"Did your dad keep a lot of explosive or flammable materials in his workshop?"

Anastasia could only shake her head as the tears slid down her cheek. Hap knew it was time to stop asking questions. He pulled her close and she buried her head in his chest. Hap held her as she quietly wept. He could feel her tears soak through his t-shirt.

"Not so overconfident now am I?" Anastasia said with a laugh as she used a dry part of Hap's shirt to dab her eyes. "I wasn't able to go to his funeral because of the deployment to Klathandu. I cried myself to sleep every night for weeks, and I thought I was over this." She sighed, "Does this pain ever go away?"

Hap shook his head "When my father died my sister made all the arrangements for the funeral, because I wasn't there. I made it though, and then afterwards all his fellow techs and friends threw him a wake at his favorite bar. I drank with them through the night and they told stories about my Dad, told me how proud my Dad was of his MechWarrior son and they gave me a ration of shit because they were techs and I was MechWarrior."

Hap's eyes misted over, "I broke down a few times that night too, but after that I thought I'd be good. I mourned the man, I celebrated his life, I thought that would be it. About a week later I wanted his advice on something and then I remembered he was gone. The day I won the gyro in that game, I wanted so bad to let him know. When I got promoted to Leftenant he was the only person I really wanted to tell." Hap let out a ragged breath of his own, "I don't think it ever really stops hurting."

Anastasia gently wiped a tear away from his cheek. She looked like she was about to say something, but instead just wrapped her arms around him and pulled him to her. After a moment she reached over and closed the sleeping chamber door.

Without speaking they got under the blankets and continued to hold each other. This time Anastasia made sure not to let her arm get pinned. After a few minutes she sat up, modestly removed her bra under her shirt, and then laid back down with her back to his chest. Hap pulled her close to him in a comfortable embrace. As she sighed Hap thought she whispered, "I love you."

Hap wasn't sure what he heard, and jokingly thought to himself, "you wish she said, 'I love you'". That is when he realized he truly loved her. Obviously she was in his bed, and they weren't having sex. He remembered his dad telling him "the only women you'll ever share a bed with and not make love, is your wife." Hap thought it was joke when his Dad said it, but he learned how it can be true. Hap knew this wasn't sustainable for very long. Anastasia had told him she wanted her first time to be special, Hap wondered if that meant her wedding night, or if they just needed a nice comfortable private space.

Hap tried to imagine a future with Anastasia. She was certainly one of the smartest people he knew, but not like an insufferable know-it-all, well some times she was, but it was tolerable. A few weeks ago Hap had pointed out she was naïve about relationships and her response was to read and learn everything she could in the meantime. Hap figured this was something she learned from her intellectual father, or maybe she was just inherently curious.

He wondered about her relationship to her mother. If the Countess told her to come home would she? What would Hap do? He had signed a contract with the McFinnigans, he thought he should honor that. Of course he had also sworn an oath of loyalty to the Federated Suns. Even though his options were limited to death or capture, he could be still charged with violating his oath and other military crimes.

Hap recognized that was beside the point. He and Anastasia loved each other, they needed to figure out what they were going to do about that. Of course Anastasia had made it clear that their relationship was a foregone conclusion to her. She was going to be Hap's 'better wife' and if his Dad's cynical joke was any indication, she was well on her way.

This brought up another point, Anastasia had proved to be pretty determined and Hap assumed once she made a decision he'd have to go with it, or it'd be a fight. He wondered if he could put up with that. Hap started to wonder about a dozen other things he thought were charming now but might annoy him later. Hap realized what he was doing and forced himself to stop souring himself on their relationship.

Hap hugged her and wanted to tell her how he felt. She murmured something unintelligible, but it sounded happy. Hap had no idea if she was awake, but he didn't care, they would talk in the morning, and settle everything once and for all.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Hawkeye Jim on 15 May 2020, 19:27:29
Too much sex, not enough violence. Been several chapters since anyone got killed.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 15 May 2020, 19:59:23
Too much sex, not enough violence. Been several chapters since anyone got killed.
It's a struggle to move people across these systems. K-F drives only let you jump 30 light years, and then wait a few days before you can go again, and we're moving from the Draconis March to the Capellan March. We're getting there, but it is a bit of a journey.

I had to choose between using narration to instantly put them where they're going, or try to build the relationships along the way. I went with the relationships, maybe that was a bit of mistake. I'm also trying to develop a bigger plot line and story, these conversations work into that. Once we get to Monhegan I don't plan to move them, like this, for awhile, and there will be more Mech combat.

It's still a couple chapters before we get back in the 'Mechs, so be patient, or just check back in a couple weeks. Either way, I appreciate the comment and thanks for reading.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: XaosGorilla on 15 May 2020, 20:14:04
Odd, I didn't mind the character development.  Different strokes for different folks i guess. 

I was concerned that I'd missed something when Anna went to a "birthing" chamber,  but then i realized you were probably trusting spell check too much. Not a big deal.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: shadowdancer on 15 May 2020, 21:07:47
Like the story. Battletech is just not battles!
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 16 May 2020, 04:26:59
Thanks XaosGorilla and Shadowdancer, that's good feedback too. I was worried I was losing my audience. I went to bed last night looking over my notes, and what I had written so far and debated extensive re-writing or reshuffling of certain scenes.

I had been concerned about the pacing of the story, but like I wrote, the space travel mechanics of the Battletech universe creates an interesting constraint/opportunity for anyone creating stories and scenarios in the game universe.

Last week no one commented on the chapters, which had been atypical of previous posts. However, we're all busy, and maybe no one saw anything to comment on. I tend to be a bit of a lurker myself, so I wasn't too concerned. I saw the view count increase. This meant several people were looking at the story. I just wasn't sure if it was a quick scan, and them saying, "boring" or if they were just waiting for more.  I really do value the feedback. 

As always I'm grateful that anyone has the patience for my typos, grammar, and spelling problems (I'll fix the birthing typo). That anyone is indulging me at all is a little humbling for me. For those that are still reading, thank you so much. If you're waiting for me to make more war and less love, be patient. If your more interested in the relationships and characters stick around, I like most of them and will keep building on to them.

Thanks again.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 16 May 2020, 04:54:45
Soldiers, warriors, support staff, civilians - they're all people. MechWarriors (and tankers and pilots) aren't Space Marines - and we like it that way  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 16 May 2020, 09:28:51
Keep writing good stories like this and some of the Lurkers will come out of the shadows, dark corners, and do it long enough even have comments from the grognard who live in the walls.
Although you mentioned gauss rifles so that may have scared them off.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Iron Grenadier on 16 May 2020, 14:21:18
I'm liking the story as well. Given the character development is a little focused but then it's still very early in the story.

Would like to see a TO&E of the unit as well, if nothing else than an easy reference to go back to for the readers.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Hawkeye Jim on 16 May 2020, 15:14:45
I like the story, just not much for romance. Guess I'm in the mood for some serious violence.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 16 May 2020, 15:45:46
Thanks XaosGorilla and Shadowdancer, that's good feedback too. I was worried I was losing my audience. I went to bed last night looking over my notes, and what I had written so far and debated extensive re-writing or reshuffling of certain scenes.

I had been concerned about the pacing of the story, but like I wrote, the space travel mechanics of the Battletech universe creates an interesting constraint/opportunity for anyone creating stories and scenarios in the game universe.

Last week no one commented on the chapters, which had been atypical of previous posts. However, we're all busy, and maybe no one saw anything to comment on. I tend to be a bit of a lurker myself, so I wasn't too concerned. I saw the view count increase. This meant several people were looking at the story. I just wasn't sure if it was a quick scan, and them saying, "boring" or if they were just waiting for more.  I really do value the feedback. 

As always I'm grateful that anyone has the patience for my typos, grammar, and spelling problems (I'll fix the birthing typo). That anyone is indulging me at all is a little humbling for me. For those that are still reading, thank you so much. If you're waiting for me to make more war and less love, be patient. If your more interested in the relationships and characters stick around, I like most of them and will keep building on to them.

Thanks again.

Sometimes we don't want to flood the story with unnecessary BS (like posts like mine). I for one, like the details between...
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: snakespinner on 16 May 2020, 18:31:55
Your writing a story about a unit, they don't go into battle everyday of their lives.
Enjoying your story, keep up the good work. :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Iron Grenadier on 16 May 2020, 19:14:13
I like the story, just not much for romance. Guess I'm in the mood for some serious violence.

Well I figure since the story has been good, the battles should be pretty good too.

If not, we can tar and feather HFC05.  :beatdown: :beatdown:



(NOTE - just kidding as long as the story continues it's all good  ^-^ )
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: shadowdancer on 16 May 2020, 21:41:05
Sorry most of the time I am a lurker. I have followed the story every time you have posted something new. I enjoy reading but am not one to make any comment. I have played Battletech since 1985. Have most of the source books and novels. A lot of half stories from the Catalyst fiasco. Part of the reason that I have stayed with it is the rich stories about the whole Battletech universe. Romance battles and all!
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 17 May 2020, 07:20:34
Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) McFinnigan and Sons
Mercenary Unit: McFinnigan and Sons
Unit Symbol: Celtic knot with three loops around a Harp, a Skull and a Mace
Company Motto: gnó teaghlaigh (gaelic for Family Business)
Unit Size: Reinforced Battlemech Company (4 Lances)
Jump Ships: None
Drop Shuttles: Excalibur class "Tir na nOg", Leopard class "Phaidin"

Unit Leadership
Unit Commanding Officer: Kelly McFinnigan
Unit Executive Officer: James Fletcher
Lance Leader (Assault Lance): Kelly McFinnigan
Lance Leader (Pursuit/Raid Lance): Patrick McFinnigan
Lance Leader (Fire Support Lance): Fiona McFinnigan
Lance Leader (Recon Lance): Harold Calahad
Medical Doctors: Jackson Morgan (MDMS), Leslie Morgan (MDGP)
Master Pilot: Matthew Mitchellin
Master Mech Tech: Eric Heilezberg
Master Trainer: Yorik Tomax
Quartermaster: Jessica Lan
Legal and MRB Relations: Roweyna McFinnigan

Assault Lance "Anvil"
HGN-733 Highlander - Pilot: Kelly McFinnigan
CP-10-Z Cyclops - Pilot: James "Fletch" Fletcher
AWS-8Q Awesome - Pilot: Yorik Tomax
STK-3F Stalker - Pilot: Jin-seon Jessica "Ajumma" Lan

Pursuit/Raid Lance "Dullahans"
DRG-1G Grand Dragon - Pilot: Patrick "Shillelagh" McFinnigan
WVR-6M Wolverine - Pilot: Gerald "Grizzly" Villon
KTO-18(Modified*) Kintaro - Pilot: Tatyana "Volchitsa" Fletcher
VLK-QA Valkyrie - Pilot: David Lee

Fire Support Lance "Hammer"
JM6-A JagerMech - Pilot: Fiona "Guardian Angel" McFinnigan
CPLT-C4 Catapult - Pilot: Eugene "Crow" Harrison
TBT-5N Trebuchet - Pilot: Rolph Horsteng
DV-6M Dervish - Pilot: Dillon "Big D" Rowel

Recon Lance
GRF-1N Griffin - Pilot: Harold "Haphazard" Calahad
VLK-QA(Modified**) Valkyrie - Pilot: Anastasia Vallois
FS9-H Firestarter - Pilot: William "Joker" Cameron
JR7-D Jenner - Pilot: Marietta Marie Rose "Mags" Camacho

*KTO-18 Modifications:
- Removal of LRM5 and Ammunition
- Additional Jump Jets to left and right torsos
- Additional Armor to front left and right torsos

**VLK-QA Modifications
Original Sync Tracker Targeting and Tracking system and Lynx-Shur communications system replaced with: Vallois Solutions experimental Agile Adaptive Aperture (AAA) Synthetic Radar Array, Vallois Solutions Targeting and Tracking systems, and Vallois Solutions Comms package.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 17 May 2020, 07:40:17
Thanks everyone for the outpouring of support. I apologize for not posting a TO&E earlier, I had seen those in other people's stories, and not put two and two together.

Also I didn't mean to call out all the lurkers, obviously I want to put out a story people want to read, so it's good to know that people are enjoying it, or what they're thinking about it, but now I also know that no response (with an ever increasing view count) is probably a good sign as well. I'm still new to this community and learning, but from what I've seen I do like how everyone has been very positive and supportive (even when they crave more death and destruction).

If the "clutter" of comments and conversation is distracting for your enjoyment of the story I'm on Archive of Our Own and Fan Fiction dot net. It's the same story title and the same author's name. If you can't find me, send me a message I'll reply with the links. I generally update all three about the same time.

Again, thanks for reading. I'll get back to writing now so we can hopefully get to the "good bit" (whatever that is for you) sooner rather than later.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 17 May 2020, 17:46:35
So Anna Dad was taken out by Comstar Holy Shroud operations I see..  Them Bastards.

So I wonder if the Mad Scientist had a hidden "data" dump that he used, after all he already didn't trust Comstar.

Also can we have a "CBT" breakdown of exactly what the Vallois Solutions Electronic Hardware does in her Valkyrie.  I know you fluffed it earlier, but those of us following what to know how good it is on the "table top"

And I like that we see how this "Family" is coming together, will make the next losses more hurtful.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 17 May 2020, 18:57:19
The Agile Adaptive Aperture (AAA) Synthetic Radar Array concept is based loosely on work done by real world Georgia Tech. (Search for "Agile Adaptive Antenna George Tech). They describe a muti-band, multi radio antenna in a box, ideal for software defined radios, but I've seen some applications of their work that imply it has significantly more uses.

From a "classic" board game perspective I would also probably give a +1 to hit or +1 on the Missile table (or both). However, this could be used similar to a Guardian ECM suite (block or jam a NARC Missile Beacon or Beagle Active Probe), but I would generally make that an ability the 'MechWarrior has to choose to perform. If they are jamming something they can't fire weapons that turn.

Keep in mind too this is 3029, the technology renaissance of Inner Sphere is about to happen, but not quite yet. So there is a lot of nascent technology ideas out there, that may not pan out (assuming COMSTAR lets them grow at all). So this system is a rudimentary ECM suite as a side effect, but generally it's just an enhanced Targeting and Tracking suite.

I've been playing the 2018 PC BattleTech (perhaps you've noticed the references) where you can detect mechs outside your LOS, and sensor lock them. I would say the AAA would increase your range to detect by 20% or 30%. I'm not sure what variation of BattleTech that game mechanic is used. (Back in the 80s if you had LOS and they were in range, you took the shot).

I'm hesitant to go into too much detail because I haven't played the board game in awhile so I'll throw that out there and let your imagination run with it. In the story so far you can see where Anastasia can detect mechs before everyone else. There is also another scene I'm working on where she scans a lake bed, but she has to "tune" her AAA to do it.

Also I don't plan to use this like a "sonic screwdriver" or a "main deflector dish" but I'm going to stop talking about it now, just in case I write myself into a corner and need to use this thing as an amazing and totally not convenient and contrived solution.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 17 May 2020, 19:22:06
Check out the Beagle Active Probe on www.sarna.net - that's the canon "improved sensor" system. While not up to the functionality of the HBS game, it does allow spotting hidden units, which is not necessarily a bad thing ;)

It's also entirely probable that people were working on different systems at the time - they may never have seen full production due to reliance on expensive & hand-built parts, unsuitability for being whacked about by enemy fire, or the unexpected death of the project leader ...  :-X
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Iron Grenadier on 17 May 2020, 23:42:31
I would give it the "Improved Sensors" quirk -
https://www.sarna.net/wiki/Design_Quirks#Improved_Sensors_.5BBT.2C_AS.2C_SBF.5D

And perhaps the Variable Range Targeting quirk
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 18 May 2020, 01:29:01
also if you are looking for idea see Sigil story about his primary Mech

and I might be 1 of the people who not into HBS so those reference points aren't there for me.  I do remember if you can see them, you can try a shot at them if you got range and ammo to waste
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 18 May 2020, 03:01:17
Iron Grenadier and DOC_Agren, thanks. I was not familiar with the "Design Quirks" System. I'd seen it referenced, and assumed it was part of one of the BTech system add-ons, but wasn't sure which (Apparently it was Strategic Ops). That Sarna article is very helpful.

Conversations like this make me think, "Damn. I need to do more research, or maybe I shouldn't be writing for this universe, there's always some other rule, addition, or something else I'm ignorant of." That's not necessarily bad, it's just I mean need everyone to be more patient with me.

The Improved Sensors Quirk or Improved Communications is probably what the AAA would fall under. If I had to choose one I'd go with Improved Sensors.

Although the JagerMech and Rifleman both have spinning wave guides that I always assumed were part of a Synthetic Radar Array, and they get "Anti-Aircraft Tracking" as a quirk, although the Rifleman does get Improved Communications too.

I think I'd go with Iron Grenadier's recommendation of Improved Sensors Quirk.

Also in my previous post I wrote it would give +1 to hit, I should have wrote -1, I forgot how Battletech's To Hit system works (I might have been playing this other game system where +1 is always good, and probability is based on a D20, rather than 2D6). That's if you choose to go with just very classic BTech, or let it act as a Beagle Active Probe.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Iron Grenadier on 18 May 2020, 03:49:06

Conversations like this make me think, "Damn. I need to do more research, or maybe I shouldn't be writing for this universe, there's always some other rule, addition, or something else I'm ignorant of." That's not necessarily bad, it's just I mean need everyone to be more patient with me.


No worries at all. The basic knowledge is there, and the story has been good quality.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 18 May 2020, 04:44:47
And you can write, which is more than I can do ;) You'll pick up the lore. Sarna's a great way to lose hours.

BTW, the original Unseen Rifleman had the spinning propellor beany. The JagerMech, and the Reseen Rifleman, had fixed arrays. So they're not unknown.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 18 May 2020, 05:44:35
Thanks again Iron Grenadier and Worktroll. I can attest how easy it is to lose hours on Sarna, truthfully a lot of the reason I'm writing this is I was playing the PC game, and then I was reading on Sarna, and I got me wondering about a lot of the things I'm writing about or trying to explore through Hap, Anastasia, Joker and Mags.

Also the depth of the battle tech universe is so profound from sensor quirks to Operation Holy Shroud sometimes it's not about losing yourself down the wiki rabbit hole, rather it's knowing the right things to search for (The old, "to get the right answer, you must ask the right question" paradox). 

Still, the more I learn the more I enjoy this universe, and I've been enjoying the friendly and collegiate attitude of the community. Thanks for writing and helping out.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 18 May 2020, 17:42:53
I will say you write an interesting story, why we are all asking questions and viewing it

Now may I present my take on your Vallois Solutions experimental Agile Adaptive Aperture (AAA) Synthetic Radar Array, Vallois Solutions Targeting and Tracking systems, and Vallois Solutions Comms package.
Using quirks
Improved Communications
Improved Sensors

But to also represent the extra hardware shoved into the head
Cramped Cockpit
Difficult to Eject
Difficult to Maintain


and now my reasoning:
You pointed out better Comms and Sensors, so that was a given.  I also looked at replacing the Improved Sensor with a Variable Range Targeting system, but felt the Improved Sensors was a better fit.
Now Anastasia fully understand the Vallois Solutions hardware in her mech, but the average Tech is going to have issues keeping it all working correctly.  And that cockpit is a tad more cramped then normal now so a bit harder to pilot and when/if she has to eject without bouncing off things is harder.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 18 May 2020, 19:08:43
I'd say that's probably accurate, DOC Agren. Cramped Cockpit is a good choice. This is definitely a prototype system and since the inventor is dead it would be hard for someone to go back and fix the form factor. Also Anastasia and her Father are both short (She's introduced as 1.5 meters, and his height gets mentioned in a later chapter), so this again would not be something they care about in the prototype stage.

The difficult to maintain is a good catch too. There are no moving parts to the struts, but any damage to them (even incidental shrapnel, rocks, trauma type wear-and-tear) would require some careful work to either fix a break in the grid and not create impedance, or just a complete replacement. Also the struts would be much more expensive than a regular antenna.

I think if Anastasia ever resumes her father's work she'd probably fix the cramped cockpit issue but the Difficult to Eject would still remain because you'd also have a lot more cables between the cockpit and antenna grid to support the additional power and data requirements, so that also would interfere with most ejection systems. You could argue it could come with safety break couplings in the wire, but the system is difficult to maintain, and those safety breaks don't always work, and you know there will be a tech that will bypass, or just remove the safety coupling...

Thanks for adding some negative aspects, and making trade offs. I think when things get too OP or too perfect they can be sort of boring, so nice touch. 
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 18 May 2020, 19:39:56
“ You could argue it could come with safety break couplings in the wire, but the system is difficult to maintain, and those safety breaks don't always work, and you know there will be a tech that will bypass, or just remove the safety coupling..”

       You could always upgrade it, but with “ Difficult to Eject “ on a set number of 2-die6.
Currently ejection is difficult on number >6 on 2-die 6.

After Anastasia improves the mech system then > 9 on 2- die 6.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 18 May 2020, 20:15:32
I'd say that's probably accurate, DOC Agren. Cramped Cockpit is a good choice. This is definitely a prototype system and since the inventor is dead it would be hard for someone to go back and fix the form factor. Also Anastasia and her Father are both short (She's introduced as 1.5 meters, and his height gets mentioned in a later chapter), so this again would not be something they care about in the prototype stage.

The difficult to maintain is a good catch too. There are no moving parts to the struts, but any damage to them (even incidental shrapnel, rocks, trauma type wear-and-tear) would require some careful work to either fix a break in the grid and not create impedance, or just a complete replacement. Also the struts would be much more expensive than a regular antenna.

I think if Anastasia ever resumes her father's work she'd probably fix the cramped cockpit issue but the Difficult to Eject would still remain because you'd also have a lot more cables between the cockpit and antenna grid to support the additional power and data requirements, so that also would interfere with most ejection systems. You could argue it could come with safety break couplings in the wire, but the system is difficult to maintain, and those safety breaks don't always work, and you know there will be a tech that will bypass, or just remove the safety coupling...

Thanks for adding some negative aspects, and making trade offs. I think when things get too OP or too perfect they can be sort of boring, so nice touch.
No problem, I wanted to see if you had plan or idea before throwing something together.
Well if she continued it might end up like the Beagle Active Probe with the wgt and space factored in.
and no tech would ever change the wiring plan... he  ;D :D after working in an arcade with old pinball machines who wiring match nothing in wiring plans
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 19 May 2020, 07:00:37
No problem, I wanted to see if you had plan or idea before throwing something together.
Well if she continued it might end up like the Beagle Active Probe with the wgt and space factored in.
and no tech would ever change the wiring plan... he  ;D :D after working in an arcade with old pinball machines who wiring match nothing in wiring plans

I would strongly suspect there are similarities between maintaining a centuries old battlemech and a decades old pinball or arcade cabinet. Especially since a lot of the tech dreamed up in the original Battletech looks straight out of the 80s.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 19 May 2020, 19:44:20
Trust me you aren't wrong.
so older machines were basicly Frankstein Machines with parts borrow from others. 
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 19 May 2020, 20:48:49
Mechs, or pinball machines, Doc? :)

It's worth mentioning that Anastasia's Valkyrie is probably shiny recent, with that 'New Mech' smell. The FedSuns have at this time one of the few fully automated production lines for Valkyries outside the Lyran facilities on Hesperus IV. So fully automated no-one understands it, and they dare not try to fix any of the problems which limit production. As long as the right parts go in one end, the shinies come out the other.

Given Anastasia's background, I'd expect it to be one of those, not an epic-hand-me-down. But the installation of her dad's equipment will fix that! Plenty of plot hooks there.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 19 May 2020, 21:41:41
Mechs, or pinball machines, Doc? :)

It's worth mentioning that Anastasia's Valkyrie is probably shiny recent, with that 'New Mech' smell. The FedSuns have at this time one of the few fully automated production lines for Valkyries outside the Lyran facilities on Hesperus IV. So fully automated no-one understands it, and they dare not try to fix any of the problems which limit production. As long as the right parts go in one end, the shinies come out the other.

Given Anastasia's background, I'd expect it to be one of those, not an epic-hand-me-down. But the installation of her dad's equipment will fix that! Plenty of plot hooks there.
I agree that her mech is new machine, or damm recent.  Until they added in those extra features in the cockpit.  Sure hope she fully understands that equipment and how to maintain it, because there no records in theory to fallback on.

and worktroll, mechs, pinball, early video games, redemption machine
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 20 May 2020, 03:26:35

It's worth mentioning that Anastasia's Valkyrie is probably shiny recent, with that 'New Mech' smell. The FedSuns have at this time one of the few fully automated production lines for Valkyries outside the Lyran facilities on Hesperus IV. So fully automated no-one understands it, and they dare not try to fix any of the problems which limit production. As long as the right parts go in one end, the shinies come out the other.

Given Anastasia's background, I'd expect it to be one of those, not an epic-hand-me-down. But the installation of her dad's equipment will fix that! Plenty of plot hooks there.

This is exactly what I had tried to imply in earlier chapters, I think it was Hap's impression though, and not clearly stated. This was a "straight off the line" VLK-QA Valkyrie that received a prototype AAA package. Anastasia's father installed it himself, handed it over to his daughter, and, as a consummate business man, had her do a field demo for a few of the Generals at NAIS. This was the last time they saw each other before she shipped out to Klathandu.

To Doc's point about pinball machines and difficult ejections, Anastasia's install is neat and clean and professionally done by a doting father, but (given my experience with buying used cars with after market radios) not every tech or mechanic can follow a wire diagram, and some vehicles have to be made "compatible" which invites problems and quirks. Anastasia's system is not a rat's nest of wires and a potential death trap, her father wouldn't allow that, but for someone installing a AAA into a third-generation salvaged war prize, there's some potential for problems. 

Regarding Anastasia's ability to maintain the system. For her it would be very easy. She was a "Daddy's girl" that spent a lot of her free time in his workshop, and went to NAIS to study Electrical Engineering (or the NAIS equivalent). Her father also taught her how to program, wire, and build electronic systems, so she could easily read his code or understand something he built. The only way she would be more familiar with this system would be if she made it herself, and there's components and code functions that she designed used in the AAA.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Iron Grenadier on 20 May 2020, 03:41:53
Based on that feedback, I think perhaps a negative quirk might be something like
"Non-Standard Parts"
https://www.sarna.net/wiki/Design_Quirks#Non-Standard_Parts_.5BBT.5D

"Prototype"
https://www.sarna.net/wiki/Design_Quirks#Prototype_.5BBT.2C_AS.2C_SBF.5D


In a nutshell, she will likely be the primary pilot and tech for her ride, and finding the replacement "doohickey part Z147" could be an adventure all by itself.


Or, you don't have to give it a negative quirk at all. Sometimes, things just work really damn good.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 20 May 2020, 06:49:13
By definition this AAA would be a prototype. I should probably read through all those quirks.

I personally like the idea of having drawbacks in a system, because, like WorkTroll wrote, it helps with creating story hooks. Although I agree in the real world periodically you encounter those wonderful things that just work right, or that were so well designed you feel like it was made for you, I worry about putting something like that in a story.

As I'm writing I'm sensitive to accidentally creating the "universal solution" like Dr. Who's Sonic Screwdriver or the Enterprises "main deflector dish". That piece of kit that can be anything it needs to be when it's required. I'd prefer the characters have to struggle through, or improvise something else, than just have this amazing pre-built thing that's always a little too handy.

The other thing I'm sensitive to is balancing certain lines with the characters. First, I don't want to be like 80s GI Joe where you have this amazing team of elite special operators versus a near-peer terrorist organization but rarely does anyone get seriously injured. I've found if I'm reading a book where the characters have too many close calls, but always slip by unscathed it gets boring, because it feels they're never really in danger. On the other hand I don't want to be like George R.R. Martin where you don't really get attached to his characters, but you stick around waiting for the people you really hate to get what's coming to them.

Second there is the character personalities themselves. Is Anastasia becoming a Mary Sue or a Pollyanna. Are Hap's responses too perfect? Is Joker too much of a nuisance (well yes, but how much of that is on purpose and how much is alienating?) Is Mags just a tough girl clique? How can I give Mags more personality than just the tattooed girl that always yelling, "I'm going to cut you!"

Then on top of all this there is the actual universe rules, you have to understand it, but the actual specifics may not matter. For example, an AC-2 has 3 more hexes of long range than an LRM. 3x30 meters is 90 meters. That's not as interesting as the fact that a Blackjack could attack an Archer from just outside the Archer's engagement range. The Blackjack can only chip away at the Archer's armor, and the Blackjack is just one wrong move from 40 missiles coming down on him. Three hexes on a weapons chart make this situation possible, but so would just one hex.

As I writer I don't exactly care about three hexes, what I really care about the inherent drama of just staying outside of range, carefully trying to maintain the distance and advantage, while slowly picking apart the adversary. The drama of losing line of sight, having to re-establish contact but hope you don't accidentally walk in range.  I need the rules to create the drama, and to keep things realistic, but minutia of how it all works isn't always important (at least as I'm writing), Which is more if tried to explain it, it would likely slow down the story.

When you guys asked me how does the AAA work I was a little at a loss. How exactly it worked in-game is sort of a "cart-before-horse" problem for me. I knew how I wanted it to work for story purposes (a little extra long range scanning, a little more detail scanning, later on Anastasia will figure out how to use it to use it jam other 'Mechs scans). Kinda like a Beagle Active Probe and kinda like a Guardian ECM, but not necessarily as good as either.

Quite frankly I appreciate the question, as well as everyone's help to make this thing more inline and realistic with the universe. Thank you everyone, but weather you know it or not, you created sort of a different writing exercise for me.
The Blackjack vs. Archer is a simple deduction made from looking at the weapons chart, and knowing a few basic 'mechs. The AAA was me thinking I needed a "thing" to help me with my story, but the real specifics wasn't something I put much thought into. (Back to the AC-2 example, from a writing perspective it doesn't matter if it's one hex, or five hexes, just as long as it has greater range). 

I made the AAA as a writing device. It's something Anastasia's father could make to generate cash for his project. It's a scanner because Anastasia is a naturally curious person so it speaks to her character. It's also an expensive piece of kit on shiny new 'mech confirming her place as a spoiled rich girl, and all the drama that goes with that. It's useful, and it gives her lance an edge, but it's not game changing, or a wonder weapon. It's almost innocuous, but it can drive plot and reveal details, both about characters and the world around them (pun intended).

As you guys seek to clarify things with it (make me lock down those 3 hexes, as it were) I have to ask myself does change anything I've already written, or will create a problem down the line in the story as I've drafted and outlined it. So far the answer is no, but I thought I'd take a moment and lay some of my cards on the table, and if my answers to the question seemed a little evasive this is why.

This conversation as a whole is fascinating for me, again at showing the depth of the BattleTech universe, and how everyone as a fan looks at it and thinks about it.

Thanks again everyone.

Also I know it sounds like I'm downplaying the importance of the rules, or really the mechanics of how this universe operates. I'm not trying to do that. I wrote in the past that I would rather write a good story than adhere strictly to the rules, and while this is true, I don't want to intentionally create a situation that takes someone out of the story by making them think, "That's not how that works..." even though it looks like I did that in the opening chapters. Honestly, I am trying to do better, and provide an enjoyable read.

Thanks again for reading
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 20 May 2020, 21:18:24
To Doc's point about pinball machines and difficult ejections, Anastasia's install is neat and clean and professionally done by a doting father, but (given my experience with buying used cars with after market radios) not every tech or mechanic can follow a wire diagram, and some vehicles have to be made "compatible" which invites problems and quirks. Anastasia's system is not a rat's nest of wires and a potential death trap, her father wouldn't allow that, but for someone installing a AAA into a third-generation salvaged war prize, there's some potential for problems. 

Regarding Anastasia's ability to maintain the system. For her it would be very easy. She was a "Daddy's girl" that spent a lot of her free time in his workshop, and went to NAIS to study Electrical Engineering (or the NAIS equivalent). Her father also taught her how to program, wire, and build electronic systems, so she could easily read his code or understand something he built. The only way she would be more familiar with this system would be if she made it herself, and there's components and code functions that she designed used in the AAA.
I didn't include prototype because there was comments about her dad selling these kits, but non-standard parts (should have been a given).   :thumbsup:
It might be a clean and professional install job, but you are still cramming extra hardware cases into places where the mech was were never to have them.  All it takes is to interfer with ejection is a 286 computer unit slightly in the way.  She not that big, she might not notice the "extra space" taken up but Bruce Campbell in her mech would.

If he prepped her that well, she might get a visit from Holy Shroud ROM unit, so maybe it is better they think she dead.

Still enjoying your story

Updated
Now may I present my take on your Vallois Solutions experimental Agile Adaptive Aperture (AAA) Synthetic Radar Array, Vallois Solutions Targeting and Tracking systems, and Vallois Solutions Comms package.
Using quirks
Improved Communications
Improved Sensors

But to also represent the extra hardware shoved into the head
Cramped Cockpit
Difficult to Eject
Difficult to Maintain
Non-Standard Parts

Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 20 May 2020, 21:40:20
Quote
The other thing I'm sensitive to is balancing certain lines with the characters. First, I don't want to be like 80s GI Joe where you have this amazing team of elite special operators versus a near-peer terrorist organization but rarely does anyone get seriously injured. I've found if I'm reading a book where the characters have too many close calls, but always slip by unscathed it gets boring, because it feels they're never really in danger. On the other hand I don't want to be like George R.R. Martin where you don't really get attached to his characters, but you stick around waiting for the people you really hate to get what's coming to them.

I think you've handled this very well so far. The losses of Lucky and Tuna hurt; we'd only known them for a few paragraphs, but they were people by that point, not redshirts. And casualties don't have to be deaths; while loss of a limb is almost certainly a career-ending injury at this time, there'll be burns, broken bones, concussions - and then (for example) how Hap copes with being stuck in a cast while Anastasia goes into battle ...

One note on the HBS game vs the BT game vs the fictional 'real world'. In the boardgame, one-on-one a Blackjack simply can't keep that distance from the Archer, because the Archer can close faster than the Blackjack can walk (or jump) away. That's where you, the writer, make the difference. What stops the Archer from closing? Is it defending a position? Is the terrain broken, boggy, or forested, limiting movement? Is there another 'Mech closer, and more immediately threatening? Does it have leg crits already?

I just make the comment because I see in some of the computer-game-players coming across that there should be ways to knock out opposing 'mechs without taking damage in return. But the board-game players expect to get bits knocked off - minimising return fire, but never expecting not to get hit. Which ties in well with the Succession War false-chivalry (aka the 'Forced Withdrawal' rules). Your first post had much stronger impact because of the deaths of Lucky and Tuna, and that was good. But as you're already aware, death is like hot chili - essential, but not to be overdone. Of course, the exact 'heat' level varies from person to person.

TL:DR version: write first, obey the rules second ;)
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 21 May 2020, 16:21:01
Thanks again Doc and WorkTroll, you guys may not know it, or even see it directly, but you are keeping me honest and making me a better writer, and I appreciate it.

I need to get the next couple chapters ready to post tomorrow, so I need to "focus up" on that, but I've enjoyed this conversation.

I also see your point with the Archer vs. Blackjack, I may have to think how that could play out. I'll have to put that in my notes and scraps file to revisit it later...or I may just let a couple of my characters argue it out.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 21 May 2020, 18:30:31
Blackjack has the range, but if that all it got vrs the Archer, soon or later those LRM are coming hard.  But if the Archer has something else to keep it busy, then light it up and hope for that Golden BB.
I have seen a Blackjack show what it could do vrs a fixed position of LRM launcher and threaten to Shell the Moon Base until the "dome" popped as the quote went.
"I have the ammo reserves and your not moving, and can't reach back to me.  Think you should surrender operations now or learn to breath in space."

Now sorry we have slowed your writing down with our Tech questions, but it been a good Story.  Like I said, when the next Death comes for one of these characters we have got to know, it might be a gut punch.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 21 May 2020, 19:27:28
And to further disrupt, are you a Strazinski, or a Martin? Do you have a "5-year-arc" in mind, or are you letting the characters loose in your playground and seeing what develops organically?
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 22 May 2020, 04:34:54
And to further disrupt, are you a Strazinski, or a Martin? Do you have a "5-year-arc" in mind, or are you letting the characters loose in your playground and seeing what develops organically?

I'd hate to compare myself to either one, because they're pros, and I do this to relax.

I have a pretty broad story outline written out with some "must happen events", and some "think this is a good idea" events. I'm willing to let the characters wonder and if, doing research, or during one of these conversations an interesting idea comes up I'd probably pursue it. There are a few gray areas in the plot line though, and I don't think I have the same level of vision as Strazinski showed in Babylon 5.

I'd also be hesitant to wonder too far off the plot outline though. I have some incomplete works and a meandering story where I wasn't very disciplined and I introduced too many characters and the whole thing just got too complex, too complicated, and it was hard to reconcile the party's current activities with the plot. Letting my characters wonder made the story collapse under it's own weight. Somehow Martin didn't let that exactly happen with Game of Thrones, but sometimes I thought he was struggling with that too.

The other thing I'm trying (and I'm hesitant to mention this) is leave little clues to where the story is going. This also drives me to keep my eye on the end goal and incorporate future aspects of unrevealed plot points into the story. This is something J.K. Rowling is famous for, (again I'm just a hobbyist), and I found that very rewarding as a reader to go back see a small detail and realize it was referring to something important later.

Good Chess players do two things: 1) They play multiple moves ahead, and 2) They constantly prosecute a checkmate. I try to write like that. I'm willing to deviate, but constantly working toward the end goal.   
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 22 May 2020, 05:07:32
Works for me! And thanks for taking the time out to answer.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: PsylockeSmythe on 22 May 2020, 08:36:06
I've been enjoying the story and looking forward to the next chapters.

Psy
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 22 May 2020, 16:21:53
Chapter 18

Anastasia heard Hap say her name as he gently shook her. She stretched and turned over to look at him. Without thinking she gave him a warm smile, "Good morning, Harold."

Hap couldn't help but smile back, "Good morning Anastasia. I wanted to talk to you about last night. Before you fell asleep did you say something?"

Anastasia looked a little sheepish, "I might have said something as I was falling asleep. I've been told when I get comfortable I tend to say or do things I wouldn't normally say. What did you hear?" Anastasia didn't regret saying that she loved Harold, but she didn't want to get lectured on how they still needed to get to know each other and how she shouldn't say "that" word.

Hap paused for a moment, as he debated with himself, "I thought you said, 'I love you'."

"Sleepy Anastasia says many things." she said dismissively. This sounded like it was going to be a lecture. She snuggled up to him, if he was going to lecture, or call her naïve, she could at least enjoy being close.

"Whatever 'sleepy Anastasia' said it got me thinking that even if I didn't hear those words I wanted to, because I enjoy spending time with you, and getting to know you. I also appreciated our conversation last night. I, uh, it was, uh, I appreciated the emotional support."

Anastasia looked at him expectantly. This no longer sounded like a lecture, it sounded promising.

"What I'm trying to say is…" Hap paused, "This is awkward because I said we need to take things slow."

Anastasia felt bad for him, "Harold, you don't have to say anything. I know you love me. You can't hold me like you do and not love me. You're not pawing at me for sex. You wrap your arms around me and make me feel loved. It's why I said, 'I love you'. I felt loved, I wanted to let you know I loved you back"

Hap nodded. He didn't have anything else to say. He ran his hand up and down her back as she laid with her head on his chest. After a minute Anastasia broke the silence, "So where do we go from here?"

Hap shrugged, "I don't know."

"You don't know? You decided we should take things slow, I assumed you have milestones or goals for our relationship that we need to meet in a certain order." Anastasia tried to remember if any of the books she had read had some sort of timeline for relationships.

Hap shook his head, "I don't. I figure our relationship should progress naturally, it's not a process."

Anastasia got quiet for a moment then said, "I think everything is a process or at least has an orderly way to be accomplished. Anything you do in a step-by-step method is a process. It doesn't matter if it's your morning routine, or starting your 'Mech. Why should our relationship be any different?"

"Do you hear yourself?" Hap was at loss, "There is no 'do these ten things and you'll go from strangers to lovers for life'. Even if a relationship does need steps or activities you can't just race through them as quickly as possible. Time together is just as important as anything else for a relationship to grow. Honestly, you sound more like an engineer than a 'sweep-me-off-my-feet' romantic."

"Being swept off my feet implies the process can be done quicker in the right circumstances. It's actually more efficient when you think about it, which is generally the goal of engineering." Anastasia replied.

"Relationships take time Anastasia. I mean, look at you, you're comfortable with saying 'I love you', but you take your bra off under your shirt, so you're not comfortable showing me your naked body."

"Maybe I'm not comfortable with my body, and that's a different process to fix."

"Or maybe it's because you're not ready to have sex."

They both got quiet again, then Anastasia sighed, "So it comes back to time?"

"Yes time." Hap replied quietly as he squeezed her shoulder.

They laid quietly together again, then Hap asked, "So are you uncomfortable with your body, or did you just assume if I saw you naked I'd want more, and it would just lead to problems?"

"A little bit of both." Anastasia replied. She glanced over at Hap's watch, and then flashed him an impish grin, "But if you really want to see me topless, and you promise to be good-"

"I'm always good." Hap said slowly as he gave her a questioning look.

Anastasia sat up "Okay, but keep in mind, I've been told my 'rack' isn't the best."

"You were told that by a man that has never, and likely will never, see your 'rack', and generally has to pay a woman to see or touch her anything."

Anastasia nodded, "True". She slowly started to roll-up the bottom of her shirt, then stopped, "but I want to make sure you're not disappointed."

Hap's eyes narrowed. She was clearly teasing him, "I assure you I won't be disappointed."

"Promise?"

"Anastasia, what are you-" as Harold spoke he was interrupted by the morning wake-up bell.

Anastasia smoothed out her shirt, "Oh! I'm sorry Harold, it's time to start our morning processes."

Hap caught her wrist as she reached for the door. "I've been learning about more 'efficient processes'. I think I can spare a moment."

"I'm not sure I can" Anastasia smiled and freed her wrist with a quick twist. Before Hap could stop her she got her hand on the door latch and threw it open. Hap responded by sweeping off his blankets in Anastasia's direction. He managed to wrap her up in blankets, and gave her a playful shove. She responded with a muffled "Hey" as she fell over in a tangled heap at the foot of the bed.

Hap looked up to see Joker perched on on the edge of his compartment. He looked like he was debating the merits of getting out of bed. He looked at Hap and asked, "What are you two doing?"

Hap glanced over Anastasia trying to untangle herself, "We were talking about efficient processes."

"Like the fastest way to do something? Is that what Anastasia calls having sex with you?"

Anastasia pushed her head out of the blankets, "You hear efficient process, understand 'fastest way to accomplish a thing', and immediately think of sex?"

"It's all he ever thinks about." Mags said as she pulled a box out of her locker and put it on the deck.

"Sounds about right." Hap told Anastasia, "you look like you're not having an efficient time, need help?"

"No." Anastasia said darkly, as she sat up, got her hands free, and began to untangle the blanket.

Mags pulled a palm sized cylinder out of the box. She stepped over toward Hap, "I have a question. "

"What do you need?" Hap asked.

"Not you, Anastasia. I need someone smart." Mags took another step to stand in front of Anastasia.

Joker jumped down, with his stupid grin, "Ah Hap, Mags doesn't think you're smart."

"That's not what I said." Mags snapped

"That's exactly what you said." Joker replied with his characteristic irritating smile

Anastasia was mostly free of the blanket. She was feeling closer to Harold and Joker's slight at him annoyed her more than usual. "Joker, if Harold isn't smart then you have donkey brains."

"Donkey Brains? Is that the best you got?" Joker stepped closer to Anastasia and starred at her.

"Quiet donkey brains." Mags said as she pushed Joker away from Anastasia. Mags handed Anastasia a small black palm-sized cylinder. "My personal Holoviewer broke, can you fix it?"

Anastasia took the cylinder, and it rattled as she examined it. "What happened?"

"It fell during our landing on Klathandu." Mags explained. Anastasia looked up. Mags voice was low, and her expression told Anastasia this was important. Before Anastasia could reply Mags told her, "You're the smartest person I know. If anyone can fix it it's you."

Anastasia nodded and began to play with her braid. As she nervously tugged the braid she noted that it Hap's roughhousing had loosened it, and she needed to be fixed, but she was more interested in the holo and trying to solve the problem of how to repair it.

"Mag's can I ask why it's important?"

"It has holos of my family, and a video from my Father. It's important to me." Mags almost whispered.

Hap could see Joker was still staring at Anastasia, probably trying to think of some devastating insult to hurl at her. Hap opened up his locker and asked Joker, "How was the card game last night?"

"It didn't go so well" Joker looked at Mags,"because someone doesn't understand how to play spades."

"You're the one that doesn't seem to know how many total tricks there are." Mags snapped.

"Look, I could only take two. You said you would win five, but you took twice that." Joker snapped.

Anastasia examined the broken holoviewer as Joker and Mags bickered. Aside from the rattle the metal case had a large dent. The holo array appeared to be fine, so it was just the internal electronics. She could fix a lot of things, but this would likely be difficult. These things weren't designed to be repaired. They were probably made in an automated factory in Marik space and no one knew how to fix them. She sighed, if she had some tools maybe she could try something, at least salvage the memory module. The holo wasn't important to Mags, the pictures and videos were, so that gave her some options.

Anastasia put on her coveralls and slipped the holoviewer into a large cargo pockets. Soon everyone had finished there morning processes and were headed to the galley. Anastasia fell into step beside Harold. She looked over at him and smiled. It was good to talk to someone that understand how it felt to lose a parent. Since she had lost her father she had needed someone to talk to that could understand her and relate. She felt a little guilty as she wondered how her mother was coping.

Breakfast was all canned or prepackaged foods. After weeks of space travel all the fresh food had been eaten and whoever's day it was to cook had just given up and put out dried cereals, ready-made bread, canned milk, and canned fruits. It wasn't fresh, but at least it was nourishing.

Normally Fletch, or Tomax would pass out training assignments during breakfast. Today they handed out tasks for preparing the shuttle to land. There were areas to clean, equipment that had to be secured and dozens of other duties that had to be done before the drop shuttle could enter a planet's atmosphere.

Most of the MechWarriors helped the techs prepare their 'Mechs. The upcoming mission was supposed to be a garrison duty, and there was no expectation that this would be a combat drop, but just in case McFinnigan wanted the 'Mechs ready for action. He also wanted his company to look like professionals.

Since Hap, Anastasia, and Joker's 'Mechs were on the other drop shuttle they were tasked with helping Codey and Mal take apart the simulators. They went down to the vehicle bay and found the two techs already at work. Codey was pressing buttons on a terminal built into the large Leenex 60 cylinder.

"What is that thing?" Joker asked pointing at the cylinder.

Codey gave him a questioning look, "It's the power source from a 'Mech, specifically an Urbanmech. I can't believe you didn't know that. What do you think has been powering all the systems?"

"I dunno. We're on a massive ship. I just figured everything was patched into the ship's engines."

Anastasia sighed, "It has nuclear and hazard markings all over it. It's a large fusion reactor shaped cylinder, and nearly everything here is wired into it. Further, it has large air hoses going into the ship's air exchangers. It never occurred to you it might be a 'Mech's fusion reactor?"

"Anastasia, I'm not like you. There are a lot of things that never occur to me, alright?"

"Yes. I actually knew that." Anastasia replied.

Hap knew if he let them, Anastasia and Joker would argue all day. "Codey you need any help shutting down that generator?"

"Yeah I could use a hand." Codey said as he continued to press buttons on the maintenance panel.

"Mal, what do you need help with?" Hap looked to the short young woman with blue hair.

Mal had an armload of large cloth bags. She raised her eyebrows in surprise, and almost dropped her bags. "Um, I dunno. I usually have to do all this myself."

"What are you doing with those bags?" Hap asked

"The setup for the command couches are all custom work, so I have to make sure all the cables and pieces stay together. Each couch gets a bag and everything for that couch goes into its bag."

Hap nodded, "Got it. Joker, help Mal with the couches. Anastasia, you want to help Codey or Mal?"

Anastasia looked at Mal, and then saw something on the table behind her. "I'll help Mal."

"Hey why does she get a choice?" Joker asked

"Because we're here to help, and you couldn't recognize the most basic of fusion reactors." Hap replied

"Look, first of all I shut down a fusion reactor all the time, and I didn't recognize one because mine is inside my mech, where it's supposed to be. I bet you or Anastasia can't even name your engine type."

Anastasia looked up from the NAV board she was unscrewing, "It's an Omni 150."

"That doesn't mean anything! She knows everything about everything." Joker said.

"Mine is a CoreTex 275, and your Firestarter has a GM 210. I did a lot of my own maintenance, and I had to request a new engine after part of your shielding got destroyed during the 'hot drop' into Klathandu."

"Oh yeah. Well I didn't want to work on the reactor anyway." Joker said as he took a bag from Mal.

Hap walked over to Codey and helped him go through the reactor's safety shutdown checklist. Anastasia finished one couch and moved over to the one next to where Mal was working.

Anastasia carefully unplugged a target acquisition computer, "Mal, the HUD for these simulators, are they all made from personal holoviewers?"

"Yeah. This is one of my and Codey's specialties. We take a micro holoviewer, overwrite the code, wire it into the system and it works just like your 'Mech's HUD, and shows you stuff in 'the game'."

Anastasia continued to roll up cables and place them in the bag, "I see you have one plugged into your terminal at your workstation. Can you transfer data between holoviewers?"

"Oh yeah, we do that all the time. I got a whole setup over there." Mal said gesturing to the long table.

"If I had a broken holoviewer, do you think you could help me get the data off of it?" Anastasia asked

"Um…probably. Let's look at it during lunch." Mal replied. "Codey's really fussy about getting the simulators packed up before we start to land. He'll insist on sticking to his schedule."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 22 May 2020, 16:22:36
Chapter 19

"Remind me again why I'm looking at this broken holoviewer." Codey said as he sat down at his workbench. He unfolded the paper around his sandwich and admired the dent in the holoviewer.

"Anastasia asked me for a favor." Mal said as she sat down next to him and put her sandwich on the table in front of her, "Asked me" She repeated, "Since most MechWarriors usually bitch and yell at us to fix some piece of their 'Mech that they broke, I thought we'd reward her good behavior by helping her."

Hap sat at a loveseat near the work bench, he leaned back and got comfortable and started to eat his sandwich. Anastasia sat down next to him. She kept her back straight, crossed one leg over the other and carefully balanced her sandwich on her knee. Hap felt self-conscious and sat up a little straighter.

Codey mumbled to himself as he took a bite of his sandwich. The holoviewer rattled as he picked it up. He glanced over at Anastasia, "These things aren't supposed to rattle."

"You hear this guy Anastasia, he's a pro. Knows that holoviewers don't usually rattle." Joker laughed to himself as he took a chair next the couch. He slouched in his seat and began to loudly eat his sandwich.

Anastasia ignored Joker and looked at Codey, "I thought the same thing when Mags handed it to me. She was insistent that I try to fix it. She said it broke during the drop on Klathandu."

Codey nodded, "We lost an engine coming down. Let me tell you, that was an exciting drop even for us non-MechWarrior types. I wonder why she didn't ask me to look at it."

Hap smiled, "You know Mags. I'd say you're probably better off having her not ask you for help."

Codey mulled that over as he took another bite. He nodded and looked at Anastasia, "Yeah, he's right you're going to have to tell her we can't fix it."

Anastasia daintily unwrapped her sandwich. "I was hoping the memory module was still intact and you could transfer the data from this one onto similar model. I was also hoping, that since you used these as HUDs, I could purchase a spare unit from you"

Mal shook her head, "No need, we'll swap ya for it. We can use this one for spare parts. I like Mags, she doesn't take shit from anybody."

Codey gave Mal a questioning look and she responded with a look of her own, "Come on. It's usually the holo array that burns out, and this one looks intact, it's probably the board that's broken. It's really no big deal. Besides this is for Mags. She's usually pretty cool to us, or at least me." Mal told Codey.

"Are you and Mags friends?" Hap asked

"Sorta. She dated my brother for awhile. It was fun to watch her keep him in check." Mal set her sandwich down, "We got along pretty good while they were dating, and we still do."

"Who's your brother?" Joker asked as he sat up and leaned forward.

"Grizzly. It only lasted a few weeks. Grizzly decided she wasn't marrying material." Mal said.

Joker looked indignant, "What do you mean not marrying material?"

Mal shrugged, "I dunno, he thought she was too wild. I'd guess probably wanted a woman that didn't argue with him about everything."

"Or he didn't want his children's mother to be a woman that constantly says 'I'll cut you'" Anastasia said.

"Has she ever actually cut you?" Joker sneered at Anastasia.

"I pointed that out to her a few days ago in the showers. She replied I was lucky she didn't have a knife."

Before Joker could answer her Hap asked, "So Grizzly is your brother? How did the two of you come to be part of McFinnigan's company?"

"Dad joined up when Commander McFinnigan thought he had enough work for a company of Mechwarriors. When Dad retired Gerald, I mean Grizzl,y took his place piloting the family Wolverine. Codey's dad taught me to program and fix stuff. When Dad split Kelly offered to put me on the payroll."

"What sort of programming do you normally do?" Hap asked

"Usually it's pretty simple stuff, we got a broken system in a 'Mech, or in one of the shuttles, and then we find a similar part and I, as Commander McFinnigan likes to say, 'make it behave'. Basic stuff, modify the readout on a Targeting System to say 'Jagermech' instead of 'Rifleman', or change some of the basic configurations, sometimes I do some custom work for a MechWarrior or the shuttle pilots. Most times though, the Commander has these crazy ideas, like making these 'Mech simulators."

"You've done quite well." Anastasia said, "These simulators are very complicated."

Mal's eyebrows shot up, "Uh… thank you. Sorry, I don't often get compliments."

"What about you Codey? How did you join?" Hap asked

Codey sat up from soldering the holoviewer, and glanced over at Hap, "Oh my story is similar to Mal's. My Father signed up as an electronics expert, and eventually I took his place."

"So your dad taught you everything he could about electronics?" Hap asked.

"I wish. He taught me a lot, but not everything he knew." Codey turned back to the holoviewer and continued to solder. "My dad was a high ranking ComStar Adept that got disillusioned with ComStar and walked away. That man probably forgot more about electronics than I'll ever know."

Anastasia looked at him in disbelief, "I didn't know one could just walk away from ComStar."

"Normally one can't, or at least they usually don't. We lived in a tight little community that felt like military campus, or a prison, and we were surrounded by other ComStar members. When Mom was dying from cancer Dad needed a place to get away from it all. He found a bar he could slip away to and drink. For the year my mom was dying from cancer he'd just go and have a drink some nights. At first he thought ROM agents were tailing him, so he never talked to anyone. He stopped seeing them so he figured they gave up out of pity or boredom." Codey used a magnifying glass to inspect his work.

"So how'd the two of you end up here?" Hap asked.

"One night Dad overheard Erik and Mike talking about some 'Mech subsystem they couldn't make work." Codey passed the holoviewer to Mal, "It's your turn now. I bypassed the broken section of the board to get power to the memory module. Hopefully you can copy the data before the battery dies." Mal took the holoviewer and started connecting cables between her terminal and the holoviewer.

Codey turned back to Hap and Anastasia. "Dad told Erik and Mike how to fix their system. They talked awhile and they asked him to come to their garage. When Dad got there he easily fixed their problem. They showed him a dozen other systems that weren't working or were only partially functional, and by morning he had fixed those too. The next time he went to the bar McFinnigan offered him a job."

"Was it more money than what he got at ComStar?" Joker asked

"Yeah, but it wasn't about money, it was a way out. You have to understand my dad had a couple problems with ComStar. First, once you make it through the initial Acolyte period you become an Adept or a Precentor. According to my dad, if you were smart and showed you could figure stuff out like, like how to operate a Hyper Pulse Generator, you'd become an Adept. If you were more into the spiritual nonsense and management you become a Precentor. The Precentor Dad worked for was an idiot. He could quote Jerome Blake, and say all the right ComStar catechisms, but he was incompetent. Dad and his team kept the Hyper Pulse Generator working in spite of his boss's nonsense."

"Yeah that sort of thing pisses me off too." Joker said.

Hap looked over at Joker, "What are you talking about?"

"Uh, not you, I meant whenever I see that sort of thing." Joker lied

Hap shook his head, "Next shit detail is all yours." He looked to Codey, "Apologizes, please continue."

"Another problem Dad had was that he hated the way ComStar played Inner Sphere powers against each other, especially how they pretended to be neutral but were actually using information they got from running the HPG network. He didn't think they had the morale authority to condemn the House Lords, and thought ComStar had made themselves unworthy to bring about a new Star League.

Anastasia nodded as he spoke, "My father said the very same things."

Codey looked at Anastasia suspiciously, then shrugged, "It's sort of an obvious secret, I guess. The final thing was my mom got cancer. Dad requested a transfer to a core world so he could get her the best medical care, but his Precentor denied it. The Precentor knew Dad kept the HPG running, and if Dad left the HPG might fail. After Mom died that was it, he was done. Then Kelly offered him a way out."

"Wow" Hap said with a sigh, "Where is your dad now?" Haps asked

"Dead." Codey said matter-of-factly, then quickly added. "He was killed by a ROM agent. He had figured it would happen eventually. The real wonder was I survived and they haven't come back for me."

"I hate to pry," Anastasia said, "but, may I ask what happened?"

Codey nodded, "We were on Buckminster doing some jobs for the Lyran Commonwealth. We had set up a forward ammo and resupply point because the missions were almost back-to-back. Dad and I were working on a Range Finder when he got shot by a sniper. Everyone dived for cover and Erik called into Ops to let them know we were pinned down. Usually Ops would respond with artillery if we could call in an exact location. I was trying to see the sniper when I thought I heard Dad move. I carefully looked over the pile of armor I was hiding behind, and I saw this man's face floating in the air, and where his body should have been it looked like a rainbow of heat waves and weird colors."

"That sounds like an advanced mimetic cloaking device." Anastasia said.

"Yeah a sneak suit. ComStar has a bunch of high tech, los tech, and advanced kit. So I knew this had to be a ROM agent. It was just like Dad had warned me. The sniper saw me, and told me to come to him. He asked me if I was Codey, and wanted to know everything my Dad hold told the mercenaries."

"How did you get out of that?" Hap asked

"Well he was asking me a lot of questions about who my Dad had talked to, what sort of help he had given the mercenaries. It was a lot of stuff about tech exchange. I knew Dad was smart and a technical expert, but this guy made me think Dad knew everything about everything. He asked me about stuff I never imagined. While he was interrogating me, Mike slipped behind with that giant torque wrench."

"What giant torque wrench?" Joker asked.

"It's this two meter long adjustable torque wrench that looks like it was made for a 'Mech to perform its own maintenance. Mike and Erik are the only people I know that can even pick up the damn thing, and Mike walked behind this guy as silent as a cat and with one swing bashed in his skull."

"Damn, Hap. Didn't you say Mike hated you after working with you on your 'Mech?" Joker said.

"Mike told me my welding didn't look like a bag of ass. So I think I'm good." Hap replied.

Mal laughed, then looked around nervously, "Sorry, that just so like Mike." She quickly resumed typing.

"Mike might be a bastard sometimes, but he saved my life. The next day two people claiming to be representatives from the Mercenary Review Board came by, and asked a bunch of questions about the sniper and my dad and me. I wasn't there for the conversation but from what I was told Kelly knew something was up because they hadn't reported anything to the Review Board. Kelly gave them the body of the sniper and his gear, and told them all my dad's stuff had been burned, per his instructions.

Then Kelly convinced them that Dillon was me. Dillon's mech had taken a hit in the meat, so he was banged up pretty bad, and almost unrecognizable. Whatever answers he gave the "representatives" convinced them that I was an idiot. They left and told Kelly if he found anything odd in my dad's effects to bring it to the nearest COMSTAR office, and there'd be a reward." Codey said.

"I don't get it. Why would they care about any of your Dad's crap?" Joker said.

"Dad had some books and things that were very technical. ComStar actively seeks to prevent any high end technology from being recovered by the inner sphere House Lords. Like I said, they want the great houses and periphery bandits to destroy themselves. Then ComStar will usher in a new Star League and a new age of enlightenment, or some bullshit. The sad thing is, according to Dad, ComStar used their monopoly on interstellar comms to provoke or perpetuate the Second and Third Succession wars."

Anastasia nodded as he spoke. "Exactly. I'm sorry about your father, but, if I may, you said your Dad had ComStar books. Do you still have them? Are they ComStar technical readouts?"

"Sorta. I have several manuals on electrical engineering and communications." Codey said as he pulled a large plastic box out from under the table. "They're almost text books, and Dad used them to teach me and Mal. I still reference them sometimes." He opened the plastic container and pulled out a large black book that had Electronics Manual emblazoned in front of a Greek Alpha and the ComStar symbol.

Anastasia took the book from him and her perfect posture disappeared as she leaned back on Hap. She hands slightly shook as she opened to the table of contents. Her eyes flicked across the chapter titles and she rapidly flipped to a chapter near the end of the book. Hap could feel her almost trembling as she began to look over a chapter titled "Hyper Pulse Generator theory and Interstellar Communication"

Joker leaned over and frowned, "There's no words there, just a bunch of strange symbols and math problems. It was like the books for those math classes I wasn't smart enough for."

Hap glanced down and saw that there were several pages of mathematical equations. He couldn't tell if it was just one equation, or dozens. Anastasia turned the page as she explained, "It's similar to the equation a jump ship would use to calculate a jump between systems. Except a jump point is usually at the nadir and zenith of star's gravity well, but this equation is much more specific and complicated so that you can transmit your data as close as possible to your destination HPG station."

Codey eyes grew wide, "You shouldn't know that. You're right, but according to my Dad, Acolytes would not be taught that until they became Adapts and most Precentors were too stupid to understand that."

"Damn, if we were in ComStar all of you smart people would be working for me." Joker laughed.

Anastasia shook her head and turned a page. "I'd quit so fast it would seem like I never worked for you."

"Anastasia, how do you know how Hyper Pulse Generators work?" Codey asked.

"My dad wanted to build out his own competition to ComStar, so we read everything we could get our hands on. When I was at NAIS I had access to the Halstead Station library and the Helm memory core, so I did research for him. " Anastasia looked up for a moment, "May I borrow this book?"

Codey gave her a hard look, "That book is one of the few things I got to remember my dad, and I need it from time to time." He hesitated for a moment, "but yeah, just get it back to me before we land."

Anastasia nodded eagerly, "Certainly, yes. I understand."

Anastasia pressed herself closer to Hap. The elegance and formality were gone from her posture, she was focused on learning now. Hap put his arm across her shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze.

Mal turned around with the new Holoviewer. "Alright people, moment of truth, let's see if the data transferred." She flicked the power switch with her thumb and the system lit up and displayed a menu. Mal selected the most recent video and a holographic image of an old man appeared. He looked mean. He had multiple scars and was missing a tooth. His features softened as he looked into the camera and began speaking in fluent Spanish. Mal quickly paused the holo. "Oh! That's Mag's dad."

Hap nodded. "I think that's a private message. Thank you again Mal. Are you sure we don't owe you?"

"Naw, It's nice to have MechWarriors that appreciate my skills. Tell your friends." Mal joked

Codey stood up, "Well now that the charity work is over, I think we should get back to packing up."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 23 May 2020, 10:50:13
When and if ROM comes a knocking they could bag multiple people of value...
 :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 24 May 2020, 00:19:05
Love it... but I'm not sold on the idea that Comstar's position on the Inner Sphere 3029 should be common knowledge or even common conjecture (outside of some circles in NAIS). I thought most rank & file IS citizens blame their nation's enemies for the tech knowledge decline?
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 24 May 2020, 02:02:55
not everyone
but Codey is the son of disenchanted genius Comstar Adept, who he passed on his feelings to and well Anastasia, her Dad was a genius who didn't trust Comstar.

and gee both dad died most likely by ROM
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Kyryst on 24 May 2020, 02:05:30
There is a problem when every scientist and reverse engineering team for 150 years dies. It becomes an open secret that the only ones that could do it are the phone company, because if you didn’t kill them, your enemy you just finished whaling on who couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag sure as hell didn’t kill them. Then the phone company that handles your mail and inherited those SLIC teams that killed scientist who pryed into secrets the Terrans declared Verboten and killed people in all those ways that just seem to be the exact same way all your scientists died... Well, there is only one place that higher technology and education exists, and that makes people nudge and wink about certain things.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 29 May 2020, 16:09:37
Chapter 20
October 3029
Monhegan System

Hap, Anastasia and Joker met up with Mags in the galley after spending the afternoon helping Codey and Mal disassemble and pack the simulator system. They sat down around her and Hap asked, "How was your day Mags? How's the work on your Jenner?"

Mags groaned, "The techs had been doing routine maintenance on my Jenner. The missile feed mechanism was on the schedule, so I had to help them get it done. I spent the day lubricating the feed trays and linkages. I got all this lubricant shit under my nails and it takes forever to wash it off."

"I got something you can lubricate." Joker told her

"You want a lubricant gun shoved up your ass?" Mags countered

Anastasia set the holoviewer on the table, "We fixed your holoviewer."

"Really?" Mags snatched the holoviewer, and flipped the power switch. She went directly to the videos and again the image of the old man appeared. Before he could start speaking Mags paused the video.

Mags leaned over and hugged Anastasia. Anastasia gave Hap the half terrified, half overwhelmed look that she had when Kelly hugged her. Hap was bemused by this reaction. When they were alone she craved intimacy, but she seemed to dislike unexpected physical contact with friends or acquaintances.

Mags let her go and began to search through the other files on the device. Anastasia recovered from the surprise hug and explained, "We weren't actually able to fix it, but Mal and Codey were able to transfer the data from your broken system to one of their spares."

"Wow." Mags said quietly, as she played with the device "I wouldn't have thought to ask them."

"Mal was happy to help." Anastasia said, "She wanted you to know it was mostly her efforts."

"Mal really thinks pretty highly of you." Hap added.

"Yeah I dated Grizzly a while back. I think she liked the idea I'd be her sister or whatever." Mags said without looking up from the holoviewer display. "Didn't work out though."

"Yeah what happened with you and Grizzly?" Joker asked, there was an edge to his tone.

Mags continued to scroll through menus and files, "Nothing. He just wanted sex all the time." Mags shut off the holoviewer, "Jefe, you need me for anything tonight? I'd like to just go back to my rack."

Hap nodded, "Yeah, I understand. We don't have anything planned. If I need you I'll come find you."

Mags gathered up her holoviewer, but before she left she thanked Anastasia again, and then nearly jogged out of the galley. Joker watched her leave then turned back to Hap and Anastasia, "That's weird."

"Yeah, did she call me Jefe?" Hap asked as he adjusted his plate of schnitzel and spätzle mit kasse.

"It means chief. Maybe Mags has decided to be a team player now that we did something nice for her."

"That's not what I meant. Mags and Grizzly are weird. I wonder what they did together."

"Had sex apparently." Anastasia said nonchalantly as she cut into her schnitzel.

Joker looked up from scrapping Mags food onto his plate, "You're not funny."

Hap took a bite of his spätzle, "So you like Mags?"

"Yeah, maybe. It's not a big deal, you and the pri-uh-professor have each other."

Anastasia gave Joker a hard stare. "pass the mustard, please."

"You've been with a few girls, what's wrong with Mags having a past relationship?" Hap asked

Joker handed Anastasia the mustard, "First, don't threaten me with good manners, it's just weird. Second, it's not her past relationships, I'm cool with that, it's just that it's Grizzly."

"Thank you" Anastasia took the mustard, "Are you intimidated by Grizzly?"

"You shouldn't be, most women like men that are like their fathers, and Mag's dad looks like a skinny squirrelly bastard, which is a lot like you. Of course he looks a hell of a lot meaner." Hap said.

Anastasia pursed her lips and shook her head, "That not true. I'm very attracted to you, Harold, but my dad was a short balding little intellectual with a goatee. That is nothing like your clean shaven, tall, broad shouldered physique. Further you've made improvising, and exploiting the incalculable into a lifestyle. That is the polar opposite of my process driven, highly organized, scientist of a father."

"Damn, I think she just insulted you." Joker said.

"No, I'm telling you that not all women model their life partner after their father. This is actually fortunate for you because everything Mags says about her father implies he does not share your terrible sense of humor, he is, as some would say, a stone cold killer. Quite frankly, he is your opposite."

"Well they both love Mags." Hap responded.

"Whoa, I didn't say I loved her. Why are you two throwing around 'L' words like love and life-partner?" Joker spoke through his mouth full of food. "Mags and I are just getting to know each other."

Anastasia gave him a reproachful look as Hap asked, "What do you like about Mags?"

"First she's not uppity." Joker said returning Anastasia's stare. "and she's kinda cute. She's fun to be around I guess. Doesn't spend all her time reading." Joker smiled, "She also has a nice rack."

"You like Mags because she is completely unlike me?" Anastasia asked.

Joker swallowed his food, while smiling and nodding, "Yeah, I guess she is."

Anastasia's eyes narrowed, "One of the things I like about Hap is how he is unlike you."

"Of course he isn't like me, I'm one-of-a-kind." Joker laughed as he shoveled more food into his mouth.

"There is, of course, a lot more I like about you." Anastasia told Hap.

"I'm sure you've made a detailed list." Hap told her with a chuckle.

"I haven't, but I could make one." Anastasia said as she dug into her pocket for her pen and notebook.

"Don't" Hap reached across the table and putting his hand on hers. "Just tell me later."

"Yeah, Mags would never make a list about me. That's one more thing I like about her." Joker said.

Anastasia chose not to respond and dinner passed quickly. Afterward they returned to their living spaces. Mags bed chamber was closed but the other mechwarriors were sitting on their bunks talking. Joker asked them if wanted to play cards, but they weren't interested. Anastasia sat down on Hap's bunk and started to read the ComStar electronics manual.

Hap sat down next to her, and smiled as he teased. "So you only like me for my good looks?"

Anastasia frowned for a moment then she looked at Hap in surprise, "Oh Harold, I didn't mean to imply that. I was trying to say you weren't like my father, not in intellect but in process versus improvisations."

"I know Anastasia, I'm just giving you a hard time."

"Harold, our relationship is important to me. For the last three years I was generally trying to push everyone away, and I suspect I've probably learned several anti-social behaviors that I'm trying to stop doing. If I say something hurtful or offensive, please tell me, and know I probably didn't mean it."

"Okay, that's fair. If you say something that sounds intentionally offensive I'll talk to you about it. Is that just for you and me, or everyone?"

"Probably should be everyone." Anastasia said as she settled in close to Hap and rested her head on his shoulder, "Unless it's Joker."

"Yeah, I figure you're usually trying to offend Joker." Hap said as he rested his head on top of hers.

Fiona stormed through the berthing area. She briskly passed Hap and Anastasia and stopped at the other end of the hall. "Eugene, tomorrow I want your 'Mech repainted. No excuses. Get it done." She spoke authoritatively and Anastasia and Hap leaned forward to watch.

"Aww Fiona, but that's the last joke Jerry is ever going to play on me. Can't I leave it?" Crow pleaded.

"No. There is a large poorly painted penis on the side of your 'Mech. Fix it tomorrow." Fiona demanded

"But…"

Fiona interrupted, "Take a picture of it, we'll hang it in the galley. Then repaint your damn 'Mech."

Crow reached into his locker and produced a framed picture, "I hung it in the galley and Elinor came by and started shouting that she didn't want any pornography in the pub. She even gave me the look."

Fiona nodded and her voice softened, "Yeah even as a girl when Elley gave you 'the look', you were done. If you can get Kelly drunk enough he'll tell you how he was going to break up with her, but she gave him that look and next thing we all knew they were at the altar. But that is beside the point. Eugene," Fiona leaned forward to look him in the eye, "repaint your damn 'Mech."

"But what about Jerry?"

Fiona's shoulders dropped and her voice softened, "He's gone. We have to move on. I know you and him were best friends, or worst enemies." She sighed. "Honestly I never understood why Jerry tormented you. Look, there is a staff meeting tonight, but if you want, we can talk afterwards."

"Come by your room?"

Fiona nodded, "Bring a bottle of wine, it'll be like old times." She spun around on her heels. "Hap you hear all that? Kelly is convening a staff meeting."

"Um yeah." Hap said, he looked over at Anastasia and gave her a shrug. She nodded as he stood up and followed behind the Fire Support lance leader.

"We need to hurry Hap, or we'll be late." Fiona told him as she proceeded down the hall.

They started to quicken the pace as Hap asked, "Are you and Crow together?"

"We were awhile back. It's a long story, but after everything that happened on Klathandu I've been thinking we should get back together. Eugene is a good man, and he can be a calming presence."

"Was your relationship with Crow a problem with other members of your lance?"

They started to climb the stairs to the command deck. "You live with the mutants in my lance, what do you think? Dillon is just smart enough to do what he is told. Old man Rolph doesn't care about much as long as he gets the parts he needs to maintain his 'mech and time to pump iron, and Eugene's more laid-back than you. Eugene can also separate the bedroom from the cockpit. So no, it wasn't a problem."

Hap was quiet for a moment as they kept climbing the steep stairs of the drop shuttle. Fiona slowed and looked over her shoulder at him, "Hap, if you're concerned about you and Anastasia, I'd remind you that you're a mercenary now. The Ares Convention is just something House lords accuse the other guy of violating. All is fair at love and war, and you'll learn pretty quick it's all the same. You two clearly like each other, and life is short. Don't over think it.

"I'm trying not to, but I want to get my lance together before things go too far with us."

Fiona shook her head, "I'm telling you it doesn't matter, Mags might bitch, but she is always looking for something to complain about. I don't know about your pal Joker, but he probably won't care either."

"As long as Joker doesn't think I'm being hypocritical he's usually fine." Hap said, pulled himself up the stairs. He really didn't want to talk about him and Anastasia. "What is the story with Jerry and Crow?"

Hap could sense Fiona tense up a little. She stopped walking, "I don't know if you've noticed, but Eugene is the guy you want on your team. He is easy to get along with, and when things get hard he usually looks around and tries to make things easier for others. Jerry was...not that way. He was selfish, mean spirited, complained about everything, and his practical jokes often got out of control."

Hap nodded, "Joker can be like that sometimes. Crow is easy to like. Do you think Jerry jealous?"

"No." Fiona said quickly, "Well, actually" She thought for a moment, "I'm not sure. I will tell you that Jerry perpetuated a 'friendly' feud with Eugene. Maybe it was out jealously. I will tell you the feud wasn't something that Eugene was good at, I always thought that was Jerry's real joke."

"Really? That 'Mech hand seemed clever. It had Mags and Joker howling, but it nearly broke Anastasia."

"See, what I mean by, 'out of control? The story there is Jerry requested fire support, but Eugene's magazines were dry, so he told Jerry he was "Winchester, and returning to the munitions point". Jerry turned his Shadow Hawk around and flipped him off. Then the one-in-a-million shot happened and the OpFor blew the hand off of Jerry's Shadow Hawk."

She started walking again, "After the mission the techs couldn't fix the 'Mech's hand. Erik made a hook for him until we found another Shadow Hawk arm, but Jerry liked it and opted to just keep it.

"Is that the weird curved thing on the wall in the galley?"

She nodded, "Yes. We kept it after his 'Mech was destroyed. However, when he was alive Jerry took what was left of his 'Mech's hand and had the techs make a rude gesture which he put in Eugene's bed."

"What about the toy rabbit and the laundry."

"You don't want to know, let's just say you made the right call by having Eugene replace everything that touched that terrible rabbit. I had him space it." Fiona shuddered as she thought about the rabbit.

They continued up the stairs quietly for a few minutes, until Hap broke the silence. "So what do you think this meeting is all about?"

"Since we're in system I assume Kellly has been in contact with the client. He probably just wants to tell us what to expect, and make sure we off load like professionals."

"Sounds like it should be a pretty quick staff meeting."

"It should be, but Kelly will keep us around half the night trying to take all our money."

"Yeah, I like the informality of it all, but, no offense, I'd think I'd rather spend more time with Anastasia."

"Oh you're not alone. There is only so much of Fletch's sarcasm and Patrick's drinking I can take."

"And you got a night of reminiscing with Eugene about a guy you didn't really like." Hap pointed out.

Fiona gave Hap a wicked grin, "We're not reminiscing. We're going to polish off a bottle of wine, and he's going to forget about that jackass. Tomorrow we'll be back together, and he'll repaint his damn 'Mech."

Hap gave her a perplexed look, "Why get back together with Eugene now?"

Her grin disappeared, "Klathandu was a hard contract. Normally we drop on a planet, destroy whatever or whoever our client paid us to destroy, and get to the DZ before sundown. If we spent more than six hours planet side, we either made a mistake or were getting paid a fortune." Fiona swallowed hard.

"The ReeCee lance leader, Danny, got killed on the initial drop. Jerry took his place and led them into an ambush a week later. I had a resupply truck with ten tons of ammo. We launched everything we had, overheated our 'Mechs, and still couldn't save them. After that deployment I had to take some time for myself and think. I've decided life is too short, and I want to get back together with Eugene."

They finally reached the command deck. As they approached the officer's lounge Hap asked, "So you're telling me not to waste time, and if I'm going to start a relationship with Anastasia I should just do it?"

"You're a grown ass man Hap, do what you want, but me, I'm not wasting time anymore." Fiona told him as she pushed open the door to the lounge. "But if I were you, I'd start acting smarter."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 29 May 2020, 16:10:11
Chapter 21

Now that McFinnigan and Sons were days from landing the preparations for their new job were non-stop. Every time Hap thought they were done with one task there was something else to clean, secure, or prep. At dinner the night before they would land Hap was assigned the additional duty of being the Officer In Charge (OIC) for the single warrior's barracks.

Kelly explained the contract included housing and accommodations for the Mercenary company. There were apartments for the married couples and families, and a barracks for the single mercenaries. Hap's main responsibility was to ensure the mechwarriors kept the barracks clean, didn't cause irreversible damage, and stupidity was kept to a minimum. Hap went to Roweyna and requested the details on the barracks. She was able to find the plans, and make him a copy.

Hap looked over the designs as he walked back to the berthing area. He recognized it as a standard AFFS barrack design that went back centuries. Hap could already see the rectangular three story concrete building made for housing a 'Mech battalion. Each company would have its own floor, and the floors had six double occupancy rooms, a shared latrine, a day room, and a suite for the commander.

As Hap entered the living spaces he was surprised to find Anastasia and Mags sitting on his bed. Mags was showing Anastasia pictures from her personal holo viewer, as Anastasia braided her own hair.

"This is another one of my cousins, Freda, and her children." Mags said

"How many cousins do you have?" Anastasia asked

"I don't know, when we had family reunions it felt like the whole planet of Cerillos came out." Mags flipped to a picture of an elderly woman. "That's my Abuelita."

"Oh! I have an Abuela. She's not my grandmother, she was actually our cook, but she insisted I call her Abuela. After my grandmother died she was the closest thing I had."

Mags scowled, "She was your family's cook? Did she ever hit with her shoe?"

Anastasia looked confused, "No."

"Then she wasn't your Abeule."

"She taught me Spanish and how to cook. What does hitting me with a shoe have to do with anything?"

Mags grumbled "la chancla" and some more Spanish as she changed the picture. "Here is Abuelo's farm. I mean, it's the family farm. Uncle Rex actually runs it now, but it will always be Abuelo's farm to me."

Hap walked over to where he could see the projected image of a few bison like animals in a dusty field with a reinforced steel fence. "When was the last time you were home?" Hap asked.

Mags thought for a second and counted on her fingers, "Oh shit! Jefe, It's been six years. Yeah, we've done a lot of drops, but I haven't been home since I was thirteen."

"I thought you hadn't seen any combat yet." Anastasia said.

"Doesn't mean I wasn't on the ship when it went down to a planet. And this bitch gets shot at, sometimes. But yeah, the Commander pulled me off of reserve status after the whole ReeCee lance got smoked. Still, I've been on every drop since my old man called me out here."

Hap sat next to Anastasia, "Where is your dad, now?"

"One day he started to get the shakes." As Mags spoke she held her hand out and shook them violently "The doc called it aster-aster-rickets or something.

"Asterixis" Anastasia said, "It means your father has liver damage, likely from drinking."

"Yeah, that's what the doctor said. He also wouldn't clear Dad to pilot a 'mech anymore. He decided to go back to Cerillos, and leave me with the Jenner and Commander McFinnigan." Mags turned off the holoviewer. "So he's retired now, but a man like Raul "Macho" Camacho, that'll kill him."

"He still has his daughter to carry on the family name and do him proud." Hap said.

"Yeah and lucky for her, he left her a Jenner and not some piece of shit Urbanmech." Joker said. Hap glanced up to see Joker reclining in his bed looking at a porn magazine.

"Hey, Urbanmechs aren't shit!" Rolph yelled from down the hall.

Joker turned the magazine sideways and unfolded the center poster. "They're sure as hell not great."

"I'm going to bed before Joker starts another argument." Mags sighed

"I'm not starting arguments." Joker said, then leaned over and shouted down the hall, "I'm just putting out truth that some people can't handle."

Anastasia looked at the papers Hap was holding, "What do you have there?"

Rolph started walking toward Joker's bed chamber, "When you start saying truth, you let me know."

"I'll be the OIC for the Mechwarriors Barracks. I need to assign rooms, make cleaning rosters," Hap said as he watched Rolph stalk toward them "may as well start requesting supplies to fix damages too."

Anastasia took the paper from Hap, "Oh! Let's go assign rooms and make duty rosters."

Joker leaned out of his berthing, "I'm telling you truth right now. The overly specialized 'Mech you love so much is crap, except for when it can slip up behind someone in a dark alley."

"Overly specialized 'Mech! This from a Firestarter Pilot!" Rolph howled

Hap could see Anastasia was genuinely excited to help, "Okay. Let's go find a quiet place to work."

"Are you saying my Firestarter is overly specialized?" Joker was yelling now.

"It's in the name donkey brains." Mags said quietly as she pulled her hygiene bag out of her locker.

"See your girlfriend gets it, Donkey Brains, Firestarter, it's made to start fires." Rolph said.

"Hey! Only she calls me Donkey Brains." Joker yelled as he slid onto the deck.

"Not his girlfriend, never going to be his girlfriend." Mags said as she walked down the hall.

"What?" Joker asked as he chased after her.

"Hey, don't walk away from me." Rolph said as he followed them.

"We should go before they come back." Anastasia said

Hap nodded and stood up, "Yes. Making duty rosters suddenly sounds fun."

Hap and Anastasia walked down the hall to the MechWarrior lounge. Dillon, David, and Grizzly were there watching an animated holo.

"Why are three grown men watching a holo made for children?"

"This is based on a Manga. It's is high art from the Draconis Combine, Anastasia." David said

"Yeah Professor, there's a lot of complex themes here, and the animation is highly stylized. I'd think someone as sophisticated and intellectual as you would know all about this." Grizzly said

"It's not for children, either. The girls get naked when the monsters catch them." Dillon added.

Anastasia looked like she was searching for the words as Hap gently turned her around, and led her back out the hall, "Perhaps we should try the observation lounge." He told her.

As they walked Anastasia looked at the floor plans, "What exactly were you assigned to do?"

"Single Mechwarrior barracks OIC, we get the second floor. Techs on the first, air crew on the third. It's most of the single Mechwarriors, plus the Saint twins." Hap replied

Anastasia cocked her head to the side, "Who are the Saint twins?"

"John and Mark Saint. Those tall red headed twins that seem to work half the jobs on the shuttle. They're not Mechwarriors. Kelly calls them his "roustabouts." They do whatever odd job Kelly needs done. I've seen them maintaining and testing the shuttle's guns, or working in the shuttle's engineering section. Today they were walking around making sure everything was strapped in or locked down."

"If they aren't 'Mech warriors why are they staying with us? I don't mind, I'm just curious."

"They apparently run the Ops center when we're conducting military operations. Kelly likes to keep them close to the Mechwarriors, so everyone knows and trusts each other. It sort of make sense."

Anastasia shrugged, "Well they're twins so they'll can share a room."

They found the observation deck empty. Hap chose a recliner with a small end table near a large window and Anastasia dragged an overstuffed chair next to the window and placed the floor plan on the table. "This should be pretty simple, we have the suite plus six rooms, and how many mechwarriors?"

"You, me, Mags, Joker, Grizzly, David Lee, Dillon, Rolph and Crow, plus the Saints. I think everyone else is either taking an apartment or a town house. Whatever is available I guess."

Anastasia pulled out a small notebook and pencil, and started writing. "If we put you in the command suite, and generally keep everyone together by lance-" She looked up, "We'll have a spare room."

"Yeah I noticed that too. Kelly suggested we let Rolph and Grizzly use it for a weight room. If they have a place to work out it apparently keeps some problems from happening."

Anastasia made a note, "Alright I think I got it, Mags and I will share a room for obvious reasons."

"You want to share a room with someone that constantly threatens to cut you?"

"I'm starting to think if Mag's ever cuts anyone she probably won't tell them first. Besides, ever since we transferred the data on her holoviewer, she's been much more pleasant. We don't have much in common, actually outside of this unit we have nothing in common, but we're fine. It's a little odd."

"That's a soldier's life. One of my lancemates back at Albion is like a brother to me. We have nothing in common, except the miserable times we shared at Albion. If we had met outside the academy I'm sure we would've hated each other, but you spend enough bad times with a guy it makes a bond. "

"Is Joker like a brother to you?"

Hap looked at her seriously, "Yeah, the little brother I never wanted." They both laughed.

"That sounds right." Anastasia got quiet and went back to her list, "Returning to the task at hand, we can put Rolph and Crow together, because they are almost always together."

"Sounds good."

"I guess Grizzly and David are the next logical pair, which leaves Joker and Dillon."

"Switch David and Dillon." Hap said, "Joker's not necessarily mean, but sometimes when he thinks he's funny he can't see what a jackass he is. I don't want Dillon to get caught in one of those moments.

"If you want to maintain lance integrity we could trade Crow or Rolph for Dillon."

"No I think Crow is probably going to end up with Fiona in her apartment before it's all said and done. I'd prefer Rolph get his own room. Rolph has seniority over everyone in the barracks."

Anastasia started writing on the copy of the floor plan. "Mags mentioned Fiona and Crow were together awhile back, what makes you think they're getting back together?"

"Remember when Fiona was telling him to paint his 'Mech, and then they talked about Jerry and she invited him to her room? On the way to the staff meeting she was telling me that she had decided life was short, and she wanted to get back together with him. Since then I haven't seen him much."

Anastasia looked puzzle, "I saw him...oh! I don't remember the last time he was in our berthing area."

"Yeah, I'm not sure what happened with them in the first place, but I hope it works out."

"Fiona didn't tell you why they broke up?"

"No, just that Klathandu was a hard deployment and it made her really think about her life. She also told me I shouldn't overthink our relationship."

Anastasia looked up from writing, "Oh, I've always liked Fiona." She reached for Hap's hand.

"Yeah, she told me I needed to be smarter." Hap said as he squeezed her hand.

From the window in front of them Hap and Anastasia could watch the shuttle pass near a gas giant with several moons. They quietly watched the moons slowly flow out of view. After a small molted blue and green moon passed by Anastasia got up and sat down in Hap's lap. Their combined weight was enough to activate the recliner and the back of the chair tipped back.

As they settled in Hap asked, "Are we done making rosters and assignments?"

"I'll get an AFFS Form-6 or something similar and just line up names to cleaning duties later. It will be random and everyone will hate it. Which is how cleaning rosters always work anyway."

Hap enjoyed the moment of holding her. She sighed contentedly as they both watched the moons slowly pass by. It was strangely soothing. If Hap had thought to bring his blanket, they'd sleep here.

"How did we find ourselves here?" Hap asked her as she gently rubbed his chest.

Anastasia watched the moons orbit around the large planet for a moment, "Same way you and I find ourselves in any situation. You were wondering around trying to figure things out, and I thought about what I wanted and planned a way to get here."

Hap wasn't sure if she was teasing him, or if she was being blunt. He carefully glanced down at her face but she seemed engrossed with watching the moons float in space. "You had a plan to get us to the observation lounge so you could share a recliner while we watched the planets drift by?"

"No. I had a plan to spend to spend time alone with you, it just happened to end here."

"Did your plan also include Grizzly and David and Dillon watching a dirty movie in the lounge?"

"Harold, I make plans so I'm prepared, but no plan survives first contact fully intact."

"That is where I come in." He was now sure she was being candid.

"That's where you excel." She nuzzled him under the jaw, "Which is very lucky for me, because sometimes I'll want to make a perfect plan, when improvising is best."

Anastasia got quiet and Hap let his mind drift as he considered what she was saying. She was right. Her strength was in planning and organization, his strength, or general strategy for life, was just taking what he had and making it work. As tactical leaders they're strengths were very complimentary and he could see how letting her do mission planning would significantly help him. He'd just execute her plans, or when her plan got crippled by something unforeseen, he'd improvise their way to victory.

This was great for them as lancemates, but as lovers, this was going to lead to some friction. His "make-it-up as we go along" attitude would constantly rub against her "let's make a plan" personality. In an hour or so they'd likely go back to the berthing area. He'd have to choose between insisting she sleep in her own bed chambers, and then trying to sleep alone thinking about her. Or he could just curl up with her in his own bed and spend a delightfully uncomfortable night holding her. Staying here was an option too, he supposed, they were pretty comfortable.

Hap realized he was overthinking things again. It struck him as ironic, the one thing he was good at, improvising to success, was the one thing he couldn't seem to do when it came to Anastasia.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 29 May 2020, 16:11:06
WRITER'S NOTE: We'll be back in the 'Mechs next week, I promise.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 30 May 2020, 09:29:23
That's fine. In our crazy times now in RL, dreamy interludes are essential.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 30 May 2020, 11:23:21
That's fine. In our crazy times now in RL, dreamy interludes are essential.

I wish this forum had a thumbs up function.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: snakespinner on 30 May 2020, 18:19:45
 :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 02 June 2020, 17:43:48
I wish this forum had a thumbs up function.
but it does :thumbsup:
and write at your own pace my friend, it still all good.  You brought them to life for us
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: cklammer on 03 June 2020, 16:16:38
I like this  8)
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 03 June 2020, 16:35:10
 :thumbsup: Thanks Doc, Snakespinner, and cklammer.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: shadowdancer on 03 June 2020, 17:13:57
Still a great story without mech destruction.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 03 June 2020, 18:51:36
Quote
"I'll get an AFFS Form-6 or something similar and just line up names to cleaning duties later. It will be random and everyone will hate it. Which is how cleaning rosters always work anyway."

Hap is wise in the ways of admin. Totally arbitrariness is often the quickest way to fairness.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 03 June 2020, 19:57:29
an AFFS Form-6 The ban of every AFFS 1SG since the star league crashed.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 04 June 2020, 12:57:40
It's my humble belief that military bureaucracy, like the other great religions, was carried with mankind into the stars, and that AFFS would, as they had with other Northern American and European ideals, enshrineg the holy text of things like a DA-6 into their own library of forms, regulations, pamphlets, and field manuals.

And EAGLE7 there likely are many angry 1SGs sick of filling that damn thing out, but there are also several 1SGs amusing themselves as they borrow the CO's white board so they can figure out how to "randomly" give the guy they hate the worst detail the most amount of times.   
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 04 June 2020, 22:21:43
“And EAGLE7 there likely are many angry 1SGs sick of filling that damn thing out, but there are also several 1SGs amusing themselves as they borrow the CO's white board so they can figure out how to "randomly" give the guy they hate the worst detail the most amount of times.”

  Nope 1SG’s have a special ap for excel to cook the DA-6, for well deserving soldiers. It is handed from one 1SG to the next as part of change of responsibility ceremony.

Company DA-6 is easy, it is a BDE duty roster that was a nightmare. The number of “exempt from duty personnel” at BDE level is ridiculous.  Other than the so called exempt pax DA-6 is an equal opportunity hate machine to everyone.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 05 June 2020, 15:55:52
Chapter 22
October 3029
Monhegan

Hap guided his Griffin to the shores of a large clear blue lake. They had only been on Monhegan for a few hours, and were already conducting their first patrol. Hap's lance had just enough time to stow their gear, fire up their 'Mechs and start marching around the roads and area outside the star port. They had been patrolling for about an hour when they found the lake southeast of the star port.

The lake was idyllic, surrounded by a large thick forest that was bright with the colors of autumn. Behind the lake was a tall ridge that sloped down to touch its shore. Hap could see the voids and bare spots of trails winding through the forest and going up the ridge. Behind it were mountains with dark rock and white trickles of run-off from icy peaks. Hap already knew where he wanted to spend his time off.

He brought his Griffin next to Anastasia's Valkyrie. Joker's Firestarter and Mag's Jenner were moving around the far side of the lake. The 'Mechs seemed out of place against the wild natural beauty of bright fall leaves, dark green pines, and clear blue sky reflected in crystal water. Even in the heat of his cockpit Hap could almost feel the cool air and smell earth and leaves. He thought of hunting trips with his dad.

"There is something in the water." Anastasia's calm voice interrupted Hap's thoughts. Hap glanced over at Anastasia's Valkyrie. His Griffin was a few meters taller and he could look down into her cockpit. It looked cramped, even for a light 'Mech. He watched make adjustments to her sensors and write on her knee board. The Valkyrie's head was slightly down and appeared to be staring intently at the lake.

Hap switched his radio to the channel he shared solely with Anastasia. "What's going on over there?"

"I'm trying to scan something in the bottom of the lake. It may be a Leopard class drop shuttle."

"You got enough space over there?" As Hap asked as he watched Anastasia look around her cockpit.

"The advanced sensors are a little bulky." Anastasia shrugged, "It's not too bad though."

"Yes, you're also shorter than the average mechwarrior too." Hap shot back.

Anastasia shook her head, "My mother and my ballet teacher told me I was the perfect height."

"Very good, finish what you are doing." Hap knew that Anastasia loved to solve problems, and they had time since he had Joker and Mags manually mapping out the lake area.

The light for the lance channel flashed. Hap toggled channels to hear Joker ask, "What's wrong with the Professor's 'Mech?"

"I'm scanning something at the bottom of the lake." Anastasia said, "Likely a leopard class drop shuttle."

Mags 'Mech was near edge of the lake, "The lake is pretty deep, but I can see something down there."

"Well if you think a shuttle crashed in the lake we could just ask ops." Joker suggested, "Just like we could have asked ops for topo maps."

"Or we could link into satellites and download maps, instead of stomping around." Mags added.

"I think we need the training, and since this is the first chance we've had in nearly a month in our 'Mechs, I thought you'd be happy to 'stomp around' and stretch your legs." Hap replied

"We've also been planet side for only a few hours." Anastasia said, "Given the choice, I would prefer to find a shop, purchase clothes, find the ComStar office and send a message to Mother."

Hap was used to having to inspire or motivate Joker and Mags, but if Anastasia turned on him it was going to be a long patrol. He glanced at his watch, it was 1500 local. "Alright, Mags, get up on the ridge line see if there's anything interesting up there and mark a Target Reference Points. Anastasia, try to finish up and we'll get back to the base, get into town in time to for dinner, shopping, and-"

"And Anastasia can call her mommy." Joker interrupted.

"What's wrong with that, donkey brains? I'm going to send my dad a note, and some money." Mags said

"I'll tell you what's wrong. We barely land and old man McFinnigan is telling us we have to do the first patrol. That's some bullshit. We barely had time to throw our shit in the barracks." Joker whined.

Hap watched Mag's 'Mech rocket into the air, for a moment he thought she had stepped on a mine, but he could see the flame and trail of smoke from her 'Mech's jump jets. The Jenner sailed in a high arc, and just as it looked like it was going to crash into the ridge, Mag's managed to land heavily on her feet.

Hap keyed his mic, "We're the junior guys in the outfit Joker. You know how this works."

"New guys always got to do the shit work. How do you not know that? Mags asked, "Always complaining about everything, you need to man up, and stop bitching like a new recruit."

"Hey, I'm not a boot, I'm just speaking up for the little guy, which is us. You should be complaining too. Also I've been in real combat, I'm seen some shit." Joker started yelling.

"Commander McFinnigan is doing us a favor by having us conduct this patrol." Anastasia said coolly.

"Getting out and doing a pointless patrol, when I could be spending my pay check on whores and liquor doesn't seem like a favor to me." Joker replied as he trudged around the lake.

"We're are on probation status until we complete an operation in support of a contract, which this patrol constitutes" Anastasia said. Hap watched as she kept adjusting her scanners and making notes.

"Yeah what's your point, Professor?" Joker asked.

"Once we complete this patrol we'll no longer be on probation status and we can receive our full entitlements. Which means more money for you…to put in your pocket."

"My old man would tell me he liked working for Commander McFinnigan, because he takes care of his people." Mags said, "Jefe, what am I looking for up here? I don't know what a target reference thing is."

"A Target Reference Point is a terrain feature used to adjust artillery fire, or a location the enemy is likely to loiter. It can be a hill top, a building, an intersection or chock point on an avenue of approach, or an obvious fighting position, like a hill's military crest." Anastasia said without looking up.

"Okay. There's a road here, but no intersections." Mags said as her Jenner shuffled around.

"Wait one." Anastasia said. Hap watched as she straightened up in her cockpit, and the 'Mech seemed to stand up straight and tall in response to her posture.

Her Valkyrie took a few steps forward before it rocketed into the air as plumes of fire and smoke erupted from the legs and back of her 'mech. The Valkyrie rose a dozen meters in the air and then almost skimmed over the lake to gracefully land in waist-deep water. In an instant her 'mech was rocketing again toward another shallow spot in the lake.

A few minutes ago Hap's computer reported the rough features of the lake, but Anastasia scans had revealed the lake's ridgeline with a steep ten meter drop off that sloped to almost twenty meters to the side of the lake connecting to a river. Hap could even see the drop shuttle's silhouette at the deep end.

The Valkyrie landed deftly next to the Jenner. Anastasia took a moment to look around, "Okay Mags find the highest point, and…Oh that's odd. Hap, there are tank defilades up here."

"What? Freshly dug tank defilades?" Hap asked.

"Not freshly excavated, but there are three vehicle fighting positions that have definitely seen use. They have rutted dirt roads, there's even some gravel. I don't recall any reports of battles or skirmishes in this area, but the star port is only a few kilometers due north, artillery could easily range it from here."

"Mark them, and I'll call them into ops." Hap said, then added, "Mags move about 60 meters north. From here that looks like the top of the hill. Mark that spot too."

The Jenner took a few tentative steps. "Yeah it's a nice flat spot, and you can see the whole valley."

Hap could see multiple cross hairs appear on his topographical map display. "That's enough for today, form up in a wedge on me and we'll start back to base." Hap said as he turned the Griffin around and started toward the road. "Anastasia you take point."

He switched over to the command net. "Ops this is Hap."

"Aye, go ahead, Recon Lance." The voice sounded young and feminine and had an Irish accent.

"We have Target Reference Points to mark." Hap said as he tried to place the voice.

"Oh, ah." There was a pause, "let me get Hammer Lance on the net, and you can pass the data through."

Half of hammer lance were backing up the patrol in the unlikely event they needed fire support. Hap heard Fiona's voice, "This is your Guardian Angel, Hap you got some business for me?"

"Just Target Reference Points" Hap waited for the data link light to flash, and then hit the send button.

"Oh TRPs, that's what Ops meant by targets." Fiona sounded impressed, "Kelly's going to be happy to have professional- Hap these are within 200 meters of each other. I think one would suffice."

"Yeah, one is the highest point on ridge line by the lake, so that is for adjusting fires. The others are tank defilades. Keep in mind I'm training my lance."

The radio went silent, "I'm looking at the satellite imagery." Fiona told him and the radio went quiet again, "I see what you're talking about, those are definitely tank defilades. Alright. I got the solutions programmed in and all TRPs labeled. I'll pass the data to the rest of my lance and the Tir na nOg's guns."

"Anastasia mentioned the defilades looked like they had been built a while back but there were dirt roads leading up to them, like they've been used a lot. We're not sure what that's all about."

"It's probably the local militia's training area. They likely come back to the same spot for every field problem or exercise. The Lexington Combat Group may know something. Ops, are you still on the net?"

"Aye, go ahead."

"Kitty call the LCG's Ops and see if they know who trains in the vicinity of, oh what's this? Topaz Lake."

"Aye Aye."

Hap felt foolish, "Fiona, if you think this is just a training sight we can just use the one TRP."

"No. Those look like good positions. Anyone with decent artillery could range the star port from there. If we start taking indirect fire I'd rather have it all pre-calculated. Military history is full of smart people ignoring an obvious advantage their enemy could use, and suffering for it. Let's be smarter, Hap."

"Good copy." Hap replied. That made sense and he felt less conspicuous about all the TRPs.

"I see Hammer lance is going to have to shadow the patrols from the fence line to cover some of the patrol route. I think this is enough for one day. Bring your lance back in. We'll be doing patrols regularly for the rest of this contract so we'll figure it out."

"Roger Fiona. Break, Break. Ops, we're returning to base."

Kitty came back on the radio, "Copy that Recon lance."

As the recon lance was formed up around him Hap considered how this conversation with Fiona was similar to other talks he had with her, and other members of the mercenary company's leadership. As a young officer he was told mercenaries were undisciplined violent psychopaths who would do anything for money. Most AFFS officers considered mercenaries at best, a necessary evil, and at worse the most base of warriors that would prostitute themselves rather than fight for honor and noble ideals.

Aside from their corrupt motivations it was a "well known fact" among most AFFS officers that mercenaries were inferior. Of course, there were certain exceptions like Wolf's Dragoons, the Kell Hounds, and Eridani Light Horse, but those were "special cases". Hap was finding this prejudice to be unfounded, at least in McFinnigan and Sons. The veneer of professionalism may have been lacking but the quality of warrior was, for the most part, as good or as bad as what Hap had seen in the RDMM.

The Recon lance was now formed up into a wedge with Anastasia leading, Joker and him behind her and Mag's behind Hap. Hap switched to the lance net "Take us home Anastasia. Just follow the road."

"Certainly, Harold." She said as her 'Mech started to walk to the embankment and everyone followed.

"Hap, I was thinking," Joker started, "McFinnigan and Sons has Hammer Lance for fire support, Anvil Lance for the command lance, and the raiding lance is Dullahan Lance. I don't know what a Dullahan is-"

"Dullahan is a headless caballero in Irish myth, I think he's some demon of death." Mags interrupted.

"Patrick told me the stories" Hap said trying to remember, "Dullahan is a headless horseman and if he shows up at your house it means someone that lives there is about to die. So, yeah, what Mags said."

"Yeah, so there's hammers, anvils, and headless death guys, but we're just the Recon lance."

"You think our lance needs a name? You got a suggestion?" Hap asked. In AFFS unique company names were normal, but it didn't usually go down to the lance level. McFinnigan and Sons kept things special.

"I don't know, I tired of being 'the Recon Lance'." Joker replied, "Maybe we could be Hooligans again."

"No, that was Major Holman's thing. Besides the normal convention it's something with the same letter of the leader's last name." Hap replied

"We could be Calahad's Chasseurs." Anastasia suggested

"What's a chop-shower?" Joker asked

"Chasseur" Anastasia said it slowly "Chassuer a cheval is French light cavalry, which is what we are."

"We're not French Anastasia." Joker said.

"We come from the Federated Suns which is founded, in part, on the French principals of-"

"I'm just going to stop you right there Professor, I honestly couldn't care because I'm a mercenary now and I think French is a weak language, and didn't they kill all their nobles a couple hundred years ago?"

Anastasia sighed heavily, "Joker, the French Revolution was nearly 1,200 years ago."

Mags chimed in, "If you think French is weak, we could use Spanish, how about Calahad's Caballeros?"

Hap had thought naming their lance was unnecessary, but it seemed important to everyone else. "How about Calahad's Coyotes? They're wild and unpredictable pack animals, but they're notoriously clever."

"That" Anastasia sounded like she was about to argue, "Actually, that sounds like us."

"I like Coyotes. My uncle would tell me stories about how the Coyote spirit was a trickster that sometimes helped, but sometimes would confuse or lie to a young warrior." Mags said.

"I don't know, I was hoping for something more like Hooligans, I'd settle for Hoodlums." Joker said.

"So it sounds like everyone is good with Coyotes." Hap said. He really didn't care, but if the ladies were good with it and it annoyed Joker it was at least worth the amusement value for the hike back to base.

"I'm not good with that. I didn't agree to shit." Joker replied.

"I think I'll get a coyote tattoo." Mags said.

"Harold, we should get coyote lance shirts made up." Anastasia sounded pleased.

"Is my mic not working? Hello. Comms Check. Can anyone hear me?" Joker yelled.

"We hear you Joker. I'm not running a democracy, but if three of us agree, I'm not likely to fight it" Hap said. "Anastasia, that sounds good. Let's do that. Mags, can you make a stylized Coyote for us?"

"Yeah. I think I know what I want my tattoo to look like. I can draw up something for all of us."

"Guess we're Calahad's Coyotes now." Joker said glumly.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 05 June 2020, 15:56:26
Chapter 23
Monhegan
October 3029

Hap and his lance completed their first patrol and returned to the star port without incident. During the patrol Anastasia passed the data she had from scanning the lake to the Ops center and asked about the Leopard. Ops took down everything and promised to have something by the time they returned for their debrief. Joker tried to convince the lance to choose something besides "Calahad's Coyote's" but Mags and Anastasia were adamant, and Hap enjoyed Joker's annoyance.

McFinnigan and Sons had taken over several buildings on the back end of the Star Port. The Ops center was located in one of hardened building closest to the Tir na nOg. They also commandeered a large hardened hangar next to the Ops center. This hangar was used as the primary 'Mech bay and repair facility. The life support area with the housing and barracks was a short ten minute walk away from Ops.

The Ops center was located in a windowless room with screens showing multiple maps, views from orbiting satellites, a few different local and intergalactic new feeds, and some of the screens were off but had paper taped to them that said things like, "Aviation Tower Feed", or "Weather satellite feed". Codey was working behind one of these monitors attaching wires.

In the center of the room was the large holo display from the simulator. It was now displaying a three dimensional map of the star port and the adjacent area where Hap and his lance had just conducted their patrol. Kelly and Crow were standing by the holo display discussing the lake and ridgeline area.

On one side was a terminal that displayed several of systems for the Tir na nOg. The weapon systems were currently highlighted. Seated at the terminal was a young woman with short curly red hair, and Fiona stood behind her. As Hap passed them he overheard Fiona explaining how to program TRPs into the Tir na nOg's fire controls.

There were a few other members of family in the Ops center, most of them were teenagers, but there was a middle aged man with a clipboard standing near Crow listening as he spoke to Kelly. Hap didn't know the names of most of the people in the ops center. Hap assumed this again was another of Kelly's use of family members to cover down on the essential non-combat tasks.

Kelly nodded to the recon lance as they entered, and motioned with his pipe for them to come to him. Hap led the way to the holo projector. Kelly smiled at all of them, "Good work today on your patrol. We made some calls after you left the lake. Kitty what did you learn?"

The red head at the terminal looked over, "That leopard shuttle crashed a few hundred years back in that lake. It's now mostly used by salvage divers to practice exploring wrecks. It's no good for anything else, but the local militia was impressed we found it on our first day."

Kelly nodded and motioned with his pipe, "And what else?"

"Ah, the militia confirmed they used the hills over the lake for training, and they said if we needed additional fire support and the planet was under attack, they could have their artillery ready within a few hours and would be more than happy to 'service our targets'." Kitty added.

"Does the militia have a standing ops center? Most planetary militias don't." Fiona said.

Kitty shook her head, "No I called the Lexington Combat Group, they told me they were minimally manned and didn't have time for me, but they gave me the militia commander's phone number, so I called him. He was more than happy to talk. He told me about the lake, the training area, the shuttle, and everything." Hap could hear that Kitty had, what the McFinnigans called, "the gift of the gab."

Kelly nodded, "As you can see, while you were out you made some work for the Ops center. Which is fine, it's what they're here for, and now we have access to more artillery support. This got me thinking" Kelly pressed a button and the holographic map zoomed back, "I want you to start exploring this region here" He pointed to a pass through the mountain chain that connected the lake's ridge line, "and here" he indicated a swampy area north of the star port. "We have good maps and hi-res sat images, but the data you gathered is much better. I want to know everything about how to move through these areas."

Hap nodded, "Yes sir. Too easy."

"But that'll wait. For now, I want to congratulate all four of you, you've completed your probation period. So go get cleaned up, find Ms. Lan. She'll see you're paid." As he spoke a few people in the room actually clapped. "Go enjoy yourselves, but be back for the 0900 work call."

They turned to leave but McFinnigan stopped them, "Ah, wait a moment, have ye given any thought to a name for your lance? I prefer if the four of you had one name I could call you all by."

Before Hap could speak Joker said, "We're thinking Coyotes. They're wild dogs, but they're smart."

Kelly smoked his pipe as he looked at the four of them. "Coyotes?" He nodded slowly. "Unpredictable, cunning, wild, pests." As he spoke each word he looked in turn at Hap, Anastasia, Mags, and Joker. "Aye, Calahad's Coyotes. Kitty, make note. Make sure it's in the pass down log. Coyotes, off ye go."

On the way down the stairs they saw a sign indicating the Admin offices. They found more people unpacking boxes, and moving furniture. Jessica Lan was attaching the top to her massive mahogany desk while she told two tall teenage boys which corner to put her large safe.

When the short Asian woman saw the Coyotes she came out from behind her desk, and pointed them to a folding table along the wall with a large metal case and a ledger. "The Commander told me when I saw you to that you will have finished your probation period, and should be paid in full." Ms. Lan said.

"Yes Ma'am, he told us to come and find you." Hap motioned to Mags to step up.

Ms. Lan opened the case and pulled out an envelope that had, "M. Camacho" written on it and strange block characters beneath it. Before she gave Mags the envelope Jessica asked, "Are you going to send some money to your father?"

To Hap's surprise Mags nodded respectfully, "Yes, I'll write him a note and send it first thing tomorrow."

"Good." Ms. Lan smiled as passed Mags the envelope. Jessica opened the ledger and pointed to a line with Mag's name. Mag's signed her name as Ms. Lan handed an envelope with A. Vallois to Anastasia.

Anastasia thanked her as she signed in the ledger. Joker was next. Jessica gave him a shrewd look, and held up an envelope marked W. Cameron. Ms. Lan asked, "William Cameron, right?"

"Yeah, Jessy but I prefer Joker, now give me my money I got places to be." He tried to grab the envelope, but Ms. Lan kept it out his reach.

"It's Ms. Lan, to you." she snapped. "If you want to get paid, you're who I say you are. Now, sign my ledger, William."

Joker huffed, signed, and then snatched his envelope. Hap was surprised Joker didn't have a nasty response, but Jessica Lan had the air of an aunt that wouldn't think twice for punishing a child that acted out. She offered Hap an envelope with H. Calahad written in neat script and more odd block characters.

"Thank you, again, Ma'am." Hap said as he found his name and signed. He saw the amount next to his name and still couldn't believe how much he was being paid.

"Don't thank me, Hap. You earned it." Jessica's eyes narrowed, "You have to put with the Joker."

Hap glanced over to see Joker was too busy counting his money to hear the insult. Hap politely excused himself and his lance, and they started walking to the barracks.

"Why do you think Jessica Lan is such a bitch?" Joker asked as they walked.

"I was trying to figure out why you had to piss off the pay master." Hap said.

"Yeah, donkey brains, you shouldn't mess with Jessica Lan. One time Grizzly thought it would be funny to call her Mama-san, and she grabbed his nose and threw him across the room."

"How does a woman half his size throw Grizzly across the room, and isn't her callsign something like Mama-san? I remember hearing it and thinking it was Capellan or Kuritan sounding." Joker said

"The best way to answer all your questions is for you to go and call her 'Mama-san'." Anastasia said.

"I'm not trying to pick a fight with her. Damn, I just want to know why she's so mean." Joker said.

"She has a case of money that contains over a million c-bills. She is responsible for making sure about a hundred people get paid exactly what they are due. She probably feels the need to make sure that people like you understand she is no one to trifle with." Anastasia said.

"Trifle with? Why do you talk like that? You should say F-"

"She also has a sawed off shotgun in her vest." Mags interrupted, "Dad sawed it down for her, he told me if someone ever tried to steal from her, 'it'd be a life changing event'."

"Joker, this one time, please, for your own sake, be polite to Jessica Lan. You call her Ms. Lan or Ma'am when you see her." Hap said.

"Fine, whatever, I'll be polite to Miss Lan. I don't even care. For this much money, I can be nice to her once a month if I have to." Joker said.

They found themselves back at the barracks. It was an ugly three story rectangular concrete building. The sun was starting to set and the building looked dark and empty. It seemed everyone had gone into town to relieve stress and spend their money, and Hap knew his lance wanted to do the same. "Let's get cleaned up and meet out here in ten minutes." Hap said before they entered the barracks.

The lance climbed up to the second floor, When Joker turned on the lights they were met by curses and a demand to "Shut that light off".

A tall red headed man with countless freckles and brown eyes poked his head out of the door to the nearest room. "Hey! We're trying to sleep, we got watch at 0600."

"Sorry." Hap said trying to figure out if this was John or Mark Saint, "We didn't realize you two were trying to sleep. Give us a few minutes, and we'll clear out. Why don't you close your door?"

The other twin came out into the hall, "No doors man."

"Why are there no doors?" Anastasia asked as she looked up and down the hallway

"Older barracks design." Hap sighed, he hadn't noticed this before, but he could see there were only doors on the latrine and the stairwell. "Allegedly it was supposed to inspire trust between MechWarriors, but really it was so leadership could ensure that their warriors weren't drunk or high. I wondered why LCT gave us perfectly good barracks, odds are good none of their people wanted it."

Anastasia sighed heavily.

"Well at least we'll know that Joker isn't across the hall abusing himself." Mags said

Joker laughed, "Oh don't think no doors is going to stop me."

John and Mark groaned as they turned to go back to their beds.

"Let's hurry Coyotes, The Saints need to sleep and we need to find dinner." Hap said. They went their own ways to get ready. Hap's room was larger and had a separate head with a shower. It wasn't very big but it was all his. The barracks came furnished. It was mostly standard military issue beds and wall lockers, but whoever the previous occupants were had fully furnished the day room with couches and an entertainment center. Hap's room also had a futon and a holo screen. This likely meant the barracks had belonged to a unit that had gone to war and didn't return. One more reason the LCT gave them up.

Hap stripped down and got into his shower. He thought Grizzly or Rolph might want the suite, but they both laughed and told him if he was going to deal with Yorik over keeping the place clean, he could have it. Considering the door situation he'd start earning the room sooner rather than later.

As Hap showered he wondered if they could just build their own doors. It wasn't the easiest piece of carpentry, but he knew enough from helping his dad around the house. After thinking it over he figured it would be better to take a collection from everyone and just pay someone. Then he started to wonder if he could do the same thing with a cleaning service for the barracks.

Hap stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel. He glanced at the empty towel rack and realized he hadn't pulled his towel out of his go-bag. He glanced up to see Anastasia conspicuously looking down. Her face was bright red and she was nervously playing with her braid.

Hap quickly grabbed his dirty clothes and covered himself, "Can you hand me my towel? It's in my bag."

Without looking up she nodded and grabbed his bag. After a moment she gave up and walked the bag over to him, still keeping her head down. "I'm sorry, I came to see if you were ready."

Hap reached in and took out his towel. She turned around as Hap started to dry himself, "I should've knocked, but there's no doors." Anastasia said.

"Yeah. I'll talk to Yorik, maybe we can get doors installed, we'll probably have to pay for it though."

"I'll gladly pay to have a door installed in your room if you let me use your bathroom and shower."

"Are the shared facilities that bad?" Hap wondered if Joker "accidentally" walked in on her and Mags.

"They're fine, but it's been a long time since I had my own bathroom."

"You'd be sharing it with me."

"Yes, of course, but still I'd have the luxury of not having to keep all my toiletries in a bag."

Hap found the cleanest clothes he had and turned his back to Anastasia to put them on. He wasn't sure why he felt embarrassed about being naked in front of her. He had been with other women and knew he had nothing to be ashamed of. He had also slept next to her a few times. They had been almost as intimate as they could be. Even now they were talking about sharing a bathroom, but he felt conspicuous about getting dressed in front of her.

As he zipped up his coveralls he thought of how to solve this problem between them, but he knew Anastasia would be unwilling until his room had doors, and probably a lock. He also occurred to him they had never kissed. That would also have to wait till they had some privacy. He opened up his pay envelope. "What are our plans for tonight?"

"I'd be very pleased to get some civilian clothes, and then have dinner. I suspect the ComStar office is closed for the day, though, so we'll have to go back tomorrow."

Hap nodded and started to pull out a crisp 500 ComStar bill. "I could use a new pair of blue jeans, and some t-shirts. It's getting cold, I should buy a coat. Damn I'm gonna miss my leather jacket."

She pulled more bills out his envelope, "You're going to take me nice places. You'll need slacks, a sports coat, button up shirts, and some nice shoes. We should just plan to buy you a new wardrobe too."

Hap placed the significantly thinner pay envelope into his wall locker. "If you're going to start dressing me, I'm a little surprised you're not just claiming my shower for yourself."

"I was trying to help you maintain the 'good order and discipline' of our barracks. I figure if you let me use your personal facilities, then you'll have to defend why you won't let everyone."

Hap led her out of his room "I think they'll assume our relationship is why you get special treatment."

"Harold, if you're offering to share your private shower, I accept." She said as they walked down the hall

"Once we get doors and can enjoy some privacy, we should discuss sharing more things."

"Fair enough." Anastasia reached for his hand, "so when are you going to talk to Yorik?"

"Tomorrow probably." Hap opened the stairwell door with his free hand.

"You're going to wait that long?" Anastasia asked.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 05 June 2020, 19:16:38
*claps* I was laughing at so many places in the story so far...
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: snakespinner on 05 June 2020, 21:14:10
I see you have a democracy, the women vote and the men accept. :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 05 June 2020, 21:35:34
A grand update  :thumbsup:

Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 05 June 2020, 21:37:02
I see you have a democracy, the women vote and the men accept. :thumbsup:
I need your address to bill for new keyboard   
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth on 07 June 2020, 15:25:53
First things first. I love the story. Better written than several official BT novels I have read. The Merc unit is believable and you appreciate the diverse characters instead of it being just mechs with random faceless pilots. Even the bad ones sound cool. I feel committed to these people.

Following this, here come a bunch of random notes I took when reading the story.

I think Harold is out of his league when it comes to Anstasia, and he can come up as an ass regarding her. This is great. His fear of failure shows all around. And it throws a wrench in his way of approaching things, putting him at odds with himself. Being so slow Hap is risking failure with a bad plan. Clearly planning is not his thing, yup. She is asking for something and he is failing to provide a big part of it. He got some slack from her due to her crush, but she might get tired.

I feel like Anastasia should get annoyed at his slower than slug pace speed in relationships after a while. This is the only poi t int he story where I disagree with the story so far. She just allows him to stop her too much. She does not accept that from any other subject or matter, and this is clearly her priority. He is acting too purposefully and this should fail. I do not buy that Anastasia is not ready for sex (appeared in chapter 18 or so, before she gets tangled in the bed sheets). That or she is so insecure that is getting best Harold in just. Theoretical way, and when he pushes for actual sex she should panic. Can work, but I think she should be annoyed by now.

A good scene would be for one of them to become drunk and make a scene that puts a chink in their relationship. It can be either of them.

Anastasia going out and having sex with someone else due to frustration and drinks.maybe) would be a cool twist and put some pressure on a playbook relationship.

Anastasia is 19, but how old is Harold?

I would love for the 2 mavericks in the unit to develop a stormy relationship, one of those cheesy high emotional ones that appear in Anstasia's novels. And she can get envious of them at the same time as find it preposterous.

Anastasia's mech should not be that bad in terms of drawbacks. Non standard parts would do it. How they procure them? Do they have to create them themselves probably. Difficult to maintain if you want, but since she is there she compensates it herself. A techie scene about the techies needing her to repair the mech and not liking this special thing would be cool. Maybe they become excited when they realize what the AAA really can do, since they are machineheads after all. Liking the AAA and still considering it a pain to work with would be a thing.

I was thinking that the new Coyote lance is better for exploration than before (even if it is on the slow side of things for a recon lance due to the Griffin and valky) but that they would not stand a chance in front of the 2 Heavies of the first scene now. A Jenner has strong firepower, but cannot compete with a hunchie in decisive kick. That made me smile.

I would have liked to see a combat simulator scene. Or a combat scene that just happens to be a simulator one, so you can I termini with more relationship development later on. Might satisfy both "killer vs lover" parts of the audience. It would also have helped in envisioning them developing a lance spirit. Minor thing here, since things are going great anyway.

Ah, I can see both mavericks having flaws of their own that hey cover with the aggressive exterior. Strong but brittle persons are quite common. And they can come stronger if they open up at some point. Lots of options there, from past hurts to life frustrations or just awkward ways of trying to fit in society without knowing any better.

Please, keep on writing for our collective enjoyment. Greatly appreciated. You approach is changing the way I will approach my owb next piece of fiction/RPG recap. I just read this thread in 2 very enjoyable days. Keep it coming!

Now I am just waiting for some rough guys to put a real leopard on top of the wreck, loaded with mechs and catch someone unawares....

Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 09 June 2020, 15:45:41
Elmoth, Wow! Thanks. There's a lot there. I really appreciate the compliments. It's always nice to know people are enjoying my writing, it's humbling to think that my writing is something that makes you want to "change your approach" to writing. I look forward to seeing what you write.

I'm generally hesitant to comment on people's suggestions, or when they clearly have figured out some future story arc (I swear I think a couple of you are somehow reading my notes, and you should stop it, or at least write SPOILER ALERT).

Some things you've suggested I probably won't incorporate, because it's not in the character or story arc, but some of the other things you've said, I think I've laid the grown work for, or you've guessed where things are going. I'm not sure if that's because I'm relying on concepts like chekov's gun, or I'm really predictable, or some of you are just super smart (This has proven to be one of the politest fan communities, why wouldn't it also be the smartest?)

As the story continues I still hope continue to find the characters compelling or at least interesting, and enjoy the story.

Thanks again for reading.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth on 09 June 2020, 17:06:25
Glad you appreciate the fedback.

Restating my question, how old is Harold?
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 09 June 2020, 17:44:14
Glad you appreciate the fedback.

Restating my question, how old is Harold?

Hap just turned 24.
He would have had a birthday during the voyage to Monhegan. (this is an "oversight" I hope to address in a later chapter, but it keeps getting edited out. I have strict rules on my chapter size, and I'm fighting against what I perceive is a pacing problem)

For an additional point of reference Hap entered Albion at 18, graduated at 22, spent his 6 months as a Subaltern, and made Leftenant just before turning 23. (I think I edited this out)

In case your curious Anastasia entered NAIS at 16 because she was tutored at home and completed her "high school" education early. She received a waiver to enter the Corps of Cadets her freshman year. She found herself, as a Cadet, on Klathandu at 19 between her Junior and Senior year of school. (I think she explains this somewhere in Chapter 8, during the poker game)

(EDIT NOTE: I had originally written Hap's age as 25, but it should be 24)
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 12 June 2020, 15:27:04
Chapter 24

Hap and Anastasia met Joker and Mags outside the barracks. Anastasia, Hap, and Joker were still wearing their coveralls. Mags was wearing tight fitting maroon pants and a tan cropped shirt. The pants had strategic rips that exposed some of her tattoos. Mag's also wore a leather jacket, and ankle boots.

"You all are just going to wear your coveralls into town?" Mags asked as they started walking.

"It's all we have." Hap explained, "So first order of business is to get some new clothes, at least for me and Anastasia. What were you hoping to do?"

"I want to check out the tattoo parlors, see who does the best work." Mags said.

"I thought you were still working on your coyote design." Anastasia said.

"I am. I just want to find a good artist, so when I'm ready I know where to go. I also want a good restaurant that has fresh salsa. I don't need clothes though, maybe I'll go on my own."

"Hap, I think I'm going to help Mags find a new tattoo guy and some food, but if I give you money can you grab me a pair of blue jeans and a couple t-shirts?" Joker asked.

Hap started to reach for the money, but Anastasia gently pushed Hap's hand down, "We won't be shopping at a place where you just purchase clothes on the rack."

"Oh." Joker said as he put the money back in his pocket, "Mags, I think I need to stop by a W-mart or some other place that's open twenty-four seven where I can get new clothes."

Mags shrugged, "We'll find something, I guess."

"You know you don't need designer or name brand everything." Hap said to Anastasia, "Maybe we can pick up a few essentials with Joker and Mags."

Anastasia gave a noncommittal sound as they walked past the ops building and headed toward the access control point that separated the high security portion of the star port from the civilian side. They showed their security badges to the contracted security guard. Hap was about to ask them if they could borrow their phone to call a taxi just as one pulled up.

Fletch, Tatyana, and their young daughter, Sophia, emerged from the taxi. Fletch and Hap exchanged greetings, and Anastasia and Mags waved to Sophia who adorably waved back. The Coyotes loaded up into taxi and asked the driver to take them to the shopping district.

A few minutes later the taxi stopped in a busy metropolitan area. The sun had fully set but bright street lights were coming on, and business signs helped illuminate the area. Crowds of people hurried along on their own errands and activities. Hap paid the taxi and Joker agreed to pay for the next one.

As they got their bearings Anastasia saw a promising department store and grabbed Hap's hand. Before he knew what was happening they were in the men's department and Anastasia was pointing out what she thought would look good on him. A young salesman approached and Anastasia explained what Hap needed and the styles and colors she preferred as she pushed Hap toward the changing area.

A few hours later Anastasia came to collect Hap. She was wearing a wine colored silk blouse, with a thin black skirt. She carried a brown suede jacket trimmed with silver fox fur draped over her arm. She found Hap dressed in khaki's with a blue button up shirt and trying on brown leather shoes. She looked him over and smoothed out his collar, and rested her hands on his shoulders. "Harold, I like this look."

Hap put on his shoe and looked up at her. He had never seen Anastasia like this. Her hair was down and had been styled in large curls, with have of it over one shoulder. Her fitted blouse suggestively hugged her curves and the skirt had a graceful sweep as she walked. It gave her an attractive feminine aura that her coveralls had concealed. It was hard to imagine Anastasia piloting a 30 ton war machine.

Hap stood up. "You look gorgeous. I mean you were gorgeous before, but now, you're even more…" Hap stopped himself, he wasn't sure why she still had this effect on him. "You look amazing."

She smiled and whatever mind bending power she had was amplified, "Thank you Harold. Ready to go?"

Hap decided just to nod as he walked over to the counter. He got his wits about him again, "I think I got everything I need, but I'm not sure how we're going to get it back to the barracks."

Anastasia waived dismissively, "That's simple enough, they'll deliver." She approached the counter, and smiled at Hap's salesman. He immediately stood up straighter and looked attentive at both of them.

"Yes Madame, what else can I do for you?" The young salesman asked.

"I believe we've gotten everything I need." Hap laid the shoe box on the counter.

"Did you get a coat?" Anastasia asked

"Perhaps you would like a leather jacket, sir. We have several styles ideal for a mechwarrior-"

"He'll take a woolen pea coat. Let's try one of those." Anastasia pointed to a display of jackets.

"The lady has good taste." The salesmen walked over to the display and looked for the right size.

Hap gave Anastasia an irritated look, "You know I wanted a new leather jacket."

"Yes, but there is an AFFS Military Clothing Sales store over near the LCG's compound. We'll get you a standard issue leather jacket and you can have all your patches and badges sewn and pinned on it and you'll be much happier with that than an expensive name brand jacket that isn't exactly standard issue."

Hap nodded, she was correct. He did want a jacket like his old one. He tried on the charcoal colored woolen jacket, it felt heavy and bulky but once he got it on it seemed lighter. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He looked like a different man, he could also see Anastasia's reflection in the mirror. For most of this shopping trip Hap had felt that Anastasia was pushing him around, but all her choices did look good on him, and the look she was giving him now made his annoyance evaporate.

As Hap and his salesman started to work through Hap's bill, a young woman carrying a large paper bag with the store's logo emblazoned on it approached Anastasia, "Madame Vallois you forgot your old clothes, or were you hoping I'd burn them?"

Anastasia smiled, "No, Portia, sadly, I'll need those tomorrow, but it's generous of you to offer."

Hap glanced over, "Can I get one of those bags? I'll need one for my boots and coveralls."

"I'll attend to it, sir. Are your clothes in the changing room?" Portia walked toward the changing rooms.

"Yes, Thank you." Hap glanced at the total bill. It was more than he had wanted to spend, but he could afford it. He reminded himself he needed new clothes, and these were quality.

"Sir, the additional tailoring and hemming will not be done tonight. Where shall I have your clothes delivered?" The salesman asked as he typed on his terminal.

"Same address as mine. The address should be under Vallois." Anastasia replied.

The salesman nodded. "Mr. Vallois, you and your wife's clothes will arrive tomorrow afternoon."

Hap almost corrected the salesman when Portia returned, "Here Mr. Vallois, it all fit in one bag."

Hap looked over to Anastasia. With a smile and a shrug she suggested he just let play along.

"Thank you both." Hap looked over at Anastasia, "My wife and I appreciate your help." Hap buttoned his coat, took the bag of their old clothes, and escorted Anastasia out the exit. She put her arm through the crook of his. As they walked it began to snow. Hap glanced at her and she was still smiling.

"You didn't tell your sales woman we were married did you?" Hap asked

"Certainly not Harold. I think it's obvious to any casual observer the chemistry and affection we have for each other, though. Also I would have ensured she somehow implied that I was your 'better' wife."

"More like they saw how you completely ran that operation and I was letting you push me around and they thought 'these two have to be married, otherwise why would he let her to do that?'"

"I wasn't domineering, I was helping you with direction. Besides you look good. You should thank me."

Hap glanced at their reflection in a dark store window. She certainly wasn't wrong. "Thanks."

"You're quite welcome." Anastasia said magnanimously. "Now let's find somewhere to eat."

They walked aimlessly for a few minutes, the wind picked up and the gentle snow became blinding. Anastasia spied a warm looking café and pulled Hap to it. As Hap reached for the door they could see "Le Petit Café" painted in gold on the frosted glass. "Do you think it's a French cafe?" Anastasia asked.

Hap closed the door behind them and looked around. It was a small café with an assortment of random chairs and tables a few booths with an eclectic mix of pillows and cushions. On the walls were stylized illustrations of women wearing high fashion, and a few sketches of the Eiffel tower, and Parisian streets. There was a door leading to the kitchen in the rear. Anastasia smiled as she looked around. A young man with a white shirt, black slacks and a stained apron stood near a counter looking at them expectantly.

"Bonjour" Anastasia said, and followed up with a string of something Hap couldn't follow but he was certain had to be French. The waiter looked at them confused and motioned around the café.

"I guess we can sit where we like." Hap said quietly to Anastia. "Would you like a booth?"

Anastasia nodded as she led him to the booth in the corner. Hap helped her remove her jacket as the waiter offered them menus. Without thinking Hap asked, "Can we get two Cappuccinos?"

"Deux Cappuccinos s'il vous plait" Anastasia told the waiter as she adjusted pillows.

The waiter nodded before Anastasia was done speaking and disappeared into the kitchen.

Hap hung up their jackets on a hook near their booth. "Are you sure you speak good French?"

Anastasia's eyes flashed, "My French is flawless."

Hap sat down, "I only ask because the waiter seems a little confused when you speak."

"He's probably surprised at how well I speak it." Anastasia said, "Harold, French is the language of the Vallois household. One of my maternal grandmothers nearly made it the official language of Hazelhurst. At NAIS I tested out of French and received enough credits for both my language and humanity requirements. My officer record brief lists my French proficiency as 'native speaker'."

Hap reached across the table and gave her hands a gentle squeeze. "I apologize. I'm not sure what's going on with our waiter."

As if on cue, the waiter returned from the kitchen holding two saucers each with small mugs, spoons and sugar packets. Hap sat up and moved his hands so the waiter could set the drinks in front of the couple. The waiter retreated to the counter near the kitchen.

"Do you know what you want?" Anastasia looked over her cup as she sipped her cappuccino.

Hap poured sugar into his drink, "I chose the drinks, I'll let you choose the meal."

"Okay, but you can't accuse me of 'pushing you around' when you let me order."

Hap looked sheepish, "That's fair, and maybe I was being a little over sensitive at the store."

Anastasia started to reach for the menu, then smiled, "Actually I know what is perfect on a cold evening like this, and a good French cafe must have it." She waived to the waiter and he hesitantly approached.

"Serveur, deux soupes a l'oignon, et deux croques madame s'il vous plait." Anastasia told the waiter

Hap glanced up to see the waiter's confused look. Hap held up his hand, "Wait, what are we having?"

"Onion soup, and Croque madame, my favorite sandwich. I wanted you to try it."

Hap nodded, "That sounds good, I'd love to try your favorite sandwich, and hot soup sounds perfect."

The waiter nodded and looked relieved as he again disappeared into the kitchen.

Hap watched Anastasia elegantly sip her cappuccino as she observed the blizzard outside. There was a comfortable silence between them, and a sense of intimate familiarity that required nothing from either of them, but just being together. She set down her mug and caught him looking at him. She smiled like she was thinking the same thing. Hap asked, "Are you having a good evening?"

Anastasia looked around, "I really am. I got new clothes, we've found this lovely café. We're together and alone. Tomorrow we'll send a message to mother. I don't know if I could be much happier."

The waiter returned with the soup. It was a viscous brown beef broth with thin slices of onions and topped with a thick layer of bread and broiled cheese. As Anastasia predicted, the soup was comforting and delicious after walking in a blizzard. As they ate they watched a man outside struggle against the wind and wet snow. "I think we might have to call for a cab to get back the star port." Hap said.

"Agreed." Anastasia said as waiter set down plates with a fat toasted sandwich that a poached egg on top. "Merci beaucoup." Anastasia told the waiter as he took the empty soup bowls.

Hap eyed the egg on top of his sandwich suspiciously, "I'm guessing you don't pick this up to eat it."

"No Mon cher, you should use a knife and fork like a civilized person." Anastasia gracefully cut into her egg and bread and let the runny egg yoke spill out over the sandwich.

Hap used his fork to cut off a corner. The sandwich had a gooey center of cheese and warm ham, and the bread had a sauce that had been fried in. It was rich and buttery. After a few bites Hap looked up at her, "This is really good. When I saw a French café I was worried we'd be eating snails."

"Escargo depends on the snails and how the chef prepares them. Sometimes it can taste like buttered dirt, and sometimes it's too much garlic. It's one of those dishes that gets too much attention, and you never know what you'll get. Croque Madaam is a consistent pleasure. Much like French wine."

"You want a glass of wine?"

Anastasia nodded, as Hap replied, "Let me try." He caught the waiters eye and held up two fingers as he said, "Two, pardon, deux Cabernet Sauvignon." The waiter nodded and opened the cabinet beneath the counter revealing wine shelves with dozens of bottles. He selected a bottle and poured two glasses.

Anastasia took her glass and gave it a gentle swirl. She sniffed it and smiled, "Good choice Harold. I would have gone with a white, since we're eating ham, but I do like a good Cabernet." She lifted her glass, "To more evenings like this."

The glasses clinked as Hap returned her gesture and sipped the wine. The food was good, and he couldn't think of better company. They finished their meal and Anastasia excused herself to the ladies room as Hap approached the waiter. Hap pulled out his money clip, "You don't speak French do you?"

"No man, your wife was killing me. I've gotten in trouble for being a little sarcastic with the guests, so I didn't want to show any disrespect, but I was really struggling. Thanks for figuring it out."

"She's not my-" To Hap's surprise the bill was significantly less than he thought it would be. He gave the waiter a few extra c-bills for a tip. "Thanks for being a good sport. Can you call us a cab?"

The waiter nodded as he looked at his tip. When Anastasia returned Hap helped her put on her coat and explained how money was a universal language and he was able to pay without speaking French.

As they started to leave Hap looked around. He was walking out of a quaint café where he had enjoyed a gourmet meal and wine with the most attractive woman he knew, and he was wearing designer clothes. If it wasn't for Anastasia he would have been at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or dive bar with Joker and Mags drinking beer and wearing whatever he found at the twenty-four hour super store that specialized in affordable goods. He had been annoyed a few times tonight with Anastasia, but he still considered it a good evening. He saw how this relationship would change him, and he wasn't sure how to feel about it.

Anastasia gave Hap a look similar to the one she had given him at the department store, "Harold, what are you thinking about?" Hap still couldn't tell what that look meant, but he liked it.

He considered telling her the waiter couldn't speak French, or that he was worried he was going to lose himself. The cab pulled up as he led her out. "I was thinking how different things would be without you."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 12 June 2020, 15:27:55
Chapter 25
October 3029
Monhegan

At the 0900 work call Kelly explained the Company would be on light duty for the next week. It would be minimal manning in ops and maintenance, and one daily patrol alternating between the Coyotes and the Dullahans. Everyone would need to stay close, but he wanted people to relax a little after Klathandu and the long voyage. Kelly told them starting in November they'd start to retrain, re-hone their martial skills and he'd find some side work, but for the next week everyone should try to relax, a little.

After the morning brief Hap found Yorik and Fletch, and explained the situation with the lack doors in the barracks. Yorik told him the contract did not allow for making modifications to the building. They could put up shower curtains with tension bars, but anything permanent would be violate the contract. Fletch explained that when Hap was in AFFS his life was guided by military regulations and general orders, now that he was a mercenary contracts generally replaced regulations. Hap got the message.

Hap returned the barracks and found most of the mechwarriors there. The Saints were running Ops, so he'd have to go and talk to them later. Hap explained the situation with the doors and everyone seemed to just accept it. Anastasia wasn't pleased, and Hap suspected the Saints would be annoyed. The mechwarriors had returned at all hours last night and when the Saints got up at 0430 they got ready as loudly as possible as their own form of revenge. Hap would have to talk to them about that as well.

Hap reminded everyone they had to share the space and when they had more missions and night operations it would be more important to be respectful of everyone's schedules. To Hap's surprise everyone seemed receptive. Kelly had told Hap that if anyone really gave him problems there were fines, and ways to dock pay for problematic behavior, but Kelly didn't think it would come to that. He explained most of the mercenaries were hand-picked. Kelly intentionally tried to hire people that could work and live together. Hap's job was to give polite reminders, not be a drill sergeant to conscripts.

So far that seemed to be holding true. Mags and Joker probably were the most problematic of the mercenaries, but Hap assumed that was more an age and experience problem. When he was a Leftenant he had seen and heard about situations from other companies of discipline nightmares, and extreme interpersonal problems. Hap realized he actually had a pretty good group to work with.

After talking to everyone Hap returned to his room. He hadn't fully unpacked, and he hadn't figured out the entertainment system left to him. He also had to get ready for his new wardrobe. As he re-arranged his meager possessions in his closet Anastasia knocked on his door frame. "Harold, may I come in?"

Hap half closed his wall locker door so he could see her, "Sure."

Anastasia sauntered in wearing the same blouse and skirt from the previous night but her hair was in a loose sloppy bun. "Since we don't have a patrol today, I thought we could go to the ComStar office, send Mother a message, and then get some lunch. We can also pick up some of the other essentials, such as shower curtains, privacy screens." She glanced into his bathroom, "and towels."

Hap nodded, "Yeah, I'd love to, just let me get changed."

"No rush, I was hoping to use your bathroom to put on makeup."

"Help yourself" Hap started to change, "You're putting on makeup to send a note to your mom?"

"Not a note, a video message, so yes. Also I like to look good when I'm out, and I like to look good for you, and I hope that's a sentiment you share." Anastasia said from the bathroom

"Like you to look good? I certainly do. However, I have to say you tend to always look good." Hap said

"Thank you. But you know what I was saying. I like you to look good, which I why I went through all the trouble dragging you kicking and screaming and pushing you around that store last night."

"It was an experience I won't soon forget." Hap pulled on khakis and tucked in his T-shirt.

"Good, and just so you understand. We will be sending a video message to mother. You will be in it, because I want her to see you. You don't have to say much, really just a simple hello. We need to keep the message brief, but it will be from both of us." Anastasia's tone was almost patronizing.

Hap ignored her tone as he buttoned his shirt "How much does it costs to send a video message?"

"We'll be using my mother's diplomatic account. Father and I learned that if you can keep a message under two minutes it's not too expensive, but you have to use ComStar's equipment to record your message. Their video compression system is optimized for hyper pulse transmissions. Even though they charge to use their booths, it's still much cheaper."

Hap slid his belt into the khaki's belt loops, "I thought your father didn't trust ComStar."

"Daddy was certain ComStar was meddling in political and government affairs. He was just a businessman refining existing products. He assumed they wouldn't take much notice of him until they learned of his plan to build competitive HPG technology, but we were years from even a prototype."

"When you researched HPG tech for him at NAIS, how'd you get him the information?" Hap asked.

"He came to NAIS every couple months as part of the weapons research project. I'd just give him what I had then, or sometimes when there was a military or government transport headed to Hazelhurst I'd send things in a diplomatic pouch. Either way we avoided using ComStar to talk about it."

"Is that what you did for the weapons research too?" Hap smoothed his shirt adjusted his slacks.

"Mostly. There'd be a few things we'd send over the HPG net, but we used the project's code words."

Hap brought his shoes to the futon to put them on, "Cody was telling us how ComStar suppresses discovering or rediscovering technology. Wasn't your Dad afraid they'd 'suppress' him?"

"No, but several of the other researchers and Team Banzai members wanted him to move to NAIS's secure campus. Their concern was the intelligence agencies of the other houses might try to kill or capture the research team members. Daddy thought he was insignificant to the grand designs of most intergalactic powers. He was just a business man who specialized in electronics working on magnets and capacitors as far as anyone outside of NAIS and the AFFS weapons project team was concerned."

Anastasia continued, "Mother, on the other hand, as a lady of state and the leader of a planet, has some enemies. She retains a Personal Security Detachment to guard us, the house and grounds. Daddy assumed if anyone attempted anything Mother's PSD would stop them. Either way he wasn't worried."

"Do you think Cody's right? Does ComStar suppress technology advances?" Hap leaned back on the futon and glanced over at Anastasia. The top of her blouse was unbuttoned, and she had pulled it back loosely around her shoulders. She was leaning over the sink and using a brush to apply concealer.

"It's hard to say. Daddy often noted we've been at war for centuries, but technology has been regressing. He doubted it was by chance." Anastasia moved her head and continued applying concealer.

"I'm not sure I understand, war is inherently destructive" Hap stood up and walked toward her.

"Harold, outside of exploration, mankind has known no greater catalyst for innovation than waging war." Anastasia started applying blush. "And it hasn't exactly been 'total war'. Technology centers are generally preserved, and irreplaceable things, like jump ships, are protected. There should not be constant technological regression, especially not with the Ares Convention and Honors of War."

Hap leaned against the door post. Anastasia's makeup kit was spread out on the sink's counter, and he suspected it would likely stay there. He was annoyed as he felt she was encroaching on his space, but he reminded himself that he had offered it to her. He glanced at her décolletage and his eyes continued to drift downward. He considered how relationships were about give and take, including sharing space. He noticed his 'Mech charm on the chain with her blood chit and ID tag neatly tucked in her lacey bra.

Anastasia looked at Hap's reflection and smirked, "Although it could be argued trying to impress the opposite sex has spurred some creativity and inventiveness. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Yeah, I was just…uh…I noticed your…Do you always wear my 'Mech charm?"

Anastasia put the finishing touches on her cheeks, "Certainly. Since I acquired it I haven't been in any mortal danger, so of course I always wear it. But, I suspect that wasn't what you were staring at."

Hap shrugged and grinned sheepishly as Anastasia stood up and adjusted her blouse to cover her better. She pulled out the comb that was keeping her hair in its tall loose twisty bun. As she took out the pins in her hair it slid down her back and hung below her waist. "Rather than stare awkwardly at me, may I suggest you make yourself useful? Can you braid hair?"

Hap shook his head as she pushed a brush into his hand, "Well at least brush it out." She said

Anastasia neatly organized her makeup on the left side of the sink. Hap tried to brush her hair, but found it difficult because of the length. "I don't think your hair was in regs when you were a cadet."

Anastasia shrugged, "You'd be amazed at how a few tiny subversive acts can raise morale."

Hap laughed, "Don't let Joker hear you say that." Hap noticed several red triangles and red blotches in the dark brown silk. "Were you trying to color your hair?" He held up a section with red triangles.

"No that's where the sun bleached my hair, but it was in a braid. This, and freckles, is what happens when you leave your Anastasia out in the sun. Which reminds me, can you see any freckles? I don't want mother commenting about 'too much sun'. It wasn't my fault I just kept getting stupid outdoor duties."

Hap studied her reflection in the mirror. "You look flawless."

"Thank you." She turned around, "We should get you a haircut, but I sort like you're your scruffy look." She smiled mischievously as she messed up his hair, and combed it with her fingers.

Hap pushed her hand away, "If you want me to finish, you're going to have to turn around."

She gently pushed him back and reached for the hair brush, "It will be faster if I do it myself."

Hap kept hold of the brush and they struggled and laughed, "I can't learn if you don't let me try."

"You were doing it wrong, and it didn't feel very nice." She giggled, but tried to look angry

"I'll try to be gentler." Hap raised his the brush high over her head.

She grabbed his arm, and tried to pull it down, "It wasn't that. You need to use a smoother full stroke."

"The problem with my stroke is I need more room." Hap struggled to keep the brush out her reach.

"Just let me show you how I prefer to do this." Anastasia pulled on his arm with her full weight.

"Hey! What are you two doing in here?" Joker rushed in and looked around expectantly.

"Damn it! knock before entering," Hap snapped, "We could've been changing or something."

"I know. That's why I rushed in. I was hoping to catch you two making little princesses."

Anastasia snatched her brush from Hap, rushed Joker, and hit him on the shoulder while yelling, "Out. Get out."

Hap tried to stop her, but she dodged him and hit him with the brush on the backside, "You too. Go away and let me finish getting ready." Hap laughed as she pushed him and Joker toward the door.

"Damn. Mags and I were going to catch a cab, and wanted to know if you wanted to join us." Joker said.

Hap turned to watch Anastasia return to his bathroom sink. "Yeah, Anastasia and I wanted to go to the ComStar office, and find some type of temporary doors. What are you guys doing?"

"Mags wants to send money to her dad, and I like to get out." Joker said as he stopped in the hallway.

"What did you guys end up doing last night?" Hap asked.

"We found a good bar with hot wings, lots of beers, and holo screens with every major sports game and several of the Solaris VII leagues. We hung out with Grizzly, Dillon, and Rolph watching games. We saw an Solaris VII Assault League match-up. That was brutal. We also caught part of Albion game.

"Football or Basketball?" Hap asked

"Football, and before you ask, it was also brutal, but not in Albion's favor." Joker told him

Hap grimaced, "They haven't had a good year in a while."

"And their match-up with NAIS, is coming up." Anastasia called out cheerfully.

"Are you ready yet?" Hap snapped

"Almost." Anastasia replied sweetly. "You want to make wagers on the NAIS Albion game?"

"I haven't seen NAIS play, but from what I saw last night, I'd bet on NAIS." Joker told Hap quietly.

Mags walked into the hallway. "What's Anastasia doing?"

"Her hair." Joker replied.

Mags shook her head and leaned against the wall, "We'll be here a few minutes."

"I see Joker found new clothes. Did you find a good tattoo parlor?" Hap asked.

"Not really." Mags said.

"What was wrong with the second place we went?" Joker asked.

"The one with the naked woman in the window? I talked to her. All her good tattoos were by the artist up the street. I didn't like him though because he told me I needed all my tattoos touched up."

Hap glanced at the tattoos on Mag's wrist and leg, they looked good to him, but they did have the common fade of a time, "Is there a reason you wouldn't want your tattoos touched up?"

"The way he talked, I knew he didn't respect the other artists that had given me these tattoos. I choose my tattoos very carefully, Jefe, and the artist too." She held up her arm with the cross, Hap could see there was a delicate scroll with a name and two years wrapped around the cross. "My cousin did this one after my Mother died." She held up the other wrist with La Familia, "My dad did this one when McFinnigan agreed to let me be part of the Company. Dad has one just like it."

She took off her jacket and rolled up her sleeve, "I got the flag after I joined Dad. We were on shore leave and it took three days to find the right artist. Part of the payment was one of the bottles of Cerillos extra Anejo Tequila that I brought for Dad from Cerillos. The artist, my Dad, and I drank the bottle as he worked. I was seventeen and it was the first time I really drank. I think Dad carried me back to the ship."

Anastasia entered the hallway. Her hair was in a braided and coiled bun, "Everyone ready?" She said.

"Yeah, like five minutes ago." Joker replied, "Although I think if you had given us another five minutes, Mags would have shown her some of best tattoos, the ones near her saucy bits."

Mags scowled, "You just want to see me naked."

"What if I promise to look but not touch?" Joker asked as they started to walk.

"Why don't you just look at your dirty magazines?" Mags replied

"I get bored with them, and I was lying, I was going to touch." Joker laughed.

Mags shook her head, "You just keep your porn, and touch yourself."

"I saw the pictures of naked guys in your locker. I'm not the only one touching myself." Joker said.

"We might want to find our own cab." Anastasia said quietly as she put her arm around Hap's waist.

Hap shook his head, "Mags, what's your favorite Phelan McQuaid movie?"

"Los Lobos of Cerillos." Mags said, "It's the best action movie made about the third Succession War."

"That's bullshit." Joker howled as they started down the stairs and left the barracks. "John Stallion's First Blood is a way better."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 12 June 2020, 22:44:56
*howling in giggles*
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Kheilwar on 13 June 2020, 07:20:49
You know, I really enjoy this story :thumbsup:

And the start of it, with the shopping stuff and the small cafe very much reminded me of a similar day I had with my girlfriend. Only it was italian she spoke to the poor waiter... ;D
't was back in the day, before I took an Urby in the knee on Megrez against the Elsies 3018
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 19 June 2020, 19:05:57
Chapter 26
October 3029
Monhegan

Joker and Mags quarreled most of the walk to the cab. Hap wasn't sure if Mags had ever had to listen to Joker's tirade on why John Stallion was the greatest actor of any age. Eventually Hap suggested a movie marathon to prove which actor made better movies. They liked the idea so much they even agreed to let Anastasia pick a movie, if she paid for the pizzas.

In the cab, Joker Mags and Anastasia worked on their list of movies and Hap found himself just enjoying the moment. He liked being surrounded by lancemates, they were his family within the family. He realized he had been so preoccupied with his relationship with Anastasia he had missed some of the growth of them coming together as a team.

Mags had really come around. When Hap first met Mags, he assumed he would have to put up with her tough girl act, just like Joker's annoying sense of humor. Instead she slowly warmed up to the lance during the trip to Monhegan. Hap felt guilty he hadn't noticed the subtle changes that happened as they worked together in the simulators. Hap was certain Anastasia fixing Mag's holoviewer is what brought Mags out of her shell, but it probably wasn't just one act, again, it was time. Based on yesterday's patrol she now seemed trainable and like she wanted to learn.

Hap also recognized that Mags was very competitive. When they were doing drills in the simulator Mags tended to try and outdo Joker. Hap had originally thought she had decided not to compete with Anastasia because Anastasia usually got perfect marks on her gunnery. It was clear Anastasia's hard work, extensive training at NAIS, and a private tutoring made her an exceptional Mechwarrior. Even Hap, with all his training and combat experience, had to work to keep up with Anastasia.

Hap thought back to Joker's comment about the posters in Mag's locker. Anastasia had mentioned Mags put those up after Joker had put his own posters of naked women in his wall locker back on the Tir na nOg. When Hap first saw all this, he had figured Mags had her posters and Anastasia had her books. Now Hap wondered if Mags was competing with Joker on a different level or trying to tell him something.

Anastasia shifted in her seat and accidentally hit Hap's side. Hap nudged her back, and she smiled as she playfully returned the gesture. Hap's thoughts turned to their relationship, as she pressed herself into his side while happily discussing movies with Joker and Mags. He had spent weeks trying to make sure she was in love with him, and not infatuated with her idealized 'white knight' from Klathandu. After nearly two months, they had gotten to know each other and she had seen he was far from a white knight, but she still joked about being his "better wife."

Hap put his arm over her shoulder and gave her a gentle squeeze, and she smiled as she reached for his hand. For all the things she did that annoyed him, Hap loved her. He loved that she was a problem solver, and found satisfaction in fixing things. He loved that cool voice on his comms channel that gave him important information he didn't notice or didn't have on his tactical display. As much as it sometimes irritated him, he also liked how she challenged him and pushed him to be better.

The cab stopped in front of the grandiose ComStar office for Monhegan. It was a tall and imposing square concrete building with a large dome roof. It was in the middle of the Starport, surrounded by other buildings, but there was over twenty meters of steep marble and granite stairs leading up to it. Hap knew little about architecture, but he always felt that ComStar used a style designed to make a person feel insignificant. Inside the effect was amplified. To Hap it felt like a mix of a bank and a church.

The main gallery was a large room with more granite and marble. It had a lofted ceiling going up to the dome. In the back was a large stained glass window with the ComStar symbol, and around the sides of the building were more stained glass windows with images of various ComStar leaders and other arcane symbols or iconography. Along the sides were small rooms and booths. Along the back wall were two staircases leading to the lower levels.

There were neat rows with terminals surrounded by chairs that, if it were a bank, Hap would have thought would be where you'd discuss a loan, however here it was where you discussed what you wanted to send by ComStar's HPG network. Cloaked and hooded members of ComStar performed their duties, helped customers, or came and went to the lower levels. The Coyotes got into the main que behind a few other people and waited for their turn, but no one talked as they waited.

When Harold and Anastasia got to the front of the line a hooded figure standing in the center of the room motioned for them to approach. "What may the blessed order do for you, my children?" He asked.

"I would like to send a video and a note to Hazelhurst." Anastasia said

The hooded man nodded, and with the subtlest of gestures motioned to another ComStar member, "Brother Hyek will assist you, please follow him." Quickly, but silently, Brother Hyek came to them and wordlessly gestured for them to follow him. He was wearing a white hooded robe and looked young.

He led them to one of the desks and sat on one side while Hap and Anastasia sat on the other. Anastasia pulled sheets of paper from her purse, and laid them on the desk, "I need these sent to Hazelhurst for the Countess Valois, and I also require a video booth to record a short message for the Countess."

Hyek adjusted the monitor on the desk and began to type. "This day, at this time, in the great celestial network of our blessed order, by Blake's wisdom, we find that a message from Monehagan will take five to eleven days to reach Hazlehurst. But, the great Jerome Blake had foreseen, in his wisdom, a way that a message could be sent in five days or less. It will, however, require a greater contribution to our holy order and our sacred work to maintain the vast systems that unites mankind through communication."

"The five to eleven days is fine." Anastasia said dismissively, rejecting his attempt to upsell.

Brother Hyek looked disappointed, "Very well." He picked up the sheets of paper and fed them, one at a time, into a slot built in the desk. After they were scanned he passed the sheets back to Anastasia. "I shall now take you to the place where you may record a message that will then be sent, through the stars, by our blessed order, using the methods and technology that the great Jerome Blake, in his wisdom, has built to unite mankind, so that one day we may once more have peace in unity."

Brother Hyek stood, and motioned to one of the rooms along the side. Anastasia and Hap followed him into a small video studio. He motioned to chairs that were strategically placed in front of a large metallic engraved Comstar symbol hanging from the wall bordered by the Monehegan and Federated Suns flags. As Hap and Anastasia got comfortable Brother Hyek adjusted the camera and gave them lapel mics.

Hap watched Brother Hyek do strange hand motions over the camera and the systems it was plugged into. Anastasia pulled another sheet of paper from her purse. She smoothed out the paper on her knee and said to Hap, "I need you to tell me when I've talked for 90 seconds. I'll introduce you, you'll say hello, then I'll sign off. You'll have twenty seconds."

"I have twenty seconds? It would have been nice if you had told me that before now." Hap said

"You work best under pressure, mon amour." Anastasia said with a wolfish grin.

"What?" Hap said.

"Just practicing my French, Harold."

"Why are you practicing French?" Hap asked

Brother Hyek cleared his throat, "The equipment is prepared and the rituals are complete. When you are ready we can began recording-"

"I'm ready now." Anastasia said

Brother Hyek politely nodded, counted down from three to one, and then pushed a button on the camera. A red light on the camera blinked, and Anastasia began speaking in fluent French. Hap glanced down at his watch, then over to her notes. They were also all in French. He tried not to look annoyed or confused as she spoke in a language he couldn't understand.

Hap watched the second hand swiftly move. He had about sixty seconds now. He had no idea what to say, he also was trying to remember back to his "charm school class" on military and noble etiquette. Should he call her "Countess Valois", or was it "My Lady", or "Lady Hazelhurst." Hap didn't even know if she had an official title that went with Countess. Anastasia always referred to her as "mother." If this relationship didn't work out, Hap promised himself he'd never get involved with a noble again.

Thirty seconds. He had no idea how to greet the woman, nor did he know what he was going to say. He hadn't worked out a way to signal Anastasia when her 90 seconds was up. He glanced sideways. She was happily saying, god knew what, to her mother. Hap swallowed hard, ten seconds. He took a deep breath, and put his arm across her back and gently squeezed her shoulder.

Anastasia glanced down at his watch, then held up a hand to let him know to wait, she finished her sentence then motioned to him, "Mon Cher 'Arold Cala'ad."

Hap looked at the camera, "Hello Ma'am, I'm Harold Calahad." He glanced over at her, "It's been a pleasure to work with Anastasia, and get to know her."

Anastasia gave Hap a look that wordlessly communicated "And?"

"and? I" Hap looked back at the camera, "I'm quite fond of your daughter."

Anastasia shook her head and laughed as she said, "Il est timide et ne peut pas dire que je t'aime". Anastasia said a few more things in French, then looked past the camera to brother Hyek. She pointed to him and nodded as he hit the camera's off button.

Brother Hyek opened the door and motioned to the desk, "If you would like to wait out there I will perform the sacred shutdown ritual and prepare your video for its great and wonderful cosmic journey."

As they walked Hap said, "I felt very unprepared for that. I wish we could have rehearsed, or that you would have warned me that you were going to be speaking French."

"I told you French was the official language of the Valois household." Anastasia shrugged.

"Telling me that, doesn't translate to, 'if we send a video to Mother, I'll be speaking exclusively French'."

Anastasia smiled coyly, "You're calling her Mother now, Mr. 'Fond of your daughter'?"

"I'm quoting you, and I'm a little annoyed. I feel like you really put me on the spot." Hap told her.

Anastasia sensed she had gone too far, "I'm sorry. You were fine, and Mother will enjoy that, and I thought you would prefer to just 'improvise'. Can I make it up to you with lunch? You choose, I'll treat."

"Some of this is my fault. I should have asked what your plan was when you said 'we' would be sending a message to your Mother." Hap realized he was 'feeling annoyed' a lot lately, and it was usually over something he had told Anastasia she could do. He needed to figure out why that kept happening.

Brother Hyek returned to the desk and sat down. "Before the message can be sent using the gifts wrought by Blake's wisdom, I must ask how you intend to offer your contribution to our blessed order."

Anastasia pulled out her ID chain. "I'll be using Lady Valois, Countess of Hazelhurst's diplomatic account. As her daughter I have been granted access." She offered Brother Hyek her blood chit.

He inserted the blood chit into a slot on his terminal and looked shocked. He glanced at Anastasia then back at his terminal. Brother Hyek stood up, "I gotta get the Precentor." He took a few steps came back, locked his terminal, and started running toward the stairs in the back.

Hap suddenly felt concerned. "Maybe we should go before the Precentor gets here."

"Harold, this is normal. With a diplomatic account we could record hours of video and have it sent across the Federation overnight. The Precentor likely has to confirm my use of the account, even if the charges are modest." Anastasia dug into her purse, "He'll want to see a second form of identification."

"Are you sure? Brother Hyek's look didn't seem like a 'ask your boss to confirm' look." Hap said.

"Brother Hyek is probably new. That's why he keeps saying 'the blessed order' or 'wisdom of Blake'. It was nice to see him drop the act for a moment. I prefer to have the old bitter 'brother' or 'sister' that skips all the 'Holy Order' talk or says it sarcastically. It's almost entertaining."

Hap suppressed a laugh imagining a sarcastic and bitter older Brother Hyek. "So if we have access to the diplomatic account, why aren't you sending the message to your mother overnight?"

"It's prohibitively expensive", she said shaking her head. "Mother and I both have an obligation to be responsible stewards of the people's money. She hasn't heard from me in weeks, and one more will not likely make a difference. Part of being a 'good' noble is remembering that you are first and foremost a servant of the people." She continued to dig in her purse, "Although, I've been worried sick about her, so maybe I should send it priority."

A short man wearing a red cloak was nearly jogging as he approached Hap and Anastasia. His cloak had extravagant embroidery on his hood and stole. He was moving so quickly his hood was half down revealing silver hair that was combed straight back betraying a high widow's peak. Beside him was a short stocky man wearing a simple unadorned black cloak. The man in black had a neatly trimmed black mustache and goatee. There was a slender woman, also with a simple black robe, following closely behind the man in black. All three had their eyes fixed on Anastasia. Brother Hyek was a few steps behind the trio trying to keep up. A chill went down Hap's back and his mouth went dry as they approached. Hap instantly knew they should have ran when they had the chance.

The Precentor stopped abruptly in front of the desk. Hap impulsively stood up, and put his hand under Anastasia's elbow to gently pull her to her feet as she continued to look through her purse. He glanced over at Anastasia. Her head was down and she was still rummaging through her purse.

The man in black had the build of a powerlifter and the marks of countless fights. His nose had been flattened, broken, and set a few times. His left ear had been cropped and there were several scars on his face and hands. Hap noticed the tell-tale boxer's knuckle injuries in his balled fist. Hap glanced up to meet his eyes, and knew instantly this man would kill him in a fight, and he would do it quickly and without hesitation. If he wasn't the head of security, he must have moonlighted as a prize fighter.

"Show me" the man in red said quietly, almost threateningly to Brother Hyek. The man in the red cloak had to be the Precentor, based on the decorations of his robe, and the way he conveyed authority. The man in black exuded raw savage power, but the Precentor had an air that demanded obedience. Hap knew with the simplest of gestures the Precentor could have Anastasia and him murdered on the spot.

Brother Hyek sat back down nervously and unlocked the terminal. The Precentor raised an eyebrow as he read. The man in black broke eye contact with Hap to look at the terminal, then looked back at him.

Anastasia offered the Precentor her passport. "I'm Anastasia Valois. Here's my passport to confirm my identity. If your system states I'm dead, or MIA, I can explain. I was rescued from Kathandu, but I was…" Anastasia looked the three cloaked figures staring at her in confusion, "What's wrong?"

The Precentor took a deep breath and looked around the room. He smiled grandly and fixed his hood, "Forgive us Lady Valois. Our system does not list you as dead, exactly, rather it reported you were…" He looked around again, "Andrea Marteen, the fourth Primus of our blessed order." He gestured toward a stained glass window of a plump woman with short blonde hair. He laughed like it was an amusing joke.

The Precentor shrugged good-naturedly when no one laughed, "These things sometimes occur. Some, like brother Hyek, believe this is a sign that may foretell something of your destiny. Others, like Sister Fjaldr would explain that this is a database error that she will now rectify. I apologize if we appear to be overreacting. I was hesitant to disregard a potential miracle, such as the dead walking among us."

Brother Hyek shook his head, and opened his mouth to say something when the man in black put his hand on his shoulder and nearly pulled him out of his chair, "It's time for to take a break, acolyte."

The woman in black slipped into Brother Hyek's seat as he nervously slinked away. Hap watched as she typed furiously. She looked almost like a holo star actress. She sat tall and straight and her makeup was done impeccably, and her jet black hair was perfectly styled. Hap thought for a moment she looked like the cliché love interest from a spy movie, or a counter agent that would try to seduce the hero. She typed fast and flawlessly, but looked annoyed with whatever the terminal was displaying.

The Precentor once more smiled magnanimously. "I humbly apologize for this misunderstanding. Please allow me to demonstrate the grace of Blake and prioritize your message at no additional cost. We will, of course, extend the Countess the same courtesy in her response to you."

"Thank you Precentor, this is truly gracious of you, and your blessed order." Anastasia told him politely. She gave Hap a very subtle but nervous glance.

He nodded kindly and smiled, "It's the least we can do, and we anticipate seeing you again soon."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 19 June 2020, 19:07:08
Chapter 27

Hap felt relieved as he and Anastasia walked down the stairs outside the ComStar office. He was glad to see Mags and Joker waiting across the street. He looked at Anastasia, "Do you have any idea what just happened?"

"No. I was hunting for my passport and when I looked up, that short, stocky man was looking at you with extreme malevolence, the Precentor looked at me like I was a paradox that shouldn't exist, and the young woman appeared puzzled and annoyed with me. I initially thought she was mad that I hadn't shown the Precentor the proper respect, but I think something else was going on. I wonder what that terminal actually said about me." Anastasia took Hap's arm and held it tight as she walked close to him.

"Yeah, I didn't believe the story about the system saying you were some dead Primus," Hap said.

"We should talk to-" Anastasia stopped herself and looked around, "We should get back to base."

Hap nodded "Let's get lunch first," He said as they crossed the street, and met up with Joker and Mags.

"What did you guys do?" Joker asked as they started walking briskly away from the ComStar Office.

"No idea." Hap said, "Something went wrong with their system and they had to call the Precentor."

"They had to call security too?" Mags asked, "That short guy in the black robe, he's a fighter."

Hap nodded, "Yeah I thought the same thing, he had the marks of a career boxer, and I thought for a moment he was going to reach across the desk and choke slam me. The woman looked like an actress, but she could type fast, so I guess they were techs, not security. The whole thing doesn't make sense."

"Yeah, that's how I always feel when I go to church." Joker replied.

"I saw how he was looking at you Jefe. If shit went down. I was going to mess him up, but Joker said we should wait outside in case we needed to post bail or tell the Commander what happened." Mags said.

"Thanks Mags" Hap looked at Mags. He had no doubt she was sincere, and would have been at his side in a fight. She tended to be aggressive and reckless in a 'Mech, and if she fought like that in a street fight, it would be to her advantage. But the man in black had the air of a determined killer. Alone, Hap was certain he'd lose to the man in black, even with Mags, he didn't think they'd fare much better.

"Given the height of the steps there are at least two floor beneath the main business floor, and I'd rather not know how many sub-floors." Anastasia said, "I believe if we had an altercation with the ComStar order they would take us down stairs never to be seen or heard from again."

Joker laughed, "So you're saying I was right. Oh I'm going to remember this day."

Anastasia shook her head, "I'm going through a lot today, and in no mood to verbally spare with you. Given the circumstances, yes, you chose wisely. Can we get lunch now and go back to the base?"

Joker looked annoyed, "When you put it like that, it doesn't seem as funny or good."

They walked for a few more minutes along cold damp streets. Hap wanted to get lost in the crowd.

They found themselves in front of the diner. It had large windows facing the street. The coyotes walked in to find a few people enjoying a mid-morning meal or cup of coffee. The dinner had a long L-shaped counter that ran most of the length of the store, and wrapped around the side to give the store patrons access to restrooms in the rear of the diner. There were stools around the counter, and booths lined the walls beneath the windows. It was poorly heated, but the windows gave it a bright atmosphere.

There was a matronly waitress wearing a pink short-sleeved dress with white trim and a white apron tied around her waist. She smiled warmly and invited them to sit wherever they liked.

Hap chose a booth in the corner of the diner where he could sit facing the door. He wanted to be ready if the man in black or someone else from ComStar walked into the diner. They had no real weapons, so they would have to try to slip out the back, assuming that was possible. Hap would talk to Roweyna about Monhegan's laws for carrying weapons. He'd also ask her if the company had any rules about walking around armed. He would have assumed the company would want their personnel to avoid fights, but he couldn't remember it ever coming up in conversation or in the contract.

The waitress came by and passed out menus. "Y'all know what you want? I don't believe I've ever seen you four around here. You new to the starport? What can I get you to drink?"

Hap glanced up, the woman was middle age with auburn hair and a friendly twinkle in her brown eyes. The name tag pinned to her dress read "Ruby." Hap tried to remind himself to act normal as Joker gave Ruby a deceptively boyish grin, "Yeah, we're new, Ruby. I think I'll have coffee." Mags and Anastasia asked for the same. Hap forced himself to smile as he ordered.

Ruby nodded and went to the other side of the counter to retrieve mugs and the coffee pot. Hap inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly trying to calm himself. Anastasia was sitting on the inside of the booth, and she was so close to Hap he could just as easily read her menu as he opened his own. She was studying the breakfast selection. The diner seemed to specialize in hashbrowns and had a half page describing various gravies, sauces, cheeses or meats that could be cooked and served on the hashbrowns.

There was a second page of omelets, skillets and other breakfast dishes. Anastasia turned quickly past this to a page of diner sandwiches. She studied it carefully as Hap saw what he wanted, a classic bacon cheese burger. Ruby returned and set mugs of steaming coffee in front of everyone and placed a small creamer pitcher and sugar packets in the center of the table as she asked for their order.

Mags wanted a southwest skillet, Joker ordered a complex combination of things to cover and smother his hash browns, and a side of bacon. Anastasia requested a patty melt with potato salad that Ruby told her she personally made with her secret ingredient, dill. Hap asked for a bacon cheeseburger with fries.

The food came out quickly and Anastasia and Hap started to feel better as they ate. Ruby came by and asked where they were from, and general things about their mercenary unit. She explained how Monhegan had seen a lot of mercenaries come through lately. She had heard that a fourth Succession War was starting and mercenaries were gathering along border worlds to be near the action.

When the meal was finished Hap and Anastasia decided they needed to find Cody. Since his father was a ComStar member she reasoned he could help them make sense of what had happened at the ComStar offices. Joker and Mags were going to look for something to use for doors in the barracks. Anastasia gave Mags some money and told her to find something for their room.

The cab ride back to McFinnigan and Sons area was short and uneventful. Although Hap and Anastasia were both a little leery to get into the cab. Hap knew on some level, they were being paranoid, but his experience with the Precentor and the man in black had been profoundly troubling. Hap knew it was the same for Anastasia, they hadn't talked, but she had kept herself close to him since the ComStar facility.

Hap and Anastasia went to Ops and asked if they knew where to find Cody. John was pretty certain that he and Mal were working with the techs on a remote drone in the 'Mech hangar. Hap and Anastasia went to the hangar to find Cody, Jim Hawkins the leopard pilot, and Erik standing around a small air craft that was in pieces. Hap noticed it didn't have a cockpit. As they approached they could hear the men arguing.

"I don't know why we bother." Erik grumbled, "This drone is made by Quickscell, a company with a legendary history of cutting corners to provide the cheapest military hardware that almost meets the design specs. If it flies one time I'll be amazed, if it can take-off for a second flight I may consider rethinking my opinion about Quickscell, but my daughters can tell you, I rarely change my opinion."

"Yeah, probably not since mom divorced him" one of his daughters said from the corner where her and her sister were repacking a giant 'Mech gyro with a thick lubricant.

Everyone looked at Erik waiting for him to respond, and he just shrugged, "She's not wrong."

Cody looked over at Anastasia and Hap, "You two look like you've seen a ghost."

"Yeah, can we talk to you?" Hap said. "We had an odd experience at the ComStar office today."

Cody looked concerned and motioned toward a metal staircase leading up to the gantry. The hangar's gantry was a system of cranes, block and tackle attachment points, and walkways for accessing the 'Mech cockpits. There were also a few offices and a loft that had couches and boxes of equipment. Mal was working on a noteputer that had "Quickscell" etched on the back. When she saw Hap and Anastasia walk by with Cody she put the noteputer down and followed them.

"Let's get the wings on, and mount the SRM pods." Hawkins said as Cody reached stairs.

Cody stopped, "No. The Commander only wanted sensors and cameras."

"Yeah I don't want to bolt a bunch of missiles to something that is going to fall on my head." Erik replied.

"If you want to fly something with weapons, go fly the Leopard." Cody told Hawkins.

"I only get to fly that to drop 'Mechs. This thing is made to 'loiter' over a battlefield." Hawkins said.

"Right. And it's to record the battle data and give Ops a battlefield picture when we can't get satellite coverage. If you arm it, you won't focus on the whole picture, and it'll get shot at." Cody said.

"It's another fine 'quality Quickscell product' so getting shot at is the least of its worries." Erik said.

"Exactly no weapons pods, just sensors. Even if we were going to arm it, which we aren't, we need to give it a test flight with no payload. Master Pilot Mitchellin, was clear about that before he left."

Hawkins grumbled but turned to help Erik assemble the drone, "I still get to fly it, right?"

"Of course you're the only qualified pilot here." Cody said

As they started up the stairs Mal said quietly "I think I can automate most of the take-off and landing procedures, so we may not need a qualified pilot in the future, assuming Erik is wrong and its reusable."

"Good. Pilots can be almost as needy and bitchy as mechwarriors." Cody said. Hap cleared his throat as they began walking across the Gantry toward the loft.

Cody looked over his shoulder, "Not you two, you've helped us a few times. Its-" Cody stopped suddenly, "You know what it actually is? It's the fact that I may not know exactly how all this shit works, but I have a damn good idea. The problem is, I'm constantly badgered by people who don't appreciate how I'm maintaining or improving technology that wasn't designed last decades, let alone centuries."

Hap nodded, "I haven't always treated my techs as well as I should. Sometimes, as a mechwarrior, you get distracted by being shot at, or losing a weapon system, and you forget about how much effort it takes to fix it, or just how many man-hours it takes to field a 'Mech."

Hap's tone placated Cody. "I know, you guys risk your lives, and if I'm being honest I am treated pretty good, most of the time." Cody said. "McFinnigan appreciates my skills, and looks out for me like a father. Here in the family everyone does help, which can be unique even in a small company. Sometimes I just get annoyed." As Cody spoke they watched Hawkins help Erik bolt it a wing onto the drone's fuselage.

"What did you guys want to talk to me about?" Cody asked.

They walked to the loft area and sat down on the couches as Hap recounted their experience at the ComStar office with the computer error and the strange techs. As they got comfortable on the couches Mal said, "Maybe it was just what it seemed, their database happened to get corrupted, and one of their techs is a psychotic boxer, and the other happens to be a gorgeous genius, like me."

Cody shook his head, "No. Techs or adepts wear yellow, ROM agents wear black." Cody leaned forward and started talking quietly. "Listen, the last time we talked I may have overstated how incompetent some Precentors can be. ComStar is a big organization; it has some very capable, and very evil people that keep it running. There are a lot of 'smoke and mirrors' to the whole mystic cult like trappings, and many ComStar members are useful idiots who believe in it, but there are some very smart, and very cunning men and woman with everyone's secrets looking to protect ComStar's interests."

"So what did that terminal say about me?" Anastasia asked.

"I have no idea. I was never in ComStar, I just know what my dad told me and what I saw growing up in a ComStar enclave. I can tell you if it freaked out an acolyte enough to run to the Precentor and he brought back two ROM agents, it wasn't anything you wanted to have on your file."

"Why didn't they kill us on the spot?" Hap asked.

"Well it's one of two things. It could be you're more use to them alive, and now they're going to track you and ensure you do whatever useful thing they need you to do."

"What's the other option?" Anastasia asked

"You have to understand, ROM isn't like other counter-intelligent agencies. There is a certain level of brinksmanship that LIC, Maskirovka, MIIO, or ISF has in doing business. When they kill someone they want to make sure whoever that person worked for gets a clear message. Maskirovka finds an LIC spy snooping around their chemical weapons site, they interrogate him, and poison him with the chemical weapons they claim not to have. When LIC's guy turns up dead in his bathtub poisoned with some unknown illegal bio-agent, LIC responds by ensuring a Maskirovka spy master has an "accident" with a chemical truck. Everyone important gets the message, but to the rest of us, it's meaningless."

"I'm not sure I follow" Anastaisa said.

"When it comes to people outside of ComStar ROM is the opposite. When they kill someone they don't want anyone to trace it back to them. They don't send messages, they just take care of business. They'll send a sniper to a warzone to kill an apostate while he's fixing a 'Mech. Or one day your house fills with toxic gas from the furnace, and the batteries in the detectors just happen to be dead. They want things to look like a tragic accident. Failing that they may try to pin it on one of the Houses, or a random crime. They'll do what it takes to get their person, but not have anyone suspect them, and they know it's best if no one thinks it's foul play. My point is they wouldn't kill anyone in broad daylight on ComStar grounds, they'd prefer to kill someone in way that no one would ever guess it had anything to do with ComStar."

Anastasia nodded, "So you're saying I'm a dead woman?"

"I'm saying you are dealing with a very determined and methodical counter intelligence organization that doesn't make impulsive choices. If they decide to kill you, they'll wait, they'll plan, and they'll execute you at a time and place of their choosing."

"I know you told us ComStar doesn't want anyone to recover lost technology, and I thought maybe they would kill someone to stop it, but is that something ROM really does?" Hap asked.

Cody nodded, "ROM does a lot of shady things in the name of protecting ComStar. Listens and reads everyone's messages, manipulates the great Houses, hunts down adepts and precentors that 'fall away' from the teachings of Blake. They wouldn't think twice about killing someone about to make a technological breakthrough that would tip things in the favor of one house lord. I don't know what ROM thinks you're up to, but you definitely have their attention."

Anastasia shook her head and drew closer Hap. She pushed into his side, and put his arm around her. "I helped my father. He was the genius, he saw solutions where most people just saw inscrutable limitations in technology they barely understood. But even with that, we worked primarily on communications equipment, and had a small role in a very limited weapons program. We were years away from even trying to make a prototype HPG, we were only doing research. Nothing we were doing was galaxy changing."

Cody shrugged, "Well whatever you and your dad were doing it was enough."

Anastasia stared at Cody for a long moment. The silence was broken by the sound of the public address system set up around McFinnigan and Son's part of the star port. "Will Mr. and Mrs. Vallois report to Ops." The system died for a moment then "I repeat, Mr. and Mrs. Vallois report to Ops."

Hap glanced at Anastasia. She was clearly lost in thought. He nudged her, "I think our clothes are here."

She looked at him with a blank expression, "Our what?"

"Our clothes that we purchased yesterday. I think they just got delivered to the Ops center."

"Oh yes." Anastasia said slowly, "last night suddenly feels like a lifetime ago."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll on 19 June 2020, 19:09:36
Fan, meet excrement.

Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 27 June 2020, 16:44:53
Chapter 28
October 3029
Monhegan

Anastasia was silent on the way to Ops. As Cody described ROM and what they did there was a moment where everything suddenly made sense to her. It was like seeing the solution to a complex puzzle and having it all come together. Normally that would be very rewarding and satisfying for Anastasia, but it felt like the weight of a planet had fallen on her.

She felt numb as she followed Hap. It overwhelmed her to think a whole organization was part of a plot to kill her. It was even more frightening to realize it was an organization that spanned known space, and had no borders, and no accountability.

"You alright? You want to talk?" Hap asked as he opened the doors to the Ops and admin building.

Anastasia shook her head, she felt far from alright, and all her thoughts were too jumbled to talk.

Hap let her think as they walked up the stairs to the Ops center. When they entered John demanded to see the wedding certificate, and Mark asked him if he took her name for the nobility or because he was just tired of his own last name. Hap tried to explain the confusion with the sales clerks, but no one would let him finish the story. They tried to tease Anastasia, but she replied with a few polite responses that took the fun out of their jokes. Anastasia felt so disconnected it was like watching someone else.

After a few minutes of good-natured verbal abuse John directed Hap and Anastasia to one of the rooms on the first floor to get their packages. He also lent him the runner and one of the small ATV ground vehicles to move their stuff. Hap didn't think a vehicle would be necessary till he saw his two large boxes and Anastasia's five. They were able to precariously stack everything and move it in one trip to the barracks. The runner helped them carry it all up to the second deck before he left.

Hap asked Anastasia if she needed any help, but she waved him off. Right now she wanted to do anything except think ComStar. She was pleased to find Portia had included the hangers, and busied herself hanging up clothes. Anastasia quickly realized she had more clothes than closet space. She wondered if Hap had extra space in his room and if he'd let her store her clothes there.

Anastasia changed into a soft, brightly colored floral print skirt and peasant blouse. Then she sorted her clothes by what she would need regularly, and clothes for special occasions or going out with Hap. She put the special occasion clothes on her bed. As she looked at them she remembered she should stay on base as much as possible to avoid ComStar. ComStar was now an ominous thing lurking in the corners.

Just as Anastasia finished, Joker and Mags returned with several multi panel folding privacy screens. Anastasia picked the screen with the black lacquered wood and the paper had flowers and butterflies. It looked like something from the Draconis Combine, but it had a small "Made in Free World's League" sticker on the side. Anastasia asked Mags if she owed her any money and Mags instead gave Anastasia change from the money she had given Mags at the diner.

This was one of the differences between Anastasia and Mags. If Anastasia gave someone money she generally didn't expect or care to receive change, especially if it was just a few c-bills. Mags generally expected exact change, at least to the bill. Anastasia learned to make sure to get Mags her money and if Mags offered her change to just take it.

Mags choose a privacy screen with square and circle patterns in red, turquoise and brown on a tan background. They decided to use Mag's screen for a door and Anastasia's screen in the middle of the room so they had a little more privacy. Joker and Hap took plain gray wax paper screens.

Mags invited Anastasia to join her and Joker to watch holos in the day room. Anastasia told her she had to finish putting her clothes away. Anastasia looked at the clothes on her bed and decided to talk to Hap about sharing extra wall locker space. She stepped into the hall and knocked on the door post of Hap's room. He had the doors open to both his wall lockers and was hanging up clothes.

Hap smiled at her, "Come in. I was just finishing putting clothes away. I'm glad they included hangers."

Anastasia nodded, "I asked Portia to include them." Anastasia walked over to Hap and looked at how he was organizing his closet. He had daily clothes in one locker, and his nicer clothes in the other. "Harold, I was wondering if you had extra space in one of your wall lockers that I could use. When I purchased clothes last night I didn't consider how much space I would need." Anastasia asked

Hap pushed all his dress clothes to one side, "Is that enough space."

"Is it possible to have the whole locker?" Anastasia asked

Hap sighed heavily, "You going to need the chest of drawers too?"

"Not yet." Anastasia shrugged, "But if you're offering it, I'll likely fill it eventually."

Hap shook his head, but than said, "Can you look at my holo screen while I move clothes? I have no idea if it even works.

Anastasia picked up the remote and switched on the holo screen. It was set to a 24 hour news channel. She changed channels to show an old episode of a popular sitcom. The next channel showed a distorted gray and green picture of a 'Mech that could have been a Valkyrie, or a Phoenix Hawk. Anastasia looked over the entertainment center's components. "Do you have a multi-tool?" She said as she shut the system down and began unplugging a small silver box that had "FedVid Media Converter" written on it.

Hap pulled a thick black knife sheath from his wall locker and offered it to her. Anastasia used the multi tool to unscrew the media converter's screws. She removed the top cover, and examined the circuit board. She carefully unplugged a connector in the board and started prying open the metal box on the board.

Hap stopped what he was doing to watch her, "What are you doing over there?"

"Removing an in-line noise generator." Anastasia said as a small metal box went sailing across the room. "This is a very cheap design for the cable company. We're getting all the channels but that little monster doesn't allow us to see certain channels clearly. If we ordered a new package someone would come out with a noise filter, or the tech would take our converter back to his truck and do what I just did."

Hap watched as she plugged in the internal connectors and reassembled the converter. "So I'm guessing you learned how to steal cable at NAIS?" Hap asked.

"How to steal cable, how to calculate probability for unfair advantage at games of chance, and I'm certain we will find other subversive applications for my advanced education in science and engineering." Anastasia said as she reattached cables.

Hap shook his head. "Stealing cable, cheating and gambling, flagrant disregard for AFFS regulations. I feel like I get the worst of any unit's problem children."

Anastasia sat on the futon and flashed Hap a wolfish grin. "They say you attract what you are, mon amor." She said as she turned on the Holoscreen.

The screen came back on to show a Valkyrie picking its way through a jungle as two commentators explained this was a two-on-two team match. The teams were a VLK-QA Valkyrie and a HGN-733P Highlander, against an ASN-21 Assassin and an AS7-D Atlas. The camera panned back as the Valkyrie joined the Highlander to stand on one end of the jungle arena. The camera cut to show the Atlas and Assassin marshaling on the other side of the tropical forest. The camera changed again to show the size and scope of the large outdoor arena before the show broke to commercial.

Hap sat down next to Anastasia, "I think this is the Solaris Broadcasting Corporation Channel, but I don't recognize the arena. It's open air, so it may just be one of the minor fighting areas outside Solaris City."

The program resumed and focused on the Assassin swiftly bounding through the forest toward the Valkyrie and Highlander. The Valkyrie moved cautiously forward trying to spot the Atlas so the Highlander and Valkyrie could pepper the Atlas with their long range weapons. The Atlas trudged through the thick forest exchanging missile salvos with the Highlander.

Anastasia appreciated the tactics of the Valkyrie and Highlander pilot. Both were using their jump jets and the jungle to their advantage so they could chip away at the Atlas's armor with long range weapons and the Highlander's PPC while staying outside the effective range of the Atlas's medium lasers, short range missiles and fearsome class 20 autocannon. They all but ignored the Assassin as it hopped around the jungle trying to flank them.

One commentator said a few things that implied they were annoyed with tactics of the Highlander and Valkyrie. Anastasia suspected they preferred the aggressive piloting of the Assassin. The camera switched to show the Atlas lumbering in the jungle as the commentators explained the Atlas was designed to intimidate an adversary. The camera zoomed in on the skull shaped cockpit of the Atlas as one of the commentators described how General Kerensky himself specifically designed the death's head cockpit to create fear. The commentators specified the Atlas represented some of the greatest engineering and science of the Star League, and was a near unstoppable force of death and destruction.

Anastasia would have disagreed as the Star League would go on to create a multitude of technologies now lost to the Inner Sphere, and she honestly thought the building the HPG network was one of the Star League's greatest achievements, but at 100 tons the Atlas was an impressive engineering feat.

The camera changed back to the Assassin as it hounded the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie ignored the Assassin's harassing barrages of laser and missiles. Eventually the Assassin landed right next to the Valkyrie, but instead of retreating the Valkyrie did a short hop to the side and the two 'Mechs began dueling with short range weapons. At close range the Assassin outgunned the Valkyrie with a medium laser and a dual SRM rack to the Valkyrie's one medium laser, but the Valkyrie had more armor. The Valkyrie kept giving ground while the cameras zoomed in until only the two 'Mechs were in frame.

The Valkyrie and Assassin maneuvered and jockey for advantage, and the cameras kept a tight, though shaky, picture of the 'Mechs dueling with flashes of lasers and explosions of missiles. Just as it looked like the Assassin was gaining the advantage there was a sudden and nonsensical blur of metal and fire that came from the top of the screen. One of the commentators shouted, "Highlander Burial!"

The cameras rapidly zoomed back and when the picture came back into focus only the Valkyrie and Highlander could be seen. The Highlander tottered, but kept its footing, and showed no real damage.

The scene changed to a replay from a camera above the arena. From this angle it was obvious that the Valkyrie was feinting, and moving toward the Highlander. At the same time the Highlander continued to fire on the Atlas while jumping toward the lighter dueling 'Mechs. The Highlander and Valkyrie were clearly coordinating their attacks with one jumping right after the other. The commentators mentioned they were surprised the Atlas didn't try to warn the Assassin what was going on.

A commentator explained the gruesome but effective tactic of the "Highlander burial" and how the 'Mech's legs had been reinforced for that specific style of reckless melee also called a DFA or Death From Above attack. As he spoke there was a slow-motion replay of the Highlander's right foot kicking in the Assassin's cockpit as the left leg sheared off the 40 ton 'Mech's right arm. The force of the massive 90 ton 'Highlander appeared to drive the smaller 'Mech into the ground.

"Oh my god, is this the Solaris Broadcasting Corporation Channel?" Joker asked.

"Do you ever knock?" Hap asked.

"If you had put up your privacy screen I would have knocked." Joker said as he slumped onto the futon next to Anastasia.

"Really?" Anastasia asked as she moved closer to Hap.

"Nope." Joker laughed.

The program went back to the live action focusing on the Atlas stomping a trail of trampled foliage and upturned trees as it tried to run and close the distance. The Valkyrie and Highlander still gave ground and continued to hammer the Atlas with missiles and PPC. One of the commentators stated it was unsporting to attack the Atlas at long range. The other commentator replied, "Nearly a fifth of an Atlas's mass is armor. It can afford to take some abuse before closing with its unfortunate adversary."

Anastasia got the sense the first commentator was still annoyed at the precise and almost military tactics of the Highlander and Valkyrie team. It wasn't as gory or quick as a "Highlander Burial" but it was effective. For her this was the sort of match she preferred to watch, and having her 'Mech model being part of the side that was smart and likely to win made it even more enjoyable.

"I got five c-bills that say the Atlas wins." Joker said breaking Anastasia's concentration.

"I'll put five on the Highlander and Valkyrie." Hap replied.

"I love taking your money, and that Valkyrie pilot is a smart young woman, so I'm with Harold, and putting my money on the sure thing." Anastasia said as she rested her head on Hap's shoulder.

The Valkyrie and Highlander had the Atlas stuck in a classic L shaped cross-fire which they were able to maintain with their jump jets. One of the Commentators mentioned that the HGN 733P Highlander had twenty Heat Sinks, and three tons of LRM ammo. "Even with a PPC, it can literally do this all day"

The Atlas pilot broke into a clearing and finally was able to close the distance with the Highlander. When the Atlas charged back into the trees the Valkyrie tried to flank the Atlas. The Atlas pilot had anticipated this and stopped short while taking a step to the side. Before the Valkyrie could jump away the Atlas engaged the smaller 'Mech with its full complement of weapons. A few of the missiles went wide, but the lasers, and the most devastatingly, the AC 20, hit their mark. The Valkyrie landed in a heap collapsing on its right leg, as its left arm went flying into the underbrush.

Joker snickered, "the sure thing just met an AC20 round."

"It's not over yet." Hap told him as he put his arm over Anastasia's shoulders.

The Highlander jumped to the side and fired all its weapons as well. The PPC and medium lasers hit the rear of the Atlas and melted the armor covering the Atlas's rear left shoulder. The Highlander's missiles indiscriminately blasted away parts of the rear armor, arms and legs of the Atlas.

The Atlas turned its full attention to the Highlander. The Atlas had the advantage in short range weapons and the Highlander was now experiencing some heat from jumping and committing all of its weapon. The camera angle switched to show the rear of the Atlas as it stalked toward the retreating Highlander. The sparks and smoke poured out of the holes from the Atlas's left torso. One of the commentators pointed out the exposed linkages of the reload mechanism for the Atlas's missiles that were connected to missile magazines. He stated the Atlas pilot had been incredibly lucky.

The camera gave a perfect over-the-shoulder view as the Atlas shot its AC20, short range missiles and two of its medium lasers. The Highlander easily took the brunt of the attack, even the AC 20, as it jumped backwards and once more hit the Atlas with an Alpha strike.

The lower portion of the screen showed the Highlander's heat gauge, and the commentator explained how it was dangerously high. Anastasia, Hap, and Joker could almost feel the heat, and thought they faintly heard the "Shutdown Imminent" warning even though it wasn't part of the broadcast audio.

As the Highlander landed the Atlas again struck with a mix of lasers, short range missiles, and the AC-20. This time it pierced the Highlander's right breast and there was an explosion. The Highlander fired wildly as he tried to jump backwards, but this time he only jumped half the distance and his heat levels spiked.

The commentator explained the Highlander was running out of options, he could DFA attack, but it was risky, and the Highlander's legs had seen a lot of abuse. He could try to brawl the Atlas, but it was bigger and could hit harder. No matter what, though, the Highlander had lost a jump jet, and some heat sinks. He couldn't afford to use his PPC till it got its heat levels down. The Highlander pilot seemed to be weighing its options when a burst from the Atlas's autocannon struck the Highlander's cockpit.

The cameras switched to the commentators, one of them seemed shock at the sudden death of the Highlander pilot. He searched for something to say, and stupidly commented, "I don't think he was expecting that." His fellow commentator, who was clearly a veteran mechwarrior, deadpanned, "Well Duncan, everyone has a plan till they take an autocannon shell to the cockpit."

The camera's switched back to the arena. Dramatic music began to play as the camera drone slowly circled the Atlas. It showed cracks and dents in the armor and then slowed down as it passed by the gaping holes in the Atlas's left rear torso. The drone circled round to the front to give another view of the Atlas's menacing skull-like cockpit design.

Joker cleared his throat and held out his hand as Anastasia and Hap each passed him a 5 C-bill note.

The camera started to zoom-out and moved to the left of the cockpit to show the battered Valkyrie standing behind the Atlas. The music instantly dropped to be replaced by an eerie silence.

The Valkyrie leaned heavily to one side as it clearly favored its left leg. The right leg was broken and shattered with exposed and twisted internal structure and shredded pieces of myomar hanging loosely below the knee. Sparks and smoke came out around the dented metal ball joint that used to be connected to the Valkyrie's left arm. The Valkyrie raised its right arm, and a ruby light flashed as smoke trails traced a line from the Valkyrie's chest mounted missile rack to the Atlas's back.

The camera angle changed again to show the rear of the Atlas as the laser and the majority of the missiles found their mark in the Atlas's exposed shoulder. The camera zoomed in to show the missiles in their loading tray start to explode like a string of fireworks. There was a greater detonation as the exploding chain of missiles reached the ammo magazine and then there was a blinding flash as the exploding ammunition destroyed the shielding for the Atlas's engine. The camera angle switched to a low shot that showed the Valkyrie towering over the broken and smoking remains of the Atlas.

Joker cursed as Hap cleared his throat, and Anastasia held out her hand.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 27 June 2020, 16:46:13
Chapter 29
Mags walked into Hap's room, "Hey Donkey Brains, you were supposed to ask them to join us."

"Yeah, I was going to do that, but Hap has the Solaris channel. We can watch tournament fights anytime." Joker said

"Anastasia can probably get it in the day room." Hap said.

"Maybe. It depends on the type of media converter." Anastasia said as she took the money from Joker.

"I told Donkey Brains to ask if you wanted to order pizza and watch 'Brave Sister Sniper'." Mags said.

"What's 'Brave Sister Sniper'?" Hap asked

"It's a Holo-novela program." Anastasia said, "it's pretty good. Abuela used to watch it every day and it's part of how I learned to speak Spanish."

"It was one of my abuela's favorite stories too." Mags said, "Joker and I found the latest season, 78."

Hap looked over at Joker, "You want to watch a holo-opera in Spanish?"

"It's about a team of female assassins that live in a nun covenant, but they're not all nuns. Oh! and there is a lot more sex than you would imagine, especially for a show about nuns. Mags and I watched an episode. It was good, and Mags agreed we'd use the English dubbing." Joker said.

"I didn't anticipate my 'if three-quarters of the lance agree' rule being used against me," Hap stood up and began walking to the day room, resigning himself to his fate.

"Oh, give it a chance." Anastasia told him, "and Joker's doing a bad job of explaining it. It's a holo-novela so the plots tend to be a little convoluted, but it's about a team of female assassins who pose as nuns."

"Trust us Jefe," Mags said, "This will be good. At the end of the last season Frieda ran away from Janos who had renounced his vows as a priest. And it was revealed that Josephina, who had betrayed the Sisters, was actually a Maskirovka agent made to look like Josephina, and Carlos can't figure out if it was Josephina or the double that's in love with him.

"What about Nora? And did Zoe ever have her baby?" Anastasia asked.

"Nora's still in a coma, and I think Zoe is still pregnant, which has been going on for three seasons. I think the actress, Dilshad Abed, keeps getting pregnant." Mags said.

Hap shook his head, "This really sounds like something you want to watch." Hap said to Joker.

"I'm telling you, boss, it's full of sex and violence, and the episode I saw, when they talked about their feelings or relationship, or whatever, the girl was topless, so I just stared at her breasts." Joker laughed.

Anastasia shrugged demurely, "See. It has a little something for everyone. Perfect for the Coyotes."

"Usually you're annoyed with him and his addiction to porn, you're going to encourage this?" Hap asked Anastasia.

"Just watch a few episodes, you'll understand." Anstasia replied.

Hap sighed, "A holo-novella about nuns, it's a wonder the Pope hasn't tried to ban it."

"Fifty years ago, the Roman Catholic Pope excommunicated the cast, but most of them were Muslim or Orthodox, or not really Roman Catholic, so it didn't matter. Now I think the church has asked them to tone a few things down but it's really just a holo. It's not anti-Roman Catholic, if anything it's anti-Steiner and anti-Cappellan. Also I think a hundred years ago, it was based on something that happened in the First or Second Succession War, but the shows have been running for so long no one remembers. But everyone likes it. I'm Roman Catholic and I like it." Mags explained.

They entered the day room and Joker started to set the Holoscreen up. There was a landline phone on a table in the day room. The table also had a phone book from a few years back, and several menus taped to the wall. Mags found a pizza place that delivered and in 30 minutes or less they had beer, pizza and were settled in to watch their 'stories'.

Hap brought out his blanket and Anastasia curled up with him on one of the large leather couches in the day room. Anastasia tried to relax and not think about ComStar agents lurking around trying to harm her. The show was helpful for not thinking, and being close to Hap made her feel secure.

Two of the characters had run away together and were living in a secluded cabin in the woods. The female character was making breakfast and the camera gave several tantalizing shots to ensure the viewer knew she was only wearing an apron as she cooked.

Joker and Mags were on the other couch, also sitting close together. Joker looked over at Anastasia, "Hey. You're always complaining about privacy. If Hap got you to a nice private cabin, would you make him pancakes, wearing nothing but an apron and a smile?"

Anastasia snuggled closer to Hap, "We've talked about this very thing, Joker, and no."

Joker laughed, "Sorry Hap. I bet if I got Mags out to a private cabin, and gave her enough liquor-"

Mags picked up her half-full beer bottle, "You couldn't find enough liquor, and you'd make breakfast."

"Joker, I said 'no' to pancakes, I would gladly make Harold crepes though." Anastasia clarified.

Mags spit out her beer, and Hap gave Anastasia a curious look, "I think Topaz Lake has rental cabins."

"You may want to look into that." Anastasia replied.

The scene changed to another group of characters and Anastasia imagined a comfortable life with Hap hiding in the woods. They could disappear and avoid ComStar, perhaps find a nice quiet place in the Periphery. Anastasia wondered how long she could live like that though. She liked the idea of having Harold all to herself, but she knew they would want to do more with their lives than hide.

The episode ended and another started. The scene was back at the cabin in the woods. The woman drove up in a ground car and had groceries in the seat next to her. The door of the cabin was open and the music implied something was wrong. She ran in to find her man murdered and a threatening note written in the blood of her dead lover. This started off a multi episode revenge story arc.

Anastasia's internal debate on the merits of trying to hide in the woods ended as she realized hiding would just make ComStar's job easier. When they found them, there would be no witnesses. Further, Anastasia was certain her research was why she was being targeted, and hiding in the woods would put an end to that as well. Either way ComStar would win, and that bothered her.

"You're right." Hap whispered to her.

Anastasia sat up and looked at Hap, "about what?"

He pulled her back down and adjusted the blanket, "The plots are convoluted, but now that I've given it a chance I'm actually starting to enjoy it. Some of the characters are cliche, and the dialogue and acting can be rough at times, but it has a certain charm."

Anastasia got comfortable again. The revenge plot was predictable and Zoe was going to finally have her baby and the tropes that went along with that and her being a "pregnant nun" were too thin to keep Anastasia's mind from wandering. It occurred to her that ComStar only wanted her, and she was probably putting everyone in the room at risk, especially Harold. She felt immensely guilty that when ComStar chose to act he'd likely be caught in the crossfire, or executed alongside her, just on principal.

Anastasia tried to think of some other solution to her ComStar problem as the episode ended. Hap stretched, "I think that's enough for one night, Coyotes." He helped Anastasia get off the couch as he stood up. To their surprise Rolph and Dillon had quietly joined them at some point in time.

"Can I borrow this? You guys mind if we keep watching" Rolph asked

Mags nodded as Rolph and Dillon moved to the couch closest to the TV and started changing disks out in the holo player.

Anastasia returned to her room to find her clothes still on her bed. Between the Solaris match and the Holo-novella she'd forgotten all about cleaning them up. Mags started pulling out her night clothes and glanced over at Anastasia's bed, "Need help?"

"No, I'll just wait till you're done changing and move this to Harold's room."

Mags nodded, quickly changed, grabbed her toiletries bag, and slipped off to the latrine. Anastasia took an armload of clothes and walked over to Hap's room. His door was blocked by his privacy screen. Anastasia had to shift the clothes she was holding to knock on the door post.

"Give me a minute." Hap said then moved the screen. He saw the clothes and gestured to the locker.

Anastasia started to put her clothes away in the extra locker and when she turned around Hap had another arm load for her. Hap had to make two more trips to get everything, and he was surprised she managed to make it all neatly fit in one wall locker.

When she was done Hap pulled back his sheets and sat on his bed. "Did you want to sleep here tonight?"

Anastasia shook her head. It was tempting, but she was concerned that her relationship with Hap was going to get him killed. She knew she probably needed to break up with him for his own good, and another night together, no matter how much she wanted it, would make it that much more difficult.. She wanted to tell him she was sorry that she had gotten him involved. She wanted him to hold her, but at the same time she knew she would never forgive herself if he got killed because of her. "I think it would be best if I slept in my own bed."

Hap reached for her hands and pulled her close to him. "It's been a strange day, and I don't know if Cody is right, or if there was some weird glitch with ComStar's systems and were making too much of it, but whatever you're worried about you have me convinced me we can solve anything with your genius and my instincts."

"I said between my planning and your ability to improvise." Anastasia said, "But it's one thing when you have an adversary you can see and know how they intend to attack you. We have an enemy that could attack us at any time from any direction. I feel paranoid, but I don't know what else to do or how to feel. I seriously feel if we're together I'm putting you at risk."

"That's fair." Hap nodded. "Maybe things will look different in the morning." Hap stood up and rested his hands on her shoulders, "Tomorrow we'll talk to the Commander, and see what he has to say."

Anastasia looked up at Hap, this was similar to how they first met, and she could sense the same confidence and see the same care in his eyes. Right now she didn't need the conflicting emotions of love and desire with her fear and paranoia. He kissed her on the forehead, and then walked her to her room.

"Good night Anastasia. I understand needing to think sometimes, but don't push me away. I really" Hap paused and his voice dropped, "You know how I feel about you. You don't have to go through this alone."

Anastasia paused for a moment debating with herself and then wished Hap a good night and moved the privacy screen to enter room. Mags was already in bed and the lights were off. Anastasia replaced the privacy screen and changed into her new silk nightgown and laid down.

Her heart was beating so fast and loud she wondered if Mags could hear it. If Harold had kissed her on the lips she would be in his bed right now. She wondered if he was just that much of a gentleman or an idiot. She also realized she could have pulled him down and kissed him on the lips too. Maybe she was the idiot. For a moment she considered going back to Harold's room, then pushed all those thoughts out of her mind. She had to find a safe place from ComStar, and it had to be for both of them.

Perhaps they could go to NAIS and live on the secure campus. She could do special weapons R&D, and Harold could teach or something. She hated NAIS, but if they were on the secure campus, and together, it would be tolerable. Most important they'd be protected from ComStar. She would have to talk to Commander McFinnigan, get him to release both of them from their contract, get to NAIS, and convince them to let her continue her Dad's work, find a place for Harold, and the less ComStar knew, the better.

There were a lot of "ifs" in that plan. As she thought through it she also remembered that she and Harold would likely be considered AWOL or deserters. Her mother's title, her father's work, and her ability to continue it would probably get her off with the requirement she work on anything and everything AFFS high command wanted, but Harold would go to a detention barracks, or a firing squad. On second thought NAIS wasn't an option.

She considered going home. Mother could buy them out of their contract. Mother's lawyer could smooth over an AWOL or desertion charge, Mother could take care of them. Mother would love Harold. Mother had a private security detachment that... It was suddenly clear to Anastasia her mother's security detail had failed to stop an assassination attempt against her father, it was suddenly obvious that the assassins were ComStar. It was another painful and blinding realization that ComStar killed her father. Anastasia instantly felt stupid. This was obvious and why it had never occurred to her before made her realize just how deadly and frighteningly effective ComStar was, and how they were obviously steps ahead of her.

She suddenly felt cold and exposed. She heard steps coming down the hall and felt sick in her stomach. The steps paused in front of her door and then she heard a privacy screen being folded.

"Hey David." Joker mumbled from his room. "You woke me up, man."

"Sorry" David replied as he stepped into the room and put the screen back.

"This is foolish" Anastasia told herself as she got out of bed, took her silk bathrobe out of the wall locker and quickly tied the belt. She grabbed her pillow, quietly slipped into the hallway and then into Harold's room. She stealthily approached Harold's bed and pulled back the blanket and sheets.

Harold turned over and made a groggy noise. Anastasia threw the robe at the foot of the bed and slid next to him, "ComStar killed my father. I'm feeling very unsafe right now, and I want to be held."

"Yeah, of course." Hap replied as he rolled over and pulled her close. He wrapped one arm around her and slid the other under her pillow. She sighed contentedly as he whispered in her ear, "I've got you now."

Anastasia felt much better, but there was still a lingering sense of guilt, "Harold I'm terrified ComStar is going to kill you and it's going to be all my fault."

"They could try." Hap told her sleepily.

"I'm serious, I don't want you to get hurt, but I don't want to be alone. I feel selfish and-"

"You're overthinking things, darling. Just sleep. We'll figure it out in the morning. We got a whole mercenary family to help us."

"You're right." Anastasia felt better, and knowing Harold didn't care about the risks made the guilt die down. "Today I learned that the largest and least accountable organization in the galaxy is trying to kill me. I'm still trying to come to terms with it."

"Today I was reminded to always bet on the smart girl in the Valkyrie." Harold replied

Anastasia interlaced her fingers with Harold's and pulled his arm a little more tightly around her. She could feel his breathing change and his muscles go limp. She soon joined him in peaceful sleep.

A few hours later Anastasia felt Harold's hand gently rubbing up and down her side. She murmured a good morning as she reached for his hand

"Is this silk?" he asked.

She rolled over to face Harold. It was early morning, but she felt rested and somehow better about everything. The privacy screen was up, everyone was asleep, and if they were quiet, this was probably the best opportunity for both of them to stop being idiots. She gently caressed his cheek and pulled him close.

Just before their lips touched the speakers for the PA system cracked on, "All MechWarriors and Flight Crew immediately report to the Operation Center, MechTechs prepare 'Mechs for immediate deployment. This is not a drill."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth on 27 June 2020, 18:40:27
Tan tan tan TAAAAAN!!!
Time for mech action! Go coyotes!

Now we have a new plot with ROM. Nice. I like the fact that Hap knows he is dead vs the ROM brawler.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 10 July 2020, 16:40:00
Chapter 30
Monhegan
October 3029

Hap stepped out into the cold damp October morning. It was just before 0500. Minutes ago his only concern was that he was dreaming. He was warm, and in bed with the woman he loved. They were moments from kissing, moments from going much further. Then, just to prove it wasn't a dream, there was the emergency call to Ops. As the Barracks OIC he had to get everyone out of the barracks. This meant yelling at David and Joker to wake them up, and having to nearly pull Dillon out of his bed. Then he had to chase everyone out of the barracks. Now he had to quickly get to Ops.

The barracks shared the parking lot with the apartment and town houses, and there were several of the small ground ATVs parked in the lot. A few ATVs were designed to seat two and had an open back section for carrying gear, the others could seat six.

Hap saw Anastasia sitting in the back of a six seater with Tatyana and Sophia. Sophia was sitting in Tatyana's lap and all three were sharing a pink fleece blanket. Hap sat down next to Anastasia. All three Mechwarriors were wearing shorts, a cooling vest, and combat boots. In the morning air it was painful. Hap knew once he was in his BattleMech he'd be sweating, but at the moment he was shivering.

There wasn't enough blanket to share with Hap so he had to make do with sitting as close to Anastasia as possible. Sophia looked up from playing with her large grey and white stuffed dog to watch Hap. Hap reached for the toy teasingly and tried to pull it away from her as he asked, "May I have your dog?"

"Moy Volkcha" Sophia told Hap indignantly as she held onto it tightly.

"She loves her, V-" Tatyana paused "Wholf".

Hap held up his hands in surrender, and then addressed Tatyana, "Where's Fletch?"

"Ze Ops Center. I get Sophia ready." Tatyana said as Joker started the ATV, and it lurched forward.

Joker pulled out of the parking lot as Anastasia asked, "Who's going to watch Sophia?"

"Elinor I hope. If she is avake." Tatyana answered.

"Tetka?" Sophia asked and looked around expectantly.

"Yes, Auntie." Tatyana adjusted the blankets around her daughter. "You and Miss Volk and Tetka."

Sophie seemed pleased with this and snuggled with her mother. She was happy until Hap tried again to take her stuffed wolf. Sophia tightly clutched her toy and gave Hap a reproachful look.

In a few minutes they were in the ops center. It was crowded with MechWarriors, support staff, and watch standers. Hap spotted Erik, and noted he was wearing a warm looking leather jacket. Elinor was there, and Tatyana took her daughter over to her. When Elinor saw Sophia her eyes lit up and she flashed the child a large expressive smile. Sophia's laugh could be heard over the din of the Ops center.

Kelly stood up on the table near the Coffee Urn. "Alright, alright. I've pulled you out o' bed because Ahmed and his Immortals, 'ave decided to pay us a visit, and we need to prepare a reception for them."

There were murmurs and curses in multiple language. Hap glanced around the room, on several of the monitors was an image of a union class drop shuttle. A section of the sphere shaped shuttle was magnified to show a painted gold winged lioness holding a curved sword. Hap was sure it was a unit insignia, but he had never seen it before.

Hap glanced back at Kelly, and their eyes met. "Ye looked confused, young master Haphazard. Have ye never heard of Ahmed's Immortals?"

Hap shook his head, and before he could speak Kelly jumped off the table and the crowd parted as he walked toward the holo table. "I wouldn't have expected you would have." Kelly said, "To most people their just another minor Mercenary company. They usually operate around Marik and Steiner space. That image was taken a few hours ago by an orbital satellite. I had to tell the locals to look for that unit crest, because they didn't know them either." Kelly pulled out his pipe,"but we know them well."

Kelly searched his pockets for his tobacco pouch, "Farrah Ahmed's story is much like my own. He started a small Mercenary unit with his three sons. He took whatever jobs he could find and did well enough."

Kelly found the pouch and began tapping tobacco into his pipe's bowl. "Then one day we found ourselves across the battlefield from each other, My brother killed his eldest son. It was fair combat, nothin' intentional. His boy's cockpit was destroyed. In my mind it was just the nature of the business."

Kelly put his pouch away and pulled out a long wooden match. "Farrah disagreed. He and his remaining sons withdrew but within a month we 'happened' to find ourselves working for opposing clients. This time he prepared a nice little trap for us, we fought through, but it was a nasty fight. After that it seemed we'd often 'jest happen' to take a job and finding Ahmed's Immortals waiting for us, or, like today, they 'happen' to show up a few days after we start work."

Kelly lit his pipe and thoughtfully smoked for a moment, "He eventually killed Llewyn, and I'd hoped that would have been the end of it. My brother was dead, his son was avenged. Eye for an eye. But that was a nasty bit of night fightin'. One of his other sons ejected from his 'Mech, and someone stepped on him during the melee. He might have been dead before he hit the ground, it might have been one of the Immortals that stepped on him. But Farrah blamed us, and his hatred managed to get worse."

Kelly looked like he had more to say, but he just took another draw on his pipe, then slowly exhaled. "Roweyena, lets see what Commander Ahmed is bringing to the fight."

Roweyena sat down at a terminal and after a few key strokes, she nodded over to John Saint. He pressed a button on his console, and one of the screens displaying the drop shuttle was replaced by a the MRB's report containing the Table of Organization and Equipment for Ahmed's Immortals.

Anastasia asked Roweyna, "One Mercenary Company can query the Mercenary Review Board to pull up information on another Mercenary Company?"

"Well, no." Rowyena said with mock innocence, "But as the owner and proprietor of the Iron Wolfhounds LLC, and as the holder of a sub-contracting license, I can request information on potential mercenary companies that I may wish to hire or sub-contract for a job. It comes in handy from time-to time."

"And most Mercenaries avoid fightin' each other out of professional courtesy." Kelly said.

Hap studied the screen.

Ahmed's Immortals TO&E:
Command Lance

BNC-3S Banshee BLR-1G Battle Master STK-3F Stalker ARC-2R Archer

Aggressor Lance
ON1-K Orion TDR-5S Thunderbolt TRB Trebuchet HBK-4P Hunchback

Recon Lance
VL-2T Vulcan SDR-5V Spider FLE 15 Flea STG-3R Stinger

Hap nudged John Saint and asked him to bring up their TO&E. He pressed a few keys and then projected it on the screen next to the Immortal's TO&E

McFinnigan and Sons TO&E
Command Lance

HGN-733 Highlander CP-10-Z Cyclops AWS-8Q Awesome STK-3F Stalker

Pursuit Lance
DRG-1G Grand Dragon WVR-6M Wolverine KTO-18(mod) Kintaro VLK-QA Valkyrie

Fire Support Lance
JM6-A JagerMech CPLT-C4 Catapult TBT-5N Trebuchet DV-6M Dervish

Recon Lance
GRF-1N Griffin VLK-QA(mod) Valkyrie FS9-H Firestarter JR7-D Jenner

"It would be foolishness to attack us with just a company." Anastasia said quietly to Hap.

"Right." Fiona agreed, "We have more 'Mechs, and we're in the defensive. This can't be their complete force package." Hap glanced over his shoulder to see Fiona and Crow standing behind him.

Kelly studied the Immortals TO&E, "That's about all that'll fit in ah Union. Keep in mind Commander Ahmed has taken things personally. He's not making good business decisions or wise tactical choices. He sees McFinnigan and Sons and all he thinks about is revenge. When was this updated?"

Rowyena tabbed a few pages, "The TO&E is about six months old, but look at their active contract list. They started working for the Capellans last week. Got hired to do a mission to probe Davion defenses."

Kelly motioned for her to page down to the company manifest. "Hmmm… His last son is still listed as an active member, but I'd heard he'd died, also I thought we destroyed that Stalker last time we fought."

Fletch was standing near the coffee urn waiting for Jennifer Lan to finish filling her giant, nearly two liter, travel mug. "I'm with Fiona, boss. Ahmed, has proven to have a blind spot when it comes to us, but if he's bringing a company or a company minus a 'Mech, into a fight with us, he's lost his mind."

"He may have heard we lost our recon lance on Klathandu, and fancies he can take advantage of us while he thinks we're reconstituting." Kelly laughed meanly, "Jokes on him, though. We're stronger than ever. Besides we all know we're going to fight with him, what are you concerned about?"

"This data is old, and he could have a couple aerospace fighters in the Union. Air Support could change the dynamics of this fight." Fletch said.

"We can take down fighters." Fiona replied, "The Jagermech-A was made for it, and I can coordinate the rest of my lance. Fighters might distract us, but it won't take us away from the fight long."

"Perhaps it's time Roweyna subcontracted out a little help for us." Kelly said, "From what I've heard this world is brimming with Mercenaries lookin' for work."

Roweyna closed the Immortals' TO&E and opened a list of available Mercenary Units in the area. Kelly studied the screen, and then used his pipe stem to point to a unit. "Open up the report on the Golden Eagles." She clicked on the link, and Kelly nodded, "A flight of Stukas. Two 100 ton aerospace fighters should stack up just fine against whatever Amhed tries to include in his formation."

"I'll put in the proposal immediately." Roweyna replied

"Wait, go back to the list." Kelly said and then he nodded as he smoked his pipe. "Robert's Rangers, they're the nasty sort of men I need to end this problem once and for all."

Rowena looked confused as she clicked on their report. It listed a simple ten man team and a few support vehicles. The specialties for the team included: Asset Seizure/Repossession, Bounty Hunting, Direct Action, Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA), Hostage Rescue, Low/Zero Gravity Combat.

Fletch looked up from stirring his coffee, "Who the hell are those guys?"

"They're the guys a smart noble calls when he'd rather pay someone to kill terrorists than pay a ransom for an abducted child. This is the lot the First Commonwealth Bank calls when a company defaults on a loan and they have to repossess a Drop Shuttle. When LIC wants to scare new recruits they tell stories about Brendan Robert and his boys." Kelly's smoked his pipe as his eyes twinkled.

"Brendan Robert recruits special forces operators that specialize in hostile ship boarding operations, and hostage rescue. They're some daring sons of bitches." Patrick said as he started filling his coffee cup.

"Horseshit." Fletch said, "If they're that good why have I never heard of them?"

"Two reasons, Mr. Fletcher, two reasons. First they're so good, you've seen their handiwork and didn't know it. Remember that 'unsolved mystery' from a few years back where that Drop Shuttle, the Maria Dorn, was found with all hands missing? That was Robert's Rangers. They camped out two days on an asteroid and then used jump packs to move 2000 kilometers in open space and timed it just right to catch a Jump Ship just before it jumped. Then killed the entire crew of the Maria Dorn, and before the next jump they spaced the bodies and floated to a waiting drop shuttle." Kelly gave Fletch a smug smile.

Fletch took a long draw on his cigarette and exhaled smoke while giving Kelly an irritated look. "Before I play your little game, and ask the second reason. I'm going to tell you that General Horzdorf knew that drop shuttle was used by LIC for running weapons to 'freedom fighters' in the Rasalhague Military District. He always suspected Heimdell had something to do with the mysterious loss of all hands. "

Patrick shook the urn to get the last of the coffee, "Not sayin' anyone is anything, but if I were a Heimdell cell needin' to maintain certain special skills I might 'hide in plain sight' as a mercenaries."

Kelly gave Patrick a reproachful look. As Fletch got more annoyed, "We're hiring a group of terrorist or folk-hero-rogue-counter-intelligence-operatives to repossess another man's drop shuttle?"

"Well Dad is Brendan's godfather, so they're almost like family." Patrick spooned sugar into his coffee.

Fletch shook his head, "Yeah, and the idea that part of your extended family is considered terrorists by most house lords wouldn't surprise me."

"In my mind, yer part o' the extended family too." Kelly matched Fletch's cold stare.

Fletch sipped his coffee, "I'm guessing you've given these 'gentlemen' some assistance."

"Perhaps, a while back." Kelly said then glanced at Patrick, "Back when we were smaller and did better at keepin' secrets. I won't confirm or deny what Robert's Rangers is, but you lot keep it to yourselves."

"Dad, I don't see an indication that the Immortals' drop shuttle in default." Rowyena said.

"It doesn't need to be." Kelly said "That drop shuttle is being used for a hostile military operation which makes it a military target. Every time we get into a fight with the Immortals they withdraw when they realize they're losing. I want to end this cycle. I've had enough of the Immortals showing up at inconvenient times to harass us. It's time we just defeat them in detail."

Rowyena nodded, "I'll send them a proposal as well. Anyone else you want to call up?"

"No one we need to hire." Kelly said, "Kitty, I need you to call up your new friend, the militia commander, and tell him I'll need his artillery." Kelly started to pull up maps on the holotable.

Fletch walked over to the table, "Boss, badass Heimdell agents or not, I have no idea how you think a commando team is going to steal a drop shuttle in broad day light in the middle of a military operation."

"We'll call up Brendan and the three of us will do some serious thinking and planning." Kelly said as he studied the maps of the mountain chain near the starport. "Odds are good Farrah will land on the other side of the mountain chain to protect his drop shuttle and then try haul ass through the mountains." Kelly smoked his pipe for a moment, pointed his pipe at a natural bowl in a mountain pass. "Hap, take the Coyotes and look at this area. I need a good place to murder a company of 'Mechs. Find me somewhere I can put half the family, array my fire support on a good military crest, and force any 'Mechs approaching us to come in single file."

"Understood Sir." Hap said remembering Klathandu "I think I know what you're looking for."

"Good. The Immortals should be on the ground in roughly six hours. I'll need you're report in two hours. Off you go." Hap motioned to his Lance and started to walk as Kelly looked around the room then yelled, "Erick, I can't see you, but if-"

"I'm here boss." Erik called out.

"Get that new drone ready. It's going to see a lot of use today. Oh, and Erick, I need that Centurion we have in scrap put back together." Kelly told him

"I never got the replacement Luxor Autocannon in." Erick said.

"No matter, I just need a functioning Mech with an LRM 10. Conner or Dillon can operate it." Kelly said.

The Coyotes left the Ops center as Kelly started giving out more orders. The Dullahans were going to screen the swamp to the north to discourage the Immortals from landing there. The last thing Hap heard the commander put out was a warning that he may change up lance allocations.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 10 July 2020, 16:41:52
Chapter 31

The Coyotes found the mechbay bustling with activity as techs performed last minute maintenance and loaded ammunition. Hap climbed the gantry and his lancemates peeled off toward their 'mechs. Hap found Mike by his Griffin cockpit. He had his clipboard and his regular look of annoyance and contempt.

"Good morning Mike." Hap said as he climbed into the Griffin's command couch.

Mike looked at his clipboard, "Hap, Your Griffin's PPC is overdue for its quarterly maintenance."

"I'll come by the next day we're not on patrol, and run through the maintenance procedure." Hap said.

"Unnecessary. It's higher level maintenance. I just wanted you to know it was overdue, but the carbon buildup is within tolerance. I'll take care of it." Mike flipped pages on his clipboard.

"Okay" Hap was confused Mike rarely said more than two words to him.

"Also, I was going through your maintenance logs. There was a note that your gyro was replaced with a rebuild kit. The model wasn't listed. Do you know if it was a Rawlings or the Coventry?

"I'm not sure. Why do you ask?" Hap pulled his neurohelmet on, and started untangling its cables.

"There was a bad lot of Conventry rebuild gyros, I was going to order you the Rawlings." Mike said

"My gyro was giving me trouble, but I replaced it and it's been good since. I guess I got the Rawlings."

Mike gave him an odd look, "How'd you manage that? AFFS Quartermasters are notorious ass hats when it comes to getting replacement parts for perfectly 'acceptable' parts."

Hap shrugged as he plugged in his neurohelmet, "I won it in a poker game."

Mike shook his head as he made a note on his clipboard, "I'm disappointed you'd put something you won in a game of chance in your 'Mech."

"I had a faulty gyro, like you said, supply wouldn't order me a new one. What other choice did I have?"

Mike nodded and it almost seemed sympathetic. "I loaded your missile launcher before filling your LRM magazine. You have 25 salvos. I also had Mal work on your targeting computer." Mike leaned into the cockpit and pointed to two virtual buttons on the targeting computer, "This will pre-arm or "hot load" your missiles, and this one will disable the field inhibitor on your PPC. I know you know these safeties are for your protection, but the Griffin only has long range weapons. Up close you got few options."

"Thank you." Hap adjusted his harness. He was taken aback, this wasn't like Mike.

"Bring back this 'Mech. I like working on it." Mike told him as he pulled down the cockpit canopy.

"Okay." Hap said, now Mike was making sense. He was worried about the Griffin, not Hap.

Mike stopped lowering the canopy, "Also, look out for Mags. She's aggressive, careless, and dumb, even for a Mechwarrior, but her dad made her work with us when he was piloting the Jenner. The boys sort of like her, even if she was a lousy tech."

Hap looked up at Mike, "Are you going soft on me?"

Mike frowned, "We heard you're going up against the Immortals. They're no joke, and they play for keeps. Just bring everyone and their 'Mechs back". He finished lowering the canopy, and angrily slammed the locking bolts into place.

Mike left the gantry and started to raise the platform. Hap watched as Anastasia had a last minute conversation with Maja and Taja, and one of the older Techs was giving Mags some advice before closing her cockpit. Joker was talking to Mal and Codey, but they were helping him close his Mech.

Hap led his lance out of the mechbay and headed toward the road. Without being told they formed into a wedge and Anastasia took point. Hap pulled up the map and on his nav-computer and tried to find the pass that Commander McFinnigan had told them to reconnoiter.

The light flash on radio channel that Hap shared with Anastasia. He switched the radio over, "Hey, sorry, we've been a little busy this morning. We haven't had much of a chance to talk."

"No we haven't." Anastasia's voice was cool and calm. "But we have time now."

"So, what're the chances that when this is over we can finish what you started?" Hap asked.

"Assuming we survive whatever insane thing Commander McFinnigan is currently planning, and ROM doesn't use this combat operation to assassinate me, and I feel embolden, or we find a way to guarantee we won't be unduly interrupted, and if I'm still in the mood, I'd say the chances are high. However I'll concede that is a lot of conditions to be met." Anastasia said.

"Yeah, those are a lot of conditions to be met. Although, in all my previous relationships sex usually required certain conditions. Usually I had to treat her nicely, maybe give her a little wine, but-"

"Was she hunted by Comstar? Or did she execute military operations? Did you have private quarters and co-workers who respect your privacy?" Her voice was still calm, but Hap wasn't sure if she was annoyed.

"Alright, so we have some external problems." Hap knew this was a bad time to talk about their relationship. "Maybe we should talk about this later. I was just surprised this morning when you suddenly seemed ready to make love. I was also wondering what changed."

Anastasia didn't respond, and the silence felt awkward to Hap, "Honestly I thought I was dreaming, until the PA went off. That certainly seemed more like my luck." Hap tried to joke.

She still didn't respond, Hap went back to searching the Nav computer. The small screen and two dimensional map made it hard to find the place Kelly had asked them to check out.

Anastasia broke the silence, "It was everything. I was lying in bed thinking about where we could go. I thought about returning to Mother on Hazelhurst and I realized ComStar must have killed my father. It's hard to explain. It was one of those moments where I had several thoughts in quick succession."

Hap looked up from his map and watched Anastasia's Valkyrie continue to march as she explained, "Dad wouldn't keep explosives in his workshop, but he had enough batteries or flammable materials that it was conceivable something could explode. Then I remembered my mother mentioned one of the guards had been killed. It occurred to me if a ROM agent tried to kill daddy and were caught by a guard, or if things got messy blowing up the lab would raise less questions."

"That's how I knew Dad was killed by ComStar and they must have been hunting me. I suppose they assumed I died on Klathandu." Anastasia took in a deep breath before continuing, "Then I heard David coming down the hall and thought he was a ComStar assassin. I knew I was being foolish. If I was with you at least I'd have someone to watch over me. When I came to you, you held me, and I felt safe. You didn't question if I was paranoid." Anastasia said as Hap ignored the lance channel light flashing.

"I have to be honest, Anastasia, I was half-asleep and I probably would have agreed to anything. You could have told me 'we should get married', and I would have told you. 'Sure, just wait till morning.'"

Hap could almost hear Anastasia's eye roll, "I'll keep that in mind for later, Harold. We both know you, in your 'half-asleep' state, reminded me that we have the rest of this ad hoc family looking out for us, and that really did comfort me. When I woke up a few hours later I felt safe, secure and it was just you and me. Nothing changed exactly, rather the moment felt right."

Hap thought as his 'Mech kept marching on. When he said 'external problems' he was reminded that was usually an excuse and a sign for a couple in trouble, at least according to the counseling training he half remembered. However he reasoned their problem was more about how she needed security and reassurances right now, not someone obsessed with sex. Relationships were about more than sex too. He smirked as he realized he was usually thinking about sex, and she was thinking about privacy.

"Hap you still there?" Her voice was less calm now, actually it was normal almost flirty.

"Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking about those external problems, privacy, and how I could be more reassuring." Again he felt it was dump trying to sort out their relationship from the cockpit of their 'Mech. "Can you help me find that area the Commander wanted us to recon?"

"Already got it, Mon Amor." Anastasia said seductively. Way points appeared on his Nav Computer and he could see they would follow the road for another dozen or so kilometers.

"What does Mon Amor mean in French? 'My Beloved'?" Hap asked

"Harold, are you asking me if Mon Amor means 'my beloved' or are you calling me your 'beloved'?"

"I was asking." Hap said, again he had that nagging sense they should focus on the mission and flirt later.

"Mmm, pity, I liked being called your 'beloved'." Anastasia replied.

There was another pause. Hap took the hint, "Anastasia, my beloved, what does Mon Amor mean?"

"My love, or my darling." Anastasia replied, "Or my beloved."

"Very good. You've had your fun, now we should probably focus on the task at hand." Hap said.

"I'm having fun, and we just need to move to the objective. I'm enjoying the witty banter between us."

Hap sighed, "Anastasia, how does a girl with virtually no social life, and few friends learn how to flirt?"

"Well, mother could charm daddy when she wanted too, and I saw how women were in movies, and in those 'dirty girl' books. I also had a roommate that had no trouble getting a man's attention, of course it never worked out for her in the long run." Her voice trailed off, "And I'm a quick study, Mon Amor."

The light for the lance channel flashed again, "Well, my beloved, it looks like the rest of the lance wants to talk." Hap said, "We'll have to continue this conversation later." Everything with Anastasia was positive so it was a good time to stop. Hap also felt like he should be coordinating with his whole lance.

"Hap, it's pretty quiet. Are you guys talking about how to avoid more ComStar weirdness?" Joker asked.

"Something like that." Hap replied.

"Good, because I have a suggestion." Joker said, "Anastasia, I was reading this book about a Lord's daughter that was running from an arranged marriage, and she had to hide from her powerful father."

"Oh?" Anastasia said. Her voice hardened. It was obvious she was already annoyed by Joker.

"Yeah, so she ran to the periphery and became a concubine to the Pirate King. Now, I don't know what that is, but Mal and Codey mentioned something about ComStar hunting you, so you could try being a concubine to avoid them."

"Joker, what was the title of this book?" Anstasia asked

"Let's see, Annabelle's Passion on the Periphery. According to the back Annabelle enjoys a torrid-"

"Joker! That's my book. I was looking for that." Anastasia yelled.

"I thought so. I found in on your bed. Before you ask, I was talking to Mags, and saw it. I figured the Professor would want to encourage my literacy, so I borrowed it." Joker said.

Hap sighed, "Joker, don't take Anastasia's things without asking. And, so we're clear, no one is running anywhere. We all know too much and ComStar will likely kill all of us, so we've got to solve this together.

"Yeah, donkey brains, maybe you can run off and be a concubine" Mags added.

"What is a concubine?" Joker asked half laughing, "Seriously I don't know."

"It's similar to a mistress." Anastasia replied, "It's a somewhat informal, but habitual and often exclusive, relationship between two lovers when marriage is not expedient. Also Harold's right, ComStar will likely kill all of us just on principal. I apologize that I brought you all into this."

"I'm not afraid of a communications company." Mags said. "Eff em' I pay my bills. They send they're brawler after us, I'll stomp on him. Maybe with my boots, maybe with my 'Mech, maybe both."

Hap laughed to himself as he considered Mag's strangely optimistic tough-girl attitude. It reassured him to hear Mags say she didn't care about the odds, she was going to fight her way through, or go down swinging. It was a good contrast to Joker's bitching and Anastasia's practical realism. Planning was good, but sometimes you just had to throw caution to the wind and pray you come out the other side.

"Thank you Anastasia, I'm touched you included me in the apology." Joker said.

"Joker, I am being sincere. Please don't make me regret being polite." Anastasia said

"I know, and I mean it, when shit looked bad on Klathandu and we all thought we were done, you made a point to insult me. I guess we've grown closer now, and I'm glad. I never had a noble for a friend."

"Well, we're lance mates, William. I have to trust you with my life." Anastasia's voice softened.

"Cool, Cool. So when you become the Pirate King's Concubine, you'll remember me, right?" Joker asked.

Anastasia sighed, "Should I find myself in the court of the Pirate King, I'll remember to ask him to flog you."

"As long as you remember me." Joker laughed.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 10 July 2020, 20:05:00
     Uggg.  Great read, was surprised when I came to the end of the post, and you left a cliff hanger..... ending.
 
     Keep it up really looking forward to more.
One small criticism “ the slam the armor hatch” on the mech.
    Armored hatches weight a lot, a small vic like a up armor Humvee weight over 500lbs.
The hatch on a mech would need hydraulics to open close.
 
   For story detail something like “ he double checked the cockpit hatch was combat locked”.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 10 July 2020, 20:34:43
    One small criticism “ the slam the armor hatch” on the mech.
    Armored hatches weight a lot, a small vic like a up armor Humvee weight over 500lbs.
The hatch on a mech would need hydraulics to open close.
 

I hear you. I've been in and out of a few up armored vehicles, and you're right about the mechanical assistance.

I changed the paragraph to read, "He finished lowering the canopy, and angrily slammed the locking bolts into place."

Hopefully that doesn't take other readers out the scene.

Thanks for reading and commenting
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 10 July 2020, 22:11:53
THAT as originally stated isn't as far out of line as you think. Once, long ago on the planes of fields called NAVAIR, there used to be a type of beast with a maw that could swallow a dozen starships. It was called the NCPP-105 Air Start (commonly called The Huffer by those how maintained it and by those who used it). That maw, required you to lift it to get it open. It goes without comment that lifting it is rather dangerous when you are NOT 19-20 years old. It's genetic sibling, the A/M47A-4 JASU, also has a maw that could swallow a dozen starships... but that model had hydraulics to lift it up and down (because others realized how dangerous the -105 can be).

My point is, your mileage will vary if your mech has good hydraulics (that go smoothly up & down) or crap hydraulics (where, if you value select body parts, you will make sure your body parts are clear of interfaces)...

Please, don't ask what the WUC or TEC is for those models of SE. I don't WANT to remember...
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 11 July 2020, 00:39:53

Quote
where, if you value select body parts, you will make sure your body parts are clear of interfaces)...
Quote

 .....Or things like An/ PVS-14’s, radio antennas, spare  barrels for MG’s, spaghetti cords, smoke grenades, and radio handsets come to mind.
       30 kg of body armor, weapons, and kit never seem to fit through armor hatches.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 11 July 2020, 03:33:59
Thanks EAGLE7 and ThePW

Part of what I’m trying to go for here is a very tactical MechWarrior’s view of the battle. From my own experiences it’s sometimes the little details that communicate everything, and since I try to write concisely those are the ones I want to use. Like loading up on the tailgate of a C-130 and how everything stinks of JP-8. That smell alone evokes so many memories, from my Dad’s uniform, to my time at Bragg jumping out of planes, or the deployments and traveling to and from war. If you’ve ever been in a military cargo plane, mentioning JP-8 just takes you there.

Or, in the case of equipment that will maim you, the proper way to charge an M-60 (palm grip facing up, thumb away from the weapon). It used to be knowing that would distinguish the new boots, from the guys that had been around. Now it’s a sure sign you’re so old you’re almost irrelevant, and you should go and show that scar between your thumb and index finger to the VA and try to argue for 3% more disability.

The problem with BattleTech is sometimes when I go for those details it might miss the mark. There is one odd piece of “fluff” art that might imply something to me, that is countered in another sourcebook or manual. Which isn’t necessarily bad. I’ve found the fan base here to be pretty tolerant and polite, and I’ve decided if it’s a detail to just fix it. Hopefully I don’t make a mistake with something that becomes a plot point.

In a similar way, no one has even seemed to have much of a problem with me adding movies and TV shows into story. I’ve needed this because, in my experience, this is what Soldiers, and I would assume MechWarriors, do. My time down in a line-unit was more like working in a Jiffy-lube, and less like Call of Duty. We’d spent a lot of time at the Motor Pool maintaining our vehicles, talking about sports, telling Chuck Norris jokes, or arguing about something like Superman vs. Batman, just waiting for something to happen. Usually “the exciting moments” only lasted a few minutes, compared to the days of just waiting, walking, or driving around.

There was also those weird time during deployments where you don’t have anything to do for a few days and you just binge watch something (anything). Somehow one of my soldiers got us hooked on something that I won’t admit was probably a Telenovela. It wasn’t nearly as cool as Brave Sister Sniper, but it could be just as stupidly contrived and there were several actresses that were quite "compelling" to watch.

Also last weekend I took off for the 4th of July, I should be back to my regular update schedule, so I won’t keep you waiting two weeks again (hopefully) to resolve that cliff hanger.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth on 11 July 2020, 09:05:52
Now we are waiting for things go boom. Nd an mbish to happen. Who is the victim is to be seen.

I am waiting for.some of the local unemployed Mercs to support the Immortals with the Persian iconography. Can make for an interesting free for all.

Oh, and the thing could be saved by the crack team just killing Ahmed outright. Leave the dropship to its own devices. Headhunting is one of their jobs, free all
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 19 July 2020, 16:04:31
Chapter 32
Monhegan
October 3029

Hap and his lance mates entered the Ops center. It had been roughly two hours since they had left for their initial recon mission. The Coyotes had found the pass to be a good ambush site and marked TRPs. There was a maze of roads going through the mountains, so they tried to map out as much of the roads as they could with the time they had. They could also see the company's Quickcell drone flying over the mountains, but it wouldn't share data with them.

Hap saw Kelly, Fletch, Tatyana, and Patrick standing around the holotable. Kelly and Fletch were now in cooling vests and shorts. There were also two other men that Hap didn't recognize. They were physically fit, heavily tattooed, and sported neatly trimmed beards. Their clothes were a mix of Steiner military and commercial outdoor hunting attire. Their matching black t-shirts had an olive drab skull wearing a beret with a bayonet in its teeth. Robert's Rangers was embroidered on the shoulder of their sleeves.

Hap approached the table. He could see the topo map now included the TRPs, and details like the road system. There was also a small floating blue Quickcell drone circling the map. Hap looked around the Ops center and noticed a new station that looked similar to one of the adhoc 'mech simulators. It had aircraft controls, and three monitors with virtual dials, gauges and indicators. There was also a display of everything around the drone. Hawkins was sitting at the station humming happily, and drinking coffee.

Kelly glanced up from the table, and motioned to Hap, "Hap, this is Brendan Robert. Brendan this is Harold 'Haphazard' Calahad, my Recon lance leader."

Brendan and Hap shook hands. Hap and Brendan's eyes met. Brendan seemed friendly, helpful, and trustworthy. "Good to meet you, Hap. This is my XO Bob Smith, just call him Chief."

Chief gave Hap a nod.

"Time is of the essence, gents." Kelly said, "What's your report Hap?"

Hap pulled out a pen and used it to point to areas on the holotable, "You were right about this pass, you could fit two lances here." Hap motioned to the pass, then pointed to the roads leading to it from the east, "These roads here are so narrow you can't get more than one or two 'mechs, through at a time."

"We're calling it the murder bowl." Joker said.

"Murder bowl." Kelly nodded, "I like that. It's no longer 'Objective Mace', it's now the murder bowl."

"This road is south of the pass and runs back to the road near Topaz Lake. I think it would be good for the Fire Support lance." Hap said.

Kelly nodded, "Fletch, we'll put Conner and Noah in that patchwork Centurion here." Kelly pointed to a point on the road near a thick forest, "Think we should put Dillon with 'em?"

"I don't think you should put those two boys in half a 'Mech anywhere near an active battle, and I'm never comfortable with Dillon when he doesn't have direct supervision from Fiona." Fletch said.

"Fine I'll put the whole damn Hammer lance there. I wanted to have them on the ridge, but the road will work. We need to create confusion to keep Farrah off balance. Don't worry about the boys. There will be a giant mountain between the boys and the real fightin', and the rest of the Hammers now."

"You're saddling Crow with two half trained boys, in a broken mech, and a simpleton that must be hen-pecked by his lance leader, who you've taken out of this fight." Fletch said. "I think you're throwing away several advantages here to go after that drop shuttle and protect Fiona and Patrick."

"I'm not takin' anyone out of the fight, and we're still holding all the advantages." Kelly hit his pipe bowl on his hand. "Crow will be fine, Dillon is a stand up troop, Conner and Noah need experience."

Fletch smoked for a moment, "Yeah, Crow has Rolph too. This is a good spot for the Hammers. They can move along the road and keep the pressure on the Immortals"

"Aye, see it's not a problem." Kelly nodded and looked at the clock on the wall, "John, summon the MechWarriors and the leadership. We need to start talking everyone through plan."

John picked up his phone, punched a few numbers then his voice came across the PA. When he was done Roweyna walked into the room and Kelly asked her, "Have ye heard from the Golden Eagles?"

"Aye, they should be here shortly. I should warn ye though, their CO, Robyn Edwards is a real, well, she wanted to argue about everything." Rowyena walked to the snack bar and turned on the electric kettle.

As they waited Hap turned to Patrick. "How was the area north of the star port?"

"Nasty, swampy. You couldn't land shit up there. Grizzly almost got his 'mech stuck in the mud."

MechWarriors started to trickle into the ops, as did the rest of the leadership. A short plumb woman with brown hair with curled bangs and the rest of her hair pulled into a bun entered the Ops center. She was wearing a flight suit, mirrored sunglasses, brown leather combat boots, and a classic "bomber" jacket. She was followed by a taller, leaner, dark haired woman wearing an identical outfit. The second woman's sunglasses were on top of her head. "Golden Eagles" was imprinted on their jackets.

The short woman walked to the holotable and looked at Fletch and Kelly, "I'm Major, I mean, Robyn Edwards, CO of the Golden Eagles. Go-by is Apex, like Apex Predator. Which of you is McFinnigan?"

"Aye that's me." Kelly said looking up from his holotable, "You and your friend" Kelly nodded toward the other woman, "are bringin' two Stukas for air support." Hap sensed Kelly was not impressed with Apex.

"Stukas yes, and I suppose I should introduce you to Giggles." As she spoke she snapped his fingers and motioned for the woman to come join her.

Giggles looked annoyed as she waded through the crowd. When she got to the holotable she extended her hand to shake Kelly's hand, "My name's Katherine Berlin." Katherine came across as stoic and stiff.

Kelly gave her a curious look as he shook her hand. "Ye don't look like a Giggles?"

"Back in the 22nd Avalon Hussars I was known for being," Giggles paused, "humorless. One sortie I flew with a very nervous young woman who, I don't know how she survived flight school, but she couldn't stop giggling. When we reported to the pilot lounge for the debriefing the CO met us and asked me what was so funny. The more I tried to deny laughing the worse it got for me." She ended her story abruptly.

Kelly smiled at her, "I should've guessed, but I love a good call sign story." He looked around the room. "Alright I think we have everyone. Kitty, start us off with a weather report."

"I got no windows." Kitty said as several of the mercenaries laughed, this was apparently an old joke, "Let me jest pull up the weather report from the space port." She pressed a button on the console and a smiling sun appeared on of the screen. "It's a sunny day, High today is 5 degrees, and the low is -1. Visibility is over 10 kilometers. Few clouds, and no real ceiling. Good day for fightin'."

Kelly shook his head, then looked to Tatyana, "Volchitsa, if you could give us the intel estimate."

Tatyana walked to the front of the room. "Dah. Today Ve fight Ze Immortalz" Tatyana spoke in her heavy Russian accent with the "th" and "s" sounding like "z", and her "ws" were pronounced like "v". "You know zem, you hate zem." There were several laughs. Hap had never head Tatyana talk this much. Her thick accent took a moment to understand. "This fine, they hate us too. Likely they attempt kill Kelly, and Patrick." As she spoke the weather report was replaced with the Immortals TO&E.

Tatayana pulled out a pointer, and circled the area to the north of the star part. "Patrick tells me swamp is too bolotnyy, or…marshy for drop shuttle landing."

"Yeah, you could have seen it for yourself if you hadn't skipped out of the mission." Patrick replied.

Tatayana shrugged, "I am hired for intelligence. You are hired for work in mud."

"I hired you for both. Intelligence and fighin' in the mud." Kelly replied, "back to the intel estimate."

"Dah. The Immortals very likely land here." She pointed to an area to the east beyond the mountains.

Experience is they come through mountains looking for McFinnigans. We kick ass. They run to drop shuttle. By time sukas report to Liao masters, I have pierogi on table for James and Sophie."

Fletch took out a pack of cigarettes from his first-aid kit. "Hell yeah! Pierogis for dinner. I'm sleeping with the hot intel officer, getting paid a fortune to kill bitches, and pierogis, I'm livin' the dream, gents."

Tatayana's eyes flashed "Tykho! I am talking."

Fletch was still laughing but he held up his hands in surrender.

"Dyakuyu. I am saying, most dangerous COA, the Immortals actually come to do job. They bring full complement of 'mechs, maybe air support, or vehicle like the LRM carrier. Then lure us into mountain fight, while recon lance run for star port. We are pinned down and distracted. Star port destroyed by recon lance. Very bad for us." Tatyana looked around the room and shrugged.

Most likely COA, I think, is between. The Immortals maybe smart enough to try star port run with small force, larger force try to destroy us. I cannot say if they have air or artillery support, but is likely.

Kelly clapped her on the shoulder. "Very good. With that note, we have air support, artillery and 'likely' more 'Mechs. We also know the area slightly better. We have every advantage. Our mission is simple McFinnigan and Sons, with support from Golden Eagles and Robert's Rangers, destroys Ahmed's Immortals and captures their drop shuttle in the vicinity of the Monehegan Star port on 31 October 3029."

Tatayana exchanged places with Kelly as he pressed a few buttons on the holotable and blue 'Mech icons appeared. "Alright this will get a little complicated, so I need ye all to listen closely. We're going to try and lure these 'sukas' into 'the murder bowl', confuse the hell out of them, while Brendan and his boys take their drop shuttle." As he spoke the pass was highlighted in orange.

"Hap, you and yer Coyotes will be doing the heavy lifting for the start of this operation." He pointed to four holographic representations of the recon lance. "I need you to move through the mountains approach the landing sight and see what they off load." The four blue icons moved along the road to the eastern side of the mountains where there were twelve red icons and a large red drop shuttle.

"Radio in everything you see. Especially look for aero fighters, or LRM vehicles. Once their recon lance starts to move I need you to engage them. Prioritize destroying anything jump capable." Kelly said

Hap glanced up at the Immortal's TO&E. Of the twelve 'mechs, only the Recon lance's Spider, Stinger and Vulcan were jump capable. They were also under armored and a few shots would destroy them.

"As you're neutralizing those mechs. I need you to draw the whole lot into the mountains and let them chase you." As Kelly spoke the blue Coyote's mechs withdrew to the mountains as 3 of the 12 red mechs disappeared. The remainder of the red icons chased the Coyotes.

"Fiona, Patrick, you and your 'mechs will be back at the star port." Two blue 'mechs appeared near Topaz lake. Should anything get past the main force I need you two to destroy it." Kelly said.

"Oh good, yer takin me out of the fight." Patrick said dryly.

"Feels like one of those family reunions where I'd have to sit at the kid's table." Fiona added.

"I'm Fiona, I'm ten years older than my cousins, so I'll bitch about having to be with them." Patrick said.

"Children." Elinor snapped, "Don't fight each other. Fight the people that have killed your family."

Patrick finished his coffee, "Can't. Uncle Kelly is keeping us out of the fight."

"I'm not keeping you out. You two are a tactical reserve positioned to protect the principal." Kelly paused for a moment. "And I don't want Ahmed to try to kill you when he realizes he can't escape."

Patrick and Fiona exchanged looks and nodded as Kelly continued, "Hammers, minus Fiona, you'll position yourselves here. Crow you'll lead." Kelly pressed another button and four icons appeared on one of the long roads that ran east to west through the mountains. "Start here and keep out of sensor range till I call for you. Also you'll have Noah and Conner in a rebuilt Centurion." Kelly looked at the two boys, "Do what Crow tells you. If he says, 'run' you boys run that 'mech all the way home."

Both boys nodded and agreed as Fletch and Tomax exchanged looks. Fletch gave the unit trainer a knowing nod and walked over to him. As the two men whispered Kelly kept talking, "Anvils, we'll be located here." Four blue icons showed up on the edge of the mountain pass Kelly had indicated earlier. "We'll take up defensive positions in the murder bowl."

"Dullahans, minus Patrick, you'll be positioned on this ridge. Grizzly you have the lead." Three more icons appeared north of the murder bowl. "Again stay just out of sensor range until called for."

"Now that everyone knows where you're starting, let's go back to the Coyotes. Hap I need you to lead the Immortals into the murder bowl. Once you get them there I need your lance to split up. Mags and Joker you go north toward the Dullahans. We'll keep everyone busy while you link up and come back to harass the Immortals." As he spoke the icons moved. "Hap take Anastasia and link up with Hammers and Robert's Rangers. Mags, you and Joker will now be under Grizzlies tactical control to harass the Immortals. If anyone runs, or manages to get past us, you'll have to chase them down."

Mags and Joker nodded. Kelly looked around "To be clear everyone, we're keeping two-thirds of our combat power out of sensor range to trick them into trying to engage Anvil lance, once they're committed we need to envelop them, but I also want to create confusion, understand? Now, before I let Brendan talk his portion, I want to address you two ladies." Kelly looked up at the Golden Eagles.

"Your primary purpose is to give us air superiority, once that is accomplished I'll want you to destroy any artillery they may have brought. Finally, for the last stage of this operation Hap will have priority for air support. If you have questions, hold them to the end of the brief." Kelly said looking at Hap.

"I have a ton of questions." Apex answered. "For starters, What-"

Kelly held up his hands, "Aye, jest wait till the end, and we'll go through them." He turned to the young commando, "Brendan explain your portion of the operation."

"Alright. We'll position ourselves with the Fire Support lance. Once our escort," Brendan looked to Hap and Anastasia "links up with us we'll proceed to the drop shuttle. We'll need to approach it from a side that only exposes us to a limited number of weapon blisters. We'll stop outside of sensor range or, if the terrain gives us something, outside of the shuttle's line of sight."

Brendan nodded to Kelly and the icons moved to the eastern side of the mountain range and near the notional shuttle landing site. "Once we get there, and we have control of the air support"

"You mean you have priority for air support." Apex corrected.

"Yeah. So once we have that, we need you to target the shuttle's weapon blisters." Brendan nodded to Apex, "Once you make your first run on the shuttle, I'll need the 'mechs to start engaging the weapons blisters. You guys are a distraction. While the crew is trying engage 'mechs and aerofighters, we'll take our APC right up the shuttle's loading ramp and then me and my boys are on the clock to take the control deck. We'd prefer you kindly stop attacking the shuttle at that time."

"And while Brendan and his boys work their magic we'll finish the Immortals. Then it's finding a buyer for the drop shuttle and picking up a company's worth of scrap." Kelly smiled. "Before I review the tasks, Tatayana, what's the over and under?"

"20% losses I believe. Two or three 'mechs. Likely one from Anvils." She looked at Kelly almost apologetically, "and another from Coyotes." She gave Mags a warning glance, "but maybe Dullahans." She looked to David. "Two 'mechs is 12%. other 8% is loss capability across Coyote, Dullahan, and Anvil lances."

"Sounds right. We know Commander Ahmed will be targeting me. I think we can assume my Highlander is 'likely' one of the 'mechs that will be disabled. Mr. Fletcher, take command of the battle if I'm incapacitated. If I'm permanently incapacitated, after the battle, Company command falls to Patrick."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 19 July 2020, 16:05:12
Chapter 33

Kelly clapped his hands, "now, lets review task." As he went through the tasks Hap took a few quick notes. Most of the tasks fell to his lance, or him personally. Hap felt self-conscious even though he knew most of it was simple or straight forward, at least until he had to try and go toe-to-toe with the drop shuttle. Hap glanced over to see Anastasia also taking detailed notes, and she had a sketch of the battle field and had written down several key coordinates.

"I need binoculars" Joker said. "I didn't have my pair when we left Klathandu, and the best way to spot the shuttle without being detected is to get out my mech."

Hap nodded and pointed toward Jessica Lan. "Ask Ms. Lan, but be polite."

Joker nodded and worked his way across the room to the supply officer. Hap realized the brief had switched to questions and now Apex was pestering Kelly and Roweyna.

"Alright, but I think I should get some salvage, or a stake in the sale of the drop shuttle." Apex said.

"You were thoroughly briefed on your tasks and what this mission entailed, and you negotiated for a pure cash payout." Roweyna explained. This was the first time Hap had seen her look truly angry.

"I didn't realize part of the salvage was a drop shuttle." Apex said

Roweyena's eyes flashed, "Did ye not read the contract, woman?"

"Don't be rude." Apex replied, "I didn't realize how much material was involved."

"You signed the contract. You can't renegotiate just because you weren't paying attention until the mission brief. We're being compensated fairly, let's go and start our preflight." Giggles said.

"That wasn't a mission brief." Apex replied, "We deserve more salvage, and the weather report sucked."

"Is this your first contract?" Brendan asked. "you don't try to negotiate after you sign."

"Hey I'm not talking to you." Apex said.

Kelly looked at Roweyna. "Get this under control." Kelly addressed the room, "If there are no more questions regarding the operation, I suggest you all get to your 'mechs and get to where ye need to be."

Hap looked over the crowd to see Joker talking to Ms. Lan, she was nodding and didn't look particularly annoyed. Hap figured that was a good sign. He followed the crowd out the ops center and headed to his 'mech. The Coyotes and Dullahans had parked their mechs around the Ops building because they wanted to give the techs more space and time to prep the other 'Mechs.

Hap got himself situated in his 'mech and plugged in his neuro helmet. He made sure his radio was on the lance channel. "Joker needed to request binoculars. He might be a few minutes."

"Well that looked like the most chaotic and convoluted way to defend a star port." Anastasia said.

"I'm not sure this is about defending the star port exactly, at least not completely" Hap answered.

"He is literally creating chaos and confusion. It would be more efficient to use point defense strategies and defend the area around the star port rather than hoping to draw a numerically inferior force into an obvious ambush."

"I get the impression that everything is special because of the Immortals." Hap replied. "Mags, was that a normal mission brief?"

"I don't know. I rarely was there for mission briefs, but I'd guess so."

Joker emerge from Ops building with a large olive drab case and a big smile. As he climbed into his 'mech Hap added, "I think that is why he has Fletch there to try and keep him from going too crazy."

"Perhaps." Anastasia added, "But there are so many variables here, I'd feel more comfortable if we just defended the star port and brought the full weight of our superior force to bare on the Immortals."

"As much as it's hard to believe, leading and fighting is all about people, even the enemy." Hap said, "I think we have to trust the Commander knows his enemy, at least this time."

"Hey what are we talking about?" Joker asked.

"The Professor isn't sure about the plan." Mags said.

"Seems like a good plan. We find the enemy. We lead the enemy. We kill the enemy." Joker replied.

"That was succinct, but I'm concerned about the complication of it, and I doubt our enemy will actually just follow us into what should be an obvious ambush." Anastasia's said.

Hap's Griffin started to walk, "Coyotes form up into a square, and get on the road. We need to move fast. If we run low on time, Joker and Mags you'll have to go full throttle to find a good observation spot.

The lance starting moving as Joker asked, "Anastasia, are you going to lecture us?"

"No." Anastasia replied "You generally cut me off." Her voice had her regular business calmness to it.

"I was thinking I should start listening when you talk doctrine." Joker said.

"Oh?" Anastasia sounded surprised.

"Yeah, I'm never going to read a field manual or regulation, so I figure if I just repeat what you say, I'll sound smart," Joker laughed, "like you. Might come in handy for picking up girls."

She didn't key her mike, but Hap could hear the heavy sigh. "Joker did you get binoculars?" Hap asked.

"Oh yeah. Jessie Lan had a pair waiting for me. It's the one I kept wanting supply to buy for me. It has a digital zoom to 400 times or something insane, and the objective is 100mm. It has a built in range finder, and night vision. Even has a tripod. If we stop for a second I could see the Immortals in space."

Hap glanced up at the sky. He thought he could almost see a white dot high in the sky, but he knew that was unlikely. "Good. Let's get to where we think they'll land and get you in a good hide site."

They moved quickly and quietly along the mountain roads. As they passed through the "murder bowl" the command net flashed. Hap changed channels. "Hap," John Saint said, "The Star Port traffic control called. Seems they got a union class drop shuttle that is having trouble and can't land at the star port."

"Oh?" Hap asked, "Is that right?"

"Yeah, the Shuttle is also refusing guidance control, and they've turned off their beacon. The Star Port is tracking their new landing zone as just a few kilometers south of Tatayan's projected location for the Immortals landing." John said.

Tatayana's heavy accent came over the radio, "Sorry. Was best guess. Only data I have is from drone."

The landing zone was highlighted by a large red hexagon up on Hap's Nav computer, "We'll get the LZ under observation. Did you tell the star port we had a patrol out, and we'd investigate?"

"Oh yeah, we told the client you'd be real neighborly." John said.

"While we're on the subject, we can see the drone, but we can't get any of its data, unless you guys put it on the common operating map, we have no idea what the drone is seeing."

"Is Quickcell." Tatayana answered, "Crash into enemy is best use."

"Listen, if this drone pays off I'll spend the money on somethin' nicer." Kelly said, "In the mean time I recommend ye go radio silent until ye have something useful to report. You got a few more minutes while the Union is entering the atmosphere and is sensor blind. Get yourselves in position."

As they got close to the end of the mountains the Coyotes could see the drop shuttle coming down. They found a communications tower on top of a mountain and Joker parked his Firestarter on the reverse side and climbed up the tower to a maintenance landing. He had a heavy blanket poncho and ground cloth in addition to a portable radio for doing this sort of work.

Hap, Anastasia and Mags took up positions closer to the drop shuttle so Joker would have more time to get back into his Firestarter before the enemy could engage his shutdown 'Mech. They waited on the road between two ridge lines. Everything was quiet as they waited. Hap could feel his own heart race, and nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was starting to think this could be a bad plan.

"I got zero fighter escorts." Joker said in almost a whisper. "and aerospace doors are closed."

Hap checked his radio and realized he forgot to patch Joker's radio into the command net. Hap pressed a few buttons. "Ops, this is Coyote actual, we have negative on aerospace fighters at this time, over."

"Confirmed. Negative on fast movers." Kitty replied

Hap tried to ignore his nerves as he waited for the drop shuttle to land. He could start to hear the roar through his 'mech's cockpit. Then there was the shake of the ground as the drop shuttle started its final few seconds of approach and would "gently" land. Even without Joker saying anything all the Coyotes could feel the ground shake when the drop shuttle landed.

"Shuttles down, over." Joker whispered.

"Yer commin' in weak Coyotes." Kitty replied

"Joker, you're over a dozen kilometers from the drop shuttle, you don't need to whisper." Hap said.

"Oh yeah." Joker said, "The Immortal's shuttle has landed. I can see their lion insignia, over."

"Got ye loud n' clear." Kitty replied, "Shuttle's down" It sounded like she was telling everyone in Ops.

"Mech cubes are open, and I got eyes on a Spider, a Stinger, and a Vulcan. They are lowering the ramp now. It might be a few minutes before they get the other mechs out, over."

Hap glanced at his scanners. They were outside of scanning range for normal scanners. "Anastasia, you see anything on your scanners."

"Negative." She said coolly, "Our systems are linked, you're seeing what I see."

Hap waited and stared at the ridgeline between them and the Immortals. He could see the top of the drop shuttle, but everything else was trees, rocks and road. Hap waited a few more unbearable seconds, "Joker, what's going on up there?"

"Up here? I'm freezing my balls off." Joker said, "But down at the drop shuttle they got the ramp down and there is a Flea, Spider, Vulcan, and Stinger headed this way. They're about 15 kilometers out."

"At the Spider's maximum speed we could be in sensor range in roughly 6 minutes." Anastasia added

"Copy all Coyotes. Recon lance is out and headed your way."

"The lance is staying together." Joker replied. "They got a Hunchback and a Trebuchet off the ramp. Hunchback looks a little weird. Not sure if it has an SRM 6, or what's going on with it."

Hap checked his notes, "It's a 5P, it has lasers, instead of the Tomodzuru Class 20 AC that Tuna's had."

"Speaking of Tuna, a Thunderbolt just walked off the ramp. I used to think that 'mech looked cool, but now it freakin' haunts my nightmares." Joker said.

"Add that to the short list of things we agree on." Anastasia added, and Hap felt chills as he remembered the terrifying moments when they fought a Thunderbolt on Klathandu.

"The Orion is on the ground and there's an Archer in the door. I think that's their heavy lance."

"Aye Copy, second lance is down, over." Kitty said.

"Recon lance is about 12 kilometers out." Joker said, "Think I'll stick around for the rest of the show. There's a Battlemaster unloading and another 'mech. It sorta looks like an Atlas. I think it's a Banshee."

"Coyotes, confirm, if ye see a Stalker." Kelly said.

"No, but I got a big tank with three barrels. Probably a Schrek PPC carrier."

"Aye, that's a tough customer. Almost as bad as Tomax's Awesome." Kelly said.

"Almost as bad until you stomp on it." Tomax replied. "I dare you to try and stomp on my Awesome."

"They got two more hovercraft." Joker said. "Not sure what they are."

"Do they have missile pods? Maybe it's a Pegasus or a Harasser." Hap said.

"No, looks real slick and fast, just one large barrel out the front. Maybe a laser or PPC." Joker said.

Hap tried to think, "Is it small? Maybe it's a Savannah Master. It might just be for defending the drop shuttle. Commander Kelly, we might need something with short range weapons for the escort mission."

"Acknowledge. I'd like to keep the Jenner for jumping over mountains, and causing mischief and confusion. That's more to Mags strength." Kelly paused, "Volchita, need you to reposition yourself to where Hammer lance is hiding. You'll support Anastasia and Hap with the Escort Mission."

"Dah Ser!" Tatayana replied, "She wolf help little coyotes."

"There ye go Coyotes, I got you a wolf to help out. Now, Joker, about that Stalker."

"No Stalker, Commander. The hover tanks and the Schrek PPC carrier have parked in front of the drop shuttle. I think they're done unloading. Everyone is moving forward. No Stalker, no fast movers, and no LRM carriers."

"Get back in your 'mech Joker." Hap said. "This looks too easy, except for those tanks."

"Well the day's not over yet." Kelly said, "Stay sharp, stick to the plan. I still need you to take down the jump capable 'mechs, and lure the Immortals into the ambush. Then you can deal with those tanks."

"Acknowledge the tanks. We're going to have to neutralize them." Brendan said.

"Concur." Hap said, the Schrek would be a problem, but two light hover tanks were, as a rule, fragile. Being under the guns of the drop shuttle would complicate things, but if they had air support it shouldn't be too bad. He'd also have Tatayana and Anastasia.

"I'm back in my Firestarter." Joker reported.

"Golden Eagles, this is McFinnigan, are you on our net?" Kelly asked.

"Acknowledge, sounds like an easy day." Apex replied.

"Yes. Need you to stay on the ramp in standby. Unless things go badly, your only objective now is to help us capture the drop shuttle."

"Copy. But I still get paid for achieving my other two objectives, right?" Apex asked.

"You'll be paid as per yer contract." Kelly said. "Ops, reposition the drone where it can see the Coyotes."

"Hawkins acknowledges. Moving Drone now." John said. Roweyena could be heard in the background yelling, "Did that daft woman even bother to read her contract?"

Hap could see red icons on the edges of his scanners.

"Commander, where almost in enemy sensor range, permission to engage." Hap asked.

"Aye, lad, cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war." Kelly replied.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 19 July 2020, 16:05:52
Chapter 34

Joker jumped his Firestarter over the ridge and next to his lance mates. Hap saw the enemy recon lance's formation start to fall apart as the Spider began to sprint toward them.

"Wait a moment Mags and Joker." Hap commanded his lance. He saw the Spider get closer. "We need them to get within range of your primary weapons."

Joker and Mags agreed as Hap jumped his Mech half-way up the ridgeline. The lower half of his 'mech was covered but he could see over the ridge. Hap could see kilometers of rolling hill country spreading beyond the mountains. There was a large forest near the Drop shuttle and a multi-lane highway going up and down the hills. The Immortals were moving along the highway toward them. The Spider caught site of the Griffin and tried to change course mid jump.

Anastasia shot a brace of ten missiles and the majority of them hit the Spider chipping away the 'mech's limited armor. Hap lined up a shot with his PPC as the Spider landed and changed direction. The azure ball of energy collided with the Spider's right torso. The missiles had weakened the armor to the point that the PPC's bolt blew off the shoulder and right arm of the smaller 'mech. Hap fired his own LRM rack and watched the Spider stagger as missiles struck it across the body.

The Vulcan's autocannon grazed Hap's shoulder. Hap jumped back down as Anastasia told him. "The Archer and Trebuchet are sprinting to get us in range. We can't stay here long."

"Joker, can you give me a sensor lock on the Spider?" As Hap spoke the Spider showed up on his targeting computer. Anastasia launched another salvo of missiles as Hap followed up with his own. The Spider's armor and internal structure were badly compromised, but the 'mech was still moving.

Hap waited another moment. He needed the Immortal's recon lance to get closer so they would be within the effective range of his lance's medium lasers and short range missiles. "When they get within 90 meters, we're all going to jump on the ridge line. Anastasia finish off the Spider. Mags you got the Stinger, and Joker, you and I will target the Assassin."

There was a murmur of acknowledgment as Hap said "Go." The Coyotes jumped to the ridgeline and Hap focused on the Assassin. He put his cross hairs on the right shoulder hoping to touch off the ammo. Joker's medium lasers and hit the center torso and right torso as Hap's PPC melted the right shoulder and missiles peppered the mech's internals and right leg.

Several PPC bolts and long range missiles came from the Immortals formation laboring up the highway. Hap was struck by missiles across the arm and chest and took a PPC bolt in the left shoulder. He jumped back down as another ball of ionized particles flew harmlessly overhead.

"Start to fall back." Hap ordered as he looked at his systems. His Griffin had lost some armor from the chest and arms, but nothing serious. The Spider and Stinger were gone, and Mags heat was high.

"Mags you kill that Stinger?" Hap asked as he started walking backwards. His sensors told him the Flea would in view shortly. They'd need to kill it quickly before the Trebuchet and Archer were in range.

"Yeah Jefe, I aimed center mass, and hit him with everything. I think I got his machine gun magazine."

"Good work. Now watch your heat, and alternate weapons." Hap said.

The Vulcan jumped onto the ridge line, and was greeted by Anastasia's long range missiles and medium laser followed by Joker's two chest mounted lasers. The combined salvo melted what was left of the Vulcan's right leg. It fell heavily and Mags put two lasers into its exposed side. Smoked poured the holes and seams in the 'mech's armor before there was a large explosion.

Two poorly aimed groups of 15 missiles hit Hap and Joker each. Neither Mech took serious damage, but Hap knew this meant the Trebuchet was in range and the Archer couldn't be far behind him, he also knew the Thunderbolt and Orion also had LRM launchers. "Keep retreating." Hap said as the Flea came into view. He squeezed off a hurried shot that melted its left leg clean off. The diminutive mech fell forward as a Hap's LRM salvo slammed into it.

Hap continued to backpedal his Griffin, "This is Coyote actual, we've completed objective one. All jump capable mech's are destroyed. We are now luring the remaining forces to the murder bowl, over."

"Good copy, Coyote." John replied as another salvo of missiles came down barely missing Joker.

"Hey boss, I'm not one to complain, and normally I'm on the side of plucky upstarts, not the guys with all the advantages, but I gotta say it really feels like we kicked over the hornet's nest." Joker said.

"Get off the command net." Fletch snapped.

"Ops, This is Coyote two. Requesting LRM resupply for myself and Coyote actual."

"Acknowledge, Coyote two. Resupply will be available when you rendezvous with Hammer lance."

Anastasia continued walking backwards as she fired her LRM launcher at the Flea. The missiles tore into the 'mech's arm and shoulder. One of the Flea's lasers sparked and smoked.

Hap kept backing up as the Flea struggled to get back up on one good leg and its broken left leg. It wasn't helped by not having arms.

Hap hit the Flea dead center with his PPC, and watched the lightning dance around the 'mech. He hit it with another round of LRMs and the engine exploded as missiles detonated around the center torso.

Hap could see two fifty tons 'mechs were now approaching the bend in the road, and three heavy 'mechs closely behind them. The Coyotes ran down the road until it curved around one of the ridges. "This is Coyote actual, recon lance is destroyed." Hap reported

"We were hopin' you'd let the Flea through. Give us somethin' to do." Patrick said sounding bored.

"Now we're going to have to amuse ourselves like we did when we were children." Fiona said

"How'd we%u2026Ah. Fiona, I spy with my little eye, somethin' that is gray." Patrick

"Is it ferro-concrete?" Fiona asked with faked childish wonder.

"Clear the command net." Fletch barked.

The Coyotes paused for a moment. Anastasia sensor locked the Trebuchet as it entered the edge of her sensor range. Hap launched a barrage of missiles as the Hunchback started sprinting up the road. The Coyotes jumped over the next ridgeline. Hap's computer warned him he was sensor locked as the Trebuchet launched a volley of thirty missiles. Most of the missiles hit his left leg, arm and side. Hap's armor was still intact, but another volley would likely create a breach.

The Coyotes again started sprinting back down the road. More missiles continued to rain down on them. "We should have been less aggressive with the recon lance, and lured them further away from their company mates." Anastasia said, "I think we're close to meeting with catastrophic success."

"Agreed." Hap said as the Hunchback charged again into sensor range. Joker got a lock on the 'mech and Anastasia and Hap jumped backward as they launched their twenty missiles at the hunchback.

Joker and Mags followed as Joker cursed and two separate torrents of missiles streaked after him. Most of the missiles harmlessly hit the mountain side, but Joker reported that his left rear torso was breached and he had lost a lot of most armor on the left arm.

"The Archer is now in range." Anastasia reported, "we cannot afford to be sensor locked again."

"Don't stop" Hap said. They were now on a straight away that led to the ambush site. Hap could see the Anvil lance on his scanners. He felt reassured that they were close, but he still needed to string the Immortals along just a little further.

He saw the Hunchback come back into range. He took a few more steps backward, knowing that Anastasia was giving him a slightly longer range on sensors. Hap had to be careful, he'd need to let the Hunchback see the Griffin for a moment, then disappear. If he timed it right, he might be able to avoid another barrage of missiles.

The Hunchback sprinted around the corner and came into view. Hap felt a chill as he realized if the Hunchback could see him he wouldn't need to sensor lock him. Hap prepared to jump over a ridge just as the Hunchback went into a skid and tried to stop. Three PPC bolts raced toward him and countless LRMs streaked toward the Hunchback. Hap watched as the 'mech was overwhelmed by the bombardment and fell to the ground. The 'mech wasn't destroyed, but it was significantly damaged.

"Good work, Coyotes. Off ye go, onto yer next objective." McFinnigan told him.

Hap followed Anastasia as she headed south and jumped over another ridge and onto another road. They followed the road for a few hundred meters to meetup with Hammer Lance, Tatyana and Robert's Rangers. There was also an engineering vehicle and pallets of LRM missiles. The engineering vehicle was on the other side of the road and nearly half a kilometer away from everyone else.

Anastasia piloted her Valkyrie next to the engineering vehicle and kneeled down with her back to the hoist. Techs started to move the ammunition and working the hoist. Another tech stood where she could see him and gave Anastasia hand and arm signals using two glowing electric torches.

Hap watched as the team quickly reloaded the Valkyrie, and then the tech motioned for Anastasia to stand up and then he turned around and pointed to Hap. Hap moved his Griffin into position and kneeled down as well. He could hear the strange hollow sounds as missiles rolled into the feeding mechanisms and the magazine.

"Hap," John said, "The Techs are reporting that your 'mech has lost significant amounts of armor. Do you think you're still capable of continuing the mission?"

Hap looked at his system status. "I think I'll be fine. I just need to take better advantage of my long range weapons." Hap said as he felt the access doors close and the tech motioned him to stand.

"I'll do the spotting going forward." Anastasia added. Hap didn't like the sounds of that, but from a purely practical stand point her Valkyrie had plenty of armor, and somehow her 'mech was unscathed.

"Rangers you ready?" Hap asked. The Hammers were already moving forward and launched a hail storm of missiles. Kelly was on the command net ordering them to, "Drop a bag of hammers on the Orion, 'cause it's a poor's man Highlander."

"We're ready boss. Let's go capture a drop shuttle." Brandon replied.

"Request Golden Eagles launch." Hap said

"Golden Eagles please launch and report when you are ready to provide Close Air Support." John said

"Golden Eagles acknowledges." Giggles replied.

"Follow us." Brendan said as the Ranger's APC started down the road. Anastasia took the lead next to the APC as they jogged to keep up with the wheeled vehicle. As they proceeded down the road they listened to the command net as Kelly coordinated the battle. It sounds like he had the Dullahans target the Archer and Trebuchet in order to further push the fight into the murder bowl.

There was also the earth shaking effect of artillery and smoke from one ridge over. Hap assumed someone tried to run, or one of the larger mechs was hiding behind a mountain. Hap didn't hear the call for fire so he assumed it was done from the Ops center and based off something the drone could see.

"We're going to do a cross-country off roading, to sneak up on the drop shuttle." Brandon warned as the APC turned sharply and drove down a steep embankment. Tatyana swore, "Bozhe moi!" as her Kintaro half slid down the hill. Anastasia feathered her jump jets to land gracefully as Hap recklessly followed.

The APC dove into a trail going through the forest and now the mechs struggled to keep up as they pushed their way through the trees. The continued to go down into a narrow draw. After a few kilometers they stopped as the forest was cut by a small paved road. They were at the bottom of a hill and Hap could see the tip of the Drop Shuttle.

"Alright. This is where I need you guys to distract the shuttle crew, and take care of those tanks." Brendan said. "We'll wait here."

They were still just outside of sensor range. Anastasia started to carefully move up hill.

"Golden eagles, to McFinnigan elements, we are prepared to begin attack on Drop Shutle." Apex said.

Hap saw the drop shuttle come into sensor range as Anastasias stopped. Her Mech's head was just over the top of the hill's tree line. "There is another small hill on the other side with a rock outcropping we can use for cover. Recommend we advance when air support engages the drop shuttle."

Everyone agreed and the APC drove onto the road. Anastasia saw everyone was ready. "Golden Eagles, this is Coyote 2, I'm sending you the targeting data for the drop shuttle. Be advised we are attempting to neutralize, and only neutralize, the drop shuttle's weapon pods on this side."

"Acknowledge." Apex replied, "Weapon pods are a little too precise for us. Starting our run now"

The pair of Stukas came in fast and low shaking the tree tops. The roar of the engines could be heard inside the APC and the cockpits of all three 'mechs. The Rangers gunned the engine of the APC and Tatyana and Hap used their jump jets to sail out of the woods and over the hill. Hap could see the rocky outcropping and the natural defensive position the rolling hills created.

As the vehicle and mech's got to safety Hap looked up to see flashes of energy weapons, the blasts of autocannons and a barrage of missiles from the drop shuttle in response to the aero fighters. Hap could see aero fighters breaking off and then turning around before climbing to a higher altitude.

Anastasia was still on the other side of the hill, "No Joy." Anastasia reported. "Request repeat fire."

There was no answer.

Anastasia used her jump jets to join the others, "The aero fighters pulled up before firing."

"That's not good." Hap said, "Did they get scared when the drop shuttle opened up on them?"

"It seems sub-optimal" Brendan said, "But, the more intact the shuttle is the better. Maybe we can work with it. We'll wait till they come around again and then move again. Can you see the tanks?"

"They scattered when the Stukas came through." Anastasia answered. "One is on sensors."

Hap could see one of the tanks on the radar slowly drifting this way. Hap was still waiting for the Golden Eagles to return or at least respond. He looked around, but didn't see signs of a crash or a trail of smoke.

"Hap, your need to switch to the guard channel." John said. Hap thought he heard Roweyna screaming in the background.

"Why? What's wrong?" Hap watched his sensors as a 35 ton vehicle started to move toward them. He considered that Savannah Masters were 5 tons and Schrek PPC carriers were 80 tons.

"Air support is in contract negotiations." John said and Roweyna yelled, "With the gawd damn enemy"

"What the hell?" Brendan said, "That's how you get an MRB rating so low no one will hire you."

Hap flipped channels to hear a rich baritone voice say, "Sister, we are both Mercenaries, we cannot fight each other. We have honor and professionalism. What you are doing is wrong."

"Oh were goin' to talk about honor and virtue among whores when ye prostitute yerself out to whoever happens to be the enemy of my client?" Kelly yelled.

"See how this man talks. He disrespects our profession, and likely those he employees. I even hear he brings children into battles, and puts whole families at risk." Hap assumed this was Farrah Ahmed.

"I can't speak to how he runs his team, but I don't think I'm being paid fairly." Apex replied

"Ah, I will double whatever meager thing he has offered you, all I ask is that you break off your attack and land your craft." Ahmed said. "However, if you want to triple the pay out, help me. I would ask that you destroy his fire support lance and the artillery. I even swear not to attack the space port. I will finish my fight with McFinnigan and depart, and you will be a rich woman for little effort. What do you say?" Ahmed asked her.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 19 July 2020, 17:16:35
No plans go right 100% of the time...
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth on 19 July 2020, 17:49:16
Told you.
Any other wings that can be contracted on planet?
Now the Stalker will deploy from a commercial freighter in the spaceport while the stukas attack.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 19 July 2020, 18:25:37
Can Coyote 2 pin point where Ahmed is broadcasting from?

Offer Giggles a separate contract for Apex?

She probably will not take it, but do tell her You have already put out a contract for Apex’s head, if she attacks Kelly’s forces her head will be added to the contract.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: snakespinner on 20 July 2020, 01:37:39
Just a quick question, why do you call the dropship a drop shuttle.
It always gets me totally confused because shuttles are only small in the game.

Good start to the fight scene, those Golden Eagles better hope the immortals win. :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 20 July 2020, 16:41:16
Just a quick question, why do you call the dropship a drop shuttle.
It always gets me totally confused because shuttles are only small in the game.

Good start to the fight scene, those Golden Eagles better hope the immortals win. :thumbsup:

That's a good catch. I'd like to say I was using the terms interchangeably, and doing a little word-smithing,  but that's a lie. I think I was writing "drop shuttle" when I was thinking "dropship". (This was similar to me calling the Javelin a Lancer). I think I'll just leave it for now but try to do better going forward.

Sorry for the confusion. Thanks for the comment, and thanks so much to you and everyone else for reading and commenting.

To PW, Elmoth, EAGLE7, and a few of the other folks, I do appreciate the notes, comments, and interest. I do read everything, but I don't often comment on substantive plot points/suggestions. I have the story pretty well mapped out, but if I'm being honest, a few of the things suggested are sort of like steering a T10C. If the wind is right, and if your pull is hard enough, I might change direction a little. 
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth on 20 July 2020, 17:02:46
I assume we all know. This isnlike a group of friends watching a movie in a couch with popcorn and drinks and commenting on what they think is gonna happen next.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 20 July 2020, 17:10:57
I assume we all know. This isnlike a group of friends watching a movie in a couch with popcorn and drinks and commenting on what they think is gonna happen next.

Thanks! :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: EAGLE 7 on 20 July 2020, 18:38:37
“ sort of like steering a T10C. If the wind is right, and if your pull is hard enough, I might change direction a little. “

  .... and your hoping the DZSO is not sitting in the Humvee with the windows closed taking wind speed readings with the Kestrel.
.....8 knots and holding my ass.

    Your story, loving it doesn’t mean I won’t yell invectives at you if you put me in the trees. ;D
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 20 July 2020, 23:12:08
Can Coyote 2 pin point where Ahmed is broadcasting from?

Offer Giggles a separate contract for Apex?

She probably will not take it, but do tell her You have already put out a contract for Apex’s head, if she attacks Kelly’s forces her head will be added to the contract.
I like this
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: PsylockeSmythe on 21 July 2020, 08:42:59
Just wanted to say that I'm enjoying the story so far and looking forward to reading the next chapter.

Psy
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 28 July 2020, 17:15:02
Chapter 35

There was a moment of dead air on the radio before Patrick broke the silence, "Commander Ahmed, if I may, can I give ye a piece o' advice"

"I am certain I will find your foolishness amusing later, when you are dead." Ahmed said coolly.

"Right. One day, after ye killed my father, and I say killed, not murdered, because I believe it was a fair combat, in spite of the enthusiastic way ye tend to pursue us. I don't take it personally. "Patrick said.

"Do you have a point, boy?" Ahmed's patient was clearly running thin.

"Aye I do, I do. So after my father died, I realized I had a small fortune which I was using to drink myself to death, and it occurred me that none of that damn money would bring my dad back, nor would the drink. So my point is this, you can buy our air support out from under us, and that may seem like a very nice deal for them, and it's a hellish thing for us, but it won't bring your sons back." Patrick said.

"Don't you dare speak of my sons." Ahmed spoke quietly and threateningly.

"Calm dawn." Patrick said, "I'm tryin' real hard to be respectful, and not call them bastards, or sons of a whore. Everyone can attest to how difficult this is for me." Hap could hear the smirk in his voice.

"Oh Patrick, don't." McFinnigan said. Hap looked at his scanners all three tanks were lining up.

"I will tear your 'mech apart and rip you from it, and crush you broken body in the palm of my mech's hand." Ahmed scream.

"Still won't bring your sons back. That assumes they were your sons. I don't think the youngest looked much like the other two." Patrick taunted. "Sorta thought he looked a little like me and my dad."

"Stuka pilots. I will give you 1,000,000 C-bills each if you destroy the Highlander and Dragon of the McFinnigan and Son's company." Ahmed said trying to compose himself.

"I have a counter offer." Fiona said. There was an edge to her voice. She didn't say anything but a robotic female voice could be heard in the background, "Anti Air System activated, horizon-to-horizon radar online, tracking two aero fighters, calculating solution for elevation and vector."

Fiona came back on the radio and calmly and coldly started talking, "If either of you two bitches look like you're lining up to make a strafing run on my family, I will coordinate with my lance to fill the sky with so many missiles you won't make a second run, and if somehow you manage to land I will personally stomp on your gawd damn aircraft. So either fulfill your '****** contract, or disengage, but I swear to god you try any other shit with us and I guaran-damn-tee I will make it life altering."

"I'm out" Giggles said, "I took a broadside when we broke off the strafing run. I'm not comfortable with a run at the drop ship alone, I sure as hell won't attack our client, and I do not want to try to land on a contested airfield. I'm sorry McFinnigans, you seem like good people. I liked working with you, and if it were up to me this wouldn't have come to this. Requesting safe passage to land."

"Giggles, what the hell?" Apex said. "You disengage and you're fired."

"Ms. Berlin, land near our drop ship, and come talk to us. I think we can work somethin' out." Kelly said.

"Acknowledge. Weapons safe, proceeding to the air field." Giggles said.

"Giggles!" Apex yelled. "Don't you land, I'm serious I'll fire you."

"I think I just got a better job offer, sort of like what you're doing to your former client." Giggles said.

"So the snake is now trying to seduce your partner, all this means is more money for you." Ahmed said.

"Calls me a snake, while he tries to hire you out from under your contract with me. Calls me dishonorable when we go from honest combat operations to an open assassination contract." Kelly said. "Is this the side you want to be on?"

As Kelly spoke the three tanks started to move forward in line. Anastasia scanned one of the 35 ton tanks, and Hap's sensors marked it as a "Saladin Assault Hover Tank." Hap tried to remember what he knew about the Saladin. It had two sister models the Saracen and the Scimitar. One was a missile boat and the other had an AC 5. Joker said the Saladin looked "slick" and had one weapon system, either a laser or PPC. Hap queried his tactical computer, and His mouth went dry as he read, "Armament: AC 20."

He punched the radio back to the command net. "Ops, this is Coyote actual, I have a call for fire."

"No guns available" Kitty replied, "The commander has Crow and Joker tryin' to chase down that rascal Farrah, and the militia is runnin' low on shells. Course Farrah's tryin' to get back to his drop ship."

"Acknowledge, but I need a gun. I lost my air support, and I'm in a bad way." Hap could see the tanks starting to approach faster.

"If ye want to send yer-" Kitty started to say then hummed, "Alright Coyote 2 I've received yer fire mission. I'm still not sure if we can spare the gun."

Hap could hear John in the background, "A Saladin? I thought they said it was a Savannah…Which one of the Scarborough hover tanks is a Saladin?" There was a pause, "Oh shit! Prioritize that fire mission."

Hap could see the tanks moving closer. He was thankful Anastasia was one step ahead of him, but if they didn't have fire support, they were at the bottom of a hill with three nasty tanks in a tactically superior position.

"Splash over." Kitty said.

A moment later the earth shook as the artillery round impacted. Hap could see the tanks moving away from each other. Anastasia rocketed off the ground and fired missiles as she flew backwards and disappeared over the hill. A PPC bolt and volley of missiles missed her as she sailed out of view.

"Splash out." Anastasia said. "Drop 100- negative disregard. Too close."

Hap stepped forward to protect the APC as one of the Saladin's crested the hill. He could see the artillery had destroyed some of the hover tank's front armor. He took a quick shot and the tank exploded as the PPC bolt melted through armor and missiles destroyed the tank's internal structure. Out of his periphery vision he saw the second Saladin and a smoke cloud from its barrel.

There was a heart-stopping shudder as he felt his 'mech's left leg take the blow from the auto cannon. The internal structure breach warning sounded as he fought to keep the 'mech upright.

The Schrek came into view with all the three barrels pointed straight at him. There was a flash like lightning as one of the shots hit his cockpit. His vision blurred, and electricity danced around the cockpit as his mech started to fall. He could hear a warning that his mech's left leg was destroyed but he still instinctively tried to use the missing limb to keep the 'mech upright. Hap panicked as his mech fell to the ground. He fought to stay conscious as his vision blacked out.

Hap was dimly aware of Tatyana shouting in Russian, and he was pretty sure the APC was driving somewhere. He heard Anastasia say, "Coyote Actual is down, request priority fire."

His eyes snapped open. His head hurt and his vision was doubled. He thought he could still see a few snakes of electricity dancing around his cockpit. His cockpit felt warm, and he could smell ozone. Something was wrong with the air that was supposed be circulating in his neuro helmet.

Hap struggled to focus on his instrument panel. His Griffin was in bad shape. The left leg was missing and his life support system was ruined. He rolled the 'mech onto its left side and found himself looking at the ass end of the Schrek PPC Carrier. Sparks flew and black smoke billowed from the tank's broken rear armor.

Hap felt drunk, and everything was moving slowly as he labored to bring the doubled cross hairs on the tank. The black smoke made aiming even more difficult. The targeting computer warned him the tank was too close to be effectively engaged. He somehow managed to disable the interlock on the PPC and squeezed the trigger. There was a flash of light, and it looked like a thunderstorm with lightning flashing in the thick dark smoke cloud. For a moment nothing seemed to happen, and the tank's turret started to traverse toward him. The turret stopped suddenly and then the tank exploded sending the turret flying away.

Hap wanted to lay back down, but he knew he had to get up. He sat his Griffin up so he inspected his broken 'mech. His head hurt, he had a sense of vertigo, and he felt sick, but his vision started to clear. His 'mech was missing part of the foot and the myomer was shredded, and hanging loosely between the twisted and bent pieces that remained of the leg's internal structure.

He gingerly pushed his 'mech forward and used his good leg to get back into a standing position. He locked the ruined leg's knee. He carefully tested the leg to see if they could handle weight. The Griffin slumped forward but the leg didn't collapse. His head still hurt and he felt like the 'mech was going to fall again, but his instruments told him he was mostly level and stable.

All three tanks were destroyed, and laying in smoking pieces around him. He limped forward and tried to focus on his scanners. He could see Anastasia, Tatyana, and APC on the other side of the hill.

"Harold, are you alright?" Anastasia asked. He could see her Valkyrie's head just over the treetops.

"I think I have a concussion." Hap said. He hadn't realized it until she asked.

"Are your jump jets still operational?" She asked calmly.

Hap focused on his status monitor. All weapons, and jump jets were operational. "Yes."

"Why don't you try to jump over the hill to us?" Anastasia said.

Hap couldn't believe how obvious that was. Maybe he was hurt worse than he knew. Hap checked everything again and activated his jump jets. His mech lifted off easily, but he kept his eyes on his instruments because he didn't feel he could trust himself to keep the 'mech level. Just before it landed he tried to feather the jets, but he still landed heavily in the trees, and had to steady his 'mech.

"'Mech looks like givno, Haphazard." Taytana said as she moved in front of him. "You get to the base?"

"I'm not sure what geev-no is, but I'm guessing it's not great."

"Is James' favorite word." Tatyana paused, "Is shit. James tell you 'Griffin looks like shit'."

"Thanks." Hap said, "I can probably get myself back, but I got plenty of missiles, if you ladies want to spot for me I can still help out." Hap wasn't sure if he could get his 'mech home, and he didn't want to leave the battle while he could still fight. "All tanks destroyed, Rangers I think you're clear to go."

"Negative." Kelly's voice came across the radio. "Farrah is on the run and headed in your direction. He's pulling out with a lance worth of heavy and assaults, do not engage."

"How long till they get back to the drop ship?" Brendan asked

"They're movin' pretty quick." Kitty said. "Looks to be five minutes."

"We need fourteen minutes to secure the command deck, plus more to clear and seal the ship." Brendan said. "The crew alone might surrender, but their commander would rally them. It's too risky."

"Concur." Kelly said, "Which is why I'm tellin' ye to withdraw."

"What happened to our artillery?" Hap asked.

"Ran out of ammo." Kitty replied.

"We'll buy 'em more for next time." Kelly sounded annoyed.

"Ops, this is Coyote 2, Coyote Actual's 'mech has sustained significant damage to the left leg and cockpit. He can move, but requires special tech support and medical teams on stand-by, over."

"I don't think-" Hap started to say.

"Acknowledge Coyote 2." John said. Hap was annoyed. He was starting to feel better, on the other hand, he knew a hit to the cockpit would require a mandatory physical exam before he could get back into a 'mech. Maybe it was for the best just to let the docs look him over.

The APC started down the forest trail and Tatyana followed after him. Anastasia waited next to Hap. He hesitantly fired his jump jets and tried again to give a little burst just before hitting the ground to try to make the landing softer. After the third or fourth jump he was starting to get better at gently landing. Anastasia stayed close as they worked their way back to the star port.

For Hap it was a long and harrowing trip, and he felt exhausted by the time he saw the 'mech bay. As they traveled the damage reports came in. David's Valkyrie had lost both its legs and he was unconscious. Mag's had taken a heavy blow to the center torso and lost her SRM quad rack, and two of her medium lasers. Joker's 'mech lost an arm, and Grizzly's Wolverine had lost its Autocannon. Hap wasn't mentally able to calculate if Tatyana had been correct in her 30% loss of capability estimate, but he was glad they had only lost one mech, and only one Mechwarrior was seriously injured, well one plus him..

As Hap approached the 'mech bay he could see Fletch's Cyclops and Tomax's Awesome. "Hap, your Griffin looks like shit, what the hell happened?" Fletch said over the radio.

"Didn't I tell you to stomp on that Schrek tank?" Tomax asked, "I'm pretty sure I did."

"I was going to, but I got distracted by the hovertanks with AC 20s." Hap said

"Well damn man, next time you need to stay focused." Fletch replied

"Yeah you could have been killed, and then you would have really pissed me off." Tomax said, "And you don't want to piss me off."

"Acknowledge" Hap said his headache was getting worse. He was now in the 'no jump' zone and had to limp his 'mech into the 'mech bay. There was also a large aero fighter parked near the bay and he had to be careful not to step on it. The adrenaline or post injury endorphins were starting to wear off and he was beginning to feel sick and exhausted.

"Hap, proceed to the 'Mech bay. The techs are prepping the cranes. Follow their signals." John said

As Hap entered the bay one of the techs on the ground floor crossed his arms signaling him to stop. He balanced his 'mech on one leg as they lowered a crosswalk gantry and techs began to attach his mech to the cranes that were built into the ceiling. Hap felt his mech raise slightly off the ground. The tech signaled Hap to take his hands off the controls. Hap raised his hands, and the gantry was lifted. Once it was clear the cranes moved the Griffin across the bay to his stall.

Hap felt his mech lowered till it rested on its foot. Hap started his shutdown procedures as Mike approached. He looked more annoyed than usual. Mike reached down to open the combat lock but it was fused from the PPC hit. Hap reached for the release on his side but the bar came off in his hand.

Mike shook his head, and Hap saw him mouth, "Well of course." He rolled over his tool box and pulled out a torch and welding goggles. He directed Hap to look away as he lit the torch. Hap turned his head as best he could and shut his eyes as Mike cut through the lock. Hap could feel the heat from the torch.

When he heard the dull metal 'thunk' of the locking mechanism falling away Hap turned back to see Anastasia and the female doctor standing next to Mike. The Doctor's name was Leslie Morgan, her husband, Jackson, was probably with David. Behind Leslie was a teenager with a clipboard.

"Take off your Neurohelmet, and state your name." Leslie said as Mike and Hap raised the cockpit.

"Harold Calahad." Hap said as he pulled off his helmet.

"Your mech was struck in the cockpit, and fell, is that correct?" Leslie was all business.

"Yeah?" Hap said questioningly, that sounded right.

"Look at me." Leslie ordered as she peered into Hap's eyes. Then held up one finger. "How many?"

"One." He struggled again to focus as she touched his nose, then pulled her finger back.

"Follow it, but don't move your head." She said. Hap followed her finger as she asked, "How do you feel?"

"Bad headache, sick, and I've had a couple waves of vertigo. Saw double for a while."

Leslie turned to look at the teen and make sure she was writing all that down. The doctor turned back to look at Hap "You likely have a minor concussion, but I need to run some tests on you." Leslie told him. She turned to people behind her, "Help him out of his 'mech and take him to the gurney."

Mike put his arm around Hap, and helped him out of the cockpit. As Hap tried to get his balance on the walkway Anastasia stepped forward to put her arm around his waist. Their height difference made it so he couldn't easily put his weight on her, but she did steady him. Together they walked to the lift.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 28 July 2020, 17:15:50
Chapter 36

"You know I honestly thought I might get laid tonight." Hap said quietly to Anastasia

"I thought so too," Anastasia said. "But I'd prefer if you didn't refer to our intimacy so flippantly." Anastasia was trying hard not to show how concerned she felt for Hap. She doubted he knew how close his 'mech had come to falling down on their way to the star port, nor that he was acting drunk.

"That's fair, but it's a shame I ruined it by nearly getting killed." Harold joked, trying to make her smile.

Anastasia smiled, trying to hide her fear, "You're not dead yet. You still have a chance."

"I have a chance? I like how you're doing your part to give me something to live for." Hap teased her.

They stopped at the gurney and Dr. Leslie and her teenage assistant caught up to them. Leslie pushed the wheel lock with her foot, "Get on there, and in spite of what you may have heard, a nap is the best cure for a concussion. If you feel like passing out, that's fine. I don't need you awake for the tests."

Hap took off his cooling vest and handed it Anastasia. As she took it, Hap stepped close to her, and gently raised her chin and kissed her on the lips. She hummed in surprise as she opened her mouth and responded to his kiss. Her heart was racing as he pulled her closer and their tongues probed each other's mouths. Anastasia basked in the feelings until she felt someone pushing them apart.

"I should have made it clear." Dr. Leslie said, "you need to not over exert yourself, so none of that."

Anastasia took half a step back. She couldn't believe the intense feelings she was experiencing. She knew from basic biology that her body was releasing a barrage of endorphins and hormones that were having a strong physical and even psychological effect on her. Anastasia hadn't expected a kiss could be this powerful. Her heart was racing and she felt dizzy and weak, but excited and uninhibited. It was worse than the whiskey from poker night. Hap was right to think he was going to get laid. Once Dr. Leslie is done with her tests, he still might.

The doctor pushed Hap down onto the stretcher, "Stay there, and lay still." She told him, "I won't think twice about giving you a sedative." She turned around to address Anastasia, "You need to go to ops, usually McFinnigan wants to revel in the glory of war and discuss, in great detail, every little violent action conducted. He refers to it as an after action report or some such nonsense."

"I'd prefer to stay with Harold and file reports later." Anastasia took a step toward the gurney.

"I'm politely telling you, that's not your choice." Leslie said firmly, "Go to ops now, visit him later."

Anastasia's heart raced as she watched Hap being wheeled away. She saw Hap raise his head and give her a thumbs-up. She wondered if that meant he was okay, or thinking the same thing she was.

"She's not codding ya." Patrick and as he and Fiona walked up beside Anastasia.

"What?" Anastasia asked as she watched Harold wondering when visiting hours were.

"She'll sedate a mechwarrior in a heartbeat." Patrick said, "She has a real low tolerance for what she calls, 'hot headed mechwarrior nonsense'. Hap was smart just to get on the trolley and not fight her."

"Take it from Patrick, he's been sedated a couple times." Fiona said as she kept walking

"Come on Professor, Doc Les told you it's time for the AAR, move your ass." Tomax said as he walked by.

"Yes, of course." Anastasia said as she fell in step with everyone else, but she still worried about Harold.

"Is it 'don't focus day' in Coyote lance?" Fletch asked, "I'm going to have to talk to Hap."

"Some AAR comments write themselves. 'Coyote lance needs more situational awareness'." Fiona said.

"Sure is real easy to talk shit when you're watching the fight from a couple kilometers away." Tomax said.

"You took down how many mech's today? A Hunchback you got double the tonnage on, and you had help? Who was 'sitting back'? I was preparing to shoot down some heavy aircraft." Fiona said

"Oh that reminds me, I'm thinkin' of gettin' drunk, takin' out the dragon, and stompin' on Apex's aero fighter jest on principal." Patrick said. "anyone care to join me?"

"You know we'll all have to pay for that if you do that, right?" Fiona said, "Let cousin Row-Row drag that terrible woman to court and stomp her face with laws and fines, it's simpler and more profitable."

As they walked between buildings they could see a pair of techs working on the Stuka. They were stripping the broken armor panels and preparing replacement pieces. "I thought most of our techs were picking through the salvage. Why the hell is that thing getting priority treatment?" Tomax asked

Fletch stopped to smoke and watch the techs, "I'm going to guess Kelly is playing 'the company store' game with the Golden Buzzard's CO. We fix the Stuka, and when she asks for it back she gets an outrageous bill for repairs, and an offer to buy it for significantly less than it's worth. This assumes her wingman joins us."

"Damn, I hate 'the company store' treatment, but after the shit she pulled, she deserves it. Tomax said.

The group of mercenaries climbed the stairs and walked into Ops. The After Action Review had already begun and Joker was explaining spotting 'mechs and vehicles as they were unloaded from the drop ship. Giggles was standing in the back trying not to be noticed. On the monitors were videos from the drone, and some of the 'mechs. Currently the drone video was showing the Immortal's off-loading. A large white board had been wheeled into the room and Kitty was taking notes on it.

"Aye, so ye were dismounted and laying on an antenna tower with yer 'mech hiding behind a hill. That sounds like a pretty good tactic, but ye mis-identified a hover tank." Kelly said.

Joker scratched behind his head nervously, "Yeah, I should probably work on my vehicle recognition."

"Aye. Sounds like it was a problem for the lot of us. Make a note Kitty, we need to ensure we're keeping up with vehicle, mech and aero fighter recognition guides. Keep 'em up-to-date, and review them." Kitty wrote the last thing he said on a dry-erase board, as Kelly asked, "Then what happened?"

Anastasia's mind drifted back to Harold. That kiss was amazing. As close and as intimate as they had been it surprised her that they had never kissed before, at least not like that. Kelly cleared his throat and everyone looked at Anastasia. "Ms. Vallois, I asked, why don't you tell us what happened next."

Anastasia forgot that without Harold she was the Coyote's lance leader. She looked at the monitor and guessed what happened next. "We detected the Immortal's recon lance screening. Joker jumped from his hiding place, which alerted them to our presence. They broke formation to engage us."

"That led to you fighting that lance, and then shortly after ye made a comment", Kelly pulled a small notebook out of his vest, "'We are meeting with catastrophic success'. What did ye mean by that?"

"We were able to quickly destroy the recon lance, which was our first objective." Anastasia glanced at the white board, Kitty had written the objectives on the whiteboard, with the responsible lance in parentheses next to the objective.

1 - Destroy jump capable 'mechs (Coyotes)
2 - Establish Murder bowl (Anvils supported by: Hammers, Dullahans, and Militia Artillery)
3 - Lure 'mechs into "murder bowl" (Coyotes)
4 - Recon- rendezvous with Robert's Rangers, escort to Drop Ship (Coyotes-, Robert's Rangers)
5 - Spot/Call fire for Golden Eagles to enable Rangers boarding drop ship (Coyotes-, Golden Eagles)
6 - Capture Drop Ship (Robert's Rangers)
7 - Close with and destroy all remaining Ahmed's Immortals (All forces)

"We were attempting the third objective." Anastasia continued, "to lure the remaining enemy 'mechs to the objective, we were successfully doing that, but we found ourselves…"

"In a damn hailstorm or LRMs." Joker said for her, "they just kept coming. That was catastrophic."

"Yes." Kelly said, "So what should ye have done?"

"Harold and I thought we should have attempted to draw the recon lance further away from the main force to prevent the constant indirect fire." Anastasia said, "Once the recon lance was defeated, we could have lured the other lances to the objective, or created hasty ambushes to defeat them in detail."

Kelly nodded, "Right. Defeat in detail, ye mean separating a unit's elements and engaging them piecemeal? That might have been better for us, Kitty make a note. However, to yer first point, if he had lured the recon lance too far away they may have detected the rest of the unit and spoiled the ambush."

"Noted, Sir. Thank you." Anastasia said respectfully.

"Yer not a cadet anymore, regurgitating doctrine, and being taught, 'the right way' to fight. Yer a mercenary, it's all about surviving and makin' money. Most o' the folks here will tell you there is no right way to fulfill a contract, jest some ways are better than others."

"And some ways will get you killed." Patrick added.

Kelly shrugged, "At the same time I value the reminders of what good military doctrine looks like." He looked at Patrick, "And professional decorum." Fletch looked like he was about to say something, but just shook his head as he pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his first aid kit.

As Kitty wrote, Kelly continued, "We completed the first two objectives. The recon lance was destroyed, the murder bowl was established, Fletch you want to explain what happened next."

Fletch shook out a cigarette, "We saw the Coyotes approaching, followed by the Immortal's Hunchback. You released the Coyotes, and once the Hunchback entered the engagement range of our long range weapons we destroyed it" As he spoke the drone's video showed the Coyotes splitting up, and the Hunchback being destroyed by a volley of LRMs and PPC bolts.

"We might have initiated the ambush early." Tomax said apologetically.

"No 'we' to it, that whole thing was initiated by your three PPCs. I just followed it up with LRMs so you didn't look like a jackass." Fletch said.

"Mother-" Tomax started to say, "You told me, to 'light him up'."

"I said, 'I bet you can't hit him from there.'" Fletch corrected him, "But you did, so here's the C-bills I owe you." Fletch passed him a folded c-bill note.

Kelly shook his head, "Make a note, 'Initiate ambushes when all enemies are in the kill zone, and keep gambling too a minimum during combat operations."

As Kitty wrote Anastasia's mind wondered back to Harold, wondering if he was okay. Minor concussions happened to even the best of mechwarriors, but it was little consolation when it was someone you cared about.

Anastasia tried to focus again as Grizzly recounted his lance's actions, "We tried to outflank the Immortal's and push them in the Murder bowl. I could see the Orion and the Thunderbolt were just entering it, but the Trebuchet, Archer, BattleMaster and Banshee were hanging back. I figured the Archer was most dangerous, so I told David to find it, and call artillery on it."

"Kitty, were we able to get anyone from the militia to join us here?" Kelly asked as he looked around.

"Ah, no. They were doing their own post action review, and they were wantin' on our reports on their accuracy." Kitty said. "I did let them know it left a little somethin' to be desired."

"Aye, and did you tell them next time we're going to need them to have more than ten rounds of artillery on hand?" Kelly asked, barely hiding his frustration, "Actually tell them we'll replace what we used, and buy them extra. I know militias don't always get all the funding they need."

Kelly knocked the bowl of his pipe into his hand, "Crow, perhaps you can tell us what the Hammers were doing while the Dullahan's were attempting to flank the Immortals and call artillery."

"Yeah, so we saw Hap and Anastasia- Hey how's Hap doing?"

"Doctor Morgan suspects he has a minor concussion, and is running tests on him." Anastasia said.

Crow gave a dismissive wave, "We all get those minor concussions, they don't cause any permanent damage. At least I've never noticed any difference from one to the next." A few mechwarriors laughed.

Anastasia tried not to let her emotions show, but nothing Crow said was funny or reassuring to her. Kelly seemed to sense her mood, "Crow, lad, back to the AAR. What were Hammers doing?" Kelly asked

"Coyote 1 and 2 moved to resupply, and we moved up as you called for fire on the Orion." Crow said.

As he spoke Anastasia watched the drone video. The Orion and the Thunderbolt were moving into "the murder bowl" together. There were forests on either side of the road and the two 'mechs used the cover to bound and suppress as they advanced. It looked like a textbook maneuver. The Orion shot at Kelly and the drone slewed it's camera to focus on the Hammer lance as they launched a barrage of missiles.

In the upper corner of the frame Anastasia could see her and Harold's 'mechs reloading missiles. She remembered thinking that his Griffin's armor had taken a significant amount of damage, and didn't look like he could take much more abuse. She also knew Harold wasn't the sort of man that would leave the field just because his 'mech was on the verge of destruction. Even with a concussion and a crippled 'mech he still chose to fight. She admired that just as much as it terrified her.

Anastasia remembered her mother telling her, "Sometimes, my darling, you'll find the galaxy is filled with two types of people. Victims who are always asking 'how have I been wronged, and who did it?', and volunteers that are always thinking, 'if someone is going to get hurt, let it be me.'." Harold was a volunteer. She saw it when he stepped between the APCs and the tanks. Honestly she saw it regularly, with him putting up with her nonsense, to his patience with Joker and Mags. The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to go find him.

Anastasia tried to focus again and watch the video as a second volley of missiles slammed into the Orion. The first salvo had savaged the 'mech's left side, and breached the center torso. The second barrage compromised the fusion reactor's shielding. The drone shifted views as the Orion's reactor went critical. By now the BattleMaster had arrived at the pass and was exchanging PPC shots with Tomax as the Thunderbolt chose to back out of the pass. The Trebuchet and the Archer were providing fire support but it was just a meager nuisance compared to the McFinnigan's fire support.

Grizzly explained how the combined Dullahan and Coyote lance were harassing the Banshee, Trebuchet and Archer. After trading a few salvos with Grizzly's Wolverine, and destroying its primary weapon system, the Banshee turned its attention to the lighter 'mechs. David was standing on the side of a mountain calling artillery when the Banshee pilot used his PPCs and lasers to melt the Valkyrie's legs off. This was when the Immortals decided to retreat.

Grizzly found himself between the Banshee and BattleMaster which forced him to use his jump jets to leap over a mountain, and coordinate his team to maintain contact with the Immortals so they could call indirect fire and keep up the pressure. The ambush devolved into a running gun fight.

The Militia reported they were down to their last two rounds of artillery. This forced the mixed lance to save the rounds until they could pin down the Immortals and make them count, while calling Hammer lance forward. Every time one of the McFinnigan 'mechs came into view the BattleMaster or Banshee nearly crippled it. Mags was the first to have to disengage after she lost an arm and her center torso was nearly cored. Joker lost an arm but he was able to keep in the fight. Grizzly's armor was holding, but he ran out of SRMs. He disengaged when Crow came to assist.

Kelly looked at Giggles, "Ms. Berlin, perhaps ye can tell us about yer part of the operation."

"First of all I have to say I'm really sorry. I could try to explain that I was following orders, and had to make a split second decision, but when I was pulling up I knew I had done the wrong thing."

Kelly waved his pipe dismissively, "I think after a few pints we'll all agree it's water under the bridge."

Giggles looked at Kelly questioning, "Before I continue, I have to know, are you really offering me a job? I feel I have to tell you I don't own that Stuka. So I'm just a fighter pilot with no fighter."

Rowyena cheerily said, "Oh I have a contract right here for a fighter/drop ship pilot," then her eyes narrowed and her voice darkened, "and Ms. Edwards is about to be drug before the MRB and the local magistrate, to discuss breach of contract, negotiating with the enemy during hostilities, conspiring to attack the local militia. If she's lucky, we may settle out of court and we'll keep the Stuka."

"And if she's unlucky the Golden Buzzards will be absorbed into Rowyena's Rust Puppies." Fletch added.

"Iron Wolfhounds, Mr. Fletcher." Rowyena reminded him, "And that would be very unlucky for me. I'd have to fire that nasty woman, pay her a severance, and transfer the personnel and equipment to dad's company. I need to maintain the Wolfhounds as a shell company, and watch my tax liability. I don't need equipment and manpower for that."

McFinnigan eyes twinkled as he looked at his daughter, "Would ye say, you'd be meeting with catastrophic success?"

"Anything to do with Robyn Edwards ends in catastrophe." Giggles noted before explaining how Farrah had seen the pair of the aero fighters and assumed they were going to attack him. Edwards was unhappy with the compensation she had bargained for, the idea of possibly doubling or tripling her pay out appealed to her. Giggles wasn't happy with betraying their client, so disengaging appealed to her.

As Giggles spoke Anastasia's mind drifted back to Harold and the kiss, and wondering if he was okay. She focused long enough to explain the last part of the battle where she called for artillery and Hap and Tatyana destroyed the tanks. The AAR's conclusion was a blur, and afterwards she talked to Kitty to learn that the doctors were using the drop ship's medical bay. Most of the McFinnigan's were going to a bar to celebrate, but Anastasia chose to visit Harold.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 09 August 2020, 17:55:25
Chapter 37

Joker and Mags followed the crowd out of Ops. Everyone seemed generally happy, and several people talked about going to a bar called Charlie's that was just outside the secure area of the starport. As Joker and Mags got outside they watched Anastasia walk toward the Tir a nOg.

Joker felt a tinge of guilt. "We should probably go and see how Hap is doing too."

Mags nodded, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's nothing, but if it were me, I'd be angry if no one visited."

Joker and Mags followed Anastasia as she walked across the airfield. They had to walk briskly but couldn't close the distance with Anastasia. It always surprised Joker at how Anastasia had this grace and dignity about her, it was something that usually made him want to tease her, especially moments like this where Joker knew she wanted to be running and she was still walking, albeit very quickly.

Joker thought about trying to catch up to Anastasia, but she would probably be in a no-nonsense mood, so he decided just to maintain the distance. Mags called out to her, but it was windy on the air field, and Anastasia didn't respond. Before Mags could try again, Joker held out his hand, "Let's let her go ahead, I like to try and catch Hap and the ice princess acting lovey-dovey."

Mags raised an eyebrow, "Why? I know you're a pervert, but is there some other reason?"

"Yeah, see normally Anastasia is formal and proper, but if you can catch her and Hap alone she's almost a completely different person. It's fun to see her like that, and I keep hoping to find out that she is secretly one of those daughters of a noble that is actually a nymphomaniac."

Mags shook her head, "She is more like a lecture-maniac, like she just wants to lecture all of us."

Joker laughed, "I'm going to tell her you said that."

Mags shrugged, "Anastasia and I don't have a problem, you tell her whatever you like. Just because she doesn't like everyone seeing her and Jefe being close, doesn't mean she is a different person. We should show Jefe and her respect, and let them be them."

"You're no fun." Joker said as they continued to walk. Joker remembered watching holos with Mags last night. The previous night seemed like a lifetime ago. As they watched she had rested her head on his shoulder. He put his arm across her shoulders and let his hand rest on her breast. She didn't seem to mind. Mags might talk a lot of shit, but Joker was pretty sure she liked him, and he knew he liked her.

"So you're saying 'Let them be them and us be us'?" Joker asked.

Mags shrugged as they walked up the ramp to the man-door. Joker touched his ID card to the keypad and put in his code. They passed through a few more security doors before coming to the long staircase that ran from the bottom deck all the way to the command bridge. They started walking up the stairs.

"So after we go and celebrate, you want to go do something else." Joker said.

"What do you have in mind?" Mags asked.

"Maybe we could check out a strip club, or something" Joker tried to sound nonchalant.

"If I wanted to see naked women, I'd look in the mirror." Mags replied, "Why do you want to see that?"

"I like to look at naked women, just like you like to look at naked men."

"I don't like naked men" Mags sounded annoyed.

"But you have those naked men posters in your wall locker, or were those just to annoy Anastasia?"

Mags took a long time to answer, "Something like that."

Joker and Mags continued to climb the stairs in silence. As they neared the top of the stairs Mags looked at Joker, "You know, not everything is about Anastasia."

"Yeah, sure." Joker said as they came to the top of the steps. Before Joker could say anything more they found Anastasia and Dr. Leslie Morgan arguing in front of the Med Bay doors.

"No." Dr. Leslie said definitively, "Mr. Calahad and Mr. Lee are both resting and that is exactly what they need right now." She glanced over Anastasia's shoulder, "You, and your friends may visit tomorrow."

Anastasia started to protest, but the doctor just shook her head. "Go, or I'll have the commander get involved." Joker wasn't sure what that would entail, but he didn't like the sounds of it.

"Come on Anastasia, we'll come back, and check on Hap in the morning. He'll understand." Mags said.

All three were quiet as the trio descended the stairs. Joker could sense that Anastasia was annoyed, "What's wrong Anastasia? Are you mad because you were never told 'no' when you were growing up?"

Anastasia shook her head, "I was told 'no' as much as any child, Joker."

"Sure you were. I was told, 'no you can't have candy because we barely have enough money for rent', while you were told, what? 'No Anastasia you can't have another pony'." Joker said.

"The scale and expense may have been different some days, but, if you must know, the thing I was often denied was when I asked my parents to spend more time with me." Anastasia said. Joker hated when she did that. She would find some way to make his joke come across as cruel.

"Anastasia, you want to come to the bar with us now?" Mags asked.

Anastasia shrugged, "I don't know. I'm still worried about ComStar. I don't want to be alone, but I feel leaving the Company area is dangerous, and being alone is also frightening. Perhaps I'll just go to Ops."

Mags shook her head, "We'll go to the bar together. It'll be fine. Charlie's is so close we can walk there."

"Will you and Joker walk me home later?" Anastasia asked

Mags shrugged. They said little as they returned to the barracks, quickly showered, and changed clothes. After a short walk they were at Charley's and found it already filled with a large raucous crowd of the McFinnigan mercenary company. They were greeted by nods and cheers as they entered.

As they started for the bar Mike approached them, "Anastasia, you're Hap's girl right? How's he doing?"

Anastasia nodded, "Yes, I'm 'Hap's girl'. Dr. Morgan said he needed rest, and wouldn't let me see him. "

"Sounds like he'll be fine." Mike said. Joker could tell that Mike had already had several beers and was slightly drunk. "See Pete over there?" Mike pointed to one of the tech's playing pool. His right arm had extensive surgical scars and the muscles looked deformed, "He was trying to fix the feed mechanism on an Enforcer's Autocannon when the elbow actuator-lock got released. He was up to his shoulder in the mech's elbow, and got his arm mangled when the arm dropped."

Mike led the trio to the bar. "We thought for sure it would have to get amputated, but both Docs, Leslie and her husband, Jack, worked on his arm for what must have been a whole day. They're damn good, like me with a 'mech. So if they say a guy is going to be fine, he'll be fine."

Mike slammed his hand on the bar, "I got three more thirsty mechwarriors bar keep." He shouted, "Three beers-"

"May I have a red wine?" Anastasia asked.

"Two beers and a red wine." Mike corrected. "You tell Hap I'll have his Griffin straightened out by the time the Docs clear him to operate a 'mech. We found the other part of his foot actuator and it won't take much to weld it all back together and hammer the endo steel straight."

"Okay" Anastasia said uncertainly, "I'll let him know."

Mike finished his beer and ordered another, "Good. Hap is good shit. Only mechwarrior I'd trust to fix his own mech, of course I do a better job, but he knows how to turn a wrench, and I respect that."

"Very good." Anastasia said as she took her wine. "That will mean a lot to him, coming from you."

"Now who's going soft?" Mike laughed to himself as he touched his glass to each mechwarrior and then drank. Before Anastasia could answer he went over to join the other techs at the pool table.

Joker spied an empty booth in the corner. He put his hand on Mags' back and gave her a gentle push toward the booth. Anastasia followed. They passed the booth with the company's leadership. Roweyna and Kelly were sitting next to each other. Roweyna's head was on her father's shoulder and both father and daughter had the same depressed look.

Fletch was trying to cheer them up, "Alright so we didn't secure the drop ship, but we defended the star port, and we have a small fortune in salvage, plus we rounded up enough of the immortals to either ransom back to their Commander or just hand over to the local milita."

"We'll have to deal with that man again." McFinnigan said as he took a drink of his pint.

Rowyena mimicked her father, "I still have to deal with that horrible woman."

They sat down at their booth. As Joker slid into the seat to get closer to Mag. Giggles walked up to their table, "Hello, I don't think we met, I'm Katherine Berlin, I think I owe you guys an apology. May I sit?"

Anastasia slid over to make room as Giggles sat down. Joker flashed her a sly smile, "Oh we listened to you on the guard channel. You're Giggles."

"And so I am." Giggles sipped her beer, "I heard that after we broke contact with the drop shuttle your lancemate got clobbered by a trio of tanks as he covered everyone's retreat. I'm sorry for that."

"That's not exactly what happened." Anastasia said, "May I call you Katherine?"

"I prefer Kate." Kate seemed to brighten up to Anastasia.

"Kate, my name is Anastasia. It's a pleasure to meet you." The women exchanged a hand shake, "You should know those tanks had to be neutralized one way or another. I don't believe that outcome was your fault. We may have been distracted by the radio discussion, but you can't be blamed for that."

"Thank you Anastasia." Kate seemed to sit a little taller, and looked happier, "I'm new to this unit, and honestly new to being a mercenary. Is it just me or is this whole company a little chaotic, even for mercenaries?" As she spoke Fiona was performing a traditional Irish dance on a table surrounded by a crowd with a violinist and a man with a large drum and teenager playing a flute.

"This is actually tame for us." Mags asked looking around, "what does normal look like?"

Anastasia sipped her wine, "The XO referred to this company as an 'armored circus'."

Kate snorted. "So this is my life now?" She looked around again, "An armored circus. It could be worse."

Kate and Anastasia started talking as Joker looked Kate over. She was a few years older, probably in her mid-twenties. She was wearing a nice blouse and black slacks. Her clothes were a little nicer than most of the company, but not out of place. Joker noticed her nose had been broken, and set with some skill, but the bridge had a certain "squared-off" look. She was still an attractive woman Joker supposed. He took a long drink and stole a glance down Mag's plunging neckline, and decided he was better off with what he had.

Kate seemed to enjoy talking to Anastasia. She had gone to NAIS like Anastasia, but she had been a couple years ahead of her. They talked about a few of the instructors they had in common. Joker never had much of a relationship with any of his teachers or instructors, the conversation was strange to him.

Joker put his arm around Mags, and pulled her close and whispered into her ear, "can you believe it? It's like we have two of them now."

Mags held up her empty pint glass, "Go get me another beer."

Joker chugged his beer and grabbed Mag's glass as he stood up thinking that the last thing he needed was two humorless women. Mags might give him shit, but Joker was pretty sure they'd be sleeping together soon, so he didn't mind her attitude. He walked past Dillon and Patrick playing pool and was surprised as Dillon sunk four balls on the break. Joker set his empty glasses on the bar and ordered two beers as Grizzly and Rolph stepped to either side of him. "Did you get to see David?" Grizzly asked.

"No. The Lady Doc wouldn't let us see him or Hap, but I hear he's in good hands."

"That sounds like Doc Leslie." Rolph said, "If there was bad news we'd probably already know."

Joker nodded, "I was with Grizzly there in the shit, how was the fight from your cockpit?"

"Now don't you start. We all got our mission, based on our 'mechs." Rolph sounded defensive.

"I'm not trying to start shit, but there I was harassing the Archer, Trebuchet and Banshee. I thought things were under control, but suddenly the Banshee maimed Grizzlies mech, blasted the legs out from under David, and Mags lost half her 'mech. It got me thinking, I need a safer way to get paid."

"Was that before or after the Thunderbolt blasted off your left arm?" Grizzly asked

Joker half-laughed, "About that time, actually."

"Well if I'm going to be honest, I feel a little guilty. For me I was mostly staring at my targeting computer and selecting whatever mark Crow or Commander McFinnigan told me to target. It was sorta boring."

"Boring sounds good when you're outnumbered, and seeing your friends go down." Joker said.

"You weren't outnumbered, we just had trouble keeping the fire on those guys when they retreated."

Kate walked up, "Hey, you two, Rolph and Grizzly, right? Mags said you were the strongest guys in the company. I need to go get my stuff, and it would be nice if I had two big men to help out."

"Mags said that about us?" Grizzly sounded surprised.

Rolph looked at Grizzly and shook his head, "She probably said the dumbest, what's in it for us?"

"Air support," Kate answered. "Or more accurately the gratitude of your personal air support."

"Yeah air support is good, or it would be in a fight, but right now, I could really use a drink." Rolph said.

"I'll get the next round." Kate said.

"Well moving stuff is thirsty work." Grizzly said, "Might need more than just a round."

"Tell you what, how about I buy you a round now. We go grab my stuff, it's just a few duffle bags worth of crap, and I'll buy you both dinner. Really I just need you to keep Robyn from starting shit."

The men finished their beers as Kate ordered them a second round. Joker returned to Anastasia and Mags. Anastasia looked relaxed and Mags smiled as he approached. Joker sat next to Mags, "See Anastasia, this is nice, and you were worried some ComStar hit man would be waiting for you."

Anastasia looked around nervously. "I'm not exactly sure there isn't one here."

"You worry too much." Joker said, as a man with two glasses of wine came up to them and set one of the glasses in front of Anastasia. "Hey beautiful, why don't you come drink with my friends and I?"

Anastasia didn't recognize this man, she glanced over her shoulder and saw two other strangers at the bar watching her. One raised his glass, and the other gave her a nod and blew a kiss. These couldn't be hit men, but Anastasia wanted nothing to do with them. She shook her head, "I'd rather not."

"Then I'll join you and your friends." The man forcefully sat down next to Anastasia.

"I think you need to go." Anastasia moved to keep him from putting his arm over her shoulder.

"Just drink the wine and don't be a bitch." He told Anastasia sternly.

"Go back to your friends." Joker said, "She's not interested, and you don't want trouble. You're in a bar full of her friends and we're all dangerous mercenaries. You don't want to start any shit."

The man shrugged, and got up. Before he left he told Anastasia, "enjoy the wine."

Anastasia pushed the wine away from her,"I most certainly will not 'enjoy' that wine."

Joker shrugged, "That guy was an ass, but I think you're overreacting." He took the glass and downed the wine in one quick gulp. He put the glass down hard on the table, and grinned at Anastasia. His vision blurred and he saw two very concerned Anastasias. Everything went dark as his head hit the table.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 on 09 August 2020, 17:55:55
Chapter 38
Monhegan
November 3029

Hap woke up as someone opened the blinds in the recovery room. He sat up and had to uncomfortably move around and make sure he didn't tangle up any of the cables for the monitoring equipment and the IV tube that was in his elbow. Dr. Morgan was talking quietly to David Lee who seemed a little groggy but able to answer her questions. From what Hap could tell there wasn't anything serious with David.

Dr. Morgan walked up to Hap. She had a tablet computer. Before Hap could speak she held up one finger, as she finished a few notes, and then changed files. "How are you this morning Mr. Calahad?"

"Good. Actually great. I feel well rested, and my headache is gone. No blurry vision. Think I'm ready to go back on duty." Hap told her.

"Nice try." Dr. Morgan replied as she made a note on the tablet. She looked at him closely then pulled out a small flashlight and shined it in his eyes. She had him follow the light, then asked him a series of questions as she made notes. "Alright Mr. Calahad, you are looking better, but you still have two more days of observation, and probably another week before I let you back in a 'mech."

"And more if I cause trouble?" Hap said with a boyish grin.

Dr. Morgan shook her head, but gave him a wry smile, "You're not going to get off early with good behavior, but I'm noting here you're at least smarter than your peers." Dr. Morgan finished her notes, and mentioned she'd send up some breakfast as she left the room.

Hap looked over at David. "How are you doing? I heard you're 'mech got shot out from under you."

"Yeah." David said quietly, "I was calling down fire on the Archer, but either I was doing it wrong, or the militia kept missing the grid I was calling."

"Yeah it sounds like there was something wrong with how they were calculating the firing solution. Anastasia tried to hit the tanks that took me down and I think her call for fire was off too."

"If Anastasia's call missed then it was definitely them." David said, "That makes me feel better."

"Well it's normal to have to adjust fire on a target, but Anastasia tends to do everything perfect, and she has that advanced sensor package. It definitely had to be the militia with the problem."

"Someone told me Anastasia had really good sensors in her Valkyrie. I think it was Joker. Has she ever mentioned to you where she got them?"

"It is something her dad's company made, or is going to make. She had a name for it." Hap had to think for a moment, "It was triple 'a' sensors, Agile Adaptive something. You'll have to ask her. I can tell you her 'mech can detect things no one else's mech can. I think her whole sensor comms and tracking suite is something her Dad designed."

"She's beautiful, smart, and her dad owns a business making 'mech parts. You're so lucky. How do I find a girl like that?" David asked.

"I don't know brother, I just know I'm lucky, and Anastasia is unique in a lot of ways, but I'm the last guy you want to give you advice on how to find women." Hap had sensed David was infatuated with Anastasia, and figured it would be best to change subjects, "So you were adjusting fire on the Archer, then what happened?"

"Oh yeah. I couldn't get the artillery to really hit the Archer, and he kept moving. I thought Grizzly and Mags had the Banshee boxed in. Joker was trying to make the Banshee overheat but periodically he'd go at the Archer or Trebuchet. I heard Grizzly say he'd lost his autocannon and next thing I know my 'mech shook and I was falling. I also think I heard every alarm the computer had. After that I can't remember."

"Yeah that's sort of what happened to me." Hap said. "My armor had been peppered with missiles from the first phase of the operation, so I'm not sure how badly it was when I was shot by a tank with an AC 20 and the Schrek PPC gave me all three barrels. I took one in the cockpit, one in the leg and I think I heard every alarm too before falling down."

"Whoa, what happened next?"

"I'm not exactly sure, but I think Anastasia and Tatyana finished off the other hover tank, and when I came to the Schrek was pretty badly damaged. Maybe the artillery did hit it. I don't know. There was black smoke pouring out the back. I took it out and then had to hop back home with jump jets."

"That sounds like a long trip home. After my 'mech fell over I don't remember much. I think the techs pulled me out my 'mech. I vaguely remember Doctor Jack talking to me, but it's all blurry."

Dillon, Joker, Mags, and Anastasia entered the room. Anastasia and Dillon both had trays of food. Anastasia smiled warmly as she saw Hap was awake and looking lucid. Hap couldn't help but smile as well. She set the tray on a table with wheels and rolled it over to Hap. "How are you feeling?" She asked.

"I'm good, and it's good to see you." Hap looked over the plate of scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit. He didn't realize how hungry he was until he saw and smelled the food.

"I'm good too." David said

Dillon followed Anastasia's lead and put food on a rolling table and rolled it over to David. "Good. I'll tell everyone. We had sausages, but Doc Leslie said you have to have mild food. So you don't get sausage."

"Thanks big D." David said. Hap could sense David was hoping to catch some of Anastasia's attention. Anastasia moved aside Hap's blankets and sat on the side of his bed so she could take off her sandals.

Hap looked over at Mags and Joker. Mag's hand and wrist had a large bandage, and Joker had a cut on his forehead. "How did the fight go for you guys?"

"Our 'mechs need some repairs, but nothing as bad as you." Mags said.

"Is your arm okay?" Hap asked

Mags looked confused and then looked at her arm, "oh yeah, this is from a bar fight last night."

Hap's eyes got wide and he put his fork down, "Damn it! Am I about to get a lecture from Fletch or Tomax, about how I need to keep my lance from destroying the town they're supposed to protect?"

"Probably not." Anastasia moved wires to get closer to Hap, "They were part of the fight too. One of the locals slipped Joker a drink laced with some type of sedative. When he passed out Mags jumped out of our booth and broke her glass on the back of the head of the man that had brought us the drink."

"That's not what happened." Joker started to protest

Mags nodded and smiled widely, "Oh yes! When his amigos tried to break for the door Tomax and one of those Rangers grabbed them."

"They didn't give me-" Joker tried to explain

"When she says, 'grabbed them', she means Tomax punched one of them so skillfully he was instantly unconscious, and the member of the rangers put the other man in a hold that nearly dislocated his arm from his shoulder. Meanwhile Fletch had to pull Mag's off the first man."

"So we didn't destroy a bar, we just put three locals in the hospital. That doesn't sound so bad, or did the local cops also show up?"

"Alright, first of all-" Joker was getting louder, but Anastasia ignored him.

"No. Commander McFinnigan had a long talk with those 'gentlemen' and basically told them if he saw them around again they'd better be on their best behavior or he'd personally deal with them in a fashion he assured them would be life altering." Anastasia said.

"I'm surprised how the Commander takes a personal concern for all of us, even Joker." Hap said.

"The drink wasn't for me, it was for Anastasia." Joker yelled.

"Why'd you drink it then?" Dillon asked, "you shouldn't drink other people's drinks."

"I was trying to show Anastasia that she was overreacting." Joker yelled, then took a deep breath, "Sorry Dillon, I shouldn't yell at you, you have manners." He looked accusingly at Anastasia.

Anastasia gave Joker a smug look as she got more comfortable next to Hap. "You tried to prove me wrong and found yourself unconscious. Let that be a lesson to you."

"You thought there was some ComStar assassin going to jump out from under a table and murder you, that was what I was trying to prove you were wrong about. Let that be a lesson to you."

"There could well have been, but you made such a scene, and then Mags and I had to nearly drag you back to the barracks and it likely scared them off"

"Then you're welcome." Joker snapped.

Hap looked at Anastasia, "Some locals tried to give you a laced drink?"

"Commander McFinnigan spoke to the bar owner, it seemed he was suspicious of them, but could never prove they were actually drugging women. He said he had confronted them but it was no good, and local law enforcement wasn't helpful. The Commander has at least scared them off." Anastasia said.

There was a moment of silence and Dillon showed a holo disk carrier to David "Rolph gave me his Immortal Warrior holos to lend you."

David nodded, "Yeah I could go for some Immortal Warrior. The doc won't let us go anywhere anyways."

As Dillon started to set up the holoscreen for watching the movies. Joker said, "Mags and I are going to go. We don't have a patrol today, but we need to help the techs get our 'mechs fully mission capable."

Anastasia snuggled up to Hap, and got comfortable next to him under the blankets, "Since my 'mech is FMC, I'm on patrol at 1400 today, but I think I'll just stay here until it's time for me to get ready."

Dillon pulled a seat over to sit between Hap and David and the holo started. Hap hadn't seen an Immortal Warrior movie in a long time. He knew that a new one was made every year or so. There were dozens, and he wasn't sure if he had seen this one. He thought back to the arguments about Brock Armstrong and John Stallion and realized the Immortal Warrior was somehow in its own category. He glanced over at Anastasia to see if she was enjoying the movie, but she was napping.

When the teenage nurse came with lunch Hap woke up Anastasia and she excused herself to go and get ready for her patrol. Anastasia came back near dinner and brought Fletch, Tatyana, and Sophie with her. The Fletchers brought flowers for David, and a small stuffed dog for Hap. Sophie told him it was a "koy-votay" and tried to teach him to properly howl, but Hap could never quite do it to Sophie's satisfaction. After everyone left Anastasia attempted to stay the night but Dr. Morgan chased her off.

This set the precedence for their hospital stay. David and Hap would get visitors in the morning. The afternoons were spent watching holos or napping. After dinner they'd get more visitors, and Anastasia was there as much as she was permitted. The time dragged, but it wasn't unbearable, and most of the company visited them at least once.

David and Hap were released the morning of the fourth day. They were told to report to mechbay, and help out, but not push themselves. Dr. Morgan made it clear if they felt strange, light headed or any of their symptoms returned to immediately come back to the medical bay.

Hap spent the next few days replacing armor plates on his Griffin, performing some of the second level maintenance on his weapon systems, repainting, and staying out of Mike's way as he rebuilt the Griffin's leg. Hap mentioned to Mike that Anastasia had told him about what he said at the bar, but Mike replied that he was drunk and didn't remember any of that, but it sounded like bullshit.

Hap noted that Anastasia was starting to become paranoid and stir crazy. She generally didn't want to leave the company area because she feared a ComStar hit team would strike, but she was also bored of being cooped up. She would go on patrols in her 'mech, but the rest of her time was spent in the secure area of the star port. Hap found himself under the same self-imposed house arrest with her. He tried to remind her that she preferred to stay home and read, but she replied, "Sometimes you don't know what you want till you can't have it."

The next Monday Anastasia came to find Hap working in the mechbay. Mike, Hap, and a team of assistant techs were reattaching the Griffin's leg to the 'mech's main body and connecting all the various control struts, myomer bundles, circuits, and other parts of the 'mech's internal anatomy. She called out to Hap and after he finished bolting a balance struts into place he descended to the main deck.

"Yes my dear?" Hap said as he adjusted the climbing harness, he noticed she looked like she was dressed to go out on the town.

"Harold, I got a message that ComStar has received an HPG response from my Mother. We need to go to the ComStar office to view it." Anastasia said excitedly.

"How do you suggest we do that?" Hap asked, wondering if Anastasia had finally driven herself insane.

"We'll take a taxi, but first, you go and get cleaned up, put on something nice, and we'll make a day of it. I talked to Rolph and he agreed to fill in for my patrol today. This seems relatively simple to me."

"You're convinced a ComStar assassins will strike the moment you leave the company area, but you're going to just drop in to their head office because they claim to have something they know you want."

"Cody told us they won't do anything that can be even remotely traced back to them. I'm really the most safe in their offices. Now let's go, you need to change." Anastasia pulled Hap toward the entrance.

Hap stopped her, unhooked the cables, and undid the climbing harness. "Mike, I need to run an errand with Anastasia. Is it alright if I take a long and early lunch?"

Mike flipped up his welding mask, "Take all the time you want. We'll get more done without having to go back over your work." Before Hap could answer Mike put his mask back down and resumed welding.

Hap shook his head as he put the tools and harness away. "Well it looks like I'm free."

Anastasia pulled on Hap's arm, "Good! Let's go."

Hap quickly found himself jogging as Anastasia pulled him from the mechbay to the barracks. In record time she had "helped" him get cleaned up and changed and then nearly dragged him to the taxi. Hap had never seen her this excited about anything before. He wondered how much of it was her desire to hear from her mother, and how much was the reprieve from her self-imposed house arrest.

The taxi dropped them at the foot of the stone steps leading up to the ComStar office. Hap had a feeling of dread as he looked up the stairs and at the large and oppressive buildings. Last time the architecture made him feel intimidated, this time it was the people inside that troubled him.

"You know, now that we're here, I'm thinking this might have been a mistake." Anastasia said

"You want to go back to the barracks?" Hap asked.

"No. I want to hear and see my mother." Anastasia sighed, then looked determined, "There's no other way, let's go." She grabbed Hap's hand and together they marched up the stairs.

They found the long line as before and got in the back, after a few minutes one of the yellow robed acolytes approached them. "Lady Vallois, there is no need for you to wait in this line, by Blake's good will, if you'll follow me, we have a viewing room prepared for you."

Hap looked concerned as they left the line and followed the tech. Anastasia leaned her head and whispered, "This is normal, when you use a diplomatic account you sometimes get special treatment."

"Do they always recognize you on sight within minutes of showing up on premises?" Hap asked as the acolyte directed them to one of suites located along the wall of the great room.

"Well, no." Anastasia said then added, "but we did make a big impression last time, and they did contact our Ops center, so I was expected."

"I just hope this isn't a trap." Hap said as the Acolyte opened the door and motioned for them to enter.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth on 09 August 2020, 19:13:51
Nice cliffhanger there!
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: DOC_Agren on 09 August 2020, 21:58:33
Are they armed?
did anyone tell Joker or Mags where they were going?
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW on 28 August 2020, 09:17:36
*claps*  :D
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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...
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: worktroll 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: snakespinner on 26 September 2020, 20:41:22
A Goliath pretending to be a Vedette, suprise. :thumbsup:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Iron Grenadier 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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!
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: snakespinner 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:
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: ThePW 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...
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: Elmoth 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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.
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: PsylockeSmythe on 03 November 2020, 11:17:45
Nice update.  Can't wait for the next two chapters.

Psy
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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."
Title: Re: A Warrior's Family
Post by: HFC05 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.