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Author Topic: A Warrior's Family  (Read 31155 times)

PsylockeSmythe

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #270 on: 05 July 2022, 10:37:43 »
Great update and I can't wait for more.

Psy

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #271 on: 23 July 2022, 23:46:50 »
Chapter 85

St. Ives System
May 3030

Hap and Anastasia were on the bridge of the Phaidin. About a day and a half had passed since they had fought their way away out of the Jump point. They were now about halfway to St. Ives III. The crew had mostly recovered from the attempted hijacking and the desperate space combat that followed. Minor injuries had been addressed, and the most pressing repairs had been seen too. Normal operations had resumed as best they could.

Anastasia was currently in the pilot's seat on watch. Hawkins had worked out a watch schedule that was four hours on and eight hours off between Hawkins, Kate and Anastasia. Hawkins had determined Anastasia was smart enough and trained to the point she could keep the ship going in the right direction and would know when to come and find him or Kate. He didn't think she was ready to land the drop ship alone, but for intersystem movement she was fine. Kate and Hawkins would also come and go during their "off" time, so Anastasia was rarely alone for long.

Sarah generally followed Anastasia's watches and would ask her about the formal training in space operations that she had received at NAIS. Despite her current blindness, Sarah seemed optimistic about recovering her vision and being a Dropship pilot. Anastasia didn't mind sharing her knowledge, and did her best to teach her blind student.

Hap found himself shadowing Anastasia too. He'd man the comms station and help Sarah with anything she needed. Currently he was waiting for a call from the St. Ives military command. Yesterday he had called St. Ives Military, explained they had jumped in system, and were looking for work. To his surprise the Compact's representative asked very few questions about their story of a contract gone bad. They were given permission to proceed to the planet, and told they would contact them again as they got closer.

Hap was playing with Selene while he waited. He had been working with her on the basic sit, stay, come, shake type dog tricks. He had taken a tuna ration package to use as dog treats. Eventually Selene got bored and snatched the pouch from Hap and buried her nose in the retort package to get all the tuna. Hap was also bored and so he decided they were done. He had to take the pouch away from her once she licked it clean and started chewing on it. With the pouch gone she decided to get one of her favorite playthings, a half-meter length of rope.

The rope was knotted at both ends and Selene liked to play tug-of-war with it. She went and picked up the rope and brought it over to Hap. He took the free end and held on as she pulled. Hap pulled against her and tried to take the rope away from her for a few moments before letting go. She'd almost fall backward before she took a couple steps and violently shook the rope. She brought the rope back to Hap and after a few rounds took it over to Anastasia and put her head, rope, and all, on Anastasia's lap.

"Non bébé" Anastasia replied, "I must fly the ship."

Selene trotted over to Sarah and hit her leg with a knotted end of rope. Sarah had to grasp around to find the Coyote, but eventually she caught hold of the rope and played with the coyote till she decided to go back to Hap. As Hap reached for the rope Roweyna entered the bridge. She was dressed in a white blouse, a plaid skirt, and a gray cardigan with the McFinnigan and Sons logo embroidered on it. She seemed to be recovering well from everything she had endured.

Selene saw Roweyna and approached her with the rope. Roweyna regarded the young Coyote for a moment, "Does Mr. Hawkins know yer on the bridge?" As she spoke to Selene the coyote cocked her head but continued to wag her tail as she waited for Roweyna to try and take her rope.

"Mr. Hawkins knows." Anastasia answered, "He was very specific that he would tolerate Hap and Selene, but not Joker or Mags. He stated plainly that was the extent to which he'd allow, 'wild and untrained animals' on the bridge."

"Oh! So yer an untrained animal now, Hap."

"He actually said I had the makings of a third class gunner's mate." Hap said. "But the way he said it made it feel like being an untrained animal was better."

"Selene is not untrained." Anastasia said. "Selene, le lit."

Selene walked over to a mat in the corner and laid down. She sat for a few moments before she got distracted by an old bone she had been given a few weeks back. Roweyna watched as the Coyote chewed on her bone, but remained on her mat. "I've seen Mags and Joker working with yer coyote pup and never has she shown this level of obedience. Honestly, I'd consider her and Mags about equally likely to do as they were told."

"I keep trying to tell everyone, she responds best when you speak to her in French. I believe it's her mother's tongue." Anastasia said.

The incoming call light flashed on the communication station. Hap looked over the display, "This is our call from St. Ives."

Roweyna settled into the seat next to Hap as he accepted the call, turned on the camera, and se tup the microphone between them. The holoviewer resolved to show a middle aged Asian woman. Hap could faintly see a few scars on her neck, but they were mostly hidden by the collar of her military uniform. She looked familiar to Hap as he studied her uniform trying to determine her rank.

"Greetings, McFinnigan and Sons, I am Sao-Shao Liu. I believe we spoke before." She looked at Roweyna and then Hap trying to find a look of recognition. "However, I was heavily medicated at the time. Perhaps-"

Hap immediately remembered her. This was the Sao-Shao, or Major, that had interrupted the very rude and patronizing Sang-Wei or Captain that they were working with. "Sao-Shau Liu, hello. I'm Captain Calahad. Yes we spoke last time. My call sign is Haphazard or Hap, and this is Ms. Roweyna McFinnigan You look well, how is your hand?"

"Thank you, Captain." Sao-Shao Liu's face brightened as Hap spoke. She held up her hand. It had several burn scars and there was a faint surgical scar that was barely noticeable in the holo's projection. "It is well. I am told that your doctor's skill is the only reason I still have my hand. Is he with you? May I thank him?"

"No, but his wife is with us." Hap said, "She's also a qualified doctor though, and I'm certain she'd relay your appreciation to him."

"I am quite grateful to your Company, Captain." Sao-Shao Liu said

"Have you recovered from your other injuries?"

"Mostly." Sao-Shao Liu replied, "However my leadership thought that if I were placed on the command staff I would recover more quickly while my skills could still benefit the Compact. So my time of command has ended, but I still aid the Compact, and can speak with you today."

Hap could hear the regret in losing her command, "I'm sorry you lost your command."

"We all must do what is best for the Compact." Sao-Shao Liu said, "Which brings us back to you, we certainly could use additional BattleMechs. There are Capellan partisans in the hill country outside our capital that are using a heavily defended fortress to harass us and wage an asymmetrical war."

"Ye need us to destroy a fortress? That's one of the many services we provide." Roweyna said.

"Sadly it is quite well defended. We would like your 'mechs to augment our assault force, however we have experienced fierce fighting in the last few days and need some time to reset our forces before we begin the assault."

"Very good." Roweyna said, "We're still a day and a half from landing, and we need some time to make our own repairs to our DropShip so we should be there when yer forces are ready."

"This is acceptable." Sao-Shao Liu said, "let us speak of your requirements. You have requested a secure hangar for dropship maintenance as well as access to our equipment and supply stores. I can grant you access to our stores, at fair market value, but we cannot give you a secure hangar. We will allow you to land on a military airfield though."

"That'll have to do." Roweyna said, then quickly added, "Thank you. We'll send ye a list a parts we'd like to have on hand when we land."

"Very well. Now if we could discuss your fees."

"Normally I'd prefer to have more intel before we discuss remuneration. Perhaps ye can tell me at least the type of mission ye'll be looking for us to do."

"Screening operations, possibly a raid or ambush." Sao-Shao Liu replied, "I am told your drop tonnage is 155 tons. We would be looking for you to address the insurgents smaller and faster combat vehicles and 'mechs, we may also need you to possibly draw out a larger 'mech force from the fortress."

Hap closed his eyes and let the two woman bargained over the contract price. Sao-Shao Liu was being careful to only give a little bit of information and Roweyna kept using the vagueness to keep her prices high. Finally Hap asked, "Sao-Shao Liu, Ma'am, what's the disposition of that 'larger 'mech force'?"

Sao-Shao Liu's placid face went blank. She looked down and then looked back into the camera and leaned forward, "When last we worked together we attempted to conceal parts of our intel, and I am sorry, it created unnecessary complexity to your operation. However, today, as then, my superiors would prefer I not reveal that information till you are on the ground."

"And less likely to back-out." Roweyna added.

Sao-Shao Liu looked behind her, and then whispered, "The enemies of the Compact use a heavy lance for point defense, it consists of a Cataphract, a Marauder and a Warhammer. These mech's, plus the fortresses static defense and anti-air towers make the fortress too difficult for us to destroy.."

Roweyna looked at Hap, "Is it even possible for yer lance to take down one of those mechs."

"One? Maybe." Hap said. "I don't even know what a Cataphract is, but a Warhammer or a Marauder we could probably destroy, but only if it was alone. Together though…that's unlikely, and even if we managed we'd probably lose half the lance. With whatever that third 'mech is, it's probably suicide."

"You'll be supporting our lance with our rebuilt Stalker and King Crab though." Sao-Shao Liu whispered.

"Okay if the Heavies slug it out with the Assaults while we harass, then we're fine. I'll just have to make sure Mags doesn't jump into the middle of something stupid. If she keeps moving to flank them, while Joker's Firestarter pushes them to overheat and Anastasia and I keep them in off balance with missiles we can make life real hard on them while the King Crab and Stalker take 'em apart." Hap said.

As Hap spoke Sao-Shao Liu nodded, "Yes, this is precisely the sort of support we would require." She resumed her normal posture and placid expression.

"That's not exactly screening." Roweyna said as her eyes narrowed, "I think 300,000 C bills would be a fair compensation for that work though."

"That's higher than I am authorized to offer, perhaps 225,000 plus priority salvage."

"I'd rather ye guarantee yer not going to "company store" me with supply parts, and waive the landing fees. Grant me that, and we'll do can go to 250,000."

"You have my assurances of fair market value for everything, and we'll waive the landing fees, however 250,000 is still too high. I could go back to my leadership and request 230,000.

"Does that include priority on salvage?" Roweyna asked.

"Yes. At least up to a value of 70,000 on the first item." Sao-Shao Liu said. "I will also add a clause that you receive priority on any 'mechs you company exclusively destroys."

"That's more than fair." Roweyna said. "Ye get me that in a contract and we'll sign it before we land."

"Shall I send it through the MRB?" Sao-Shao Liu asked.

"Oh no need for that love," Roweyna said smoothly, "They'll want to take their cut, and the client that betrayed us was vetted by the MRB. So I wouldn't know why I'd pay extra for their services. You've worked with the family before and I know ye wouldn't betray us."

Sao-Shao Liu nodded, "Very well. I will speak to my superiors and have the contract sent to you shortly." She looked like she was about to shut off the holo, but then she stopped, "The Federated Suns recently opened an Embassy on St. Ives. You may wish to contact them. They own a large, fortified hangar on the edge of the space port. Given your alignment with them, they may be able to support you."

"Thank you Ma'am." Hap said. "I'll give them a call."

"I will send you their contact frequencies. St. Ives out." Sao-Shao Liu said as she disconnected the call.

"Are we calling the embassy next?" Anastasia asked

"I suppose." Hap said as the comms station received the information for the embassy. "I'm not sure who to ask for though."

"The Defense Attaché Office of course."

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #272 on: 23 July 2022, 23:47:36 »
Chapter 86

Hap had to work through a couple different departments of the Federated Suns Embassy before he got transferred to the Defense Attaché Office. The holo screen changed from a very prim and proper librarian looking woman to a very surly fat-jowled Corporal. Even with the holo he looked like he hadn't shaved in days and his uniform jacket was open and badly wrinkled. He was also leaning back in his chair and Hap suspected he had his feet up on his desk.

"Hello Corporal, I'm Captain Calahad. I'm a Liaison Officer with the mercenary company McFinnigan and Sons. Ms. Roweyna McFinnigan to my left represents the company's interest. Not on camera, but also in the room, is Subaltern Capetian-Calahad. We're about to conduct combat operations with the Compact's military, but before we land we'd like to speak to the Defense Attaché." As Hap introduced himself Hawkins came onto the bridge and started speaking to Sarah and Anastasia.

The corporal looked bored and annoyed, "The Defense Attaché isn't here right now."

"That's fine Corporal, but we're landing in about two days. We're told the embassy has a secure hangar facility. If it's available, we'd like to land there. Can you help me get permission to use it?"

"No." The corporal said as he reached for a bag of chips and started eating.

"Okay. Can you tell me who can give us permission to use it, Corporal?"

"I don't know." The corporal shrugged. Hap was starting to get irritated.

Anastasia slid into the seat next to Hap, "Hello Corporal, I'm Subaltern Capetian-Calahad. When will the Defense Attaché be available? Perhaps he can help us." As she spoke she put her hand on Hap's knee and gave it a squeeze. She also gave him a look to remind him not to overact.

"I don't know."

"You don't know if he can help us? Or you don't know when he'll be available." Hap asked, trying not to let his frustration show.

"Both really." The corporal seemed to be getting annoyed too. "Look buddy, the Defense Attaché is a busy man, maybe you should just wait till you get here."

Buddy? If Hap could reach through the Holo he would likely backhanded him.

"We want to land at that secure hangar, Corporal." Hap said, "How is it going to work if I have to come and see the Defense Attaché before we land? You expect us to stay in orbit while I do a combat drop in my BattleMech onto the embassy."

"I don't know" The Corporal said. "I think that's your problem."

Hap wondered if Anastasia could calculate a way for his Griffin to land directly on the spot where the Corporal was casually disregarding every rule and regulation on military customs and courtesy.

Roweyna leaned over to whisper, "Yer handling this masterfully."

"Is there someone else I can speak to? Do you have a Sergeant perhaps?" Anastasia asked.

"Nope. Just me and Private Harmay." The Corporal took a long drink from a soda bottle.

"What is your name Corporal?" Anastasia asked nicely.

"Weber." The Corporal said before belching.

"Corporal Weber, do you or Private Harmay have access to the Defense Attaché's calendar?"

"I can get that ma'am." Said a female voice from off camera. "We can schedule the Colonel's appointments."

A young female soldier came into view and sat down next to the Corporal. She had to push the Corporal's feet off the desk which caused him to have to change his posture. For a second the camera caught the Corporal's large gut and it became obvious why his service coat was open.

"He's not busy tomorrow afternoon, ma'am." Private said as she looked down at the notebook she was carrying.

"If there's nothing on his calendar, he's probably going to play golf or get a massage. He's going to be pissed with you if you schedule anything, Private Harmay." The Corporal told her. The way he said "Private" almost sounded like an insult.

"Meeting with members of the AFFS is part of the Defense Attaché's role. I would doubt meeting with us would upset him." Anastasia said.

"You don't know the Colonel. I'm telling you, he's going to walk in tomorrow and just cancel that appointment." The corporal huffed, "Boot Harmay gonna tell him about it, and he's just going to yell, 'CANX!'."

"Ma'am, what will your meeting with the Colonel be about?." Private Harmay asked.

"We need to encrypt this call." Anastasia said, "Does your system have that capacity?"

"You know you're asking a lot out of us just to do you a favor?" Corporal Weber said.

"I think all we have to do is push this button here. I loaded the encryption on the first of the month like the Colonel told me too." Private Harmay said. The image froze and was replaced by floating text stating, "Request for Secure comms. Press Secure to encrypt call"

Hap hit a button marked secure on the comms station. The text was replaced by system messages reporting "GOING SECURE…SYNCHRONIZING…ESTABLISHING ENCRYPTION…CONNECTION SECURE."

Corporal Weber and Private Harmay reappeared on the Holo. Private Harmay was smiling and looked pleased with herself.

"Well done Private." Hap said, trying to sound appreciative. He was starting to suspect that Private Harmay was a very fresh recruit. She was bright eyed, her uniform fit her properly and she had her hair in a tight bun. She also looked young. She had the general disciplined look of a Soldier that had just left her initial training.

"Yes, thank you Private Harmay." Anastasia said very cordially, "We recently conducted a raid on Necromo, and secured some highly sensitive military equipment. We need a secure location to protect it. We can't trust any Capellan sympathizers that might still be in the Compact's Military, and we can't trust ComStar. A diplomatic site with its immunities would be ideal for us."

Hap cleared his throat "The other reason we need that hangar is that our dropship was seriously damaged during that operation and needs repairs. So if we can be protected from the elements while we fix it that would be an added bonus."

"It also needs several centuries worth of routine maintenance." Anastasia said.

"The Phaidin has received decades, possibly centuries, of excellent maintenance. It has layers of paint and rust that have been maintaining hull integrity long before you were born." Hawkins said as he passed the Navigation station on his way to the Bridge's coffee urn.

"Ma'am, what did your unit take in the raid?" Private Harmay asked.

"We really can't say, but it's brought us nothing but trouble." Roweyna said, "If the esteemed Federation o' Suns would like to compensate us for acquiring it, I'd be more than happy to strike a bargain. It's become evident the villains that originally commissioned us for the job aren't going to honor their contract, and I'm running a business, so I'm willing to make a deal."

Private Harmay nodded, "Okay Ma'am, you need to speak to the Colonel about using the secure hangar, a raid on Necromo, and purchasing 'sensitive military equipment' from the Mercenary Company you work for."

"We're Liaisons, so we work with them not for them, but, yeah, that's close enough Private." Hap said.

"Who is the Defense Attaché'?" Anastasia asked as the Private erased what she wrote in the notebook and jotted down the correction Hap had given her.

"Colonel Bruckner Ma'am." The private replied. "If you call us tomorrow at 1400 he should be available to speak with you."

"What time did ye have there locally?" Roweyna asked

"It's about 1030, Ma'am." Private Harmay answered. Roweyna nodded and started adjusting her watch.

"Thank you again, Private Harmay." Anastasia said. "Also, please note that you should not use any ComStar equipment like HPG to communicate about us, or tell anyone except the Colonel about the things we discussed during the encrypted call."

"Yes Ma'am."

"Thank you." Hap said as he disconnected the call.

"Well I dare say I've never met a Corporal in the Federated Sons that was that fat, or undisciplined." Roweyna said after the holo turned blank and went into standby mode.

"Yeah. That's what happens when Corporals don't have adult supervision." Hap said. He gave Anastasia a skeptical look. "It sounds like the Defense Attaché office is small, and he's not there very often. I'm not sure they're going to be much help."

"I know." Anastasia answered, "but we have to go through the proper channels. As military members we start with the DAT. If he can't help us, he'll either set up a meeting with the ambassador or, if the ambassador isn't available, the Charge d'affaires."

"Is that how embassy's work?" Roweyna asked.

"Mother had me intern at an embassy for a summer, and it was how that one worked. Although given our experience with the Corporal it seems more probable Colonel Bruckner will just tell us to go away."

"Aye, that does seem more probable." Roweyna said as she sipped her tea.

"You're in a mischievous mood." Hap said, "You just feeling better or is there something your happy about that I'm missing?"

"Many things Mr. Calahad, yer missing many things I am feeling better, and thank you for asking. And my conversation to arrange things for the company went perfect, while yers went to shit, so I'm almost ashamed to admit I'm feeling a little smug."

"Our interaction with the DAT's office was…suboptimal, but we do have an appointment scheduled for tomorrow, so I don't believe it went that poorly." Anastasia said

"Very well, we'll find out tomorrow that it went to shit, but the thing that I think is most important is I don't think that fat Corporal laziness will really matter. I could tell from the way Sao-Shau Liu was looking at Captain Haphazard that we're in good standing with the Compact, and they'll take fine care of us."

"How was she looking at my husband?" Anastasia asked.

"Like a fellow warrior." Roweyna said, "Father pointed this out to me a long time ago. When yer dickerin' over a contract if yer dealing with some bean-counting bureaucrat or careless staff officer they sell you short, choose the lowest bid, or agree to exactly the amount they're told to bargain for. But, if ye talk to a warrior, they know that a Mercenary that is treated well and compensated fairly will fight like a professional and endure damn near the same hardships and dangers as their own sons and daughters.

"Now, If ye fought on the same ground as that warrior, 'lose the same blood in the same mud' as Father would say, they'll fight for you to their leadership and ensure yer taken care of. So I'm thinkin' Sao-Shau Liu's word is as good as gold, especially since we personally saved life and limb for her."

"You know we're dealing with people that grew up and were trained by the Capellans?" Hap said, "Sao-Shau Liu and Chyou, or-" Hap looked over at Anastasia.

"Sao Wei Mun." Anastasia said.

"Sao-Shau Liu and Sao Wei Mun were straight with us, but Sang Wei Zhang was insulting, tried to put us at unnecessary risk and was generally an ass." Hap said.

"I read Fiona's report and agree with you, but I assure you that Sao-Shau Liu is going to ensure we get the best that she can get us. Besides the Compact can't afford to ostracize mercenaries and, as far as they are concerned, we're just a one-off from being an official Federated Suns unit. I'm telling you they'll treat us well and we'll be fine, even if the embassy doesn't come through."

Hap wasn't sure how to respond but the communication system indicated they had an incoming call from the Embassy. Hap accepted the call and the encryption system re-engaged and then the holo displayed Corporal Weber and Private Harmay. The Corporal looked kowtowed and the Private seemed nervous.

"Captain Calahad, sir, and Subaltern Capetian-Calahad, Ma'am, we were able to get you access to the secure hangar. I'll transmit the location and access codes now."

"Thank you." Anastasia said as the computer registered receiving the incoming information. "Did Colonel Bruckner return?"

"No Ma'am." Private Harmay said. "We were told the Ambassador is a friend of your mother, and she personally insisted you have access to anything you need, including the secure hangar. We were also told you will need to report to the embassy and we'll coordinate a meeting for you with the Foreign Affairs Department."

"Who is the ambassador?"

"The Countess Clarke-Martin."

Anastasia nodded, "Very good. Thank you Private Harmay. Will the Defense Attache' still be available tomorrow?"

"I believe so Ma'am."

"Thank you, again Private Harmay, I look forward to seeing you in a few days." Anastasia said as she disconnected the call.

"Do you know the Ambassador?"

"No." Anastasia replied, "nor is her name familiar. That's not to say she isn't my mother's friend, but I don't know her." Anastasia seemed to be thinking, "I should have asked for her first name." Anastasia added.

Kate came in and looked around, "Anastasia, Hap I'm surprised to see you both here. I thought once Anastasia's watch was over you'd two would run off to your berth so Hap could take more liberties with your person." Kate was amused as Anastasia blushed and Hap tried to hide his embarrassment and annoyance.

"I'm realizing now I should have never said any of that." Anastasia said as she saw Hap's look.

"You really shouldn't have." Kate agreed

"Don't you have another four hours before your watch starts?" Hap asked.

"I took a nap, now I'm bored. I thought I'd keep Hawk company for a bit then go to Aero-bay 1, run on the treadmill and see how the work is going on the prison cage for that ROM agent you captured. Yesterday Henry and his band of cut-throats were taking one of the old storage containers and welding it into a brig."

"Oh I didn't realize Shafer was doing that well. I assumed she'd be under Doctor Lesley's care for weeks." Anastasia said.

"She's probably not doing that well. Doc Les is probably running low on sedatives, and tired of hearing her threaten and curse at her." Hawkins said. "Hey, who cleaned my coffee cup?"

"I might have." Sarah said, "Sorry, I probably mistook it for mine."

"Damn it Sarah, the most important thing about space operations is to never clean your coffee cup, and for the love of Kerensky you never wash another crew member's cup, unless you want a fight."

"I'm really sorry." Sarah said.

"She's blind, Mr. Hawkins." Roweyna said, "And a clean unbroken coffee cup won't kill you."

"What's going on with Shafer?" Hap asked.

"I told Henry to make us a brig. Not sure how long Ms. Shafer will be our guest, but I don't fancy her taking up a bed in the sick-bay unnecessarily." Roweyna said, "When she's well enough we'll move her. Although now that yer talking to the Embassy maybe someone there can take her off our hands."

"I'll bring that up with the DAT tomorrow." Anastasia said.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #273 on: 08 August 2022, 04:08:47 »
Chapter 87

Hap and Anastasia walked down the bustling streets of Tian-tan, the capital city of St. Ives. Like a lot of major metropolitan cities in Capellan space it had a mix of architectural designs. Like most major cities in the Inner Sphere there were glass and steel skyscrapers reaching to the heavens, blocky and efficient concrete apartments. There were also random buildings with utilitarian design made for various stores, apothecaries, and restaurants at street level and with an assortment of offices and dwellings on the higher levels. There were also small shanties and other buildings crammed between allies or other gaps between buildings.

Unlike most of the Inner Sphere, outside of the Capellan Confederation, there were also buildings that were based on traditional Chinese building aesthetics. There were tiered circular pagodas. Major streets had paifang gates with thick straight wood or concrete posts supporting ornate green tiled roofs suspended high above the street. Red and Green seemed to be favored colors, but many of the wood and stucco surfaces were darkly stained or brightly painted.

Hap, Anastasia and Rowyena had spent the morning with the St. Ives military representative. Thankfully Sao-Shau Liu was there to translate and be a familiar face that knew them. Even though Sao-Shau Liu had not fought alongside the McFinnigans, she was very complimentary toward their actions from the last time they were on St. Ives, and very appreciative for the medical support they had also lent to the Compact forces. As Roweyna had suspected, Sao-Shau was very helpful and supportive.

The St. Ives military were still dealing with the various pro-Capellan partisan and guerilla groups trying to defeat the nascent Compact government. The center of gravity for most of these groups seemed to be the fortress that Sao-Shau Liu had described. The terrorists were using it as a headquarters to rest, reset, and receive additional weapons or even training. As long as it existed the disruptive elements would have a safe haven.

The Compact military was creating a forward operating base to marshal forces within striking distance of the fortress. The base was about 300 kilometers away from Tian-tan. They were sending regular convoys to this forward operating post, and wanted the coyotes to escort the next convoy. From there they would integrate with the forces there and fall under the leadership of the Field Commander. This caused Roweyna and the Compact to renegotiate their contract and now they were getting paid weekly while the Coyotes worked directly for the Compact's Field Commander.

Roweyna mentioned the Compact forces didn't seem as antagonistic or as belligerent as the treatment she normally got from the Capellans. She said renegotiating the contract was relatively easy and they didn't try to undo anything they had previously agreed to. She thought they were desperate for help, and didn't want to alienate any mercenaries, at least not until they had a stronger standing army. It also didn't hurt that McFinnigan and Sons was associated with the Federated Commonwealth, and they were giving the Compact significant support as they stood up their government.

Throughout the morning the Compact leadership had been careful to refer to the Federated Commonwealth Alliance, the combined super Succession State of the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth. This had been something Hap and Anastasia had known was going to happen, or had happened but they spent so much time in Drop Ships and on the edge of the Federation or Commonwealth, they didn't realize it had been made official. Both of them made note to try and refer to their new joint nation by its proper new title. They likely needed to get new uniform patches and other accouterments.

The McFinnigan's DropShip was in the Federated Commonwealth Embassies secure hangar located on the military side of the space port. Most of the company was working to repair the dropship. For replacement parts they had access to Compact's military stores. The prices were marked-up, but it wasn't excessively expensive. Sao-Shau Liu explained the prices were driven by scarcity and the growing pains of developing their own supply and logistics. Roweyna was content with that answer. Most of the equipment and parts came from Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth companies, so Hap and Anastasia took that as a sign of their nation's endorsement of St. Ives Compact.

After the morning with the Compact leadership Hap and Anastasia excused themselves to go to the embassy for the appointments they had there. The Defense Attaché had canceled their holo-appointment, and had rescheduled for the day they arrived on planet. Corporal Weber forwarded a dozen forms that Hap and Anastasia each had to fill out. It included a very time-consuming form that asked several personal questions. Anastasia thought they were busy work forms, Hap thought maybe the Defense Attaché was going to "mentor" them. Both of them thought it was a waste of their time. Anastasia and Hap dutifully went through the paperwork drill and sent them the forms back.

Sang Sao Liu told Hap and Anastasia that the Federated Commonwealth Embassy was within walking distance of the Compact Military HQ. She also assured them this portion of the city was relatively safe and regularly patrolled by the police and paramilitary forces. Hap and Anstasia considered taking a cab, but they opted to look around the city and enjoy their time off a Drop Ship. They changed into civilian attire and tried to blend into the crowd so they could enjoy a rare moment as "just tourists."

As they walked down the crowded streets Hap glanced over at Anastasia "Remind me again why we are doing this? We got the secure hangar, it's clear the Defense Attache, or DAT, or Colonel Bruckner, or whatever we call him doesn't want to talk to us. What's the point? I'm thinking we also run the risk that when we explain everything with Necromo they'll just take the…whatever we took… and send you and it back to NAIS."

Anastasia shrugged, "First, we don't have much choice. As members of the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns we must present ourselves to the embassy, especially if we intend to perform military options that have not been sanctioned by the Federated Suns."

"Second, would it really be so bad if we went back to New Avalon? I could continue my father's work, and I believe you were promised a position with the Guards. It might be nicer to be in one place for a while. We'd also have our own quarters on NAIS's secure campus." She gave him a coy look and tilted her head, "I'm certain it would be a very private and quiet space for us, unlike life on a Drop Ship."

Hap nodded, "This assumes they keep us together. Remember the deal was we spend a year as mercenary LNOs. I don't have any special research skills, that's all you. I'm supposed to learn about deep penetration raids and other high-risk operations. They may make me stay while you go."

Anastasia was about to remind him that his mother-in-law was a noble, who had a proven track record of getting what she wanted, but she caught their reflection in a store window. Before they left the Compact Military HQ they had changed from their utility uniforms and into civilian clothes. Anastasia had a simple white blouse and a long black skirt, Hap was wearing a blue button-up shirt and khaki slacks.

They almost blended into the crowd as there were a few businessmen and women wearing similar attire. Anastasia noted that most of the people were dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, at least the older crowd. The younger generation was wearing clothes more like the fashions of the Federated Suns or Lyran Commonwealth. Anastasia had seen a teenager in a sundress she would have loved to have, and there was also an elderly woman in a beautiful teal and jade dress she thought was a hanfu.

Anastasia still felt slightly conspicuous as they didn't exactly blend in with the crowd. Part of the problem was that Hap was taller than most of them, even the Slavic members of the population. Hap had been well fed as a youth, and a career in the military had added muscle and a disciplined posture to his tall frame. The other issue was their clothes just weren't exactly like everyone else's attire. Her perspective changed as she noticed the store window she was using as a mirror was for a storefront with several mannequins modeling cheongsams. "Perhaps we could do a little shopping?" Anastasia said.

Anastasia remembered a high society party from a few years back where a woman had worn a cheongsam like dress, and it made for a stunning cocktail dress. Anastasia had forgotten how much she wanted one until this moment. The silky curve hugging dress had a high collar, short sleeves, and a long slit going up almost to the waist. It combined elegance, style, and a subtle dash of coquetry. There were several to choose from with various embroidered designs, dazzling colors, and other flourishes.

Anastasia was also sensing her husband's reluctance to go to the embassy. In her mind, his hesitancy and the perfect red cheongsam were fantastic reasons to do a little shopping and get a change of clothes that would help them really blend in. In addition to a new dress, she had seen a designer shoe boutique a few blocks back. The businessmen in the crowd had to get their suits from somewhere, so surely they could get Hap another suit. His wardrobe always needed help in Anastasia's opinion.

"Business before pleasure, darlin'." Hap said as he gently pulled her away from the window and started walking down the street. "Besides I'm probably borrowing worries. Worse comes to worse, we'll be together in New Avalon by this time next year."

They fell back into the pace of the crowd. Sao Shao Liu told them they simply needed to go down the main boulevard until they saw a fortress with Federated Commonwealth banners hung from the walls. Hap wasn't exactly sure what that would look like, but Sao Shao Liu implied they couldn't miss it.

They walked another few blocks, and Anastasia saw a shop that had dresses, skirts, and blouses that caught her eye. She lingered at the window imaging herself in the various fashions on display. Anastasia was hoping she could remember how to find this store again. "We'll need to walk back this way."

"I was thinking we'd take a taxi back to the space port." Hap said "Assuming we find the embassy."

"You said business before pleasure, implying we would go shopping after the embassy."

"So I did." Hap said as he stepped back trying to get his bearings. "We haven't really gone down any side streets, and…" He turned around and looked almost straight up at the large skyscraper behind them. At the top was a large illuminated green sawblade with a stylized S and I on a green background with red Chinese characters. "It looks like we're across from the StarCorps Industries headquarters. I still think we should probably try not to be out too long."

"That's fair." Anastasia made a mental note as they continued walking. She knew it was a risk to be out on the streets, but part of her just wanted a normal life, as normal as their lives could be at the moment. It seemed to her that ComStar would likely be still preparing their next attempt on her life, so they could risk a little time out in the open, at least as long as they were being unpredictable. At the same time she knew Hap was probably right, they should get back to the hangar as soon as possible.

They continued walking and soon caught the warm smells of fried food and saw a food cart with a crowd around it. The signs were all in Chinese, but there were pictures and prices in Capellan Yuan or L-Bills and ComStar Bills. Anastasia and Hap had not exchanged any of their money so all they had were Davion Pounds and C-Bills.

"See anything you like?" Hap asked, "Something smells good."

Anastasia nodded as she studied the pictures, "I want that thing that looks like one of those festival style fried sausages in corn batter, but these appear to have panko batter."

"The panko batter corn dogs?" Hap asked as Anastasia nodded.

Hap and Anastasia got in line for the food and after a minute it was his turn to order. He asked if the man spoke English and he shook his head. Hap pointed to the picture with a panko battered meat on a stick and held up two fingers. The cart worker nodded and took two sticks with meaty lumps out of a large batter tray and dropped them in oil.

When Hap pulled out his money clip and the man saw the C-bills and his eyes lit up. He spoke to Hap in Chinese but Hap shook his head, he tried again in Russian, and all Hap could do was apologize. The cart worker pointed to the row of canned drinks balanced on the edge of the cart, and Hap understood.

Hap pointed to two green cans and the man asked him another question and gestured to his menu as he handed Hap two cold green cans from a cooler. Hap heard a few grumbles behind him and started to understand. "Uh…do we want anything else?" Hap asked Anastasia.

Anastasia wished she had studied Chinese or Russian. She was starting to realize she should know more languages than just the ones spoken in the Federation or Commonwealth. She also realized she was taking too long to decide, "dumplings" she said because it was the only thing she recognized.

Hap pointed to the picture of what he thought were dumplings and held up one finger. The man nodded and said "zha jiao" as he scooped up a dozen small dumplings and dropped them into his frying oil. Hap handed the man a Crisp 10 C-bill note as he turned to his cash register. He rung up Hap's order and then gave Hap a surprising amount of gold and silver coins for change.

Hap stepped aside so the next person could order. He cracked open his can and took a drink. It was a tart ginger soda drink. Anastasia took a sip too, "I like this ginger ale."

Hap held out the handful of small gold and silver coins. "I think he gave me too much change."

Anastasia took another sip, "Well it's Capellan Yuan, the weakest currency in the Inner Sphere. Given what's happened here he's probably happy to have a hard currency."

Hap nodded as he looked around. He couldn't see it in the crowd, but he suspected there was a lot of uncertainty for many of the people here. He could almost sense the insecurity and stress in the lives of the people around him. He did a quick calculation on how the man had exchanged his C-bills, and noted the prices on a lot of local goods, like food, were lower than what he expected. He realized the economy had likely bottomed out when they succeeded from the Capellan Confederation. He pocketed a few of the silver coins but put gold coins in the man's tip jar.

The food cart man yelled at Hap and held out a paper tray of dumplings and with the fried meat on top. Hap took the tray and led Anastasia away from the crowd. They found a low wall near the food cart that they used for a seat. Each took a fried meat stick.

"How is it?" Anastasia asked as Hap took a bite.

"Chewy." Hap said with his mouth full.

Anastasia bit into her meat on a stick, it tasted fishy, and as Hap said it was chewy, almost rubbery.

"I don't think these are sausage." Hap said.

Anastasia continued to chew as she looked back at the food cart and noticed the cartoon squid in the picture of the panko dog. "Oh it's squid." She agreed as she held her hand over her mouth.

Hap looked over his shoulder and saw the same cartoon squid. They both laughed as he said, "Of course it is."

"Lets try the dumplings." Hap said as he took a dumpling and popped it into his mouth. Anastasia took one and bit into the warm delicate fried meat pastry. The dumplings were filled with ground pork and finely chopped vegetables. These were much better than the squid. Anastasia put her squid dog on the tray and grabbed a few dumplings. "Help yourself to my squid dog."

Hap struggled to chew and swallow his bite of squid. "Thanks. Now if we can just find the embassy." Hap glanced across the street to see a large ancient looking Chinese-style fortress. The walls were generally square and nearly 20 meters high. A large open tunnel was built into the wall to allow entrance. The tunnel could easily accommodate two combat vehicles side by side.

From where Hap and Anastasia sat they could see a large pagoda-like tower rising from the center of the fortress. Each floor seemed roughly the same size, and it looked highly ornate. The structure looked ancient and clashed with the concrete and steel structures around it. The building to the left of the fortress had various shops and probably a couple offices or living spaces, on the right was a tall skyscraper that boasted a shopping mall and the Tengo Aerospace company headquarters.

As much as the ancient style fortress seemed an anachronistic paradox, what most seemed of place to Hap were the banners gently swaying in the wind that hung from the fortresses. The banners had the blue fist of the Lyran commonwealth imposed over the sunburst of the Federated Suns. The symbol of the Lyran Commonwealth.

"I think we just found the embassy."

HFC05

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 144
Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #274 on: 08 August 2022, 04:09:15 »
Chapter 88

Hap and Anastasia finished their food and crossed the street. As they approached the large open gate they could see a ready-made checkpoint had been erected in the middle of the tunnel. There was still plenty of room to accommodate ground vehicles. The wall was probably 5 or 6 meters thick, making a tunnel to enter the fortress. As they approached the checkpoint the young Soldier manning it watched them closely. When they got close Hap and Anastasia each offered him their blood chits. Wordlessly he took them, and swiped them in his was a faint beep from the computer and then the Soldier snapped to attention and saluted when he recognized they were officers.

Hap returned his salute and noted the soldier's crisp salute and professionalism as he waited for Hap to drop his salute first. With courtesies out of the way the Soldier said, "Sir, I'm glad to see you two."

Hap and Anastasia exchanged confused glances, "Why is that Sergeant?"

"Mechwarriors, Sir. We got an infantry platoon and a couple APCs to defend the embassy and get everyone to the starport, but if the Compact's succession goes sideways, and the Capellans invade, or the terrorist bring some real hardware to the fight, I'd rather have 'mechs backing me up. There's a lot of uncertainty here right now."

"Oh we're not-" Anastasia started to say.

"We're working with a mercenary unit that was hired to help with the terrorists. I don't know how long we'll be on St. Ives, Sergeant, but we'd certainly help your unit evacuate if it came to that." Hap said.

"Thank you, Sir." The Sergeant said as he handed the chits back to Hap. "Who are you here to see?"

"Colonel Bruckner, the Defense Attaché." Anastasia said, "We have an appointment."

The Sergeant nodded as he picked up a phone, "It's probably already been canceled." He said as he dialed the extension. In a moment he was speaking to someone, "No. They're here at the gate. It's a Captain and Subaltern. I'm not going to tell them that. You need to meet with them Corporal, also they're not in uniform so look for their blue badges." The exchange went on a little longer, and it was clear to the Sergeant was about to lose his professional decorum. He hung up and took a deep breath. "Ma'am, The Defense Attaché isn't in, but members of his office said they'll meet you in the cafeteria."

"They'll lead us to the Defense Attaché office from there?" Anastasia asked.

The Sergeant looked uncertain, "The Defense Attaché Office is a little less disciplined than what you're probably accustomed to, Ma'am."

"We noticed." Hap said flatly, "And we've been assigned to a mercenary unit for the last six months. We're accustomed to very little discipline, but that Corporal is so bad we could see his poor uniform and bad attitude from a parsec away."

"We weren't a parsec away, but he certainly doesn't share your military bearing, Sergeant. Also his uniform was…ill fitting, he may need a new larger one." Anastasia added

"You are correct Ma'am, he looks like 20 kilos of shit in a 10 kilo bag, but they don't make larger uniforms for his height."

Hap smirked as Anastasia tried to hide her smile. Hap noticed that behind the Sergeant were two more very fit and very professional looking soldiers standing by the embassy's main door. "I'm guessing Corporal Weber and Private Harmay aren't part of your outfit."

"Correct, Sir. They work exclusively for the DAT. If Corporal Weber were part of our unit he'd be busted down to private and would be doing PT from Breakfast to Dinner and cleaning latrines all night until he found his military bearing and could fit into a proper military uniform."

Hap gave Anastasia a sideways glance, "I'm suddenly looking forward to getting back to a line unit."

"You have every reason to look forward to it." Anastasia said.

Hap turned his attention back to the Sergeant. "We need to go talk to that 10 kilo bag of a Corporal and the Private he's likely leading astray. When we see the Defense Attaché we'll give him your recommendations."

"If you see him, sir." The Sergeant said grimly as he handed them security badges. "These are your badges while you're here. They will mark you as an AFFC military officer to everyone. I need you to return them to me when you leave. I hope your meeting with the Defense Attache staff goes well, and I'm sorry Colonel Bruckner was unavailable."

"He's canceled on us three times now." Hap said, "I'm starting, he doesn't want to talk to us."

"It's nothing personal sir, Colonel Bruckner just doesn't let work get in the way of his good time."

"Why have a Defense Attaché that never meets with anyone?" Anastasia said.

"We've been asking ourselves the same question, Ma'am." The Sergeant replied as he opened the man-gate portion of the barrier.

"Where's the Cafeteria?" Hap asked as Anastasia passed through the gate.

"Sir, if you go up the stairs, through the main entrance then back down the stairs you'll be on the main floor. The Cafeteria is just past the elevators, you can't miss it."

Hap and Anastasia climbed the stairs to the embassy, exchanged salutes with the guards, and used the badges to unlock the doors. To their surprise the inside of the pagoda was completely modern. There were some traditional embellishments such as dark stained woods, painted posts and engraved wall and ceiling tiles, but it had elevators, glassed walled office spaces and a large open cafeteria with tables spread evenly in the open area. The four floors that Hap could see had open mezzanines that looked over the entrance and cafeteria.

Hap and Anastasia walked down the stairs as a nearby elevator opened and two AFFS soldiers in uniform exited with several other people. The male soldier was extremely obese and sort of waddled behind the crowd. Next to him was the female soldier with an average slim build. She was following beside him as he seemed to be doing all the talking.

"Pardon me, Corporal Weber" Anastasia called out. A couple people stopped talking and looked in her direction. The young private paused, glanced over her shoulder and stopped. She tried to stop the Corporal but he brushed her hand off his arm and continued walking.

"Corporal Weber." Anastasia said again as she tried to quicken her step and catch up with the Soldier.

"Corporal Weber." Hap yelled in his command voice. Everyone in the cafeteria and the people on the mezzanine stopped talking and looked in his direction.

Corporal Weber labored to turn around as he shouted, "What? Oh it's you Captain."

In person the Corporal was worse than the Holo. He was morbidly obese and his round face had several wispy hairs around his chin and jaw. His hair had grown beyond regulations, and his uniform coat stretched over his large gut which peaked out from beneath it. His yellow rank, marking him as an admin Soldier, was poorly attached to his uniform, and his boots were scuffed and almost brown.

Anastasia quickly turned to face Hap and whispered, "This is an embassy, not a parade field or a 'mech garage. We cannot demean or discipline Soldiers here. No matter how badly it's warranted."

"Corporal, we need to go to the Defense Attaché' office now." Hap said. His voice was still commanding, but the volume was lower. It didn't matter though because everyone, from the cafeteria to the fourth floor mezzanine, had stopped talking and were watching the drama play out.

"I'm getting my lunch, and Bruckner isn't in." The Corporal snarled. "You'll have to wait, Captain." His tone made Hap's rank sound like an insult.

Hap was now standing in front of the Corporal and was speaking barely above a whisper. "Colonel Bruckner, Corporal, the Defense Attaché is a Colonel. Find your military bearing and use proper rank. Your uniform is a disgrace. There is no way you're within height and weight regulations, and if you don't start showing me and my wife the respect our rank demands I will choke slam all 150 kilos of you, even if I have to get in my Griffin to do it. Now, your lunch can wait. Let's go."

The corporal turned bright red, and eyed Hap angrily. "I don't work for you, and besides we didn't get all the forms we needed to schedule your appointment." He yelled like a belligerent child.

Anastasia turned to look at the female soldier, "Private Harmay, After I transmitted the files, I called you and you confirmed that you had received everything."

"I did receive them ma'am." Private Harmay was also turning red and looking at Corporal Weber for some explanation.

"You were supposed to give us Bios. Colonel Bruckner always requires Bios for officers he is going to meet." Corporal Weber spoke like he had outsmarted Hap and Anastasia.

"I didn't know…" The Private was almost in tears, "I'm so sorry ma'am I didn't know bios were required." She turned to the Corporal, "why didn't you tell me they needed Bios."

"Well you should have known." The Corporal told her smugly.

"If you didn't tell us, or her, how did you expect us to know to send you bios?" Now Anastasia was raising her voice.

"Doesn't matter because the Colonel won't see you without one." The Corporal replied, "Now I'm going to get my lunch." He gave Anastasia and Hap a dismissive wave with his hands. "Come back in an hour, and bring your bios and we'll reschedule you."

Hap considered grabbing the corporal's wrist, giving it a hard twist as he used his palm to drive the Corporal's elbow into his forehead to force his head to bounce off the nearest table. Hap was generally certain he could dislocate the corporal's shoulder before the table broke under the corporal's tremendous weight. As he weighed the consequences of that action two men approached the group of Soldiers.

One was a tall Caucasian man with red hair and a clean shaved face, the other was a shorter slightly overweight Asian man with a Fu Manchu mustache and balding gray-black hair. The Asian man was also a good twenty years older than everyone. He had a broad pleasant face and smiled as he approached, "Hey Private, it's clear you know you're talking to officers, maybe show some respect, stand at attention, try throwing a Sir or Ma'am in there. Also, I'm pretty sure scheduling the Colonel's calendar is your only real job, so why don't you do it before you put anything else in your fat belly."

"I'm a Corporal, and if you don't know anything about military rank and-"

"I know plenty. I fought in the Third Succession war, that's how I know if you keep talking like this to officers, you'll be lucky to keep those stripes. I also know if you were in a real unit right now, you'd be lucky to keep those teeth, because a Sergeant would be beating the hell out of you." Somehow the man still sounded friendly.

The Corporal looked at the short man carefully, "Where do you work?"

"Where do I work?" He exchanged looks with his taller friend, "Well if you don't know, then I could work anywhere, maybe I'm just another guy that scrubs the toilet, or maybe I'm someone that briefs the ambassador every day, and I could tell her that the DAT's enlisted are incompetent, disrespectful, and need to be replaced. The fourth succession war might be winding down but I think I can get you reassigned to a real unit. That way you can see a little action then you'll know how good you have it here. You want to try me?"

"No." The Corporal said slowly trying to determine if the man was bluffing.

"Hey, I'd say take your chances, because that's a good habit for people in combat to have." The Asian man went on, "By the way that Subaltern you're trying to shoo away like a fly, her Mother's a Countess and has a lot of political pull on New Avalon. Seems like a bad idea to piss her off. But you don't work for her, you work for some guy that's never around."

Anastasia's eyes flashed, "Perhaps you will be reassigned to Klathandu. I assure you, they don't need admin soldiers there, rather they need riflemen for patrols."

The Asian man laughed a joyful infectious laugh, "Yeah patrols, I remember those. You're too fat to fit in a combat vehicle so you'll be doing a lot of walking." The Asian man added. "Back in my day we'd take a fat ass like you and have you march in front of the vehicle. That way you'd set off any anti-tank or 'mech mine." He laughed charmingly like a grandpa at his own joke, "yeah fat asses got real thin real quick." His voice dropped, "or dead."

"I don't want to be reassigned." Private Harmay said suddenly and wide eyed. "Ma'am I'll take you up to the DAT office right now. We'll get this fixed."

"Smart girl. You should follow her Corporal, she's going places." The Asian man said as the private led Anastasia and Hap to the elevator. The Corporal begrudgingly waddled after them. As they left the Asian man added, "You might even be working for her before too long."

When the elevator doors opened Private Harmay, Anastasia and Hap entered the elevator. Hap turned around and put his hand up blocking the Corporal, "Go back and eat your lunch, Corporal. We're going to go finalize the appointment with your boss, and then we're going to send a communique to her mother, the High Lady and Protector of Hazelhurst, Countess of Calais Parmi Les Étoiles, Je'anne Amie'e Adelaide Capetain Vallois."

"Wait. Her mother really is a Countess?" The corporal whined.

"Bon Appetit Corporal." Anastasia added and Private Harmay pressed the button for the third floor. As the elevator doors closed Anastasia added, "I suggest you enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables while you may."

HFC05

  • Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 144
Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #275 on: 08 August 2022, 04:10:05 »
Chapter 89

As the elevator started to ascend the Private looked at Anastasia and Hap with a mix of awe and terror. "Is your mother really a Countess?"

"Yes." Anastasia said.

"I'm sorry, my lady, If I had known."

"If you had known you would have treated us just the same." Hap said, "You're doing fine Private. The Corporal and your boss are the problem here. Just keep doing your job as best you can."

"Ma'am, are you going to have your mom, I mean, her lady the Countess, send Corporal Weber to a war zone."

"No." Anastasia said, "She would view that as beneath her, 'punching down' as it were. It would demean her and take away from the prestige of our family name. I would, however, like your help preparing a diplomatic pouch, but that is for personal reasons, and has nothing to do with Corporal Weber."

"May I ask what your diplomatic pouch is for?" Private Harmay seemed equal parts impressed and intimidated with Anastasia.

"Let's just say that I don't trust ComStar, and neither should you." Anastasia said.

"I like the idea of sending the Corporal to a warzone though. When he tried to waive us off I was this close to dislocating his shoulder while I used his face to break a table. I'm thinking the reassignment route would be more humane." Hap said. "At least more civilized."

"Mother would be disappointed if I didn't handle this myself. Given that we had a shouting match in front of most of the embassy I'm certain the Ambassador or the Charge d'Affaires will insist they speak to us. At that point in time I will explain our problems with the Defense Attaché Office, and strongly suggest that the Corporal be assigned to the security detachment. The Sergeant we met at the gate seemed to have a plan to rehabilitate the Corporal."

Private Harmay nodded, "They sorta hate him though. Also, that will make more work for me."

"If your boss just wants you to cancel every meeting, does he really need two of you?" Hap asked.

"That's true sir." The doors opened and Private Harmay added, "Oh I just remembered after we're done I'm supposed to send you to the Fifth floor to meet with the Foreign Affairs Department."

Hap stepped up to the mezzanine and looked up. He could see the fourth-floor mezzanine above them, but after that it appeared to be a solid ornate wood paneled roof. He glanced back at Private Harmay, "Fifth floor?"

"I was given a number to call and to direct you to the middle elevator over there." The Private pointed to another set of elevators on the other side of the floor.

"Very good." Hap said. He glanced down and saw Corporal Weber still standing where they left him. He was looking up at them slack jawed and dumbstruck. "Go eat a salad." Hap yelled down at him. The corporal jumped and hustled off to get in line for food.

"You're definitely going to get a talking too." Anastasia warned, "And just so you know the Ambassador can make you persona non grata and order you off the world."

"Alright I'll behave." Hap said, "Although it sounds like I'm getting kicked off-world for trying to address the problems with a Soldier that doesn't meet the standard, and that soldier is getting a simple lateral reassignment."

"Honestly the Charge d'Affaires will tell you not to yell in his embassy again, or, at worse, they'll only let you have two glasses of champagne at the next diplomatic event you're invited to." Anastasia said.

"Jokes on him, I never get invited to diplomatic events."

"Jokes on you, you're going to be my escort to every diplomatic event, political soiree, and any other formal event where I require militant army candy."

"Militant arm candy?" Hap asked.

"Harold, Tuxedo's are like lingerie for men, and the only thing more sexy than a tuxedo is a military uniform."

"I'm not going to question that statement, but…no, but I thought you told me that marriage wasn't a mutual pain and suffering death pact." Hap said.

"It's not, and neither is attending formal events, and if you had read that book you'd know that."

"Maybe being persona non grata would be an improvement." Hap said.

"Sometimes I wish I could get off world." Private Harmay said quietly while she typed in her door code and opened up the Defense Attaché Office. "I don't mean that. I know this is a great assignment. The Colonel and Corporal Weber tell me that every day…it's just…I don't really like this job." As she spoke she turned on the lights.

The bright fluorescent lights illuminated an L shaped working space. The bottom of the L, where they entered, contained a large conference table. The room turned and down the long length of the L were cubicles around the walls and a large private office at the end. Private Harmay went to the nearest cubicle and sat down.

Hap and Anastasia crowded into her cubicle with her as she started her computer. This was clearly her space. There were several framed photos of Private Harmay and a woman that was likely her mother. There were illustrations of a cartoon cat with a pink camouflage pinned to the cubicle's cloth walls. There was also a stuffed version of the cat acting as a book end for several entry level college textbooks. A stylized wood cut of the name Gwendolyn was resting on the case for her computer.

Above her cubicle was a poster of an attractive female Captain in her flight suit standing next to a Sparrowhawk aerospace fighter. The fighter was painted with Third Davion Guards RCT camo specs and had the 3rd RCT's sword and eagle on the vertical stabilizer. Hap could see that each cubicle had a different poster of some branch or organization of AFFS. Private Harmay had chosen the only one with a woman though.

As the computer booted up Anastasia commented, "There's work spaces for at least a dozen servicemembers. Do you know when they'll get more people to work with you and Corporal Weber?"

"No Ma'am, honestly, they don't tell me much. They just remind me I'm a private." Private Harmay said as she logged into her system. "The embassy is pretty new though, I think it's only been here a few months. I just got here a few fews ago."

As they waited for the system to fully load Hap asked, "How often do you see the Defense Attaché?"

"Usually once a day, Sir. He'll come in first thing in the morning, tell us what he wants us to do, check his email and calendar, rearrange his schedule and then he's usually gone before 10:00. He usually doesn't come back if he doesn't have any afternoon meetings but we are expected to be here till 1700."

"Can you schedule us for a 0900 meeting tomorrow?" Anastasia asked.

"He doesn't like us to schedule anything that early, but if you insist-"

"Oh I insist." Anastasia said.

As she worked Hap asked, "When you guys called us back a few days ago you looked a little upset, what happened?"

"That tall redhead guy from the cafeteria just let himself into our offices yesterday. He told us to call you back. When Corporal Weber started to sass him he told us this was coming straight from the Ambassador's office and if we didn't want to do our jobs he'd do it himself but things would get very unpleasant for us. I didn't know what he meant by 'unpleasant', but it scared me. Corporal Weber said he wasn't afraid of that guy, but I think he was lying."

"Did you tell Colonel Bruckner about it?"

"Yes sir, he said if it came from the Ambassador we were right to do it, but Corporal Weber told him he didn't know who that guy was so the Colonel said he'd look into it. That's usually what the Colonel says when he doesn't care about something and doesn't want to talk about it anymore."

Private Harmay's computer finally booted up and in a few minutes they were scheduled to meet with the Defense Attaché the next day. Anastasia also improvised short paragraph length Bios for Hap and her. Private Harmay was extremely helpful and did anything the officers asked her. Everything about her confirmed to Hap that she was a fresh recruit. Being around Officers acting like professional Soldiers reminded her of everything the Drill Sergeants had taught her. It was also evident to Hap that the Corporal would be a bad influence on her.

As they were finishing up Corporal Weber entered the office space. He seemed surprised to see Anastasia and Hap. He looked like he was trying to get to his cubicle without being noticed. Anastasia stopped him so she could explain to both the Corporal and Private that if they needed any more information about them, they needed to use secure means to contact them or to contact any AFFS systems. Anything sent through ComStar would likely be monitored and compromised. The Corporal simply mumbled something and refused to make eye contact. Hap noticed that even Private Harmay became subdued.

Seeing the Corporal made Hap angry all over again. "It's probably about time we go. Private Harmay, how do we get to the Foreign Affairs Department?"

"I give them a call and you go to those elevators I pointed out, Sir." Private Harmay said.

Hap led Anastasia left the DAT offices and walked around the mezzanine. "Dealing with the Corporal is infuriating." Hap said, "I suppose you're going to want to buy two dresses instead of one."

"I was already going to buy two dresses and shoes." Anastasia answered, "however your instincts are correct, now it's double."

"Very good." Hap said as he shook his head.

"I've never seen you particularly angry about the disrespect Joker shows you."

"Joker and I have been through a lot. He's sort of earned the right, and he knows when to stop complaining and do what he's told. With Joker it's just him being undisciplined when he thinks he can get away with it. Corporal Weber was just disrespectful. I shouldn't take it personally though."

"Well, you shouldn't have a physical altercation with him, that's for certain. I'm thinking instead of trying to get the Corporal moved I should request Private Harmay by name and make her my enlisted assistant. I like her."

Hap gave her a quizzical look, "You're a subaltern in a non-leadership position, you're not authorized an enlisted assistant. When I was a lance leader I was lucky to get a Sergeant and not just a Sr. Corporal."

"Well I'm a noble, there are ways I can get whatever I want."

"Oh really?"

"I have my own personal Captain."

Before Hap could respond they had made it to the other set of elevators and the center one opened automatically as they approached. Hap and Anastasia stepped inside. Hap asked, "Do you know what the Foreign Affairs Department is?"

"I'm not sure." Anastasia said as the elevator went up one floor, and opened to reveal the Asian man and his tall redhead companion. The redhead motioned for them to exit the elevator and Anastasia and Hap found themselves in a small room with the single elevator door on one side and a steel door with a safe lock across from it. There was also a small sign that said, "Foreign Affairs Department ''.

The redhead opened the door to usher them into another enclosed room with a short ramp leading to another door across from the one they entered. This room appeared to be a cloak room with multiple bars and hangers for hanging coats and jackets, as well as small lockers built into the wall. Most of the lockers were closed, but a few were open and had a key in the lock.

"Do you two have any electronics or comms gear? Any recording devices?"

Hap pulled out the small short range radio he had for talking with the Phaidin, but they didn't have anything else. The redhead directed Hap to secure the radio in one of the lockers and then they led them up the short ramp and through the other door. The ceiling was lower in this area, and it felt like they were in a building built inside the embassy.

Before them was a hallway with two doors on either side, and at the end of the hall Hap could see a large open office cubicle space. The doors on the hallway were open and the first two led to relatively small conference rooms each with a table that could comfortably seat six. The other two doors were larger conference rooms one contained a massive V shaped table, and the other had chairs setup like a classroom. At the end of the Hallway was a closed door.

"I wouldn't have guessed this floor existed." Hap said.

"If you counted the floors from the outside you might have." The redhead man said, "but the high wall makes it hard, and once you're in the courtyard it's quite difficult." The redhead gestured for them to enter one of the small conference rooms.

Hap and Anastasia walked around the conference room's table and took seats near the far end. Hap glanced around, there was a holo projector built into the table, screens on two of the walls, and beside the door was a metal plaque. The plaque was a large diamond with four stars between the points. In the center of the diamond was a circle with a sword.

"You guys are MIIO?" Hap asked.

"Yeah, you didn't really think I cleaned shitters did you?" The Asian man laughed as he sat down. He saw Hap's confused expression, "Look man, I don't know if you've ever been around an embassy, but almost every one of them has a Foreign Affairs Department or Regional Affairs Section or some other thing that is MIIO."

"Did you know this?" Hap asked

"Perhaps? The summer before I went to NAIS Mother had me intern in an embassy, she was trying to get me to take an interest in political affairs. I worked directly for the Ambassador, but the chief of station or one of his analysts would brief her daily. It's sort of an open secret that no one ever talks about. I think they might have called themselves something else though. Department of Regional Affairs, I believe." Anastasia looked to the two men sitting across from her, "I assume you gentlemen are analysts, can you give us names that we can refer to you by?"

"I like how you said that." The Asian man grinned, "Call me Sam Pek, at least if you see us in the embassy, outside the embassy don't talk to us unless we talk to you."

"I'm going by Rich Brown." The redhead added. "I feel I should add, everything we tell you while we're here must stay here."

"Yeah, but before we get started, there is one more analyst that needs to join us." Sam said as there was a knock at the conference room door. Richard opened the door and let in a short overweight man with a neatly trimmed beard and mustache. He was wearing a large but fitted suit with a coat, vest, and bow tie. He gave Hap and Anastasia a wide toothy grin as he entered. There was a certain air of charm and neatness about him.

"This is Kurt Larue." Sam said, "He's a signals analyst, me and Rich here do more human intelligence or HUMIT. We need to talk to you about Necromo."

Elmoth

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #276 on: 08 August 2022, 17:45:46 »
Chan chann CHANNN!!!

*Takes another bowl of popcorn*

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #277 on: 15 November 2022, 03:18:28 »
Chapter 90

"How do you gentlemen know about Necromo?" Hap asked.

"We were monitoring the calls coming into and out of the Embassy, even encrypted ones." Rich said

"Especially the encrypted ones." Sam added with a laugh.

"And my team intercepted several messages sent from Necromo to Sian." Kurt added.

"Before we get how we do our business we'd like to ask you a few questions." Sam said.

Hap looked around as the men settled into their chairs and pulled out large notepads and pens. "I'd like to record this if no one objects." Kurt said as he started to press a few buttons on the noteputer built into the table. Hap and Anastasia nodded, thinking they had little choice and Rich and Sam mumbled their agreement.

"Let's begin at the beginning." Sam said, "Tell us how you and your company came to conduct a raid on Necromo."

Hap and Anastasia explained everything from their introduction to Colonel Norton, the training on Daniels, the actual raid, and then the failed attempt to hijack the ship. The interview felt like a mix of a post mission debriefing and what Hap would imagine a police interrogation would feel like. The men didn't ask too many questions; rather they just let Hap and Anastasia tell their story, at some points they wrote a few notes, other times they would just look at them and nod.

When Hap and Anastasia were done, the MIIO agents went back through the items they were unclear about. Rich and Sam tried to get as much of a description of Demi-Precentor Norton as they could. They seemed to have a vague idea who he might be. Kurt was more interested in the Electronic Countermeasure device. He was impressed Anastasia was able to recognize the purpose of the device based purely on mathematical equations in a technical manual. She explained how she had to piece it together with the help of their non-English speaking Aerotech.

The questions then started to become in depth. The analysts began asking about Daniels and the training center that was used there. They wanted to know how similar the facilities there were to the actual fortress from the raid. They then started to ask questions about everything they saw and experienced on Necromo, from objects or platforms floating around the planet to the installation and even surface conditions, flora, and fauna.

When they were done with their questions Rich and Kurt turned to look at Sam.

"We're going to need everything you took in the raid, and whatever you got from the ComStar ROM agents. Equipment, papers, that demi-precentor's briefcase, and all the data discs or drives he had, and every last thing they took in the raid."

"We don't want the precentor's briefcase." Kurt said, "It likely has a suite of tracking devices and other nasty things that we probably don't want anywhere near our offices."

"You don't want to look over a ComStar suite of tracking devices?" Rich said, "I'm disappointed Kurt."

Kurt held up his hands placatingly, "fine bring us everything. I won't have you spookies thinking I'm not up to the challenge."

"Now you said this ECM suite thing was in a 10-meter-long shipping container?" Sam asked, "We don't have any way to move that, not without renting a vehicle, but that might draw attention. We also don't have any good place to really look it over. Honestly the best place for it is probably NAIS, but Kurt,"

"Yes?" Kurt sang out.

"Do you want your people to look it over and see what they can figure out?" Sam asked.

"I'd be quite disappointed if you did not let my team of scientists and cryptologists examine the device, but I agree we can't really move it. It sounds like there is some personal trash and detritus for you to sift through so you can 'profile' the great minds that made this device."

Hap was starting to get the sense there was a professional "friendly" competition between the Signal analyst and Human intelligence gatherers. Instinctively he sided with the HUMINT guys, "We have a ROM agent if you gentlemen would like to take her off our hands." Hap offered.

"Not really." Sam said, "The more truth serum you feed them the more they start howling about Blake this and holy prophet that. Honestly you talk to one of them, you've sorta talked to them all. Or it's like reading their damn book. I'd rather have Kurt explain how he can tell a Maskirova agent is a native Russian or Chinese speaker based off the oscillations of their noteputer's power supply when the type."

"Oh so you did read my whitepaper."

"Someone left part of it in the staff toilet." Sam answered.

"That probably has more to do with the shipping problems we had when we first stood up the embassy, and toilet paper started getting scarce." Rich said.

"Someday you'll come to understand the genius of what I do." Kurt answered.

"I believe we are getting off topic, Gentlemen." Anastasia said, "I'd point out the ROM agent in question is certainly highly indoctrinated, but I've never heard her speak of Blake, and I worked with her for a few months before she tried to murder me."

Kurt looked confused and gave Sam and Rich a questioning look. "Why does ROM have a special interest in the daughter of one of our nobles?"

"Anastasia here was a researcher at NAIS while she was studying there. She was helping her father working on an experimental weapon project. He was an industrialist, scientist, and businessman." Sam said.

"He's more of a polymath really." Anastasia said. "and the business was sort of a side hobby."

Sam nodded, "Either way her father, like a lot of scientists, happened to have an 'unfortunate accident' followed very quickly by her father's business partner and fellow polymath killing himself under suspicious circumstances. The usual self-inflicted execution style gunshot wounds to the back of the head. We figured it was ISF, but honestly we usually blame Kurita for a lot of things until we have evidence to the contrary, sometimes we still blame them anyway." Sam laughed. "Man, we hate those guys."

Kurt sat up taller, "This is why the science of electronic intelligence is superior, if you give me a signal I can-"

"Yeah signals get spoofed or redirected all the time, so don't start." Rich answered.

"Wait, my mother has evidence that ComStar assassinated my father, and likely killed his friend."

"We saw the report." Rich said. "And given ComStar's attack on NAIS and the whole interdiction episode, it's pretty obvious it was them, but given the concessions Prince Davion himself had to make with ComStar I'm not sure accusing ROM of assassination is something he wants to do right now."

"What happened with ComStar?" Hap asked.

"Have you been living under a rock, my boy?" Kurt asked.

"Take it easy Kurt." Sam said, "He's a mechwarrior that means he's been living on a Dropship jumping between systems and only visiting planets long enough to destroy things. When he's not doing that he's 'getting to know' his gorgeous new wife, or trying to figure out what it means to be married into a noble family. Which is tricky for him because he grew up in a 'mech garage and had to work his way through a second-tier military academy."

"I see you did your research once you were done eavesdropping." Hap said. He wasn't sure he liked being reduced to a few succinct statements.

"Would you expect anything less of MIIO?" Rich asked.

"No, but I wouldn't consider Albion a second-tier school" Hap said.

"Let's ask your wife." Sam said.

Anastasia looked apologetic, "Albion is not NAIS, and he was right about me being gorgeous, and Intelligence is their name. I personally feel we really can't question Sam's assessment, Harold."

"Oh don't look so hurt, and Kurt's right Captain, you should watch a news holo once in a while." Sam chuckled. "And it looks like our reports were right that you're as smart as you are gorgeous."

Rich cleared his throat "In regards to what happened with ComStar, in June of 3029 ComStar perpetrated a raid on their on HPG facilities on Sarna, but framed AFFS for it. They used this as a pretext to put most of the Federated Suns under an HPG Interdiction. Then in September a unit, who we've all but confirmed was the ComGuards-"

"But I'm still blaming Kurita" Sam added with a smile as he crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.

"- attacked New Avalon Institute of Science. They did some damage to the grounds, but nothing serious. Between the interdiction and the very intentional attack on our Science and Technology research centers it became obvious that ComStar was trying to cripple the new Federated Commonwealth. By December the Prince negotiated a peace with ComStar. The interdiction would be lifted, but they could station ComGaurds units-

"And those nasty ROM bastards" Sam interjected

"Around their HPG stations." Rich said.

"Wait." Hap said, "We were using the HPG on Monhegan in October."

"The interdiction was primarily aimed at New Avalon, the AFFC, and the military industrial complex. Although, to our surprise, they allowed MRB contract work to go through." Rich said.

Sam smiled, "Even ComStar seems to respect a mercenary's honest hustle in the business of violence and murder." Sam paused to collect his thoughts, "For the first couple months it looked like a complete comms black out, but then on some worlds particularly on the edge of the empire, like Monhegan, they'd let civilian traffic pass, and maybe some diplomatic things. Some worlds, like New Avalon, stayed dark though. It was sort of random where ComStar would allow traffic and where they wouldn't. It was more annoying than a complete blackout. But it could have been worse."

"Anything encrypted they'd refuse to send, and if they thought you were trying to secretly pass troop orders or something like that, those messages would be 'garbled' or would be key missing parts." Rich said.

"It hurt, and even with our black box 'fax machines' it's pretty much stalled the war effort." Sam added, "Damn shame because we were really giving the Combine hell."

"Fax Machines?" Hap asked

"A K series transmitter. It's like a mini HPG. It sends an omnidirectional message instead of a focused signal. It's not as effective and can't send messages as far or as quickly, but it is FTL communications, and an alternative to ComStar's HPG." Anastasia said.

"How do you know about these devices?" Kurt asked. "I thought you and your father worked on an x-weapon project."

"My father was interested in building an HPG network for the Federated Suns. When he heard that the Department of Military Communications and Research had an alternative to HPG he asked to see it."

Kurt looked half shocked, "Build an alternative HPG network? That would take significant resources…it's almost impossible without the resources of an empire."

"He knew." Anastasia said, "that's why he hoped if we did well on the experimental weapons project he could prove to someone at NAIS or in the DMCR that he was capable of such a thing."

Kurt still seemed flabbergasted, "I couldn't imagine where to even begin such an endeavor."

"With a functioning K-F drive from a decommissioned JumpShip and a lot of test equipment." Anastasia answered.

"See Kurt this is why unimaginative old bastards like us work in government." Sam smiled.

"It would be impractical to try and build anything like that." Kurt said. "Further I'm not unimaginative."

"Yeah, but it would have been real nice a year ago." Rich said dryly.

"It'd be nice today. I'm sick of dealing with ComStar." Sam shook his head, "I'm sick of every time we call the home office I got to give money to the competition. Alright, here is what we need to do. When is your meeting with the DAT?"

"Tomorrow at 0900." Anastasia said

"Good that's probably too early for him to cancel." Sam said, "Alright Tomorrow we'll send a vehicle to pick you guys up, but I need you to be ready to fill it with everything you can, prioritize the technical things that ROM took on the raid, and everything you got from the Demi-Precentor."

"The mercenary company is probably going to want some compensation for all of that. It's like salvage, and ComStar hired them but, backed out of the contract for obvious reasons. We're not sure what happens next with them and the MRB." Hap said.

"Bring whoever does their money." Sam answered, "We'll work out a fair price. After that we'll need to contract your friends to help us get this thing back to NAIS. I need to talk to my boss and see what she says, but we can't keep this thing here. And speaking of things that can't stay here, can I offer you a ride back to your hangar?" Sam asked

"Wait, before we go, I have a question" Hap said, "What do you guys know about Necromo?"

"Well we've never visited." Sam said. Both Kurt and Rich looked at Sam. After a moment he nodded, "They've been in the Necromo system twice now, and their both cleared for Top Secret information."

"It's likely one of the most secure and secret places in the Capellan Confederation." Kurt said. "Right up with Romano Liao's underwear drawer."

Rich shook his head, "Necromo has a Capellan top secret research site for aerospace technology. The planet also has shipyards and repair facilities for all classes of Drop Ship and Aerospace fighters, possibly even Jump Ships. There are unfounded, but persistent and frightening rumors they may have the capacity to repair Warships. Only the most fanatically loyal and faithful citizens of the Confederation are allowed on Necromo."

"'Unfounded, but persistent and frightening rumors'? Tell me this is not what you base your work on. Next you'll be repeating some spacers legends or that conspiracy theories about the warship the Taurians found."

"Kurt, you try to filter out a good signal from background noise, you ever mistake one for the other?" Sam asked.

"I might have." Kurt said quietly, "I see your point."

"Right," Sam said, "so we sent the Smithson's Chinese Bandits to conduct a raid on Necromo about a decade ago. I'll admit they didn't find a warship, but they met the Big Mac and it went pretty bad for them. Bad enough we didn't try it again." Sam said. "A few months back we decided to use a small merc company to conduct a raid and mess up the systems advanced warning post. You might be familiar with that action. It took us months just to find a Jump Ship pilot that would take a bribe and get you into the regular system traffic."

"Once the post was destroyed we bribed a couple bureaucrats to get a particular construction company as one of the sub-contractors doing repairs. They happened to add a few extra sensors and detectors, and most of them were pointed the wrong way, if you catch my drift."

"Even with all that we still can't tell you much more about Necromo." Rich said. "We can confirm it has extensive repair facilities and even some aerospace manufacturing factories, but exactly what the Capellans are doing there, and what ComStar wanted with their work is something we'd like to know."

"So tomorrow we'll get a look at whatever you got, talk to the ROM agent you brought with you, and see if we can make some sense of things." Rich said, "In the mean time though, you guys want a ride back to your company?"

Hap and Anastasia exchanged glances. "We wanted to do a little shopping before we returned."

"Surely you jest." Kurt said, "According to everything I've heard today, you're a significant science and technology research asset. This is an asymmetrical warzone, and you are personally being hunted by ComStar. Do you really think it's wise to just wander the streets looking for the perfect shoes?"

"ComStar seems to make convoluted plans and rarely strikes in broad daylight." Anastasia said. "I thought if we went today it would be before they figured out some over-wrought plot to kill me."

"Has it occurred to you that you've only been lucky up to this point?" Rich asked.

There was a quiet moment Sam laughed again, "Tell you guys what, We'll sign out a vehicle, get you a driver, maybe that Private in the DAT's office, and she'll take you to the up-town shopping center. It's nice, and has real good security. ROM wouldn't suspect it, and I'd feel good about letting my grandkids shop there, if I let them visit us here."

"But would you let your wife shop there?" Kurt asked

"No man I don't feel good about letting my wife shop anywhere. If I'm not watching her she'll blow through my whole paycheck in one go." Sam said with a laugh.

HFC05

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #278 on: 15 November 2022, 03:18:59 »
Chapter 91

Hap and Anastasia were finishing their breakfast in the embassy's cafeteria. It was the day after their meeting the MIIO agents. The MIIO agents had arranged for a visit to one of Tian-tan's nicer upscale shopping centers and then took them back to the hangar. The shopping center had a fine wine store. After purchasing a few dresses and a new suit for Hap, Anastasia bought enough wine to restock the Phaidin. Hap thought they would donate most of the bottles to the galley's wine store, instead Anastasia had it taken to the warrior lounge and promptly opened a bottle and filled glasses for her and Hap.

They didn't speak much of what they learned from the MIIO agents. They both seemed to sense that things were going to change soon, but neither said anything about it. Instead they drank several bottles of wine, and made love.

To Hap's surprise they had no problem getting up the next morning and helping the MIIO team load the large empty moving van with the things that were taken during the raid. The MIIO team also included SIGINT specialists that Anastasia helped inspect the device. They opened up every panel and took detailed notes and pictures. There were also two of the security detachment soldiers to secure the ROM agent When the vehicle was loaded they all went to the embassy together. Roweyna joined them so she could negotiate with the MIIO agents.

After helping the team unload the vehicle Hap and Anastasia changed into their military utility uniforms and went to get breakfast. Breakfast at the Cafeteria was a good selection of local fruits and vegetables, fresh bread, and an omelet bar.

Hap looked across the table to Anastasia. She sipped her coffee and starred at the logic puzzle in one of the papers that were provided by the embassy, "I don't know about you, but I'm surprised I don't have a hangover after all that wine we drank."

"Good quality wine does not cause a hangover, love." Anastasia said as she tentatively wrote down a number.

"So we could drink like that every night?"

Anastasia nodded as she wrote down another number then filled in several others in quick succession, "We certainly could."

"You sound pretty confident. You have a lot of nights where you put away a couple bottles of wine?"

"Not that many. Although I have learned it helps to drink water throughout the day and have a little food, at least bread and cheese. I will add, I've never had an experience with wine like we had the night we played poker with Commander McFinnigan."

"That was quite a night and a lot of beer and whiskey." Hap said, "But you won your poker game, humbled Joker, and showed Kelly McFinnigan you could mostly handle your liquor. All told I think it was worth the hangover."

"Perhaps, and yet I'd prefer to stick to the wine." Anastasia said as she completed her puzzle, and tentatively picked up her coffee mug as she checked her work.

"Yeah, last night was a lot nicer than that." Hap said as he also took up his coffee cup. "Of course if we have too many more nights like this, you'll end up pregnant."

"Yes. That's a very strong possibility." Anastasias agreed as she sipped her drink.

"Yeah, it is." Hap said as he took the paper and looked at the leader board for the Solaris VII matches.

"Thankfully we have plenty of wine, so we can try again this evening." Anastasia said.

"Wait. What?"

"We should do what we did last night. Find somewhere quiet and private, drink wine, enjoy each other's company and have another intimate congress. I suppose the wine's not actually necessary in this equation though, but it certainly makes things more fun."

"You want to get pregnant?"

"I'm certainly not opposed to it."

"You're not opposed to it?" Hap looked at Anastasia to see if she was kidding. He could see a slight smile on her face as she looked over her coffee mug and shrugged.

"If it were to happen, now would likely be as good a time as any." Anastasia said.

"As good a time as any? You're the woman that plans out what she is going to have for breakfast for months at a time." Hap said.

"I generally eat the same thing for breakfast. If it's available coffee, a croissant, poached egg, cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes. That's hardly a significant data point."

"You know what I mean."

"Perhaps you're a bad influence on me." Anastasia said, "Look, my mother wants grandchildren, we both enjoy our intimate time together, I know you do. We both want children. In a few months we'll be going to New Avalon. Why not now?"

"When were you going to let me in on your plan?"

Anastasia looked guilty as she gently set her coffee mug down, "I honestly hadn't thought that far. Last night we were drinking, and things were heading down a particular path, and I thought to myself about potential pregnancy, as you just did, and I considered perhaps it wouldn't be so bad. I see how I probably should have mentioned this to you."

"Especially if you keep planning to ply me with wine and seduce me."

"You believe you're being seduced? Well then perhaps now isn't the best time to have a child, and it's something I should avoid at all costs."

"Now I think you're overreacting." Hap said as he stood up, "Tell you what, lets go meet with the elusive DAT, and then we'll go back to the Hangar, see if the Compact's convoy is still moving out tomorrow, and prep our 'mechs. Then after dinner we'll discuss this some more over some wine."

"And I shall pick the wine, the most seductive of wines." Anastasia told him as she placed their used dishes on a tray.

"What's the most seductive wine? Is it port or mead?" Hap asked.

Anastasia hesitated a moment. "I was thinking of a bourbon barrel aged Cabernet Sauvignon, but I could see why you might think Port as a very seductive wine."

Hap took their dishes to an alcove with a conveyor belt that took the dirty dishes back to the kitchen area. "My roommate back at Albion called port 'a bottle of panty-dropper'."

Anastasia gave Hap a reproachful look and shook her head, "With that endorsement I'm suddenly feeling hostile toward port, and Mead isn't exactly a wine."

"Mead isn't wine?" Hap asked as they left the cafeteria area and approached the elevators.

"It depends on who you ask, I suppose. Like wine it improves with age, but mead in its simplest form, is made with honey not grapes. The yeast strains are the same as those used for wines, particularly champagne, but nearly everyone agrees wine is, by definition, derived from grapes."

"All right, I thought mead was honey wine, but I'm pretty sure it's seductive." Hap said as the elevator opened and they entered it.

"I don't have any personal experience with mead, but when my parents married they received thirty bottles of mead from one of Hazelhurst's breweries and the master brewer personally told mother that if they drank one bottle each night they would certainly conceive a child before they ran out of mead." "Did it work?" Hap asked

"A lady never tells." Anastasia said as she used her thumb to count on her fingers, "My parents were married in June, and I was born in Mar…Oh!"

"So the seductive powers of mead worked." Hap said as he pressed the button for the third floor.

"It may have been a contributing factor, but I'd prefer not to speak about mead anymore." Anastasia said as the elevator door closed.

"Fair enough"

After a moment Anastasia added, "On their anniversary daddy would bring her a bottle of mead and they would laugh and laugh about it."

"Well, they were married."

"And then the butler would see the empty bottle the next morning and make comments about it."

"Sounds unprofessional."

"You have no idea, he would say every time he saw that bottle he would find ladies undergarments in odd places."

"So it is like port."

"I told you I don't want to talk about it."

The elevator doors opened and Hap and Anastasia started walking toward the Defense Attaché office. "Perhaps we should try mead." Anastasia said

"Perhaps we should"

"I'm curious about anything that could make my mother compromise her regular sense of decorum and poise."

"Your mother's poise is formidable."

Anastasia gave Hap a questioning look, "As formidable as she may be, my mother gracefully maintained her composure and wits as she went glass for glass with Elinor McFinnigan.

"And the McFinnigans are accomplished drinkers."

"Exactly."

"We can see if the embassy's commissary has any mead."

Anastasia nodded as they stopped in front of the Defense Attache Office's closed door. Hap knocked on the door and was greeted by Private Harmay.

She looked at the two officers nervously, "Good morning sir, ma'am. Please come in. Colonel Bruckner told me to ask you to wait until he is ready for you." As she spoke she motioned to a small couch near the closed door of the corner office.

Hap and Anastasia settled into the couch. Hap checked his watch it was ten till 0900. He felt Anastasia lean on him so she could see his watch.

"You know you could get your own watch."

"Why? I have you."

"What did you do before we met?"

"I was at NAIS, cadets are generally required to be at the same place at the same time. If I followed my peers I was almost always where I needed to be. There were also clocks everywhere."

"I'm guessing your mom's not big on being punctual."

"Quite the opposite, Mother has always made it clear that timeliness was the height of good manners. If she arrived early to an event she would be infringing on the time of her host, if she was late she was wasting everyone's time. Therefore she maintained that being promptly on time was the definition of polite and well mannered."

"That's a little different than the 'ten minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable' concept that got drilled into my head as a young officer."

"As clever as that axiom is, I've been a member of the last squad of the last platoon of the last company enough to know that if every leader tells their subordinate unit to be ten minutes early you'll have people standing in formation hours before they need to be there. It's foolishness. If more people were like my mother, significantly less time would be wasted."

"I've also worked with people that are just incapable of being on time, so telling them to arrive fifteen minutes early was the only way you could hope they'd be at the right place at the right time.

Anastasia smirked, "That sounds like a leadership problem."

"You live and work with Joker, you think I could be doing more to 'lead' him?"

Anastasia crossed her arms and leaned back, "I have often thought that you should consider a cattle prod."

"If you threaten him with a cattle prod, I'm pretty sure he'll tell you he likes the sound of that."

"Remind me to buy one for Mags next time we find ourselves at an agricultural supply store."

Hap glanced around and noticed a few magazines on a side table. "I certainly will."

Hap picked up Federated Commonwealth Joint Officers Quarterly. He had never seen this magazine and it was from October of the previous year. The cover was glossy, and the paper was thick. He flipped past articles about combining military forms and manuals with the LCAF and AFFS forces, and another article discussing the successes of the new Regimental Combat Teams. He settled on an article describing the HCT-3F Hatchetman.

Hap noted that Team Banzai was behind the design and creation of the 'mech. The captions for several of the article's pictures stated they were taken at NAIS. "You ever seen one of these? '' Hap asked as he nudged Anastasia. He looked over at his wife. She was staring at the closed office door, and Hap knew immediately she was annoyed.

She glanced at the magazine. "Yes. That is a mech designed to skulk in dark alleys and literally cleave other 'mechs in the back."

"So it's like an Urbanmech's bigger brother?" Hap glanced back at the magazine and a picture of a Hatchetman slicing into a Vulcan's arm mounted flamer.

"Yes, but Dr. Banzai would be offended if he heard it compared to the Urbanmech. Although, Dr. Banzai is uncertain if axes will catch on as standard equipment. He also jokes about the Hatchetman being a proof-of-concept platform, where he, as an engineer, demonstrates he could make something he probably should not have made. I will add, the ejection system is brilliant and the most underrated aspect of the design."

"They interview him here and he uh…" Hap skimmed the interview section of the article, "He seems quite proud of everything about this design." Hap said.

"Oh he is." Anastasia said dryly. She grabbed Hap's wrist and looked at his watch, "Why are we out here waiting?"

"Well it's classic military punishment between officers. We're going to wait here as long as the Colonel wants us to wait, which is about as long as he thinks we need to learn our lesson about wasting his time. Then he'll talk to us and if we need his help or assistance with anything he'll likely ensure we get exactly what we don't want."

"I know that, but this is still foolish. It's not a very effective way to punish anyone."

"Are you annoyed?"

"I'm livid"

"Then it's effective."

Anastasia pinched Hap until he pulled his arm away and told her, "Ow that hurts"

"Then it's effective." Anastasia said as her eyes flashed.

"Look I'm not the one that insisted we meet with Colonel Bruckner. We got the secure hangar, we talked to the embassy staff and we got the MI-foreign affairs office looking into what we have and helping us. We did everything you said we should. I think we've done our due diligence. It seems meeting with Colonel Bruckner is a formality that no one wants.

"This is more than a mere formality. Colonel Bruckner should keep his appointments rather than constantly rescheduling them. It's a common courtesy." Anastasia said.

"Common courtesy aside, What do you hope to get out of this conversation? Like I said, I think we got everything we need out of the embassy. We should just help out the Compact forces while the guys in the foreign affairs office dig into everything we took from Necromo. I think you're taking this personally."

Anastasia paused, "No I just feel...Okay I may have taken this personally." Hap nodded as Anastasia thought, "Well we should still make sure that our operations aren't going to conflict with any of the embassy's initiatives or any other AFFC's activities."

"We'll I anticipate we'll be doing a lot of listening, so be polite and hopefully this will be quick." Hap said.

"I'm always polite." Anastasia said as the phone rang.

Corporal Weber answered and nodded. He hung up the phone and called out, "Bruckner will see you now."

ThePW

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #279 on: 15 November 2022, 11:26:00 »
*CLAPS* Ok, I was howling in giggles at times... I swear the MIIO gig was like dealing with 3 X-Files members (or the dudes from Temporal Affairs on DS9).

and the topic of wine? You can smell the smiles happening...  :))

Elmoth

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #280 on: 15 November 2022, 18:37:01 »
Quote
She glanced at the magazine. "Yes. That is a mech designed to skulk in dark alleys and literally cleave other 'mechs in the back."

"So it's like an Urbanmech's bigger brother?" Hap glanced back at the magazine and a picture of a Hatchetman slicing into a Vulcan's arm mounted flamer.
Best description of the hatchetman EVER.

great update. looking forward to more!

Iron Grenadier

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Re: A Warrior's Family
« Reply #281 on: 15 November 2022, 19:52:42 »
This is a really great story that I've enjoyed and have been waiting on updates.

But two things kinda stood out -

The agents slipping and talking about fax machines - wasn't this like super top secret? And they just casually mention it? And if someone doesn't realize that Anastasia is apparently a gigantic security risk at this point, good grief.... xp

The 2nd point is Albion being classified as "2nd tier"  ???