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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 14[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Waking Up in Shared Bunk[]

Edwards System
Federated Suns
August 3029

Hap heard a loud bang and felt Anastasia jump. It took him a moment to remember why Anastasia was in his bed, and what was going on. He felt the rush of mixed feelings for how he wanted to get to know her before things got physical and the enjoyment of holding her, and wanting to be more intimate.

As he sorted his thoughts, Hap could hear voices talking in the hallway outside his chamber, he figured it was Crow taking care of the mess on Anastasia's bed. He was partially relieved to know she had a place to sleep and disappointed at the same time.

Anastasia moved Hap's arm so she could read his watch, then carefully tucked his arm back around her.

"What time is it?" Hap asked

"Just after 0700." Anastasia replied as she pulled the blankets around her tighter.

Hap tried to reach up and turn on the light, but Anastasia held tightly onto his hand. He pulled harder and she grabbed it with his free hand. In a moment they were wrestling and Hap was surprised that Anastasia was stronger than he would have guessed. She giggled as he struggled, but eventually Hap managed to pin her arms with a bear hug and get his hand free and flipped the lights on.

Hap loosened his grip and Anastasia pushed herself onto her side. They looked at each other eye to eye for a moment. Hap noted that her hair was disheveled, and there were streaks of red mixed in with the chestnut and dark brown hair. Her brown eyes were soft and doe like. He could faintly see brown freckles across her cheeks and nose. She was gorgeous and everything about her was soft and inviting.

Anastasia blew a few stray hairs out of her face "Was that really necessary?"

"Manhandling you, or turning the light on?"

"The lights." Anastasia said. "The manhandling was fun."

"I thought you'd want to get up and start your day. I think your bed just got cleaned off."

"I heard, but I'm happy here, Harold." Anastasia said as she laid her head on Hap's chest.

Hap rubbed her shoulder and enjoyed the moment then asked, "Why do you insist on calling me Harold and not Hap?"

"When we first met, I thought 'This man saved me, and he's handsome.' You had your hands on my shoulders, and I was waiting or hoping you would sweep me off my feet. When you said your name was Harold, but everyone calls you Hap. I didn't want to be like everyone to you, I want to be special."

"Then a few seconds later you were annoyed with me when I asked you about your friends."

"Mmm, yes, I was a little mercurial at that moment. In my defense, I was going through a lot that day, and my lack of friends is always a sore subject, but I thought we had a connection, I still think that."

"We have a connection, and you want to be swept you off your feet? I don't want to make fun of you, but you sound like a sappy drama holo."

"Harold, if I tell you something, would you keep it to yourself?"

"Certainly." Hap said. If it were anyone else he'd have been joking, but he really did want her trust.

"I like romance novels. I know they're terrible, and only slightly better than fan fiction, but when I get tired of reading technical things, I just relax with a horrible Harlequin novel."

Hap looked at her confused, "You're kidding. I can't believe you enjoy something so…tawdry."

Anastasia shook her head. "It's not that, it's romance, and relationships, and love at first sight-"

"And heaving chests and quivering members." Hap added

"Yes there's that." Anastasia agreed sheepishly, "but there's more. It's the happily ever after. I know it's foolish but I like them. When I first saw you, you smiled, you put your hands on my shoulder, and for a moment it seemed like one of those scenes. I don't know if that makes me foolish, or a hopeless-"

"A paradox." Hap said. Anastasia raised a questioning eyebrow, so he explained, "I understand you crave intimacy but you are careful who you let close. I also understand you don't want to be pre-judged by a call sign, especially when you can quote military doctrine better than the instructors I had at Albion."

"There's a reason why NAIS is considered a better school." Anastasia said with a smirk.

Hap chuckled, "I'd bet you're better than some of the instructors at NAIS, but it isn't just that. You work hard, and study hard, you're intellectual. The paradox is you're secretly enamored with romance novels, and you fantasize about unrealistic relationships with people you hardly know."

"First, not people, you. That's important. Second, you are just as enamored by action holos as I am of romance novels." Anastasia corrected. "And we both know they are just as stupid and unrealistic."

"You're just as enamored with action holos as I am, and besides they're great cinema." Hap replied

"They are, in fact, terrible pieces of cinema. I enjoy them, but I'm not enamored."

"Well then I'm not enamored either." Hap quickly replied

"Too late you already admitted it."

"Damn" Hap said sarcastically and squeezed her.

"Third, I'm a young women, I'm allowed to read dumb novels where people fall in love at first sight, get swept off their feet, have witty repartee, and have whirlwind romances that end happily ever after."

"Alright, but you were fantasizing all of that about a total stranger, you hardly knew me."

"Hardly knew you? I had known you for a good hour, or at least thirty minutes."

"And it took you four days to get into my bed? That's a lifetime in those books you read."

"Oh? So you're an expert on Harlequin novels now? When did you stop reading Harlequin novels?"

"Very clever. Really what's important here is I don't want a relationship based on first encounter feelings. In my experience, those don't last. You want a relationship that lasts right?"

Anastasia sighed, "I do, but I also want a relationship with more of this, more of you holding me."

"I think we're getting ahead of ourselves. I think we need to work on other things first."

"I've read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies, usually the other things are-" There was a commotion outside the sleep chamber and Hap and Anastasia could hear Joker and Mags arguing. "I don't want my first time to be where everyone can hear us, or know what we are doing."

Now Hap raised a questioning eyebrow, "You need to read different books. I wasn't referring to that. I was talking about how relationships have emotional and psychological aspects. If it's all physical, then that's all you have, but if you want it to last you need the emotional and psychological connections."

Anastasia frowned, but before she could respond there was a banging on the door. Hap rolled it up to find Joker squatting beside his bed. "Hey Ana-Oh. Hap, I was looking for you." He tilted his head to see Anastasia, "Good morning Anastasia." As he smiled and laughed. "Fancy, meeting both of you here."

"Good morning Joker." Anastasia said as she threw herself down and pulled the blankets up to her chin.

"I thought you told me fraternization was a bad idea boss." Joker teased

"Well people gotta sleep somewhere Joker, and her bed had that mech hand in it." Hap answered

"Yeah, Crow just hauled that thing off, and all that other stuff. So are you and Anastasia-"

"What did you need, Joker?"

"Crow mentioned we should get breakfast, and that Fletch would probably be looking for us. I tried to get Mags up but she told me to 'Eff off'."

Hap nodded. He turned over to Anastasia, "You want to change in here, or are you going to the head?"

"Here. Could you get my things, please?" Anastasia answered. "They are on third shelf of my locker."

Hap slipped out of the bed and stepped across the hall to Anastasia's locker. He found her coveralls folded, and a gray sports-bra laid out on top. Everything in her locker was neatly folded and laid out on the various shelves. Hap was still living out of his bag, and he knew Joker's locker looked like someone had tossed a grenade in it. Hap handed Anastasia her clothes and closed the berthing chamber door.

Hap banged on Mags door. The door was instantly thrown open, and a sleepy-eyed Mags angrily looked around then saw Hap. "What?"

"We're getting ready to go get breakfast."

"Eff off." She said as she started to close the door.

Hap caught the door. "Hey, if you're not feeling well, I understand. You drank a lot last night. If it were me I know I'd be feeling pretty bad."

She looked at him cautiously, "What are you saying?"

"Joker can grab you a breakfast plate." Hap said with a nod in Joker's direction.

"Why do I have to bring her breakfast?" Joker complained.

"Don't whine Joker, If you were feeling weak because you drank too much I'd-" Hap said

Mags sat up with a wince and a groan, "Who are you calling weak?" She asked

"Yeah, and what are you saying about me whining?" Joker added

"Shutup puta." Mags snapped as she jumped off her bed. "I'm not weak, no one has to bring me shit." She told Hap. She then turned to wall locker and cursed under her breath as she grabbed a bundle of clothes and a hygiene bag and headed toward the ladies head.

Joker looked at Hap, "What's a 'puta'?"

Anastasia opened up the door to Hap's berthing chamber, gave Joker a mean smile and said, "female dog." As she walked past him and brushed up against Hap on her way to the head.

Joker looked at Hap quizzically, "Female dog? Does that makes sense to you?"

"Puta means bitch, as in Mags was calling you a bitch." Hap explained

"Mags is a bitch." Joker replied, "Why is Anastasia so happy." His eyes got wide as he looked at Hap, "Did you and her work out some of your sexual frustrations?"

"Remember when I said, 'before this is all over I'm probably going to have to kick your ass'?"

"Maybe you and Anastasia didn't do anything, because you still have some frustrations." Joker said, "What do you think of Mags?"

"Well she's a tough girl that wants to prove she's better than all the men around her. The real question we need to be asking is if she actually means it when she says she's going to cut you."

"Yeah I think Mags is cute too." Joker said.

Hap sighed, "I got my hands full with Anastasia, she has a high school girl crush on me, and I'm trying to figure out this new life as a mercenary. Do me a favor today and try not to annoy Mags or Anastasia. I could really use the time to straighten out things with Anastasia, and get our lance together."

"Not piss off off Anastasia? It's so easy, I mean just now she didn't even curse. I gotta mess with her."

Before Hap could answer Mags and Anastasia returned. "We need to hurry, they only serve breakfast till 0900, and it's almost 0830." Mags said as she tossed her bag on her bed and kept walking. Joker quick stepped to get beside her and Anastasia and Hap followed behind.

They arrived at the galley with a few minutes to spare. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, porridge and an arrangement of breads, cold meats and raw fruits and vegetables. Hap and his lance mates were joined by Crow and another MechWarrior named Rolph Horsteng. Rolph was in his 40s had been a 'Mech tech until somehow he managed to collect the parts to a Trebuchet. Rolph was short but stocky. He had short curly gray hair, a handlebar mustache and steel blue eyes.

Both men were friendly and Hap found himself in an easy conversation with them. Joker and Rolph even teased each other. Mags quietly ate her breakfast and, in spite of her act everyone knew she was hurting, but her general demeanor made them just leave her alone. Anastasia was quiet and seemed to be deep in thought. Hap caught her eye a few times, but she just shrugged.

The conversation went on and Hap's mind drifted to Anastasia. She was naïve, and young, and beautiful and she was clearly infatuated with Hap, and Hap would be lying if he wasn't also infatuated with her. He didn't want to push her away, but it was going to be hard to not let anything get any more physical, and his concept of being a professional Mechwarrior made him question if this relationship was a good idea. On the other hand if he had to spend every waking minute with someone he'd rather it be Anastasia than Joker.

Fletch came up, he had a large cup of coffee and cigarette in one hand. "Crow, Rolph, take our new recon lance to the training deck. I want to familiarize them with our equipment and run them through a few drills." Crow nodded and stood up as he finished his coffee.

Hap couldn't believe this mercenary unit had that sort of tech. "Does the unit have training simulators?"

"Sorta." Crow replied as he scratched the back of his head, and started walking.

"More like we took a bunch of broken mech cockpits and wired 'em to holo viewers." Mags explained

"They work fine." Rolph defended, "Besides I like to think we took the skulls of our enemy and made them into something useful."

"Daddy and I almost built something like that, but Mother told us to just find a trainer with a 'Mech stable, instead of wasting time and money on a 'science project'." Anastasia quietly told Hap as everyone started walking out of the galley.

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