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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 18[]

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A Warrior's Family[]


Discussing THAT word[]

October 3029


Anastasia heard Hap say her name as he gently shook her. She stretched and turned over to look at him. Without thinking she gave him a warm smile, "Good morning, Harold."

Hap couldn't help but smile back, "Good morning, Anastasia. I wanted to talk to you about last night. Before you fell asleep did you say something?"

Anastasia looked a little sheepish, "I might have said something as I was falling asleep. I've been told when I get comfortable I tend to say or do things I wouldn't normally say. What did you hear?" Anastasia didn't regret saying that she loved Harold, but she didn't want to get lectured on how they still needed to get to know each other and how she shouldn't say "that" word.

Hap paused for a moment, as he debated with himself, "I thought you said, 'I love you'."

"Sleepy Anastasia says many things." she said dismissively. This sounded like it was going to be a lecture. She snuggled up to him, if he was going to lecture, or call her naïve, she could at least enjoy being close.

"Whatever 'sleepy Anastasia' said it got me thinking that even if I didn't hear those words I wanted to, because I enjoy spending time with you, and getting to know you. I also appreciated our conversation last night. I, uh, it was, uh, I appreciated the emotional support."

Anastasia looked at him expectantly. This no longer sounded like a lecture, it sounded promising.

"What I'm trying to say is…" Hap paused, "This is awkward because I said we need to take things slow."

Anastasia felt bad for him, "Harold, you don't have to say anything. I know you love me. You can't hold me like you do and not love me. You're not pawing at me for sex. You wrap your arms around me and make me feel loved. It's why I said, 'I love you'. I felt loved, I wanted to let you know I loved you back"

Hap nodded. He didn't have anything else to say. He ran his hand up and down her back as she laid with her head on his chest. After a minute Anastasia broke the silence, "So where do we go from here?"

Hap shrugged, "I don't know."

"You don't know? You decided we should take things slow, I assumed you have milestones or goals for our relationship that we need to meet in a certain order." Anastasia tried to remember if any of the books she had read had some sort of timeline for relationships.

Hap shook his head, "I don't. I figure our relationship should progress naturally, it's not a process."

Anastasia got quiet for a moment then said, "I think everything is a process or at least has an orderly way to be accomplished. Anything you do in a step-by-step method is a process. It doesn't matter if it's your morning routine, or starting your 'Mech. Why should our relationship be any different?"

"Do you hear yourself?" Hap was at loss, "There is no 'do these ten things and you'll go from strangers to lovers for life'. Even if a relationship does need steps or activities you can't just race through them as quickly as possible. Time together is just as important as anything else for a relationship to grow. Honestly, you sound more like an engineer than a 'sweep-me-off-my-feet' romantic."

"Being swept off my feet implies the process can be done quicker in the right circumstances. It's actually more efficient when you think about it, which is generally the goal of engineering." Anastasia replied.

"Relationships take time Anastasia. I mean, look at you, you're comfortable with saying 'I love you', but you take your bra off under your shirt, so you're not comfortable showing me your naked body."

"Maybe I'm not comfortable with my body, and that's a different process to fix."

"Or maybe it's because you're not ready to have sex."

They both got quiet again, then Anastasia sighed, "So it comes back to time?"

"Yes time." Hap replied quietly as he squeezed her shoulder.

They laid quietly together again, then Hap asked, "So are you uncomfortable with your body, or did you just assume if I saw you naked I'd want more, and it would just lead to problems?"

"A little bit of both." Anastasia replied. She glanced over at Hap's watch, and then flashed him an impish grin, "But if you really want to see me topless, and you promise to be good-"

"I'm always good." Hap said slowly as he gave her a questioning look.

Anastasia sat up "Okay, but keep in mind, I've been told my 'rack' isn't the best."

"You were told that by a man that has never, and likely will never, see your 'rack', and generally has to pay a woman to see or touch her anything."

Anastasia nodded, "True". She slowly started to roll-up the bottom of her shirt, then stopped, "but I want to make sure you're not disappointed."

Hap's eyes narrowed. She was clearly teasing him, "I assure you I won't be disappointed."

"Promise?"

"Anastasia, what are you-" as Harold spoke he was interrupted by the morning wake-up bell.

Anastasia smoothed out her shirt, "Oh! I'm sorry, Harold, it's time to start our morning processes."

Hap caught her wrist as she reached for the door. "I've been learning about more 'efficient processes'. I think I can spare a moment."

"I'm not sure I can." Anastasia smiled and freed her wrist with a quick twist. Before Hap could stop her she got her hand on the door latch and threw it open. Hap responded by sweeping off his blankets in Anastasia's direction. He managed to wrap her up in blankets, and gave her a playful shove. She responded with a muffled "Hey" as she fell over in a tangled heap at the foot of the bed.

Hap looked up to see Joker perched on on the edge of his compartment. He looked like he was debating the merits of getting out of bed. He looked at Hap and asked, "What are you two doing?"

Hap glanced over Anastasia trying to untangle herself, "We were talking about efficient processes."

"Like the fastest way to do something? Is that what Anastasia calls having sex with you?"

Anastasia pushed her head out of the blankets, "You hear efficient process, understand 'fastest way to accomplish a thing', and immediately think of sex?"

"It's all he ever thinks about." Mags said as she pulled a box out of her locker and put it on the deck.

"Sounds about right." Hap told Anastasia, "you look like you're not having an efficient time, need help?"

"No." Anastasia said darkly, as she sat up, got her hands free, and began to untangle the blanket.

Mags pulled a palm sized cylinder out of the box. She stepped over toward Hap, "I have a question. "

"What do you need?" Hap asked.

"Not you, Anastasia. I need someone smart." Mags took another step to stand in front of Anastasia.

Joker jumped down, with his stupid grin, "Ah Hap, Mags doesn't think you're smart."

"That's not what I said." Mags snapped

"That's exactly what you said." Joker replied with his characteristic irritating smile

Anastasia was mostly free of the blanket. She was feeling closer to Harold and Joker's slight at him annoyed her more than usual. "Joker, if Harold isn't smart then you have donkey brains."

"Donkey Brains? Is that the best you got?" Joker stepped closer to Anastasia and starred at her.

"Quiet, donkey brains." Mags said as she pushed Joker away from Anastasia. Mags handed Anastasia a small black palm-sized cylinder. "My personal Holoviewer broke, can you fix it?"

Anastasia took the cylinder, and it rattled as she examined it. "What happened?"

"It fell during our landing on Klathandu." Mags explained. Anastasia looked up. Mags voice was low, and her expression told Anastasia this was important. Before Anastasia could reply Mags told her, "You're the smartest person I know. If anyone can fix it it's you."

Anastasia nodded and began to play with her braid. As she nervously tugged the braid she noted that it Hap's roughhousing had loosened it, and she needed to be fixed, but she was more interested in the holo and trying to solve the problem of how to repair it.

"Mag's can I ask why it's important?"

"It has holos of my family, and a video from my Father. It's important to me." Mags almost whispered.

Hap could see Joker was still staring at Anastasia, probably trying to think of some devastating insult to hurl at her. Hap opened up his locker and asked Joker, "How was the card game last night?"

"It didn't go so well" Joker looked at Mags,"because someone doesn't understand how to play spades."

"You're the one that doesn't seem to know how many total tricks there are." Mags snapped.

"Look, I could only take two. You said you would win five, but you took twice that." Joker snapped.

Anastasia examined the broken holoviewer as Joker and Mags bickered. Aside from the rattle the metal case had a large dent. The holo array appeared to be fine, so it was just the internal electronics. She could fix a lot of things, but this would likely be difficult. These things weren't designed to be repaired. They were probably made in an automated factory in Marik space and no one knew how to fix them. She sighed, if she had some tools maybe she could try something, at least salvage the memory module. The holo wasn't important to Mags, the pictures and videos were, so that gave her some options.

Anastasia put on her coveralls and slipped the holoviewer into a large cargo pockets. Soon everyone had finished there morning processes and were headed to the galley. Anastasia fell into step beside Harold. She looked over at him and smiled. It was good to talk to someone that understand how it felt to lose a parent. Since she had lost her father she had needed someone to talk to that could understand her and relate. She felt a little guilty as she wondered how her mother was coping.

Breakfast was all canned or prepackaged foods. After weeks of space travel all the fresh food had been eaten and whoever's day it was to cook had just given up and put out dried cereals, ready-made bread, canned milk, and canned fruits. It wasn't fresh, but at least it was nourishing.

Normally Fletch, or Tomax would pass out training assignments during breakfast. Today they handed out tasks for preparing the shuttle to land. There were areas to clean, equipment that had to be secured and dozens of other duties that had to be done before the drop shuttle could enter a planet's atmosphere.

Most of the MechWarriors helped the techs prepare their 'Mechs. The upcoming mission was supposed to be a garrison duty, and there was no expectation that this would be a combat drop, but just in case McFinnigan wanted the 'Mechs ready for action. He also wanted his company to look like professionals.

Since Hap, Anastasia, and Joker's 'Mechs were on the other drop shuttle they were tasked with helping Codey and Mal take apart the simulators. They went down to the vehicle bay and found the two techs already at work. Codey was pressing buttons on a terminal built into the large Leenex 60 cylinder.

"What is that thing?" Joker asked pointing at the cylinder.

Codey gave him a questioning look, "It's the power source from a 'Mech, specifically an Urbanmech. I can't believe you didn't know that. What do you think has been powering all the systems?"

"I dunno. We're on a massive ship. I just figured everything was patched into the ship's engines."

Anastasia sighed, "It has nuclear and hazard markings all over it. It's a large fusion reactor shaped cylinder, and nearly everything here is wired into it. Further, it has large air hoses going into the ship's air exchangers. It never occurred to you it might be a 'Mech's fusion reactor?"

"Anastasia, I'm not like you. There are a lot of things that never occur to me, alright?"

"Yes. I actually knew that." Anastasia replied.

Hap knew if he let them, Anastasia and Joker would argue all day. "Codey you need any help shutting down that generator?"

"Yeah I could use a hand." Codey said as he continued to press buttons on the maintenance panel.

"Mal, what do you need help with?" Hap looked to the short young woman with blue hair.

Mal had an armload of large cloth bags. She raised her eyebrows in surprise, and almost dropped her bags. "Um, I dunno. I usually have to do all this myself."

"What are you doing with those bags?" Hap asked

"The setup for the command couches are all custom work, so I have to make sure all the cables and pieces stay together. Each couch gets a bag and everything for that couch goes into its bag."

Hap nodded, "Got it. Joker, help Mal with the couches. Anastasia, you want to help Codey or Mal?"

Anastasia looked at Mal, and then saw something on the table behind her. "I'll help Mal."

"Hey, why does she get a choice?" Joker asked

"Because we're here to help, and you couldn't recognize the most basic of fusion reactors." Hap replied

"Look, first of all I shut down a fusion reactor all the time, and I didn't recognize one because mine is inside my mech, where it's supposed to be. I bet you or Anastasia can't even name your engine type."

Anastasia looked up from the NAV board she was unscrewing, "It's an Omni 150."

"That doesn't mean anything! She knows everything about everything." Joker said.

"Mine is a CoreTex 275, and your Firestarter has a GM 210. I did a lot of my own maintenance, and I had to request a new engine after part of your shielding got destroyed during the 'hot drop' into Klathandu."

"Oh yeah. Well I didn't want to work on the reactor anyway." Joker said as he took a bag from Mal.

Hap walked over to Codey and helped him go through the reactor's safety shutdown checklist. Anastasia finished one couch and moved over to the one next to where Mal was working.

Anastasia carefully unplugged a target acquisition computer, "Mal, the HUD for these simulators, are they all made from personal holoviewers?"

"Yeah. This is one of my and Codey's specialties. We take a micro holoviewer, overwrite the code, wire it into the system and it works just like your 'Mech's HUD, and shows you stuff in 'the game'."

Anastasia continued to roll up cables and place them in the bag, "I see you have one plugged into your terminal at your workstation. Can you transfer data between holoviewers?"

"Oh yeah, we do that all the time. I got a whole setup over there." Mal said gesturing to the long table.

"If I had a broken holoviewer, do you think you could help me get the data off of it?" Anastasia asked

"Um…probably. Let's look at it during lunch." Mal replied. "Codey's really fussy about getting the simulators packed up before we start to land. He'll insist on sticking to his schedule."


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