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Chapter 20[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Fiona's Advice[]

Monhegan System
October 3029

Hap, Anastasia and Joker met up with Mags in the galley after spending the afternoon helping Codey and Mal disassemble and pack the simulator system. They sat down around her and Hap asked, "How was your day, Mags? How's the work on your Jenner?"

Jenner Light BattleMech (by Karyudo)

Jenner Light 'Mech

Mags groaned, "The techs had been doing routine maintenance on my Jenner. The missile feed mechanism was on the schedule, so I had to help them get it done. I spent the day lubricating the feed trays and linkages. I got all this lubricant shit under my nails and it takes forever to wash it off."

"I got something you can lubricate." Joker told her

"You want a lubricant gun shoved up your ass?" Mags countered

Anastasia set the holoviewer on the table, "We fixed your holoviewer."

"Really?" Mags snatched the holoviewer, and flipped the power switch. She went directly to the videos and again the image of the old man appeared. Before he could start speaking Mags paused the video.

Mags leaned over and hugged Anastasia. Anastasia gave Hap the half terrified, half overwhelmed look that she had when Kelly hugged her. Hap was bemused by this reaction. When they were alone she craved intimacy, but she seemed to dislike unexpected physical contact with friends or acquaintances.

Mags let her go and began to search through the other files on the device. Anastasia recovered from the surprise hug and explained, "We weren't actually able to fix it, but Mal and Codey were able to transfer the data from your broken system to one of their spares."

"Wow." Mags said quietly, as she played with the device "I wouldn't have thought to ask them."

"Mal was happy to help." Anastasia said, "She wanted you to know it was mostly her efforts."

"Mal really thinks pretty highly of you." Hap added.

"Yeah, I dated Grizzly a while back. I think she liked the idea I'd be her sister or whatever." Mags said without looking up from the holoviewer display. "Didn't work out though."

"Yeah what happened with you and Grizzly?" Joker asked, there was an edge to his tone.

Mags continued to scroll through menus and files, "Nothing. He just wanted sex all the time." Mags shut off the holoviewer, "Jefe, you need me for anything tonight? I'd like to just go back to my rack."

Hap nodded, "Yeah, I understand. We don't have anything planned. If I need you I'll come find you."

Mags gathered up her holoviewer, but before she left she thanked Anastasia again, and then nearly jogged out of the galley. Joker watched her leave then turned back to Hap and Anastasia, "That's weird."

"Yeah, did she call me Jefe?" Hap asked as he adjusted his plate of schnitzel and spätzle mit kasse.

"It means chief. Maybe Mags has decided to be a team player now that we did something nice for her."

"That's not what I meant. Mags and Grizzly are weird. I wonder what they did together."

"Had sex apparently." Anastasia said nonchalantly as she cut into her schnitzel.

Joker looked up from scrapping Mags food onto his plate, "You're not funny."

Hap took a bite of his spätzle, "So you like Mags?"

"Yeah, maybe. It's not a big deal, you and the pri-uh-professor have each other."

Anastasia gave Joker a hard stare. "Pass the mustard, please."

"You've been with a few girls, what's wrong with Mags having a past relationship?" Hap asked

Joker handed Anastasia the mustard, "First, don't threaten me with good manners, it's just weird. Second, it's not her past relationships, I'm cool with that, it's just that it's Grizzly."

"Thank you" Anastasia took the mustard, "Are you intimidated by Grizzly?"

"You shouldn't be, most women like men that are like their fathers, and Mag's dad looks like a skinny squirrelly bastard, which is a lot like you. Of course he looks a hell of a lot meaner." Hap said.

Anastasia pursed her lips and shook her head, "That not true. I'm very attracted to you, Harold, but my dad was a short balding little intellectual with a goatee. That is nothing like your clean shaven, tall, broad shouldered physique. Further you've made improvising, and exploiting the incalculable into a lifestyle. That is the polar opposite of my process driven, highly organized, scientist of a father."

"Damn, I think she just insulted you." Joker said.

"No, I'm telling you that not all women model their life partner after their father. This is actually fortunate for you because everything Mags says about her father implies he does not share your terrible sense of humor, he is, as some would say, a stone cold killer. Quite frankly, he is your opposite."

"Well, they both love Mags." Hap responded.

"Whoa, I didn't say I loved her. Why are you two throwing around 'L' words like love and life-partner?" Joker spoke through his mouth full of food. "Mags and I are just getting to know each other."

Anastasia gave him a reproachful look as Hap asked, "What do you like about Mags?"

"First she's not uppity." Joker said returning Anastasia's stare. "and she's kinda cute. She's fun to be around I guess. Doesn't spend all her time reading." Joker smiled, "She also has a nice rack."

"You like Mags because she is completely unlike me?" Anastasia asked.

Joker swallowed his food, while smiling and nodding, "Yeah, I guess she is."

Anastasia's eyes narrowed, "One of the things I like about Hap is how he is unlike you."

"Of course he isn't like me, I'm one-of-a-kind." Joker laughed as he shoveled more food into his mouth.

"There is, of course, a lot more I like about you." Anastasia told Hap.

"I'm sure you've made a detailed list." Hap told her with a chuckle.

"I haven't, but I could make one." Anastasia said as she dug into her pocket for her pen and notebook.

"Don't" Hap reached across the table and putting his hand on hers. "Just tell me later."

"Yeah, Mags would never make a list about me. That's one more thing I like about her." Joker said.

Anastasia chose not to respond and dinner passed quickly. Afterward they returned to their living spaces. Mags bed chamber was closed but the other MechWarriors were sitting on their bunks talking. Joker asked them if wanted to play cards, but they weren't interested. Anastasia sat down on Hap's bunk and started to read the ComStar electronics manual.

Hap sat down next to her, and smiled as he teased. "So you only like me for my good looks?"

Anastasia frowned for a moment then she looked at Hap in surprise, "Oh Harold, I didn't mean to imply that. I was trying to say you weren't like my father, not in intellect but in process versus improvisations."

"I know Anastasia, I'm just giving you a hard time."

"Harold, our relationship is important to me. For the last three years I was generally trying to push everyone away, and I suspect I've probably learned several anti-social behaviors that I'm trying to stop doing. If I say something hurtful or offensive, please tell me, and know I probably didn't mean it."

"Okay, that's fair. If you say something that sounds intentionally offensive I'll talk to you about it. Is that just for you and me, or everyone?"

"Probably should be everyone." Anastasia said as she settled in close to Hap and rested her head on his shoulder, "Unless it's Joker."

"Yeah, I figure you're usually trying to offend Joker." Hap said as he rested his head on top of hers.

Fiona stormed through the berthing area. She briskly passed Hap and Anastasia and stopped at the other end of the hall. "Eugene, tomorrow I want your 'Mech repainted. No excuses. Get it done." She spoke authoritatively and Anastasia and Hap leaned forward to watch.

"Aww Fiona, but that's the last joke Jerry is ever going to play on me. Can't I leave it?" Crow pleaded.

"No. There is a large poorly painted penis on the side of your 'Mech. Fix it tomorrow." Fiona demanded


Fiona interrupted, "Take a picture of it, we'll hang it in the galley. Then repaint your damn 'Mech."

Crow reached into his locker and produced a framed picture, "I hung it in the galley and Elinor came by and started shouting that she didn't want any pornography in the pub. She even gave me the look."

Fiona nodded and her voice softened, "Yeah even as a girl when Elley gave you 'the look', you were done. If you can get Kelly drunk enough he'll tell you how he was going to break up with her, but she gave him that look and next thing we all knew they were at the altar. But that is beside the point. Eugene," Fiona leaned forward to look him in the eye, "repaint your damn 'Mech."

"But what about Jerry?"

Fiona's shoulders dropped and her voice softened, "He's gone. We have to move on. I know you and him were best friends, or worst enemies." She sighed. "Honestly I never understood why Jerry tormented you. Look, there is a staff meeting tonight, but if you want, we can talk afterwards."

"Come by your room?"

Fiona nodded, "Bring a bottle of wine, it'll be like old times." She spun around on her heels. "Hap you hear all that? Kelly is convening a staff meeting."

"Um yeah." Hap said, he looked over at Anastasia and gave her a shrug. She nodded as he stood up and followed behind the Fire Support lance leader.

"We need to hurry Hap, or we'll be late." Fiona told him as she proceeded down the hall.

They started to quicken the pace as Hap asked, "Are you and Crow together?"

"We were awhile back. It's a long story, but after everything that happened on Klathandu I've been thinking we should get back together. Eugene is a good man, and he can be a calming presence."

"Was your relationship with Crow a problem with other members of your lance?"

They started to climb the stairs to the command deck. "You live with the mutants in my lance, what do you think? Dillon is just smart enough to do what he is told. Old man Rolph doesn't care about much as long as he gets the parts he needs to maintain his 'mech and time to pump iron, and Eugene's more laid-back than you. Eugene can also separate the bedroom from the cockpit. So no, it wasn't a problem."

Hap was quiet for a moment as they kept climbing the steep stairs of the dropship. Fiona slowed and looked over her shoulder at him, "Hap, if you're concerned about you and Anastasia, I'd remind you that you're a mercenary now. The Ares Convention is just something House lords accuse the other guy of violating. All is fair at love and war, and you'll learn pretty quick it's all the same. You two clearly like each other, and life is short. Don't over think it.

"I'm trying not to, but I want to get my lance together before things go too far with us."

Fiona shook her head, "I'm telling you it doesn't matter, Mags might bitch, but she is always looking for something to complain about. I don't know about your pal Joker, but he probably won't care either."

"As long as Joker doesn't think I'm being hypocritical he's usually fine." Hap said, pulled himself up the stairs. He really didn't want to talk about him and Anastasia. "What is the story with Jerry and Crow?"

Hap could sense Fiona tense up a little. She stopped walking, "I don't know if you've noticed, but Eugene is the guy you want on your team. He is easy to get along with, and when things get hard he usually looks around and tries to make things easier for others. Jerry was...not that way. He was selfish, mean spirited, complained about everything, and his practical jokes often got out of control."

Hap nodded, "Joker can be like that sometimes. Crow is easy to like. Do you think Jerry jealous?"

"No." Fiona said quickly, "Well, actually..." She thought for a moment, "I'm not sure. I will tell you that Jerry perpetuated a 'friendly' feud with Eugene. Maybe it was out jealously. I will tell you the feud wasn't something that Eugene was good at, I always thought that was Jerry's real joke."

"Really? That 'Mech hand seemed clever. It had Mags and Joker howling, but it nearly broke Anastasia."

"See, what I mean by, 'out of control? The story there is Jerry requested fire support, but Eugene's magazines were dry, so he told Jerry he was "Winchester, and returning to the munitions point". Jerry turned his Shadow Hawk around and flipped him off. Then the one-in-a-million shot happened and the OpFor blew the hand off of Jerry's Shadow Hawk."

Shadow Hawk (Golden Rule project by meltdonw14)

Shadow Hawk Medium 'Mech

She started walking again, "After the mission the techs couldn't fix the 'Mech's hand. Erik made a hook for him until we found another Shadow Hawk arm, but Jerry liked it and opted to just keep it.

"Is that the weird curved thing on the wall in the galley?"

She nodded, "Yes. We kept it after his 'Mech was destroyed. However, when he was alive Jerry took what was left of his 'Mech's hand and had the techs make a rude gesture which he put in Eugene's bed."

"What about the toy rabbit and the laundry."

"You don't want to know, let's just say you made the right call by having Eugene replace everything that touched that terrible rabbit. I had him space it." Fiona shuddered as she thought about the rabbit.

They continued up the stairs quietly for a few minutes, until Hap broke the silence. "So what do you think this meeting is all about?"

"Since we're in system I assume Kelly has been in contact with the client. He probably just wants to tell us what to expect, and make sure we off load like professionals."

"Sounds like it should be a pretty quick staff meeting."

"It should be, but Kelly will keep us around half the night trying to take all our money."

"Yeah, I like the informality of it all, but, no offense, I'd think I'd rather spend more time with Anastasia."

"Oh you're not alone. There is only so much of Fletch's sarcasm and Patrick's drinking I can take."

"And you got a night of reminiscing with Eugene about a guy you didn't really like." Hap pointed out.

Fiona gave Hap a wicked grin, "We're not reminiscing. We're going to polish off a bottle of wine, and he's going to forget about that jackass. Tomorrow we'll be back together, and he'll repaint his damn 'Mech."

Hap gave her a perplexed look, "Why get back together with Eugene now?"

Her grin disappeared, "Klathandu was a hard contract. Normally we drop on a planet, destroy whatever or whoever our client paid us to destroy, and get to the DZ before sundown. If we spent more than six hours planet side, we either made a mistake or were getting paid a fortune." Fiona swallowed hard.

"The ReeCee lance leader, Danny, got killed on the initial drop. Jerry took his place and led them into an ambush a week later. I had a resupply truck with ten tons of ammo. We launched everything we had, overheated our 'Mechs, and still couldn't save them. After that deployment I had to take some time for myself and think. I've decided life is too short, and I want to get back together with Eugene."

They finally reached the command deck. As they approached the officer's lounge Hap asked, "So you're telling me not to waste time, and if I'm going to start a relationship with Anastasia I should just do it?"

"You're a grown ass man, Hap. Do what you want, but me, I'm not wasting time anymore." Fiona told him as she pushed open the door to the lounge. "But if I were you, I'd start acting smarter."

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