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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 21[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Rosters and Berthing Assignments[]

October 3029

Now that McFinnigan and Sons were days from landing the preparations for their new job were non-stop. Every time Hap thought they were done with one task there was something else to clean, secure, or prep. At dinner the night before they would land Hap was assigned the additional duty of being the Officer In Charge (OIC) for the single warrior's barracks.

Kelly explained the contract included housing and accommodations for the Mercenary company. There were apartments for the married couples and families, and a barracks for the single mercenaries. Hap's main responsibility was to ensure the MechWarriors kept the barracks clean, didn't cause irreversible damage, and stupidity was kept to a minimum. Hap went to Roweyna and requested the details on the barracks. She was able to find the plans, and make him a copy.

Hap looked over the designs as he walked back to the berthing area. He recognized it as a standard AFFS barrack design that went back centuries. Hap could already see the rectangular three story concrete building made for housing a 'Mech battalion. Each company would have its own floor, and the floors had six double occupancy rooms, a shared latrine, a day room, and a suite for the commander.

As Hap entered the living spaces he was surprised to find Anastasia and Mags sitting on his bed. Mags was showing Anastasia pictures from her personal holo viewer, as Anastasia braided her own hair.

"This is another one of my cousins, Freda, and her children." Mags said

"How many cousins do you have?" Anastasia asked

"I don't know, when we had family reunions it felt like the whole planet of Cerillos came out." Mags flipped to a picture of an elderly woman. "That's my Abuelita."

"Oh! I have an Abuela. She's not my grandmother, she was actually our cook, but she insisted I call her Abuela. After my grandmother died she was the closest thing I had."

Mags scowled, "She was your family's cook? Did she ever hit with her shoe?"

Anastasia looked confused, "No."

"Then she wasn't your Abeule."

"She taught me Spanish and how to cook. What does hitting me with a shoe have to do with anything?"

Mags grumbled "la chancla" and some more Spanish as she changed the picture. "Here is Abuelo's farm. I mean, it's the family farm. Uncle Rex actually runs it now, but it will always be Abuelo's farm to me."

Hap walked over to where he could see the projected image of a few bison like animals in a dusty field with a reinforced steel fence. "When was the last time you were home?" Hap asked.

Mags thought for a second and counted on her fingers, "Oh shit! Jefe, It's been six years. Yeah, we've done a lot of drops, but I haven't been home since I was thirteen."

"I thought you hadn't seen any combat yet." Anastasia said.

"Doesn't mean I wasn't on the ship when it went down to a planet. And this bitch gets shot at, sometimes. But yeah, the Commander pulled me off of reserve status after the whole ReeCee lance got smoked. Still, I've been on every drop since my old man called me out here."

Hap sat next to Anastasia, "Where is your Dad, now?"

"One day he started to get the shakes." As Mags spoke she held her hand out and shook them violently "The doc called it aster-aster-rickets or something.

"Asterixis" Anastasia said, "It means your father has liver damage, likely from drinking."

"Yeah, that's what the doctor said. He also wouldn't clear Dad to pilot a 'mech anymore. He decided to go back to Cerillos, and leave me with the Jenner and Commander McFinnigan." Mags turned off the holoviewer. "So he's retired now, but a man like Raul "Macho" Camacho, that'll kill him."

"He still has his daughter to carry on the family name and do him proud." Hap said.

"Yeah and lucky for her, he left her a Jenner and not some piece of shit Urbanmech." Joker said. Hap glanced up to see Joker reclining in his bed looking at a porn magazine.

UrbanMech (All Systems Nominal Version)

UrbanMech Light BattleMech, designed for city combat

"Hey, Urbanmechs aren't shit!" Rolph yelled from down the hall.

Joker turned the magazine sideways and unfolded the center poster. "They're sure as hell not great."

"I'm going to bed before Joker starts another argument." Mags sighed

"I'm not starting arguments." Joker said, then leaned over and shouted down the hall, "I'm just putting out truth that some people can't handle."

Anastasia looked at the papers Hap was holding, "What do you have there?"

Rolph started walking toward Joker's bed chamber, "When you start saying truth, you let me know."

"I'll be the OIC for the MechWarriors Barracks. I need to assign rooms, make cleaning rosters," Hap said as he watched Rolph stalk toward them "may as well start requesting supplies to fix damages too."

Anastasia took the paper from Hap, "Oh! Let's go assign rooms and make duty rosters."

Joker leaned out of his berthing, "I'm telling you truth right now. The overly specialized 'Mech you love so much is crap, except for when it can slip up behind someone in a dark alley."

"Overly specialized 'Mech! This from a Firestarter Pilot!" Rolph howled

Hap could see Anastasia was genuinely excited to help, "Okay. Let's go find a quiet place to work."

"Are you saying my Firestarter is overly specialized?" Joker was yelling now.

Firestarter (Firing flamer)

Firestarter light 'Mech

"It's in the name donkey brains." Mags said quietly as she pulled her hygiene bag out of her locker.

"See your girlfriend gets it, Donkey Brains, Firestarter, it's made to start fires." Rolph said.

"Hey! Only she calls me Donkey Brains." Joker yelled as he slid onto the deck.

"Not his girlfriend, never going to be his girlfriend." Mags said as she walked down the hall.

"What?" Joker asked as he chased after her.

"Hey, don't walk away from me." Rolph said as he followed them.

"We should go before they come back." Anastasia said

Hap nodded and stood up, "Yes. Making duty rosters suddenly sounds fun."

Hap and Anastasia walked down the hall to the MechWarrior lounge. Dillon, David, and Grizzly were there watching an animated holo.

"Why are three grown men watching a holo made for children?"

"This is based on a Manga. It's is high art from the Draconis Combine, Anastasia." David said

"Yeah Professor, there's a lot of complex themes here, and the animation is highly stylized. I'd think someone as sophisticated and intellectual as you would know all about this." Grizzly said

"It's not for children, either. The girls get naked when the monsters catch them." Dillon added.

Anastasia looked like she was searching for the words as Hap gently turned her around, and led her back out the hall, "Perhaps we should try the observation lounge." He told her.

As they walked Anastasia looked at the floor plans, "What exactly were you assigned to do?"

"Single MechWarrior barracks OIC, we get the second floor. Techs on the first, air crew on the third. It's most of the single MechWarriors, plus the Saint twins." Hap replied

Anastasia cocked her head to the side, "Who are the Saint twins?"

"John and Mark Saint. Those tall red headed twins that seem to work half the jobs on the shuttle. They're not MechWarriors. Kelly calls them his "roustabouts." They do whatever odd job Kelly needs done. I've seen them maintaining and testing the dropship's guns, or working in the dropship's engineering section. Today they were walking around making sure everything was strapped in or locked down."

"If they aren't 'Mech warriors why are they staying with us? I don't mind, I'm just curious."

"They apparently run the Ops center when we're conducting military operations. Kelly likes to keep them close to the MechWarriors, so everyone knows and trusts each other. It sort of make sense."

Anastasia shrugged, "Well, they're twins so they'll can share a room."

They found the observation deck empty. Hap chose a recliner with a small end table near a large window and Anastasia dragged an overstuffed chair next to the window and placed the floor plan on the table. "This should be pretty simple, we have the suite plus six rooms, and how many MechWarriors?"

"You, me, Mags, Joker, Grizzly, David Lee, Dillon, Rolph and Crow, plus the Saints. I think everyone else is either taking an apartment or a town house. Whatever is available I guess."

Anastasia pulled out a small notebook and pencil, and started writing. "If we put you in the command suite, and generally keep everyone together by lance-" She looked up, "We'll have a spare room."

"Yeah I noticed that too. Kelly suggested we let Rolph and Grizzly use it for a weight room. If they have a place to work out it apparently keeps some problems from happening."

Anastasia made a note, "Alright I think I got it, Mags and I will share a room for obvious reasons."

"You want to share a room with someone that constantly threatens to cut you?"

"I'm starting to think if Mag's ever cuts anyone she probably won't tell them first. Besides, ever since we transferred the data on her holoviewer, she's been much more pleasant. We don't have much in common, actually outside of this unit we have nothing in common, but we're fine. It's a little odd."

"That's a soldier's life. One of my lancemates back at Albion is like a brother to me. We have nothing in common, except the miserable times we shared at Albion. If we had met outside the academy I'm sure we would've hated each other, but you spend enough bad times with a guy it makes a bond."

"Is Joker like a brother to you?"

Hap looked at her seriously, "Yeah, the little brother I never wanted." They both laughed.

"That sounds right." Anastasia got quiet and went back to her list, "Returning to the task at hand, we can put Rolph and Crow together, because they are almost always together."

"Sounds good."

"I guess Grizzly and David are the next logical pair, which leaves Joker and Dillon."

"Switch David and Dillon." Hap said, "Joker's not necessarily mean, but sometimes when he thinks he's funny he can't see what a jackass he is. I don't want Dillon to get caught in one of those moments.

"If you want to maintain lance integrity we could trade Crow or Rolph for Dillon."

"No I think Crow is probably going to end up with Fiona in her apartment before it's all said and done. I'd prefer Rolph get his own room. Rolph has seniority over everyone in the barracks."

Anastasia started writing on the copy of the floor plan. "Mags mentioned Fiona and Crow were together awhile back, what makes you think they're getting back together?"

"Remember when Fiona was telling him to paint his 'Mech, and then they talked about Jerry and she invited him to her room? On the way to the staff meeting she was telling me that she had decided life was short, and she wanted to get back together with him. Since then I haven't seen him much."

Anastasia looked puzzle, "I saw him...oh! I don't remember the last time he was in our berthing area."

"Yeah, I'm not sure what happened with them in the first place, but I hope it works out."

"Fiona didn't tell you why they broke up?"

"No, just that Klathandu was a hard deployment and it made her really think about her life. She also told me I shouldn't overthink our relationship."

Anastasia looked up from writing, "Oh, I've always liked Fiona." She reached for Hap's hand.

"Yeah, she told me I needed to be smarter." Hap said as he squeezed her hand.

From the window in front of them Hap and Anastasia could watch the shuttle pass near a gas giant with several moons. They quietly watched the moons slowly flow out of view. After a small molted blue and green moon passed by Anastasia got up and sat down in Hap's lap. Their combined weight was enough to activate the recliner and the back of the chair tipped back.

As they settled in Hap asked, "Are we done making rosters and assignments?"

"I'll get an AFFS Form-6 or something similar and just line up names to cleaning duties later. It will be random and everyone will hate it. Which is how cleaning rosters always work anyway."

Hap enjoyed the moment of holding her. She sighed contentedly as they both watched the moons slowly pass by. It was strangely soothing. If Hap had thought to bring his blanket, they'd sleep here.

"How did we find ourselves here?" Hap asked her as she gently rubbed his chest.

Anastasia watched the moons orbit around the large planet for a moment, "Same way you and I find ourselves in any situation. You were wondering around trying to figure things out, and I thought about what I wanted and planned a way to get here."

Hap wasn't sure if she was teasing him, or if she was being blunt. He carefully glanced down at her face but she seemed engrossed with watching the moons float in space. "You had a plan to get us to the observation lounge so you could share a recliner while we watched the planets drift by?"

"No. I had a plan to spend to spend time alone with you, it just happened to end here."

"Did your plan also include Grizzly and David and Dillon watching a dirty movie in the lounge?"

"Harold, I make plans so I'm prepared, but no plan survives first contact fully intact."

"That is where I come in." He was now sure she was being candid.

"That's where you excel." She nuzzled him under the jaw, "Which is very lucky for me, because sometimes I'll want to make a perfect plan, when improvising is best."

Anastasia got quiet and Hap let his mind drift as he considered what she was saying. She was right. Her strength was in planning and organization, his strength, or general strategy for life, was just taking what he had and making it work. As tactical leaders they're strengths were very complimentary and he could see how letting her do mission planning would significantly help him. He'd just execute her plans, or when her plan got crippled by something unforeseen, he'd improvise their way to victory.

This was great for them as lancemates, but as lovers, this was going to lead to some friction. His "make-it-up as we go along" attitude would constantly rub against her "let's make a plan" personality. In an hour or so they'd likely go back to the berthing area. He'd have to choose between insisting she sleep in her own bed chambers, and then trying to sleep alone thinking about her. Or he could just curl up with her in his own bed and spend a delightfully uncomfortable night holding her. Staying here was an option too, he supposed, they were pretty comfortable.

Hap realized he was overthinking things again. It struck him as ironic, the one thing he was good at, improvising to success, was the one thing he couldn't seem to do when it came to Anastasia.

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