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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 22[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

First Patrol[]

October 3029

Hap guided his Griffin to the shores of a large clear blue lake. They had only been on Monhegan for a few hours, and were already conducting their first patrol. Hap's lance had just enough time to stow their gear, fire up their 'Mechs and start marching around the roads and area outside the star port. They had been patrolling for about an hour when they found the lake southeast of the star port.

The lake was idyllic, surrounded by a large thick forest that was bright with the colors of autumn. Behind the lake was a tall ridge that sloped down to touch its shore. Hap could see the voids and bare spots of trails winding through the forest and going up the ridge. Behind it were mountains with dark rock and white trickles of run-off from icy peaks. Hap already knew where he wanted to spend his time off.

He brought his Griffin next to Anastasia's Valkyrie. Joker's Firestarter and Mag's Jenner were moving around the far side of the lake. The 'Mechs seemed out of place against the wild natural beauty of bright fall leaves, dark green pines, and clear blue sky reflected in crystal water. Even in the heat of his cockpit Hap could almost feel the cool air and smell earth and leaves. He thought of hunting trips with his dad.

"There is something in the water." Anastasia's calm voice interrupted Hap's thoughts. Hap glanced over at Anastasia's Valkyrie. His Griffin was a few meters taller and he could look down into her cockpit. It looked cramped, even for a light 'Mech. He watched make adjustments to her sensors and write on her knee board. The Valkyrie's head was slightly down and appeared to be staring intently at the lake.

Hap switched his radio to the channel he shared solely with Anastasia. "What's going on over there?"

"I'm trying to scan something in the bottom of the lake. It may be a Leopard class DropShip."

"You got enough space over there?" As Hap asked as he watched Anastasia look around her cockpit.

"The advanced sensors are a little bulky." Anastasia shrugged, "It's not too bad though."

"Yes, you're also shorter than the average MechWarrior too." Hap shot back.

Anastasia shook her head, "My mother and my ballet teacher told me I was the perfect height."

"Very good, finish what you are doing." Hap knew that Anastasia loved to solve problems, and they had time since he had Joker and Mags manually mapping out the lake area.

The light for the lance channel flashed. Hap toggled channels to hear Joker ask, "What's wrong with the Professor's 'Mech?"

"I'm scanning something at the bottom of the lake." Anastasia said, "Likely a Leopard class DropShip."

Leopard Class DropShip (by psicore)

Leopard Class 'Mech Transport DropShip

Mags 'Mech was near edge of the lake, "The lake is pretty deep, but I can see something down there."

"Well if you think a DropShip crashed in the lake we could just ask ops." Joker suggested, "Just like we could have asked ops for topo maps."

"Or we could link into satellites and download maps, instead of stomping around." Mags added.

"I think we need the training, and since this is the first chance we've had in nearly a month in our 'Mechs, I thought you'd be happy to 'stomp around' and stretch your legs." Hap replied

"We've also been planet side for only a few hours." Anastasia said, "Given the choice, I would prefer to find a shop, purchase clothes, find the ComStar office and send a message to Mother."

Hap was used to having to inspire or motivate Joker and Mags, but if Anastasia turned on him it was going to be a long patrol. He glanced at his watch, it was 1500 local. "Alright, Mags, get up on the ridge line see if there's anything interesting up there and mark a Target Reference Points. Anastasia, try to finish up and we'll get back to the base, get into town in time to for dinner, shopping, and-"

"And Anastasia can call her mommy." Joker interrupted.

"What's wrong with that, donkey brains? I'm going to send my dad a note, and some money." Mags said

"I'll tell you what's wrong. We barely land and old man McFinnigan is telling us we have to do the first patrol. That's some bullshit. We barely had time to throw our shit in the barracks." Joker whined.

Hap watched Mag's 'Mech rocket into the air, for a moment he thought she had stepped on a mine, but he could see the flame and trail of smoke from her 'Mech's jump jets. The Jenner sailed in a high arc, and just as it looked like it was going to crash into the ridge, Mag's managed to land heavily on her feet.

Hap keyed his mic, "We're the junior guys in the outfit, Joker. You know how this works."

"New guys always got to do the shit work. How do you not know that? Mags asked, "Always complaining about everything, you need to man up, and stop bitching like a new recruit."

"Hey, I'm not a boot, I'm just speaking up for the little guy, which is us. You should be complaining too. Also I've been in real combat, I'm seen some shit." Joker started yelling.

"Commander McFinnigan is doing us a favor by having us conduct this patrol." Anastasia said coolly.

"Getting out and doing a pointless patrol, when I could be spending my pay check on whores and liquor doesn't seem like a favor to me." Joker replied as he trudged around the lake.

"We're are on probation status until we complete an operation in support of a contract, which this patrol constitutes" Anastasia said. Hap watched as she kept adjusting her scanners and making notes.

"Yeah what's your point, Professor?" Joker asked.

"Once we complete this patrol we'll no longer be on probation status and we can receive our full entitlements. Which means more money for you…to put in your pocket."

"My old man would tell me he liked working for Commander McFinnigan, because he takes care of his people." Mags said, "Jefe, what am I looking for up here? I don't know what a target reference thing is."

"A Target Reference Point is a terrain feature used to adjust artillery fire, or a location the enemy is likely to loiter. It can be a hill top, a building, an intersection or chock point on an avenue of approach, or an obvious fighting position, like a hill's military crest." Anastasia said without looking up.

"Okay. There's a road here, but no intersections." Mags said as her Jenner shuffled around.

"Wait one." Anastasia said. Hap watched as she straightened up in her cockpit, and the 'Mech seemed to stand up straight and tall in response to her posture.

Her Valkyrie took a few steps forward before it rocketed into the air as plumes of fire and smoke erupted from the legs and back of her 'mech. The Valkyrie rose a dozen meters in the air and then almost skimmed over the lake to gracefully land in waist-deep water. In an instant her 'mech was rocketing again toward another shallow spot in the lake.

Valkyrie (Unseen version by meltdonw14)

Valkyrie Light 'Mech

A few minutes ago Hap's computer reported the rough features of the lake, but Anastasia scans had revealed the lake's ridgeline with a steep ten meter drop off that sloped to almost twenty meters to the side of the lake connecting to a river. Hap could even see the DropShip's silhouette at the deep end.

The Valkyrie landed deftly next to the Jenner. Anastasia took a moment to look around, "Okay, Mags find the highest point, and…Oh that's odd. Hap, there are tank [ defilades[ up here."

"What? Freshly dug tank defilades?" Hap asked.

"Not freshly excavated, but there are three vehicle fighting positions that have definitely seen use. They have rutted dirt roads, there's even some gravel. I don't recall any reports of battles or skirmishes in this area, but the star port is only a few kilometers due north, artillery could easily range it from here."

"Mark them, and I'll call them into ops." Hap said, then added, "Mags move about 60 meters north. From here that looks like the top of the hill. Mark that spot too."

The Jenner took a few tentative steps. "Yeah it's a nice flat spot, and you can see the whole valley."

Hap could see multiple cross hairs appear on his topographical map display. "That's enough for today, form up in a wedge on me and we'll start back to base." Hap said as he turned the Griffin around and started toward the road. "Anastasia, you take point."

He switched over to the command net. "Ops this is, Hap."

<<"Aye, go ahead, Recon Lance.">> The voice sounded young and feminine and had an Irish accent.

"We have Target Reference Points to mark." Hap said as he tried to place the voice.

<<"Oh, ah.">> There was a pause, <<"Let me get Hammer Lance on the net, and you can pass the data through.">>

Half of Hammer Lance were backing up the patrol in the unlikely event they needed fire support. Hap heard Fiona's voice, <<"This is your Guardian Angel, Hap you got some business for me?">>

"Just Target Reference Points" Hap waited for the data link light to flash, and then hit the send button.

<<"Oh TRPs, that's what Ops meant by targets.">> Fiona sounded impressed, <<"Kelly's going to be happy to have professional- Hap these are within 200 meters of each other. I think one would suffice.">>

"Yeah, one is the highest point on ridge line by the lake, so that is for adjusting fires. The others are tank defilades. Keep in mind I'm training my lance."

The radio went silent, "I'm looking at the satellite imagery." Fiona told him and the radio went quiet again, "I see what you're talking about, those are definitely tank defilades. Alright. I got the solutions programmed in and all TRPs labeled. I'll pass the data to the rest of my lance and the Tir na nOg's guns."

"Anastasia mentioned the defilades looked like they had been built a while back but there were dirt roads leading up to them, like they've been used a lot. We're not sure what that's all about."

<<"It's probably the local militia's training area. They likely come back to the same spot for every field problem or exercise. The Lexington Combat Group may know something. Ops, are you still on the net?">>

"Aye, go ahead."

<<"Kitty call the LCG's Ops and see if they know who trains in the vicinity of, oh what's this? Topaz Lake.">>

"Aye Aye."

Hap felt foolish, "Fiona, if you think this is just a training sight we can just use the one TRP."

<<"No. Those look like good positions. Anyone with decent artillery could range the star port from there. If we start taking indirect fire I'd rather have it all pre-calculated. Military history is full of smart people ignoring an obvious advantage their enemy could use, and suffering for it. Let's be smarter, Hap.">>

"Good copy." Hap replied. That made sense and he felt less conspicuous about all the TRPs.

<<"I see Hammer Lance is going to have to shadow the patrols from the fence line to cover some of the patrol route. I think this is enough for one day. Bring your lance back in. We'll be doing patrols regularly for the rest of this contract so we'll figure it out.">>

"Roger Fiona. Break, Break. Ops, we're returning to base."

Kitty came back on the radio, <<"Copy that Recon lance.">>

As the Recon Lance was formed up around him Hap considered how this conversation with Fiona was similar to other talks he had with her, and other members of the mercenary company's leadership. As a young officer he was told mercenaries were undisciplined violent psychopaths who would do anything for money. Most AFFS officers considered mercenaries at best, a necessary evil, and at worse the most base of warriors that would prostitute themselves rather than fight for honor and noble ideals.

Aside from their corrupt motivations it was a "well known fact" among most AFFS officers that mercenaries were inferior. Of course, there were certain exceptions like Wolf's Dragoons, the Kell Hounds, and Eridani Light Horse, but those were "special cases". Hap was finding this prejudice to be unfounded, at least in McFinnigan and Sons. The veneer of professionalism may have been lacking but the quality of warrior was, for the most part, as good or as bad as what Hap had seen in the RDMM.

The Recon lance was now formed up into a wedge with Anastasia leading, Joker and him behind her and Mag's behind Hap. Hap switched to the lance net "Take us home, Anastasia. Just follow the road."

"Certainly, Harold." She said as her 'Mech started to walk to the embankment and everyone followed.

"Hap, I was thinking," Joker started, "McFinnigan and Sons has Hammer Lance for fire support, Anvil Lance for the command lance, and the raiding lance is Dullahan Lance. I don't know what a Dullahan is-"

"Dullahan is a headless caballero in Irish myth, I think he's some demon of death." Mags interrupted.

"Patrick told me the stories" Hap said trying to remember, "Dullahan is a headless horseman and if he shows up at your house it means someone that lives there is about to die. So, yeah, what Mags said."

"Yeah, so there's hammers, anvils, and headless death guys, but we're just the Recon Lance."

"You think our lance needs a name? You got a suggestion?" Hap asked. In AFFS unique company names were normal, but it didn't usually go down to the lance level. McFinnigan and Sons kept things special.

"I don't know, I tired of being 'the Recon Lance'." Joker replied, "Maybe we could be ItalicHooligans again."

"No, that was Major Holman's thing. Besides the normal convention it's something with the same letter of the leader's last name." Hap replied

"We could be Calahad's Chasseurs." Anastasia suggested

"What's a chop-shower?" Joker asked

"Chasseur" Anastasia said it slowly "Chassuer a cheval is French light cavalry, which is what we are."

"We're not French, Anastasia." Joker said.

"We come from the Federated Suns which is founded, in part, on the French principals of-"

"I'm just going to stop you right there Professor, I honestly couldn't care because I'm a mercenary now and I think French is a weak language, and didn't they kill all their nobles a couple hundred years ago?"

Anastasia sighed heavily, "Joker, the French Revolution was nearly 1,200 years ago."

Mags chimed in, "If you think French is weak, we could use Spanish, how about Calahad's Caballeros?"

Hap had thought naming their lance was unnecessary, but it seemed important to everyone else. "How about Calahad's Coyotes? They're wild and unpredictable pack animals, but they're notoriously clever."

"That" Anastasia sounded like she was about to argue, "Actually, that sounds like us."

"I like Coyotes. My uncle would tell me stories about how the Coyote spirit was a trickster that sometimes helped, but sometimes would confuse or lie to a young warrior." Mags said.

"I don't know, I was hoping for something more like Hooligans, I'd settle for Hoodlums." Joker said.

"So it sounds like everyone is good with Coyotes." Hap said. He really didn't care, but if the ladies were good with it and it annoyed Joker it was at least worth the amusement value for the hike back to base.

"I'm not good with that. I didn't agree to shit." Joker replied.

"I think I'll get a coyote tattoo." Mags said.

"Harold, we should get coyote lance shirts made up." Anastasia sounded pleased.

"Is my mic not working? Hello. Comms Check. Can anyone hear me?" Joker yelled.

"We hear you Joker. I'm not running a democracy, but if three of us agree, I'm not likely to fight it" Hap said. "Anastasia, that sounds good. Let's do that. Mags, can you make a stylized Coyote for us?"

"Yeah. I think I know what I want my tattoo to look like. I can draw up something for all of us."

"Guess we're Calahad's Coyotes now." Joker said glumly.

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