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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 23[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Pay and Shower[]

October 3029

Hap and his lance completed their first patrol and returned to the star port without incident. During the patrol Anastasia passed the data she had from scanning the lake to the Ops center and asked about the Leopard. Ops took down everything and promised to have something by the time they returned for their debrief. Joker tried to convince the lance to choose something besides "Calahad's Coyotes" but Mags and Anastasia were adamant, and Hap enjoyed Joker's annoyance.

McFinnigan and Sons had taken over several buildings on the back end of the Star Port. The Ops center was located in one of hardened building closest to the Tir na nOg. They also commandeered a large hardened hangar next to the Ops center. This hangar was used as the primary 'Mech bay and repair facility. The life support area with the housing and barracks was a short ten minute walk away from Ops.

The Ops center was located in a windowless room with screens showing multiple maps, views from orbiting satellites, a few different local and intergalactic new feeds, and some of the screens were off but had paper taped to them that said things like, "Aviation Tower Feed", or "Weather satellite feed". Codey was working behind one of these monitors attaching wires.

In the center of the room was the large holo display from the simulator. It was now displaying a three dimensional map of the star port and the adjacent area where Hap and his lance had just conducted their patrol. Kelly and Crow were standing by the holo display discussing the lake and ridgeline area.

On one side was a terminal that displayed several of systems for the Tir na nOg. The weapon systems were currently highlighted. Seated at the terminal was a young woman with short curly red hair, and Fiona stood behind her. As Hap passed them he overheard Fiona explaining how to program TRPs into the Tir na nOg's fire controls.

There were a few other members of family in the Ops center, most of them were teenagers, but there was a middle aged man with a clipboard standing near Crow listening as he spoke to Kelly. Hap didn't know the names of most of the people in the ops center. Hap assumed this again was another of Kelly's use of family members to cover down on the essential non-combat tasks.

Kelly nodded to the recon lance as they entered, and motioned with his pipe for them to come to him. Hap led the way to the holo projector. Kelly smiled at all of them, "Good work today on your patrol. We made some calls after you left the lake. Kitty what did you learn?"

The red head at the terminal looked over, "That Leopard DropShip crashed a few hundred years back in that lake. It's now mostly used by salvage divers to practice exploring wrecks. It's no good for anything else, but the local militia was impressed we found it on our first day."

Kelly nodded and motioned with his pipe, "And what else?"

"Ah, the militia confirmed they used the hills over the lake for training, and they said if we needed additional fire support and the planet was under attack, they could have their artillery ready within a few hours and would be more than happy to 'service our targets'." Kitty added.

"Does the militia have a standing ops center? Most planetary militias don't." Fiona said.

Kitty shook her head, "No I called the Lexington Combat Group, they told me they were minimally manned and didn't have time for me, but they gave me the militia commander's phone number, so I called him. He was more than happy to talk. He told me about the lake, the training area, the shuttle, and everything." Hap could hear that Kitty had, what the McFinnigans called, "the gift of the gab."

Kelly nodded, "As you can see, while you were out you made some work for the Ops center. Which is fine, it's what they're here for, and now we have access to more artillery support. This got me thinking" Kelly pressed a button and the holographic map zoomed back, "I want you to start exploring this region here" He pointed to a pass through the mountain chain that connected the lake's ridge line, "and here" he indicated a swampy area north of the star port. "We have good maps and hi-res sat images, but the data you gathered is much better. I want to know everything about how to move through these areas."

Hap nodded, "Yes sir. Too easy."

"But that'll wait. For now, I want to congratulate all four of you, you've completed your probation period. So go get cleaned up, find Ms. Lan. She'll see you're paid." As he spoke a few people in the room actually clapped. "Go enjoy yourselves, but be back for the 0900 work call."

They turned to leave but McFinnigan stopped them, "Ah, wait a moment, have ye given any thought to a name for your Lance? I prefer if the four of you had one name I could call you all by."

Before Hap could speak Joker said, "We're thinking Coyotes. They're wild dogs, but they're smart."

Kelly smoked his pipe as he looked at the four of them. "Coyotes?" He nodded slowly. "Unpredictable, cunning, wild, pests." As he spoke each word he looked in turn at Hap, Anastasia, Mags, and Joker. "Aye, Calahad's Coyotes. Kitty, make note. Make sure it's in the pass down log. Coyotes, off ye go."

On the way down the stairs they saw a sign indicating the Admin offices. They found more people unpacking boxes, and moving furniture. Jessica Lan was attaching the top to her massive mahogany desk while she told two tall teenage boys which corner to put her large safe.

When the short Asian woman saw the Coyotes she came out from behind her desk, and pointed them to a folding table along the wall with a large metal case and a ledger. "The Commander told me when I saw you to that you will have finished your probation period, and should be paid in full." Ms. Lan said.

"Yes Ma'am, he told us to come and find you." Hap motioned to Mags to step up.

Ms. Lan opened the case and pulled out an envelope that had, "M. Camacho" written on it and strange block characters beneath it. Before she gave Mags the envelope Jessica asked, "Are you going to send some money to your father?"

To Hap's surprise Mags nodded respectfully, "Yes, I'll write him a note and send it first thing tomorrow."

"Good." Ms. Lan smiled as passed Mags the envelope. Jessica opened the ledger and pointed to a line with Mag's name. Mag's signed her name as Ms. Lan handed an envelope with A. Vallois to Anastasia.

Anastasia thanked her as she signed in the ledger. Joker was next. Jessica gave him a shrewd look, and held up an envelope marked W. Cameron. Ms. Lan asked, "William Cameron, right?"

"Yeah, Jessy but I prefer Joker, now give me my money I got places to be." He tried to grab the envelope, but Ms. Lan kept it out his reach.

"It's Ms. Lan, to you." she snapped. "If you want to get paid, you're who I say you are. Now, sign my ledger, William."

Joker huffed, signed, and then snatched his envelope. Hap was surprised Joker didn't have a nasty response, but Jessica Lan had the air of an aunt that wouldn't think twice for punishing a child that acted out. She offered Hap an envelope with H. Calahad written in neat script and more odd block characters.

"Thank you, again, Ma'am." Hap said as he found his name and signed. He saw the amount next to his name and still couldn't believe how much he was being paid.

"Don't thank me, Hap. You earned it." Jessica's eyes narrowed, "You have to put with the Joker."

Hap glanced over to see Joker was too busy counting his money to hear the insult. Hap politely excused himself and his lance, and they started walking to the barracks.

"Why do you think Jessica Lan is such a bitch?" Joker asked as they walked.

"I was trying to figure out why you had to piss off the pay master." Hap said.

"Yeah, donkey brains, you shouldn't mess with Jessica Lan. One time Grizzly thought it would be funny to call her Mama-san, and she grabbed his nose and threw him across the room."

"How does a woman half his size throw Grizzly across the room, and isn't her callsign something like Mama-san? I remember hearing it and thinking it wasCapellan or Kuritan sounding." Joker said

"The best way to answer all your questions is for you to go and call her 'Mama-san'." Anastasia said.

"I'm not trying to pick a fight with her. Damn, I just want to know why she's so mean." Joker said.

"She has a case of money that contains over a million c-bills. She is responsible for making sure about a hundred people get paid exactly what they are due. She probably feels the need to make sure that people like you understand she is no one to trifle with." Anastasia said.

"Trifle with? Why do you talk like that? You should say F-", Joker began to say

"She also has a sawed off shotgun in her vest." Mags interrupted, "Dad sawed it down for her, he told me if someone ever tried to steal from her, 'it'd be a life changing event'."

"Joker, this one time, please, for your own sake, be polite to Jessica Lan. You call her Ms. Lan or Ma'am when you see her." Hap said.

"Fine, whatever, I'll be polite to Miss Lan. I don't even care. For this much money, I can be nice to her once a month if I have to." Joker said.

They found themselves back at the barracks. It was an ugly three story rectangular concrete building. The sun was starting to set and the building looked dark and empty. It seemed everyone had gone into town to relieve stress and spend their money, and Hap knew his lance wanted to do the same. "Let's get cleaned up and meet out here in ten minutes." Hap said before they entered the barracks.

The lance climbed up to the second floor, When Joker turned on the lights they were met by curses and a demand to "Shut that light off!".

A tall red headed man with countless freckles and brown eyes poked his head out of the door to the nearest room. "Hey! We're trying to sleep, we got watch at 0600."

"Sorry." Hap said trying to figure out if this was John or Mark Saint, "We didn't realize you two were trying to sleep. Give us a few minutes, and we'll clear out. Why don't you close your door?"

The other twin came out into the hall, "No doors man."

"Why are there no doors?" Anastasia asked as she looked up and down the hallway.

"Older barracks design." Hap sighed, he hadn't noticed this before, but he could see there were only doors on the latrine and the stairwell. "Allegedly it was supposed to inspire trust between MechWarriors, but really it was so leadership could ensure that their warriors weren't drunk or high. I wondered why LCT gave us perfectly good barracks, odds are good none of their people wanted it."

Anastasia sighed heavily.

"Well at least we'll know that Joker isn't across the hall abusing himself." Mags said

Joker laughed, "Oh don't think no doors is going to stop me."

John and Mark groaned as they turned to go back to their beds.

"Let's hurry, Coyotes, The Saints need to sleep and we need to find dinner." Hap said. They went their own ways to get ready. Hap's room was larger and had a separate head with a shower. It wasn't very big but it was all his. The barracks came furnished. It was mostly standard military issue beds and wall lockers, but whoever the previous occupants were had fully furnished the day room with couches and an entertainment center. Hap's room also had a futon and a holo screen. This likely meant the barracks had belonged to a unit that had gone to war and didn't return. One more reason the LCT gave them up.

Hap stripped down and got into his shower. He thought Grizzly or Rolph might want the suite, but they both laughed and told him if he was going to deal with Yorik over keeping the place clean, he could have it. Considering the door situation he'd start earning the room sooner rather than later.

As Hap showered he wondered if they could just build their own doors. It wasn't the easiest piece of carpentry, but he knew enough from helping his dad around the house. After thinking it over he figured it would be better to take a collection from everyone and just pay someone. Then he started to wonder if he could do the same thing with a cleaning service for the barracks.

Hap stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel. He glanced at the empty towel rack and realized he hadn't pulled his towel out of his go-bag. He glanced up to see Anastasia conspicuously looking down. Her face was bright red and she was nervously playing with her braid.

Hap quickly grabbed his dirty clothes and covered himself, "Can you hand me my towel? It's in my bag."

Without looking up she nodded and grabbed his bag. After a moment she gave up and walked the bag over to him, still keeping her head down. "I'm sorry, I came to see if you were ready."

Hap reached in and took out his towel. She turned around as Hap started to dry himself, "I should've knocked, but there's no doors." Anastasia said.

"Yeah. I'll talk to Yorik, maybe we can get doors installed, we'll probably have to pay for it though."

"I'll gladly pay to have a door installed in your room if you let me use your bathroom and shower."

"Are the shared facilities that bad?" Hap wondered if Joker "accidentally" walked in on her and Mags.

"They're fine, but it's been a long time since I had my own bathroom."

"You'd be sharing it with me."

"Yes, of course, but still I'd have the luxury of not having to keep all my toiletries in a bag."

Hap found the cleanest clothes he had and turned his back to Anastasia to put them on. He wasn't sure why he felt embarrassed about being naked in front of her. He had been with other women and knew he had nothing to be ashamed of. He had also slept next to her a few times. They had been almost as intimate as they could be. Even now they were talking about sharing a bathroom, but he felt conspicuous about getting dressed in front of her.

As he zipped up his coveralls he thought of how to solve this problem between them, but he knew Anastasia would be unwilling until his room had doors, and probably a lock. He also occurred to him they had never kissed. That would also have to wait till they had some privacy. He opened up his pay envelope. "What are our plans for tonight?"

"I'd be very pleased to get some civilian clothes, and then have dinner. I suspect the ComStar office is closed for the day, though, so we'll have to go back tomorrow."

Hap nodded and started to pull out a crisp 500 ComStar bill. "I could use a new pair of blue jeans, and some t-shirts. It's getting cold, I should buy a coat. Damn I'm gonna miss my leather jacket."

She pulled more bills out his envelope, "You're going to take me nice places. You'll need slacks, a sports coat, button up shirts, and some nice shoes. We should just plan to buy you a new wardrobe too."

Hap placed the significantly thinner pay envelope into his wall locker. "If you're going to start dressing me, I'm a little surprised you're not just claiming my shower for yourself."

"I was trying to help you maintain the 'good order and discipline' of our barracks. I figure if you let me use your personal facilities, then you'll have to defend why you won't let everyone."

Hap led her out of his room "I think they'll assume our relationship is why you get special treatment."

"Harold, if you're offering to share your private shower, I accept." She said as they walked down the hall.

"Once we get doors and can enjoy some privacy, we should discuss sharing more things."

"Fair enough." Anastasia reached for his hand, "So when are you going to talk to Yorik?"

"Tomorrow probably." Hap opened the stairwell door with his free hand.

"You're going to wait that long?" Anastasia asked.

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