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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 28[]

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A Warrior's Family[]


Startled and Concerned[]

Monhegan
October 3029


Anastasia was silent on the way to Ops. As Cody described ROM and what they did there was a moment where everything suddenly made sense to her. It was like seeing the solution to a complex puzzle and having it all come together. Normally that would be very rewarding and satisfying for Anastasia, but it felt like the weight of a planet had fallen on her.

She felt numb as she followed Hap. It overwhelmed her to think a whole organization was part of a plot to kill her. It was even more frightening to realize it was an organization that spanned known space, and had no borders, and no accountability.

"You alright? You want to talk?" Hap asked as he opened the doors to the Ops and admin building.

Anastasia shook her head, she felt far from alright, and all her thoughts were too jumbled to talk.

Hap let her think as they walked up the stairs to the Ops center. When they entered John demanded to see the wedding certificate, and Mark asked him if he took her name for the nobility or because he was just tired of his own last name. Hap tried to explain the confusion with the sales clerks, but no one would let him finish the story. They tried to tease Anastasia, but she replied with a few polite responses that took the fun out of their jokes. Anastasia felt so disconnected it was like watching someone else.

After a few minutes of good-natured verbal abuse John directed Hap and Anastasia to one of the rooms on the first floor to get their packages. He also lent him the runner and one of the small ATV ground vehicles to move their stuff. Hap didn't think a vehicle would be necessary till he saw his two large boxes and Anastasia's five. They were able to precariously stack everything and move it in one trip to the barracks. The runner helped them carry it all up to the second deck before he left.

Hap asked Anastasia if she needed any help, but she waved him off. Right now she wanted to do anything except think ComStar. She was pleased to find Portia had included the hangers, and busied herself hanging up clothes. Anastasia quickly realized she had more clothes than closet space. She wondered if Hap had extra space in his room and if he'd let her store her clothes there.

Anastasia changed into a soft, brightly colored floral print skirt and peasant blouse. Then she sorted her clothes by what she would need regularly, and clothes for special occasions or going out with Hap. She put the special occasion clothes on her bed. As she looked at them she remembered she should stay on base as much as possible to avoid ComStar. ComStar was now an ominous thing lurking in the corners.

Just as Anastasia finished, Joker and Mags returned with several multi panel folding privacy screens. Anastasia picked the screen with the black lacquered wood and the paper had flowers and butterflies. It looked like something from the Draconis Combine, but it had a small "Made in Free Worlds League" sticker on the side. Anastasia asked Mags if she owed her any money and Mags instead gave Anastasia change from the money she had given Mags at the diner.

This was one of the differences between Anastasia and Mags. If Anastasia gave someone money she generally didn't expect or care to receive change, especially if it was just a few C-bills. Mags generally expected exact change, at least to the bill. Anastasia learned to make sure to get Mags her money and if Mags offered her change to just take it.

Mags choose a privacy screen with square and circle patterns in red, turquoise and brown on a tan background. They decided to use Mag's screen for a door and Anastasia's screen in the middle of the room so they had a little more privacy. Joker and Hap took plain gray wax paper screens.

Mags invited Anastasia to join her and Joker to watch holos in the day room. Anastasia told her she had to finish putting her clothes away. Anastasia looked at the clothes on her bed and decided to talk to Hap about sharing extra wall locker space. She stepped into the hall and knocked on the door post of Hap's room. He had the doors open to both his wall lockers and was hanging up clothes.

Hap smiled at her, "Come in. I was just finishing putting clothes away. I'm glad they included hangers."

Anastasia nodded, "I asked Portia to include them." Anastasia walked over to Hap and looked at how he was organizing his closet. He had daily clothes in one locker, and his nicer clothes in the other. "Harold, I was wondering if you had extra space in one of your wall lockers that I could use. When I purchased clothes last night I didn't consider how much space I would need." Anastasia asked

Hap pushed all his dress clothes to one side, "Is that enough space."

"Is it possible to have the whole locker?" Anastasia asked

Hap sighed heavily, "You going to need the chest of drawers too?"

"Not yet," Anastasia shrugged, "but if you're offering it. I'll likely fill it eventually."

Hap shook his head, but than said, "Can you look at my holo screen while I move clothes? I have no idea if it even works."

Anastasia picked up the remote and switched on the holo screen. It was set to a 24 hour news channel. She changed channels to show an old episode of a popular sitcom. The next channel showed a distorted gray and green picture of a 'Mech that could have been a Valkyrie, or a Phoenix Hawk. Anastasia looked over the entertainment center's components. "Do you have a multi-tool?" She said as she shut the system down and began unplugging a small silver box that had "FedVid Media Converter" written on it.

Phoenix Hawk Medium BattleMech (In Forest - by mokiplamo)

Phoenix Hawk Medium 'Mech

Hap pulled a thick black knife sheath from his wall locker and offered it to her. Anastasia used the multi tool to unscrew the media converter's screws. She removed the top cover, and examined the circuit board. She carefully unplugged a connector in the board and started prying open the metal box on the board.

Hap stopped what he was doing to watch her, "What are you doing over there?"

"Removing an in-line noise generator." Anastasia said as a small metal box went sailing across the room. "This is a very cheap design for the cable company. We're getting all the channels but that little monster doesn't allow us to see certain channels clearly. If we ordered a new package someone would come out with a noise filter, or the tech would take our converter back to his truck and do what I just did."

Hap watched as she plugged in the internal connectors and reassembled the converter. "So I'm guessing you learned how to steal cable at NAIS?" Hap asked.

"How to steal cable, how to calculate probability for unfair advantage at games of chance, and I'm certain we will find other subversive applications for my advanced education in science and engineering." Anastasia said as she reattached cables.

Hap shook his head. "Stealing cable, cheating and gambling, flagrant disregard for AFFS regulations. I feel like I get the worst of any unit's problem children."

Anastasia sat on the futon and flashed Hap a wolfish grin. "They say you attract what you are, mon amor." She said as she turned on the Holoscreen.

Blender Battletech - Atlas on the rampage

Atlas Assault 'Mech being targeted.

The screen came back on to show a Valkyrie picking its way through a jungle as two commentators explained this was a two-on-two team match. The teams were a VLK-QA Valkyrie and a HGN-733P Highlander, against an ASN-21 Assassin and an AS7-D Atlas. The camera panned back as the Valkyrie joined the Highlander to stand on one end of the jungle arena. The camera cut to show the Atlas and Assassin marshaling on the other side of the tropical forest. The camera changed again to show the size and scope of the large outdoor arena before the show broke to commercial.

Hap sat down next to Anastasia, //"I think this is the Solaris Broadcasting Corporation Channel, but I don't recognize the arena. It's open air, so it may just be one of the minor fighting areas outside Solaris City."\\

The program resumed and focused on the Assassin swiftly bounding through the forest toward the Valkyrie and Highlander. The Valkyrie moved cautiously forward trying to spot the Atlas so the Highlander and Valkyrie could pepper the Atlas with their long range weapons. The Atlas trudged through the thick forest exchanging missile salvos with the Highlander.

Assassin Medium BattleMech (MW5)

Assassin Medium 'Mech

Anastasia appreciated the tactics of the Valkyrie and Highlander pilot. Both were using their jump jets and the jungle to their advantage so they could chip away at the Atlas's armor with long range weapons and the Highlander's PPC while staying outside the effective range of the Atlas's medium lasers, short range missiles and fearsome class 20 autocannon. They all but ignored the Assassin as it hopped around the jungle trying to flank them.

Highlander Assault BattleMech (In Combat - Papercraft Version)

Highlander Assault 'Mech in combat

One commentator said a few things that implied they were annoyed with tactics of the Highlander and Valkyrie. Anastasia suspected they preferred the aggressive piloting of the Assassin. The camera switched to show the Atlas lumbering in the jungle as the commentators explained the Atlas was designed to intimidate an adversary. The camera zoomed in on the skull shaped cockpit of the Atlas as one of the commentators described how General Kerensky himself specifically designed the death's head cockpit to create fear. The commentators specified the Atlas represented some of the greatest engineering and science of the Star League, and was a near unstoppable force of death and destruction.

Anastasia would have disagreed as the Star League would go on to create a multitude of technologies now lost to the Inner Sphere, and she honestly thought the building the HPG network was one of the Star League's greatest achievements, but at 100 tons the Atlas was an impressive engineering feat.

The camera changed back to the Assassin as it hounded the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie ignored the Assassin's harassing barrages of laser and missiles. Eventually, the Assassin landed right next to the Valkyrie, but instead of retreating the Valkyrie did a short hop to the side and the two 'Mechs began dueling with short range weapons. At close range the Assassin outgunned the Valkyrie with a medium laser and a dual SRM rack to the Valkyrie's one medium laser, but the Valkyrie had more armor. The Valkyrie kept giving ground while the cameras zoomed in until only the two 'Mechs were in frame.

The Valkyrie and Assassin maneuvered and jockey for advantage, and the cameras kept a tight, though shaky, picture of the 'Mechs dueling with flashes of lasers and explosions of missiles. Just as it looked like the Assassin was gaining the advantage there was a sudden and nonsensical blur of metal and fire that came from the top of the screen. One of the commentators shouted, //"Highlander Burial!"\\

The cameras rapidly zoomed back and when the picture came back into focus only the Valkyrie and Highlander could be seen. The Highlander tottered, but kept its footing, and showed no real damage.

The scene changed to a replay from a camera above the arena. From this angle it was obvious that the Valkyrie was feinting, and moving toward the Highlander. At the same time the Highlander continued to fire on the Atlas while jumping toward the lighter dueling 'Mechs. The Highlander and Valkyrie were clearly coordinating their attacks with one jumping right after the other. The commentators mentioned they were surprised the Atlas didn't try to warn the Assassin what was going on.

A commentator explained the gruesome but effective tactic of the "Highlander burial" and how the 'Mech's legs had been reinforced for that specific style of reckless melee also called a DFA or Death From Above attack. As he spoke there was a slow-motion replay of the Highlander's right foot kicking in the Assassin's cockpit as the left leg sheared off the 40 ton 'Mech's right arm. The force of the massive 90 ton Highlander appeared to drive the smaller 'Mech into the ground.

"Oh my god, is this the Solaris Broadcasting Corporation Channel?" Joker asked.

"Do you ever knock?" Hap asked.

"If you had put up your privacy screen I would have knocked." Joker said as he slumped onto the futon next to Anastasia.

"Really?" Anastasia asked as she moved closer to Hap.

"Nope." Joker laughed.

The program went back to the live action focusing on the Atlas stomping a trail of trampled foliage and upturned trees as it tried to run and close the distance. The Valkyrie and Highlander still gave ground and continued to hammer the Atlas with missiles and PPC. One of the commentators stated it was unsporting to attack the Atlas at long range. The other commentator replied, "Nearly a fifth of an Atlas's mass is armor. It can afford to take some abuse before closing with its unfortunate adversary."

Anastasia got the sense the first commentator was still annoyed at the precise and almost military tactics of the Highlander and Valkyrie team. It wasn't as gory or quick as a "Highlander Burial" but it was effective. For her this was the sort of match she preferred to watch, and having her 'Mech model being part of the side that was smart and likely to win made it even more enjoyable.

"I got five c-bills that say the Atlas wins." Joker said breaking Anastasia's concentration.

"I'll put five on the Highlander and Valkyrie." Hap replied.

"I love taking your money, and that Valkyrie pilot is a smart young woman, so I'm with Harold, and putting my money on the sure thing." Anastasia said as she rested her head on Hap's shoulder.

The Valkyrie and Highlander had the Atlas stuck in a classic L shaped cross-fire which they were able to maintain with their jump jets. One of the Commentators mentioned that the HGN-733P Highlander had twenty Heat Sinks, and three tons of LRM ammo. "Even with a PPC, it can literally do this all day."

The Atlas pilot broke into a clearing and finally was able to close the distance with the Highlander. When the Atlas charged back into the trees the Valkyrie tried to flank the Atlas. The Atlas pilot had anticipated this and stopped short while taking a step to the side. Before the Valkyrie could jump away the Atlas engaged the smaller 'Mech with its full complement of weapons. A few of the missiles went wide, but the lasers, and the most devastatingly, the AC/20, hit their mark. The Valkyrie landed in a heap collapsing on its right leg, as its left arm went flying into the underbrush.

Joker snickered, "The sure thing just met an AC/20 round."

"It's not over yet." Hap told him as he put his arm over Anastasia's shoulders.

The Highlander jumped to the side and fired all its weapons as well. The PPC and medium lasers hit the rear of the Atlas and melted the armor covering the Atlas's rear left shoulder. The Highlander's missiles indiscriminately blasted away parts of the rear armor, arms and legs of the Atlas.

The Atlas turned its full attention to the Highlander. The Atlas had the advantage in short range weapons and the Highlander was now experiencing some heat from jumping and committing all of its weapon. The camera angle switched to show the rear of the Atlas as it stalked toward the retreating Highlander. The sparks and smoke poured out of the holes from the Atlas's left torso. One of the commentators pointed out the exposed linkages of the reload mechanism for the Atlas's missiles that were connected to missile magazines. He stated the Atlas pilot had been incredibly lucky.

The camera gave a perfect over-the-shoulder view as the Atlas shot its AC/20, short range missiles and two of its medium lasers. The Highlander easily took the brunt of the attack, even the AC/20, as it jumped backwards and once more hit the Atlas with an Alpha strike.

The lower portion of the screen showed the Highlander's heat gauge, and the commentator explained how it was dangerously high. Anastasia, Hap, and Joker could almost feel the heat, and thought they faintly heard the <<"Shutdown Imminent">> warning even though it wasn't part of the broadcast audio.

As the Highlander landed the Atlas again struck with a mix of lasers, short range missiles, and the AC/20. This time it pierced the Highlander's right breast and there was an explosion. The Highlander fired wildly as he tried to jump backwards, but this time he only jumped half the distance and his heat levels spiked.

The commentator explained the Highlander was running out of options, he could DFA attack, but it was risky, and the Highlander's legs had seen a lot of abuse. He could try to brawl the Atlas, but it was bigger and could hit harder. No matter what, though, the Highlander had lost a jump jet, and some heat sinks. He couldn't afford to use his PPC till it got its heat levels down. The Highlander pilot seemed to be weighing its options when a burst from the Atlas's autocannon struck the Highlander's cockpit.

The cameras switched to the commentators, one of them seemed shock at the sudden death of the Highlander pilot. He searched for something to say, and stupidly commented, //"I don't think he was expecting that."\\ His fellow commentator, who was clearly a veteran MechWarrior, deadpanned, //"Well Duncan, everyone has a plan till they take an autocannon shell to the cockpit."\\

The camera's switched back to the arena. Dramatic music began to play as the camera drone slowly circled the Atlas. It showed cracks and dents in the armor and then slowed down as it passed by the gaping holes in the Atlas's left rear torso. The drone circled round to the front to give another view of the Atlas's menacing skull-like cockpit design.

Joker cleared his throat and held out his hand as Anastasia and Hap each passed him a 5 C-bill note.

Valkyrie (Unseen version by meltdonw14)

Valkyrie Light 'Mech

The camera started to zoom-out and moved to the left of the cockpit to show the battered Valkyrie standing behind the Atlas. The music instantly dropped to be replaced by an eerie silence.

The Valkyrie leaned heavily to one side as it clearly favored its left leg. The right leg was broken and shattered with exposed and twisted internal structure and shredded pieces of myomer hanging loosely below the knee. Sparks and smoke came out around the dented metal ball joint that used to be connected to the Valkyrie's left arm. The Valkyrie raised its right arm, and a ruby light flashed as smoke trails traced a line from the Valkyrie's chest mounted missile rack to the Atlas's back.

The camera angle changed again to show the rear of the Atlas as the laser and the majority of the missiles found their mark in the Atlas's exposed shoulder. The camera zoomed in to show the missiles in their loading tray start to explode like a string of fireworks. There was a greater detonation as the exploding chain of missiles reached the ammo magazine and then there was a blinding flash as the exploding ammunition destroyed the shielding for the Atlas's engine. The camera angle switched to a low shot that showed the Valkyrie towering over the broken and smoking remains of the Atlas.

Joker cursed as Hap cleared his throat, and Anastasia held out her hand.


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