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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 29[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Holo-Novella & Startling Wake Up Call[]

October 3029

Mags walked into Hap's room, "Hey Donkey Brains, you were supposed to ask them to join us."

"Yeah, I was going to do that, but Hap has the Solaris channel. We can watch tournament fights anytime." Joker said

"Anastasia can probably get it in the day room." Hap said.

"Maybe. It depends on the type of media converter." Anastasia said as she took the money from Joker.

"I told Donkey Brains to ask if you wanted to order pizza and watch 'Brave Sister Sniper'." Mags said.

"What's 'Brave Sister Sniper'?" Hap asked

"It's a Holo-novela program." Anastasia said, "it's pretty good. Abuela used to watch it every day and it's part of how I learned to speak Spanish."

"It was one of my abuela's favorite stories too." Mags said, "Joker and I found the latest season, 78."

Hap looked over at Joker, "You want to watch a holo-opera in Spanish?"

"It's about a team of female assassins that live in a nun covenant, but they're not all nuns. Oh! and there is a lot more sex than you would imagine, especially for a show about nuns. Mags and I watched an episode. It was good, and Mags agreed we'd use the English dubbing." Joker said.

"I didn't anticipate my 'if three-quarters of the lance agree' rule being used against me." Hap stood up and began walking to the day room, resigning himself to his fate.

"Oh, give it a chance." Anastasia told him, "This is Joker's doing a bad job of explaining it. It's a holo-novela so the plots tend to be a little convoluted, but it's about a team of female assassins who pose as nuns."

"Trust us Jefe," Mags said, "this will be good. At the end of the last season Frieda ran away from Janos who had renounced his vows as a priest. Also it was revealed that Josephina, who had betrayed the Sisters, was actually a Maskirovka agent made to look like Josephina, and Carlos can't figure out if it was Josephina or the double that's in love with him.

"What about Nora? Did Zoe ever have her baby?" Anastasia asked.

"Nora's still in a coma, and I think Zoe is still pregnant, which has been going on for three seasons. I think the actress, Dilshad Abed, keeps getting pregnant." Mags said.

Hap shook his head, "This really sounds like something you want to watch." Hap said to Joker.

"I'm telling you, Boss, it's full of sex and violence, and the episode I saw. When they talked about their feelings or relationship, or whatever, the girl was topless, so I just stared at her breasts." Joker laughed.

Anastasia shrugged demurely, "See. It has a little something for everyone. Perfect for the Coyotes."

"Usually you're annoyed with him and his addiction to porn, you're going to encourage this?" Hap asked Anastasia.

"Just watch a few episodes, you'll understand." Anstasia replied.

Hap sighed, "A holo-novella about nuns, it's a wonder the Pope hasn't tried to ban it."

"Fifty years ago, the Roman Catholic Pope excommunicated the cast, but most of them were Muslim or Orthodox, or not really Roman it didn't matter. Now I think the church has asked them to tone a few things down but it's really just a holo. It's not anti-Roman Catholic, if anything it's anti-Steiner and anti-Cappellan. Also I think a hundred years ago, it was based on something that happened in the First or Second Succession War, but the shows have been running for so long no one remembers. But everyone likes it. I'm Roman Catholic and I like it." Mags explained.

They entered the day room and Joker started to set the Holoscreen up. There was a landline phone on a table in the day room. The table also had a phone book from a few years back, and several menus taped to the wall. Mags found a pizza place that delivered and in 30 minutes or less they had beer, pizza and were settled in to watch their 'stories'.

Hap brought out his blanket and Anastasia curled up with him on one of the large leather couches in the day room. Anastasia tried to relax and not think about ComStar agents lurking around trying to harm her. The show was helpful for not thinking, and being close to Hap made her feel secure.

Two of the characters had run away together and were living in a secluded cabin in the woods. The female character was making breakfast and the camera gave several tantalizing shots to ensure the viewer knew she was only wearing an apron as she cooked.

Joker and Mags were on the other couch, also sitting close together. Joker looked over at Anastasia, "Hey. You're always complaining about privacy. If Hap got you to a nice private cabin, would you make him pancakes, wearing nothing but an apron and a smile?"

Anastasia snuggled closer to Hap, "We've talked about this very thing, Joker, and no."

Joker laughed, "Sorry, Hap. I bet if I got Mags out to a private cabin, and gave her enough liquor-"

Mags picked up her half-full beer bottle, "You couldn't find enough liquor, and you'd make breakfast

"Joker, I said 'no' to pancakes, I would gladly make Harold crepes though." Anastasia clarified.

Mags spit out her beer, and Hap gave Anastasia a curious look, "I think Topaz Lake has rental cabins."

"You may want to look into that." Anastasia replied.

The scene changed to another group of characters and Anastasia imagined a comfortable life with Hap hiding in the woods. They could disappear and avoid ComStar, perhaps find a nice quiet place in the Periphery. Anastasia wondered how long she could live like that though. She liked the idea of having Harold all to herself, but she knew they would want to do more with their lives than hide.

The episode ended and another started. The scene was back at the cabin in the woods. The woman drove up in a ground car and had groceries in the seat next to her. The door of the cabin was open and the music implied something was wrong. She ran in to find her man murdered and a threatening note written in the blood of her dead lover. This started off a multi episode revenge story arc.

Anastasia's internal debate on the merits of trying to hide in the woods ended as she realized hiding would just make ComStar's job easier. When they found them, there would be no witnesses. Further, Anastasia was certain her research was why she was being targeted, and hiding in the woods would put an end to that as well. Either way ComStar would win, and that bothered her.

"You're right." Hap whispered to her.

Anastasia sat up and looked at Hap, "About what?"

He pulled her back down and adjusted the blanket, "The plots are convoluted, but now that I've given it a chance I'm actually starting to enjoy it. Some of the characters are cliche, and the dialogue and acting can be rough at times, but it has a certain charm."

Anastasia got comfortable again. The revenge plot was predictable and Zoe was going to finally have her baby and the tropes that went along with that and her being a "pregnant nun" were too thin to keep Anastasia's mind from wandering. It occurred to her that ComStar only wanted her, and she was probably putting everyone in the room at risk, especially Harold. She felt immensely guilty that when ComStar chose to act he'd likely be caught in the crossfire, or executed alongside her, just on principal.

Anastasia tried to think of some other solution to her ComStar problem as the episode ended. Hap stretched, "I think that's enough for one night, Coyotes." He helped Anastasia get off the couch as he stood up. To their surprise Rolph and Dillon had quietly joined them at some point in time.

"Can I borrow this? You guys mind if we keep watching" Rolph asked

Mags nodded as Rolph and Dillon moved to the couch closest to the TV and started changing disks out in the holo player.

Anastasia returned to her room to find her clothes still on her bed. Between the Solaris match and the Holo-novella she'd forgotten all about cleaning them up. Mags started pulling out her night clothes and glanced over at Anastasia's bed, "Need help?"

"No, I'll just wait till you're done changing and move this to Harold's room."

Mags nodded, quickly changed, grabbed her toiletries bag, and slipped off to the latrine. Anastasia took an armload of clothes and walked over to Hap's room. His door was blocked by his privacy screen. Anastasia had to shift the clothes she was holding to knock on the door post.

"Give me a minute." Hap said then moved the screen. He saw the clothes and gestured to the locker.

Anastasia started to put her clothes away in the extra locker and when she turned around Hap had another arm load for her. Hap had to make two more trips to get everything, and he was surprised she managed to make it all neatly fit in one wall locker.

When she was done Hap pulled back his sheets and sat on his bed. "Did you want to sleep here tonight?"

Anastasia shook her head. It was tempting, but she was concerned that her relationship with Hap was going to get him killed. She knew she probably needed to break up with him for his own good, and another night together, no matter how much she wanted it, would make it that much more difficult.. She wanted to tell him she was sorry that she had gotten him involved. She wanted him to hold her, but at the same time she knew she would never forgive herself if he got killed because of her. "I think it would be best if I slept in my own bed."

Hap reached for her hands and pulled her close to him. "It's been a strange day, and I don't know if Cody is right, or if there was some weird glitch with ComStar's systems and were making too much of it, but whatever you're worried about you have me convinced me we can solve anything with your genius and my instincts."

"I said between my planning and your ability to improvise." Anastasia said, "But it's one thing when you have an adversary you can see and know how they intend to attack you. We have an enemy that could attack us at any time from any direction. I feel paranoid, but I don't know what else to do or how to feel. I seriously feel if we're together I'm putting you at risk."

"That's fair." Hap nodded. "Maybe things will look different in the morning." Hap stood up and rested his hands on her shoulders, "Tomorrow we'll talk to the Commander, and see what he has to say."

Anastasia looked up at Hap, this was similar to how they first met, and she could sense the same confidence and see the same care in his eyes. Right now she didn't need the conflicting emotions of love and desire with her fear and paranoia. He kissed her on the forehead, and then walked her to her room.

"Good night Anastasia. I understand needing to think sometimes, but don't push me away. I really" Hap paused and his voice dropped, "You know how I feel about you. You don't have to go through this alone."

Anastasia paused for a moment debating with herself and then wished Hap a good night and moved the privacy screen to enter room. Mags was already in bed and the lights were off. Anastasia replaced the privacy screen and changed into her new silk nightgown and laid down.

Her heart was beating so fast and loud she wondered if Mags could hear it. If Harold had kissed her on the lips she would be in his bed right now. She wondered if he was just that much of a gentleman or an idiot. She also realized she could have pulled him down and kissed him on the lips too. Maybe she was the idiot. For a moment she considered going back to Harold's room, then pushed all those thoughts out of her mind. She had to find a safe place from ComStar, and it had to be for both of them.

Perhaps they could go to NAIS and live on the secure campus. She could do special weapons R&D, and Harold could teach or something. She hated NAIS, but if they were on the secure campus, and together, it would be tolerable. Most important they'd be protected from ComStar. She would have to talk to Commander McFinnigan, get him to release both of them from their contract, get to NAIS, and convince them to let her continue her Dad's work, find a place for Harold, and the less ComStar knew, the better.

There were a lot of "ifs" in that plan. As she thought through it she also remembered that she and Harold would likely be considered AWOL or deserters. Her mother's title, her father's work, and her ability to continue it would probably get her off with the requirement she work on anything and everything AFFS high command wanted, but Harold would go to a detention barracks, or a firing squad. On second thought NAIS wasn't an option.

She considered going home. Mother could buy them out of their contract. Mother's lawyer could smooth over an AWOL or desertion charge, Mother could take care of them. Mother would love Harold. Mother had a private security detachment that... It was suddenly clear to Anastasia her mother's security detail had failed to stop an assassination attempt against her father, it was suddenly obvious that the assassins were ComStar. It was another painful and blinding realization that ComStar killed her father. Anastasia instantly felt stupid. This was obvious and why it had never occurred to her before made her realize just how deadly and frighteningly effective ComStar was, and how they were obviously steps ahead of her.

She suddenly felt cold and exposed. She heard steps coming down the hall and felt sick in her stomach. The steps paused in front of her door and then she heard a privacy screen being folded.

"Hey David." Joker mumbled from his room. "You woke me up, man."

"Sorry" David replied as he stepped into the room and put the screen back.

"This is foolish" Anastasia told herself as she got out of bed, took her silk bathrobe out of the wall locker and quickly tied the belt. She grabbed her pillow, quietly slipped into the hallway and then into Harold's room. She stealthily approached Harold's bed and pulled back the blanket and sheets.

Harold turned over and made a groggy noise. Anastasia threw the robe at the foot of the bed and slid next to him, "ComStar killed my father. I'm feeling very unsafe right now, and I want to be held."

"Yeah, of course." Hap replied as he rolled over and pulled her close. He wrapped one arm around her and slid the other under her pillow. She sighed contentedly as he whispered in her ear, "I've got you now."

Anastasia felt much better, but there was still a lingering sense of guilt, "Harold, I'm terrified ComStar is going to kill you and it's going to be all my fault."

"They could try." Hap told her sleepily.

"I'm serious, I don't want you to get hurt, but I don't want to be alone. I feel selfish and-"

"You're overthinking things, darling. Just sleep. We'll figure it out in the morning. We got a whole mercenary family to help us."

"You're right." Anastasia felt better, and knowing Harold didn't care about the risks made the guilt die down. "Today I learned that the largest and least accountable organization in the galaxy is trying to kill me. I'm still trying to come to terms with it."

"Today I was reminded to always bet on the smart girl in the Valkyrie." Harold replied

Anastasia interlaced her fingers with Harold's and pulled his arm a little more tightly around her. She could feel his breathing change and his muscles go limp. She soon joined him in peaceful sleep.

A few hours later Anastasia felt Harold's hand gently rubbing up and down her side. She murmured a good morning as she reached for his hand

"Is this silk?" he asked.

She rolled over to face Harold. It was early morning, but she felt rested and somehow better about everything. The privacy screen was up, everyone was asleep, and if they were quiet, this was probably the best opportunity for both of them to stop being idiots. She gently caressed his cheek and pulled him close.

Just before their lips touched the speakers for the PA system cracked on, <<"All MechWarriors and Flight Crew immediately report to the Operation Center, MechTechs prepare 'Mechs for immediate deployment. This is not a drill.">>

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