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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 37[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

To the Bar and Trouble[]

October 3029

Joker and Mags followed the crowd out of Ops. Everyone seemed generally happy, and several people talked about going to a bar called Charlie's that was just outside the secure area of the star port. As Joker and Mags got outside they watched Anastasia walk toward the Tir'a'nOg.

Joker felt a tinge of guilt. "We should probably go and see how Hap is doing too."

Mags nodded, "Yeah. I'm pretty sure it's nothing, but if it were me, I'd be angry if no one visited."

Joker and Mags followed Anastasia as she walked across the airfield. They had to walk briskly but couldn't close the distance with Anastasia. It always surprised Joker at how Anastasia had this grace and dignity about her, it was something that usually made him want to tease her, especially moments like this where Joker knew she wanted to be running and she was still walking, albeit very quickly.

Joker thought about trying to catch up to Anastasia, but she would probably be in a no-nonsense mood, so he decided just to maintain the distance. Mags called out to her, but it was windy on the air field, and Anastasia didn't respond. Before Mags could try again, Joker held out his hand, "Let's let her go ahead, I like to try and catch Hap and the ice princess acting lovey-dovey."

Mags raised an eyebrow, "Why? I know you're a pervert, but is there some other reason?"

"Yeah, see normally Anastasia is formal and proper, but if you can catch her and Hap alone she's almost a completely different person. It's fun to see her like that, and I keep hoping to find out that she is secretly one of those daughters of a noble that is actually a nymphomaniac."

Mags shook her head, "She is more like a lecture-maniac, like she just wants to lecture all of us."

Joker laughed, "I'm going to tell her you said that."

Mags shrugged, "Anastasia and I don't have a problem, you tell her whatever you like. Just because she doesn't like everyone seeing her and Jefe being close, doesn't mean she is a different person. We should show Jefe and her respect, and let them be them."

"You're no fun." Joker said as they continued to walk. Joker remembered watching holos with Mags last night. The previous night seemed like a lifetime ago. As they watched she had rested her head on his shoulder. He put his arm across her shoulders and let his hand rest on her breast. She didn't seem to mind. Mags might talk a lot of shit, but Joker was pretty sure she liked him, and he knew he liked her.

"So you're saying 'Let them be them and us be us'?" Joker asked.

Mags shrugged as they walked up the ramp to the man-door. Joker touched his ID card to the keypad and put in his code. They passed through a few more security doors before coming to the long staircase that ran from the bottom deck all the way to the command bridge. They started walking up the stairs.

"So after we go and celebrate, you want to go do something else." Joker said.

"What do you have in mind?" Mags asked.

"Maybe we could check out a strip club, or something" Joker tried to sound nonchalant.

"If I wanted to see naked women, I'd look in the mirror." Mags replied, "Why do you want to see that?"

"I like to look at naked women, just like you like to look at naked men."

"I don't like naked men" Mags sounded annoyed.

"But you have those naked men posters in your wall locker, or were those just to annoy Anastasia?"

Mags took a long time to answer, "Something like that."

Joker and Mags continued to climb the stairs in silence. As they neared the top of the stairs Mags looked at Joker, "You know, not everything is about Anastasia."

"Yeah, sure." Joker said as they came to the top of the steps. Before Joker could say anything more they found Anastasia and Dr. Leslie Morgan arguing in front of the Med Bay doors.

"No." Dr. Leslie said definitively, "Mr. Calahad and Mr. Lee are both resting and that is exactly what they need right now." She glanced over Anastasia's shoulder, "You, and your friends may visit tomorrow."

Anastasia started to protest, but the doctor just shook her head. "Go, or I'll have the commander get involved." Joker wasn't sure what that would entail, but he didn't like the sounds of it.

"Come on Anastasia, we'll come back, and check on Hap in the morning. He'll understand." Mags said.

All three were quiet as the trio descended the stairs. Joker could sense that Anastasia was annoyed, "What's wrong, Anastasia? Are you mad because you were never told 'no' when you were growing up?"

Anastasia shook her head, "I was told 'no' as much as any child, Joker."

"Sure you were. I was told, 'no you can't have candy because we barely have enough money for rent', while you were told, what? 'No Anastasia you can't have another pony'." Joker said.

"The scale and expense may have been different some days, but, if you must know, the thing I was often denied was when I asked my parents to spend more time with me." Anastasia said. Joker hated when she did that. She would find some way to make his joke come across as cruel.

"Anastasia, you want to come to the bar with us now?" Mags asked.

Anastasia shrugged, "I don't know. I'm still worried about ComStar. I don't want to be alone, but I feel leaving the Company area is dangerous, and being alone is also frightening. Perhaps I'll just go to Ops."

Mags shook her head, "We'll go to the bar together. It'll be fine. Charlie's is so close we can walk there."

"Will you and Joker walk me home later?" Anastasia asked

Mags shrugged. They said little as they returned to the barracks, quickly showered, and changed clothes. After a short walk they were at Charley's and found it already filled with a large raucous crowd of the McFinnigan mercenary company. They were greeted by nods and cheers as they entered.

As they started for the bar Mike approached them, "Anastasia, you're Hap's girl right? How's he doing?"

Anastasia nodded, "Yes, I'm 'Hap's girl'. Dr. Morgan said he needed rest, and wouldn't let me see him."

"Sounds like he'll be fine." Mike said. Joker could tell that Mike had already had several beers and was slightly drunk. "See Pete over there?" Mike pointed to one of the tech's playing pool. His right arm had extensive surgical scars and the muscles looked deformed, "He was trying to fix the feed mechanism on an Enforcer's Autocannon when the elbow actuator-lock got released. He was up to his shoulder in the mech's elbow, and got his arm mangled when the arm dropped."

Mike led the trio to the bar. "We thought for sure it would have to get amputated, but both Docs, Leslie and her husband, Jack, worked on his arm for what must have been a whole day. They're damn good, like me with a 'mech. So if they say a guy is going to be fine, he'll be fine."

Mike slammed his hand on the bar, "I got three more thirsty Mechwarriors bar keep." He shouted, "Three beers-"

"May I have a red wine?" Anastasia asked.

"Two beers and a red wine." Mike corrected. "You tell Hap I'll have his Griffin straightened out by the time the Docs clear him to operate a 'mech. We found the other part of his foot actuator and it won't take much to weld it all back together and hammer the endo steel straight."

"Okay" Anastasia said uncertainly, "I'll let him know."

Mike finished his beer and ordered another, "Good. Hap is good shit. Only Mechwarrior I'd trust to fix his own mech, of course I do a better job, but he knows how to turn a wrench, and I respect that."

"Very good." Anastasia said as she took her wine. "That will mean a lot to him, coming from you."

"Now who's going soft?" Mike laughed to himself as he touched his glass to each Mechwarrior and then drank. Before Anastasia could answer he went over to join the other techs at the pool table.

Joker spied an empty booth in the corner. He put his hand on Mags' back and gave her a gentle push toward the booth. Anastasia followed. They passed the booth with the company's leadership. Roweyna and Kelly were sitting next to each other. Roweyna's head was on her father's shoulder and both father and daughter had the same depressed look.

Fletch was trying to cheer them up, "Alright so we didn't secure the drop ship, but we defended the star port, and we have a small fortune in salvage, plus we rounded up enough of the Immortals to either ransom back to their Commander or just hand over to the local milita."

"We'll have to deal with that man again." McFinnigan said as he took a drink of his pint.

Rowyena mimicked her father, "I still have to deal with that horrible woman."

They sat down at their booth. As Joker slid into the seat to get closer to Mag. Giggles walked up to their table, "Hello, I don't think we met, I'm Katherine Berlin, I think I owe you guys an apology. May I sit?"

Anastasia slid over to make room as Giggles sat down. Joker flashed her a sly smile, "Oh we listened to you on the guard channel. You're Giggles."

"And so I am." Giggles sipped her beer, "I heard that after we broke contact with the drop ship your lancemate got clobbered by a trio of tanks as he covered everyone's retreat. I'm sorry for that."

"That's not exactly what happened." Anastasia said, "May I call you, Katherine?"

"I prefer Kate." Kate seemed to brighten up to Anastasia.

"Kate, my name is Anastasia. It's a pleasure to meet you." The women exchanged a hand shake, "You should know those tanks had to be neutralized one way or another. I don't believe that outcome was your fault. We may have been distracted by the radio discussion, but you can't be blamed for that."

"Thank you, Anastasia." Kate seemed to sit a little taller, and looked happier, "I'm new to this unit, and honestly new to being a mercenary. Is it just me or is this whole company a little chaotic, even for mercenaries?" As she spoke Fiona was performing a traditional Irish dance on a table surrounded by a crowd with a violinist and a man with a large drum and teenager playing a flute.

"This is actually tame for us." Mags asked looking around, "what does normal look like?"

Anastasia sipped her wine, "The XO referred to this company as an 'armored circus'."

Kate snorted. "So this is my life now?" She looked around again, "An armored circus. It could be worse."

Kate and Anastasia started talking as Joker looked Kate over. She was a few years older, probably in her mid-twenties. She was wearing a nice blouse and black slacks. Her clothes were a little nicer than most of the company, but not out of place. Joker noticed her nose had been broken, and set with some skill, but the bridge had a certain "squared-off" look. She was still an attractive woman Joker supposed. He took a long drink and stole a glance down Mag's plunging neckline, and decided he was better off with what he had.

Kate seemed to enjoy talking to Anastasia. She had gone to NAIS like Anastasia, but she had been a couple years ahead of her. They talked about a few of the instructors they had in common. Joker never had much of a relationship with any of his teachers or instructors, the conversation was strange to him.

Joker put his arm around Mags, and pulled her close and whispered into her ear, "Can you believe it? It's like we have two of them now."

Mags held up her empty pint glass, "Go get me another beer."

Joker chugged his beer and grabbed Mag's glass as he stood up thinking that the last thing he needed was two humorless women. Mags might give him shit, but Joker was pretty sure they'd be sleeping together soon, so he didn't mind her attitude. He walked past Dillon and Patrick playing pool and was surprised as Dillon sunk four balls on the break. Joker set his empty glasses on the bar and ordered two beers as Grizzly and Rolph stepped to either side of him. "Did you get to see David?" Grizzly asked.

"No. The Lady Doc wouldn't let us see him or Hap, but I hear he's in good hands."

"That sounds like Doc Leslie." Rolph said, "If there was bad news we'd probably already know."

Joker nodded, "I was with Grizzly there in the shit, how was the fight from your cockpit?"

"Now don't you start. We all got our mission, based on our 'mechs." Rolph sounded defensive.

"I'm not trying to start shit, but there I was harassing the Archer, Trebuchet and Banshee. I thought things were under control, but suddenly the Banshee maimed Grizzlies mech, blasted the legs out from under David, and Mags lost half her 'mech. It got me thinking, I need a safer way to get paid."

"Was that before or after the Thunderbolt blasted off your left arm?" Grizzly asked

Joker half-laughed, "About that time, actually."

"Well if I'm going to be honest, I feel a little guilty. For me I was mostly staring at my targeting computer and selecting whatever mark Crow or Commander McFinnigan told me to target. It was sorta boring."

"Boring sounds good when you're outnumbered, and seeing your friends go down." Joker said.

"You weren't outnumbered, we just had trouble keeping the fire on those guys when they retreated."

Kate walked up, "Hey, you two, Rolph and Grizzly, right? Mags said you were the strongest guys in the company. I need to go get my stuff, and it would be nice if I had two big men to help out."

"Mags said that about us?" Grizzly sounded surprised.

Rolph looked at Grizzly and shook his head, "She probably said the dumbest, what's in it for us?"

"Air support," Kate answered. "Or more accurately the gratitude of your personal air support."

"Yeah air support is good, or it would be in a fight, but right now, I could really use a drink." Rolph said.

"I'll get the next round." Kate said.

"Well moving stuff is thirsty work." Grizzly said, "Might need more than just a round."

"Tell you what, how about I buy you a round now. We go grab my stuff, it's just a few duffle bags worth of crap, and I'll buy you both dinner. Really I just need you to keep Robyn from starting shit."

The men finished their beers as Kate ordered them a second round. Joker returned to Anastasia and Mags. Anastasia looked relaxed and Mags smiled as he approached. Joker sat next to Mags, "See Anastasia, this is nice, and you were worried some ComStar hit man would be waiting for you."

Anastasia looked around nervously. "I'm not exactly sure there isn't one here."

"You worry too much." Joker said, as a man with two glasses of wine came up to them and set one of the glasses in front of Anastasia. "Hey beautiful, why don't you come drink with my friends and I?"

Anastasia didn't recognize this man, she glanced over her shoulder and saw two other strangers at the bar watching her. One raised his glass, and the other gave her a nod and blew a kiss. These couldn't be hit men, but Anastasia wanted nothing to do with them. She shook her head, "I'd rather not."

"Then I'll join you and your friends." The man forcefully sat down next to Anastasia.

"I think you need to go." Anastasia moved to keep him from putting his arm over her shoulder.

"Just drink the wine and don't be a bitch." He told Anastasia sternly.

"Go back to your friends." Joker said, "She's not interested, and you don't want trouble. You're in a bar full of her friends and we're all dangerous mercenaries. You don't want to start any shit."

The man shrugged, and got up. Before he left he told Anastasia, "enjoy the wine."

Anastasia pushed the wine away from her,"I most certainly will not 'enjoy' that wine."

Joker shrugged, "That guy was an ass, but I think you're overreacting." He took the glass and downed the wine in one quick gulp. He put the glass down hard on the table, and grinned at Anastasia. His vision blurred and he saw two very concerned Anastasia. Everything went dark as his head hit the table.

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