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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 42[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Sit Rep & Formal Dinner[]

November 3029

The next day Hap and David were cleared to return to pilot their 'mechs, and Tomax convinced Kelly that part of the reason they had failed to destroy the Immortals was due to lack of training discipline. This meant, in addition to the patrols, there were now small arms ranges, 'Mech gunnery tables, training exercises, classes, and morning calisthenics.

The week went by in a blur. Between the calisthenics, training, gunnery, and patrols Hap was exhausted as they finished their last patrol of the week. As they passed the lake Anastasia made a special effort to spot the ComStar agents that were likely photographing her. They had modified the patrol times to try and throw off ComStar but the lake area was a popular spot for the locals, so there was no way to know if she was still being surveilled.

As the Coyotes got onto the main road the lance channel flashed and Hap turned to hear Joker, "Until this week being in a mercenary unit was pretty fun. But lately it's been like being back in a line unit."

"It's not that bad, we're in a training phase, but there isn't the dumb 'rock painting' discipline nonsense." Hap said.

"Yeah? What do we have after our patrol?" Joker asked

"'Mech stables, and then the afternoon is marked no training." Anastasia replied

"See? Dust off your 'mech, do a little routine maintenance, then touch up the paint, and you're done for the day." Hap said.

"Tomax is a hard ass, but he knows better than to make us do dumb shit." Mags said, "My dad always told me you see a 'mech that is well maintained, and well painted, you knew you were dealing with a professional. Only amateurs or desperate fools go to war without maintaining their equipment."

"Yeah. I get that, but morning calisthenics, and other shit that doesn't have to do with piloting my 'Mech, it feels like bullshit."

"The training and drills make me feel like a badass." Mags said.

"What would you be doing if you weren't drilling? Do you even have weekend plans?" Hap said.

"Mags and I were going to go to Charley's, we'll see where things go from there." Joker replied

They were now back at the starport. Anastasia called in the completion of their patrol to Ops and they moved into the Mech bay. As Mike helped Hap open the cockpit he said, "You and the Professor have been ordered to report to the commander."

"You know why?" Hap asked

"No one tells me shit, but as near as I can tell you haven't screwed anything up lately, so you're probably not in trouble." Mike said. "Maybe it's something one of the other dumbass 'mech-jocks did."

"Thanks Mike." Hap said as he pulled himself out of his cockpit and onto the gantry. He could see Anastasia talking to Maja and Taja. He could see the female techs shaking their heads as Anastasia had a similar conversation with her techs.

Hap met Anastasia on the floor of the 'mech bay. "Do you know why the commander is looking for us?"

"Perhaps he has figured out how to solve our problem with ComStar." Anastasia said.

Hap nodded, but didn't have anything to add as they walked to the command building and climbed to the top floor. When they arrived they found Elinor. She gave them a bemused look before smiling and saying over her shoulder, "Yer AFFS liaisons are here, love."

Kelly walked out of his office and looked over Anastasia and Hap like he had never seen them before. "Well I'd expect them to be in uniform, and to look a little sharper and more militant."

Hap and Anastasia exchanged confused looks as Fletch walked out of his office, "I gotta say boss, we've never had offers like this. Being an allied mercenary with the FedSuns has come with some of the most lucrative contracts I've ever seen. There is one here for a raid on Capricorn that's three times the-"

Kelly cleared his throat and nodded toward Hap and Anastasia, "The liaisons finally reported in."

Fletch looked at Hap and Anastasia for a moment, "And they're out of uniform too."

"Aye, let's help the Hauptmann and Lieutenant-"

"Captain and Subaltern" Fletch quickly interjected.

"Aye, that's right yer AFFS officers. Captain and Subaltern get in the proper uniform."

"Sir, what's going on?" Hap asked.

Roweyna was standing at her office door, "Yer Mother's lawyer worked some damn miracles. Yer both now assigned as military liaisons to the McFinnigan's and Sons, and our company was given favored mercenary company status. You've both received battlefield promotions. Additionally, Ms. Vallois NAIS has considered you to have met the requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering with minors in political science and military science. I, of course, have some paperwork for you to sign."

"But first, those uniforms." Kelly reached into his pocket and pulled out two epaulettes. One was white, and the other was red with a white trim. There was a flap underneath Hap's name tag that was made for rank epaulettes. Had and Anastasia had removed their ranks when they thought they had become mercenaries. Kelly unhooked the flap and slid the red and white epaulette onto it and re-hooked it, then gave Hap a solid punch on his epaulette. "Wear it proudly and lead well, lad."

Kelly shook Hap's hand and pressed something into it. When Kelly released his hand Hap looked down to find a black triangle with a blue "V" bordering two sides. Hap looked at Kelly quizzically.

"That was Richard's Hauptmann rank. He didn't wear it long enough before he chose to follow his fool father. Pin it under a pocket flap, and do me proud." He winked at Hap, "Yer always part of the family, lad."

As Kelly started to put the white epaulette on Anastasia's vest Fletch approached Hap. He punched the rank just like Kelly, and then shook Hap's hand. "I'm glad this worked out this way. I know it means you'll be leaving us in a year, but you have a lot of potential. It was a shame to steal you away from AFFS."

"Thank you, Sir."

"Yeah, well now you need to start shaving, and get a haircut." Fletch snapped, but his voice softened as he said, "You're a pretty good tactical leader, but you're moving into the big leagues now, and you need to think operationally. Before you return to the regular forces, we'll drink a couple beers and I'll explain to you how everything in the military all comes down to risk mitigation or risk avoidance. Once you understand that, you'll be ahead of your peers."

Before Hap could reply Fletch stepped over to Anastasia. He hit her epaulette with just as much force as he had hit Hap's and nearly knocked her over. "Congratulations. This is also well earned. I saw your orders, once you're done with us you're assigned to the NAIS library and research division, which I assume is a code name for Team Banzia."

"No, that's the special advanced weapon research division. For Team Banzai one must request to join, endure Dr. Banzai's completely random entrance exam, and then the other team members vote you in or out. My experiences with the Team was that I wasn't eccentric enough for them." Anastasia said.

Fetch looked perplexed, "So a gorgeous socially challenged super genius daughter of a noble that can quote doctrine and explain advanced weapons isn't 'quirky enough' for Team Banzai."

"That is correct, sir." Anastasia said.

"I'll never understand Prince Davion." Fletch mumbled as he walked back to his office.

Hap looked up and saw Elinor looking at him. She looked like a proud mother, "I remember when Kelly, Richard, and Patrick were made Hauptmans, those were proud moments for us. Congratulations to you." Without

"Thank you, Ma'am." Hap turned to Kelly, "Sir, are we still leading the Coyote lance?"

Kelly nodded, "Yes, nothing really changes at least for the time being. You two can go tell yer mates-."

"Wait, I need your signatures." Roweyna said as she grabbed them both, and pulled into her office.

Rowyena's office was, to Hap's surprise, a chaotic mess of books, piles of papers, several stacks of holo recording disks, a noteputer on one large stack of folders, and a computer with multiple sticky-notes on the monitor in the corner. She pulled a stack of papers and a pair of pens from the disorder, and started to explain what they were signing and where they needed to sign. She had a small table in her office, but had to move the tea service and rearrange more stacks of things to clear enough space.

They left Roweyna's office, and were passing through Elinor's area when Tomax appeared suddenly at the door to the stairs. "I hear we got us a new LT." Tomax smiled madly, "and I got some LT work."

"Actually I'm a Subaltern." Anastasia said, "but what can I do for you?"

"Well as you know, I've been trying to bring some discipline back to company, and as I recall, from my glorious days as Sergeant Major in LCAF, that one of the best training exercises for a new LT was conducting a range."

"I assume we're talking about a small arms range. Lasers or Slug Throwers?" Anastasia said.

"Slug throwers, I prefer the smell of gunpowder in the morning." Tomax said.

"Is there a budget?" Anastasia asked.

"Why would there be a budget?" Tomax snapped.

"First, for catering lunch." Anastasia spoke in a polite, almost placating, tone.

"Damn, spoiled officers. No. Everyone eatin' rations. Not duck livers on silver plates." Yorik growled.

"Second, we're making mercenaries do something they might not want to do, so offering prizes, cash prizes, might incentivize them to compete, and actually get the most out of a range." Anastasia said.

Yorik looked over at Kelly.

Kelly shrugged, "Let everyone know they'll be prizes for the top three marksmen."

"Very good. Next question, I know not everyone uses the same side arms or weapons, so are we-"

"Train as we fight, Professor, they should use their preferred side arm. Figure it out." Tomax said.

"Noted. Have you done a multi-caliber small arms range before? Do you have any of the documents-"

Yorik realized Anastasia was intentionally pestering him, "Damn it Lieutenant, you and the Hauptmann-"

"Subaltern and Captain." Anastasia corrected

"Get the hell out of my office." Yorik yelled.

The children in the corner looked at Yorik in shock and one of them started crying. Elinor's eyes flashed and she straightened her back and appeared much taller, "Mr. Yorik, this is my office, and you'll keep a civil tongue and not shout when you're here."

"The two of you just figure out." Yorik grumbled as he disappeared as suddenly as he appeared.

Hap could see Anastasia's subtle smug smile as they walked back to the barracks.

When they passed the day room Joker called out to them, "Hey what did the old man want? Are you two in trouble?" Joker asked. Before Hap could answer Joker noticed the epaulettes on their cooling vests. "Why are you guys wearing those? You're not officers any more, and Harold you were never a captain."

"Apparently we still are. That is what Commander Kelly wanted to tell us. Also, Anastasia and I each received a battlefield promotion." Hap said.

"McFinnigan and Sons had also been granted favored mercenary status by the Federated Suns, and we were made the AFFS liaisons for the company." Anastasia added.

Joker looked at each of them for a confused moment, "What about me?"

"What about you?" Anastasia answered. There was a pregnant pause, then Anastasia continued, "Since the time we found ourselves in the employment of Commander McFinnigan you have stated how much you 'love being a mercenary'. When I spoke to my mother I intentionally did not mention you."

"Oh." Joker said, "For a second I thought you had forgotten about me."

"Although it may seem like inaction, I thought this is what you wanted. You're now a mercenary, you can even claim that you stole a 'mech from AFFS or Hanse Davion himself, if you prefer."

As Anastasia spoke Hap looked at Joker. He was never an 'ideal' corporal, but Joker was generally a solid performer. At that moment he was sitting on a coach in a T-shirt and sports shorts. It was midafternoon and he had an open beer in one hand and his other hand was casually half-down Mags' shirt. He might never have been a professional soldier, but in the last few months he had certainly taken to his new profession of mercenary. Mags seemed to grow more concerned as Anastasia spoke.

"Yeah." Joker laughed, "I love this life, and hell yeah I stole a 'mech from the first prince himself. I'm a f'n badass mercenary."

Joker kissed Mags on the cheek. Mags looked concerned, and seemed to ignore the kiss.

"You okay, Mags?" Hap asked.

"You're just a liaison, not part of the company? Does this mean you're not my lance leader." Mags said.

Hap sensed there was something more to this question, "I'm still your lance leader, till further notice."

She nodded, "Okay".

Hap waited to see if she had any more questions. When she didn't say anything he gestured down the hall, "We're going to get cleaned up. We'll talk more about this later."

As they walked Hap quietly asked Anastasia, "Did you intentionally not ask your Mom to help, Joker?"

"I intentionally don't talk about Joker if I can help it. However, if I had thought about it, I would have tried to get him the same deal we received." Anastasia said apologetically, "I was embarrassed I had failed to help him, or at least not given him the choice. I felt the need to justify myself, please don't tell him."

"I won't. Joker will be fine, you probably did do him a favor." Hap said. "He fits right in here, almost a little too well."

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