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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 43[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Strike Mission Briefing[]

Necromo System
'Capellan Confederation
November 3029

"Alright, gents, gather round. I need to walk you through the Op." Patrick said. He was standing in front of the view screen in the lounge of the Phaidin, the McFinnigan and Son's Leopard class Dropship. Hap, Grizzly, and David were sitting on the semi-circle couch as Patrick started his brief.

Leopard Class DropShip (by psicore)

Leopard Class 'Mech Carrier DropShip

"This should be a simple raid. For reasons not included in the intel report, this moon has some extreme long range radar, telescopes and a radio telescope." As he spoke the screen showed the image of a gray colored crater scared planet. Patrick stepped back and pointed to the gray planet that was taking up much of the starboard window. "That moon, is right there"

Patrick stepped back to the screen, "Our mission is to destroy a long range surveillance system and radar site. Also, because it's AFFC, the contract specified we should not destroy any habitation or life support systems on the site unless it's absolutely necessary. But, I'd note, there was no bonus, or incentive to not destroy or compromise the life support. It was just a request. AFFC liaison, you got anything to add."

Everyone looked to Hap, as the AFFS liaison, he knew this came with the job, "No reason to waste ammo, or build up extra heat."

"That's fair. Missiles cost money, Kelly warned me if I was sloppy with my missiles I'd have to pay for my own reloads." David said.

"Never had Kelly talk to me about that." Grizzly said eyeing David suspiciously.

"Uncle Kelly is always finding something to complain about. If it's not reloads, it's my drinkin' or Roweyena's need to settle down, find a man, and start making him grandchildren." As he spoke Patrick rubbed his chin and looked at the bottles of alcohol on the shelf behind the bar.

"Or clean her office?" Hap asked

"Aye? No. That's more Auntie Ellie, of course, so is the grandchildren. Back to the brief, the AFFS liaison recommends we save lives by following our contract and save money. To me that sounds pretty hollow coming from the great house that prides itself as being the shining light of human rights and dignity."

"If you want a speech on the sanctity of life, and how AFFC believes in human freedoms, I could probably give you one, but if that's what you want, you should ask your other AFFC liaison." Hap offered.

"Ask the professor for a lecture? No thanks, mate." Patrick laughed, "I'm happy with the client asking us to think about saving lives and saving money. Let's look at the actual target."

The screen changed to show a large parabolic "satellite dish" antenna, a few dome shaped shelters for radars or telescopes, and a field filled with directional antennas. "This, according to the intel, is a very capable extreme long range early warning radar system, with high fidelity radio and light telescopes, and a few other electronic collection systems. That radar tracks everything that comes through the jump point, and the radio telescope can damn near see New Avalon from here."

"So is this an early warning system or intelligence collecting post?" Hap asked

"The report didn't say." Patrick shrugged, "It just states, 'Necromo is a traditional logistics hub between Capella and the St. Ives Commonalities.' Tatayana thinks this operation is likely a feint. We destroy a big expensive radar or collection site on the boarder of Federated Sun and Capellan space. The Capellan's will likely think it's a precursor to an invasion, and the Suns will likely invade somewhere else. This site thing probably annoys Prince Davion or some General so they're killing two birds with one stone."

"Is it valuable enough for a Garrison or are we just looking at automated defense turrets?" Grizzly asked.

"Both." Patrick answered, "We have defense turrets here and here." Patrick pointed to two squat buildings with turrets bristling with laser cannons. He changed images and there was an overhead photo of the site. Patrick pointed out three more turrets. "A total of five turrets in a star pattern around the site."

The screen changed to show another overhead photo, "This is the garrison, it's a mixed unit of tanks and a pair of LCT-1V Locusts. The image is a little blurry but this appears to be an LRM carrier, and this one is an SRM carrier. Each can put up a nasty amount of missiles, but they don't take abuse-"

"So abuse them on sight." Grizzly interrupted.

"Aye. This brings us to the last two tanks." Patrick pointed to a tracked vehicle with three long narrow barrels, "This is a Pike tank. Relatively new invention by the Magistracy of Canopus, if yer not familiar It has three AC2s and 9 tons of armor. It can harass us just outside the effective range of our weapons. Normally I'd say nothin', but this is a lunar atmosphere a simple blow to your cockpit could be lethal."

"So abuse it on site too." Grizzly said

"Tell ye what, mate. Everyone, save ye, is packing long range arms. We'll make sure to take down the missile tanks, while ye run yer Wolverine at the tank formation and stomp on them." Patrick said

"That was my plan." Grizzly laughed.

"What's that last tank?" Hap asked

"Can't tell from the image." Patrick said, "It's big, and it looks like someone welded a turret on top of some other tank. Kelly thought it might be a custom job based on a Vedette. It looks like it has two LRM racks on the lower body and an energy weapon or autocannon on the turret."

"It's much bigger than the other tanks, though, and its shadows are weird." David said.

"Maybe it's in a defilade." Hap said thoughtfully, "Also there's no tank tracks behind it, maybe it hovers or maybe it's permanently parked there."

"Maybe it's a star league era tank." David offered, "And it's too heavy to move off the planet."

"Now you sound like Rolf with one of his crazy 'glow lamp' stories that he heard from some tech that works for pirates in the deep periphery." Grizzly said.

"The last time we mis-identified a vehicle it ended badly for me. Are we sure there aren't any more pictures?" Hap asked, "Usually a long range recon probe will do multiple passes."

Patrick shook his head, "The probe was supposed to circle back around but it was destroyed. That brings us to another item in the Intel report. There is an aerofighter wing based on another moon. They'll scramble once we're detected, and the report says we'll have three to six hours before they reach us."

"How easily can the enemy detect us?" David asked.

"Right now we're part of the normal system traffic headed to Necromo proper, but once we pass the moon we're going to turn hard and try to approach the site from the rear. We likely won't be detected till we start taking shots at the compound." Patrick said.

Patrick changed the image to a three dimensional map around the radar site. "Here's the plan. The shuttle does two false insertions before it drops us off here." He pointed to the base of a ridgeline located behind the red hex marking the target compound. "Then it will do a few more false insertions and move to this DZ." The blue leopard moved to the left and landed away from the target.

"We'll climb the ridge and destroy the compound from behind. If we haven't been detected by then we should certainly consider ourselves on the clock. From there we haul ass to the LZ. If we run into the garrison, we destroy them, but the contract only pays for destroying the compound." As he spoke four blue triangles climbed the hill, blasted the compound's red hex, ran through it and moved to the DZ."

Patrick paused for a moment, "If ye have no questions we need to get into our 'mechs. We're about ten minutes from the hard turn, and then it's full thrust until we're planet side."

The four men quietly left the lounge and proceeded to the 'mech bay. As Hap walked up to his mech he looked up to see the familiar black paint pattern with the McFinnigan Tartan. On the chest was the Federated Suns' Sword and Sword above the McFinnigan and Sons's Celtic knot. Hap paused to look at the Sun and Sword. He had never thought himself a great patriot, but seeing the symbol of his country on his 'mech again made him feel good.

McFinnigan and Sons (Celtic Knot)

McFinnigan and Sons Celetic Knot, the unit symbol.

As Hap walked to the ladder he glanced over at David's Valkyrie, his mech was painted identical to Anastasia's mech. There was enough variety in the camo-spec guide to avoid this even on the same 'mech. "David, your Valkyrie looks just like Anastasia's."

"Yeah, I like her style, also Patrick told Grizzly and me that we needed to have the FedSuns emblem on our 'Mechs for this job. I saw how she painted her 'Mech after you two became our liaisons. I just thought I'd copy her." David started to climb the ladder leading to the gantry.

Hap pulled himself up his ladder. He shook his head trying to ignore David's "innocent" obsession with Anastasia. Hap figured it was harmless. On the gantry he found Mike. His usual coveralls were replaced with a light environmental suit, with a survival respirator around his neck. "So you're taking that toy into combat?" Mike said without looking up from his clipboard.

Hap was confused for a moment, he glanced into his cockpit and saw the stuffed Coyote. "Yeah, Sophie gave that to me when I was recovering in the hospital. Thought I'd keep it there as a good luck charm."

Mike looked up, "Sophie? Tatyana and Fletch's little girl? They all visited you in the hospital? I was going to visit you, but I had two weeks of work ahead of me to fix the 'mech you damn near destroyed."

"That's what I figured." Hap replied as he climbed into his command couch. He almost thanked Mike, but remembered that usually ended in an insult. Hap moved the Coyote to the side of the cockpit away from the HUD. "You missed Sophie trying to teach me to howl. I couldn't do it to her satisfaction, but it was pretty cute watching her get more and more frustrated with me."

"Yeah she's going to be a real heart breaker when she grows up." Mike said absent-mindedly, "Glad you taught her early that Mechwarriors are a difficult and frustrating bunch when it comes to teaching them anything." He lowered his clipboard so he could see an indicator light on Hap's panel.

"I wonder what's Russian for, 'little coyote.'" Hap said ignoring Mike's grumbling.

"Couldn't say. I'm from the Suns like you. I only speak English." Mike started to lower the canopy.

"Mike, I never thought to ask. I just-"

"By the way, the Sun and Sword look good on the Griffin." Mike said as the cockpit sealed.

Mike secured the combat locks. Looked over the Griffin one more time, and then quickly retreated down the ladder and out of the bay. Hap knew the techs had to clear of the 'mech bay before they landed and opened the doors to the empty lunar atmosphere. Hap saw the lights flashed in the 'mech bay and heard Kate's voice on the Leopard's 1MC and in his neurohelmet, "Prepare for hard turn in 30 seconds."

Hap felt himself pushed to the side of the command couch as the ship turned, the ship righted itself and everything felt normal. <<"Turn complete, drop in 30 minutes.">> Kate informed the ship.

Hap settled into his command couch. He reminded himself combat was like this, waiting, trying not to think about the worst that could happen. Tuna once told him the gods of war made it so that before you could fight for thirty seconds you'd spend three hours waiting. In Hap's experience that seemed right.

He looked at his knee board, Patrick had given them printouts with a topo map and a few other pieces of key information, frequencies, time hacks, there was even some Gaelic proverb at the bottom. The topo map had the target area, drop zone and landing zone marked. Hap tried to decipher the Gaelic proverb, but he couldn't read it. Knowing Patrick it was probably some blessing about stacking skulls and drinking ale. Hap adjusted his NAV computer to look like the kneeboard map.

Hap checked his watch and referred to the knee board's time hack. He still had another 25 minutes. He glanced over to see David nervously adjusting systems on his 'mech. Hap wondered what Anastasia would be doing. Probably read a book Hap figured. This was the first time they'd been apart in months. He wondered how she was doing. When they left she was becoming increasingly paranoid about ComStar trying to kill her. Hap was now convinced it was a real threat, but he didn't know how to help her. Kelly couldn't think of anything either, he just assured them that once the current contract ended and they started moving around again things would be better.

Hap reminded himself that he was glad to have a break from Anastasia. He was annoyed with her insistence that they not make love until they had a private space where no one could interrupt them. His annoyance was growing too. He caught himself getting angry about things that he had originally found cute. He was especially irritated that every couple nights she would want insist she sleep with him. He knew this had much to do with fears, and being held reassured her.

He explained how if they were just having sex she could sleep there every night, but she wanted her first time to be special, and private, and even implied she might want to wait for marriage. This almost led to a fight, and Hap considered giving her an ultimatum, but he also knew this was how things started to go bad during his first marriage. It was probably for the best that he got picked for this mission, and they have this break.

Hap sighed. On the other hand he wished she had come with them. The operation hadn't even started and he regretted that he wouldn't have her calm quiet voice in his ear. He also missed holding her, and scent of hair. He reassured himself that he and Anastasia were going to make this relationship work.

The bay lights flashed again, "We're entering the atmosphere now. Drop in ten." Kate said there was a shake and the shift in the reaction gravity as the thrusters altered their direction and they entered the moon's gravity. It took a moment before the leopard righted itself and started toward the planet's surface.

"Hap, mate, Ye ready?" Patrick's voice brought Hap out of his musings.

"Think so." Hap answered glancing around making sure he was ready.

"Good, good. Listen I picked ye for this mission for a couple reasons. First, we have to bring at least one of our liaisons for each combat op. Ye don't have to be in a 'mech, but it's a waste not to bring the Griffin's fire power. Also I wanted some range for this mission, so I traded ye for Volchitsa's Kintaro. Finally, Uncle Kelly thought it good to get ye back in the saddle for a combat op. Same went for David."

"I wondered why you didn't take Anastasia with her advanced Valkyrie." Dave said.

"David, if yer going to spend a week or more with a few people ye make sure it's people ye like and can drink with. Miss Vallois tends to annoy me. She's fine to look at, and generally quiet, but-"

"She opens her mouth and won't shut-up." Grizzly interrupted.

"Aye. That mouth." Patrick agreed.

"Don't get me wrong" Grizzly said, "I like her, but her lectures are almost as bad as Rolf's weird stories."

"When I talk to Anastasia I feel smarter, and Rolf gives me a lot to think about." David said. "Hap, what do you think?"

Before Hap could answer Patrick said, "David, ye have to understand. Hap's opinion is a little tainted, ye can put up with a hell of a lot from woman as long as yer making love 'd be surprised how all the little things she does that annoy a man become damn near delightful."

"Yeah, David, Patrick's right." Hap said. Hap realized this was the most he had ever really heard Patrick talk. Usually Patrick spent most of his time drunk and sitting in the corner making snide comments. He stopped drinking sometime yesterday afternoon, sobered up and finalized the mission planning. To Hap's surprise sober Patrick was pleasant, a good briefer, and his plan was tactically sound. Hap wasn't exactly sure about his advice on love, although he knew Patrick wasn't wrong either.

"I feel I should defend Anastasia here." Hap said, "She knows she can be socially awkward. But, if she's talking, it means she feels comfortable enough to give her opinion and values you enough to share it with you. "

"Aye that's fair." Patrick said, "We're mercenaries. We're all a little strange, and I'm glad yer all part of the family. Just know I prefer to be around some members more than others."

"Changing topics." Hap said, "What's the Gaelic verse at the bottom of our mission handout?"

"It's from an ancient poem. 'I have no strategy; I make unshadowed by thought my strategy.' I was reading it the other day and thought that's you, not thinkin' jest achieving victory. Thought it'd be somethin' good for us to carry into combat today."

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