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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 48[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Dining with Dangerous Man[]

Federated Suns
December 3029

Anastasia glanced at Hap. Tempes could see some unsaid communication between them. Tempes knew of their relationship, and, if it wasn't for the fact Anastasia was ordered for termination, this could have been a lever to control her. He took a sip of scotch to cover his snort at the foolishness of love.

She looked around the room and seemed to be balancing out her choices. Tempes could tell she felt some obligation to this company. He might have thought that the sentimentality of love was ridiculous, but he respected loyalty, he depended on it in his people, and he felt it for ComStar.

"Lass, We've appreciated yer help, but yer are a soldier. If yer generals say ye need to…" Kelly said.

"Major Braun, these people, and particularly Captain Calahad, have saved my life, and took us in. I feel guilty just leaving them, or at least all of them." Anastasia said, "Is it possible to assign Captain Calahad to NAIS with me?"

Braun shook his head stiffly, "New Avalon has more MechWarriors than nearly anywhere else in the Federation. His skills are best used here, and then I need to get him to get back to the force, where he can take his experiences here, and really use them. I don't know if you've noticed, but another Succession War is starting."

Anastasia looked around again. Tempes could almost see her squirm as she had to make this choice. He savored her discomfort more than the scotch, "I choose to stay." Anastasia told Major Braun.

Braun looked annoyed, but Tempes wasn't sure if it was the fact that a valuable R&D asset appeared to want to play MechWarrior, or as Tempes knew, and suspected Braun understood, a valuable R&D asset had decided not to leave her man's side. The High Prince's dream of double heatsinks, advanced weapons, and lighter armor would wait for 'love'. Tempes couldn't hide his amusement at this.

Braun was staring down Anastasia but when he heard Tempes snicker Braun fixed his one good eye on him. "What are you laughing at? You have some 'Wisdom of Blake' to share?"

Braun was an easily angered man, Tempes noted. Tempes smiled, he now planned to spend his evening provoking the man. "There is much of Blake's wisdom I have to share." Tempes replied.

Braun's head snapped back to look at Anastasia as she said, "My mother said my service had raised the prestige of our family. To run away and hide on New Avalon, especially after Klathandu, would invalidate that. I would appear to be the spoiled daughter of a noble that capriciously became a MechWarrior and then used noble privilege to avoid the risks of war, a war that I have noticed is starting."

Braun took in a deep breath, "You are a spoiled daughter of a noble. You did become a MechWarrior on a caprice, and on Klathandu-"

McFinnigan cleared his throat, "The meal is ready, if ye all would follow me to the main dining room."

Tempes had watched Hap as Braun started to down dress the young noble woman. Tempes noticed the change in Hap's posture and saw the anger in his eyes. He wondered what the young officer would have said or done had the Major not be interrupted. Tonight was about to get more interesting.

The crowd followed McFinnigan into another richly decorated room, with the same wood paneling, polished brass and thick carpet as the bar area. This room had a long table with plush high backed chairs. There were cards with each person's name on the place settings. Tempes was pleased to see that he was sitting next to Major Braun and across from Hap and Anastasia.

As the people gathered behind their chairs Kelly took his position at the head of the table. He reached for one of carafes of wine and said, "If ye all will fill yer glasses, we'll start the evenin' with a few toasts."

Everyone reached for the nearest carafe. Tempes had to wait for Henna to fill Braun's glass and her's before she passed him the wine. Kelly looked around to ensure everyone's glasses were filled before he lifted his glass, "To the Lyran Commonwealth, the Archon, and the House of Steiner."

Most of the room responded with, "To the Archon." And drank.

Patrick lifted his glass and looked at Major Braun, "To the Federated Suns, and the house of Davion."

Several members answered back, "The Federated suns." And everyone drank.

Major Braun lifted his own glass, "To the company, and your family, may you continue to enjoy success."

The Mercenaries answered with a near deafening, "gnó teaghlaigh." and drank.

Tempes felt obliged to lift his glass and say, "To the nobles that rule us, may they continue to show as much wisdom in ruling, as they demonstrate in their personal lives." His toast was answered with, "To the nobles" as everyone took another drink, he gave Anastasia a wink and a sly smile as he lowered his glass.

Roweyna was next to Tempes. She lifted her glass, "To the MRB and Comstar-"

"May they continue to be a shining light of fairness and the virtues of the star league" Anastasia added. Tempes could hear the sarcasm in her voice, actually it wasn't sarcasm it was almost an accusation. He wondered how much his quarry knew of his purpose, as most of the room replied, "To ComStar."

Kelly held up his hand. "Gents, if ye'd like to seat the ladies near you, I think Hauptman Calahad will give us one last toast." The men moved to seat their dates. Hap had to give Braun extra time, but once Henna was seated Hap lifted his glass, "To the ladies."

There was a reply of "to the ladies." And after drinking the men sat down and Kelly announced that he'd say grace before the first course was served. As he prayed Tempes tried to speculate what Anastasia knew of how ComStar was interfering in her life. Those fools at the ComStar office had tipped her off, or at least she had nearly gone to ground after they failed to hide their surprise at discovering her alive.

The only exception was she would perform her job in her 'Mech, and she came back to the offices to receive her mother's message, then took a field trip to a local food market. Which resulted in more amateur buffoonery from ROM agents that should have known better. Tempes had assumed her love for her mother had brought her out of hiding. He now wondered why she risked going to the market.

The prayer ended and several young men dressed in kilts, and young women in traditional Irish dresses came out with trays of soup. It was a pea soup. Tempes had been on traveling for several weeks and was looking forward to fresh fruits and vegetables. He stirred the soup, it wasn't a reconstituted ration, but it wasn't what he had hoped for. Tempes decided it was time to start amusing himself.

Tempes leaned toward Major Braun, "You asked for the wisdom of Blake, and I believe, if he were here, the blessed founder of my holy order would advise the young heir to Hazlehurst that, 'Service and sacrifice are greater than honor'."

"It's not really about honor it's about duty." Major Braun replied as he glared over his soup at Anastasia.

"I performed my duty. I was abandoned by my lance, and I was forced to withdraw to what quickly became a tactically indefensible position." Anastasia replied

"And here you are now, safe and warm while the rest of your company is cold and tired and fighting a desperate guerrilla war." Major Braun snapped.

"We were surrounded, and the Combine forces were closing on us." Hap said. "If we had stayed we would have been killed or captured."

"What would you have done?" Anastasia asked.

Braun slammed his fist on the table, "I would have held the line." He stood up and shouted. "Just like I did on Rigil Kentarus."

Henna gently pulled him back down to his seat, "and it nearly cost you everything."

"Mind your cups tonight, Patrick, Auntie Elinor says to me," Patrick mumbled, "It's going to be a polite evenin' with no shoutin' or breakin' things."

Roweyena quietly shushed him.

"I apologize." Braun looked sheepish "Everyone, I'm sorry. That was uncalled for." He stirred his soup.

"This is why I feel the need to stay here and redeem myself." Anastasia said quietly.

Major Braun nodded, "Granted, Subaltern Vallois, but you should reconsider returning with me to New Avalon. I was wrong to snap at you. I know on Klathandu, you had few options."

"What options did you have Rigil Kentarus, Major Braun?" Tempes asked innocently

"None, Field Marshall Felsner and General Squire had performed a lightning raid to seize an air field that the Combine was using for their AeroSpace Fighters. My lance was ordered to perform screening and advanced reconnaissance north of the air field. We detected a large 'Mech force moving on the air field. We were ordered to delay the advancing force while the Filed Marshall moved his own Aero fighters and additional 'Mechs to hold the air field."

Braun took in a deep breath, "We harassed the forces and lured them into a box canyon. We knew we were trapping ourselves, but we hoped we could delay them long enough for our aero fighters to catch them in the canyon. We made a miscalculation. The canyon channelized their forces, so we could even the odds, until they started using lighter 'mech's to jump over the cliff walls, and we were quickly overwhelmed. I do remember as my ammunition exploded, and my engine's shielding was destroyed, I saw a flight Corsairs start their strafing run. I slammed my fist on the ejection button but I knew I was dead, but I felt good I had done my duty."

Braun pushed his soup away from him and Henna reached over and rubbed his shoulders. "When I woke up at a field hospital I was told the good news that, not only had our actions allowed us to hold the air field, but our aerofighters were able to destroy nearly two companies worth of 'mechs. It was enough of a loss the Kuritan forces withdrew from the planet. The bad news was I had sustained serious burns, lost both my legs, an arm and an eye. My lancemates were dead, and my Shadow Hawk was destroyed."

Braun fixed his eye on Tempes, "Before he left the planet, Field Marshall Felsner came personally and thanked me for my sacrifice. I was given the title Baronet, awarded the Sunburst medal." Brauns voice became stern, "I don't live in an academic or cloistered world, when I talk about duty and sacrifice it's not some philosophical idea to me, I know what I'm saying."

"And you'd like you to teach Subaltren Vallois about sacrifice and how to perform her duty in a 'life-threatening' cloistered university?" Tempes asked, trying to goad the man. "That seems paradoxical."

"No. Subaltern Vallois has a rare talent that could do a lot of good for the Federation.", Major Braun moved his head to look at Anastasia. "We all have our roles for the Federation. As a crippled dispossessed MechWarrior my role is to work with officers like Captain Calahad and mercenaries units like this to help AFFS improve tactically. You're a genius who needs to use her talents to improve our technology base."

"What exactly will the Subaltern do to 'improve' the technology of the Federated Suns?" Tempes asked

"I'm honestly not sure." Braun answered as the wait staff collected the bowls of soup and replaced them with plates that had ceramic ramekins filled with shepherd's pie. "I got a hold of a few of her papers and there were a lot of things I couldn't understand. Near as I can figure she and her father were working on magnets and composite materials. I believe it was for some industrial application." Tempes wondered if he was just ignorant, or lying to cover up what Tempes knew was a top secret weapons program.

Tempes had seen some of the papers that Anastasia had written. Like Braun he couldn't make much sense of them, but the analysts assured him she was dangerously smart and her work could be used to help the Federated Suns make breakthroughs on several different technologies. When the ROM agents paid a visit to her father's work associate they discovered that they were working on Gauss Rifles, had done some research on advanced sensors, more efficient heat sinks, and even had reasoned out most of the theory and work of how to build their own Hyperpulse Generator.

The ROM agents left shortly after the man "committed suicide". When they departed it appeared that some local crime element had broken into the man's apartment and taken everything of value, to include his computer and a safe that contained his work and important papers. The data from the man's computer and his papers had validated his execution and the death of Edmund Vallois and his daughter. ROM had used a shell company to purchase Vallois Solutions, and made most of their products and technology disappear, leaving Anastasia as the only loose end.

Tempes was lost in his own thoughts as the evening progressed. He was content that Anastasia would be staying with the company. This would give him some room to maneuver and plan her death. He decided she needed to die sooner rather than later, but he had time to plan a proper operation.

When the evening concluded Tempes started to leave, but Kelly met him at the door and followed him out, "We should talk. When I said I had never met a ComStar representative like you. I lied, jest like you've been lying to tonight. You remind me of the MRB representatives that met us on Buckminster."

Tempes felt a chill go down his spine, Buckminister is where a ROM agent had assassinated a rogue Adept that had joined McFinnigan and Sons. The agent had died and several ROM members went directly to Kelly posing as MRB agents to tie up some loose ends of the operation, "I don't know-"

Kelly leaned close to him, and whispered, "Ye know and I'll tell you, what I told those sons of whores. You threaten my family again, and I will ensure you pay a very nasty and very high price. I have powerful friends, that'll ensure if I'm crossed you'll regret it. Don't doubt, family takes care of its own."

Tempes knew this was no idle threat. The ROM cell on Buckminster had continued to surveil McFinnigan and Sons, until the surveillance team failed to report. Mysteriously all their effects and equipment appeared in the Buckminster ROM's office the next day, but their bodies were never found. Even more telling the camera had been shot through the lens with a high powered rifle. To add insult to injury, the components to make a car bomb were stolen from their armory and laid out on the Buckminister Precentor's desk.

This was taken as a message from Heimdall to leave McFinnigan and Sons alone. There had long been circumstantial evidence that McFinnigan and Sons supported Heimdall, or were possibly a cell. As with all things related to Heimdall, the links could never be truly proven, and that McFinnigan and Sons was somehow protected by them seemed a stretch. But the fact remained, somehow someone had killed two ROM agents and then infiltrated a high security ComStar facilities, just to leave an almost cryptic message.

This caused a problem for ROM. Finding a Heimdall cell was difficult, and killing one would have just invited a blood war with terrorists that could strike with enough precision to kill key leadership in ComStar if they felt motivated. Given their alleged ideological links to House Steiner and Heimdall's exclusive involvement in maintaining and protecting the royal house it was best to write off the incident as "eye for an eye". As far as ROM was concerned the matter was closed. This was also during the time when ComStar was investigating Wolf's Dragoons so the amount of extra resources was limited.

Tempes nodded, and they quietly descended the stairs together. Tempes was enraged. He was a powerful ROM demi-precentor, and was being threatened by a third tier mercenary company. He was the one that usually issued very real, very startling threats in these sorts of conversations and he hated the idea he was at a disadvantage.

At the ramp both men bid each other a polite, but cold farewells. Tempes slipped out into the cold night, warm with the rage and anger he felt toward Kelly McFinnigan. All of Tempes's questions had been answered. He had almost decided that Anastasia was the only person that needed to die, now it was the whole company. He'd certainly need to plan this carefully, as it would need to be sudden and complete. Tempes could not allow this insult to be ignored, no entity should be allowed to threaten the order of ComStar. He reasoned that destroying them properly would take time. This would prove unfortunate for Anastasia, Tempes concluded, he would move up her execution just so he could have more time to focus on destroying McFinnigan and Sons. He got into his ground car already putting the finishing touches on his perfect plan to execute her.

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