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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 53[]

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A Warrior's Family[]


Unsettling News[]

Monhegan
Federated Suns
December 3029


Hap walked into Ops to discover he was the last to arrive. Kelly had the holotable setup and the whole company was present. "Perfect timing lad. I know you're tired and ready to eat and get cleaned up, but we need to review everything with everyone while it's fresh."

Holotank

Holotank

Hap nodded and approached the table. He could see this three dimensional holographic map was set up just before the ambush was initiated. The Death Commando Lance was behind the submerged Leopard and the tank lance was on the ridge. "You want me to start?"

"Whenever yer ready." Kelly answered.

Hap nodded. He described detecting the missile carriers and then the 'mechs starting up. He saw the SRM carrier and guessed the other three vehicles were missile carriers, so he chose to close with them before they had an opportunity to destroy another member of the lance.

"Ye have no close range weapons? It didn't occur to you to send Tatyana or Grizzly?" Kelly said.

"I didn't think, I just reacted. I was trying to get David to eject from his 'mech, and I knew seconds counted." Hap said. "I attempted to engage one of the LRM Carriers, while calling down fire on another and I intentionally jumped on the SRM Carrier."

"Thereby reminding everyone that an LRM Carrier's life expectancy is measured in seconds once they are engaged directly." Patrick went to the refreshment table. "Even against the wrong 'mech for the job."

Kelly shook his head, "It's fine, Hap. From what the tank crew says, your quick action disrupted the ambush. We'll come back to you. Let's step back a moment. Tatyana is still interviewing the tank crew, but we'll use the BattleROM from her Kintaro."

The screens showed what looked like a view from the cockpit of Tatyana's Battlemech. Hap had seen this a few times before. This was Kelly's preferred way of doing after action reviews. The BattleROM showed some of what the pilot could see, plus the mech's status and targeting data. The recording started just as they turned around, and the camera was looking at the lake and tree line, but the two dimensional targeting data implied 'mechs should be in front of them.

Kelly usually disabled the audio and had the MechWarrior give commentary. Without Tatyanna Grizzly explained, "Our sensors detected enemy 'mechs and we turned around to find nothing there. Then David said he got sensor locked. Tatyana and Hap told him to eject. Hap started hauling ass to the ridge.

]}The 'mech and camera turned, and Hap could see the back of his Griffin running toward the lake. At the same time the ridgeline erupted with the smoke of hundreds of missiles.{[

"This is when the whole damn mountain seemed to explode with missiles." Grizzly said quietly.

]}The camera turned to watch the missiles start to impact the Valkyrie. David instinctively threw up his mech's arms to try and protect his 'mech's chest and head, but the onslaught of missiles was too great. Hap watched in horror as the 'mech left side was destroyed. The torrent of missiles just kept coming. The Valkyrie fell backwards as it disappeared in the smoke and explosions of the missiles, then there was a bright flash as the fusion engine's shielding was destroyed and the missiles pierced the reactor core.{[

Kelly sighed and stopped the recording. He looked across the room. "Conner, Noah, I wanted you to see this. You lads are going to start performing more missions, and ye have to know these are the risks."

The boys looked worried but they nodded. Kelly continued, "David would be here with us now if he had immediately ejected like Hap and Tatyana told him. So, this is the other lesson I want ye to learn, in real combat if yer lance leader or one of the old hands tell you something, listen, an' listen quick."

The nodded vigorously and Kelly said, "Good" as the video continued. ]}The Kintaro went rocketing into the air and the camera showed blue for a moment. When the Kintaro came down the camera showed a Commando waist deep in water. The Kintaro's missiles and lasers engulfed the Commando. Hap could see the heat climb on the weapons display. It was nearly halfway to shutdown.{[

"We saw the enemy 'mechs coming out of the water. Tatyana saw the Commando and jumped at him and fired everything. You can't see it, but at the same time I saw a Spider next to him. I tried to attack him, but he was a squirrely bastard and all I managed to do was take off one of its arms." Grizzly said.

Kintaro (in Snow base - MWO version)

]}The Kintaro twisted its torso and for a moment it looked at a Spider. It was missing its left arm and jumped out view as a Phoenix Hawk and Vulcan emerged from the water. Hap could see Tatyanna pause for a moment as she waited for her 'mech's heat to drop. She fired the Kintaro's left arm SRM rack at the Vulcan as he jumped away from her.{[

Hap looked at the Holo table. As the video was progressing the mech's moved on the holotable. He could see his Griffin engaging the damaged LRM Carrier as Rolph and Crow were getting closer.

"About this time I called in fire on my Spider, hoping to put a quick end to him." Grizzly said. "Hap had disappeared onto the ridgeline, Tatyana was engaging the Vulcan and the Spider was giving me grief."

"Yeah, the Spider pilot was pretty good, or at least hard to hit." Crow said, "He moved around a lot."

Phoenix Hawk Medium BattleMech (In Combat in a Forest - NuSeen - by mokiplamo)

Phoenix Hawk Medium 'Mech in combat

"I got the Phoenix Hawk's attention, and he started to run." Rolph added. "So I chased him."

Hap stared at the video from the Tatyanna's cockpit. ]}He watched as the Vulcan tried to keep away from her Kintaro and she carefully managed her heat and continued to chase him until Hap shot him from the cliff. Grizzly, Rolph and Crow continued to explain their actions but Hap's mind kept going back to seeing David's mech get destroyed. He could still hear his scream that ended when his radio was destroyed.{[

Tatyana and Fletch entered Ops. The after action review stopped as they walked in. Sophia ran from Elinor's lap to her mother. A very tired looking Tatyana picked up her daughter and sat in the chair that Mark offered her. Sophia looked content as she laid on her mother's chest, and Tatyana rested her chin on her daughter's head. Hap could see that Tatyana was just as exhausted as he felt.

"I think we've gotten all we can from the Tank crew." Fletch said. "They got hired to ambush a lance of rogue 'mechs. From what the surviving crew can tell us it was a job too good to be true. They were supposed to be sitting in defensive positions engaging a target from the high ground on the other side of an uncross-able lake. They were also promised a generous cut of the salvage."

"Until Hap crossed their uncross-able lake and made their positions indefensible." Patrick said.

"Yeah." Fletch opened his first aid kit, "Patrick, have you got any smokes?"

"Fresh out mate." Patrick said. There was a general murmur from around the ops center and Kitty held up a pack and tossed it to Fletch.

Fletch caught it, and shook his head, "Menthols? Really?"

Tatyana murmured in Russian, and Fletch nodded slowly, "Thank you Kitty, it's very generous."

"I'm tryin' to quit, and we know you're a right nasty terror when ye can't have a cigarette." Kitty said.

Fletch shook a cigarette out of the pack and tossed it back to her, "So I've been told."

"Could they say who hired them?" Kelly asked.

Fletch shook his head, "No. This crew wasn't part of the leadership team. They did tell us about the MechWarriors they were supporting though. They MechWarriors claimed to be part of a special Davion unit which is why their 'mechs were painted like Capellan Death Commandos."

"Damn. Did we just tangle with our employer?" Grizzly asked.

"Probably not." Kelly said coolly.

"Even if we did, they attacked us, so it was self-defense." Rowyena added.

"The tank crew thought the MechWarriors were lying about being special forces, but they didn't think they were Capellans." Fletch said. "The money was good and the job looked easy. In their shoes I might have done the same thing. Ignored my clients weirdness and just taken the money"

"Ye think Farrah Ahmed was somehow behind this?" Kelly asked

Fletch and Tatyana exchanged looks, "Unlikely" Tatyana replied.

"The tank crew thought the MechWarriors were Lyran Commonwealth. They had Lyran field kit, and their names were Shafer, Schmit, and Fisher or something like that. The tank crew was also told they would be fighting with a light lance led by a Griffin. They were supposed to attack the 'mechs as they were signaled by the MechWarriors."

"They were told to target Valkyrie first, not Patrick's Dragon." Tatyana said.

Kelly nodded. "Lucky them since Patrick didn't take the field." Kelly pulled out his pipe and tobacco bag.

"They also thought MechWarriors were green." Tatyana added.

Kelly raised a curious eyebrow as he prepared his pipe.

Fletch shrugged, "You'd have to talk to the tankers, but they basically told us the MechWarriors didn't act like they had much combat experience and all their gear looked new. It sounded like they were some young soldiers with more empowerment than common sense."

Kelly lit his pipe, "They initiated an ambush by engaging the weakest mech with roughly two tons of missiles." He smoked for a moment, "not real experienced warriors indeed."

"What are you thinking, Dad?" Roweyana asked

"We have a lance of 'mechs painted like Capellan Death Commandos, but their pilots claim to be from the Federated Suns Armed Forces. However, they hired another group of mercenaries that thought they were from the Lyran Commonwealth, and together they attacked a lance of mercenaries hired by the Federation. I'm thinking we need to finish this debriefing so I can try to make sense of it." Kelly said.

The mercenary commander motioned to Grizzly and he continued explaining the battle from his command couch. Hap's mind drifted back to the barrage of missiles striking David. He had destroyed his share of 'mechs and seen a lot of 'mechs ruined but there was something about the merciless onslaught of the tank lance that haunted Hap. It felt unfair to him, especially for David to die like that.

The briefing ended and everyone was dismissed. Hap looked around as everyone started to leave. Crow found Fiona and put his arm around her and they left together. Rolph and Grizzly started joking loudly as they left Ops, Hap knew they were trying to forget about David, or act like his death didn't matter. Hap saw Joker and Mags talking quietly to each other as they followed the crowd out of Ops. Fletch took Sophie from his wife and held the half asleep child as he spoke to her in hushed tones.

Kelly called for Fletch and Tatyana, and Hap looked over to see Anastasia talking to Kelly. Hap concluded it was better to just go to bed and put this terrible day behind him. He followed his peers to the barracks. Hap could hear Dillon crying and Rolph put his arm over his shoulder and Grizzly talked to him about David and how he was in a better place. It was somber as they walked up the stairs and everyone retired to their rooms.


Hap undressed and got into his shower. He let the warm water wash over him. He scrubbed away the dirt and grime and dried sweat. His mind drifted again to David's death and watching the tank crew mercy kill one of their own. The warm water felt good, and stepping out of the shower seemed to mean dealing with everything. He was hesitant to leave, but he couldn't stay there forever.

Hap shut off the water, dried off, and wrapped a towel around himself and stepped out of the shower. He walked into his bedroom to find Anastasia standing in the middle of the room. She was still in her coveralls, but her hair was down and she had her boots off. She looked shorter and somehow more vulnerable, "Hey you. Can we talk?"

Hap had every intention of telling her no, and telling her to wait till the morning, but he nodded. "Sure."

"Let me get cleaned up and changed." Anastasia said. She looked relieved. "You should put on your pajamas while you wait."

Hap went to his wall locker and dressed for bed, as Anastasia grabbed her shower things and disappeared into the bathroom. Hap examined the contents of his wall locker again. Anastasia had unpacked his uniforms and the few clothes that he had. To his surprise his leather jacket was among the dress shirts and uniform blouses. He pulled out the jacket and looked at it. The rank had been updated and the RDMM patch had been replaced with the McFinnigan and Sons patch. He started to put it on when he noticed that his initials were not embroidered in the collar.

He looked closely and realized this was not his jacket. Anastasia must have sent someone to the AFFS clothing sales store to get this jacket. Hap sighed. The fact she had recognized how much he wanted a leather jacket made him recognize how much she paid attention to what he was saying. It was hard to be angry with her when she did things like this.

He closed his locker and heard the shower shut off. He sat down on the bed and waited for Anastasia. She came into the room wearing a silk robe and with her hair wrapped up in a towel. She walked over to him and looked cautious, "I have a proposal for you."

"Okay"

"I was wrong to snap at you, and I'm sorry. Tomorrow you can really let me have it."

"Really let you have it?" Hap asked.

"Yes. Really let me have it, but not now. Tomorrow you can yell at me, and say hurtful things we'll regret. We can argue as long as you promise we'll work to solve our problems-."

"That seems unnecessary." He felt too tired to really fight with her or anyone.

"-but tonight I just want to know you love me, and I want you to hold me, because I love you."

Hap nodded and started to pull back the sheets and blankets, "I think I'd like to be held too."

"Oh! You're just agreeing to it. I thought-." Anastasia seemed surprised as she reached her hand out to Hap and he pulled over to the bed.

She slipped between the sheets and Hap followed her. They laid on their sides and faced each other. Hap held her as she buried her head into his chest. He could feel her tremble.

"I was so mad at you when you left." Anastasia said. "I was sitting here thinking of things I should have said, or I was going to say. I was debating about getting an impact hammer and making sure you couldn't remove my shelves, just so you knew I wasn't going anywhere. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I was wrong. I think I was mad at myself."

"I was having a similar talk with myself." Hap said. "Only it didn't involve industrial tools."

"Then the call went out to report to our mechs. We had troops in contact and a 'mech destroyed. I was terrified it was you. I was horrified our last words would be spoken in anger." Anastasia sobbed.

Hap held her tightly and let her cry. For the last several hours he'd been longing to talk to her, just for the companionship. He had no idea what she had been going through.

"It's my fault David is dead." She added between ragged breaths.

Hap thought he was responsible, "What makes you think that?"

"When I was on Klathandu the lance I was assigned to was a Phoenix Hawk, a Commando, and a Vulcan. I assume they picked up the Spider to round out the lance, but it's too much of a coincidence. Shafer was my lance leader, and Schmit, and Fisher were the Commando and Vulcan pilots. I don't know how they did it, but they're ComStar. They got themselves assigned to the First FedCom, and they were supposed to kill me on Klathandu."

She looked up at Hap, "That's why they abandoned me to be killed by the Thunderbolt and Quickdraw. This was their second attempt to kill me, this time they didn't leave it to chance. This is what I was talking to the Commander and Tatyana about after the brief. They all agree it's very likely. The only way we'll know for sure is if the MRB comes by tomorrow asking questions about me."

"Well, if it was ComStar they got the wrong Valkyrie."

Hap could feel her start to cry again. "It's alright though, we're here together and they failed again." He told her.

He could feel her nod as he continued to hold her close and comfort her.


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