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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 54[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Unsettling News[]

Federated Suns
December 3029

~~The Thunderbolt moved like a prowling jungle cat. It stalked through the small pass in the Klathandu canyon and unleashed a barrage of missiles and lasers at Tuna's Hunchback. Tuna struggled against the onslaught, and had to fight to steady his 'Mech as the Thunderbolt kept coming.~~

~~Anastasia shot her Valkyrie's arm mounted medium laser, but it only did superficial damage to the Thunderbolt's chest. Joker jumped behind the heavy mech, and bathed it in fire, lasers, and bullets, but the Thunderbolt pilot seemed unconcerned. The cannon on Tuna's Hunchback launched a pitiless blast. The powerful autocannon put a hole in the 'mech's armor, but it didn't stop the Thunderbolt.~~

~~Hap sent a salvo of missiles into the heavy 'mech, but they failed to hit the breach in its armor. The Griffin's PPC stabbed at the armor of the 'Mech's chest, but only managed to melt off the armor below the smoking hole in the Thunderbolt's right breast.~~

~~In a brutal display the Thunderbolt raised its fist overhead and brought it down on the Hunchback. The large shoulder mounted autocannon blocked Hap from seeing where the blow landed, but Hap knew Tuna was dead as the Hunchback fell backwards. Joker hit the Thunderbolt again with everything his Firestarter had, and smoke billowed from holes in the Thunderbolt's armor, but it seemed unaffected.~~

Thunderbolt (in Desert)

Thunderbolt Heavy 'Mech

~~The Thunderbolt turned quickly to face Joker's Firestarter, but as the smoke and fire cleared Hap could see it was Lucky's Javelin. With one fluid motion the Thunderbolt brought its up arm mounted large laser, and an azure particle bolt flew from the barrel and evaporated the Javelin's cockpit.~~

~~Before Hap could react the Thunderbolt turned and trained the missile pod the Valkyrie next to Hap. The missile pod erupted with countless missiles. Hap could see the missiles start to impact the Valkyrie. Anastasia instinctively threw up her mech's arms to try and protect the 'mech's chest and head, but the onslaught of missiles was too great.~~

~~Hap watched in horror as the 'mech left side was destroyed, and 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. Hap could hear Anastasia scream until the cockpit's radio was destroyed.~~

~~Hap looked back as the Thunderbolt leveled its large laser at his cockpit. Hap tried to fire but suddenly there was a flash like lightning as the blast hit his cockpit. Hap's vision blurred, and electricity danced around the cockpit as his mech started to fall forward.~~

~~Hap sat up in bed. His heart was racing, his mouth was dry. Nothing made sense and he knew he needed to get his 'mech up again before the Thunderbolt killed him. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself as he realized it was all a dream.~~

~~He reached for Anastasia, but she wasn't there. His heart started to race again as he searched the bed for her. Hap threw the blankets aside just to make sure the small woman wasn't hidden in the bedding. After a moment he realized he was alone in the bed and panic set in again as it occurred to him that maybe Anastasia had died and he was so grief stricken he had convinced himself it was David.~~

~~Before that horror of the idea he couldn't trust his own sense of reality set in, Hap heard the sink in his bathroom and a glass being filled. He watched as the ghostly form of Anastasia approached his bed.~~

"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you, I was thirsty and wanted to put my hair down and braid it." Anastasia told him.

Hap was instantly relieved to see her. "I was having a bad dream." Hap said as he moved the blankets aside and helped her back into bed. He cradled her back with one arm as she laid next to him and rested her head on his shoulder. He covered them with the blanket and held her hand under the blankets. He calmed down as he smelled the exotic perfume of her hair and felt her warmth and softness against him.

Hap could feel her relax too as she rested on him and almost melted into his arms, "I've been waiting for this for this for two weeks." Anastasia told him, "I really missed you."

Hap kissed her forehead. "I missed you too. I missed you today. I've needed someone to talk to all day. Even without David dying it's been a rough day. This whole business of war is surreal sometimes. We didn't really get much of a chance to get reacquainted yesterday, not like I thought we would."

Anastasia pressed herself more into Hap, "Last night you were pretty drunk."

"Yeah, I passed out while you were in the bathroom."

"I may have passed out too." Anastasia said quietly.

Hap gave her a wry smile, "I thought you're beloved French wine would gently put you to bed."

"Well, that wasn't really French wine." Anastasia said, "also I could sense there was some tension between us. I knew it was because I moved into your room, but I wasn't sure how to address it. Honestly there seemed to be building tension between us for a while. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think we should address it."

Without thinking Hap kissed her on the lips. She let go of his hand and pulled him closer to her. She opened her mouth slightly as he began to caress her thigh. Hap could feel his physical and emotional exhaustion melt away as they kissed. He slid his hand under her robe expecting to find her night dress, but, to his surprise, he found soft warm skin.

He continued to gently caress her as they kissed deeper. When his hand came to her side he could feel her skin slightly tremble. He started to move his hand when she grabbed his elbow and used her arm to press his hand back down.

They began to kiss more intensely as their hands explored each other's bodies in ways they never had before. Hap could feel her rubbing his shoulder and back. She communicated her desire as she squeezed his muscles and pulled him closer to her.

Hap let his hands wander to the places he had respectfully avoided in the past. Wordlessly Hap tugged at her robe belt and slipped her robe off her shoulder as she pulled his shirt over his head. Once they were done undressing they began kissing again.

Anastasia gave a quiet gasp of momentary pain as their passion was fully realized, but her pain gave way to pleasure almost as quickly as it came. Anastasia and Harold seemed to easily understand each other's desires as they quickly found their perfect rhythm.

As they approached ecstasy Hap pulled the elastic band from the end of Anastasia hair. With one smooth motion, she ran her hand through her hair and shook it out to let it cascade like a rich silken curtain around them and surrounded them with the sweet scent of exotic flowers.

Together they reached the zenith of physical pleasure and Anastasia collapsed back into Harold's arms. They were both breathless as they laid together catching their breath. Harold held her hand and waited for her to respond, uncertain what to say. She nestled up to him and said, "Harold, I love you. I mean I love you now more than ever."

They settled into a comfortable embrace. That was exactly how he felt as he said, "I love you too." He could feel her relax again and melt into his arms. They had a new sense of oneness as they held each other and slept.

Hap woke up before Anastasia. He was on his back and she was on her side with her head on his shoulder. The sun was up and the room was brightly lit. Hap was careful not to move as he looked around his room. He looked at the bookshelves and thought about her comment about the impact hammer. It was clear, she had no plans of going anywhere. Hap pulled the blankets up around them.

He had spent the last two weeks thinking about how he wanted to be with her, then he got upset when she started moving in and making their relationship more permanent. He was ashamed of himself for being annoyed with her, especially after last night. If this was going to be their life together now he was happy with that.

Anastasia stirred. She stretched and half rose on one elbow. She looked up at Hap and smiled. "Good morning." Her eyes twinkled as she added, "lover." She crossed her arms over Hap's chest and rested her chin on them so she could look up at Hap.

Hap rubbed her shoulders and back, "Good morning."

Anastasia smiled mischievously, "So are you mad at me?"

"No." Hap answered quickly, surprised at the question, "That's not usually-

"I'm mad at me. I didn't realize how I was holding out on you, us. We should have made love weeks, maybe months, ago."

"Yeah, what was holding us up?" Hap answered dryly, and gave her a suspicious look.

Anastasia shrugged "Perhaps, moi". She blew a stray lock of hair out of her face, "You have to admit it was worth the wait though. I'm sorry I had all my little hang-ups about privacy, and waiting for the right moment and wanting it to be magical, which it was, and not being sure if I would like it."

"Wait. You weren't sure if you would like sex?"

"Well, not everyone does." Anastasia said nonchalantly

"Most people do, most men certainly. I assume most women. I mean it's pretty important to most relationships, it's why it's a big deal in most songs, and holos, and those books you read."

"Those books are fantasy, and most songs are full of poetic exaggeration. And sex sells to a male audience, for obvious reasons. Of course, now I understand. I was being a little naïve I suppose."

"I would agree with that, both that sex sells, and you were being naïve, but-"

"Don't be mean." Anastasia said sleepily as she rolled onto her back and stretched.

"You said your roommate at NAIS was regularly sleeping with her boyfriends."

"She told me most of the time she didn't enjoy it, she was really doing it to keep her current boyfriend around. Also they always talked about how great it was to get drunk, but they drank cheap spirits to the point of passing out and then having a terrible hangover the next day. There concepts of 'pleasurable' activities seemed a bit spurious to me."

"Alright that's fair, but didn't your parents give you 'the talk'?"

"Time with Daddy and Mother was precious and limited. They weren't going to waste it with uncomfortable discussions about anatomy. When I turned thirteen several books 'magically' appeared on my bed. My tutor nervously asked me if I had found the books and told me he could answer any questions I might have."

"Did you?" Hap asked.

"No. The books were technically thorough and complete. Before you ask, they described an orgasm much similar to a sneeze or a gag reflex, only more pleasurable. I was also swapping harlequin novels with the staff, and the maid told me my tutor probably had never been with girl. I should come to her or my mom with questions. Ultimately I assumed I had learned enough from my reading."

"Apparently you hadn't."

"You don't know what you don't know until you experience something." She looked up at him coyly, as she snuggled up to him and put her head on his shoulder "I could probably use more experience."

Hap pulled her closer, "I don't think you're ever going to find me opposed to that, but we're probably going to have to get up and earn our pay."

"Probably." Anastasia said as she rubbed his chest.

"We probably need to get some breakfast too." Hap caressed her back.

"I have a case of ration biscuits. Three are all the calories and nutrients you need for a day. I can easily live off of two. Between us we probably have a week's worth. We really don't need to go anywhere."

"So you just want to stay here, make love, snack on rations, maybe nap, and just keep doing that until someone comes looking for us."

"Yes please." Anastasia said, "but first we do need to talk about everything."

"I'm not going to yell at you, and 'let you have it'."

"I know." Anastasia said as she reached around under the blankets, "Still I think we can both agree we need to address a few things, and make sure they are resolved before we make love again."

"That's probably wise, but what are you doing?"

"I'm looking for my robe. I have a notecard in my pocket. Yesterday I was sitting in my 'mech waiting for nothing to happen and once I knew you were alive I started working out the things we needed to talk about to resolve our fight. I believe unresolved problems led to your divorce, so I made notes."

She found the robe and laid back down next to Hap as she fished the notecard out of the pocket and the casually tossed the rob onto the foot of the bed. She cuddled up to Hap again so he could read the notecard in her hand. "You can start." She told him.

Hap glanced down to read:

1) Marriage

2) Moving in together

3) The Lamp.

Hap nodded, "So when it comes to Marriage, I wanted to ask you to marry me-"

"I accept." Anastasia interrupted and gave him another impish grin.

"If you're not going to take this seriously, I probably am going to 'let you have it'." Hap said

"Harold, I want to be your wife. I wanted to have a permanent intimate exclusive relationship with you almost from the first time we met. It's like I made a 'Haphazard choice' about you and in the months we've traveled together everything has reaffirmed that was the best choice."

"A 'haphazard choice'?"

"Harold, my love, you make instinctive choices that tend to be amazingly correct. Usually I have to look at options, weigh them, try to choose what is best, but somehow you just know. Being with you I'm learning there are times when you just know what the best choice is, and it requires no further examination. You tend to do this as a habit, for me...choosing you is the only time I've done it, but I maintain it was the correct choice."

"Okay, but you don't want some amazing surprise proposal, and an expensive ring?"

Anastasia shrugged, "Expensive ring yes, but the perfect proposal is unnecessary. Honestly, you're on the clock now that you've spoken to my mother. Once we tell her we can travel home, she'll set a date."

"Noted, I'll get you a ring." Hap wasn't sure if this was a stroke of luck, or foreshadowing.

Anastasia nodded, "Moving onto the next item, you seemed upset about me moving into your room."

"I was." Hap said slowly, "I get that you felt a little forced based on the arrival of your household goods, and Joker and Mags were making things uncomfortable in your room. I think I was surprised." Hap looked at her and debated saying more, "I was annoyed at how close we were, and it was like you kept encroaching on my space, and taking over my life, but part of our relationship wasn't going any further."

Anastasia nodded, "but if this is us now, and we share everything, and sleep together…and go as far as you like, you're not going to be annoyed with me encroaching on your space, or taking over your life?"

"You make it sound like I don't have much choice in the matter."

"You do" Anastasia said, then added as she nuzzled him, "but you really don't."

"Yeah, I see my problem." Hap said, "So let's talk about the last item. Is this my Yangtze Pale Ale lamp? I did want to talk about that. Anastasia, You shouldn't give my stuff away without asking."

"That's fair. I shouldn't have done that." Anastasia said, "I probably won't do anything like that again, but what I want to talk about is, if we're going to have a relationship like this, you can't have things like that, nothing pornographic or lurid. I should be enough for you."

"I won that in a contest, and the reason I still had it was because I couldn't get rid of it." Hap said.

"I want to be clear on this, I won't compete with other woman real or imagined." Anastasia told him.

"You got rid of it before our relationship got to this level of intimacy." Hap said.

"If we hadn't passed out last night, there was a chance we would have done this the first night when you returned. I was seriously considering it."

Hap sighed, "Alright, Anastasia, this isn't something you have to worry about from me, but if it makes you feel better. I assure you, you're the only woman for me. You're probably too much a woman for me. But you need to promise that we'll talk before you make decisions like moving in, or giving away my things."

"Okay, I agree to talk to you more, and take less freedoms with your things." Anastasia said, "and your not going to collect anything pornographic?"

Hap nodded in response.

"Also, next time you see Major Braun you tell him I'm not 50 kilograms of 'mech fist in a velvet glove, I'm exactly 41.2 Kilograms."

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