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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 55[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

An Assumption[]

Federated Suns
December 3029

"Hap, are ye there." Hap and Anastasia could hear Roweyena yelling down the hallway.

Anastasia clutched the blankets to her chest as Hap answered, "In my room."

Roweyena pushed the privacy screen out of her way and stepped into the room, "Oh good yer both here. Hap, yer needed at ops. Anastasia, ye cannot leave the barracks." She was out of breath and excited, making her thick Irish accent even more difficult to understand.

"Why am I needed in Ops?" Hap asked

"It's Adept Heinrich, from the MRB He's-" Roweyena stopped and looked at Anastasia and Hap shrewdly. She smiled wolfishly, "Did you two finally-" She stopped, glanced around, and closed the privacy screen, and whispered, "so you've finally made love."

"I'd prefer not to draw attention to how Harold and I express our love for each other." Anastasia said.

"Oh, most of the company think ye've been jaggin' for some time now." Roweyna said dismissively, then excitedly added. "So, how was it?"

"Roweyna!" Anastasia cried, "I'm trying to maintain our privacy, and avoid having conversations like this. I don't want the company thinking about Harold and I-."

"Aye, and I'll not tell the rest of the company, but I have to know." Roweyna said.

"Roweyna, we are not having this conversation." Anastasia said, "at least not in front of Harold."

"Oh given the way ye've talked I'd assume anything you have to say yer 'Harold' could hear too."

Hap could see Anastasia's face getting redder, "Roweyna, Why did you come looking for me?"

Roweyna seemed to be enjoying Anastasia's discomfort. She realized she was staring and looked at Hap, "Oh, aye, yes. Adept Heinrich came to pick up the prisoners and pay their ransom. He asked to talk to you about the death of Ms. Vallois. Seems ComStar has a soft spot for Countess Valois and wanted to let you know they'd allow you to send her a message, free of charge, about her daughter's death."

"That's odd." Hap said, "Anastasia's not-"

There was a long pause as Hap and Anastasia stared at each other, "Oh, ComStar thinks I'm dead." Anastasia finally said.

"Yes. And if we're going to keep up the illusion Hap needs to go talk to Adept Heinrich." Roweyna said.

Hap nodded, "Let me get changed."

"We'll have tea later" Roweyna told Anastasia with a wink, "But right now ye have to stay in the barracks. It's absolutely important that ye not be seen."

Roweyna retreated to the hallway while adding, "Do hurry Mr. Calahad. I'm sure the Adept will understand if, in your grief stricken state, yer a little hard to rouse, but ye shouldn't keep him waiting."

Hap set out his shaving things Anastasia followed him into the bathroom, "Don't shave. You should appear disheveled. It will help you put on a good act. Imagine you had a nightmare and couldn't sleep."

"I did have a nightmare and I couldn't sleep." Hap said, turning to look at her. "Of course you're the reason I couldn't sleep."

"Well, then Imagine you didn't have your amoureuse to keep you up then." Anastasia said. She saw his expression darken. "On second thought, that's probably not something you want to think about."

"It's probably the right thing to think about if I'm going to fool the adept." Hap said.

Anastasia nodded, and hugged Hap. "Also you must not send my Mother any message about my death."

"Yeah, I was trying to figure out a polite and non suspicious way to decline ComStar's offer."

"Simple. It's against AFFS regulations. Next of kin notification has to be done in person by an AFFS officer and a Chaplain or certified counselor." Anastasia said.

Hap nodded. "I knew that. When Lucky died I had to send a letter for his family to the AFFS office on his home planet."

"I'll write her a note that we can send in a diplomatic pouch, just in case she hears anything odd she'll know what is going on. She'll also need to know why I'm avoiding ComStar offices."

Hap quickly got dressed and left Anastasia to go with Roweyna to Ops. As they walked Hap asked, "Is it normal for an MRB rep to be this concerned about a dead MechWarrior"?

"No. It's not normal at all. When Uncle Lleywn died, one of the Adepts we worked with regularly was very polite and came to the funeral, but I believe it was professional courtesy." Roweyna said. "This whole damn talk with Adept Henrich has been unprecedented."

"Well hopefully this is going to be the end of this problem with Anastasia and ComStar." Hap said

"Oh Father is probably going to talk to 'his people' and have them pay nasty Mr. Tempes a visit. Dad says if someone thinks they're invulnerable, it's good to remind them they can still bleed."

"I don't know if that's a good idea." Hap groaned.

"Leave that to dad. He apparently had a talk with that rogue Mr. Tempes. Dad thinks if he doesn't respond now it might be more suspicious. Mr. Tempes knows my father isn't someone to let a thing like this go unanswered. There really isn't much choice." Roweyna shrugged.

Hap looked at her, "What can you tell me about your father's 'people'? I know they're Heimdall, but I don't know much about Heimdall. Actually, all I know is what Fletch said about them being terrorists."

"Oh there not terrorists, Hap, they're just a different type of patriot." Roweyena said with a shrug, "Let's jest say they watch the watcher, and the less an AFFS officer knows the better I'd say. I assure ye, this company isn't a bunch of terrorists, and most of 'em are as ignorant of Heimdall as you. If ye must know, Father and Mother have some friends that sometimes need favors, sometimes Father or Mother call in those favors, it's nothing more than that."

Hap nodded as he held open the door to the ops building. "You're probably right about the less I know."

Roweyna smiled at Hap opening the door for her, "Yer arm-a-roo is a lucky lass."

"Amoureuse? Were you listening to us as I was getting ready?" Hap chuckled.

"Ye weren't particularly quiet, Mr. Calahad." Roweyna said with a smirk.

The door closed and Roweyna stopped, "Alright now it's time to get into character. Ye can't give this villain reason to think they didn't kill Anastasia. Let Dad and Fletch do the talkin', ye jest look sad, and don't be surprised if I get angry. This man has been vexin' me all mornin'."

Hap agreed and she led him to one of the small conference rooms on the first floor. They entered to find the Adept sitting at a conference room table with several folders and papers spread out before him and a mug of coffee. Kelly was sitting to the side and was looking bemused as he smoked his pipe. Fletch and Doctor Jackson Morgan were also there. Each had their own cup of coffee. Roweyna walked to the silver carafe and poured herself a cup of coffee.

"Look we're all just a little surprised that you're taking such an interest in one of our dead." Fletch said.

"I do not mean to sound ghoulish, but you must admit it is a tragic story. The beautiful young scion of a noble family is killed by happenstance while in garrison." Adept Heinrich said in his German accent. He looked up at Hap, "Ah, Captain Calahad, please sit." He motioned to one of the chairs. "Is there coffee for the young Captain?"

As Hap slumped into a chair as Roweyna poured Hap a cup and handed it to him. Adept Heinrich watched and nodded, "Good. You are comfortable, jah? I am sorry to summon you in these circumstances, but it came to my attention that you were close to the daughter of Countess Valois."

Hap shrugged as Fletch eyed Heinrich with suspicion, "None of us said anything about Captain Calahad and Subaltern Valois's relationship, just like none of us said anything about her dying."

"One of our adepts happened to be at Turquoise Lake, as it is a popular open space. She saw that your Valkyrie 'mech had been destroyed and she was skeptical the pilot survived. I was going to ask why you had not reported the loss of 'mech and pilot yet." Heinrich said.

"It's real convenient that your adept just happened to be at Turquoise lake." Fletch said.

"Jah, it is." Adept Heinrich said as he sipped his coffee seemingly oblivious to the XO's sarcasm.

"The reason I had-nah reported anything because we have 72 hours to assess damage, salvage-ability, and replace a pilot before reporting a reduction in our company's capability." Roweyna said angrily.

"A rule many companies abuse to-" Adept Heinrich started to say.

Kelly held up a hand toward his daughter, "Our techs are readying an old Shadow Hawk that we had in pieces. I have a few MechWarrior trainees that we'll put on active status. Our company's capacity hasn't been reduced, jest some of the particulars have changed." Kelly shifted in his chair to lean toward Heinrich, "We're not tryin' to deceive the MRB, or yer holy order. Now ye've asked to speak to one of my MechWarriors, and here he is, ask him what ye like."

Shadow Hawk (Golden Rule project by meltdonw14)

Shadow Hawk Medium 'Mech

"Captain Calahad, I understand ye were close to Subaltern Valois, and I wanted to offer-"

"How do you know I'm close to Anastasia?" Hap asked trying to sound sad.

Heinrich arched an eyebrow, "You say, 'I'm close', as in I am close, do you not mean you were close?"

Hap tried not to show his panic. He realized this was the reason Rowyena told him not to talk.

Dr. Morgan cleared his throat, "The boy's still coming to terms with the loss. This is common. He probably woke up in the middle of the night looking for her."

"I actually did." Hap said.

Dr. Morgan stood up, "Hap, you don't need to be here for this, we'll get you connected with a therapist. I suppose I'll get some type of medical report for the MRB, if that is required. There wasn't enough left to do an autopsy, though. The cockpit was nearly obliterated."

"A DNA sample would suffice for your report, if the autopsy is impossible. We will take cause of death at face value, though I would like to see the remains of the mech, and perhaps the remains of the MechWarrior, such as they are."

"You're just not taking no for an answer." Fletch said.

"The MRB has never asked for an autopsy of a dead MechWarrior before." Roweyna added.

"It is right to request proof of changes to a company, the MRB has this right." Adept Heinrich looked angry, but then he stopped and ran his hand through his hair. "You think we are evil bureaucrats, Jah? We are not. Blake, our blessed founder, spoke of using our technologies for kindness and good, which is why I requested to speak to the young captain." Adept Heinrich said. He cleared his throat and looked at Hap, "Captain Calahad, we are willing to allow you to send a message, video or otherwise to the Countess Vallois, free of charge."

"I'd still don't understand how you know about Anastasia and me." Hap said.

"Jah" Adept Heinrich answered as he took a sip from his coffee, "The adept that transcribed the message to the Countess recalled you asked for her blessing in marrying her daughter. I know many have the idea that ComStar reads and records messages, but I would remind you that messages like yours must be transcribed to be sent, and it was only a few weeks ago. It was the fortune of Blake that the Adept who did the transcribing remembered your message and the relationship. We thought it was a holy sign that we should extend this kindness."

"Say, that is fortunate." Fletch said sarcastically. "I need to make sure I understand everything you've been saying this morning. 'Cause today ComStar seems real generous, is it Blake's birthday? Is It ComStar's Christ-Blake-mas?"

"I do not understand." Adept Heinrich answered. "What are you trying to ask?"

"Aside from the nice deal you're offering Captain Calahad, You also told us that if we return the bodies of the MechWarriors we fought yesterday and the salvage of their mechs there is a significant monetary reward." Fletch explained. "In all my years, I've never heard of anything quite like that."

"Jah" Adept Heinrich replied. "As I said, you will be receive eight million C-bills if you return the bodies and surrender all of the salvage of the Commando, Spider, and Vulcan 'mechs."

"But you won't tell us who employed them, only that there happened to be an escrow account that had a substantial pay out for the return of the warriors and the salvage of their mechs. In what I'm sure was viewed as the 'unlikely' event of their death." Roweyna said. "We've never heard of anythin' like this."

The adept shrugged. "These are rare, but certain organizations include such riders in their contracts. It seems that you just happened to have never encountered them."

Roweyna shook her head in disbelief, Fletch looked at Kelly, "You wanna just give him everything, and be done with this?"

Kelly nodded, "We'll talk the remains of yesterday's battle in a bit. First, Hap, ye interested in sending the countess a message about her daughter?"

"I shouldn't." Hap said, "AFFS regulations require she be notified by an AFFS officer and a chaplain in person. I need to talk to Major Braun about all of this as well."

"There ye have it." Kelly said standing up, "Let's go look at the 'mechs, and discuss this escrow."

Hap followed the mercenaries and the adept as they left the room. He debated going back to the barracks, but part of him wanted to see what remained of David's Valkyrie.

They walked to the 'mech bay and Kelly led them up on the gantry. From there they could look down on Valkyrie that was still on the back of the flatbed truck. The right leg had been removed, as well as a few of the other components that had been undamaged. Two techs were working to remove the left hand. The holes in the fusion engine had been filled with a sealant to prevent any radioactive leakage. The cockpit had been battered by missiles to the point that Hap could see there was a portion of the command couch missing, and part of the truck bed could be seen through the holes in the shattered cockpit.

"Ye content now, Adept Heinrich?" Kelly said. "There is little left of the 'mech, let alone the pilot."

Adept Heinrich leaned to get a better view of the cockpit, "Was nothing left, perhaps a hand or foot?"

"I cremated what I received that last night." Dr. Morgan said, "Which is why I'm hesitant to give you a medical report. The MechWarrior is certainly dead, but the remains were hardly enough to fill an urn let alone prove anything medically. I prepared something to intern, because it's important everyone has a chance to say goodbye, but it's all ash now."

Adept Heinrich nodded, "Jah, and I know that I am probably not helping that." He looked around the 'mech bay and his eyes fell on Anastasia's Valkyrie. "You have another Valkyrie pilot, perhaps I could speak with him, or he could send-"

"No." Kelly said, "You've got all the answers you need. Let's talk about your pilots and 'mechs."

"My 'mechs? Please understand commander, these could not be ComStar 'mechs, what few-"

"What would you say if I told ye the MechWarriors we fought yesterday poisoned themselves rather than eject, and they had tattoos with ComStar stars and words of Blake on their shoulders and arms."

"They would not have-" Adept Heinrich stopped himself suddenly. "This is not possible. I-I-I-"

"It might be fortunate if we all considered this a false flag operation done by that mysterious company with their convenient escrow account." Fletch said. "I'm sure that's what your blessed Blake would want us to consider."

"Jah" Adept Heinrich nodded vigorously and pointed at Fletch, "It must be false flag. You speak with Blake's wisdom."

"So you think this mysterious company is seeking to impugn your blessed order?" Rowyena asked.

"I can think of no other explanation." Adept Heinrich said.

"I suppose ye can't." Kelly said. "Since that company isn't doin' ye any favors, how about ye give us all that they have in their escrow account. I'm guessing it is close to fifteen million C-Bills."

"I am not authorized-" Adept Heinrich stopped himself again, "I believe it was twelve million."

"Twelve million. I think for twelve million we can return what yer asking for, but if we got fifteen million I'd imagine we'd forget about those strange tattoos or curious way the MechWarriors died."

"It is not possible to get more than twelve million." Adept Heinrich said. He seemed desperate. "But I assure you this was a false flag operation as your XO has suggested."

Kelly and Fletch exchanged glances. "We're agreed then, Twelve million." Kelly said, "We'll return the 'mechs and bodies to your people, and you'll stop pesterin' my daughter for a medical report that we really can't right. We lost a pilot yesterday, your people will just have to accept it."

"Very good commander, I will get the money released to you, and I would suggest you try to forget about this false flag operation."

"One more thing." Kelly pulled a small metal figure out of his pocket. "Give this to Mr. Tempes."

The adept looked at the figure. It was a small man wearing ancient armor and wielding a large sword and a large horn standing on a rainbow tile. "Is this a leprechaun? I know how your company values its Celtic heritage. Also Demi Precentor Tempes has returned to earth."

"Nay. That's Norse. It's the dwarf Heimdall." Kelly said darkly, "Mr. Tempes" He stopped and smiled wolfishly, "Demi-Precentor Tempes will understand. Ye make sure he gets it and be sure to tell him Kelly McFinnigan sends the Demi-Precentor his best."

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