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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 61[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Regrets and Party Crashers[]

Federated Suns
January, 3030

Several of the members of the company started to clean up the dining room. Hap walked over to where Tatyana was examining the contents of Ashley's purse. Tatyana set aside the memo and picked up a camera with a large lens.

Hap picked up the memo, "When I saw this I should have known Ashley was lying."

Tatyana scrolled through images on the camera, "You saw that, and did not immediately strangle her? I used to think you were smart coyote."

Anastasia read the memo over Hap's shoulder, "Is this about mother and me? Am I the kit and she is the mother fox?"

"Dah, It seems rather obvious, and English isn't even my first language."

"Alright so I made a mistake." Hap said. "If I had known-"

Tatyana put the camera down, "In this business there is no room for mistake. You must act first and be decisive. Second place made mistake, and is dead on floor there."

"You spent a little time on that floor." Mike said as he spread out a sheet over Ashley.

"Yes, only because the Commander ordered me to not harm her."

"You broke her nose." Mike said

Tatyana's eyes narrowed, "She was not seriously harmed."

"Mrs. Fletcher, Tatyana, don't be too hard on Harold I told Ashley and Harold that I would address this document with her." The Countess said as she approached the table. "If any one was foolish it was me. I believe Harold was respecting the implication that I would resolve this."

Tatyana glanced at the Countess, then back to Hap. She gave an unconvinced smirk and went back to examining the camera.
She glanced back at the Countess, "Did ROM spy start working for you before your husband died?"

"Yes, I believe I hired her about six weeks before."

"She planned execution of your husband." Tatyana said matter-of-factly.

"What?" The Countess looked stricken. She sighed and her shoulders slumped, "Of course she did. It's all starting to make sense."

Fletch spoke quietly to Tatyana in Russian, then turned to the countess, "My Lady, forgive us, perhaps you should retire for the evening. We'll go through your personal assistant's things, and perhaps we can tell you our findings tomorrow?"

"Perhaps," Tatyana paused, "ze lady would allow us to see ROM spy's things."

The Countess nodded, "Yes, that would be fine. However, I'd prefer we wait till after the wedding to speak of this."

Tatyana and Fletch nodded, and the countess started to leave. As the countess and Anastasia walked past the bar the Countess overheard Kelly and Elinor talking.

"Aye. I'm saying we can't let this go unanswered. I gave that nasty ComStar Acolyte a Heimdall figure to send what I thought was a very clear message, that if they continued to harass us, we would make them regret it." Kelly said as he poured a small amount of whiskey into a glass.

"And I had asked ye not to do that, for this very reason." Elinor poured wine into her glass, "I can see if Brendon and his boys are up for some wet work, perhaps we find that scoundrel Tempes, I'm certain he's somehow behind all of this. I'm still vexed that he'd come here and sit at my table and gloat as he plotted to kill members of our company."

"I'm sure Brendon and his boys will be willin' to help. But some of his people are going to complain when they understand this has nothing to do with protecting the commonwealth." Kelly said.

"They're family." Elinor said, "And if that isn't enough, we'll pay them, they're still mercenaries like us. We cannot let this continue, and we'll not be sending another message."

"Maskirovka would send message." Tatyana called out, "Put ROM agent's head in purse, and return it to them." She set the camera down and looked in the purse again, "Probably cut off tongue, ears, and eyes so message is understood."

Elinor sipped her wine as her eyes narrowed, "Ever pragmatic and resourceful, that Maskirovka."

The Countess stopped and looked around, "Commander, Elinor, who are you all really?"

Kelly and Elinor exchanged looks and then wordlessly picked up their glasses. Kelly also grabbed his whiskey bottle and Elinor's wine bottle. "We should discuss this in private." Kelly told the Countess. He then looked at Hap, "Lad, grab some glasses for you and the ladies, and anything else you'd like."

Hap hopped over the bar and took two wine glasses and a crystal old fashioned glass. He looked over the shelf to see if there were any bottles he recognized or that sounded good. He spied a bottle of port. He cradled the glasses in his arm as he took the bottle and read the label. It was a port style plum and kincha wine fortified with brandy.

Hap glanced over his shoulder to see Anastasia looking lost as she watched Mark and Kitty roll up Ashley's body into a tablecloth. Hap took the bottle of port and a random bottle of bourbon.

Hap followed Kelly as he led the Countess, Anastasia and Elinor out of the dining room and back into the main deck. They walked down the hall and entered a small parlor. There were couches and overstuffed chairs, but the room was quiet. Two of the Countess's guards were following behind them as they walked, but as the group entered the room Elinor shut and locked the door before they could enter.

Kelly got comfortable and took a measured sip of his whiskey. "Well, let me start by saying that I'm jest an honest businessman, well as honest as a man can be in this business."

Hap handed the countess a glass of port as she gave Kelly a skeptical look, "And do all mercenaries have women like Tatyana in their employee."

Kelly gave a good natured shrug, "Mercenaries come from all walks and backgrounds, but a Maskirovka operative is a rarity. Her story is one I don't think I'll ever learn the whole truth of." Kelly looked over at Elinor, "How old is little Sophia?"

Elinor smiled warmly as she picked up her wine bottle, "Oh she'll be four in a May."

Kelly nodded, "So about five years ago we were hired to get a Lyran noble out of a Marik prison. His parents could have paid a ransom, but they decided they'd rather pay me to pull their boy out of the Marik's clutches, which is fine by me."

"I'm certain this is a very successful part of your business model." The Countess teased.

Kelly smiled, "Yes, My Lady. As I said I'm as honest as I can be, but yes, most nobles, at least from the Commonwealth would prefer to give money to a scoundrel like me to retrieve their child then fatten the purse of Janos Marik or any of his ilk."

Kelly took another sip of whiskey. "Now ye must understand that freeing a prisoner isn't usually as simple as kicking down a prison wall and grabbing him with your mech when he comes runnin' out. I had to put boys on the inside. Start a prison riot, generally cause a mess o' things. We also had to move quick so I brought a small lance of fast 'mechs. This is where I may have made a mistake."

The Countess seemed interested as Hap refilled her wine glass. Anastasia held out her own glass and after Hap filled it she took the bottle and looked at the label. She gave him an appreciative nod as she topped off her glass and his. She then pulled him back into the seat, and, after a long drink she sighed contentedly and put her head on his shoulder.

Kelly filled his own glass, "So when we had landed and gotten to the prison the riot was already started and the prison garrison was on high alert. My intel was a little off and I had not anticipated the speed at which the garrison could rally. Nor was I aware they could muster a company of mechs. That said, we got the principal and I recovered my lads, but we had to cover our APC as they drove out the prison. This meant we were in a running gun fight all the way to the pick-up zone, and we had to protect the APC.."

"Things were starting to go bad for us and one of our 'mechs was destroyed. My pilot ejected and got to the APC, but it was starting to look like we weren't going to make it out. We were on a short timeline to get back to our shuttle before the planet's air support arrived. When I thought things couldn't get worse a Kintaro staggered out of the prison mech bay."

"Now, a Kintaro is a beast of a machine, fast enough to catch up to most mechs, and a nasty customer up close. It was the last thing I had wanted to see, but the pilot moved like they were drunk. They staggered up to a Rifleman that was hanging back and harassing us with its lasers and autocannons. When it got behind the Rifleman she shot him with everything she had. The Rifleman exploded, and the next closes 'mech was the prison warden's Orion. He turned to see what the hell had happened when the Kintaro pilot started to punch his mech. She gave him a few good blows to the cockpit and his mech went down."

About then the garrison fell apart. We ran like hell to the LZ and as the Leopard landed the Kintaro pilot got there. I was a mech down so I tried to raise the pilot on the common guard channel but she didn't answer. I thought maybe the radio was broken so I motioned to the pilot to load up. She was still moving awkwardly but we got her on board.

I had expected this MechWarrior to be a former guard that had been imprisoned or a mech warrior POW, but to my surprise it was a Capellan Maskirovka agent. Tatyana's story was that she was in solitary confinement, and when the prison riot started she thought her people had come to free her. When she got out of her cell and saw the APC drive off without her she concluded this wasn't about her, but it was still her chance to escape. So she went to the mech bay to see what she could use."

The countess set her wine glass down, "I had always been told that stealing a mech was nearly impossible. The neuro helmet security system was unbreakable."

"Aye." Kelly nodded, "There are some ways around it, allegedly there is a trick ye can do with a magnet, but what Tatyana told us was she got to the mech bay hoping to steal a ground car, or a skimmer and found the Kintaro and two mechanics who were distracted watching a holo. She says she gave one a "grievous injury" and told the other that he could set up the mech to work with her, or she'd injure him like his mate. Whatever she did she got access to the Kintaro."

"I wonder what Tatyana considers, a 'grievous injury'." Anastasia said.

"I've seen her in enough scrapes to know it would be somethin' life altering." Elinor said.

"Once we got the noble's son home, Tatyana told me she would return to 'her people'. So I offered her a few million c-bills for the Kintaro. She took the money and told me a girl in her profession could use an 'off the books' retirement fund. Then she disappeared.

A few days later, before we left the planet, she came back. Her clothes were torn and it was obvious she had been in a flight. She told me, 'Maskirovka only has place for the best, and the best are never captured.' She returned the money, asked for the Kintaro back, and signed on as a MechWarrior."

"Are most Maskirovka agents qualified Mechwarriors?" The countess asked.

Kintaro (in Snow base - MWO version)

Kintaro Medium 'Mech

Kelly laughed, "Couldn't say, but Tatyana needed a lot of training before I let her operate that Kintaro in another combat operation. I think she knew, or figured out jest enough to get the 'mech movin'."

Elinor cleared her throat, "It'd be more accurate to say that Tatyana, and I'd dare say, most Maskirovka agents, are trained to be resourceful and excel in desperate situations." Elinor added politely.

"I thought Tatyana said she was an intel analyst," Anastasia said.

"Oh, aye, she does say that, and to be fair, she can look at most intel reports and understand them and ask the right questions of our employers. Quite a few times she pointed out somethin' that, had I not known it, we would have been in a bad way. But I think she's more than an analyst. I've seen her do some things that I'd be hard pressed to say was somethin' an intel analyst would be trained to do." Kelly said.

The countess was quiet for a moment, "And you trust her? Is it possible she's still a Maskirovka agent?"

"I wondered the same, so one day I asked Mr. Fletcher if he felt his wife was a Maskirovka agent in deep cover. He said he'd expect if she were actin' she'd be much kinder to him." Kelly laughed at his own joke, then added, "She's been with us for a while now, if she were actin' we'd have seen her slip by now." There was an uncomfortable pause and Kelly added, "I'd, tell ye, too, she believes she was setup for capture, likely by one of her own. She seems to have no love for Maskirovka or the Capellans."

"Also Tatyana loves her daughter." Elinor added, "If she's running a deep cover op, she's makin' herself quite vulnerable at the same time. I truly believe she feels betrayed by Maskirovka and we are her family and 'her people' now."

The countess looked at Elinor, "So if Mrs. Fletcher is a former Maskirovka agent, what does that make you."

Elinor leaned back in her chair and smiled faintly, "I'm something few of Maskirovaka's leadership know of, but the ones that do, pause when they think of moving against the Archon."

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