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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 63[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

A Rough Briefing[]

St. Ives System
St. Ives Compact
February, 3030

Anastasia woke up slowly. She felt the gentle shudder of the dropship and heard the low hum of air circulators and the thrum of the DropShip engines. She was in a sleeping compartment on the Leopard Class DropShip Phaidin. In the dim light of the compartment, she tried to ignore her slight headache as she remembered why she was here.

Leopard Class DropShip (by psicore)

Leopard Class DropShip, Phaidin

The last few weeks had been a blur for Anastasia. Her and Harold were now married. Kelly arranged for them to use the small chapel on the starport, and he found a priest to officiate. Anastasia wore the dress her mother made for her, and Kelly gave her away. Her mother paid for the food, and the mercenary company provided drinks. Her headache seemed a little worse for a moment, as she recalled that she really hadn't stopped drinking from the night before her wedding until yesterday.

After the wedding, Kelly gave Harold and Anastasia the run of a furnished apartment in the command's lodging area. Kelly had also given them a dozens bottles of home brewed mead, and told them it was a tradition for the newly married couple to drink at least one bottle every night for a month. There were similar wedding gifts of alcohol and advice from other members of the company.

Anastasia reached for Harold. Even in the few weeks of their marriage she had gotten very used to having Harold close. She gave his wrist a gentle pull and he rolled and put his arm around her. She pressed her back into his chest.

Harold stretched then pulled her close, "How are you feeling."

"Good. Almost sober." Anastasia intertwined their fingers.

"Yeah it seems like we've been drunk for weeks."

"What do you most remember of our wedding and honeymoon?"

Hap kissed her shoulder, "I recall that Kelly gave us a case of his homemade mead and told us to drink a bottle or two every night. That seemed to result in us wearing nothing but our wedding rings for most of our honeymoon."

"You don't remember the chapel, or the stained glass windows, the strange short little priest, or my white dress?"

Hap stopped, "I remember those things, but I thought you asked me what was my favorite thing."

"No, I asked you what you remembered most."

Hap kissed closer to her neck, "Yeah, I'm still thinking the mead, and everything that followed after that."

"Everything that followed? Like when my mother visited." Anastasia teased.

Hap stop kissing her, "Oh. I do remember that, lucky for us she sent Kitty to warn us the Countess would, 'visit us for a mid-morning tea'."

"Yes, lucky for us. Seeing as how you met Kitty at the door wearing my robe."

"It was all I could find when she came calling, besides it covered me, well almost covered me, I still had to hide behind the door."

"So did I, but I would have been decent if you had not taken my robe. Instead I was hiding behind the door hoping that my semi-inebriated husband could keep a very nosy and very persistent friend out of our house."

"Well we were both dressed by the time the Countess showed up, and we, at least, acted not drunk." Hap said.

Anastasia nodded. "Yes. We did almost approximate sober." Anastasia's mind drifted to that conversation. It was a bitter-sweet time with her mother. The countess made it clear they may not see each other for some time. Kelly had explained that he was certain he could keep Anastasia as safe as anyone, at least for a while, but he doubted ComStar would stop trying to kill her. Kelly told the countess they were planning to use their Heimdall resources to show ComStar they couldn't hurt people with impunity. However, ultimately Kelly and the Countess agreed Anastasia might be safer at NAIS, but once she went there, she would probably never be able to safely leave. For the meantime she would stay with the company.

Both women knew they wouldn't see each other for a long time. They promised to write to each other, and use diplomatic pouches and couriers to avoid ComStar. The Countess didn't want to intrude on Anastasia and Harold's honeymoon any longer than necessary so she left several a few things unsaid, but she did make it clear she was proud of Anastasia and pleased with the marriage. She also made it clear she would prefer grandchildren sooner rather than later.

Harold moved from kissing her on the shoulders to higher on the neck and gently nibbled at her ear. Instinctively Anastasia hunched her shoulders, and tried to move her ear out of his reach. "Harold, I've told you not to do that, it makes me feel… it feels strange."

"Sorry, but you seemed distracted." Hap said as she turned around to face him, and he helped her get comfortable.

"I was thinking about the last conversation with my mother." Anastasia said before they kissed.

The intercom squelched, then Kate said, "Fiona, we got a call from the client, are you awake?"

There was a moment of silence then Fiona replied, "Yeah. Give me two mikes and pump it into warrior lounge."

"Warrior lounge? Is that the bar on your deck?" Kate asked.

"Kate, not everything in the company…" Crow started to say

"actually yes, it's the bar on this deck." Fiona said over Crow.

"Alright, I'll let the client know you need a few minutes." Kate said.

Harold sighed "Just like old times".

Anastasia nuzzled his chest, "Perhaps, but unlike 'old times' when we're back here we'll likely pick up where we left off."

Harold nodded as he reached over and opened the door to their bed chamber. Crow opened his and Fiona's compartment about the same time. Fiona hopped onto the floor and pulled coveralls out of her wall locker. Crow sat on the edge of their bed scratching his beard.

Fiona zipped her coveralls, "Good, you two are up. Get your shit together, the Capellans want to talk."

"I thought Tatyana said they were a new nation. Aren't they St. Ives Compact-ians?" Crow asked.

"Eugene, love, they might have a new nation, but they were raised like Capellans. I anticipate they are going to be rude, insulting, and try to argue over the terms of the contract, just like nearly ever operation I've ever done with the Capellans."

"Oh, It can't be that bad." Crow said.

"Just watch." Fiona replied

Harold opened his wall locker and grabbed his coveralls as Anastasia found her silk robe and covered her nightgown.

Crow hopped off the bed, "Hey Anastasia, I've never seen your hair out of control like that."

Anastasia glanced at her hair in the mirror in the wall locker. She tried to comb the bushy mess with her fingers. "Usually, I keep it in a loose braid to prevent this very thing."

Anastasia opened her wall locker and hunted for a hairbrush. Fiona looked her over, "Anastasia, don't groom yourself in front of the client." Fiona turned to look at Crow, "And you-"

"I know, I know, stay off camera, keep my mouth shut, and make myself useful by making coffee." Crow said as he pulled on a royal blue t-shirt emblazoned with the Lyran Regulars brigade emblem.

"Actually, just put on your coveralls, no reason to show your Lyran colors to the Capellans. You know the Commonwealth is one of their enemies."

"There are one of the Capellan's enemies, but these aren't Capellans" Crow said.

"Fine they're St. Ives-whatevers, just go make coffee." Fiona gave Crow a playful push" Hap, what sort of malfunction-" Fiona turned to look at Hap. "At least you're awake and in a military uniform."

"I can sterilize my uniform, but Tatyana said the St. Ives Compact was allied with the Federated Suns." Harold said.

Fiona nodded, "They are. You're fine, Hap."

"Thanks, after everything that happened with Ashley I've been trying to pay better attention to things around me and be more proactive." Hap said as he followed Fiona.

"Good at least one of you has their head in the game." Fiona said as they entered the MechWarrior lounge. Fiona walked around the semi-circular couch and switched on the holo viewer.

"What is 'off camera'?" Anastasia asked as she brushed her hair and followed Crow to the bar.

Crow switched on the coffee maker, "Anywhere not on the couch."

Fiona sat down in the center of the couch as the holoscreen warmed up. An angry looking Asian man came into focus on the screen. Hap sat down next to Fiona as the man seemed to notice the mercenaries.

"Ah, so you are no longer keeping me waiting." The Asian man said angrily.

The man was wearing a Capellan military uniform and he was standing outside among ammunition crates and a holo table with a topographic map with red and blue icons.

"To what do we owe this pleasure…" Fiona looked closely at his uniform, "Commander?"

"Commander Zhang to you mercenary whore, and I do not appreciate being kept waiting." The Capellan said.

Fiona sighed, "Well we're here now, Commander Zhang."

"Yes, and now we must discuss the operation you will conduct."

"I understand you requested mobile artillery support," Fiona said. "I'm not sure what you want to discuss. We should be planet side-"

<<"Time on Target is approximately eight hours.">> Kate's disembodied voice cut in.

"So, Commander Zhang, what can't wait eight hours?" Fiona asked.

"First, Mercenary whore, you will learn that I am not a man to be kept waiting. Second, the nature of our requirement from you has changed. Our supply lines have been cut off by a lance of mech's that you will go and destroy."

"Commander, we were briefed that the St. Ives Compact had problems with insurgents that would ambush, or perform hit-and-run raids, and would outrun any response your forces could muster." Fiona said, "We were told your requirement was for mobile missile platforms to rapidly respond and destroy the insurgents. We're not exactly equipped to perform a hunt and kill mission.

"I am exceptionally disappointed to hear you concede failure before even attempting to fulfill your contract, however I cannot say I'm surprised that a whore would quibble about being asked to do something slightly different than what they were initially told to do." Commander Zhang said.

Every time the Commander said "whore" it annoyed Anastasia. She was a noble woman with virtue and grace, and a dedicated wife now. For all these reasons she did not appreciate the comparison.

Anastasia understood that mercenaries weren't considered as principled or as honorable as patriots fighting for their nation, but several house armies were full of conscripts that were press-ganged into fighting and dying for causes they probably didn't understand or necessarily agree with. Also for a host of budget and legal reasons mercenaries were considered a general strategic necessity by nearly every house. Why the Commander insisted on insulting them seemed just as foolish as it was annoying.

Anastasia angrily brushed her hair. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror over the bar and saw the tangled mess was now a silken curtain of chestnut and amber. She smiled at her reflection as she quickly braided her hair. She watched Crow pull out a squad ration pack that was marked, "breakfast, casserole, ham and egg". He started to pull out the various boxes and retort packages as she skillfully turned her long hair into a single braid.

"Commander, I think you're being unnecessarily insulting." Harold said, "Obviously we're here to help you, but-"

"It is not obvious at all to me that you are here to help, because you're not here." Commander Zhang interrupted.

"Look, Commander, we can sit here and insult each other all the way till we arrive at St. Ives, or you can stow your attitude and just tell us what you are asking us to consider fighting."

"It is not an ask, you are a whore, and as such under contract, and therefore-"

"No. The contract explicitly has a clause that allows for a 'no fault, no consequence withdrawal' if the client asks us to perform mission objectives that greatly exceed the agreed contract, or represent an intentional misrepresentation or deception of the situation on ground. It sounds like we are dangerously close to just such a scenario." Fiona sounded exasperated.

"Perhaps if you had came when we first agreed this would not be the situation, but your tardiness has, quite frankly, caused our tactical situation to deteriorate. " The Commander sounded like a man who had just revealed an important and damning fact.

"We departed our company area the day we agreed to this contract. It was routed through Federated Suns bureaucracy so I can't tell you how long they sat on the contract, but we've made every reasonable effort to get here as quickly as possible." Harold said. Anastasia noted that Harold's tone was similar to the one he used when Joker had pushed something too far.

"Your services were requested a week ago, mercenary whore." Commander shouted back.

Fiona threw up her hands, "Do you not understand how space travel works? I just happen to have a NAIS graduate that can probably explain it to you."

Anastasia wrapped an elastic band around the tip of her long braid, and tucked it into her robe. As she pulled her silk robe closer around her she walked toward the couch, "I'm uncertain where to start." She said as she sat down next to Harold, "The complexities of the Kearny-Fuchida drive boarder on theoretical even in the best of the Inner Sphere's universities, and given what I've heard of the Capellan education system I'm not certain it's worth either of our time for me to describe how that works."

"What?" The Commander said.

"I've heard the Capellan school system is more of an indoctrination program that teaches the tenets of the Chancellor's cult of personality, suicidal loyalty to the state, and general martial training. That said, I've also heard citizens of the Confederations receive at least a functional education that includes reading, writing, and math, so we should probably start with simple physics, specifically Newton's laws."

"What?" Commander still seemed confused.

"Well I can't say that I'm surprised, but this is worse than I thought. Sir Isaac Newton was a seventeenth century mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and theologian. He proposed three laws of motion that have generally been-"

"I know who Isaac Newton is." The Commander spit out.

"Are you familiar with his laws of motion? They're important because this will help you understand why it took us six days to travel from Monhegan to here. See, once we leave a planet we have to travel-"

"I will not be spoken down by the likes of you." Commander bristled.

"I'm not certain that is accurate either, clearly you don't understand space travel, and it seems like you are blaming us for your own inferior soldering skills. If you want to take my word on how space travel works, we can discuss Clausewitz or Jomini and the necessity of maintaining and securing your supply lines, as this seems more pressing to your current situation. "

"You dare speak to me of military strategy?"

"I apologize." Anastasia tried to suppress her smile after listening to the Commander insult her and her friends it felt good to make him angry, "You're Capellan, I presume you're more familiar with Sun Tzu, he said, 'The line between order and disorder lies in logistics'. Therefore you should have prioritized securing your logistical supply lines, especially as you are fighting an insurgent enemy. "

Commander Zhangs face flushed and he looked like he was preparing to scream at Anastasia.

Harold laid a hand on Anastasia's knee. Somehow she knew he was warning her to stop. "Commander Zhang, I think emotions are running high on both sides." Harold said, "Perhaps we should start again. If you can tell us the general make-up of the mechs that are harassing your supply lines, we can tell you if we have the right 'mechs to engage them."

"No. You listen to me, and listen well-" Commander Zhang started to say

"No, Commander Zhang, you listen." Hap interrupted, "You're either afraid to tell us what we're up against, or you want us to default on the job. Which is it?

A woman approached Commander from behind. She wore a military uniform tunic that was open showing her chest was bandaged with her right army was also wrapped in the bandages around her chest. She had multiple cuts and burns across her neck and shoulders. She laid her good hand on Commander's shoulders and nodded to him to move.

"It's important that you do not default on this job." She told them as she gingerly sat down.

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