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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 7[]

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A Warrior's Family[]

Discussion over Action Holovids[]

Klathandu System
Federated Suns
August 3029

Hap was jolted awake by the sounds of explosion followed by small arms fire. There was a small intercom speaker and a few lights in the sleep compartment. If the ship was under attack or if something had happened normally a warning light would be on or there would be announcements over the intercom. Hap tested the door, and it was unlocked. Another safety feature on some ships was that the beds would lock to protect sleepers against explosive decompression.

As he opened the door Hap could see strange lights coming from the lounge room. He leaned out of his bed looked into the room and saw the view screen was on. He immediately understood someone, probably Joker, was watching something in the lounge.

Hap rolled out of bed and realized it was a little cold for walking around in just his shorts. He grabbed his poncho liner and walked into the lounge. As Hap walked over to the large semi-circle couch he could see Joker laying on his side under a silver emergency blanket. He glanced up at Hap, "Too loud?"

"Too loud." Hap replied as he sat down on the opposite side of the couch from Joker.

Joker turned down the volume, "I found some John Stallion movies, and I couldn't sleep."

Hap nodded, he figured he wasn't going back to sleep anytime soon so he got comfortable. The movie had just started and he had only missed the cold opening. The theme song started to play as Anastasia walked into the room. She was wearing an oversized black McFinnigan and Sons T-shirt that she was apparently using as a night shirt.

Anastasia walked to the side of the couch were Hap was slouching under his blanket. "Oh, John Stallion."

"The Princess knows about John Stallion?" Joker asked looking at her.

"Sure. We got Hauptman Commonwealth's Uber HoloVideo Marathons every Saturday. He seemed to play a Brock Armstrong or John Stallion marathon once a month. Sometimes Father would take a whole Saturday off just so we could watch it together."

Hap smiled, "I remember watching Haupman Commonwealth with my dad too."

"You look a little cold, you want to join me?" Joker said as he flung his blanket back revealing that he was only wearing his shorts.

"I'm not that cold." Anastasia replied

"You sure, Princess? I can see the tips of your royal cream puffs poking under your shirt." Joker laughed.

Hap glanced up at Anastasia. as she put her arms across her chest and was now giving Joker another murderous look. Hap cleared his throat, and pulled his blanket aside and nodded next to him. "You want to join us. He's usually pretty quiet during John Stallion movies."

She wordlessly sat down and pulled the blanket to cover her chest, which left Hap's side exposed.

Hap moved a few inches closer to her. "The one problem with the poncho liner is that it's made for one." He pulled the blanket back toward him, but she only let him have a little as she tried keep her chest covered.

"So you and your Dad would watch Hauptman Commonwealth marathons together?" Hap asked trying to change the subject.

"If it was a John Stallion or Brock Armstrong Marathon He'd usually make time. Brock Armstrong was our favorite." Anastasia said with a faint smile.

"Brock Armstrong is good, but he's no John Stallion." Joker mumbled

Anastasia pulled the blankets again, "Yes, and that's to his credit. Brock Armstrong makes superior movies"

"No he doesn't" Joker said as he sat up. "John Stallion movies are way better."

Hap pulled the blankets back to him again, but moved a little closer to her. Hap had to be careful here. He might need to talk to her about boundaries. Having her in his arms earlier today was a little intoxicating. He wondered if she knew the effect she was having on him.

"John Stallion movies tend to be unrealistic and full of plot holes. They're fun, but Brock Armstrong is usually more believable and realistic." Anastasia explained as she tugged on the blanket.

"Name one unrealistic thing in a John Stallion movie." Joker challenged her.

"Please don't" Hap said. He pulled back on the blanket. The only way they could both be comfortable was if they were next to each other, or if she was in his lap. In Hap's mind as long they weren't touching sharing the blanket wasn't a problem. It was purely plutonic he told himself.

"Well this is the 'Galaxy is Not Enough', and it has the infamous scene where he pilots a Shadowhawk that manages to shoot the LRM launcher off of an Orion with one magic bullet from its autocannon." Anastasia replied.

"Well now you've done it." Hap said grimly. It seemed they were finally comfortable though.

"It's perfectly realistic, that was a prototype Shadowhawk with a type 10 autocannon, and-"

"That weapon system is too heavy for a Shadowhawk. You'd have to strip off all its other weapons and jump jets or some armor to accommodate that autocannon." Anastasia interrupted.

"and, and, you can clearly see the bullet pass into one of the LRM ports which hit a missile and that obviously sets off a chain reaction that would blow the whole right torso off of an Orion."

Before she could refute what any MechWarrior should know is nonsense, Hap leaned over and whispered to her, "He will go on like this for days, please, just let him have this."

Anastasia made an uncertain nose, but nodded.

"I'll tell you something else too." Joker started

"After the movie." Anastasia said as the opening theme ended and John Stallion walked into a bar.

Hap had seen this movie a dozen times, but he was enjoying it. After the last two days this felt like normal and reminded him of simpler times. He was with his lance mates, watching a movie, and he had already headed off the first argument. As he started to get into the movie he could feel Anastasia adjusting herself then pulling on the blanket again. He responded by gently pulling back.

Anastasia seemed to finally get comfortable, but during the next scene she started moving and pulling on the blanket again. Hap held onto his blanket and she eventually stopped pulling. When the scene ended she once more adjusted herself, and tried to get more blanket. This time Hap got annoyed and reached over and grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her into him. She let a surprised "hey."

Hap immediately regretted pulling her into him. He knew he shouldn't take such liberties with her, and he knew this was going to come up when they had the necessary talk about boundaries. He was pretty sure he was about to receive one of her cold stares. He looked down at her and she was smiling but conspicuously looking straight at the view screen.

"Comfortable?" Hap asked her as he started to take his arm off her shoulder.

"Only if you don't move." She whispered, then added, "Shh. I'm trying to watch a movie."

Hap pulled the blanket up to her neck and left his arm across her shoulders. She tucked her feet under her side and pushed herself more into Hap. She was soft, and warm, and he could smell the sweet exotic fruit of her hair shampoo. Again it was intoxicating, and exciting, and he also knew very stupid.

Hap had been married once. He was a Subaltern straight out of the Albion Military Academy. Shortly after reporting to Raman, he met a girl at a bar, and married her a few weeks later. Six months later they divorced. The day he put on Leftenant was the same day he moved into the Bachelor Officer's Quarters.

The first month was fantastic, then they started to have disagreements about little things, money, time he spent working, housework. When he got home she wanted to go out dancing, he wanted to stay home. They tried counseling but that just brought out bigger problems. She wanted to have kids now, he wanted to wait. He wanted to change units which would take them off Raman, she wanted to stay with family. They realized they got married before they knew each other, and the differences seemed too great. Hap promised himself he wouldn't make the same mistake again, or try harder to make it work.

Hap convinced himself he would have find time tomorrow to get Anastasia alone and really discuss their relationship. Make sure she understood that they had to take things slow, and keep the physical contact to a minimum. Figure out how they were going to operate as Lancemates first, and ensure they were always professionals inside their 'Mechs. He tried to craft exactly what to say as he watched the movie. Hap was slightly distracted by the movie, and really distracted by how good it felt to hold a woman.

The lighting changed as the black cast screen rolled and dramatic music played. Hap woke up with Anastasia's head resting on his chest. He carefully turned to see Joker was asleep. He gently nudged Anastasia.

She murmured something, and seemed to push herself tighter into him and went back to sleep. Hap realized they were also holding hands now too. He detangled his fingers and gave her another gentle nudge, "Anastasia, you need to get up. We need to go to bed." Then he added "our own beds."

She stretched and adjusted herself, "Why?"

Hap nodded toward Joker. Anastasia nodded, stood up and wrapped herself in the blanket and started to leave the room. Hap turned off the video screen, he adjust Joker's blanket so it covered him better, then followed her.

"Tomorrow we need to talk about us." He told her quietly, as they stood in front of her bed.

Anastasia nodded, she started to pull the blanket off her shoulders, then flashed Hap a mischievous grin. "Can we also talk about this blanket? Because you were right about how great it is. I need to know what it's going to take to get this from you."

"You're not going to get my poncho liner from me." Hap tried to make it sound definitive, but he knew that if anyone could bargain him out of the poncho liner it was her.

"So you and the blanket are a package deal?" She asked as she looked at him thoughtfully. "I think I can work with that."

Hap put his hand on the blanket, "Go to bed, we'll talk in the morning."

She nodded but kept the blanket wrapped around her as she tried to pull it out of Hap's grasp and climb into bed. In one smooth motion Hap reached down and swept her off her feet, rolled her into her bed and snatched the blanket from her before she could react.

"Good night, Anastasia." He said as he rolled up the blanket while keeping it out of her reach.

Anastasia was trying to look hurt, but she was smiling and almost giggling, "If you had asked-"

"You would have given the blanket back?"

"No, Harold. I would have let you stay with your blanket and me." Anastasia flashed Hap a smile that further weakened his resolve.

He stopped rolling the blanket and thought about it for a moment. "We'll talk in the morning." Hap said as he shook his head, things had already gone too far and he had no idea how to reign it in.

The next morning started off similar to the previous. The 0800 bell woke them up. Joker asked them if they enjoyed the movie and Anastasia made the mistake of telling him it would have been better if it had been a Brock Armstrong movie. The walk to breakfast, breakfast, and morning calisthenics were filled with Joker detailing all the reasons why John Stallion was the greatest action-holo actor of the age.

Eventually, Mike the 'Mech Tech, overheard him and started to explain that anyone who thought John Stallion or Brock Armstrong were better than Phelan McQuaid knew nothing.

When Joker heard the tech mention Phelan McQuaid he dropped the cans of auto cannon rounds they were using for weights and began walking over to him while deriding a movie where McQuaid played a COMSTAR secret agent.

"When will this end?" Anastasia asked Hap.

"It won't." Hap shrugged as he started to put away the ammo cans. "Lucky and Joker had been arguing about this very thing since before I knew them." It pained Hap to remember this was what Joker and Lucky and were discussing when Lucky was killed. "You gotta understand with soldiers they have these arguments that actually have no end. Also congratulations, you're now part of the lance."

"At least it kept him from talking about last night." Anastasia said with a shrug.

"Yeah, if you need to distract Joker, this is a way to do it." Hap told her. He felt anxious as he added, "And speaking of last night, let's find some where quiet to talk."

"You mean how you're going to give me that blanket? I promise to let you snuggle under it with me while we watch Brock Armstrong movies."

"Yeah that's part of it." Hap was looking around the 'Mech bay. They were on the side with Joker's Firestarter and a Highlander. "It looks like all the techs are over here, let's go to the other bay."

Hap and Anastasia walked into the hallway that led between the two bays and were met by Erik.

"Ah just the MechWarriors I wanted to see." He said with a big mischievous grin.

"Good morning, Erik." Hap said, sensing there was a problem, and it had something to do with them.

"You." He said looking at Anastasia, "need to work on your armor repair work. I looked at what you did yesterday and it all needs to be redone."

Hap looked at Anastasia confused, "I was starting to think you were good at everything."

"Oh, there's actually a pretty big list of things Anastasia can't do." Anastasia told him.

Hap put his hand on her shoulder, "Come on I'll help you, and then we can talk."

"No. She needs to learn to do simple repairs to maintain her 'Mech, and she's going to learn by doing. As a Master Technician teaching is part of my job, as a 'MechWarrior breaking things I fixed is your job. So I got another job for you. Also, I looked over your armor repairs, and they're up to standard." Erik said.

"My father was a 'Mech Tech and he made sure I knew how to turn a wrench." Hap said.

"Yeah Mike said your welding 'didn't look like a bag of ass', which is a high compliment from him."

"So what do you want me to do?" Hap asked.

"Old man Kelly wants to know why it looks like he has a bunch of AFFS 'Mechs in the hold of his shuttle. That's his way of saying you three need to repaint your 'Mechs. Everything you need is there." Erik pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. "Includes a paint guide. I'd recommend the Tartan."

In spite of Hap's best efforts the day was spent either repairing or repainting 'Mechs. Erik had Anastasia replace several armor pieces before he was happy with her work, but he told her that she needed to keep practicing. Joker and Hap got their 'Mech's repainted, but Hap didn't get a chance to talk to Anastasia alone.

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