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A Warrior's Family (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 85[]

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Inbound Negations[]

DS Phaidin, Leopard Class 'Mech Carrier DropShip
St. Ives, St. Ives Compact
May, 3030

Hap and Anastasia were on the bridge of the Phaidin. About a day and a half had passed since they had fought their way away out of the Jump point. They were now about halfway to St. Ives III. The crew had mostly recovered from the attempted hijacking and the desperate space combat that followed. Minor injuries had been addressed, and the most pressing repairs had been seen too. Normal operations had resumed as best they could.

Anastasia was currently in the pilot's seat on watch. Hawkins had worked out a watch schedule that was four hours on and eight hours off between Hawkins, Kate and Anastasia. Hawkins had determined Anastasia was smart enough and trained to the point she could keep the ship going in the right direction and would know when to come and find him or Kate. He didn't think she was ready to land the DropShip alone, but for intersystem movement she was fine. Kate and Hawkins would also come and go during their "off" time, so Anastasia was rarely alone for long.

Sarah generally followed Anastasia's watches and would ask her about the formal training in space operations that she had received at NAIS. Despite her current blindness, Sarah seemed optimistic about recovering her vision and being a Dropship pilot. Anastasia didn't mind sharing her knowledge, and did her best to teach her blind student.

Hap found himself shadowing Anastasia too. He'd man the comms station and help Sarah with anything she needed. Currently he was waiting for a call from the St. Ives military command. Yesterday he had called St. Ives Military, explained they had jumped in system, and were looking for work. To his surprise the Compact's representative asked very few questions about their story of a contract gone bad. They were given permission to proceed to the planet, and told they would contact them again as they got closer.

Hap was playing with Selene while he waited. He had been working with her on the basic sit, stay, come, shake type dog tricks. He had taken a tuna ration package to use as dog treats. Eventually Selene got bored and snatched the pouch from Hap and buried her nose in the retort package to get all the tuna. Hap was also bored and so he decided they were done. He had to take the pouch away from her once she licked it clean and started chewing on it. With the pouch gone she decided to get one of her favorite playthings, a half-meter length of rope.

The rope was knotted at both ends and Selene liked to play tug-of-war with it. She went and picked up the rope and brought it over to Hap. He took the free end and held on as she pulled. Hap pulled against her and tried to take the rope away from her for a few moments before letting go. She'd almost fall backward before she took a couple steps and violently shook the rope. She brought the rope back to Hap and after a few rounds took it over to Anastasia and put her head, rope, and all, on Anastasia's lap.

"Non bébé" Anastasia replied, "I must fly the ship."

Selene trotted over to Sarah and hit her leg with a knotted end of rope. Sarah had to grasp around to find the Coyote, but eventually she caught hold of the rope and played with the coyote till she decided to go back to Hap. As Hap reached for the rope Roweyna entered the bridge. She was dressed in a white blouse, a plaid skirt, and a gray cardigan with the McFinnigan and Sons logo embroidered on it. She seemed to be recovering well from everything she had endured.

McFinnigan and Sons bk

McFinnigan and Sons Mercenary Company insignia

Selene saw Roweyna and approached her with the rope. Roweyna regarded the young Coyote for a moment, "Does Mr. Hawkins know yer on the bridge?" As she spoke to Selene the coyote cocked her head but continued to wag her tail as she waited for Roweyna to try and take her rope.

"Mr. Hawkins knows." Anastasia answered, "He was very specific that he would tolerate Hap and Selene, but not Joker or Mags. He stated plainly that was the extent to which he'd allow, 'wild and untrained animals' on the bridge."

"Oh! So yer an untrained animal now, Hap."

"He actually said I had the makings of a third class gunner's mate." Hap said. "But the way he said it made it feel like being an untrained animal was better."

"Selene is not untrained." Anastasia said. "Selene, le lit."

Selene walked over to a mat in the corner and laid down. She sat for a few moments before she got distracted by an old bone she had been given a few weeks back. Roweyna watched as the Coyote chewed on her bone, but remained on her mat. "I've seen Mags and Joker working with yer coyote pup and never has she shown this level of obedience. Honestly, I'd consider her and Mags about equally likely to do as they were told."

"I keep trying to tell everyone, she responds best when you speak to her in French. I believe it's her mother's tongue." Anastasia said.

The incoming call light flashed on the communication station. Hap looked over the display, "This is our call from St. Ives."

Roweyna settled into the seat next to Hap as he accepted the call, turned on the camera, and se tup the microphone between them. The holoviewer resolved to show a middle aged Asian woman. Hap could faintly see a few scars on her neck, but they were mostly hidden by the collar of her military uniform. She looked familiar to Hap as he studied her uniform trying to determine her rank.

<<"Greetings, McFinnigan and Sons, I am Major Liu. I believe we spoke before." She looked at Roweyna and then Hap trying to find a look of recognition. "However, I was heavily medicated at the time. Perhaps-">>

Hap immediately remembered her. This was the Major, that had interrupted the very rude and patronizing Captain that they were working with. "Major Liu, hello. I'm Captain Calahad. Yes we spoke last time. My call sign is Haphazard or Hap, and this is Ms. Roweyna McFinnigan You look well, how is your hand?"

<<"Thank you, Captain.">> Major Liu's face brightened as Hap spoke. She held up her hand. It had several burn scars and there was a faint surgical scar that was barely noticeable in the holo's projection. <<"It is well. I am told that your doctor's skill is the only reason I still have my hand. Is he with you? May I thank him?">>

"No, but his wife is with us." Hap said, "She's also a qualified doctor though, and I'm certain she'd relay your appreciation to him."

<<"I am quite grateful to your Company, Captain.">> Major Liu said

"Have you recovered from your other injuries?"

<<"Mostly.">> Major Liu replied, <<"However my leadership thought that if I were placed on the command staff I would recover more quickly while my skills could still benefit the Compact. So my time of command has ended, but I still aid the Compact, and can speak with you today.">>

Hap could hear the regret in losing her command, "I'm sorry you lost your command."

<<"We all must do what is best for the Compact.">> Major Liu said, <<"Which brings us back to you, we certainly could use additional BattleMechs. There are Capellan partisans in the hill country outside our capital that are using a heavily defended fortress to harass us and wage an asymmetrical war.">>

"Ye need us to destroy a fortress? That's one of the many services we provide." Roweyna said.

<<"Sadly it is quite well defended. We would like your 'mechs to augment our assault force, however we have experienced fierce fighting in the last few days and need some time to reset our forces before we begin the assault.">> said the Major

"Very good." Roweyna said, "We're still a day and a half from landing, and we need some time to make our own repairs to our DropShip so we should be there when yer forces are ready."

<<"This is acceptable.">> Major Liu said, <<"Let us speak of your requirements. You have requested a secure hangar for Dropship maintenance as well as access to our equipment and supply stores. I can grant you access to our stores, at fair market value, but we cannot give you a secure hangar. We will allow you to land on a military airfield though.">>

"That'll have to do." Roweyna said, then quickly added, "Thank you. We'll send ye a list a parts we'd like to have on hand when we land."

<<"Very well. Now if we could discuss your fees.">>

<<"Normally I'd prefer to have more intel before we discuss remuneration. Perhaps ye can tell me at least the type of mission ye'll be looking for us to do."

<<"Screening operations, possibly a raid or ambush."?? Major Liu replied, <<"I am told your drop tonnage is 155 tons. We would be looking for you to address the insurgents smaller and faster combat vehicles and 'mechs, we may also need you to possibly draw out a larger 'mech force from the fortress.">>

Hap closed his eyes and let the two woman bargained over the contract price. Major Liu was being careful to only give a little bit of information and Roweyna kept using the vagueness to keep her prices high. Finally Hap asked, "Major Liu, Ma'am, what's the disposition of that 'larger 'mech force'?"

Major Liu's placid face went blank. She looked down and then looked back into the camera and leaned forward, <<"When last we worked together we attempted to conceal parts of our intel, and I am sorry, it created unnecessary complexity to your operation. However, today, as then, my superiors would prefer I not reveal that information till you are on the ground.">>

"And less likely to back-out." Roweyna added.

Major Liu looked behind her, and then whispered, <<"The enemies of the Compact use a heavy lance for point defense, it consists of a Cataphract, a Marauder, and a Warhammer. These mechs, plus the fortresses static defense and anti-air towers make the fortress too difficult for us to destroy..">>

Roweyna looked at Hap, "Is it even possible for yer lance to take down one of those mechs."

"One? Maybe." Hap said. "I don't even know what a Cataphract is, but a Warhammer or a Marauder we could probably destroy, but only if it was alone. Together though…that's unlikely, and even if we managed we'd probably lose half the lance. With whatever that third 'mech is, it's probably suicide."

<<"You'll be supporting our lance with our rebuilt Stalker and King Crab though.">> Major Liu whispered.

King Crab Assault Mech (On a burning battlefield - paint by Logicboy7)

King Crab Assault 'Mech

"Okay if the Heavies slug it out with the Assaults while we harass, then we're fine. I'll just have to make sure Mags doesn't jump into the middle of something stupid. If she keeps moving to flank them, while Joker's Firestarter pushes them to overheat and Anastasia and I keep them in off balance with missiles we can make life real hard on them while the King Crab and Stalker take 'em apart." Hap said.

As Hap spoke Major Liu nodded, <<"Yes, this is precisely the sort of support we would require.">> She resumed her normal posture and placid expression.

"That's not exactly screening." Roweyna said as her eyes narrowed, "I think 300,000 C-bills would be a fair compensation for that work though."

>>"That's higher than I am authorized to offer, perhaps 225,000 plus priority salvage.">>

"I'd rather ye guarantee yer not going to "company store" me with supply parts, and waive the landing fees. Grant me that, and we'll do can go to 250,000."

<<"You have my assurances of fair market value for everything, and we'll waive the landing fees, however 250,000 is still too high. I could go back to my leadership and request 230,000.">>

"Does that include priority on salvage?" Roweyna asked.

<<"Yes. At least up to a value of 70,000 on the first item.">> Major Liu said. <<"I will also add a clause that you receive priority on any 'mechs you company exclusively destroys.">>

"That's more than fair." Roweyna said. "Ye get me that in a contract and we'll sign it before we land."

<<"Shall I send it through the MRB?">> Major Liu asked.

"Oh no need for that, love." Roweyna said smoothly, "They'll want to take their cut, and the client that betrayed us was vetted by the MRB. So I wouldn't know why I'd pay extra for their services. You've worked with the family before and I know ye wouldn't betray us."

Major Liu nodded, <<"Very well. I will speak to my superiors and have the contract sent to you shortly." She looked like she was about to shut off the holo, but then she stopped, "The Federated Suns recently opened an Embassy on St. Ives. You may wish to contact them. They own a large, fortified hangar on the edge of the space port. Given your alignment with them, they may be able to support you.">>

"Thank you, Ma'am." Hap said. "I'll give them a call."

<<"I will send you their contact frequencies. St. Ives out.">> Major Liu said as she disconnected the call.

"Are we calling the embassy next?" Anastasia asked

"I suppose." Hap said as the comms station received the information for the embassy. "I'm not sure who to ask for though."

"The Defense Attaché Office of course."

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