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Dead Man's Hand - Family Values (Chapter Cover Art) 1

Chapter 14[]

Dead Man's Hand: Family Values[]

Ngo Family Estate
Hue, Kowloon
Bucklands Province
Lyran Commonwealth
6th March, 3058

"You wanted to see me?" Joker all but waddled into the Duchess's office. While she hadn't put on all that much weight during her pregnancy, her naturally slender frame meant that she was carrying it all externally, drastically shifting her central of gravity. "Not so much me." Liz winced, then gestured behind her friend.

Joker turned, then froze like a deer trapped in headlights as she saw just what, or rather, whom, was on the massive screen that took up a significant amount of the wall across from the desk. Morgan Kell, Arch Duke of Arc-Royal and one of the more feared and respected MechWarriors in... well, history. From Joker's point of view, looking at him was nothing short of looking at, if not God, then certainly one of the Archangels. Probably Michael, just after he cast down Lucifer. Beside him stood his son, Phalen Kell, Khan of the newly formed Clan Wolf-in-Exile, a man Joker had been doing everything she could to avoid for over a month. She had no idea just how much of a bill he had racked up with ComStar, between the countless messages that she had left unread, and the ruinously expensive live HPG transmissions she had declined.

Some people might have been flattered by the attention, but Joker was growing increasingly terrified.

"So glad we could finally get to speak with you, face to face." Duke Kell nodded, "I had to call in a significant number of favors and markers just to get Duchess Ngo to take my call, and considerably more to get her to call you in without explaining why first."

"Nice to feel wanted." Joker responded with mock levity, "So, to what do I owe this... honor?"

"I find myself curious as to that myself." Liz stood, leaning on her desk, "You've pulled more strings than I realized you had access to to pull this off."

"While I appreciate your assistance, this is a private matter." Khan Kell spoke up for the first time, "Maybe it would be better if you left us?"

"She stays." Joker insisted, "There's nothing you have to say to me that you can't say in front of her."

The two men on the screen exchanged looks, the older one nodding, a resigned look on his face.

"Very well." the younger Kell continued, "By now, I am sure you have heard of the death of Khan Natasha Kerensky?"

"It's been in the news." Joker nodded, "Honestly, I didn't think that the old bitch knew how to die."

"Since her death, certain, files, have come into my possession." the Khan ignored the barb aimed at his mentor, "Including the last Will and Testament of Natasha Kerensky. Most of it is purely internal Clan protocol, it does include a copy of a birth certificate, dated August 8th, 3019..."

"Oh god." Joker felt her knees go weak, and she slumped backwards against the desk, Liz hobbling to her side.

"It is my duty to inform you that Natasha Kerensky was..." Kell continued.

"Shut up!" Joker snapped, "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"

"... your birth mother." the Khan finished.

"I think I'm going to be sick." Joker doubled over as best she could, hyperventilating.

"Are you completely out of your ****** mind!" Liz yelled at the screen, "You really think that dumping something like that on a pregnant woman is in any way a good idea?"

"I am forced to agree." Duke Kell looked at his son, "This could have been handled better."

"You think?" Liz snapped as she did her best to comfort her friend.

"Oh god no." Joker sobbed, "No no no no no!"

"There is another matter I feel compelled to address." Khan Kell spoke up, "You genetic legacy is... remarkable."

"Why do I have the feeling that I'm a page behind everyone else?" Liz asked.

"My father was the Bounty Hunter." Joker managed to speak up, "Or, rather, whoever it was who held the identity at the time, and was famously the arch-enemy of... Natasha Kerensky. That much I can guess for myself."

"As I said, remarkable. It certainly explains your exceptional natural talent as a MechWarrior." Kell continued, "I have to ask if you have decided what you will do once your child is born?"

"Noooooo!" Liz hissed, looking at the screen with fire in her eyes, visibly shaking, "Don't you ****** dare! Don't you dare suggest what I think you're about to!"

"Like it or not, Joker is of Clan Wolf; her child is of Clan Wolf." he continued, unperturbed, "We have a right to lay claim to..."

"NO!" Joker yelled at the screen, "YOU CAN'T HAVE MY DAUGHTER!"

"The lady has spoken." Liz snarled, the shaking becoming worse, "So, unless you think you can take my world by force, I suggest you shut up before I show you how we deal with traitors on Kowloon!"

The Wolf Khan looked like he was about to say something, but Liz suddenly fell to the floor, convulsing uncontrollably as she lost all control over her body. Joker's scream of surprise and fear was heard in the next room, and Nathan Roshak burst through the door. Ignoring the two men on the screen, he grabbed a report off the desk, rolled it up and forced it between Liz's teeth to stop her biting her own tongue off.

Joker stumbled back as an emergency medical team rushed in, not even realizing that her waters had broken.

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