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

Chapter 27[]

Dead Man's Hand: Family Values[]

The Palomino Club
Ia Drang, Kowloon
Bucklands Province
Lyran Alliance
4th July, 3058

"We gonna sit here all night and watch her destroy her liver?" Scilicorn asked, looking across the to the spot at the bar where Joker sat perched on a stool, an increasing number of empty shot-glasses laid out before her.

"You really want to try and stop her?" Kelso asked, sipping her beer, "Tonight would have been her and Alex's second anniversary..."

"In get the significants of the date." her friend and comrade lifted his own bottle to his lips, "I'm just saying, this ain't exactly the healthiest way of dealing with it."

Scifi Bar

"That it ain't, but it's better than some of the alternatives." Kelso admitted with a shrug, then nodded towards the bar, "Besides, Jay's looking after her."

Sure enough, the unmistakable form of Aung sat looming besides Joker, matching her drink for drink, while also keeping the local bar-flies from trying their luck. The massive MechWarriors ability to consume alcohol and remain coherent was almost legendary, and had won the team a not inconsiderable amount of money over the years. He was certainly better suited for the task of keeping a close eye on Joker than Scilicorn or Kelso, given her apparent determination to drink like she didn't want to see tomorrow.

"She's ****** in the head, that's for sure." Scilicorn admitted, "I mean, I know we all are, or we wouldn't be here, but she's..."

"She's never lost anyone she loved before." Kelso agreed, "You know what she's like took he years to let down her defenses around us, and we're just her team. Alex got past all her defenses and in only a year. To the point where she was starting to act like, well, the closest thing to a normal human being she's ever gonna be. To suddenly lose him, and in a way that she still blames herself for on some level..."

"You think it broke her?" Scilicorn asked, his voiced filled with genuine concern.

"I think it broke something in her, only time will tell what exactly." Kelso frowned, "The best we can do is be there for her, and hope having Alexis around pulls her out of her shell somewhat."

The two fell into a sullen silence.

"Is this seat taken?" a voice asked, and the two mercenaries looked up to seen an unexpected face.

"Well, if it isn't our old friend, Star Captain Henry Jade Falcon, as was." Scilicorn laughed, "Welcome to what is depressingly called a party."

"Much obliged." the former Bondsman sat, signalling to the waitress for another round, "So, what brings you all out here tonight? I had to really push to get a very scary lady at the Ranch to tell me where to find you."

"Joker wanted to drink, and, well, Scary Lady won't let her do that around Alexis." Kelso shrugged, "This place was close and sells decent beer."

"She certainly seems to be making up for lost time." Henry looked over to where Joker was downing a line of shot-glasses, "Is this normal? For her, I mean?"

The two mercenaries exchanged glances, but remained silent. The Ngo family were friends, but they were still Outsiders. Not part of the team, and as such, certain things would forever remain unsaid.

"How was Coventry?" Kelso asked, looking to change the topic, "You must be pissed you missed the main event."

"I doubt that they would have trusted me to see action if I had still been there." Henry frowned as his first beer arrived, "Nobody has said as much, but I got the feeling that my true loyalties are the subject of much debate."

"Well, you had gone rather native when we grabbed you." Scilicorn pointed out, "You more so than Shelby."

"Much of what the Clans say they stand for still makes sense to me. I intend to do everything I can to effect genuine change in the Common... Alliance." He caught himself in time, "But the distance had allowed me to see the hypocrisy inherent in their system. They say they want to help the people of the Inner Sphere, but they treat them worse than the Combine or Confederation."

"My grandfather used to say that a pig in a wedding dress is still a pig." Kelso raised her beer, "Of cause, he was going somewhat senile towards the end."

"Well, I think your grandfather may have been onto something." Henry laughed, "I need to, as the old saying goes, find the Third Way."

"Well, I'll drink to that." Scilicorn held up his beer, and the other two clinked against it with their own.

"Mission accomplished." Aung appeared at their side some time later, a snoring Joker slung over one shoulder.

"How are you even standing?" Kelso asked, as she signal a waitress to bring them their bill.

"Indeed, I saw you matching her, drink for drink." Henry nodded as he waved Scilicorn aside and settled the bill.

"Alcohol just doesn't seem to affect me all that much." Aung shrugged, enticing a mummer of complaint from Joker, before she resumed snoring.

"He just has a hollow leg, that's all." Kelso grabbed her jacket, then turned to Henry, "You gonna be okay getting home?"

"Liz has a couple of Coasties keeping watch on me." he chucked, "I'll be fine. What about you guys?"

"Taxi home, sleep it off, then spend tomorrow avoiding sleeping beauty here while she deals with a killer hangover, and Trinh's disapproving glares." Aung shrugged again, more carefully this time, "Such is the price of glory."

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