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

Chapter 3[]

Dead Man's Hand: Family Values[]

Ngo Family Estate Hue, Kowloon
Bucklands Province
Federated Commonwealth
September 9th, 3057

"Oh my God!" Liz took a step back, almost stumbling before Nathan Roshak caught her, "You're Pregnant?"

"Oh, so that's what this is?" Joker responded deadpan, looking down at the visible bump jutting out from her abdomen, "I was starting to wonder..."

"Obviously not a squee! moment." Liz chuckled, carefully getting her feet back under her. "How do you want to play this? Your message was pretty bare-bones and this wasn't in it, but I'm assuming you're not wanting to advertise: Mercs with kids have blackmail and extortion issues and you're not asking about immigration forms."

"No, not looking for a permanent position." Joker confirmed, "Not every mercenary unit has an entire planet of their own to fall back on for support."

"It's the exception more than the rule." Liz tilted her head to one side, "If I may be so bold, is the father in the picture? Do I need to worry about one coming looking? Because if I am looking at that, it's going to influence how high an alert I'm going to be setting the militia on, given your social circles."

"He's...not in the picture." Joker admitted, a dark look falling across her face.

"Okay..." Liz nodded, reading the other woman's body language well enough to know to let it drop, for the time being, "Well, first you're going to need prenatal care and you're going to have to tell me what your Plan A is, followed by your backups and contingencies."

"Plan A? Contingencies?" Scilicorn laughed, "Do we look like the kind of people who think more than a move ahead?"

"Plan A, because Joker's not the kind who drops their career for eighteen years to raise a kid, contingencies because Mercenary work is hazardous as hell, you make enemies, and if she'd wanted an abortion you wouldn't be here." Liz listed off, "You'd go to Inarcs or Coventry for that, so we're looking at fosterage and security to keep your many enemies clear off the kid so they don't have leverage...but first, scheduled pre-natal care and housing for the duration and after, we can start looking at options for the rest once you're settled in...and security while you're here."

"Fosterage?" Kelso asked

"For the first seven years of my life I was fostered to my grandfather while my parents did their bit, and more, for the realm." Liz made a sour face, "It might've been my whole childhood, except grandfather had the poor grace to die of old age first. Being dragged along as baggage is bad enough when your parents are regulars, it's much worse when there's only one parent, and they're not, you brought yourself here, called in a marker I can't ever properly repay, but it's owed. So I make sure your family is cared for-that's what being Noble means-repay all debts no matter what. In the meantime, we'll need to schedule your medical checkups and get you the prenatal care you're going to need."

"I'm not looking for a Foster family." Joker spoke softly, but with an unmistakable edge to her words, "I don't know how much is actually in my MRBC file, or how much LIC has been able to dig up, but I grew up in an orphanage. It wasn't exactly Dickensian, but it wasn't exactly paradise, either. I was the gangly, wild kid who nobody wanted, so I left of my own accord when I was sixteen. I may not have had the worst life imaginable, but it isn't one I'd wish on anyone. So no, I don't want... this child, sent to some foster home. I want it adopted by a family who will love it and care for it, and never tell it who their biological mother is, because they themselves don't know."

"Boss?" Kelso asked, "You sure about that?"

"Do I look like the material type?" Joker asked, "Just about the only thing I have in common with my own biological mother is the fact that I know I'm not cut out to raise a kid. If Alex... if things had worked out differently, I'm sure I'd be wearing a wedding ring and arguing what color to paint a nursery by now. But he's dead, and without him... I can't do this on my own, and I'm not going to ruin this kids life by trying to be something I'm not."

"We can discuss this later, once you've settled in." Liz suggested, "Do you have any preference for where you'd like to stay?"

"Somewhere low-key, where people aren't going to ask too many questions." Joker stated, "I'm already dealing with being an unmarried mother-to-be. I don't need nosey neighbors on top of that."

"Ia Drang's or Nha Tranh are probably your best bets." Liz nodded, "My family owns property in both. I'll arrange to have someone show you around."

"I know I'm already asking a lot, but there is one other thing." Joker sounded hesitant, "We've burnt through most of our available cash these last few weeks, so if you know of any jobs..."

"I'm in the process of expanding the planetary Militia into something that could act as more than just a speed-bump, should the Clans come calling." Liz smiled, "Having an experienced Red Team to knock the edges off might be helpful."

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