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

Chapter 30[]

Dead Man's Hand: Family Values[]

Tranh Truk Ngo Memorial Spaceport
Nha Tranh, Kowloon
Bucklands Province
Lyran Alliance
25th August, 3058

Liz took a deep breath as her official limo came to a stop. Pretty much everyone had tried to talk her out of meeting the Clan envoy in person, but she had insisted. After all, she was already dying, despite everything Dr Banzai had said, so what did it matter if the Falcons assassinated her?

Hell, she kind of liked the idea of being a martyr, her name forever remembered as a rallying cry.

Unfortunately, it looked like the Clannners were playing by the rules, and not abusing Guest Rights. Only two people, a tall, muscular woman in the uniform with a Star Captain, and a slightly shorter, slender woman in utilitarian coveralls, had existed the DropShip. They were slowly making their way along the red carpet that tradition dictated had to be rolled out for an arriving diplomat. She'd spent the last week brushing up on her official etiquette, with extra lessons on how to present herself around the Clans. Nathan Roshak had made it very clear that it was highly unlikely that she would be afforded any special courtesy due to her position as Duchess, and instead would be judged wholly on her own words and deeds. But, at the same time, she would be seen as a representative of the Lyran Alliance as a whole, and there were still plenty of world's above the Truce Line that the Falcons could express their displeasure upon if she screwed up.

So, no pressure.

A Coast Guard officer in full dress uniform opened her door with a salute, and she put her diplomatic face on. While she may have welcomed two former members of Clan Jade Falcon to her world, one of them into her bed, even, that didn't mean that she held their society as a whole in anything other than utter contempt. They were a civilization of slavers, descend from traitors and liers. Nothing they had said or done had done anything to convince her otherwise. But, as is often said, diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. And, in her mind, the Clans were nothing but rabid dogs, and the sooner someone found a sufficiently big enough rock, the better.

Oh, sure, a few of them were perfectly pleasant individuals, but on the whole, she wouldn't have pissed on them if they were on fire., she thought

"Good afternoon." She stopped a couple of meters from the two Clannners, leaning on her cane, "I am Duchess Elizabeth Ngo, and on behalf of the Archon and people of the Lyran Alliance, I bid you welcome to Kowloon."

"In the name of Khan Martha Pryde, I thank you for allowing us safe passage to your world." The Star Captain bowed, "I am Star Captain Gabriel Bang-Chu. This," she motioned to the woman at her side, "is Scientist Cathy."

"Charmed, I'm sure." Liz smiled just a little too sweetly, "Well, now the formal introductions are over, may I ask what brings you to my world?"

"We are here as official representatives of our Khan, to discuss a matter of mutual interest." the Clan officer smiled back, "But, before we continue, may I ask if the Mercenary MechWarrior known as 'Joker' is still on Kowloon?"

"Joker... Joker... Joker?" Liz mused, "Now, where do I know that name?"

A loud buzzing noise came from the Duchess' pocket, and she pulled out her personal coms unit.

"Oh yes, I remember now." she nodded with a fake smile, "She's the one with you in the middle of her cross-hairs."

She activated the loudspeaker function.

<<"The ****** did that bitch just say?">> despite the small speaker leaving it somewhat distorted and tinny, the mercenaries voice still managed to convey her anger.

"Joker, dear, do at least try to moderate your language." Liz asked, "Diplomatic envoy, remember?"

"I must say, your reputation seems well deserved." Gabriel Bang-Chu seemed surprisingly calm, under the circumstances, "I have been tasked with bringing you an offer from my Khan, personally." She grabbed the somewhat worried looking scientist at her side and dragged her forward, "Scientist Cathy here has been studying all the information we have concerning Cholmann's Syndrome."

" have my attention." Joker sounded at least slightly less likely to start shooting at random.

"We are aware of the offer you made the abjured Wolves." the Star Captain continued, "We were hoping that you might be open to a counter-offer."

"... Shit." the Mercenary sounded genuinely conflicted, "Give me a minute."

The line went dead with an auditable click, leaving the three women just standing there.

"Is she always like this?" Cathy asked, nervously.

"Actually, no. I have no idea what she might do next." there was a certain amount to genuine concern in Liz's voice, "I would advise caution, if I thought you knew what it means."

The three stood in awkward silence for maybe a minute, before spotting a figure marching toward them, dressed in the typical cooling vest and shorts of a MechWarrior.

"That boyfriend of yours has a big mouth." Joker snarled, "Should have thrown him out the airlock when I had the chance, like Emilio suggested!"

"I will be having words with him, trust me." Liz nodded, sternly.

"Okay, so, you've heard the news and think that you have a shot at claiming the big prize, right?" Joker turned to the two Clan envoys, "Well, lucky for you, I like the Wolves about as much as I like you clowns, which is to say, not at all. However, I like the Duchess here, so I'm willing to at least listen to what you have to say."

Gabriel Bang-Chu turned to Cathy, who suddenly realized that it was her turn to speak.

"I...I have been examining everything we have on Cholmann's Syndrome, including research we believe was lost to the Inner Sphere during the Succession Wars." the terrified scientist managed to say, "I would need to examine the Duchess' specific genetic code, but I believe that there may be a way to at least halt the progression of her illness."

"I have no idea what she just said." Joker turned to Liz, "It mean anything to you?"

"My family have heard similar promises for generations... but it at least matches some of what Dr Banzai has been saying since he arrived from New Avalon." The Duchess nodded slowly, "I say we get the two of them in a room and see what happens."

"Sounds like I plan where I don't have to be involved." Joker nodded, and turned to the envoys, "Okay, so your mad scientist here is gonna talk with the Davion mad scientist that the Wolves roped in. If he thinks what she has to say has merit, we'll talk. Deal?"

"Acceptable." Gabriel Bang-Chu nodded with a polite smile, "We anticipated that you would want to verify what we had to offer, but I must insist on accompanying Scientist Cathy at all times."

"Likewise acceptable." Liz nodded, her smile a little warmer now, "As I said before, welcome to Kowloon."

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