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

Chapter 33[]

Dead Man's Hand: Family Values[]

Nha Tranh University
Bucklands Province
Lyran Alliance
26th August, 3058

"Why are we still here again?" Scilicorn asked, leaning against the wall.

"Because Liz is paying us extra to serve as additional security." Joker jumped up, tossing a basketball effortlessly through a hoop, "Six-two."

"Yeah, but we're MechWarriors, not PBI's." her friend grabbed the ball, took the spot and likewise netted it, "Six-three."

"We're mercenaries, Emilio." Kelso pointed out from her perch up in the bleachers, "So long as it's a valid contract, who cares?"

"Especially with what she's paying us." Aung added.

"The Big Man does have a point." Scilicorn admitted as he passed the ball back to Joker, "But still..."

"First rule of being a Mercenary; the client is always right, even when they're wrong." Joker tossed the ball through the hoop without even looking, "Seven-three."

"One of these days, I'm gonna wise up and stop taking these bets." Scilicorn warned, "Then you'll be doing your own damn laundry."

"You're just pissed that I don't wear sexy underwear." Joker laughed.

"Sexy is in the eye of the beholder." Scilicorn countered, "But no, you're underwear is most definitely not sexy."

"Oh, I have sexy underwear; I'm just not stupid enough to let you near it." Joker grinned, "I've seen the inside of your footlocker, remember?"

"Those were gifts, from appreciative women to remember them by." Scilicorn insisted, then turned the table on her, "Besides, we've all seen the inside of your footlocker. It looks like something out of a Canopian Pleasure Circus!"

"That is true, Boss." Kelso shuddered at the memory, "I'm as open minded as the next woman, but even I don't know what some of those... things, were for. And I'm not sure I ever want to find out."

"That which has been seen, cannot be unseen." Aung rumbled in agreement.

"Company." Kelso warned, gesturing towards the far side of the court, where a door had just opened to reveal Henry Ngo and Star Captain Gabriel Bang-Chu.

Joker bounced the basketball a few times, then tossed it through the net again. "Get lost?" She asked with a grin, "Lab's back the way you came."

"I wanted the chance to meet you in a more... informal setting." the Clan envoy stood some distance from the mercenaries, hands clasped behind her back, "While I remain confident that we can, shall we say, conclude our rather unusual Trial of Possession before other parties become aware of the situation, I would be neglecting my duties to my Clan if I was not sure that what we were... competing for, were worth the effort."

"You want to make sure I have what it takes to be added to your gene-pool?" Joker shrugged nonchalantly, "Well, I'm sure you can find someone to help you log into MercNet. My file contains my combat history."

"Your abItalicilities as a MechWarrior are well documented, but they only tell part of the story." Gabriel Bang-Chu cocked her head to one side, inquisitively, "Who are you?"

"I am Joker. I am a MechWarrior, a Mercenary." came the obvious response.

"Yes, but who are you really?" the Star Captain asked, "Your... mother, is well known, but we have been able to uncover very little about your... father."

"Oh, you mean the homicidal manic with a tendency to kill for the sheer hell of it?" Joker asked, with no small hint of sarcasm, "Sorry, but I know about as much about his as anyone. Which is to say, practically nothing."

"That may be, but how much of who you are comes from him?" Gabriel Bang-Chu began to walk around the mercenary in a wide circle, "Your mother was a Kerensky, born of the Great Fathers bloodline. And while you have obviously inherited much from her, how much comes from your own father?"

"Ah, I think I see where you're coming from now." Joker nodded, "You don't want just anyone's genes getting into your little science experiment now, do you?"

"Exactly." the Clan officer nodded, "Extracting just the Kerensky half of your DNA profile would be possible, but time consuming and resource intensive. It is not something we would choose to do if it can be avoided."

"Okay, so you want to make sure that I take after my mother more than my father. Got it." Joker shrugged, "What do you want to know?"
"Why are you a Mercenary?" Gabriel Bang-Chu asked.

"The money's good, the scenery changes, and they let me play with explosives." the other woman responded flippantly.

"You misunderstand, I feel. Why did you choose to become a Mercenary rather than join the regular military?"

"Well, for starters, I knew from the get-go that if I was going to be in the military, I wanted to be a MechWarrior, not some disposable grunt with a rifle and a prayer. Only, I didn't exactly have the kind of upbringing that, well, the kind of places that would have accepted me charge more than I make even now. Add to that, I have no love for the mudball I grew up on, certainly not to whatever flag was flying over it at the time. So, when the opportunity arose, I made my departure and settled into the life of a Mercenary."

"But to be a sell-sword, without honor..."

"We have honor." Scilicorn butted in, "Just because we don't swear blind allegiance to a flag or an individual, doesn't mean we don't have standards."

"...explain." Gabriel Bang-Chu sounded genuinely intrigued, "Please."

"Okay, so yeah, we're mercenaries. Which means that we work for whoever pays us, but there are still rules that we have to follow if we want to maintain a MRBC standing." Scilicorn rubbed his chin, "Okay, let's talk hypothetical Your Clan is still, technically at war with the Federated Commonwealth and the Lyran Alliance. Both of which Duchess Ngo has, on paper at least, sworn her allegiance to. She could, if the mood took her, decide she wants you dead, consequences be damned. We're House Troops, so if she gave such an order, we'd be duty bound to shoot you."

"Although, Liz is the kind of person who'd do it herself." Joker grinned, "She's not one to shy away from getting her hands dirty like that."

"Indeed." Scilicorn nodded, "But, we're not House Troops: we're mercenaries. And our current contract is to provide additional security for the Duchess, and the people of Kowloon, for the duration of your visit. If she simply decided she doesn't like your face, and asked us to but a bullet through it, we'd tell her to go pound sand. But, on the other hand, if you took actions, or looked like you were about to take actions, that endangered the Duchess or Kowloon, well, we'd take such actions as we deemed necessary to stop you."

"We're not murders or hired thugs, if that's what you think." Kelso took up the story, "Oh, sure, there are plenty of Mercenaries out there who'd slit your throat for a C-Bill, but that ain't us. We take very specific missions, one's that we'd be unlikely to be assigned in a House Unit, because that is who we choose to be."

"We kill, but we don't murder people." Aung rumbled, sounding like a dormant volcano waking up.

"Exactly. Through all of history, most warriors have been paid in some fashion or another. " Scilicorn continued, "Even to this day, they still talk of 'taking the Kings Shilling', meaning accepting payment for service in the name of a House or a Nation. A Mercenary simply makes clear what their duties and responsibilities are in advance, as well as how far they're willing to go to get the job done. We choose the missions we want to do, for the people we want to work for, and at a price all involved can live with."

"You question our honor, but I asked if you even know what honor is." Joker crossed her arms. "And the rest of you: why do you follow this woman?" Gabriel Bang-Chu asked.

"Because she stood beside us, when no one else did." Kelso offered.

"Because we trust her to watch our back," Scilicorn added, "just like she trusts us to watch hers."

"Because she's the Boss." Aung rumbled with a shrug.

"Interesting." Gabriel Bang-Chu paused for a moment, then turned and walked off without a word.

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