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Deadman's Hand - The Kowloon Job (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 16[]

Dead Man's Hand: The Kowloon Job[]

DropShip Ante-Up
Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
15th April, 3054

"I'm getting too old for this shit." Kelso complained as she put her hands on the small of her back and stretched.

"God, I hope not: you're not that much older than I am!" Joker laughed as she watched a prime mover truck carry the remains of the Thor she'd battled into the waiting DropShip.

Everyone had been so tired after the Trial, they had agreed to meet the next day to discuss what was going to happen next. Joker may have had a low opinion of the Clans in general, but even she had to admit, when they gave their word on something, you could take it to the bank. As such, she'd been roused bright an early the next morning and informed that a staff car was waiting to take her to the planetary command center. Grabbing a quick shower, she'd thrown on a clean uniform and grabbed a self-heating coffee to have on the drive.

Much to her surprise, Nathan Roshak hadn't been waiting for her. Instead she'd met with a Star Captain Mia Von Jankmon, whose slender frame and oversized head instantly identified her as an aerospace pilot. The Star Captain had informed Joker that, with Nathan Roshaks defeat. Now she was now the ranking Jade Falcon officer on Malibu. As such, it was her duty to see that the terms of the Trial were met. Joker was a bit confused, but she was far from an expert in dealing with the Clans. So she went along with it. Mia Von Jankmon confirmed that they had indeed won the Trial of Possession for Henry Jade Falcon, and they would be granted safe conduct out of the system.

Next, the Star Captain had asked how much Isorla the mercenaries intended to claim?

Not being overly experienced in dealing with the Clans, and only thinking of the money they would make by selling the remains of the Clan BattleMechs. Money they would desperately need to offset the running costs of a small, independent unit flush with captured Clan weapons and equipment, she had instinctively said all of it.

"Ah shit, they're here." Kelso bright her back to the present, and Joker looked around to see the proverbial 'other shoe' walking towards them.

She'd expected Henry; he had been the entire point of their little excursion behind the lines. She had half expected Shelby to find some way of joining them, especially when it became clear that the two were romantically involved. What she had not expected, and had almost caused a fight with Mia Von Jankmon when it had been explained, was that they had also acquired two Bondsmen in the form of Nathan Roshak and Linda Jade Falcon. The very concept of owning another human being was abhorrent to the mercenary. She had tried everything she could think of to get out of it... only for Nathan Roshak to already have a counter argument ready for everything she tried. The man genuinely seemed eager to experience life in the Inner Sphere, and Joke couldn't help but feel like she was being used in some way she couldn't full understand. What she could understand was that apparently Clan Jade Falcon would take it as a grave insult if they refused, with the insinuation that, if needed, Galaxy Commander Mar Helmer would be recalled to take up the issue, along with the big and scary warship that carried her command.

That not-so-subtle threat had been enough to force Joker to back-down. For as much as she hated the very concept of slavery, she handed the idea of getting her team killed just to make a futile gesture of defiance.

"Okay, let me get one thing straight." Joker turned to address the four warriors, each dressed in simple coveralls, with a grey fabric bracelet around their right wrist, "I know you're playing me. I may not be Hanse Davion, but I'm not stupid either. I don't know what game you think you're playing, and, honestly, I don't care. I've been hire to take him home." she gestured towards Henry, "and that's it. The rest of you are just ballast, far as I'm concerned. I suspect that you're up to something that puts my people in danger...well, they say vacuum exposure is a nasty way to go."

"If you do not mind me saying, I find your stance... confusing." there was a sly grin on Nathan Roshak's face as he nodded towards the Ante-Up, "Your ship and its crew: you took them from Clan Wolf, Quiaff?"

"Commandeering an enemy vessel is a long held military tradition, allowed under the Rules of War." Joker countered, with perhaps a bit more force then she had intended, "Her crew were free to leave soon as we go back into Commonwealth space, but apparently we treated them far better than their previous... employers, so they decided to stay. Oh, and speaking of them: I don't know how you usually treat DropShip crews, but I hear you've mistreated anyone on my crew, and..."

"Out the airlock without a spacesuit." the former Star Colonel finished for her.

"Just so we understand each other." Joker nodded, "I've set aside some bunks for you in the passenger cabins. I suggest you get settled in and maybe see the Crew Chief about some extra clothes and anything else you might need."

With a polite nod of his head, Nathan Roshak led the others up the crew ramp and into the DropShip.

"Ain't nothing good gonna come from this." Scilicorn sauntered over, "Especially if they run into our other guests before we boost for orbit."

Joker grunted. Shortly after returning from her meeting with Mia Von Jankmon. She had been called down to deal with a couple of attempted stowaways. The two of them, little more than kids really, were apparently in love, but had been informed that they were to be sent to different Casts now they were part of the glorious Clan Jade Falcon. They'd contemplated suicide, but then word had gotten round about a group of mercenaries from back in the Commonwealth who'd not only given the Falcons a very public black eye, but we're being allowed to leave unmolested. Packing what they could carry in a pair of duffle bags, they had attempted to sneak onto the DropShip under the cover of night.

At first, Joker had been inclined to send them packing, but upon hearing their story, had relented, and instead offered to take them as far as Kowloon, where they'd be able to seek assistance from the authorities. They were far from the only civilians displaced by the invasion. There were several organizations had been set up to help those whose homes were now on the wrong side of the front lines resettle.

Only thing was, they hadn't been part of the Trial, and she wasn't exactly sure how the Clans would react to what probably amounted to theft of state property.

Since when did her life get so complicated? Joke thought

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