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

Chapter 17[]

Dead Man's Hand: The Kowloon Job[]

DropShip Ante-Up
Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
26th April, 3054

Joker sat, sipping coffee from a plastic bulb, as she went over the time and cost projections for the repair work resulting from their trip to Malibu.

Taking salvage into consideration, they had enough equipment to get her Loki, Scilicorn's Shadow Hawk and Kelso's Wolverine back up and running, but a lucky hit had badly damaged one of the LRM-20 launchers on Aung's Archer. There was always the option of pulling it out and replacing it with the LRM-15 launcher from the Thor she'd taken down, but it was worth more salvage than the repairs would take, once they made it back to civilisation. This left her with the dilemma of was it better to leave his Mech with half its primary weapons off-line, and hope they didn't run into any trouble before reaching Kowloon, or replace it with a miss-matched launcher, taxing the fire-control system, and making it that much harder and expensive to maintain it in the long term.

Days like this were why the others were more than happy to leave her in command: they just shot what they were told to shoot at. She was the one left struggling to balance the budget and run risk assessment.

"May I sit here?" a voice asked, and she looked up to see Nathan Roshak floating in the air beside the table.

"So long as you're not looking for witty repartee." she shrugged, tapping away at her calculator.

The former Clan officer sat in the chair opposite, strapped himself in with the lap-belt provided, and sat watching her.

"I've never owned a cat, and I've no intention of starting now." Joker remarks, not even looking up, "Something particular you wanted? But before you answer that, I'm very particular about who I share a bunk with, and that ain't gonna be you."

"As enjoyable an experience as I'm sure it would be, I have not come looking for gratification of the sexual kind." Nathan Roshak smiled, "I was hoping to continue our conversation from before the Trial."

"If memory serves, the only conversation we had was you asking me why that crazy bitch Natasha Kerensky has such a massive hate-boner for me. And I'll repeat what I said then: I have no ****** clue what she wants with me, and I have no intention of ever finding out. Smart people, people who want to go on living, don't antagonise that woman. To the best of my admittedly rather limited knowledge, the only person to ever get one over on her and live was the Bounty Hunter. That ain't me."

"Well, then I guess the question becomes, who are you, to have angered her so?"

"I'm nobody from nowhere." Joker looked up, and saw a look of confusion on his face, "I grew up in an orphanage, because neither of my parents wanted me. Hell, they didn't even name me. I learned pretty quickly that nobody was going to come save me, which meant I grew up quick and mean. By the time my body started to fill out, I had a police record. By the time I left the orphan, my face was known by every cop in the city. First person I killed was some son-of-a-bitch who tried to rape me. I felt a little guilty, sure, but not as much as I thought I would. Not long after that, I stole a BattleMech from the local militia, hopped a ship heading off-world and never looked back. Been a mercenary eve since."

"You have no formal training as a MechWarrior?" Nathan Roshak asked, stunned, "No time spent in a regular army?"

"Do I look like the kind of person to be all 'Yes, Sir! No, Sir! Three Bags Full, Sir!'?" Joker laughed, "If you're looking for some insight into how I defeated you, you're going to be sorely disappointed, because from where I'm sitting, it wasn't anything more than dumb luck. You had me on the ropes, and I got desperate, but that sure as hell doesn't make me the next Morgan Kell or Grayson Carlyle..."

"Or Jaime Wolf?"

"He was one of yours, so that doesn't count. No, the motto around here is pretty much 'fake it 'till you make it'. If anything, the only reason we did so well is because we don't think like you'd expect MechWarriors to think."

"Like two BattleMechs dancing the tango in the middle of a battle?"

"That was unusual, even by our standards."

"Thank you." Nathan Roshak undid his restraints and floated out of his seat, "This conversation has been... enlightening."

"Whatever." Joker waved him off, and returned to her paperwork.

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