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Chapter 5[]

Dead Man's Hand: Second Star to the Right[]

Garrison Post
Bolsun, Nox
Clan Wolf Occupational Zone
9th September, 3054

There was a general sense of urgency in the command center, but Natasha Kerensky ignored it all as she walked into Charles Dinour's office without pausing, let alone knocking.

"You have a situation?" She asked, almost casually.

"I have a..." the Star Colonel paused, looking for the right words, "an enigma. A mystery, if you will."

"I do love a good mystery." the Khan sat down in one of the chairs and put her feet up on his desk, "Please, enlighten me."

"Several of the warriors under my command reported meeting up with a new arrival at a bar in the merchant sector. A new arrival from the Kerensky Cluster." Charles Dinour handed over a hard copy of the report, "They started walking back together, only for them to become separated. They reported her as missing upon returning."

"Hardly the first time a warrior has drunkenly wondered off. On their first time in a new unfamiliar city." Natasha Kerensky shrugged, "Send some of the Solahma troops to dredge the drunk tanks and the local hospitals. If she is not there, have them move onto the river or the morgue."

"Which I was about to order, until a simple check of our database came up with no records of a MechWarrior Else or anyone matching her description, being assigned to Nox." her subordinate sat on the edge of his desk, "She does not seem to exist, yet I have five warriors who square upon their honor that they spent the day drinking with her. I even had someone ask the barman, and he confirmed that he saw a young woman matching her description in the bar, and that she did indeed spend a considerable amount of time with them."

Natasha Kerensky read the file quickly, pausing when she came to the physical description of the missing woman.

"Is there a photo?" she asked, her vice strangely devoid of any emotion.

"Neg. The security system in the bar was inoperable." Charles Dinour shook his head, "I have some of the local auxiliaries checking to see if any of the cameras between the bar and here saw anything."

"Keep me up to date on what they find." the Khan stood, "Something is afoot here, and I mean to discover if it is a threat to our plans."

Unknown Location
Clan Wolf Occupation Zone
10 September 3054

Joker woke with a start as a bucket of ice cold water was thrown over her. She gasped for breath, only to discover that she was tied to a chair. And not in some half-assed amateur way. No, whoever had secured her had known what they were doing. Not so well that she wouldn't be able to work her way out of the bindings, given time, but enough to make it more of an effort.

Doubly so, given the act that her head felt like Aung had been using it as a speedball

"So, you're awake." a voice commented, and Joker tried to focus, but between the hangover, the water still running down her face, and the bright light shining directly in her face, it wasn't possible to see who was doing the taking.

Okay, so interrogation 101. Always assume that they know everything, but never confirm anything or volunteer more information than absolutely necessary. She'd gone enough rounds with the local police in her younger days, and while they could get a little... excitable, they at least knew her reputation well enough to avoid taking things too far. This time, however, she was faced with someone who didn't now who she was, and wasn't necessarily playing by any of the normal rules.

She most definitely wasn't getting paid enough for this.

"We know you're not a Wolf, although you put on a decent act back in the bar." the voice from the shadows continued, "You also, despite being just this side of knee-walking drunk, put two of my better people out of commission before going down. Not permanently, thankfully."

"I must have been drunker than I thought." Joker smiled, only for a fist to come out of nowhere and collide with the side of her face at considerable speed.

It took a while for the room to stop spinning after that.

"Let's start with the basics, shall we." the voice continued after a while, "Who are you?"

"That's now how this game is played." Joker smiled again, already bracing for another blow, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

When the blow came, it was to the back of her head, and didn't feel it was delivered by a fist.

"That an actual blackjack?" she asked, "Not many people respect the classics."

"I don't think you fully understand the gravity of the situation you're in." the voice warned, "You walk into a bar, asking about Hannah Jokinen. Then spend the rest of the day drinking with the Wolves, but deliberately give them the slip upon leaving. You're not MIMIR, they'd have better fake Id's. ISF and ROM are too tightly wound to pull of what you did and we're too far away from the Commonwealth for you to be LIC..."

"Can't a girl just go for a drink without it being a whole thing?" Joker asked, somewhat surprised when it didn't earn her another strike.

"Who. Are. You?" the voice asked again.

"I'm a mercenary. Sorry I don't have my MRBC card with me, but I didn't think it was such a good idea to bring it out with me." She explained, the conversation having obviously reached the point where they realized that random acts of violence were counterproductive, "I was given Hannah Jokinen's name as a contact by my employer."

"And who is your employer?"

"Pump the breaks there, Sparky. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I've answered your question, so how about you answer one of mine. Who are you?"

A shadow fell across Joker, and when her eyes adjusted, she found herself looking up at an older woman. With close-cropped grey hair and a nasty looking scar running from just below the hair-line on the right side of her face. Down across the bridge of her nose and onto her left cheek. Her left eye was cloudy grey and obviously sightless, but her other eye was a bright, icy blue. She looked very bit the kind of person you didn't want to antagonise, and Joker started regretting some of her recent life choices.

"Hello, my name is Hannah Jokinen." she spoke with a cold, almost clinical detachment, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't gut you like a fish?"


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