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Dead Man's Hand - A Taste of Ashes (Chapter Cover Art) 1

Chapter 5[]

Dead Man's Hand: A Taste Of Ashes[]

Air Traffic Control
Bluebell, Sweet Water
Coventry Province
Federated Commonwealth
10th July, 3057


[..Communication Transmissions]

"Attention unknown DropShip on course 279: Identify yourself."

"This is DropShip... drive failure... emergency!"

"All Stations! All Stations! We have a DropShip making an emergency decent north of Rogue River. Please clear the airspace. Search and Rescue teams to stand-by."


Bluebell, Sweet Water
Coventry Province
Federated Commonwealth
10th July, 3057


Joker felt her heart skip a beat when she saw Kobe enter the cafe, and she stood to greet him. He kisses her almost daintily on the cheek, making her blush, and they sat, still holding hands. Joker was surprised at how something so simple could at the same time feel so wrong yet so right, and she couldn't help but wonder if that was what love felt like?

"Hey." she managed, grinning like an idiot.

"Hey you too." Kobe smiled, a look of complete contentment in his eyes, "You said we needed to talk?"


"Yeah. The guys and I have been talking and I had a sit-down with Doc Bart yesterday." Joker blushed again, "When our contract with the militia ends, we're gonna sign on as the Ducal Guard. That means I'll be needing somewhere more permanent to..."

She didn't get a chance to finish. As both of their com units started bleeping urgently, Indicating an emergency at the local militia base. They quickly read the message on the small screen, and years of training kicked in. Joker dropped a handful on notes onto the table to cover her bill, and they dashed out into the street. Kobe's old 4x4 was parked nearby, and Joker jumped into the passengers seat without opening the door while her lover started the engine. Fortunately, the roads were relatively empty, allowing Kobe to make good time, while Joker attempted to make contact with her team.

"Unscheduled DropShip making an emergency landing." Scilicorn informed her when she finally made contact, "Could just be someone with a damaged ship trying to make for the nearest inhabited planet, but they want us on standby, just in case."

"I'll be there soon as..." Joker looked at the crowed of people struggling to get into the Hub to catch the elevator up the mesa, "Shit!"

"Plan B." Kobe pulled the wheel hard over. While forcing Joker to grab hold of the dashboard for support, and started up a seldom used access road.

They had to stop at a checkpoint to show their ID's to a worried looking sentry, but soon they were into the sloping tunnel that led up inside the mesa. Even with the heights on, it was somewhat hairy as they made their way from one switch-back to another, occasionally blinded by sudden sunlight where the natural geography of the rock face allowed fr an opening. The tunnel was seldom used, normally reserved for cargo too bulky or potentially dangerous to use the elevators, and making high-speed runs up and down it had become something or a right of passage for the militia. Joker had almost wet herself the first time she'd made the run, perched on the back of a motorcycle that Kelso had acquired from somewhere, hanging on for dear life while her friend had sent them hurtling down at breakneck speed.

Fortunately, Kobe was more interested in making it to the top alive and in one piece than setting any records. So they eventually burst out into the sunlight on the top with all four wheel leaving the ground temporarily before he brought the car to a stop outside spaceport terminal.

"I have to go: my unit will be on S&R duty." He jumped out of the car and sprinted round to the other side, "But we'll finish that conversation when I get back."

"Damn straight we will." Joker pulled him down into a deep kiss, "I'm looking forward to it."

The two reluctantly parted, Joker sprinting off towards the massive Mechbay. The militia may have been under staffed, with many of its best pilots and machines called up to serve with line units, but it still possessed a full company of ready BattleMechs, with infantry, armor and VTOL support spread out across the various townships and outposts. Only a fraction of Sweet Water was actually inhabited, meaning that they were able to concentrate what they had far better than if they'd had a larger area to cover. But that still put them at a disadvantage against some of the larger pirate bands known to operate in the near Periphery, one of the key reasons why Joker had pulled a few strings to get them upgraded weapons and equipment off the grey market.

Joke had already pulled off her jacket and was struggling with her t-shirt as she walked through the open doors. The cool air raising goosebumps on her exposed skin. Lexi, the tech assigned to her by the militia, rushed over and took her clothing as she hurriedly striped down the her bra and panties right in the middle of the bay. Nobody gave her much of a second glance. Not because she didn't look good in such skimpy clothing, but because seeing a MechWarrior just this side of naked was a daily occurrence. They had more important things to concentrate on than ogling her.

"Major wants everyone on ready-alert." Lexi explained as she handed Joker her shorts and cooling jacket, "Still no word on exactly what's happening."

"So, same shit, different day." Joker shrugged, putting her clothing on. While hopping on one foot towards the bay holding her Loki, "Any word on the Ante-Up?"

"Safety officer refused to sign-off on her airworthy certificate, even in an emergency." Lexi shook her head, "Said her hull is still too compromised to be airworthy."

"Well, then I hope someone has a plan to deploy us if needed." Joker reached the ladder and started to climb, taking the runs two at a time.

Loki OmniMech (In Repair Bay)

Loki Heavy OmniMech in the 'Mech Hangar on standby for orders

Reaching the top, she grabbed her neural helmet off the rack and swung herself through the hatch and into the cockpit of the OmniMech. Settling herself in the command couch, she flipped the start-up switch even as she connected the biomed sensors to her arms and thighs. She then connected the cooling vest to the life-support system. Far more advanced than the older much patched system she'd started out on. While she hated the Clans and pretty much everything they stood for. She had to admit, they did have the best toys.

<<<"Reactor; on-line. Sensors; on-line. Weapons; on-line. Communications; on-line. Environmental controls; on-line.">>> Bitchin' Betty announced, <<<"All systems nominal.">>>

"This is Ace of Spades." Joker called out over the hanger command frequency, adjusting her throat-mic, "Radio check. Over."

"Control here, radio check confirmed." the bay controller responded, "Please stand-by for further instructions."

"Roger." Joker cut the link an exhaled, "Same as ever: hurry-up and slow-down."


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