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Tall Tales (Chapter Cover Art)

Something a lot of people have been asking for

Story By JA Baker[]

Two Redheads Walk Into a Bar
Author JA Baker
Series Name Tall Tales/Joker-verse
Alternate Universe Name
Year Written March 11th, 2021
Story Era Succession Wars Era

The Blue Griffin
Fellis Fields, Galatea
Federation of Skye
Lyran Commonwealth
8th August, 3041

The almost legendary Blue Griffin was obviously on the same downwards spiral as the rest of Galatea, but it was still lively as Natasha Kerensky made her way discreetly to the bar. Despite having a reputation for flamboyance second only to Cranston Snord, she was more than capable of going incognito if needed and tonight it was definitely needed. She'd paid a premium for the information, no questions asked, and she only hoped it was money we'll spent. Oh, sure, she could have gone through WolfNet, no questions asked, but this was something... delicate, personal, and the last thing she needed was another lecturer for Jamie Wolf about using Dragoon assets for private business.

Blue Griffin Bar

The Blue Griffin desert bar

Okay, that wasn't technically true. She didn't want him know where she was or why, because it would only restart an argument they'd been having for three years now.

Looking around the room, without looking like she was looking for someone in particular, she drew a blank. Maybe her information was bad? Or she was too early? Or too late?

"DRINK! DRINK! DRINK! DRINK!" rhythmic chanting from the other end of the bar caught her attention, and she looked over to see a collection of obviously low-end mercenaries in a huddle, the unmistakable shape of a yard glass pointing up towards the ceiling from somewhere in the middle.

She watched, only half interested, as the liquid inside the glass lowered gulp by gulp, a sure indication that whoever it was on the other end knew what they were doing. Eventually the beer vanished from view, and a loud cheer went up from the assembled MechWarriors.

"JOKER! JOKER! JOKER!" they chanted, two of them lifting a young woman with short red hair up onto their shoulders as she held the now empty glass over her head in triumph.

Okay, so the information was good, and the broker got to live. For now.

Natasha surveyed the assembled mercenaries with a critical eye. Clayborne's Cutthroats... dear God, why did every two-bit unit give itself a name straight out of a cheap holo-drama? So low down that they were usually sub-contracting to a bigger, more successful unit to provide additional support or replace combat losses. Owner was the self-styled 'Commander' Agatha Clayborne, formally a Captain in the FWLM, until her unit got chewed up and spat-out during the Fourth Succession War. She'd managed to pull together a short company, a DropShip, and had gone independent.

Technically, she was considered AWOL with government property, but she was hardly the first mercenary to have such a charge laid against her.

Reports indicated that they'd managed to skirt by the most recent round of hostilities, mostly taking up garrison posts vacated by other units fighting on the front line. That is, with the notable exception of a single engagement, where they'd managed to rout an entire regiment of Kuritan regulars by exploiting the local geography to make it seem that they had at least a force parity, if not outright outnumbered their opponents. Special mention had been made of a young pilot, only recently added to their number, who after having her Wasp shot out from under her, launched a one-woman infiltration of a DCMS encampment and shooting her way out at the controls of a Tai-i's Phoenix Hawk.

The name given for this young and bold warrior... was Joker

Twenty two years? Had it really been that long? It was almost impossible to see the newborn she had sent away in the young woman across the bar from her now. Oh, sure, there were the same eyes and hair Natasha saw every time she looked in the mirror, but there wasn't the same weight of responsibility there too. No, this woman, her daughter, she forced herself to admit, safe in the confines of her own mind, was still young and free, not yet weighed down by the expectations of the galaxy...of the legacy they shared.

For a fleeting moment, Natasha allowed herself to imagine what would happen if she went over and introduced herself. Not as Joker's long-lost mother, but simply as Natasha Kerensky, the famed Black Widow of Wolf's Dragoons. Would she be impressed? Intimidated? Or perhaps indifferent? And which outcome would frighten Natasha more?

What's more, what if she returned to Outreach with a... New recruit in tow? Jamie wouldn't say anything... he wouldn't have to. No, he'd just smile and nod, leaving Natasha to sink or swim on her own, letting her decide if the truth was to ever get out.


How much simpler it would have been if he'd ordered her to go find and bring back her daughter. Or sent someone else to do it. Hell, he could have given the job to Vic Travers, one of the few people Joker might actually listen to, given their history. It would have been so uch easier if he'd taken the decision out of her hands and made it for her.

But he hadn't, because he trusted her enough to actually listen when she asked him to stay out of it.

Damn him!

No, it wasn't the time to play 'What if...?'. That ship had sailed years ago. It is what it is. No need to over complicate things now.

Signalling for the barman, she orders two shots of the best he had, one for herself, the other to be given to Joker.

"Here's looking at you, kid." She lifted her glass in salute, before downing the contents in one and heading for the door before she was spotted, "Happy birthday."

The End

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