Friday, May 30, 2014

Running From the Past, Finale


(Note: the Fronc Reaches flag [seen above] and all the BattleMech illustrations I use in these blog postings are the property of Catalyst Games Labs. I took the images from the most excellent sarna.net Battletech Wiki. I have no claim to any ownership over any of the images and use them for illustration purposes only.)

Yes, this is the last part of Running From the Past. I hope you enjoyed it.

The family member is getting the help they needed and the family can take a breather for the weekend before we move onto the next phase of treatment. As for the Battlecorps stories, they're all around 7,000 words as of this moment. Two are heading toward their climax, but one story's taking a little more of a leisurely pace to get of its climax. I'll have to see how that goes....

Anyway, the final scene from Running From the Past:

***

Ten kilometers northeast of LaCroix,
Cascade, New Colony Region
The Periphery
December 22nd , 3065 


The last thing Jägare expected was a visit from Marshal Jackson and Andrea.

He had plenty of warning, thanks to the sensors, but he still was surprised. He walked outside as they approached his cabin, but not before concealing a pistol under his untucked shirt and leaving his rifle loaded and just inside the doorway.

The sun was bright, the sky cloudless, but there was still a strong chill in the air. There was still snow on the ground, but it was melting, so both Jackson’s and Andrea’s horses had no problems with their footing. Jackson, who was leading the pair, was dressed in a heavy woolen coat, his only concession to the cold. Andrea was dressed warmly enough in a fur-lined parka, and there was a determined look on her face.

“Morning,” Jägare said as they rode up.

“Jägare,” the Marshal replied gruffly after he reigned his horse in. “Got a few minutes?”

“Sure.” Jägare looked up at Andrea as she approached. “What brings you two up here?”

She eased her horse to a stop next to Jägare, leaned over the saddle horn and looked down at him. “Looking for you, of course,” she replied.

“I didn't think you knew where I lived.”

“I’m paid to know things like that,” Jackson replied as he dismounted. He looked around. “Nice property.”

“Thanks. Care to come in for some coffee? I think I’ve got some left over.”

“Now, that is an idea,” Jackson said.

Andrea slid off her horse with ease. “I’ll take a cup.”

“Good,” Jägare said. “Tie up your horses in the barn and I’ll start making it.”

*** 

The three of them sat around the table, three steaming cups of coffee sitting on the table, along with the pot, some sweetener, a load of bread, a knife and some butter. Both Jackson and Andrea had taken off their coats, as the cabin was warm. Jägare left the pistol where it was for now, careful not to lean back in his chair too much.

“What did you want to see me about?” Jägare asked.

Jackson sipped his coffee. “Since you haven’t been in town for the last three weeks or so, I’d thought I’d stop by and see how you were doing.”

“I’ve been doing all right,” Jägare replied. “Been spending most of my time resting and preparing for the Spring hunting season.” Among other things, he thought.

The aftermath of the slaver raid had been somewhat anticlimactic. Jackson and Kessler had managed to corner the Warhammer in a ravine, and after a short fight, managed to cripple it. Unable to move and outnumbered, the Warhammer pilot, who had been the Raven's pilot at the start of the raid, surrendered. The slavers that tried to escape through the woods were allowed to run for a day and a half before they were given the chance to surrender. Tired, leaderless, hungry, thirsty, and dishearten, the pirates surrendered. The survivors, about thirty-five or so, were now sitting in the Morrow City prison, waiting to be transferred to Fronc for trial. The crimes they committed ranged across several colony worlds, and the colonial legal system wanted to make this a show trial.

All of the bodies of the dead Brotherhood members were laid out, identified, their DNA taken, then cremated in a solar furnace. In the case of Maximilian Shanav, a full autopsy report, with pictures and DNA samples, and a video of his body being cremated, was sent to the Capellan embassy on Canopus IV. The Confederation might be upset at the fact that Shanav was killed by someone other than them, but they would be satisfied that their fugitive was dead.

The freed slaves fell into two groups, those who wanted to go back to the worlds that had been taken from and restart their lives, and those who decided they were better off here on Cascade. It took most of two weeks to interview everyone, take their statements and sort out their next steps. About a third of the group decided to stay on Cascade and they were warmly welcomed. Those that decided to return to their planets stayed in Morrow City until transportation could be arranged. As far as they were concerned, the Colonial Marshals, in the person of William Takezaki, had gained another level of respect.

Jackson had promised to keep Jägare’s name out of the official report about the raid, giving credit to Takezaki for leading the force that captured the DropShips, and the hunters as a whole for mangling the slaver raiding force. Takezaki’s own report had played down his role, as much as was possible, instead give credit to the ‘sizeable’ hunter force he had led. He took credit for Shanav’s death, noting that the man had been shot, then fell on his own knife in some sort of suicide action. He also noted the actions of an unknown MechWarrior who had damaged the Mule before ‘escaping into the night.’

Only a few people knew that Jägare had been that MechWarrior, and most of them thought that Jägare had just overpowered the MechWarrior and stolen the Men Shen. Officially, the Men Shen, which had become a Jenner in Takezaki’s report, was still a Pirate ‘Mech and its pilot was wanted. Jackson’s report noted that an unknown Jenner had been spotted near the battle with the Warhammer, but had disappeared into the woods, and there was officially still a search ongoing for the ‘Mech.

In reality, the Men Shen was stored in a cavern two kilometers from Jägare’s house. He had been shocked by Jackson’s offer to turn the ‘Mech back over to him, but the marshal had pointed out that if the Capellans found out about the ‘Mech, it would draw official attention, and a few spies, to Cascade. It was better that the Men Shen was not seen unless absolutely necessary. Reluctantly, Jägare had agreed to the plan.

Despite the loss of the Men Shen, the Marshals still came out ahead. The Raven and Panther could be repaired, though because of parts scarcity, it would take about a year to do so. The Warhammer needed new leg actuators, but it still could move, if somewhat slower, and its firepower was intact. Both  DropShips were repaired and claimed in the name of the citizens of Cascade. Takezaki’s Marshal was still in the repair shop, waiting for parts from Fronc. Takezaki himself was on his way to Fronc to hand deliver the incident reports and requests for spare parts.

As for Jägare, he had spent a week in the hospital in Morrow City with four broken ribs, a severely bruised thigh, and his hand had been sliced down to the bone. The medical staff had wanted him to stay another week, but Jägare had decided that enough was enough, and had checked himself out of the hospital. He had said good bye to Andrea, then headed for his cabin in the mountains.

Andrea had spent two weeks in the hospital. Her injuries, combined with a few bumps and scrapes and exhaustion, were a little more extensive. Still, by the time she was discharged, she was up and around, relaying on a cane for the next few weeks. When she returned to LaCroix and her store, she found both a town and the hunters ready to give her a hand.

“So you don’t know what’s happened the last three weeks in the colony?” Andrea asked.

“Not a thing,” Jägare replied. Anything happen that I should know about?”

Jackson shook his head. “Besides the fact the worlds of the New Colony Region have again decided to form our own state?”

Jägare looked at him blankly. “What?”

Andrea nodded. “Two days after you left Morrow City, a group of representatives from President Trondel landed and asked to see Governor Radichek and the Colony Council. They presented the proposal, and the Council decided to join the movement.”

“Didn't they try this several years ago? It ended rather badly, if I remember correctly.”

“It did,” Jackson replied. “But Trondel has his head on straight, unlike Maltin. He thinks the best way is to try and negotiate our way out.”

“What about Radichek?” Jägare asked. “Didn't he oppose the proposal? After all, the Taurians have a lot invested in these colonies.”

Jackson shook his head slowly. “Milt Radichek’s family and the Calderons have never seen eye to eye on much of anything, but Milt hates Grover Sharaplen so much that if Grover was ever attacked by a rock tiger, Milt would root for the tiger. In case you’re wondering, the Canopians are at least willing to talk.”

Jägare shrugged his shoulders. “Why bother to tell me?”

“Because we’re going to need people to help defend these planets once we’re independent. People like you.”

A cold shiver crept down Jägare’s back. “What do you mean?”

“It means that Milt was impressed with the work you and the other hunters did to the Brotherhood. He was so impressed that he has decided to add another militia company to the Cascade Defense Force. This company would be made up of Hunters and selected volunteers, who would act as scouts, snipers, and raiders. And he asked me to ask you if you wouldn't mind becoming the Captain of that company.”

Jägare stared at him. “What makes you think that the Hunters would accept me as their captain?” he asked after several seconds of silence. “We’re a bit independent.”

“Well, then you must have made an impression on your fellow Hunters,” Andrea replied. “There was a meeting in LaCroix, and over thirty Hunters signed up to be part of that company. You were the overwhelming choice for the position of Captain. Sven and Tetsuro are your lieutenants, and both Reece and King are sergeants.”

“When did that happen?” Jägare demanded.

“Last week,” Andrea replied with a shrug.

Jägare leaned back in his chair, wincing slightly as the still hidden pistol dug into his back. “I wasn't told about any meeting of the Hunters!”

“I did radio you and invite you into town last week.” Her mouth twitched slightly as she fought not to smile. “It’s not my fault you came to the wrong conclusion.”

“Ian,” said Jackson slowly. “I know you’re hiding out here for a reason. And I’m not going to pry. You've proven to me and some others that you are a leader, with skills we are going to need.”

Jägare stood and walked away from the table. He stared out one of the small windows at the snow-covered landscape. “It had to be done,” he said finally.

“Yes, it did,” Jackson said.

“I didn't want to do it,” Jägare said. “They were not my people.”

“There, you are wrong,” the Marshal replied. Jägare head the chair scrape across the floor as Jackson stood. “Son, your actions proved to every citizen of Cascade that you are one of us. You are as much a part of this planet as the rock tigers and the forest are.”

“I wasn't the only one,” Jägare replied. “Takezaki and the others did their part.”

The Marshal shook his head. “Only after you pointed them in the right direction. Some would call you a hero.”

Jägare turned and looked at him. “Some wouldn't be too sure of that if they knew my background.”

Jackson out a hand on Jägare’s shoulder. “Ian,” he said softly, “I don’t know about your background, and frankly, I don’t care. What I care about is that there are two hundred and fifty people who owe their freedom to what you did. Countless others on other worlds will be spared a life of slavery. I don’t know if that makes up for what you've done in the past, but you have a clean sheet here. So, maybe it’s time to stop running from the past, and time to walk into the future.” He walked to the door and opened it, allowing some cool air to enter. “I need some fresh air.”

Andrea waited until Jackson closed the door behind him before she said, “Kove’s right. You’re one of us now.”

“Don’t be too sure of that,” Jägare replied as he turned to look at her. “It too me a long time to decide that the state I served wasn't my state anymore.”

“I take it you didn't leave the Capellan Confederation under good terms?” There was no question in her voice, just a statement of fact.

He looked at her sharply. “What makes you say that?”

“You piloted an Confederation ‘Mech like you’d done it for years. You accused Max of being a Death Commando, and spoke to him in Chinese.”

“He wasn't a Death Commando. No one that sloppy would have lasted out the training.”

“How would you know?”

He turned away. “I just do.”

She looked down at the coffee cup in her hands. “Who’s Master Sun?”

“You heard?”

She nodded. “Papa always said I have very good hearing. What did you say to him at the end? Just before the Marshal shot him?”

“Who said I said anything to him?”

I saw the look in Max’s eyes and his look told me that he was very surprised.”

“The knife in his chest had something to do with that look.”

She nodded. “I won’t ask again. But it’s always easier to share your burdens then keeping them inside.”

“Not mine.”

She nodded again, not looking up from the cup. “Are you going to accept the post of Captain of the Hunter Company?”

“I’m not sure,” he replied, turning to look at her. “I’m not eager to pledge my allegiance to any one person or state.”

“I see. That explains a lot.” She stood. “But you've already committed yourself. Not to a state, or a leader, but to an idea. The idea that people should be able to live freely.”

Jägare snorted. “A noble idea?”

“Not really,” Andrea replied. Do you know who Mary Fergerson is?” When Jägare shook his head, she continued. “She’s a ten year old girl, cute as a button, had blonde pigtails and a stuffed bear named Fuzzy.” Her tone became a bit harder. “The night the Brotherhood attacked LaCroix, she was dragged out of her bed by one of the slavers and tossed her into one of those armored cars they were using. If it wasn't for you and the others, she would on her way to god knows where. I don’t care if you don’t want to be part of the this new state, and I’m not asking you to pledge your honor and your life to any one person. But there are a lot of people like Mary out there, people who need someone to defend them. Can you make that pledge?”

Jägare’s mind flashed back to a three year old in a closet, a boy he had been ordered to kill for no other reason then his father was a perceived threat to the Confederation. Any other member of the strike team would have killed him without a thought. Was there that much of a difference between not killing a child and defending that child for someone else who wanted to kill him, or worse? Andrea was right. He couldn't stand by and allow someone to do what he had refused to do. If that meant using his skills and experience to make sure it never happened, so be it.

He inhaled slowly. “For the children, then, yes, I can make that pledge.”

Andrea nodded, then grabbed his head and kissed him before he could react. She held the kiss for a few seconds, then stepped back, releasing Jägare’s head. “I’ve been wanting to do that for weeks.”

“But –“

”I don’t care what you did or who is after you.”

“They would kill you or use you to get to me.”

She shrugged. “I can take care of myself.”

Jägare shook his head slowly. “These people are –“

”I don’t care,” Andrea said firmly. “I’ve know you for over three years now, and I have never met a man who was as gentle, warm and as quiet as you. We've been dancing around each other for too long. It’s time we did something about it.”

“But –“

”You don’t get drunk. You’re honest, handsome, intelligent and in great shape, which puts you ahead of most of the single guys around here. What else do you need?”

“But –“

She placed her hand on her hips. “Are you coming into town for Christmas?”

Jägare stared at her. “What?”

“You heard me, are you coming into town for Christmas?”

“No.”

She tilted her head. “Why not?”

He looked at her, wondering where he lost control of this conversation. “Because I –“

She shook her head. “No reason. You are coming into town and you are going to enjoy Christmas with me and the rest of your friends in LaCroix. You’re one of us, now more then ever. It’s about time you accepted that.”

“All right. I’ll be down tomorrow –“

”Wrong. You are coming into town today, and you are coming with me and the Marshal. Understand?”

He sighed and gave her a mock salute. “Yes ma’am.”

“Good. Get dressed, grab enough clothes for a few days, and let’s get going!”

*** 

When Jägare came out of the cabin, he was carrying a pack and a small box. Both Jackson and Andrea were already on their horses. Jägare’s horse and mule were tied to the hitching rail, already saddled. He gave the Marshal a suspicious look. Jackson merely shrugged.

Andrea looked down at him. “What’s in the box?’

Jägare smiled at her. “My past. Can we go by Hallfin’s Gorge on the way to town?”

“Sure. Why?”

He held up the box. “I’m finally getting rid of my past.”

She smiled. “Sounds like a plan.”

***

Now, I need to think of something for next week......

Craig


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