Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chapter 3


Hanse Davion Memorial Hospital

Sheratan, Prefecture IV

April 6, 3133


Hans wasn't quite sure which contributed more to waking him up; the throbbing pain in the back of his head, or the merciless aching of his ribcage. With each new jolt of pain fresh memories of his plunge into Victory Square's fountain flooded his head, and he fought against it as he would fight against the neural feedback of his 'mech while it waged a battle against him to fall to the ground, simultaneously trying to figure out where he was. A look out the window revealed him to be near what he remembered as Main Street, but the bounty of light colors and stuffed animals threw him for a loop. He supposed it was Niobe's bedroom, but wasn't sure as he hadn't gotten so far into her apartment yet. Confirming his speculation, the glowing skinned beauty came into the room, sitting down practically on him, and he began to wonder what happened.

This girl had to be working for someone. She worked at Hasek's hotel, but Hasek wouldn't use so easy and unoriginal a method as a sniper to kill him. Besides, he had the knowledge that Adrian wanted him for something, alive at that. Walking in the park was remarkably well timed if she herself had planned it, but if she was trying to kill him, why would she wait so long and pass up opportunities? Why would she take him into her home? Maybe she was just a pawn and when her part was complete and the subsequence failed, she had a change of heart.

Regardless, she had provided him with a sense of security for as long as he'd known her. Of course, her beaming face often being on his helped a lot towards that direction. From what he knew it was difficult to paint her as sinister, and as he wrapped his fingers around hers he let the thought fade away, at least for the moment. Her face drew closer to his and as he closed his weary eyes, he felt lips press against his, soft at first but eventually he rolled her around, and pressed her against the bed frame, indulging upon her as she moaned into his lips. She had started it anyhow, as a child would say, and was astonishing to say the least. Being the next Kai Allard-Liao bore upon him many gifts and unpleasant surprises, many of which had involved encounters like this. Unfortunately, although he could tell she was different, he intended to parallel some of those more dangerous situations to find out the information he needed.

Hans kept his fingers entwined with hers, lowering her arms to her sides and pinning her completely under his weight against the bed as he brought his knees up to use them against her. She grinned up at him, either through enjoyment or through her misunderstanding of the situation. He forced her head, though not violently, against the headboard and loomed over her.

"You looked rather unsurprised at what happened." he snapped. "Were you paid to lure me into the open?"

Her excitement merely grew as she squirmed beneath him, straining to push against him and parsing her lips, if only because it was a natural reaction to try and defend oneself.

"No." she declared boldly, staring him dead in the eye. Hans liked it, she was assertive. He turned it over in his head as he kept in the same position, deciding whether or not the answer was real. Eventually he affirmed that it was, and he proceeded to squeeze her sides with his knees, until he thought that he might literally squeeze some answers out of her. Either way they both seemed to be having fun.

"Then who spotted me?" he snapped down at her, slowly releasing her from the grip of his legs.

"If you paid attention, two goons followed us out of the JavaPulse Generator." She made sure to emphasize as degradingly as possible on the right word.

"Even so, who hasn't spotted you yet?" This time her response was condescending, but it didn't offend him in the slightest.

He knew it was true, though he would like to ignore that fact. He had seen a guy floating around the edge of the park with a headset on his ear. He moved his knees, again pinning her hands to the mattress as he made a slow motion dive into her lips, like he was in zero gravity, although not that obscene.

As soon as the kiss had started, he denied her any more pleasure from it, skirting his hands along her sides and up into her shirt.

"Why save me?" he wondered to her.

She winked at him, pulling his shoulders and head closer.

"Why not save the Solaris champion?"

"Stop talking, soldier boy." She held a slender, elegant finger against his lips. At that his hands delved further into her cotton top, gently but passionately massaging her breasts, and as she bit her lip, she submerged them both in the covers of the bed.

It was turning out to be one peculiar vacation.


Upon the evenings arrival, which on Sheratan came at a slightly later time than on Terra, Hans awoke to, what he attributed it to at least, the half naked woman shuffling from the bedroom into the shower. Now that he was awake and she was preoccupied, he didn't take too kindly to the prospect of touring her apartment on his own and shuffling through her private things though he still had a lingering suspicion that there was more to her than she was telling. Niobe apparently knew this, guiding him by hand to the shower with her as she finished picking out her apparel for work; the same black and white outfit that he had met her in. Hans obliged and stepped onto the cold tile floor of the shower, immediately thankful for the hot water which beat upon him.

It was not a sexual encounter per se. Obviously she had a job to get to, and Hans didn't want to cause her any trouble with her superiors, especially considering who had ultimate power to terminate her for anything, if Hans caused any obstruction of Hasek's business affairs. Still, the chemistry could be sensed between them as the water cascaded off their bodies. Niobe drenched her hair, turning her back to him as she massaged her scalp, and he noted that as he often found to be the case, she was cute in this position. He offered his hands, helping her to work the shampoo into her scalp and closing the small gap between them. If their co mutual lust for the other were no excuse, he honestly became insatiable in regards to the water temperature in any shower. The water was never hot enough, but her body did the trick just as well.

Hans took his turn at hair-washing, thankful as he ran his fingers through it that he no longer had so much because it was a hassle to get clean, and he took note of how their attraction to the other seeped from their very flesh as they lathered. He was no weight-lifting champion but his career did require physical fitness, and although she clearly appreciated his build, today had been a fair match in physical activity against every other day in his life. They smiled at each other and for at least the moment if not any longer, Hans felt amorous. It was a given, in his case, considering they had just spent several hours fornicating, and then sleeping in the same bed, not to mention the current shower they were having together, which was her idea. Still, though he felt it was real, experience had taught him women were often fickle, if not outright deceitful creatures.

He'd not let his suspicion and inherent mistrust of everyone get in the way with this girl though, not yet. Passionate flames of agate reached out from her tear-drop eyes and tried to swallow him as he worked to massage the sanitizing gel against the smooth skin of her chest, showing him just why he trusted her. Hans pinned her against the shower tile with one of his beefy arms, using the other to continue his soap duty at her lower regions, and his lips hungrily engaged her own. His left hand lingered upon her bottom, and for once he truly wished he hadn't been born into a dangerous life, if only because he wasn't sure if indulging in her curves could become a routine reality. As he thought, Niobe pushed him back and with her head leaning up into his, she returned the kiss and finished their hygienic adventure.

Niobe suddenly found herself airborne, like in the coffee shop; as Hans pulled away from a kiss he swept her away, and carried her from the shower back to her clothes. He yearned for her still and wished he did not have to recognize her priorities, wishing they were still in the spacious shower in which they could have tons of fun. The two helped each other dry off and for once, in the presence of this beautiful woman and her nice outfit, he found himself wanting some very high-quality clothing. Though he acknowledged it was somewhat effeminate, he knew if everyone had the opportunity to dress well, there would be no reason to turn it down.

She seemed not to mind that he was wearing a shirt with a bullet hole in it and grass-stained jeans, but Hans had amended his attention to focus on his Kevlar cooling vest. The ancient thing was the only tangible memory he kept with him from Solaris. He was surprised that the hospital had given it back; much less that Niobe had made sure to bring it back with them. It fit snugly over his chest and he followed her out the front door, looking like a big white amoeba as he put his shirt on over top. Though the ancient device had saved his life the previous night, he feared it would bear him little assistance in the near future. The old vest only stayed in his possession because it was a family heirloom.

Cooling vests, although the galaxy was largely demilitarized, were relatively easy to come across, if not to simply manufacture altogether. Most consisted of a light anti-ballistic cloth wrapped around a sprawling maze of cooling tubes that criss-crossed the front and back of the vest. In a BattleMech, or any 'mech, the tubing hooked directly into the machine's cooling system, which utilized liquid nitrogen to help decrease the extreme waste heat created by the fusion engine and the other systems which depended on it's energy. In the same way, the vest supplied the same coolant to keep the pilot in a fighting condition. Unlike his specially created vest, most could not hope to stop the direct impact of a bullet. His great grandfather had worn it through nearly two decades of successful military service, before retiring to establish his own mercenary unit. Unfortunately, old age took him before he could actually command it, a responsibility which fell upon his eldest son.

Hans never wanted to pursue that path: he believed he would end up largely without money or the sort of exciting although somewhat unfavorable circumstances he was now enjoying on his home-world. Though he held Niobe's hand as they walked through the great hotel, his thoughts were pre-occupied with his future plans, and they ceded only to his dedication to chivalry when the opportunity arose to save her from being bumped by a baggage cart or to open a door for her. The hotel's elevator banks, numerous as they were, were busy and crowded by more people than he'd ever seen in the building, but it hardly impeded their progress by more than a few minutes. Hans assumed it was some sort of convention or business conference and didn't care, inconvenience never managed to actually be inconvenient with him. Her fingers clasped around his as she leaned against him to make room in the tight confines of the elevator, and the elevator began its quick ascent.

At last they arrived on the top floor, and stepped hand-in-hand out into the hallway near his suite. Though he wasn't sure why, Hans was somewhat excited to return to his own new "home". Niobe kissed him quickly but passionately, and she scampered off to the bar. It was a few staircases up from the 13th floor, only accessible from its single middle hallway. He smiled after her, catching her eye once as she looked back at him fiddling with his room key.

He had procured a very fancy suite, which was really an apartment the size of a nice one story house, intended for an almost permanent residence. It had two separate bathrooms, a full-sized kitchen, and a nice common room near the entrance. The latter featured a depressed floor, covered with nice French vanilla carpet, even sporting a very expensive big-screen tri-vid system, which just so happened to be on, loud enough that it was the first thing that he noticed. It was likely the intruder intended it that way, meaning either they didn't intend to harm him, or they were very proud of the fact that they did and had nothing to hide. Or they were just plain stupid. Regardless, he ducked into the front bathroom to snag the laser pistol he had hidden there. He was certainly no ninja, however, and his uninvited guests quickly came aware of his presence.

"Hansi, dear boy!" the first man yelled. It was none other than Baron Adrian Hasek himself. "How are you, cousin?" He demanded to know.

Hans was not a boy. He was twenty-four and Adrian was just shy of twenty-eight.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Hans stabbed the words at him as he lowered his laser pistol to his side. Cranston jumped from his seated position, ready to fight him and his accusatory tone.

"How dare you showcase your ins-" Cranston shouted but was immediately cut off by Hans.

"Stay your tongue, until your master tosses you a new bone!" he yelled, jousting his laser in Cranston's direction. Though the croney could not see, Adrian smiled warmly at Hans as he waved the croney away.

"What are you doing here Adrian?" again he pursued his answer.

"I heard of your injury. I wanted to welcome you home." Hasek said with a friendly smile.

"Your lapdogs already did that." Again Hans glared at Cranston, and his eyes looked ready to do the job for the pistol. "What?" he abbreviated his previous question.

"I felt since you are...staying here for free, I would make use of your room while it was vacant. You should really buy some groceries Hansi." Hans hated that name. He was not a substance-using artist, he was a soldier and his name was not Hansi.

"Thanks. I appreciate the gesture less than I would were you to get to the point." Hans flashed an evil and very much stoic smile at him.

The sound of a huge laser blast struck his ears from the TV and Hans immediately recognized it, so well that he did not want to look at it. The two intruders were watching a Tri-Vid recording of Hans' last battle before he left Solaris. His attention was captured eventually as the jarring sound of the lasers blasting from within his black Shadow Cat's chest and arm hit home hard. Twelve blue beams of light leapt out, striking the opposing Centurion, and Hans found himself back on the scene.

He gasped for air as his reckless combination of all his energy weapons threatened to turn his 'mech into a blossoming fireball. His machine carried far more heat-sinks than its designers had put in it, but even so they didn't completely combat the added heat of his lasers. Hans's senses threatened to shut him down, as did the threatening voice of the electronic female in his cockpit warned him of his machine's similar impending doom. A quick slap of his hand to the coolant flush button released a cloud of liquid, which effectively cooled his 'mech in a great hiss and he was fine again.

The Centurion on the receiving end of the barrage did not share as favorable a fate, however... The laser barrage dug into the humanoid machines center torso, melting straight through its armor to its interior components. Molten globs of armor sprayed en masse from the machine's chest, dancing in the air and falling to the densely packed snow which quickly melted under its heat. Steel bones from the machine's supportive skeleton spewed half-molten from the gaping hole in its chest, joined by twisted, singed bundles of artificial muscle which littered the snow at its feet, and pipes and tubing spewed green cooling fluid all over the ground as the giant metal man fell to its death. Snow sprayed from under the fifty ton machine into the air, and as the machines heat signal faded into a series of sparks all over its metal body, Hans could tell the engine was toast.

He shut down his mech and vaulted down the chain ladder to the ground, keeping his eyes on the man that effectively crawled and fell out of the fallen giant's cockpit. Even through the protective shielding that surrounded the Coliseum, Hans could hear the thousands of spectators as they booed and vocalized their disapproval of what he was doing, but he signaled a medical evacuation for his fallen opponent. His name was Augustus de Paul, and the fans had demanded the two of them duel. Augustus was a rising star on Solaris, and though he survived the ordeal with perfect health, Hans had killed his career. It was the true reason Hans had left Solaris behind.

Adrian embraced him in his arms as he was still coming back to reality.

"My dear cousin, I've missed you." Adrian said as he looked back to the screen, a sinister grin taking hold of his face.

"Doesn't it feel exhilarating to get rid of a rival?" he asked.

"Something you know all about I'm sure" Hans hissed "Regardless, I will teach you how it feels to be on the barrel end." he said hatefully as he shrugged his cousin off of him.

" know, I did you a favor. The order of succession chose my side of the family next anyway. Besides, you're rich now, and cultured."...

"You stole power. Our family was losing its grip on the people and you murdered my father to usurp the power away from them."

Sheratan was much like 20th century Britain, in the terms that although there was a theocratic leader of the planet chosen by ancestry and order of succession, referred to as a "baron" or "baroness", the governments of the various countries were as close to a democratic republic as they could be. Unfortunately, in times deemed to be crises, law allowed for the ruling family to seize control and administer over the planet until such a time was determined by special council that there was no longer a need for a dictator. Clearly his cousin had grasped onto this loophole to further his own interests, although Hans sincerely doubted he had waited. Eight years passed since the teenager had murdered his uncles, and Hans was sure he had found a creative way to orchestrate the deaths of his own parents in such a way as to put himself next in line.

Traditionally the people of Sheratan could also vote for a new leader, under normal circumstances, if the incumbent lost sight of their best interests. They had retained the right of impeachment over thousands of years, and it always proved useful. Adrian had found a way to screw the system, not that he deserved credit; assassination was ancient and offered little room for pioneers and creativity.

"Get to the point." Hans grumbled, snapping out of his self-administered history lesson.

"You came here to get rid of me Hans, but you obviously need a good excuse to be here. Like a job." Adrian said, pressing the space between them and getting right in Johannes's face.

"I'm rich Adrian and I'm on vacation." Hans smiled to him, because it was true, although Adrian was exactly right about his true intentions.

"You have increased the vagrancy in my city and your Republic citizenship will be revoked soon. Tharkad and its prefect may be far away but you are on my planet now, and I am in charge here."

"I'm a vagrant now?" Hans asked curiously. It was news to him.

"When you increase the crime rate, yes."

Hans muttered something under his breath, to the effect of "That's nothing new.", but Adrian seemed to pretend as though he heard none of it.

"So, you have a job for me? What?" Hans had become genuinely interested. Adrian had turned away and prepared to leave.

"The only job that suits you, Mr. Mueller. You've seen the patrols on the streets?" He motioned to Cranston. "Halbert here will facilitate your needs. You start tomorrow."

The two self-proclaimed guests vacated his edifice and as he left, Hasek gave him an optimistic half-hug. As far as Hans was concerned, cousin or not, Hasek was still an asshole, and he didn't like the truths the man spoke, though they were indeed accurate. One piece of the baron's advice he did act upon however; he ordered groceries and waited for their delivery while flipping through the channels on the TV. Technology, in all its glory, after eleven hundred years had eliminated the trip to the grocery store, if one wished not to go. Han's supposed it was a better invention then laser weapons at least. After about half a standard hour, he was storing away the last of the food, at which time a thought occurred to him. Considering Hasek had his room covered, he had an intention to enlist Niobe's aid in destroying quite a bit of it….repeatedly.

He left his fantasy world and made himself some food, realizing he was anxious for a real meal. A simple sandwich sufficed, and after a short nap he slipped his laser pistol into its shoulder holster and slipped into a pair of khakis and a black dress shirt. He finished dressing, and afterwards vaulted up the staircases near his suite up to the bar. The same people from his last visit seemed to be occupying the place, but they were of no interest to him beyond the fact that they were there. Fortunately, he was able to accurately guess when Niobe would be leaving, and swept her away from the bar. Before the night was over, she was introduced to his excitement, as he gave her a thorough tour of the bathroom, and its spacious shower. Hans couldn't wait to be back in a 'mech again. It was going to be great.


Except that it wasn't.

Hans knew that Adrian was a dick, so he didn't find his situation as a complete surprise; Hasek had played on his naiveté and assumptions pretty well.

He awoke in the morning, Niobe's body cradled closely against his own. Cranston was perched upon the bar top counter in the kitchen, with a platter of generous proportions at his side.

Hans rubbed his eyes, sliding out of the hotel bed towards one of his former friends. He left some of his anger behind in the covers, shuffling alongside Cranston to take some of the breakfast food offered him. He took a bite of a scone, and made an acknowledging nod towards the crony.

"Am I to expect the baron's personal housecleaning service too? Since it seems I'm receiving the reserved echelon of room service." Hans inquired.

"If you expect to find me pushing a vacuum cleaner I think you'll find nothing but disappointment. I'm sure you will however." Cranston replied, mildly amused by his temerity.

"So you expect me to believe he needs me to pilot a 'mech up and down the streets. Anyone can avoid stepping on people and cars. What's the catch?" Hans again sought information. He got the feeling that, despite his allegiance, one of his old friends might provide him with some useful information.

"There's no catch, chief. Not yet anyhow. Look around you, you'll figure out the implications I'm sure." Cranston sarcastically retorted to him. Clearly he was annoyed, although whether it was in disappointment of Hans short sightedness or at dignifying him with a response altogether.

It wasn't the answer he was looking for, and he cursed himself for being open minded enough to ask about it, but it was information regardless, just information that he would have to figure out piece by piece.

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