Evening Day 81, First Inn, Alchibah
It was a good thing I was sitting down, because if I weren’t, my knees wouldn’t have been able to hold my body in a vertical position.
Seeing Kat made this a great day. I liked Sally, Hanna and Linda a lot, but the Wildcat was the closest thing to a sister I’ve had in recent years.
She hadn’t changed. Still the same, lithe, brown haired Latina, a couple of inches shorter than me and not an ounce of fat on her.
I waited until after Connor, Sinopa, Gabe, and Kat nearly completed their bear hugs, before I slowly rose from my chair and took a few steps towards Kat.
In a few seconds, I shouted, “Hey Bitch! What took you so long?”
I watched Kat’s head snap to my direction with fire in her eyes, followed by a fierce gleam of recognition. This was immediately followed by each of us giving the other a bear hug. I guess bear hugs were contagious tonight.
“Damn Kat. It’s been ages since we’ve gone out and shot the crap out of anything or anyone.” I know my smile went ear to ear, but it matched the one Kat was wearing.
“Magic, I hate to tell you this, but I think we’re going to get that opportunity very soon.” Kat’s expression was serious. “I think the bad guys ain’t too far behind us.”
I looked around Kat’s shoulder to see the Big Hunk I knew affectionately as “The Dumb Ass Angel” staring over his brother’s shoulder at the name tape on my Jacket. I only thought his eyes could get wide till a Parade Ground Voice boomed over the room.
“Damn Hanna there went your property values,” roared the voice of the Big Lug in a jovial tone.
Gabe was as quick as he had ever been, “What Mrs. Parker, you still have any? How many people has this jerk killed in here yet?”
Hanna gave him her best killer smile, “Why not a one Mr. Benjamin. The only Stuart who has shot someone here was Mariana and she was nice enough to pay for the cleanup!”
With that comment, Gabe began laughing with a deep bellow that instantly endeared him to everyone in the room. “Bloody hell Andy you old dog, how the crap did you con such an intelligent woman into marrying you?”
“I could ask you,” Andy drawled, “how the hell Kat is still hanging around you,” as he extended his right hand.
Gabe reached out to grasp it in a slap the whole room heard, and then their faces went cold. Those close enough to hear and see heard their breathing ramp up and saw the pupils of their eyes distend. They stood there like that for three long minutes then relaxed.
“Andy, you still cheat,” Gabe laughed.
‘No Gabe, I still cheat better than you! But go with your family we can talk later, they are more important now.
“Especially your Niece, whom you will probably wind up taking orders from Master Chief.”
Gabe turned to really look at Jai and for the first time saw the 1LT bars on her collars and the Alchibah Special Forces Patch on her breast. “Good God Andy, what have you done?”
“What you started Turkey, gonna turn down a Direct Commission again? Now go on, we can catch up and talk about all that later. Now’s the time for celebrating!”
I turned to share a laugh with Marina when a face at the door caught my attention, of the two I knew only one but him I knew well. “Mariana, I’ll be a Son of a Bitch but doesn’t that look like Robbie?”
She turned and looked, “Looks like Hell, that’s Robbie!”
I gave it my best gravedigger special, “Robert Thomas McMaster, you owe me fifty bucks you welsher!”
The thin Technology Espionage expert turned with a grin, “Aye Andrew William Walker Stuart. An if I ever pay you off you’ll be to start quitting saving me arse in the pickles just to protect you tight arsed Scots investment, you will.”
“Ah Robbie you know not the economy of your new World. I am gonna call your marker in work for the Colony.
“Seriously, I have a CNC machine which I can give you 6 hours a day use of. I have a bright Young Chemical Engineer, who is family now to help you. I have a very bright Young Lady who is quite adept at finding stuff we need, two of them in fact. I have a power grid old Thomas Alva Edison would have cheerfully died for.
“You my fine Irish twerp are the missing link. I need an Ammo Plant, yesterday. I always told you I would give you the challenge that you could not refuse and think it will make you the equivalent of a Millionaire in these parts.
“Before you answer, who’s your friend?”
“Why Andrew me old friend this here be a refugee from the far northern tiers of the fine old…..”
Robbie was interrupted by a fine British influenced accent with just a tinge of a hard northern edge, “Before he turns this into a long winded Celtic Folk Tale, the name is Christian Petersen. I hooked up with this Blarney slinging crook back on Mars Colony, where he was stealing medical supplies from the Goonies for our clinic.”
With an effort, I was able to hold it to a mere grin “Sounds about right. Robbie here never saw anything technical that a Goonie had that he figured they had a right to keep.”
Robbie interrupted with “Blimey, me specialty was Technical Espionage. What tis Espionage other that stealing it from the idiot bloke that is too blasted dumb to have it the first place.”
I had to finally break down and laugh, “Don’t argue with him Christian, He’ll just tie you in knots anyway.
“Listen, you guys are going to need a place to stay. I got a spare bungalow or two up at what the locals are calling Ft. Stuart. Robbie give me your wrist comp, if you don’t have a mil-spec I’ll eat my boots.”
“Ay Laddie that would be a glorious sight to see indeed but, not today alas. Here you go.”
I took his comp and connected it to mine via cable and shoot him a map of Liberty. As I was handing it back I noticed the one on Christians wrist, “Christian, you have a mil-spec also?”
“That he does me fine Reaper,” Robbie broke in, “got it the old fashioned way; took it off a Goonie who didn’t need it anymore. Yon fine polished Kimber is no mere decoration pon his hip I’ll be to swearing. He’ll be to needing a job; perchance might Lady Mariana be running a clinic here? Me friend the Medic might be of some small assistance!”
“Call Mariana Stuart and Kurt Kellerman’s Level 2+ Lab and Shock Trauma Hospital a CLINIC to either of their face’s and we might just finally see how fast you are old friend.” I was rewarded with two stunned faces and Christian’s stunned question.
“You have that kind of facility on a refugee frontier world?”
“Welcome to the paranoid planning rabbit hole of R.J. Hamilton, Mr. Petersen. Robbie was kind to point you towards Mariana but, if you are a Medic who can and will shoot; might I suggest a conversation with Capt. Kurt Kellerman.”
“Now Robbie, head for the star on the map and ask for a Robot called SFC Nug. He will get you settled in, see you in the morning.”
As they walked away, I heard Christian ask Robbie, “Did you call him Reaper?”
“Like the man said me fine friend, ‘Welcome to the Rabbit Hole.’ Tis himself it twas, the very nightmare Goonie Mothers use to frighten their bairns.
“Ach, tis even worse me friend; yon Mariana is better known as Magic. Welcome to Freedom’s Last Stand me Boyo!”