Solaris VII, Lyran Commonwealth
16 March 3038
The celebratory dinner at the Amber Garden went off quite well. It was a four-star restaurant with five-star prices, but since Alexandra was picking up the bill, no-one cared. Cera got herself dolled up for the occasion and looked as fabulous as Alexandra. The only difference was that her outfit didn't cost a fortune. Cera was a lovely young woman, her classic Japanese features beautiful and elegant.
Ian had some formal attire, coming from royalty and all, and knew how to handle himself among the peerage, although it'd been some time. The Solaris Hilton was home to all sorts of visiting nobles, wealthy businessmen, famous MechWarriors and other members of the elite. As might be expected Garadun didn't quite fit in.
He came from a comfortable white collar family on Terra, which had the highest standard of living anywhere in the Inner Sphere. However, his years on Solaris had hardened the man, put an edge to him. He was, in all honesty, a really nice guy. Easy going and laid back. But underneath the nice was a man who'd survived the arenas and streets of the city. He wasn't a big brawler, never would be. There were countless people out there who could kick his ass. He evened things out with weapons.
The Solaris Hilton forbade weapons. So while his friends waited (Cera grinning the whole time) and the Security Chief loomed, he handed over the large auto pistol and gunbelt he had slung around his hips. Then he passed over the needler in its shoulder rig. He surrendered the holdout pistol he kept hidden about himself, which was in turn followed by a few shuriken, and then a switchblade, and finally a military knife he had tucked in his boot. Cera owned a sleek laser pistol, but he thought lasers were sissy weapons. He preferred things that put messy holes in people and scared the crap out of them. He got a receipt.
With Cera and Garadun to help cut through the red tape, the Fighting Fusiliers were officially registered with the Guild Hall at one lance in strength and with a C rating. Six CASE systems were purchased at great expense (thanks to Garadun's connections) and Jimmy installed one in Alexandra's Thunderbolt. Not only that but the Iron Giant was overhauled at Garadun's suggestion, modifying its weapon systems to make it more combat effective. The Sunglow Type 2 large laser on its right arm was kept, as were the three Diverse Optics Type 18 medium lasers in its left torso. But the two Voelkers 200 machine guns and the Bical SRM-2 rack were dropped. The Delta Dart LRM-15 rack was upgraded to a Doombud LRM-20, a rear-firing Diverse Optics Type 10 small laser was installed in the head, and an extra heat sink was added.
Jimmy put a list together of all the tools and equipment he considered necessary for the proper maintenance of BattleMechs and other vehicles belonging to a mercenary company, and presented it to his new commander. This included a military-model jeep, a military-model heavy truck, and a J-27 ordinance transport. Alexandra told him to order everything and send her the bill.
Over the following days the reality of the situation really hit home for Cera, and to a lesser degree Garadun. They had joined a mercenary company, and once Alexandra's business was done on Solaris they'd be moving on to Galatea, the Mercenary Star, to try and fill out their ranks even further and get their first contract.
They'd be leaving Solaris. For who knew how long. Years, probably.
Cera Kuroda was twenty-two standard years old, born and raised in Kobe, and had never been off-world in her young life. She was hit with an enormous case of homesickness and she hadn't even left yet. She had to cancel the lease on her flat, move everything she wasn't taking with her back into the family home, and say goodbye to her mother. Hiromi Kuroda took the news even harder. Cera was her only child, and despite Cera being a skilled 'Mech jock, she still thought of her as her little girl. She was very proud of her, but leaving home? There were a lot of tears from both of them.
Garadun had been raised on Terra but had lived on Solaris for over a decade. When he'd moved from Terra it had been a big deal, and leaving Solaris was as well. But it wasn't nearly as emotionally big. He was a lot older now and a hellavalot more jaded. Eleven years on Solaris can numb a man to a lot of the garbage the universe can throw at you. He would be taking all his personal effects, especially his books (the real paper kind, he was very old-fashioned in a lot of ways) but apart from a couple of small pieces, the furniture was being left behind.
Only two things really mattered, two things he cared for above all else, and those were his kittens, Wasp and Stinger (named for the famous light 'Mechs). They were his babies, having adopted them from the Solaris City Animal Shelter. They were sisters from the same litter and he loved them dearly. There was not even the slightest hint of a possibility of him leaving them behind. He might not have had a woman in his life (Cera didn't count, and besides she liked girls) but he had his cats and that was enough. They kept the bleakness of Solaris at arm's length.
It was now eleven days since their fateful meeting at the Guild Hall, and while Cera was off having dinner with Alexandra, Ian and Jimmy at the Paradise restaurant (one of the best in Kobe where meals start at 50 ryu per person and go up from there) Garadun was standing under the front awning of his apartment building and waiting for his lift.
That afternoon he'd gotten a call from Toshio, who told him that the oyabun would like a meeting that night, if possible. Garadun said sure, why not. His reply was casual but he was on his guard. If you valued your life, or at the very least your reputation (especially if you lived in Kobe) you didn't turn down a meeting with the city's head oyabun. If nothing else it was good manners. He lied to Cera, told her he was taking his cats to the vet for a final check-up, so he couldn't make dinner.
Hellava way to spend Friday night.
The hoverlimo that pulled up in front of the building was sleek and black, and the rear door opened and Toshio stepped out. Garadun strode through the light rain at an unhurried pace and gave the kobun a nod before getting into the back of the limousine. Apart from Toshio and the driver there was no-one else.
"So what's up?" Garadun asked. "What's Igawa-sama want?"
Toshio shrugged. "Beats me. The oyabun just said to pick you up."
"Great. I could be at the Paradise right now."
Toshio whistled. "Great food, but a bit too pricey for me."
"Someone else is picking up the tab."
"Oh, that's a shame then." Toshio regarded his passenger. He had to give the gaijin credit for having sand. Most people would be outwardly nervous at meeting the oyabun, but he just sat there with his arms crossed, looking vaguely annoyed.
They drove through the streets in silence and when they arrived at their destination there was another kobun there to open the door. Garadun got out of the hoverlimo and Toshio escorted him inside the building. Like most of Kobe the place was beautiful and its style harkened back to Japan of Old Terra. They came to a sliding door guarded by a pair of kobun. Without being asked, Garadun took out his needler and handed it over. They still searched him but did so politely. Satisfied, they opened the door.
Shoji Igawa knelt beside a small, beautifully lacquered table. He wore a comfortable set of silk jinbei, dark brown with beige patterns, and was sipping tea. He was physically fit for a man his age, his grey hair perfectly kept. Some of his irezumi, the famed tattoos of the yakuza, were visible beneath his sleeves as he moved his arms.
"Good evening, Igawa-sama," said Garadun in Japanese, bowing respectfully.
"Garadun-san, thank you for coming," said Igawa. The Izumatura clan elder gave just the slightest nod to Toshio, who bowed and quietly slid the door closed, leaving them alone. Garadun stood in a casual at-ease stance.
"Please, be seated," said Igawa. "Tea?"
"Thank you, no," said Garadun respectfully and knelt on the tami mat in traditional fashion, across the small table from the oyabun.
"How is Cera-san?" Igawa asked.
"Very good, thank you. She at Paradise have dinner."
"Her mother spoke to me. She's very upset at Cera-san's leaving home."
"I know, Cera-san say me. Told me," said Garadun, wishing like hell his Japanese was better. "But everyone leave home sometime."
"Very true. All birds leave the nest eventually," said Igawa, and then switched to English. Garadun's willingness to speak Japanese had shown the proper respect and Igawa knew the entirety of their conversation could have been spoken so. But he wanted clarity so that there would be no misunderstandings.
"You will look after Cera-san, neh?"
"Hai," said Garadun. "You can count on that, sir."
"Hiromi Kuroda is concerned for her daughter's safety. A mercenary company, and one just formed by a Lyran noblewoman with no military background?"
Garadun didn't bother asking how Igawa knew. Of course he knew. Besides, Cera had told her mother everything. It wasn't like it was a state secret or anything. She was damned proud of being a founding member of a new mercenary unit.
"Well, it certainly can't be any more dangerous than the arenas," Garadun remarked. "Actually, we think mercenary work to be safer. A lot safer. Especially if we pull garrison duty. But I'll watch Cera's back. I always have."
Igawa nodded. "Wakarimas." He took a sip of tea. "That brings me to another matter. I have a favour to ask of you."
Garadun tried not to let his shock show, but didn't do so well. The oyabun wanted a favour from him? It was usually the other way round, people coming to the clan elder for favours. He had no idea of the protocol. Oh well, might as well wing it.
"I'll help if I can, Igawa-sama," he said, holding out his hands, palms up.
"One of the clan's shingiin, our legal counsel, has a daughter, Sayuki-san. Like Cera-san she had dreams of being a MechWarrior. Her father thought it was simply youthful rebellion. This is the Game World, after all. When she asked to join the Shokaku Stables intern programme, he let her, thinking she would quit soon enough."
Garadun smirked. "Lemme guess: she didn't quit."
"No, she did not. She learned a man's vocation and became a qualified pilot. And although her father has tried to stop her, to influence the stable, she is under contract and has been in a handful of matches in the minor arenas."
"How'd she do?"
"She has yet to claim victory."
"Well, I didn't win all my matches either," he said, shrugging.
"Kinzoh Anzai wants her out of the Solaris arenas. His daughter wants to stay. I have worked out a compromise."
"Which is?" Garadun asked cautiously.
"I will see to it that her contract with Shokaku is broken, the stable compensated. But since this would mean her losing her position, it would cause great disharmony in the Anzai household. She will not be forced to abandon her chosen profession. She can join an honourable mercenary company. As you say, it's safer than the arenas."
Garadun sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. "The Fusiliers."
"She'll be given a BattleMech," said Igawa, nodding. "I would consider it a favour if you could find a place for her. Cera-san's presence would only help matters. Sayuki-san is delicate but stubborn."
"I can't guarantee anything," said Garadun, holding up his hands. "I'm not the boss. But since the Fusiliers are hiring, and she'll have her own ride, I don't see why she can't join us. I'll speak to Lady Alexandra and see what I can do."
"Domo, Garadun-san." Igawa clapped his hands once. "Sayuki-san!"
The sliding door in the opposite wall opened and a young woman stepped through. To say she was beautiful was almost an understatement. She was around twenty or so and of pure Japanese ancestry. She had a very lovely face with cupid bow lips, and her long black hair was dyed a rich, dark brown. Her eyes were large and deep brown, and despite the yukata she wore (white patterned with blue flowers) Garadun could see that she had an extremely curvaceous figure, especially for a Japanese, with very large breasts and round hips. There was an inherent sensuality about her.
Garadun stood and bowed. Sayuki bowed back, even deeper.
"Sayuki-san, this is Garadun-san, Cera-san's guardian and an honourable warrior," said Igawa and the girl bowed again.
"I am honoured," said Sayuki, meeting Garadun's eyes before bowing yet again.
"The honour is mine, to meet so beautiful a woman," he said, bowing.
"You are very kind, Garadun-san."
"Garadun-san has agreed to my request and will find a place for you in his mercenary company," Igawa informed her.
"With Lady Alexandra's approval," Garadun quickly added.
"Of course," said Igawa, nodding his head. "What do you say, Sayuki-san?"
Sayuki lowered her eyes. "I have no BattleMech."
"That will be seen to. Do you agree to give up the arenas in exchange for this?"
"Hai, Igawa-sama," she said, bowing deeply to the oyabun. "I am deeply grateful for this opportunity, and the honour you do me. I am in your debt."
"Behave honourably and fulfill your new duties, and your debt to me will be repaid. Your debt to Garadun-san is another matter."
"Hey, this is a favour for you, Igawa-sama, and not really a big one," said Garadun, waving a hand. "She doesn't owe me a thing."
Igawa smiled. "You are a generous man to so easily forgive a debt."
"I still owe you a favour. It is a matter of honour."
"Fair enough." Garadun gave Sayuki a friendly look. "I'll tell Lady Alexandra we've got another applicant and I'll recommend she accept you, okay? Call me tomorrow and I'll arrange a meeting."
"Hai, Garadun-san. I'm extremely grateful," she said, bowing.
"Don't worry about it." He gave his attention to the oyabun. "Anything else?"
"Iie, Garadun-san. Thank you for your time and cooperation. I'll see that a car is brought around for you."
"Domo, Igawa-sama," he said, and gave him and Sayuki a final bow before making his way from the room as calmly as possible.
Oh yeah. Cera was just gonna love this. She kept trying to distance herself from the yakuza, not have more of it dropped in her lap. On the other hand, Sayuki was incredibly easy on the eyes, so that was something at least.