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Cameron Core Solutions: automated weaponry, military personnel, remote surveillance, security, reconnaissance, training, and logistical support

Episode 00

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#21
CrazyDreamer

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The salesman took in the situation in one professional glance and got straight to the point. "Here at Extended Space™, we have taken the basic ex-gear design and optimized it for flight operations, including improved engine efficiency and flight time, greater flight control, and aim assist to overcome relative motion and turbulence. Our two primary models are extensive field-tested by the EX-Troopers™, for whom we are the exclusive supplier; their Air and Space platoons use our primary model, the Z-Axis Extender™, and their All-Weather platoon uses our more rugged Z-Axis Always™. Their safety record is quite impressive, and they're quite pleased with the product; ask them yourself." He pointed back towards the PMC section of the floor, where the EX-Troopers™ could just be identified by the EX-Gear dummies they'd set up.

#22
Hiro Protagonist

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"Safety is for apparatchik and actors," Natalya replied with an off hand wave. "If I vanted to be safe, I vould dig a hole and hide in it."

She tapped her lips with the edge of her card, "I am looking for mobility, combat endurance and controls derwived from standard battroid pilot dynamics. I addition, I vill need spares and ressuply for, say 10 suits, vith standard mil-spec side arms."

#23
CrazyDreamer

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The vendor considered for a moment. The people who made the best ground-combat armor (in his opinion) were, like his company, specialists; they didn't really compete with one another. He wasn't going to get in trouble for directing someone to them.

"I think you're looking for 3rd Generation Mechanized Infantry.™ They specialize in that sort of thing, and they see ground ex-gear as the next stage of mechanized infantry after the IFV and Destroid. You'll find them down there." He pointed to a twisty aisle winding its way between roped-off booths with large-scale weapons models from various vendors on alternating sides.

#24
CrazyDreamer

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Alexi thanked Kes and made his way off. Additionally, his aide appeared to have disappeared, as such discrete aides are wont to do. A few moments later, Mack emerged from the back of the booth and addressed someone in the crowd:

"Mr. Huber, nice to see you at the convention. Have you considered augmenting your cargo protection methods?"

VP Huber blinked at the sales ambush. "Yes, of course. I take it you have a proposal for me?"

* * * * *


Towards the other end of the booth—which, admittedly, wasn't that far—a nondescript woman dropped out of the flow and gave the gathered soldiers a quick once-over before looking at the woman from Marketing. "The rumors say that you've been putting together a unit with some notable names and contacts. Looks like they were right."

Marketing opened her mouth to say something pleasant but was cut off.

"I represent someone who would rather hire enough reputation to avoid a fight than have one, as it were. Since this is about them personally, could I arrange a private meeting with the unit? I'll pay standard compensation for the inconvenience and a NDA."

"Umm . . ." Marketing glanced over at Kes, arching an inquisitive eyebrow.

#25
jester

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Mack was unsurprised that he got Mr. Huber's attention. He was surprised that he had slipped through the cordon of functionaries and obvious bodyguards to get within feet of Mr. Huber. But, you don't give up tactical advantages.

"Mr. Huber, Since we span the spectrum of available response from intelligence gathering to preemptive action, we're in the business of providing a portfolio of options that provide not only tangible ROI but are flexible enough to augment your overall strategy."

An image of a page out of another interview with Huber discussed his reading of Von Clausewitz and Sun Tsu.

"The goal is to remove the threat and not to inflate the cost structure of shipments by having to protect all of them indefinitely. Utilize deception and gain an information advantage would be the logical first step. In conjunction with your office, dummy cargos, misinformation, manipulation of the press, and armed reconnaissance would put us in a position to launch a 'cargo recovery' mission that would also eviscerate much of the armed capability of the targets. Ultimately, we have to put them in a position of confronting our strength with their weakness - they shouldn't fight a stand-up battle because they're most likely configured for hit and run. Pinning them in place to stand and fight an experience assault force begins to stack the deck in our favor. If you would like, I can have our senior planning team on your calendar to discuss this in more detail?"

#26
schanze

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Kes listened but didn't react to the discussion between the mystery rep and marketing girl. Amy? Kes couldn't remember her name. She was a good buffer but awful at sales. Not that Kes considered herself any better.

She rose and moved from behind the befuddled girl. Kes nodded an indication that could-be-Amy could leave and smiled at the rep.

Kesendra Melzan-Vrelkas, Unit Lead."

She offered her hand. "We are open to a meeting. Unfortunately I won't be able to arrange it without knowing some details about the contact. CCS is an old firm in good standing and we prefer to know our involvements... for the protection of both parties."

#27
CrazyDreamer

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Mr. Huber pursed his lips for a moment, then spoke: "You're right; those aren't the sorts of plans that should be discussed in public." He turned away.

"Make the arrangements."

A secretary approached and was smoothly intercepted by the booth bunny. They whipped out identical personal assistant pads and began comparing notes; the only part of it that meant anything to Mack was a reference to the EX-Troopers' 3rd Platoon securing the cargo transfers but not having a counter-strike force (yet).

Meanwhile, the woman speaking to Kes was shaking Kes' hand and nodding. "So I hear. I represent a sovereign corporation that's having a bit of a territorial dispute over mining rights; the usual. We just want a unit with a few big names we can use to prevent an attack . . . or beat them so badly they don't come back, if it comes to that. I'm afraid names will have to wait for a Non-Disclosure Agreement lest they strike before we're ready, that sort of thing."

#28
schanze

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Kes nodded.

"Send me the NDA and I'll pass it along to our legal department. We'll arrange a meeting on our ship. This evening, perhaps? Sales will provide the necessary details."

"Tes," Kes shook her head and smiled. "I don't think I heard your name."

#29
Hiro Protagonist

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"Vhy vould I be vantkingk...?" Natalya momentarily lapsed into her normal speaking voice. She shook her head, and started over, "Why vould I want that?" she asked. "Are you suggesting that dis 3rd group produces a better product?"

She palmed her Black Card and give the salesman a skeptical eye.

#30
Rallye

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The wisp of convention air whipped his locks backs allowing him to immediately study the layout of the floor spread. CCS was near the front, hard to miss a sign that looks like a beacon. Traffic was sparse, but the types that were there were either businessmen or privateers who could afford ‘round the clock security. Funny though, the very crowd he wanted to avoid he had to pander to. He wasn’t sure what all of this PMC shit was about, but he at least knew Skull had been disbanded and weapon developers wanted to continue what they were good at, so in all probability targets could shift from hardened military installations to private residences. Not that there was anything wrong with that.

Is that Mack? Father time really raked him over the coals, he thought as he did his best to slip by in this peacock jacket while his attention was elsewhere. Attention swiveling, his eyes scanned until they landed on a woman conversing by a booth. She was very unassuming from the back, but nevertheless his feet found themselves making a line towards her. Why? Maybe it was because she was a woman and she was alone, maybe he wanted to be disruptive, or maybe it was a keen sense of gravitation towards money that was passed down from his father. Shit, for all he knows she could be the help.

A small smirk formed on his face as he firmly injected himself between the two, eclipsing her view of the man. His eyes briefly ran over her face before a more standard, friendly smile appeared. Oh? Not bad. I have no idea what I’m selling but I have to sell the shit out of it. If you throw enough shit against a wall, some of its bound to stick…

Besides, he already had the goddamn jacket on, so he had to do something.

"Hi, how are you, miss? Whatever your looking, I assure you it’s not over there. Its right over there at Cameron Core Services. How can I be so sure? I’m wearing this ridiculous clown jacket, aren’t I? I wouldn’t subject myself to this unless I was completely and unequivocally behind this organization and what we stand for. What ever you need -- WHAT EVER -- we have it right here. You want to grow? We’re your catalyst. You want defense? Consider us your roman shield. You want comfort and piece of mind? We’ll rub your feet and rock you to sleep every night until you vomit. Why? Because that’s what we do. We are here to compliment and empower you to crush any barriers along with any doubt that will arise from your future endeavors. Cameron Core Services. We. Are. You."

He took a movement to catch his breath. Its been well over six years since he had done this much talking. Maybe it was time to quit smoking for the umpteenth time… and maybe catch orientation next time. He extended his left arm in the direction of the CCS booth.

‘You are not a chump, and you don’t look like you have a lot of time to waste, so why walk any further? Let CCS show you the W.A.Y.”

#31
CrazyDreamer

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The shopkeep tried to ignore the strangely-colored man who was wandering in his direction as he tried to answer Natalya's question. "No, of course not, but it's a matter of trade-offs; we make aerial combat platforms, which means heavy acceleration and long flight times. Tuning the engine is important, but so is shedding excess mass, like armor. They, on the other hand, don't bother to fly, just skate and jump a little, but if I wanted something with the survivability and movement controls of light power armor or a Destroid, it's them I'd want. I just don't see why you would, unless . . ." He trailed off as the colorful idiot jumped his disgruntled potential customer.

#32
CrazyDreamer

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"Danneskjöld." She handed over an unmarked manilla envelope. "NDA and bearer-bond drawn on a local bank. I've already got several other proposals and I'm in a hurry, so either grab whoever you've got here"—she inclined her head to the rest of the booth—"and meet me in Secure Meeting Room 3 in five minutes or return the envelope to Arby Sea." She turned and walked off in the direction of the secured meeting rooms.

The booth bunny plucked the envelope out of Kes' hands. "R.B.C.: Rand, Bester, Clarke, and Daughters. Law firm specializing in corporate sovereignty. Their clients are about as mixed as it gets."

"Who are we talking about?"

She looked behind her, then held out the envelope. "Offer of meeting under NDA. Wants to meet part of the team. The negotiator's name is Danneskjöld; heard of them?"

Alexi took the envelope, opened it. As he examined the items inside, he noted, "Danneskjöld's an alias; it's never been a real name." He clearly turned his secure channel back to the Damask Rose on while staring at the encrypted signature on the bond, but the NDA he just speed-read. The he put everything back in the envelope. "Bank reports crypto-bond is condition green. NDA is standard language plus a rider saying they can tell us who else is bidding and tell the other bidders that we're bidding; because the rider didn't cover any other bid details, they're probably trying to get us to do a head-to-head comparison with other PMCs. I'd talk to them; if we don't like it, we can just say 'No.'" He handed the envelope back to Sales & Marketing.

Sales & Marketing took out the NDA, signed both copies, and handed one over to Kes. "You're authorized for one non-binding sales meeting. Any final offers must be directed to Corporate. If it's a rush job, we'll make sure it gets processed in time. For now, she's hired half an hour of your social sides in a room with her; you have no obligations beyond that."

#33
Hiro Protagonist

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Natalya frowned a very serious frown, doing her level best not to begin laughing.

"Dis is an interesting pitch you are are..." she fumbled for an appropriate word, the effort of not using her customary speech pattern and appearing to take the man serious being too much. Rather than having the appropriate English or Japanese word in mind, she was thinking in Russian. "Offering," She finished at last. "I vas thinking about overthrowing de local government."

She arched an eyebrow at the Extended Space sales rep, as if to say, 'This happens here often?'

"It is being sad," she went on, "But I am not in de market for military services. I am lookink for military equipment." She glanced around, becoming aware that the convention floor probably wasn't the best place to allow this comedy to play out. Certainly her employer wouldn't appreciate it. While she could probably find another job, or just buy the company, it all seemed way too much trouble to satisfy her action jones. That in mind, it wouldn't do to let this one continue his sales effort in view of the public. "Perhaps, if you are--if you have a card, or v-card, I vill look you up vhen I am finished here?"

#34
Rallye

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Gabriel’s joints tightened as her accent reverberated through his ear canals. She sounds JUST like that bitch! Every time he heard that goddamn accent, he was reminded of that psychopathic, war-mongering, meltran half-breed she-devil bucket of sexual napalm ‘commander’ that dragged him through the 8th level of Hell during his trek in Mekuria. He’d never seen anyone burn refuge shelters with such joie de vivre, let alone a woman. His ambivalence towards either side made him just as guilty, but this one of many crimes against humanity he swore he’d take to his grave. He crossed his arms, his left palm touching the arm of his jacket directly over where the Jormungandr had been carved into his bicep. There were no tattoo guns on Mekuria. Or ink for that matter. The whole experience left him conflicted, but it had become increasingly easier to blame his shortcomings on someone else.

Gabe slowly moved to the booth’s information & correspondence table, which was laden with holographic drivel. He gently blew air out of pursed lips as she surmised what was basically a drawn out, powdered and sugared ‘No.’

"Perhaps, if you are--if you have a card, or v-card, I vill look you up vhen I am finished here?"

With another stoic peer into her eyes, he was able to pick up a slight--- something; about this woman who stood before him. She did a convincing job masquerading as one of them. She had the veritable fixings of the affluent-- posture, clothes, demeanor, and maybe even the money, but underneath lay like a itch that couldn’t be scratched. She looked, fidgety. Uncomfortable through his eyes.

'CRASH!'

Down came the booth's mobile projector monitor with ever so slight coercion. What ever it was displaying sparked loudly and flickered violently out of existence.

"Your finished here."

#35
Hiro Protagonist

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"Ot negó kak ot kozlá moloká," Natalya muttered. From her tone one would have thought she was utterly disgusted by the display. One would have been correct.

Her tone was at odds with the smile spreading across her face. She slipped her Black Card into a pocket and closed the pocket snap, her eyes never leaving the strange man in front of her.

"I am thinkink, perhaps, it is you who is beink finished," she said. Her tone had gone dead flat. The smile had not. "I am not believink Captain Holle vould be appreciatink any more of de theatrics durink a marketink show, vyezzhát'?"

#36
Rallye

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Gabe paused for a second to sift for actual words he could understand amidst her thick accent soup. You would’ve thought thirty months with a similar accent had made it easier for him to decipher tones, but the otherwise was true. Maybe it was just because he had a thick skull, or the raw hatred filter for it dropping audible cues and producing a jigsaw puzzle of what was left over. Selective hearing was quite the bitch.

With the look on her face, you would swear she could wander nose first into a pile hippo shit and still keep that grin welded to her face. The smile, though pretty it was, appeared to be quite asymmetric to the tone in which she spoke--- a dead giveaway she was irked. Nevertheless, mission main was to try to make today’s quota: one. That was really all he felt he could tolerate. Slow and steady. It’d been a very dry day.

“Sorry, I’ve never been one to care for rank or those who admonish my… libertine spirit. And besides, marketing is essentially theatrics… but I’m sure you already know. I mean, by the way you wield around that deliciously dangerous simper.”

His legs moved him quite a bit closer as his British oxfords did poorly to muffle the screaming crush of microfluidics and glass spilt forth from the console. His smile matched hers angle for angle.

“My fair lass, won’t you reconsider?”

#37
jester

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Mack was quietly pleased that he got CCS the meeting with Huber's reps since that was essentially "Mission Accomplished" for these types of events. The little tidbit about EX-Troopers securing cargoes was interesting and the link to other information would probably keep the Business Development people busy for a little while.

He turned back to the rest of the booth in time to catch the end of the other interchange. It was a testament to the painful time as a senior engineer that Mack had learned to just absorb the information and not comment immediately. In his Spacy days, he'd have just barreled into the conversation with some silly-ass comment. His eyes tracked from Alexi to Marketing and finally to Kes.

"More than happy to tag along and follow your lead," popped out from Mack.

#38
Abaddon

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A few seconds after the RBC representative left the booth a young woman walked up. Her dark grey blazer and pencil skirt clung to her petite 5'2 frame in all the right places, vibrantly dyed shoulder length pink hair was held back by two silver clips. Eyes of clear aquamarine shone brightly, perfectly matching her playful smile. On her right lapel was a shiny silver name-tag bearing the words: Joanna Lee.

A slight odour of cigarette smoke clung to her, not overpowering but noticeable to anyone standing close to her.

Looking from Kes to Alexi she nodded to both, nearly bowing at the neck in the case of Alexi.

"Why do I get the feeling it's time to get back to work?" She inquired in a soft voice to Kes.

Without waiting for an answer she turned did Alexi and brightly chimed, "Did you get my lovely husband sorted out and on the team yet?"

#39
CrazyDreamer

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The vendor had stepped to the back of the booth but did not seem particularly concerned with this destruction of his property. Natalya could see past Gabe back towards the PMC zone, where the EX-Troopers (and others) were taking a distinct interest in their supplier's troubles, although so far they seemed content to hang back and see how she dealt with things.

If Gabe had taken the time to look past today's "victim," he might have noticed that others vendors in the hardware section did not seem to be amused by their fellow dealer's distress. Most notably, a couple of display models were no longer on their stands or in their cases.

#40
Hiro Protagonist

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Natalya's suppressed an eye roll. For just a moment she had thought the fellow was some kind of choknútyy git, about to blow his lid. Obaldét', he was but excitement seemed more or less out of the question now that she saw he was just trying to make his pitch more dramatic. Her smile vanished as if hit by a reaction weapon.

"Baka," she said. "Ve are being vith de same entity. I am not needink CCS serwices because I am being a CCS serwice prowider." She gave Gabe a long top to bottom assessment. "If you are vant to prowide other... serwices... you should be just sayink so."





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