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Iverica

The Price of a Dream

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OOC: Continuation of this thread: 

 

The morning air picked up suddenly and lifted the peaked hat from a head of slightly greyed black. The owner turned around to pick it up, but was surprised when it was proffered by the outstretched hand of an Air Force Comandante.

"Good morning, Vasques", said the older man, picking up the star-studded cap and sitting it more securely on his head.

"Coron- General Mateo", returned the younger man, catching himself at the slip.

Comandante Hermann Vasques was the AFI's chief consulting officer for aeronautics and Mateo's former adjutant in his junior years. He would provide the technical background for the delegation. Though still en route, they would also be accompanied by Ministry of Defence Undersecretary Pietro Cabré, serving as the legal consultant and signing representative for the ExecMin. 

"I was expecting them to use the airbase runways", continued the Comandante who was staring out, passed the balcony they were standing on, and passed the runway of Corregidor Airbase Civilian Terminal 1. The horizons were still empty.

"Hardly reasonable Vasques", snorted Mateo.

"Would you like to greet our business partners with a view of SAM sites and the PT yard?"

Vasques gave a bark-like laugh.

"No, I'm just not used to Terminal 1's opulence, nothing the like Airbase's dated facilities", he said, turning back to scan the satin seats, the currently unmanned bar, and finely carpeted floors. 

"High Command has to receive dignitaries somewhere we can plant the rag-scribblers and photographers", Mateo replied.

"Indeed, we've seen better days", Vasques said knowingly.

Mateo grimaced inwardly.

"The air force has seen better days". That saying had unofficially replaced the AFI's motto in the previous decades. Sure, one could blame it on the fact that Toledo Aeronautics had all but reduced in size and manpower to the equivalent of a suburban garage run by 16-year old firecracker bootleggers. One could also blame the navy for draining the MoD budget on MCM's experimental Aegis system. But when it really came down to it, newly minted General dei Brigada Luis Mateo knew that all these incidents were the repercussions of a single administrative flaw: That the Brass lacked balls.

His thoughts were interrupted by Vasques stepping back from the balcony rail.

"Last time I was here was...", Vasques trailed off, looking about again.

"After the Deitorr inauguration, three years ago, you brought that fine blonde thing with you. Hardly appropriate", tutted Mateo in mock disapproval.

Vasques grinned and checked his watch. He turned towards the horizon again

"Clockwork, our new friends are right on time", nodding in the general direction of the dot on the horizon.

That would be the Slankstråle. Aamotech had been gracious, quick to respond and charter a special flight. Seeing as the Republican Armed Service had so rarely dealt with foreign corporations in recent years, Mateo was pleasantly surprised at the courtesy.

Hopefully, if all went well, the AFI could replace its ageing fleet of TA-71 strategic lifters. A new age for Iverican foreign relations meant that something modern was needed. Modern and- BIG. If the Primo was so intent on pursuing foreign aid missions into Afropa and similar cases, something like the Whitebeard would be necessary.

So far none of the other foreign manufacturers had anything remotely close the ballpark size and range of the Tungstråle. Mateo thought about how hard it was to get approval for purchases like this a decade ago. Back then, it had been nearly impossible to navigate the quagmire of MoD bureaucracy and inter-service rivalry.

There was a reason Mateo fought tooth and nail for the Air Force Rep office. A fight which had taken the better part of his youth, some questionable calls, but most painfully of all, leaving his command of the vaunted 12th Fighter Group, for a corner office and a star stud. There had been painful decisions, but now he was in a position to bypass most of the administrative hoo-ha and whisper directly into Minister Ibanes' ear. The 68-year old Defense Minister hung on every word he said these days, trusting Mateo as his eyes and ears in the Air Force. Mateo's suggestions now had more pull than a Capitán-General's when it came to influencing ExecMin's prerogatives. It was Mateo that got the 2017 budget allocated in the Air Force's favour, Mateo that had pulled the strings to red-paper push the Modernisation Initiative, and now it was Mateo that Ibanes trusted to oversee the purchase of Aamotech units. His predecessor had pretty much bent over for the Armada's budget hogging, and his predecessor's predecessor that had lost the lobby for bailing out Toledo Aeronautics.

The Slankstråle was now growing larger by the minute, on its final approach any minute.

"Come on, it looks like the Undersecretary just arrived", said Mateo gesturing at the terminal doors.

"We'll meet him in front of the jet bridge. We're offering refreshments while they do pre-flight, so behave, you're a Comandante now."

Vasques grinned

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Arriving on the Slankstråle, aside from the two crew members, was Susanna Moreno, a senior sales representative that had worked with Aamotech since she was an apprentice twenty years ago. Moreno was incredibly experienced in selling the various technologies Aamotech had to offer, and would've been delighted to direct this particular sale, but instead she'd been given the role of preliminary introductions. She would rendezvous with Iverica's representatives in their country, make sure they were comfortable on the flight to Prymont, and then step aside for the CEO.

"Good morning gentlemen. It is a pleasure to meet with you. My name is Susanna, I'll be overseeing your flight to the United States today before handing over to our lovely CEO Lucy." Her words were handpicked by the CEO herself, who wanted to make sure everything was perfect when she wasn't there. She trusted Susanna completely, but this would be one of Aamotech's biggest sales of the year, and with the potential to sell other related units, everything had to be planned out in minute detail.

With the flight crew carrying out the pre-flight checks, Susanna indulged herself in some of the Iverican refreshments that had been provided in the terminal lounge. Small talk was exchanged between the representatives, simply kind formalities that would soon be irrelevant. The flight would be long, just under 4 hours, and there would be a degree of jetlag for the gentlemen to deal with. For sure, these people were experienced flyers and would be able to handle it, but the details of the flight were laid out regardless. 

Once the Slankstråle had been prepared, the passengers boarded the luxury jet and took off for Rettenmyr airport in New Halsham. That was where Aamotech's headquarters were located, and where Lucy Aamot would first meet her customers. This specific unit had been kitted out for long-distance travel in the ultimate lap of luxury. Private rooms were provided if rest was required with full-size bathrooms, a small meeting room with a monitor hooked up to the Aamotech HQ, an extended bar for times of celebration and even a small library. After making sure her passengers were settled down, Susanna disappeared into the library to report back to the CEO. Of course, she made herself available if necessary, but she found herself entranced in legal documents from another upcoming sale.


1345hrs
Aamotech HQ, Rettenmyr airport
New Halsham, Courtmarsh

After a continental lunch had been served on board, the Slankstråle touched down at Rettenmyr airport in the early afternoon. Two private cars were waiting for them on the runway, KAP K3s with private Aamotech registration plates. "Gentlemen, if you'll please excuse me I have other business matters to attend. Our chauffeur will take you straight to our headquarters where you will meet Miss Aamot. It has been a pleasure to share our plane with you." With that Susanna was gone, disappearing into her car as planned. 

The men were whisked away, and in no time they were being dropped off at the prestigious Aamotech Tower. It was a newly established office block, built on the very edge of Rettenmyr airport near Montair's Terminal 2. On a clear day, fantastic views of the airport and downtown New Halsham were provided, but today was slightly foggy in southern Prymont and such views were currently absent. Nevertheless, a guide collected the representatives at the entrance and took them into an elevator, going straight to the top of five floors where Miss Aamot's office was situated.

Her office was at the end of the corridor, a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the airport. Models of Aamotech's finest creations lined her otherwise empty desk, with just a slim laptop for company. Once the door was opened she stood and strolled towards the gentlemen, a thick folder tucked under her arm. She was dressed to impress - her finest grey suit had been brought freshly pressed from home, and an impromptu haircut meant she felt fresh and ready to go. Today was a big day for her company, but more importantly, a big day for her.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen! It is my pleasure to finally meet you all. I trust your flight was comfortable?"

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Mateo appreciated Aamotech's professionalism. Surely, Ms. Moreno had applied her well-practised formality evenly, not coming across as overly-stiff, yet not presumptuously warm either. Mateo was comfortable with transactions the traditional way, overtures, and gradual escalation. Vasques on the other hand, Mateo knew to be a little overeager, preferring to skip right to exchanging goods before handshakes.

As Undersecretary Cabré had engaged most of the measured dialogue, Mateo had indulged in a view of the Slankstråle, while Vasques gave the churros and croque a few polite raids.

After boarding and a little more conversation, Ms. Moreno retired. Mateo had the chance to better appreciate the aircraft's accommodations. Being one of the old breed, he declined to participate in Vasques' more active exploration of the cabin, instead appreciating his view of the cabin from the comfort of his seat and single-malt.

"Ibanes sent a memo before we departed", said Cabré, not looking up from his Rekindle slate.

"The one about the Tykkstråle? Yes, I'm looking into its specifications as we speak", replied Vasques, flipping through one of the library books.

"Unsurprisingly, they have a book all about its development and technical details right here. My committee has also profiled it in the past. It came up as a possible template for the TA-99 Zeus, you know, before your Ministry-"

"Pulled the plug, yes.", interrupted Cabré, still scanning his pdf.

"It was haemorrhaging Velles. Three failed prototypes and a dead test pilot did not look good on INBC. At least, we salvaged that debacle and liquidated what we could. In fact, the private sector's acquisition of the facilities, and rights to all the developed modules is what's covering most of the substantial cheque for this venture", continued Cabré in an almost dismissive tone.

"Now then, why don't we go over the dossiers and figures instead of discussing water under the bridge? I need to see what we're comfortable with quoting", said Mateo, changing the subject.

The two nodded and joined him at the square of elegant leather couches.

The rest of the flight was uneventful, and Mateo allowed himself a few hours sleep in the quiet, modern luxury of the Slankstråle.


Just as Mateo finished his lunch and was dabbing his mouth clean, he caught his first view of New Halsham since a few brief vacations in the 1980's. Upon disembarking, he was pleasantly surprised at how much things had changed. Rettenmyr had certainly transformed, at least from the vague image he conjured from his memories.

His thoughts were interrupted by the two, sleek looking executive sedans that pulled into the tarmac to pick them up. Mateo thanked Ms. Moreno, and exchanged polite farewells.

The drive to Aamotech tower went by quickly, owing to its proximity. Mateo didn't get to reminisce very much as the duo of K3's pulled into the reception bay of the tower in what seemed like a heartbeat.

After exchanged handshakes and a short zip up the elevator, the delegation was greeted by a foggy view of downtown New Halsham. It was uncommon, and quite a curious sight for the party, as fog of such ubiquity was quite unheard of anywhere other than the mountains and northern fishing hamlets of Iverica.

Upon passing the office doors, they were finally introduced to CEO of Aamotech, Ms. Lucy Aamot.

Ms. Aamot's manner was quite welcoming, and Undersecretary Cabré opened by introducing himself as Executive Ministry Representative, thanking her for her quick response, and comfortable travel accommodations on behalf of the delegation.

"General dei Brigada Luis Mateo, madame. Representing the Air Force of Iverica, I thank you for your accommodating reception.", said Mateo, shaking her hand. He would normally have used a hand-kiss, as was the tradition for Ivericans, but government protocol recommended against it outside of Iverican territory.

"Comandante Hermann Vasques, madame. As chief aeronautics consultant for the Air Force, I am delighted to make your acquaintance", said Vasques, following suit.

After a few more words of introduction and a polite compliment or two regarding the travel experience so far, the group settled into their seats.

"Allow me again madame, to express Iverica's interest in Aamotech's Tungstråle, as well as our consideration for a related unit, the Tykkstråle", began Mateo, seated straight but not stiffly so, with hands placed loosely on his lap and knee.

"The Air Force finds itself in a most exciting and fortunate position to enhance our current inventory of aircraft under new modernisation initiatives. Our consultation committee has recommended Aamotech units for good reason. Based on our assembled portfolio and review of your publicised information, we are almost certain the Aamotech will be able to provide what we are looking for in the department of a strategic lifter. I'm sure that after some discussion of details and possible additions to the units, we will be able to make a mutually beneficial exchange".

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It pleased Lucy greatly to know that foreigners thought so highly of her company. To have Iverica's consultation committee recommend her units without her own direct input was incredibly humbling to her. Knowing that there was genuine interest from their side only made her happier to deal with them. It would be a good day for both sides.

"Definitely. Aamotech offers a wide range of units with various uses, as I'm sure you're aware. Tungstråle and it's smaller brother Tykkstråle are the best you can have in heavy international haulage." Their interest in Tykkstråle had taken her by surprise, but it was a good surprise nonetheless. The smaller airlift unit hadn't been initially mentioned in their first contact, but it was being prepared for release in 2018 and this could not be better timing. 

"We're building an inventory of Tykkstråle's ready for release in February 2018. Some will be going directly to the Prymontian Air Force, while others will be made available for foreign purchase. If we were to come to an agreement regarding that, it would be very feasible to have the units sent over as soon as they're available, which I'm sure you'd appreciate. Tungstråle, as I'm sure you'll understand, is a much larger, more difficult project to undertake. Our construction process would have to be restarted and raw materials would have to be sourced, although it is possible to do that internally. Without making any concrete promises, you'd be waiting at least three years for before delivery."

Now her business head was on. Calculations were running wild in her mind, costs of logistics, sourcing, manpower, modernisation research and so much more. It'd be a big drain on Aamotech funds, but at the end of the day she only thought about the profit. Iverica wouldn't have contacted her company if they wouldn't have been able to afford her products. They'd be able to cough up, no doubt about that.

"Creating only one unit for Prymont's Air Force was very challenging and expensive for us. It was more of a one-off project, but we still have the facilities to restart construction if necessary. I'll warn you now that Tungstråle will not be cheap at all. The entire cost of the project for just one unit would be astronomical, whereas it could be reduced with two or three more - only if that were acceptable for your budget and timeframe. In fact, I'd be happy to show you our factories down in Verandi to demonstrate what we have. Everything is state of the art, pristine and modern, as is the Aamotech way. If that would influence your decision at all, I'd be delighted to organise accommodation for the night and show you tomorrow."

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"Indeed, we were not expecting a project of such scale to be cheap or quick. It is not as one might say,  "ordering fast food", Mateo said affably.

"Vasques here will be very interested to see the effect a larger order of three Tungstråle might have on the percentage reduction. However large our prepared budget for this might be, we likely cannot place an order larger than three units of the Tungstråle, owing to the taxpayer's reaction", he continued, half-joking

It was true, too large and extravagant a purchase could land them in hot water with the National Chamber. The public has traditionally been quite pro-military, for various socio-economic reasons, but there was such a thing as too much for the civilians to stomach. 

The whole party had spent the flight discussing how much of the allocated budget they would quote to Aamotech. Vasques had helpfully pointed out that the AFI's portfolio of per unit cost was not a good ball-field estimate. The Air Force consultant predicted the price tag to increase depending on the cost of labour and material sourcing, and they had adjusted their expectations accordingly. Of course, that was Vasques' guesswork, Mateo would stay his expectation until they saw the quotation in person.

"However, I must admit that the Tykkstråle has been interesting us more and more. Depending on our further findings on this trip, we may even consider a flight of the Tykkstråle units if that proves to better suit our schedules and the High Command's plans".

"As for your invitation madame, we must graciously accept and thank you for your generous accommodation", added Cabré. To the Ivericans it would extremely disrespectful to refuse host hospitality and presumptuous on the hostess' financial ability to use niceties of, we wouldn't want to impose. The usual, convoluted nature of Iverican customs required them to refuse the second offer of hospitality a few times before graciously accepting though.

 

Edited by Iverica
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Things were coming along very quickly, all to Miss Aamot's liking. The Ivericans were getting down to business straight away, no small talk, just cost and amount. This is what she lived for. Lucy had been a sales representative for a short amount of time when her father still owned the company, and had enjoyed it greatly. Now, it was time to stretch those legs once again and see how deep those Iverican pockets were.

"Tykkstråle is a popular unit. We're producing several for the USP Air Force, alongside others for international pre-orders. We do have a small backlog of non-purchased units which you could have immediately - there are four that will be ready for February 2018. Further units could be manufactured for a later date if required. Considering the cost of the new technologies involved in the plane, and a price reduction for ordering multiple units at once, I could offer you β100 million per unit. This would require purchasing the current four units available, and then an order for a further four units down the line. If you were to purchase just the four that we currently have, it would be an additional β50 million."

Lucy desperately hoped that they'd lap up her offer without a second thought. They'd produced these four units after a pre-order from an undisclosed foreign customer, which fell through only days before the money was due to be transferred. Production had already begun and could not be stopped. Getting rid of the backlog was vital for her company to maintain a healthy profit margin.

She had also reduced the cost significantly for a further four to be ordered, to the point that Aamotech would make a small loss on each unit. This was to sweeten the upcoming Tungstråle price, which she feared would put them off completely.

"Now, Tungstråle is a very unique project. Our own air force holds the rights to the jet, and a considerable usage fee would be required. I understand you are looking for three units, which would obviously reduce that fee and the total price. One Tungstråle unit alone would set you back β500 million, but for three, including the fees and cost of sourcing the materials and all that nonsense I won't bore you with, I'd ask for β350 million each."

It was a business tactic that she'd utilised regularly back in her days of being a sales representative. Aamotech had a base price for each unit, and Lucy would regularly add several millions to that price in the hopes of having a customer negotiate down to the real price. This led them to believe they were getting a good deal, while also allowing Aamotech to make a healthy profit. It also allowed her to move up the company quicker than usual, as the executives had noticed this and praised her for her initiative.

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At the mention of 500 million, the Iverican party shared some pre-determined signals worked out on the flight.

"I'm hesitant", said Cabré with a chewed bottom lip.

"Allow me", said Vasques through low nods.

"You take it from here", said Mateo's eye contact and inclined head movement.

Mateo felt nervous, Vasques was famous at Black Jack tables for terrible double-down calls. But the thirty-something Comandante was the only one who had truly studied informed figures.

 


 

Vasques mentally cracked his knuckles. He felt good today. Then again, he felt good the day he crashed his SeT-91 into the concourse. What he was about to do was a ballsy play for sure, and he might get egged by Mateo for this after but hell, its not like his old friend was going to do anything more than trump up a mock dressing-down. 

Ms Aamot was experienced, not to be trifled with. He could try more dramatic negotiation tactics involving created expectations, leading her on with positive messages but then reconsidering at the last moment promising to discuss it tomorrow- or...

He could end it all with a few simple moves.

"We can't take a package like that", he paused.

"It simply won't fit our payment options. The price is for the Tykkstråle is definitely fair and tempting no doubt, yet a full purchase of eight units plus One Billion and Fifty Million for three Tungstråle that will take years to finish and pay in instalments does not fit the Air Force's future plans", he continued.

"We'd simply like to make your company a more convenient offer, one I'm sure will save us both time and resources in the long run. Instead of paying staggered for the next decade, we'd like to offer you the entire sum in four payments, starting with an initial down payment of 25% the total the moment we fill out the order forms and depart. Now the only thing stopping us from accepting your tempting offer right now with this payment plan is that we think that 350 million per unit of Tungstråle will make the bulk payment harder to justify back home. Currently, 1.85 Billion (for x8 Tykkstråle and x3 Tungtråle) sits just above our ability to pay with such speed", he paused to allow the information to digest.

"Currently, fitting a staggered payment over a significant length of time would not benefit either of us. Fluctuating currencies and interest rates are a definite risk factor over such time of 5 to 10 years for both our parties. We'd like to cut that risk out completely. If we agree on a reasonable price of 250 million per Tungstråle unit, we would be more than happy to give you the due with the greatest speed.

Vasques was to be quite honest, expecting Aamotech to charge nearly double for the Heavy-weight. He also kept in mind the possibility that a company like Aamotech had development costs of new aircraft (no small matter) outside of regular production to worry about, therefore tempting them with a bulkier payment might attract them. Given Ms. Aamot's reputation as an experienced and talented business person, he had expected her to give them a bit of a bargaining challenge.

Edited by Iverica
grammar
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For a brief moment, Miss Aamot was rather uncomfortable. She was outnumbered by three to one, and to make matters worse, they were all men. They were seasoned veterans of the Iverican government and air division, and were very powerful men. They had lots of money at their disposal, but were now unwilling to give it to her. In her own office, she felt uncertain. 

But she shouldn't be. She mustn't be. She was a veteran herself. She'd been running this company very well, and knew how to make a good deal. She wouldn't let the value of her precious planes be mocked by men that had the money to cough up. She couldn't make a loss on both units.

They were seemingly happy with the Tykkstråle offer. That was almost set in stone now. Even if they were to leave Prymont with no order for a Tungstråle, the former would surely still be purchased. That, she was sure of. That gave her confidence. That gave her room to negotiate and stand her ground.

"As I mentioned, the asking price for one Tungstråle is five hundred million Prynds. That is non-negotiable, otherwise, we'd be making a loss. I'm unsure if I made this clear to you, but three hundred and fifty million for three units is quite the bargain. You're saving almost the cost of an entire Tungstråle by ordering three. I'm sure you're all knowledgeable businessmen, and can understand that a company cannot make a loss when so much money is concerned."

She took a moment to consider her next move. Preferably, she wouldn't budge from 350 million, but it was still an awfully large amount of money that she couldn't miss out on. Keeping the Ivericans interested was of utmost importance. Perhaps there was more room for bartering.

"We don't have much interest in the Tungstråle. Iverica is the first to make a serious offer, and for that we are incredibly humbled and thankful. Aamotech takes great pride and care in the development of its products, and it'd be a waste for only one Tungstråle to exist. I would hate to send you home without such a magnificent piece of aerial mastery. If I were to offer you three hundred and thirty million per unit, for three units, I would be breaking even. There would be no loss, no profit. For three units, that is a considerable impact on the company."

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In Mateo's mind, a 60 million reduction would have to do. There was no sense further risking the Air Force's reputation by haggling like fishwives, the allowance would permit the current amount, with some funds to spare for incidentals or further deals for the fiscal year.

He signalled Vasques to stand down. He would take over.

"Those terms are... Acceptable", Mateo offered a small smile.

"We are pleased to come to an agreement, thank you for being so forthcoming."

1.79 Billion was high, but Aamotech had what the Air Force needed. Furthermore, Mateo was not so daft as to think that business was all about scrimping for a few more decimal values. Sometimes, one would have to pave future deals with a little allowance and malleability. With an introductory deal like this, the Air Force had to play the big spender.

Ms. Aamot was definitely a hard negotiator. She knew they wouldn't refuse the Tykkstråle deal and exploited that information with the gusto of a Sidewinder. She hadn't just baited them with a tempting initial offer, she had forced them to an impassé by stating that any further haggling without an ace counter-proposal would not be taken in good propriety.

Vasques had indeed warned Mateo of the likelihood that Aamotech would not be willing to take too many steps down from their initial profit margins without a serious fight. The Comandante had proved more than willing to attempt a drawn-out negotiation, yet both Mateo and Cabré did not like the idea of pushing so hard on the first transaction. 

All told, he would be glad to move on to the tour after a quick signing like this. He was rather curious to see the Prymontian facilities, as all he'd seen previously were Suisa's steadily shrinking ones, and a brief glimpse of the Skandinaverica production lines.

"Now-", began Cabré.

"Shall we sort out some paperwork?"

Edited by Iverica
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Lucy sent a brief email to her personal assistant, Molly, to print off the masses of paperwork that they would be needing to go through. Such large orders required plenty of time to process and negotiate. She would be on hand to guide them through it for a few hours before allowing them to retire for the night, after which they'd be allowed to suggest changes and make the final signing in the morning. For the time being, she occupied them with small talk, trying not to boast too much about how Aamotech was going from strength to strength and how they were regularly receiving new orders. She hoped that a strong relationship could be formed with the Ivericans. It could be the start of a new alliance for her country.


2256hrs
Lucy Aamot's private residence
New Halsham, Courtmarsh

Assisting the Iverican gentlemen with their paperwork had taken quite some time, and at 2200hrs Lucy had to call it a day. They weren't troublesome at all, it was just that they wanted to explore every single minor detail. It was understandable, as it was an incredibly large, expensive purchase and the contract had to be satisfactory and watertight, but the entire process was still mentally draining and by the time the sun had set, the CEO had suggested that they retire to their hotel for the night to go over the final few details and bring back any thoughts to her tomorrow.

On the journey back to her luxury apartment in a high rise in New Halsham, she'd finalised the details of a factory tour tomorrow in Fort Kanacky, one of Aamotech's largest plants. They'd be catching the high-speed train from Courtmarsh to Verandi to view the construction of the Tykkstråle, and to observe the facilities that would go into the manufacturing of the gigantic Tungstråle. It wasn't a necessity for the contract, but it was something she'd offered before, and it was always nice to receive compliments on how state-of-the-art her facilities her.

She had a long day ahead of her, and desperately needed some rest to be recharged for her usual early morning start. After taking care of her cat and checking stock prices she settled down for some well deserved rest.


0845hrs
New Halsham Central Transit Station
New Halsham, Courtmarsh

Miss Aamot had risen early in the morning in order to prepare for the day ahead. She'd arrived at Aamotech Tower at 0730 to go through her usual morning routine of previewing market shares, reviewing her calendar with her PA and finally, organising the documents that would guarantee the purchase of the Tykkstråle and Tungstråle units. She'd arranged to meet the Iverican representatives at 0800hrs at the office, and would then escort them to the train station. 

After the morning formalities at the office and during the car journey, it was time to get down to business on the train. She'd purchased some last minute first class tickets, with plenty of other wealthy businessmen and military officials who would be too focused on their own work to eavesdrop. Once the attendants had served breakfast, she wasted no time in getting to work.

"I hope that you didn't spend too long reviewing the paperwork and managed to get a good rest. Is there anything else you'd like to discuss other than what we went through yesterday?"

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Had the three been CEOs with two-billion Velle allowances, the contract would have been forwarded to a legion of desk flunkies and signed within an hour. Unfortunately, the Armed Service and her spending were under the ever-watchful eye of the fifth estate, better known as INBC. Oversight, of the greatest personal scrutiny, was required if the three wanted to keep their jobs. Ms Aamot had been extremely helpful in addressing any queries the delegation had, sitting them through the contract's appraisal.

Mateo noted with some amusement how Vasques' usual attitude had shifted from its typical dry snark to a level of courteousness he had seldom witnessed over their 8 years of working together. It was subtle, but Vasques never minced words as much or was as socially conscious as when Ms Aamot was seated next to him, the CEO with her constant steely demeanour, back ramrod and lips pursed more tightly than wound wire. Mateo inwardly shook his head.

Dog.

After several hours pouring over papers, Mateo felt as though he would die of an aneurysm. The drive to the hotel had been a blur, and as soon as he locked his room door he dove straight into a hot bath and a deep glass of Prymontian Sloe Whisky.

---

Mateo was up at 5:45. Took an hour's swim in the Olympic sized pool (heated of course) and was fully groomed, fed and collected by a quarter to eight. Cabré's room was empty, bed still fully made. Mateo found him sitting in the exact same spot in the hotel lounge he had been left at last night, in the exact same posture. It was as if new clothes had just slipped themselves on overnight while he was clicking away at his Doors 10 TabPC.

"Morning General," yawned Vasques as he entered, flipping a lazy salute whilst munching on a blueberry bagel.

Vasques by the looks of it had just gotten up. Cabré had responded to their intrusion with a miffed glance, looking like a bird had shat on his best loafer.

---

After some brief niceties, the party, now accompanied by the ever-steely Ms Aamot settled down in the well-furnished first-class cabin.

"I hope that you didn't spend too long reviewing the paperwork and managed to get a good rest. Is there anything else you'd like to discuss other than what we went through yesterday?", Ms Aamot began.

"Not too long at all, madame. Thank you for your invaluable assistance yesterday. So far, everything checks out. If there are any further issues, we'll be sure to forward them before departure", said Cabré politely, giving a brief grin and looking just as lively as yesterday.

Mateo looked forward to examining Aamotech's facilities in person. But for now, he resigned himself to pleasantries and the scenic views of rural Prymont.

 

 

Edited by Iverica
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0850hrs
New Halsham Central Transit Station
New Halsham, Courtmarsh

Lucy had already eaten breakfast at home, but still divulged in a cup of Prymont's best breakfast tea and a small bowl of fruit. The gentlemen looked lively enough, except for Vasques who was still stifling a yawn every other minute. She suggested a strong black coffee for him, and pulled up her laptop to show the gentlemen some technical documents of the Tykkstråle and Tungstråle for the duration of their journey.

The train, a new investment of the nationalised Prymontian Rail Network, was capable of 200mph. In no time at all they were building up some serious speed, the rolling hills and southern meadows a blur in the bleak morning sun. Snow would be coming soon and the trains would be speed restricted. The Ivericans had come at the right time.


0945hrs
Santa Barbara Station
Santa Barbara, Verandi

After their arrival in Verandi, where the temperature was ever so slightly warmer, two privately licensed KAP K3's were awaiting the party. Ms Aamot would go alone, allowing her to have a final review of the tour and giving the Ivericans a moment of privacy before the day ahead of them. It was a pleasant drive to the construction facilities on the edge of the military city of Fort Kanacky, where the majority of Aamotech planes were assembled. The area was vast, covering over 2 miles in one direction. The facility hosted several large warehouses, alongside a conference building and two small office blocks. A runway was situated at the far end of the compound, bordering the military base in order to share its air traffic control tower. 

Lucy led the gentlemen through the reception, handing them each a VIP pass to wear for the day. They were then issued hard hats, safety goggles, and high visibility vests in orange to differentiate them from the green the employees wore. With the CEO clutching a clipboard they briskly strode across the tarmac, entering the first of the large factories.

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The first building hosted the upcoming Nålestråle supersonic jet, Aamotech's commercial pride and joy. This enabled a wide view of the industry-standard facilities Aamotech had to offer, with dozens of workers busying themselves on the project. After a view from afar they descended a collection of metal staircases, arriving on the ground floor to approach the jet. 

"This is one of our biggest and most expensive projects to date. We have unfortunately faced some delays due to supply issues, which will see the Nålestråle released a few months later than expected, but I can assure you the same problems do not happen with our military division." A project manager met the group beneath the fuselage, providing an explanation of the construction process and showing 3D models of the finished jet on his tablet computer. There were nods and murmurs of appreciation coming from the gentlemen, but Ms Aamot wasn't satisfied yet. They were yet to see what they were here for.

After an hour or two spent in the Nålestråle warehouse, the part moved on to some of the smaller projects. Another building was home to factory moulds that were used to create spare parts, and a large area was cordoned off, behind which the employees were deconstructing and rebuilding two USPAF Soniskstråle units. As much as Lucy wanted to impress her guests and show them everything, she had strict orders from her military superiors that no outsiders could enter. 

Despite her eagerness to press on and get to the crown jewels, her stomach had other ideas and sent them on a trip to the cafeteria. As always, a continental lunch was on offer, prepared by some of the best chefs from across Argis with specialty dishes taken straight from Iverican kitchens. The red carpet had been rolled out for today. It was make or break.


1400hrs
Aamotech Technology Compound Runway
Fort Kanacky, Verandi

"I can't make you wait any longer. I'm as excited as you are. Seeing the Tungstråle always takes my breath away. I'm sure it's one of our greatest inventions, and nothing makes me happier than to be sharing it with you and your brilliant nation. I hope this is the start of something special." Lucy led the gentlemen towards the runway, making sure to stay to the side. She tilted her head towards the sky, shading her eyes from the harsh autumnal sun. "Any minute now..."

And there it was. Just a tiny speck in the distance. She pointed, allowing a genuine smile for the first time today. The speck grew larger and louder, and within minutes the roar of the six turbofan engines dominated the skies. The gigantic beast landed like a feather, touching down with perfection as the pilots had practised the day before in the simulator. The Tungstråle parked up at the side of the runway, and as the engines died down, the group moved closer.

"Shall we?"

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 At Santa Barbara, everyone in the party was glad to have brought their greatcoats, the two in their Fuersas L'Aire grey, and Cabré in what looked to be an old but well-kept marine's dress blue. Despite it actually being warmer out than in New Halsham, the wind chill in Verandi was still something to Mateo, who had grown used to Corregidor HC's warmer Argonese clime. As the group would be travelling through the facilities and tarmac, it was prudent to have worn something slightly thicker today.

During the car ride, Cabré had briefed them on the state of the conditions given to the order, discussed with Ms. Aamot yesterday. As it appeared, the ordered Tungstråle would come with some allowances for Iverican avionics and counter-measures to be fitted. The SDA facilities in Corregidor were also being prepared to outfit the units with loading equipment and fixtures to suit Iverican container metrics.

Cabré also shared some of the pitches he had received last night from the Air Force think tank. It included concept plans for what was to be done with each of the three units. One would apparently be converted into a flying hospital, being specially prepared to deliver pre-fabricated movable care units, and also receive patients in cases where local hospital units would be unable to cope with the volume of casualties. Another would be prepared to fit a command module for the top brass, comms, sensors, expanded fuel tanks, and aftermarket hardware to allow emergency command of the RAS in case Corregidor and her auxiliaries failed. The last would remain a cargo haulier, without as many changes to the stock.

When the party arrived at the facility, there was a slight air of enthusiasm, emanating most especially from Vasques, who had yet to see a facility larger than SDA labs and retrofit hangars.


 

The Fort Kanacky facility was impressive, Mateo would give them that. It had the capability for some real R&D, something he dearly wished SDA had preserved. Though everything was in peak shape, it was another object that had caught all eyes.

The Nålestråle.

It lay there, unfinished, guts spread and hung open. It was as if they had entered in the midst of a surgical operation, the silver form of the lady sedated under the harsh light of the operating table, as sterile gloved hands played their precision tools over her raw nakedness.

Even in that state, the sharp form exuded an aura of force. Her arrow like pointedness betraying a sense that despite her sleep, this was one meant to push the envelope in only two directions: upwards, and forwards.

As the party would soon move to partake in the in-facility lunch, Mateo had to make sure Vasques was still following and not still orbiting around the Nålestråle. If he had gotten into physical contact, Mateo feared he would need to ask Ms Aamot for a crowbar to pry the Comandante away.

Entering into another area near an expansive cordon, the party could only speculate what was behind the tarp and blast-shielding as the USP Air Force personnel stood as silent wards, rebuffing them in silence through stares from their reflective eye-wear and hard arms-presented stances. Vasques had whispered that might be the Soniskstråle, as a shade of near-mythical status, seen only as sporadic gull-sized blips on the sensors, or as sable streaks on the black-hot displays of WARD's strongest FLiR optics. The stories held that her engines grew so hot that they glowed translucent in long flights, that even her body- heat-shielded to the nth-degree- warped in the shape and mass altering force of air friction at such speeds.

Thoughts of the spectral black bird lingered as they passed stack after stack of part mould, dispelled only by talk of lunch,

The meal was an interesting affair, as the chefs had apparently done an excellent job at trying their hand with the rich warmth of Iverican spice and stock. Ms Aamot had really pushed the throttle on the wine-and-dine levels, as the choice of dishes was not something easy to replicate without appearing presumptuous. On the contrary, they had outdone themselves with the L'Timballo, a layered mixed pie, better than the freshness of the Antipasto (which, understandably was not the same as getting the ingredients as fresh as this morning's pick, like in Argon). The Prymontians had added stayed faithful to the recipes, but seemed to have introduced a heartiness to the meal signature to the other Prymontian dishes tried during the trip.


After the napkins were dabbed and thrown, it was at last time for the main event.

Together with Ms Aamot, they went out into the interior concourse, Mateo and Cabré putting up their hands as visors from the noon sun's glare, while Vasques donned a pair of Aviator's Reybans™.

It was difficult to say which came first, the roar of the six massive turbofans, or the sight of her great samite form, descending from the sun rays like some sort of howling Valkyrie or screaming Garuda.

Even before it opened its nose to reveal the cavernous hold, before it rolled past them- putting the sun to brief eclipse, and still before it touched down on the far end of the runway, breaking the horizon's line in a dash of white- Mateo knew that he had to take it home, for the Air Force, for Iverica.

 

Edited by Iverica
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1405hrs
Aamotech Technology Compound Runway
Fort Kanacky, Verandi

Even though their responses were wordless, Lucy knew that they were impressed. Their wide grins had flared prominently, their eyes wide in awe of the gigantic beast that'd landed in front of them. This is what they'd came to see, and it was now that she was certain they weren't disappointed. No amount of technical drawings and online images could do the real thing justice. She liked to call all of her creations her finest, but the Tungstråle really was one of the best. It had disappointed her greatly that the USPAF had only ordered one, and there had been no international interest at all. That all changed now, and the Ivericans wanted three. Finally, the masterpiece would be appreciated.

She feared that she'd have to drag them from the spot, their stances solid as they stared longingly at the jet. However, some gentle nudging and encouragement quickly sent the scattering towards the plane. She noticed that Cabré, professional as ever, was walking slightly quicker than usual to reach the plane. All thoughts of the Tykkstråle, which they had been so eager to purchase, had disappeared quickly, much like a cloud of vapor trailing a soaring aircraft.

Upon arrival at the parked Tungstråle the two pilots were stood to attention, ready to greet the party. After formalities had been made the co-pilot went to get lost in the internals of the jet, already making preparations for their takeoff, while the pilot graciously showed them around. Despite flying the plane since its early days of prototype testing and having an unrivalled knowledge of its workings, the pilot found that it was his employer who was doing most of the talking. This was her big day, and she'd rehearsed it well. She made no mistakes in naming components, pointing out their use and how they were tested and developed. The internal bay, more like a church hall rather than the inside of a cargo jet, seemed to go on forever. Despite the bright afternoon sun, the far reaches of the chamber were dark and gloomy, illuminated only by a torch the co-pilot carried. 

Once Ms Aamot was satisfied, the pilot went about lowering the cockpit so it could be accessed. This was the icing on an ever-tall, delicious, rich cake. This was where Lucy had to hand over to the pilot, who still felt intimidated by the ocean of switches, levers, buttons and joysticks. The glass windows allowed for a everlasting panoramic view of the runway and compound, the thick glass intensifying the sun's autumnal rays and providing an ounce of warmth. The CEO tried her best to keep up with the babble of information the pilot was spewing, explaining every last detail of the cockpit, but she was truly out of her depth. She could only stand back and appreciate the jet for what it really was. 

It was more than just a jet. More than just a project, something to bring in a large profit every now and then.

This was her livelihood. This is what she lived and breathed. Her entire being was encapsulated into this plane, as it was with all other works of art that Aamotech had produced. She had shared every fibre of her being with many nations around the world, and now Iverica was about to join them.

 

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Vasques had only ever seen de-classified diagrams and academically-released testing footage. From that perspective, the Tung certainly looked... well- Big. But walking towards it slowly had actually made it difficult for his eyes to focus.

Stepping, just into its shadow filled his entire scope with mass. His brother, who had travelled the world (ironic, because Vasques was a pilot, yet had never left Argis) told him that monuments looked big on screen, small from an actual approach, but grand when one truly put their physical being, at the foot.

It was that feeling now. For the first time, Vasques understood what his brother meant. In retrospect, he would have laughed and called his doe-eyed expression immature, laughable, and even stupid- especially for someone like him- once Flight Leader Hermann "Travieso" Vasques of the elite 12th Fighter Group, and now youngest Comandante the Fuersas L'Aire had.

But the pulse the coursed through him was not the stupid awe of mass comparison alone, but what that mass truly meant. It meant that his beloved Air Force would now venture outside of the continent. It meant that such a thing of size and power would become an extension of the Republic's own will. It finally meant that the Air Force would be actors for Iverican legacy and not mere footnotes.

The Republic had things to do, places to be, changes to make- and this, the Tungstråle, would make that all possible. As Vasques stepped into its gaping, light-swallowing maw, he let his mind go blank-

-and let the great bird swallow him.

 


 
Mateo kept an eye on Vasques, following the younger man from behind as his once-aide stepped through, his silhouette blurring as the dark hold surrounded them both.

Cabré was listening intently to Ms Aamot, taking casual notes here and there for his after-action report. Mateo himself listened well, Ms Aamot was indeed deeply involved with her own products, unlike many other executives he had met, who only learned the necessary and never further. The tightly-wound lady seemed more at ease inside the Tung, while still slightly stiff and formal, it was as if her normally steeled, chilly demeanour warmed ever so slightly.

As Cabré and Ms Aamot chatted enthusiastically and as Vasques walked along, trailing his hands across the interior surfaces, Mateo took time to make queries of his own both with Ms Aamot and the pilot who followed at a polite distance.

The undersecretary and the executive walked on ahead, Vasques trailed behind now, taking longer to look upon each and every piece they came across. Mateo himself went back and forth with the pilot, trading experiences and aircraft details. As the staggered party made their way up, the pilot left briefly to lower the nose for cockpit access.

Hydraulics and Pneumatics hissed, the smell of some bled gasses from deep within the plane stirred some bats inside the growing pit in Mateo's abdomen and chest. Cabré and Ms Aamot chatted on, now joined by Vasques as they discussed something about the aircraft's SATCOMM capabilities. Mateo stopped listening as he reached for the cockpit hatch- and pulled it open.

There was a mild stuffiness to it. Countless hours in any small space was bound to do that, no matter how hard ground crews sprayed. Old leather, heated plastics, a slight hint of caffeine and sweat, all carefully hidden by air freshener and cleaning agents. The pilot, now giving him some space, was behind and below somewhere, leaving the old Airman to appreciate the controls in silence.

The chemicals couldn't stop it though, the steady trickle of thoughts and associated stimulus turned into a torrent as Mateo failed to close the dyke in his memory sooner.

Remembering the pilot stories of flight, Mateo couldn't help but remember his days a Voul-Teniente. Back when a still tawny-haired Mateo, sporting a sparsely-bristled brush on his lip had flown an older Suisa Transporter, quite similar by interior, through the warring areas of the Vasqqa state. He remembered how heavy such things could be, having to wrestle at every move without fly-by-wire. How heavy the aircraft when thirty souls were in his hands, sitting in silent, stoic terror behind him. How heavy- when the rudder and wings were turned sieve by flak and rifled cannon. How heavy- when he alone held the sticks as shattered glass blinded his co-pilot, and how he still felt that same weight, years after launching himself from the hatch, leaving what souls still remained from the fatal blast that burst engines one and two.

The afterimage trailing that arcing fireball- once his first command was there, shining neon when he blinked now going along a slow path as its engines and leaking fuel pipes trailed a bright bow, standing out even as it sailed across the already light-pulsing night sky. As if joining in, the medal on his chest, a Bronze Lozenge for "courage under fire" seemed to quiver and grow colder at every beat of his heart. 

Times like this were growing all too common and unreasonably frequent in his greying years.The sight and smell of familiar interiors added weight to the sticks which never left his grasp, fighting him harder than before. His freefall into the tracer-lit sky was the lightest feeling he would ever have between those moments and the present. But once he pulled the cord on that parachute, he knew- that the yank in his gut was not just from the opened scrap of cloth above him, but from the realisation that the yoke's weight would never truly leave his hands.

 


 

Cabré had kept a nice rhythm going with Ms Aamot, helped occasionally by Vasques' technical inquiries, and General Mateo's relatable experience. As they left through the Tung's mouth, Cabré suddenly remembered another thing on the itinerary.

"That was truly something else for me, Madame Aamot. The way the other two were wandering around and gazing, it looks rather positive from their vastly more experienced eyes. I myself am thankful for your guidance, being but a novice in such complexities", he began.

"You can consider the Ministry well and truly convinced, our approval has already been given and is now guaranteed. However, as I remembered just now, the Tykkstråle is yet another marvel we have agreed to purchase, but have yet to see", Cabré added politely as they reemerged into the open tarmac

Edited by Iverica
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1520hrs
Aamotech Technology Compound Runway
Fort Kanacky, Verandi

Of course, the Tykkstråle had not been forgotten. While the Ivericans had initially enquired about the Tungstråle, it had been her little brother they'd taken a liking to. A lot of their time had been taken up discussing a suitable price for it, and Ms Aamot had negotiated herself an unexpected little profit. She had some wealthy customers on her hands who knew what they wanted, and Aamotech Technologies had exactly that.

The CEO guided the gentlemen back across the tarmac, leaving the giant beast in peace as they proceeded back towards the warehouses and hangars. She excused herself momentarily, tapping on her smartphone, neatly trimmed fingernails making a satisfying clack with every touch. Within seconds her focus was back with her guests, seemingly ignoring their previous question as she busied them with their thoughts on the Tungstråle. They were full of praise for her, repeating that it was exactly what they were looking for.

And of course it was. That's why they'd come to Aamotech. They were the first to do so. So many peers in the aerospace world had congratulated her on creating the largest strategic airlift carrier on the planet, but aside from the national Air Force, there'd been practically no interest. And even then, the USPAF had only ordered one. The United States, the country that valued air supremacy over all else, only ordered one of the best units in existence? Aamotech had poured hundreds of millions of Prynds into the research and development pathways of the Tungstråle, shedding blood, sweat, and tears, spanning the course of several years, and there'd only been minor, local interest. Lucy found herself getting wound up the more she thought about it, and forced herself to take a few deep, refreshing breaths of the crisp southern Prymontian air. The past didn't matter anymore. It was a proven, working concept, and now the Ivericans were here to save the day. Apart from a questionable order two years ago that'd fallen through at an extremely late stage, they were the first genuine customers. Her hard work was paying off.

As they neared an open hangar, a familiar buzzing noise grew ever louder. At least, it was familiar to Lucy. She'd spent lots of her time recently at the compound, overseeing the final stages of production of Aamotech's latest and greatest invention. The USPAF had shown a keen interest in this one, ordering several units, and there was international demand too. The uncertainty that had surrrounded the Tungstråle at every step was absent this time. This one, she was sure of.

The buzzing grew into a deafening, mechanical roar as the group stopped by the edge of the hangar. Dust was sent flying out of the concrete kennel, the raging dog inside desperate to come out and stretch its legs. Slowly, the highly anticipated Tykkstråle emerged from its prison, the turboprop engines manipulating the air around them, begging to soar high. This dog was all bark, and all bite. 

"I don't suppose you care for a Sunday fly, gentlemen?"

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"I could dust-off that big lady from the roughest damn airstrip in Afropa, make a withdrawal from offshore accounts in Magneus, pick up a Sigi or Astrid in @Andalla, and park her on a @Variotan beach strip. I should consider a transfer back to the Logi Wing", thought Vasques as the Tykkstråle bounded out of the hangar.

The Tykk would allow flights from Intreimor to Ide Jima with a short stop at Ultramares for fuel. While SK's E-9 Toro would remain the Fuersas L'Aire's mainstay domestic lifter, the Tykk would open some interesting possibilities for longer-range missions- and maybe- just maybe, they could finally find a better mount for the prototype Fantasma Gunship systems originally developed for the Toro. He was giddy at the very thought, 25mm Rotary Guns, 40mm autocannon, a damn howitzer! Eat your heart out Close Air Support!

"I don't suppose you care for a Sunday fly, gentlemen?", came Ms Aamot's teasing query.

His ears twitched slightly.

Would I? Five will get you ten madame.

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There was no verbal response, but Aamot knew what they were thinking. Their keen interest in the Tykkstråle back at the office told her that it was a stupid question to ask. Of course they wanted to try it. She was left in their wake as the men charged towards the dust vortex forming behind the plane, reminding her of children in a candy store. These children had all the pocket money in the world, and wanted the biggest, sweetest candy they could get. Ms Aamot was the store owner, happy to provide them with their sugar rush.

A steward handed them a noise-cancelling headset each as they entered the belly of the plane via the staircase, reminding them to buckle up. The four propellers drowned out any other sound, its flat, deafening buzz dominating the runway. The Tungstråle was now long forgotten, its gigantic form now a mere speck in the presence of the Tykkstråle. The doorway was closed once the group had boarded and buckled up, sitting in a row along the wall of the plane. A mock-up tank sat alongside them, with sizeable boxes surrounding it. It was to be the perfect demonstration of its lifting power, and would hopefully cross the t's and dot the i's for the Ivericans.

The angry little dog reared up on the runway, guided by the steward. Its propellers kicked up to maximum power as it slowly began rolling, taking only a few seconds to gather some serious speed. A grey blur it soon became, racing across the smooth tarmac before its nose perked up. Moments later they were in the air, the landing gear retreating into the undercarriage. 

A static buzz suddenly filled the headphones, before a metallic mumble that sounded somewhat like Ms Aamot was emitted. "We'll take a few laps before landing. We don't serve refreshments I'm afraid, but if you ask nicely the pilot might let you into the cockpit."

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As usual, Vasques' level of enthusiasm had made up for Cabré's cool restraint and Mateo's polite niceties. The younger man was positively hopping. Mateo chuckled with mild amusement while Cabré tutted and made a scribbled note on his evaluation pad.

It was futile. You couldn't demote Vasques, he'd just irritate brass until they gave his commission back.


 

Mateo had taken off from some hot zones in his life. The pilots always had to commit to a manoeuver known as a combat takeoff, where pilots would attempt to minimise time on the runway and maximise climb in order to (hopefully) thwart SAMs and other anti-aircraft measures. In this department, the Tykk could definitely deliver.

For an aircraft of its size and mass, it could pull off some surprising manoeuvers, putting away in a short sprint and doing a gut-wrenching climb. Mateo stayed composed, despite his age making this rather uncomfortable, but enjoyable nonetheless, at least the brief adrenaline rush put his mind's ghosts at ease. For Cabré and Vasques, it was a different story. For the first time in the entire trip, Cabré looked worryingly alarmed, the old shaven-headed marine had apparently never experienced one before. Mateo wished he could take a photo, the look of what appeared to be hard-man Cabré suppressing the urge to "dump fuel" would be a priceless trade in the MoD building. Vasques, on the other hand, looked like a radical libertarian arsonist watching the Cámra building burn to the ground. It really doesn't need further explaining.

The G's abated soon enough, the aircraft coming to a level cruise. The invisible elephant on all their chests seemed happy to go f*ck-off somewhere else. As they unstrapped themselves, the conversation around the interior began anew. The rest of the cruising was pleasant enough--though noisy to be sure. You just couldn't help with turboprops.

The real surprise came when the Tykk touched down on an unpaved Summervale. Compared to landings by the ageing fleet of SK Toro, the landing had been strangely smooth. Of course, FLAIR pilots had been using the Toro for so long that all of the units the dozen-strong fleet had pretty much worn down the suspension on their landing gear--initially designed for rough strips like this one. In contrast, the Tykk's was brand new and had evidently learned from older mistakes. Mateo found himself musing on whether pneumatics were involved or not.


 

As the demos ended, the small party walked towards their waiting vehicles on the concourse, their backs to the setting sun.

In the dusk light, the warm orange illuminated the surrounding Summervale countryside with the pastel of rural Prymont in the late autumn--a warmth in stark contrast with the chill beginning to build from both Canamo and Argic winds.

With this deal, things may very well be on the upswing for the FLAIR. It was this thought that gave Mateo some greater comfort as his eyes wandered about the fields of orange-yellow crop, dancing in the breeze that hearkened for a chilly night by the fires.

In the beginning, it had been excitement and some slight doubt from him and Cabré. He knew what he was asking for was large, expensive, and quite a risk where his and his department's future was concerned. But strangely, now as the trip was drawing to a close, he felt his anxieties ebbing away like the faltering light of the dipping sun behind him. He thought of Vasques, with his infectious optimism and wild, but well-founded reasoning. He thought of the recollections that regularly thrust their ugly talons into his thoughts. He thought that perhaps, with this hurrah--this mark in his career--he may have just done his part, taken a small step in reparation to those he had let down all those years ago.

As they reached the waiting cars, Mateo once again brought his focus down to earth. Beside him, Vasques and Ms Aamot were enthusiastically (well, maybe for the former) engaged in technicals, Cabré stepping in to save the lady from further jabbering, thanking her formally for the day. As the two shook hands before embarking, Mateo stepped in.

"Madame Aamot", he began, with the sun sweeping both their figures from the side. As the old General regarded the cool executive, there might have been a faint twinkle in his eye.

"I must thank you for the tour. That truly was a wonderful experience."

Mateo offered a brief smile.

---

 

OOC: Extra cheese on top people. Sue me

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With the day fading away quickly, Lucy Aamot took a moment to review her weekend. The start had been a mixture of boredom and promise - paperwork wasn't fun to fill out, but the promise of the rich Ivericans purchasing some of her best assets overpowered any dullness. There was so much work to be done, with finalising the purchase, transferring the money, ordering the materials, and constructing the units, all while balancing current projects fairly. The Nålestråle had fallen behind due to government funding cuts, and was at risk of being scrapped so close to the finish line. Any profits from this purchase would go straight back into the company, hopefully finishing the supersonic airliner and continuing development for their supersonic bomber too. That was still in its infancy stages, having been largely inspired by the Nålestråle, but the USP Air Force had already placed a tentative order. While the current financial situation was sketchy, it was looking much more secure for the future.

Today had generally been a much better day overall, for both Lucy and her guests. They'd been fascinated with her tour of the facilities, which was always reassuring from Ivericans. Prymont wasn't known for its grand manufacturing industry like their western friends were, so it was a great compliment to see them take such interest and provide approval of her compound. The lunch had also gone down well, with the host finding it nice to try different cuisines. The Ivericans had an acquired palette, but Lucy was fortunate in that she enjoyed most of what she tried. It was all part of the guest integration aim. It made them feel at home, feel more appreciated, and she liked to think that it led to a higher chance of purchase.

And of course, the demonstrations. Their expressions upon seeing the Tungstråle were taken straight from kids in a candy store with their pocket money in hand, ready to take in all the sugar they could. Such a great, humongous beast should've attracted more attention than it did, and while it featured briefly in the international news, it was quickly forgotten. Receiving only one order from the USPAF had been heartbreaking. Seeing all of her employees so devastated after having been promised so much but receiving so little had made her want to quit there and then, but she didn't. She persevered, she showed the world what the giant could do, and now customers were here wanting three. 

The Tykkstråle had been an unexpected inquiry, with Lucy only being informed of a potential Tungstråle order, yet it was a very welcome one. Interest in the strategic airlifter had been reasonable, and with the Iverican order, Aamotech were ready to turn a profit before the orders had even been sent out. During the meeting yesterday, Lucy had picked up that they were more interested in the Tykk than the Tung, but as long as they gave her some money, she was happy in the end. She wanted to do her father proud and take the company into heights never seen before, and the only way to do that was to turn a profit and keep the cogs turning. So far, she was doing a good job of it.

Her technical walk with Vasques had been slightly overwhelming. The enthusiasm was greatly received, but he knew perhaps a little too much. Aamot liked to think that she knew enough about her planes, but Vasques was like an encyclopedia of knowledge and insight. After only spending minutes with each plane, he was telling her more about them than her own engineers could. It was impressive, certainly, but she didn't want to come across as inexperienced. Cabré's interruption had been thankfully welcomed, with Lucy taking a noticeable sigh of relief. The day had been long and she was tired. It was time to wrap this up.

"Gentlemen, it has been my pleasure to have you as my guests. This weekend has been very productive, I believe. While I'd love to be able to keep you for longer and show you more of what we can do, I'm afraid I'm quite pressed for time. I've arranged for some cars to collect you and return you to your hotel. If you're happy to, we'll start with the order right away."

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The return flight carried an air of calm satisfaction, the result of a long weekend well-accomplished.

Outside Mateo's window, the grey-blue clouds the left in the wake of the charging  Slankstråle appeared to be steadily drifting in the opposite direction, back to New Halsham. Ahead of them, visible only as red-orange tint emanating from the horizon was the setting sun, throwing gentle, fading hues across the sky's canvas.

The concluding pleasantries had been conducted in the same manner as the introduction, with the measured production of formality, seasoned with carefully thrown dashes human conversation. Madame Aamot had certainly been quite accommodating and very professional, affording the party ever pleasantry and measure of etiquette befitting the image the steely woman had forged for herself. Despite her razor-edged, steely cool exterior, Mateo had found her quite the character, albeit one that needed to be drawn out inch by inch with what scarce scraps she betrayed. Once the formalities had been returned, the three hadn't wasted another moment, each one had their own deadlines to meet. Certainly, Mateo would have enjoyed another quiet night in New Halsham, but every moment away from his desk meant that the spire of papers reaching for his ceiling would continue to grow, unculled. 

Behind him, Cabré was already busy drafting project proposals for the arrival of the first unit, occasionally dozing off when no one appeared to be looking his way. Over in the corner, Vasques was unabashedly taking full advantage of the spacious seats, legs thrown about in a cork-screw position, the latest issue of Rhyme Magazine adorning his upturned face like a shed roof.

Mateo returned to the drink of small liquor in his hand, taking small sips--intent on enjoying this quiet reprieve for every minute it spared. While by no means, a great battle, small trips and formalities like this one were beginning to seem longer and harder for the ageing man. Perhaps in another decade, Mateo wouldn't even be fit enough for these exchanges, wasting away on pension in his comfortable suburban lot, occasionally disturbed by forced visits from estranged and apathetic grandchildren.

Yes, that day would come, likely tempting a muzzle to his crown when it did--but until then, he would pursue his small, quiet victories. Making up to old ghosts by moving, ever more slowly, one tired foot in front of the other.

The old man turned his lined face and brought his gaze west, where the bird chased the dying sun's rays.

 

 


OOC:

Well this wraps up the main portion and first half of Price of a Dream. This turned out to be a far bigger and more interesting RP than I initially expected. Thanks to Prymont for being my RP partner here, making my very first one in this region a fun, memorable exchange of ideas and characters. (One fine NS-mate you are Pry!)

If anyone else has been following the unfolding drama cheese, I am thankful for your patience and readership. Until the next one!

Edited by Iverica
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