curity consultant of the Freslin Branch.
I ’ll be attending to your needs this afternoon. ”

While Ves was surprised with the woman ’s age, he was more interested in the mention of his name.
”You know who I am? ”

”How can we not? ” She smiled.
”Your face was plastered all over the news a few weeks back when you won silver in Bentheim. ”

Ves thought that such a small accomplishment would quickly be forgotten by the masses.
Did he underestimate the fame he earned when he achieved second place in the Fusion Cup?

”Well Robyn, as you can probably guess, I ’m here to invest in security for my business.
Can we talk? ”

”Certainly. ”

After exchanging greetings, the woman led him to a small and richly furnished conference room.
Ves took a random seat while Robyn set down a cup of coffee on the table in front of him.
The security consultant pressed down the table, allowing a projector to beam a bunch of marketing material in front of him.
It listed all the standard services the company provided.

”As a small business owner, we can offer you a limited selection of services.
I doubt your annual revenue surpasses a billion bright credits, so we can leave the enterprise solutions off the table. ”

Ves nodded at the sensible selection.
”I don ’t intend to scale up my production.
My earnings will not be growing dramatically, though I hope it will stay steady.
For now, I only hope to make my workshop more secure from spies and burglars.
Let alone rogue mechs, right now, any drunkard can climb over my fence. ”

”Ah, so you wish to make a major investment into your cyber security and a minor investment in perimeter security. ” Robyn lifted a couple of fingers to push away most of the options in the projection.
Most of the solutions that remained different substantially in price.
”What is your budget? ”

”I ’d like to start with about five hundred thousand, but with the option of upgrading my choice later on when my business starts to pick up in perhaps a half year or a year. ”

One of the lower-end options dominated the screen.
Robyn pointed her finger at the most notable features of this package.

”The Cyber-Robo service that we offer can protect your premises both digitally and in reality.
We offer a standard suite of hardware and software security solutions to protect your intellectual property from opportunistic virtual attacks.
You can always upgrade or downgrade this ongoing service at your leisure. ”

”Hm, that sounds great.
What about protection from outside my doorstep? ”

”We can offer you a team of four mechanical patrol bots to establish a basic perimeter guard.
We can not offer you direct control over their programming, but we do allow you to designate priorities.
You can designate an area that they must guard at all costs for example. ”

”What kind of armament will they carry? ”

”The bots are licensed to carry anti-personnel and light anti-vehicle weapons.
It won ’t stop even a light mech, but they can and will shoot down any aircars crashing in your direction.
If you happen to upgrade your contract with a couple of million credits, we can augment your guard with a pair of our proprietary Arcbots.
They possess enough firepower to fend off a light mech long enough for the Planetary Guard to respond. ”

The options on the table weren ’t to his satisfaction.
Ves wanted a more substantial guard to have some piece of mind.
Sadly, he wasn ’t made of gold, so he had to do with what his budget could withstand.

”I ’ll take the basic Cyber-Robo option. ”

The two hammered out the details within an hour.
Within a week, a couple of technicians and security consultants would visit his workshop and start to implement his chosen security plan.
Besides designating a couple of sections of his workshop that he wanted to protect the most, the people of SASS could take care of the rest.

Ves left the branch office with a lighter step.
Though he spent five hundred thousand credits in one go, the extra safety he got in return allowed him to ease one worry off his mind.

”Once my business rises in value, I have to increase my security spending.
I can ’t end up as a fat lamb ready for slaughter. ”

As Ves only recently started his company, he wasn ’t worth gobbling up.
With the System ’s help, that could change fast.
Once his skills improved and his mech designs incorporated a couple of unique strengths, Ves might be inundated with offers.
Some of them may not come with kind intentions.

Chief among them was Walter ’s Whalers.
As the local bullies of Cloudy Curtain, they took a modest cut out of every company ’s earnings.
They were rather mild as far as gangs went.
Cloudy Curtain was just too small for them to squeeze with any force.
If they acted too heavy handedly, then no business would be willing to operate in their territory.

Therefore, the next destination of his trip brought him to one of their outposts near Freslin.
The dilapidated-looking mech base only serviced a single squad of mechs, but Ves didn ’t underestimate the local organization one bit.

A bored guard sat right next to the gates, staring at the colorful clouds in the sky.
”Who ’s there? ”

”I ’m a new business owner.
I ’d like to meet with the boss of this place. ”

That perked up the sleepy man.
”Oh, so its money business, eh? You can go straight ahead.
I ’ll call in the little boss. ”

Little boss? Confused, Ves stepped inside and walked straight towards the barracks up ahead.
Much like the rest of the base, the structure looked as if it had seen better days.
Ves thought it likely that the base used to be occupied by the Mech Corps.
The lack of any value extracted from the local star system prompted the Bright Republic to scale down its local presence and allocate their resources to richer planets.

After Walter ’s Whalers took over planetary security, they clearly didn ’t value proper maintenance as much as the Republic ’s armed forces.
Ves even saw a pile of wrecks stuffed in a corner.
He lamented the enormous waste.
If they hadn ’t been so exposed to the elements, a designer like himself could salvage much of the parts and cobble up a couple of cheap but functional mechs.
He already had experience doing so in the Fusion Cup.

”Hey, wassup man? ” A hand clapped his back from behind, giving the frail mech designer a fright.

He turned around and met his gaze with a handsome blond that matched his age.
The young man looked similar to the elite pilots he encountered in the YTE.
He wore a sweaty piloting suit, which made it clear the man just finished practice.

”I ’m Ves Larkinson.
Are you the..
Little boss? ”

”Sure thing.
And before you ask, I ’m Dietrich, Walter ’s second son. ” The man grumbled a bit as he swiped his messy hair.

Ves straightened up a little as he realized he was facing a genuine big shot rather than just a sub-boss.
Dietrich scanned over his body perceptively and dismissed any potential threats.
A skinny guy like Ves could never overpower a trained mercenary.

”So you came for business, right? ”

I don ’t want any misunderstandings to occur between us as my business starts to grow. ”

Dietrich grinned and thumped his chest with his fist.
The force behind the casual action could knock Ves right out his feet.
”Don ’t worry Larkinson, us Whalers don ’t mistreat our own.
I ’m kind of thirsty right now, so come with me.
I know a nice joint that has the best imported drinks in town. ”

Before he knew it, Dietrich dragged Ves to his personal aircar.
The pimped out vehicle was some kind of luxury model Ves was not very familiar with, but he appreciated its sleek design.
Dietrich didn ’t engage the autopilot.
Instead he took personal control and raced out of the parking lot with the speed of a missile.
The G-forces alone pushed Ves back into his chair.

”Could you please ease off a little? I ’m not a pilot! ”

”Oh, sorry bout that. ” Dietrich nonchalantly replied and stopped accelerating.
”I got too excited for a moment.
I ’m meeting up with my sweethearts, you see. ”

no worries.. ” Ves trailed off, wondering what he got himself into.

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