She shouted between cannon reports and explosions, "Long time no see, my cheri!" And Lucien grinned. Few people in this world spoke this one of several languages he'd taught to certain select friends and associates. And there was only one person he knew who liked to mix languages thus.
"Charlotte. Indeed, it has been some time. What brings a nice girl like you to a place like this? As if I have to ask..."
"I'm sure you don't, old friend. No doubt the same thing that brings you here: profit. After all, what else is there?"
"Oh, there are a few other things this world offers that interest me, from time to time. But-" he was interrupted by an incoming shell, and the two of them ran to a slightly safer position. "But of course, what other interest could I have in war? Unfortunately... it's starting to look like my present deal might just fall through. If the people I'm dealing with don't survive."
"Worry about your own skin first, mon ami. If you survive, there'll always be others to deal with. But I wonder if we're here to meet the same imperiled patriots?"
"They hadn't mentioned anything to me about any other businesspeople coming to the party. But then, it wouldn't surprise me."
"Fair trade, Lucien, healthy competition. They're rather in need of a good bargain, aren't they?"
He narrowed his eyes. "Just so you don't skimp on the quality. A bargain they may need, but that old saying about the lowest bidder... Well, they certainly don't need merchandise failing at a crucial moment, or worse, backfiring on them."
She feigned offense. "Why Lucien, I'm shocked! I can't believe you'd suggest I would ever deal in anything less than the highest quality products!"
He held his stare a few moments, then smiled and turned his head. "Of course I'd never say that. Not at all. Well, perhaps we should see if we can find our potential clients together. Before they, or we... go out of business, permanently..." And so they both walked together in toward a distant war tent...
"Ah, Mr. Smith, Ms. Hawk, it is indeed a pleasure to see you both."
"Likewise, I'm sure," replied Charlotte.
"Bit of a surprise," said Lucien. "Seeing her, I mean. I thought this would be a private meeting."
"Yes, sorry about that. The higher-ups insisted on comparison shopping. Hope you don't mind too much. I take it you two are acquainted?"
"Oh, yes. We've known each other for simply years. And I've never been one to balk at healthy competition. Although I will say, it would be nice to be able to hold this meeting somewhere less... life-threatening."
"Sorry about that. Couldn't have been foreseen, this latest attack. Well, maybe it could, if we'd had better intell. But after all, it's a life-threatening business we're all in, isn't it? I feel it would be negligent of us to pretend otherwise. Obviously, my job isn't quite the same as yours, but still... your parts and mine are inherently intertwined, now aren't they?"
"I couldn't agree more, Colonel," said Charlotte. "And while I must admit it isn't without some trepidation that I came to this place, I do feel it's only right. If I'm going to sell arms, I shouldn't be afraid to be around them in action. ...Of course, I'm sure my worthy competitor is no coward, himself."
"I'm here, aren't I?" said Lucien. "Even so, I don't want to stick around any longer than need be. So what say we all get down to business..."
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