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A Peculiar Acquisition

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Gathan Darok, easily one of the wealthiest individuals in the Republic, a sitting member of the Senate, was not content with the status he already possessed. He wanted more. He wanted the Praetorship. It was known in certain circles within the chamber - and to some extent, even the current Praetor was aware - that a battle was being waged in the shadows over the position. Gathan was not beneath outright murder to get his way but one of his closest allies who held a senior position in the Trade Ministry had gotten wind of the Faramountian Economics Minister's visit to Dartha seeking badly-needed capital in its critical oil and natural gas industries. Though back channels, Darok took advantage of the foreigner's arrival in his own effort to remove Terix. One of his servants worked to arrange the meeting that would transpire.

At precisely 21:05, a black-tinted car entered the small service area. The driver flickered the lights, the signal for Terrone to walk up and get in the car with his associates. He opened the door and found Senator Gathan Darok waiting for him. "Good evening, it is a pleasure to meet you, please, take a seat. We're going to go for a bit of a drive," he remarked. He then turned to his faithful servant and driver, Prelek, "give us a tour of the capital," he instructed. His servant silently nodded in acknowledgement and pulled out of the hotel and onto a busy thoroughfare in the center of the great city.

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"It would be my pleasure," Terrone said, stepping into the vehicle without hesitation. "Wait here for me," he directed his bodyguards before pulling the door closed. It was a risk to leave his escorts behind, of course, but the minister wanted to send a signal of trust to the senator. What's more, Terrone genuinely doubted he had much to fear. Darok had no reason to wish Terrone dead, and Darok's security -- and the generally high level of safety in first world Rihan -- would surely be enough to protect the minister from any other threat.

"It is an honor to meet with you, Senator Darok," Terrone said as the vehicle pulled out of the service lot, "I greatly appreciate you taking the time. I've had some very promising talks with your government regarding petroleum and other mining interests today. I'm hopeful we'll see some mutually beneficial investments in the coming years. But to get straight to the point -- I'd also like to see us establish a trade in certain other natural resources. I believe my chief of staff has already discussed the bare bones of my proposal with your advisers?"

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The car was driving towards the Orventis Arena but the driver hanged a right and turned onto Via Ebium. "They've told me the overlying proposal," Darok responded. "The last...individuals to be under our current policy will be relieved of their obligations in a mere five years. We, as in the Senate, made considerable concessions to the lower classes during the political crisis that unfolded in the aftermath of the Enolian War but myself, and other members of the Nej'ahar, while having some concern over the well-being of those below us, know that the economy will be completely destabilized if we completely rush into a new economic model of labor."

Prelek stopped at a red light at the corner of Via Ebium and Via Narius. "The Republic would collapse and Terix's plan to semi-liberalize the economy will only bring that instability sooner than my fellow landowners are comfortable with...and the lack of 'reasonable' labor will damage our profit margins. Our current...workers...were found during the Age of Expansion and there is no indication, despite calls for another such undertaking by the militant Jaridan, occurring at least at present."

Their car turned onto Via Narius and sped towards the heart of Dartha: the Forum of Caliax.

"I am intrigued by the proposal," he commented. "Tell me more."

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Terrone listened with his trademark intensity before responding quickly. "I'm glad to hear of your interest, and I think we may be able to reach a mutually beneficial agreement."

"We have a great deal of people in Faramount whom we need to," Terrone paused, looking for the right word, before shrugging, and continuing bluntly, "get out of the way. Some are political dissidents, mostly ethnic minorities unhappy with the ruling regime. Some are locals that refuse to stand aside to allow for coal and petroleum extraction. Some are mere criminals. We have a massive prison population in Faramount, about 150,000 right now, and it is expensive to keep them locked up. And as a result, our system is to a great degree a revolving door."

"My compatriots in the defense ministry have found a... cheaper solution to the cost of mass incarceration," Terrone continued, "in the form of just slaughtering those who get in the way. And that happens sometimes from the interior ministry, too. But I dislike this solution. There's the issue of its brutality, of course, but more than that, it seems wasteful and inefficient to me. And it invites foreign condemnation, media attention, and above all else, dissent within the ranks. No one likes to be a mass murderer -- except for the people who, frankly, we shouldn't be given a badge and a gun."

"So I think we very much have something you might desire: labor. Instead of sentencing these people to prison (or killing them or catch-and-releasing them), we'd sentence them to hard labor, such sentence to be carried out in Rihan. We could easily be talking terms of 15, 20, even 30 years. And at the end of that time -- well, it'd really be up to you. You can dump them back on us. They'd be better educated and disciplined by that point, for sure. Or perhaps, as an incentive to work hard, you could let them stay. I can tell you -- being poor in Rihan is much better than being anything but filthy rich in Faramount. I think a lot of rational people would happily work away the best years of their lives in order to live out the last years of their lives somewhere like this."

Terrone smiled. "Now, obviously, we would expect some compensation for providing this labor. And, as the person arranging this deal, I'd need a...finder's fee. Setting up this system without attracting too much international attention won't be easy. But once it's in place, I think it'll be highly mutually beneficial."

"But of course, that's just my conceptualization," Terrone added quickly, "and we could certainly adjust it based on your preferences."

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Gathan listened attentively to Terrone's proposal. "It's certainly a tantalizing proposition you are suggesting," he began. "I will admit, enslavement is quite detested around the world as we've seen in various news media and international activity in recent weeks and months, but frankly, there is a place for it - if not in the name of providing a means for an individual to strive for reintegration into society by giving back to the world. True, it's not the same as putting them more 'costly' means of reconditioning but labor is cheapest and the easiest to use. I am quite aware that there are many nations in the world who are already disgusted by our continued use of slaves, even if they barely make up 10% of the population - and this was due to internal demands by the freeman of the lower classes. But its curtailment has had a mixed result on the economy."

"But those international powers are too occupied with dozens of far greater and severely more devasting problems facing the world - from extremists in Afropa to potential, if not outright genocide in the Serbian territories, and lest we forget stabilizing whole parts of the world that had fallen into utter chaos. If nations truly spent time trying to change societal conditions in Rihan then they'd be wasting their valuable time and resources on people who far worse off. I may be a businessman but I do not ignore events from beyond the Republic's borders. I am sure eventually a nation will pick up on our deal but by then, it will already be too far long for them to intervene 'directly.'"

He paused for a moment. "Our Derthaler friends are not fond of slavery but seeing as they've wanted to get to close to the Republic through diplomatic channels as a means to fight back many of their own detractors tells me that they are willing to look a blind eye so I believe they'd care little for our transaction as long as we don't make waves." He readjusted himself in his seat to take a quick look out the window as the car drove through the Forum.

"If we are going to proceed with this business, I would recommend that we do not frame this as a purely 'economic' venture as such language is sure to spark criticism, but rather, a program for those seeking a second chance. We can mold the message as giving those poor Faramountese an opportunity in a better country and if they 'participate' for the extent of the term, then their records are 'cleaned.' I can use my leverage in the Senate to set up a dumb program to filter the funding for the effort in cooperation with the D'era Cult. We would take those willing individuals for a period of 15 years and afterward, those who showed promise under the guidelines of this initiative would be given the option of being given protected status within the Republic - not citizenship - but they'd have their former lives burned and given a fresh start - and those who don't meet the qualifications or do not accept our exit offer - will be sent back to Faramount."

The car had turned out of the Forum and onto the Via Colius and back towards the hotel. "You mentioned a finder's fee," he said. "How much are you looking for...now...and for each of our expected participants?"

Edited by Rihan
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