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Breaking the Ice

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President Duval breathed a cold sigh of relief as the @Fulgistani plane touched down before him on Runway I of the Canastota International Airport. From behind the glass windows of the Canamo Terminal, the Prymontian head of state watched on as the plane came to a halt by the outstretched jet bridge, offering General Secretary Almas a dry, quick way into the building. Usually the President would meet with visitors out on the tarmac, but a sudden torrential downpour had quickly put a stop to those plans. Instead, the press had been rounded up inside, the terminal fully closed down, and the nearest lounge readied with hot beverages to warm the General Secretary up.

Discussions for Fulgistan and the United States to meet had been in the works for quite some time, and really, the meeting was a long time coming. During Prymont's socialist days, the two had gotten along like a house on fire, yet relations had become stale when capitalism was reintroduced in 2017. With Fulgistan providing the US with a variety of fruit imports, it was vital that relations remained healthy and positive; plus, a meeting opened the door to further import/export possibilities. With Prymont reducing their mining efforts, perhaps it would be a good idea to revert to the days of old, when most cutlery on the plates of the Prymontian people had Made in Fulgiyan marked on the back. 

While the meeting could go down in history as one that once again strengthened Prymont-Fulgistan relations and showed that Prymont could be friends with communists, it was more important to Duval for other reasons. With his recent hectic meeting with Ahrana and an upcoming world-first conference with Poland-Lithuania, President Duval was glad to be meeting with someone who ran a normal nation. Fulgistan hadn't made headlines recently for invading barbaric lands or forcing TRIDENT into a blockade. No, in fact, from what he'd read of the past, Fulgistan was a simple, hardworking country that just happened to prefer socialism. The United States once preferred socialism too, and while it didn't end well, it sustained the country for twenty two years. Perhaps central Argis was just a bizarre outlier, and socialism around the rest of the world was normal. It was very telling of recent events that Duval craved a sense of normality in his foreign relations.

As Almas emerged from the bridge, flashes illuminated the building as paparazzi snapped hundreds of images. The President held a rarely seen welcoming smile as he was approached, holding out his hand and greeting the Secretary General in the few words of Fulgistani that he'd rehearsed. "General Secretary, it's a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to Prymont. I think they want a picture, no?"

Edited by Prymont (see edit history)
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General Secretary Almas, not missing a beat, smiled warmly and shook President Duval's hand, turning to face the gathered press cameras, as well as his own state photographer. He'd carefully chosen a blue tie for the occasion, as opposed to the red one he'd worn to Ahrana. The symbolism was a bit pedestrian, yes, but it certainly got the message across. Duval's lingustic gesture, though a little wooden of pronunciation, was nonetheless appreciated. Almas replied, in English, "It is my honor to visit the United States, Mr. President."

After the assorted press types had departed the terminal, the pair and their entourages made their way to the waiting motorcade, with Almas and Duval in a fine, black KAP K6. Prymont autos, Almas noted, made good state cars. The interior had been modified a bit, to allow for more comfort and room, and the two men took their seats, as the motorcade began rolling toward Canastota Court.

"So, Mr. Duval, I trust you're aware of what's happening in Ahrana. Truthfully, I'd be glad to see Gregor Ivanoff behind bars; of course, nothing is certain."

The General Secretary paused, realizing he'd come on rather strong. "I'm very grateful for the invitation to visit the USP, Mr. President, and I hope that during my visit to your country we can foster goodwill and cooperation between our two peoples in the wake of recent international turmoil."

Truthfully, he thought, the Prymontians were difficult to read. They'd been socialist, but then they'd made a scene at the CIS founding ceremony. They were certainly no friends of Ivanoff's government, which was refreshing, but they, and TRIDENT as a whole, seemed suspicious, if not outright hostile to, most communist states. Almas was unsure just how much he stood to gain from this meeting; however, he was hopeful that the two countries' relationship could be bettered once again.

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The car journey to Canastota Court was pleasant, with the motorcade following cordoned off routes through the city, showing Almas the best of what Prymont had to offer. Rising skyscrapers dotted the horizon, showing that the United States were only going up in the world, while a handful of foreign food stands and run-of-the-mill everyday stores lined the closer streets, expressing the rich diversity of Prymont's largest city. The KAP K6, handpicked by Kaldestad Aamot Group CEO Erik Bruun, had undergone extensive modifications for Presidential use. The body had been slightly lengthened to offer more leg room in the rear, and executive heated leather massage seats had been installed for maximum comfort. The suspension had been reinforced and boasted bulletproof tyres, with a redesigned floor to protect against explosions. The windows, bulletproof of course, were unable to be wound down due to their weight, and so the climate control within the Presidential fleet had been upgraded with increased air conditioning capabilities. No expense had been skipped on the car, which was more than could be said for transport that'd been given to Greggor Ivanoff during his visit.

"I most certainly am. I met with the Secretary General before he was stripped of his powers, and I'm glad to never have to encounter him again. What a spineless man. Not fit to run a country at all." The convoy stopped within the protective fencing of Canastota Court, a specially trained assistant opening the heavy door. Pre-approved photographers lined the short walk up the gentle stairs to the entrance of the grand building, and Duval waved at them as he passed. Hidden behind pillars and watching from nearby high rise buildings were secret service agents, continuously ensuring the safety of the two world leaders. Inside, the historic building had been extensively modernised. A large, white hall greeted them; local and state politicians milled about casually, making their way to one door of many that lined the walls. Ancient art of fishermen and kings hung from the walls up above, naturally illuminated by a ludicrously expensive glass dome ceiling that'd recently undergone repair for cracks from hailstone. On the far end of the hall was a subsidised cafe, where politicians could meet and discuss important matters over a cheap lunch.

Duval guided Almas to an escalator in the far left corner of the room, one that was guarded by armed police. The officers stepped aside for the party, who were whisked up to an off-limits section of the second floor. Here, thick, blue carpet lined the floors, with a great roaring fireplace keeping the room warm. Luxurious antique seats adorned the room, seemingly fresh from royal palaces, as smartly dressed waiters attended to the more important people of Prymont's government with champagne and wine. Almas was invited to a room behind a towering artsy door, one that gave way to an out of place avant-garde office setting. When in Canastota, this was where the President conducted his business, and invited his guest to take a seat. 

"It's my pleasure to have you here, General Secretary. I too hope that we can have a productive, positive time together. May I interest you in some champagne, or wine, or perhaps even our unique sloe whiskey? Maybe something more settled like a tea or coffee would interest you more. We have rich @Iverican blends, or even plain water, gathered from fjords and glaciers in the north." While the choice of drinks may seem ridiculous and over the top, Duval wanted to make sure Almas was given the full experience. He wanted to make an impression, one that separated him from recent aggressive actions that his country had participated in. Most importantly, he wanted to show Fulgistan that Prymont was more than a frozen little nation punching above their weight. Prymont was worthy of international recognition and of playing with the big boys, and the President was here to prove that.

"Your luggage has been taken to the newly opened Røvik Hotel; we passed through it on the way here. Five star, all inclusive, of course, the playground of the rich and famous. We'll go there later. For now, perhaps we can discuss a few topics together? I hear you're searching for companies to fulfil the development and construction of a new fighter jet for your air force. My country is also very interested in your fruit farming operations. It may be time to revisit the days of old and send some workers for some bananas, eh?" His jest was accompanied by a friendly chuckle, but behind the laughter was serious debate. Industry experts had warned of fruit and vegetable shortages, and as Prymont's climate was in no way fit for worthwhile crop farming, they would have to look abroad. Ostport had held lucrative deals with Fulgiyan in the pre-revolution days, and perhaps it was time to renew that interest.

The Røvik Hotel, Canastota's latest luxury guest house.

Edited by Prymont (see edit history)
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Almas settled into his seat, having left his aides outside the office door. This building's design certainly sat better with him than the fluting and garish pink exterior of Ivanoff's palace. President Duval was a fast walker, and Almas was glad of the short repose after trying to keep up.

"Coffee, Mr. President, would be wonderful. One sugar, no milk, if you please. Would you care for a cigar? I won't smoke if you don't."

Almas procured a pair of Fulgistani robustos from his pocket and laid them on the desk.

"We are, indeed, looking to develop a new fighter aircraft; in fact, I've brought along several members of the Bureau for Defense, in hopes they might meet with representatives of the Aamotech corporation."

The General Secretary considered Duval's second proposal, thinking back to the past month's Politburo meeting. Mostly, the economic concerns had been over the possible reclamation of terrorist-held iron mines in the southwest, outside of the currently recognized borders of Fulgistan, but there had been some amount of discussion over fruit plantations and fisheries.

"Our fruit production is stable at present, with Johor Baling and Samarkhand provinces producing the most. We're mostly concentrated on expanding production of beef and corn currently, but it would be a simple matter to process fruit for export to the United States. Certainly, we have some to spare, given the lack of a market for it in Southeast Alharu. However, given that Ahrana and the Commonwealth represent the nearest countries to Prymont via the Mediargic shipping routes, we would most likely have to ship the product through the Ygros and then to an intermediary destination for air transport. Is that economical for the United States?"

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"Thank you, but no thank you. I tend to stay away from smoking." Duval waved off the cigars, hoping that the rejection hadn't insulted Almas too much. Fingers crossed, the change of conversation to actual business would take their minds off such minor matters. "Certainly, I can arrange for a visit to the Aamotech headquarters on Saturday. They're not far from here, and Miss Aamot will be more than happy to have you."

Considering transport routes gave him something to think about. Ocean transit through the frozen Argic was troublesome, risky, and expensive. For years, Prymont had been searching for alternatives, and while one was on the horizon, it was costly and time consuming. Air cargo was expensive too, but both Rettenmyr International and Canastota International had made recent leaps and bounds in streamlining their cargo terminals for maximum efficiency. 

"Meats we can handle domestically, but crops like corn are always useful. Our climate doesn't allow for widespread corn farming and we've been relying on importing it for centuries. Expanding our import partners could allow for cost reduction at home, so we're interested in that. Fruit, of course, is also something that's hard to come by naturally here. Recently we've increasingly depended upon Iverica, but again, having additional options is always beneficial. If it's a market you're looking to expand in, we'd be happy to invest somewhat in corn farming and handling, perhaps for a reduction in tariffs. I scratch your back, you scratch mine, so to speak. As for transport, if you'd prefer to focus on the Mediargic then you can ship to @Girkmand and we can have it flown in from there. Alternatively, you can have it sent to @Iverica, where our ships will collect it and take it through the Argic. We have a dedicated year-round icebreaking fleet that clears the route, but it's a risk for us to consider instead of you. Due to rising costs, I'd prefer to avoid air travel."

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"Of course, no trouble." Almas pocketed the cigars again. "Iverica would likely be the best receiving venue for our fruits and vegetables; they're a nation close to you, and they've certainly got no trouble with piracy or the like. Girkmand, while no less a nation with safe seas, is a neighbor of Ratopia, and frankly, it's better if nothing bigger than a dinghy passes through those waters. In any case, I'll put in a call to have someone speak to the port officers in Wulumuqi about it when our meeting is concluded."

Almas took a sip of his coffee. Impressive; he'd have to remind his secretary to get a few bags of this, along with a case of that sloe whiskey. Despite all the things the President said about Prymont lacking fresh fruit, there were gastronomic pleasures to be had even in the frozen north, it seemed. He paused for a fair while before making his next point.

"We in Fulgistan, and no doubt you in the United States, have taken note of a recent rise in aggressive expansionism worldwide, in countries like Ahrana, the Imperial States and Eurofuhrer. This is, of course, deeply troubling. While the free world will, of course, not allow this to go on, we in Fulgistan, as socialists, feel that perhaps many nations who would oppose expansionist totalitarians would not be so enthusiastic were it to be ourselves under attack, because their only experience with socialism is with the crackpots in Central Argis."

Almas was unsure if this was the appropriate time or place, but he knew that Duval would be leaving soon for a meeting with the Commonwealth. The cards had to be laid out now, not later.

"If there is military aid that my nation can offer yours, whether now or in the future, we would be very open to discussing the matter. Of course, the United States is a TRIDENT member, but we would like to demonstrate our willingness, as a people, to cooperate with other members of the free world in the protection of global security."

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Twenty two years of horrible socialism had tainted Duval's mind of the ideology to on the verge of no return, but Almas was slowly changing that. While Fulgistan had employed socialism for many years, their country hadn't gone down the path of corruption and misery; at least, not as visibly as central Argis. Almas actually cared, which was more than could be said for some of the other leaders in the area. His point about avoiding Girkmand because of Ratopia was fully valid, and one that the President wholly agreed with. While Girkmand was a close ally in TRIDENT, it was best to avoid poking the raging bear that was the Rat land.

"I completely agree with avoiding Ratopia. I wouldn't go near them, even if my life depended on it. Central Argis just continues to go downhill with nations like theirs. Yes, for now, Iverica is the way to go. I'll have my Transport Ministry get in touch with theirs and yours to settle an arrangement."

The General Secretary's next point came somewhat as a surprise. While he had expected to be debating defence with their upcoming jet fighter contract, a more general cooperation was out of the blue - or, so to say, red. Furthermore, Almas was showing that his socialism was different, and that central Argis wasn't how it had to be. The thought of socialism attacking socialism hadn't crossed his mind, but he doubted his Defence Minister would be as willing as he was if it were another TRIDENT member.

"Rest assured that the United States will oppose aggressive socialism in any form across the world. If you were to be attacked, we would, and TRIDENT to an extent, jump to your aid. Socialism as seen in Ahrana and Greater Serbia cannot be allowed to spread. As for cooperation, just one moment..." Duval turned to his sleek laptop before him, flipping the lid open and tapping away rapidly. What he was about to propose could risk national security at an unprecedented level, but if it meant receiving the assistance of 'good' socialist forces and increasing the pace of rebuilding, then it could well be worth it. "I'm sure you're aware by now, but since January, the United States has been working endlessly in The Hellenic Rus to rectify the complete ruining of the country due to terrorist attacks. Their government has disappeared, and all infrastructure has been lost. To this day, there's fighting going on in major cities, and millions of people are without electricity, clean water, and fresh food. Providing help to them and bringing the country back onto its feet is vital for the collective economies of the Canamo neighbourhood. Ahrana has proven useless, but perhaps your forces may be more competent. It's a brilliant opportunity to have our men work together, and to establish military connections between our nations. It's a bloody expensive affair, I'll warn you now, but if it reassures you that we can work together, it may well be worth the cost."

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Well, Almas thought, this was unexpected. Prymont was keeping a tight lid on its activities in the Hellenic Rus, and to be replacing Ahrana...it was all very tempting. However, if Prymont was having expense problems just across the Canamo Sea, then transporting personnel, materials and equipment from far-off Fulgistan could be ruinous.

"We'd certainly like to provide whatever aid we can to the liberation of the Hellenic Rus, and the Revolutionary Guard has engaged in counterterrorism operations for its entire history. However, as you say, there is significant cost involved. We'll require, not necessarily monetary, some form of compensation, and the assurance, in contractual form, that our personnel will not be expelled or hindered in their duties of infrastructure rebuilding and medical aid. In addition, should our efforts be to your satisfaction, it would be extremely kind, and beneficial to all, if Fulgistan were to be considered for future contracts of a similar nature in TRIDENT operational zones."

"Lastly, I would propose a third mutually beneficial act; Fulgistan has been attempting to secure the southwest hinterlands for decades now. Within this region lay not only the high-quality magnetite iron mines for steel production, but also some of the best growing land in eastern Alharu. The terrorist groups have overrun the area, and the mines either produce sporadically or not at all, while the fields are given over to growing poppies for heroin. If this area could be returned to government hands in the next year or two, this would mean that our fruit prices would drop not insignificantly, and that we could provide larger quantities high-quality steel both for our own construction projects and for any needs you and the rest of your trade sphere might have."

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While help was desperately needed in The Hellenic Rus, partially due to @Iverica's discreet gold bullion theft and Prymont's own lack of funding, Duval wasn't going to bend over backwards to allow Almas. An opportunity had been placed on the table, one that could be very fruitful for both Prymont and Fulgistan, but if the General Secretary wanted to push his luck rather than secure a bargain of a deal, it'd be his own loss.

"The current financial situation in The Hellenic Rus is incredibly poor. The country was inefficiently run before the abandonment, but now there's nothing. Here is an opportunity to rebuild a country, one that favours investors and helpers significantly. The United States has a particular vision in mind for the Russian lands, a sort of @Variota of the north if you will; liberal freedoms, relaxed living, a significant focus on tourism, I'm sure you get the point. We're hoping to create a cheap tourist paradise, one that offers high quality for affordable prices. If you contribute to the reconstruction of the nation, you'll be firmly cementing yourself in generous annual profit opportunities. Your travel and leisure companies will be given exclusive, cheap holiday packages, your construction companies will be given priority for maintenance and building efforts, and your people will be given a rich, colourful country to adore and enjoy. That is your compensation. Of course, we can arrange a contract for current rebuilding pushes. I'll have my secretary get in touch with you over the coming days."

"As for you interest in the southwest reaches of your border, the United States would be glad to offer assistance of some sort. A primary reason for our involvement in The Hellenic Rus was to rid the neighbourhood of the Circle of Death terrorist vermin. Shortly after my induction as President last year, our stock exchange was attacked by Circle of Death extremists. We have no tolerance for terrorism in any part of the world, and will do our utmost to combat and quell any and all threats. Prymontian forces are equipped and experienced in engaging terrorist forces, and have successfully captured the Hellenic Russian capital to prove their competence. If you so require, we can negotiate an agreement in which Prymontian forces will support yours in eradicating terrorism and bringing peace to your region. That is something we're more than happy to do."

Unlike Almas, Duval wouldn't risk ruining a good deal when he saw one, and jumped at the opportunity to exploit Fulgistan once again, just like years gone by. Cheaper fruit was quintessential for healthy citizens who were otherwise unable to acquire such goods, and with mining efforts being decreased in the coming years due to environmentalist pressure, foreign sources would have to be sought. The President was keen to scratch Almas' back and profit from corruption and instability, even if it meant getting his hands a little dirty.

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"You make fair points, Mr. President. Final minor details aside, I give you my word you'll have the Revolutionary Guard at your back in the Hellenic Rus. I'm very glad we've been able to reach an agreement on this matter, and we will be happy to have your aid in securing our domestic peace. The United States and the Worker's Republic have a prosperous and bright future ahead of us, I believe."

Almas leaned back in his chair. This deal wasn't quite ideal; not only did he have to deal with the Committee in sending troops to HR, but he'd also agreed, if tentatively, to allow Prymontian forces into Fulgistan itself. A delicate situation to be sure, but one that could, if handled correctly, turn in his favor. Getting Fulgistani companies into the Rus was a damn sight better than wasting his money only to get the Ahrana treatment. In addition, if he could conclusively defeat the terrorists and retake those key provinces, he'd be the most successful General secretary in the last fifty years. Not even the hardliners on the Committee could hope to ignore a victory like that.

"I don't want to keep you, Mr. President; I know you have a trip to the Commonwealth quite soon, and unless you'd like to discuss anything further, I believe we're more or less concluded. I am very grateful and proud to have had this historic meeting, and I hope it will be the first of many moving forward. I anticipate that the rest of my visit to Prymont will be equally exceptional.

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"Certainly, General Secretary. It's been a pleasure to welcome you to my country, and I trust that you'll enjoy and savour the rest of your stay. I look forwards to a prosperous future between our two great nations." President Duval rose from his seat, shaking Almas' hand before leading him out of the office. The President would have the rest of the day and tomorrow to prepare for his trip to Poland-Lithuania, and would be handing hosting duties over to his second in command, Vice President Peter Lafleur. For the rest of the day, the Fulgistani head of state would be allowed to settle in to the cold yet welcoming Prymontian climate; if desired, he would be escorted around the city for sightseeing, or would be left alone in his hotel room with his party. Later in the evening, a table would be booked in Canastota's best exquisite restaurant, Tveter's Supper, where an exclusive five-course meal would be served to him on behalf of the President.

The following morning, at a reasonable 9:15am, the Vice President would collect Almas at the hotel, after being allowed time to prepare for the day and enjoy a five star continental breakfast. As always, Lafleur had been an afterthought in the running of the United States, and often found himself in boring committee meetings and opening town halls in places he'd never heard of before. It was rare for Lafleur to be in the international spotlight; the last time had been when he signed the official charter for TRIDENT, aboard a cruise ship in the Mediargic Sea, and even then, it was a secretive, backstage event. This time, he would be taking over from his senior in a monumental meeting, one that would land him on the front pages of broadsheet newspapers, one that would allow him to have an influence in shaping Prymont's political future, one that gave him the pride and honour of hosting another world leader in showing off the best of the United States. 

On the day of Almas' arrival, Peter had sent his best suit to the dry cleaners to be prepared, and had conversed with Presidential Advisor Frank Galindo on the itinerary of the trip, and key details to bring up and avoid. One trip to the shoe store later and he was now able to sport brand new polished leather shoes, that didn't hurt his feet whenever he walked. That night, he hadn't been able to sleep from the sheer excitement of it all. After so many empty promises of the perks of being Vice President, he was finally being given the opportunity to prove his worth and cement himself in the position. For sure, he would not let his President nor country down.

"Good morning, Mr Almas! I hope you slept well -- please, this way, we have much to do and see!" With a brief yet firm handshake, Lafleur led Almas from their meeting spot in the hotel foyer to the KAP K6 waiting outside. From there, they'd be whisked away to downtown Canastota, straight for a high level security city surveillance room where the Fulgistani would see the @Sunset Sea Islands' Synapse system in effect for the first time. It was part of Almas' interest in the network. Showing it's successes and depth in Canastota could potentially land the Sunset Sea Islands another customer in Fulgistan, although there were still some underlying problems. Integration issues with existing security and surveillance measures prevailed, and law enforcement officers throughout the city weren't yet fully loyal to the system's commands. It was still a trial and error process, one that may dissuade the General Secretary from utilising Synapse at all.

"We've a busy day ahead of us, sir. Our first stop will be the local Synapse offices, before we head over to the University of Canastota to chat with some data and crime analyst experts on how the system works for the everyday commoner. I'll try to answer any questions you have as best as I can, but just know that I'm no Duval!" The chubby Vice President laughed at his own remark, clearly full of himself as the car began to move. Unlike the President, Lafleur was a vibrant, eccentric, arrogant man. It would be easy to grow tired of him.



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Almas was groggy when the Vice President came to get him at the hotel. It had been a night of little sleep; at 10 PM the previous evening he'd given an address to his nation in the wake of yet another bombing. The rest of the night had been occupied with phone calls to various officials and members of the Committee until well into the morning. Something had to be done, and quick. If the attacks continued, or, heaven forbid, escalated, the hardliners could topple him with ease. Hell, they might do that anyway, should this plan for the Hellenic Rus go awry. God, he'd have to do some delicate work at the next Central Committee meeting.

"Good morning, Mr. LaFleur. It's good to finally meet you; I'm very excited to see what you've prepared for us."

Almas was quiet during the drive to the Synapse offices. Mostly, he tried to stay awake. Despite copious amounts of coffee and a quite good breakfast, he was exhausted. Still, he'd be no world leader if he couldn't handle a sleepless night or two. At the very least, the shower in this hotel was nearly as good as the one at home; a bit of cold water erased some of the fatigue. He considered making conversation with LaFleur, but decided against it. Instead, he stared out the window at the unfolding roads. God, what infrastructure. It was amazing what a bit of money and a small population could do for a road system.

Eventually, the K6 halted in front of the offices of Synapse. Disembarking, Almas waited at the curb.

"Lead the way, Mr. Vice President" 

That same morning, another K6 delivered a party of four to Fort Kanacky, a Prymontian Air Force base. At the head of this group was Otryadyn Galbei, the Assistant Coordinator of R&D for the Bureau of Defense; she was an older woman, and wore her hair up, tight against the head. She was followed by Kiro Honjō, an expat from the @Sunset Sea Islands who'd been showing promise as an aerospace engineer for the Bureau, and two other aides from The 'Stan. Kiro was a young, pale man, who wore thick glasses under a mop of dark hair. All members of the Bureau's delegation wore formal civilian clothes, not deigning to present a military image to their hosts. Besides, the Prymontians would almost certainly laugh themselves silly at the state of the Revolutionary Guard Air Corps once they were told how backwards it was. The delegation submitted their identification at Kanacky's front checkpoint and entered the complex, awaiting their hosts from Aamotech.

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"I offer my sincerest condolences, on behalf of the President and our nation, on what has happened overnight in Fulgistan," Lafleur commented as they entered the building. Mentally he was cursing himself for not saying something sooner. His earlier enthusiasm would've come across as very insincere, and while the Vice President had read about the attacks over breakfast, his desire to keep his reputation in tact and make a good impression of his country had gotten in the way. Fulgistan had been deeply shook by the act of terror, but hopefully Lafleur had the perfect solution for that. 

The Synapse offices were the prime idea of luxury, with a large, open lobby greeting the party. Everything was made of glass, offering a transparent view not only of what was behind a wall, but of the Synapse system itself. The @Sunset Sea Islands had spent a lot of money and resources in constructing the Synapse HQ, with the ultimate goal in mind of keeping the people safe and secure. Regular reports were publicised for the people to read, and regular tours of non-sensitive parts of the offices were provided for visitors. In fact, the building had turned into something of a tourist attraction, showing the incredibly advanced levels of technology that the Sunset Sea Islands had to offer. It was the CCTV of tomorrow, available today. It reduced crime levels exponentially, made the streets of Canastota safer, and while there were a few blips here and there due to human error, it was one of Prymont's greatest recent investments.

"As you'll find out Mr Almas, Synapse has greatly improved the life of the regular Canastotan. We're going to be rolling out the system in other major cities over the next twelve months, and I'd suggest that you contact the boffins yourself to see about getting it in Fulgistan. It'll really help to identify future terror attacks before they happen." The receptionist handed the group their passes for their stay, with Lafleur rejecting a tour guide. How could he be a good VP if he was being shown around some place himself? He had everything under control. 

As it turned out, the offices of an invention that could change global security - and privacy invasion - weren't as interesting as the Vice President made them out to be. As with any other observation and security building, the walls were filled with nerds behind computers, watching a multitude of screens and noting the decisions of the AI. The server room, which was held underground, was off-limits for anyone without the highest of clearance levels, and unfortunately Lafleur was unable to give that to Almas. In the end, it'd been a couple of hours of an average at best politician, trying his hardest to sell Synapse like a proper businessman would. 


107117029.jpgAamotech Technologies had expected significant boosts when they agreed to merge with the KAP Group, forming the Kaldestad Aamot Group. After the government decided to withdraw β4.5bn of funding, the company had to cut back massively on the development of their supersonic jet program, and were at risk of laying off nearly 1500 employees. For months, the aerospace giants were in dire straights, until they were approached by Erik Bruun to merge. While it was a tempting proposition for the CEO, Aamotech eventually ended up rolling on it's back for KAP and submitting to the superior organisation. Some of their funding was reinstated internally and those that had lost their jobs went on to seek employment at TechMan, KAG's technology and manufacturing department, leaving Aamotech as crippled and vulnerable as they had been before. 

Despite the recent β1bn+ purchase from @Iverica, the company were still struggling to make a profit, and were now at risk of being completely axed all together. A following deal with Varinco to develop UAVs had provided another funding bump, alongside a purchase of several Smidigstråle units from @Variota, but Aamot was still desperate for something more, something definitive and fulfilling that'd keep her employers happy for longer. When word spread that the Fulgistani's were seeking someone to develop their next generation fighter, she almost snapped their fingers off with offering her company's services. 


Several meetings followed with chief designers, regarding Aamotech's capabilities to create a jet that was worthy of being part of their current line-up, and with contractors, to find the best quality materials for the lowest of prices. Mining companies in the east were also struggling and wanted a juicy deal to give them some work, and so pre-contracts were signed. Excitement was building at the Aamotech Technology Compound as news of the upcoming deal spread like wildfire. Employees were giddy as they shared dream designs and futuristic engineering solutions developed in their free time, while the senior executives worked on the logistical and administrative side of the deal. Eventually, the time for the first international meeting came, and Lucy was keen to impress.

Memories of her prior meeting with the Iverican folk were triggered as she greeted her latest customers, with a friendly smile and a handshake. "Ms Galbei, Mr Honjō, it's a pleasure to have you here," she said, acknowledging their assistants too. No time was wasted in leading them into her air conditioned office, adorned with airplane models and thick aerospace books. There, they were joined by Sondre Dale, the man who had been assigned Chief Engineer for the project. With formalities over, the party took a seat and began.

"Thank you once again for coming to us for this venture. Would you mind going through what you're looking for?"

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If LaFleur had been waiting until they were in private to offer his condolences, he'd mistimed it badly. Frankly, Almas could have used a little of Duval's charm and sincerity this morning. Of course, that was not to be, as the President had departed for @Poland-Lithuania the day before, leaving Almas stuck with his not-quite-so-adept second.

"Thank you, Mr. Vice President." That was all he allowed himself. Anything more and the exhaustion risked peeking through as annoyance.

Almas was quiet for the rest of the drive. Upon arrival, he dutifully followed LaFleur through the hours upon hours of trendy warm-grey painted hallways, glass-walled cubicles, and other miscellanea that nearly shouted "the year is 2018". If nothing else, the Synapse offices were impeccably clean, from floor to ceiling; nothing like this had ever been built in Fulgistan, and, frankly, Almas wasn't one hundred percent sure something like it ever would. Certainly, Synapse was unsuitable for the Worker's Republic, for a variety of reasons.

In his own opinion, it was best not to treat everyone as a criminal, or even a potential criminal. Because, as it turns out, once you did enough digging, everyone was a criminal. Nobody, absolutely nobody, could hope to be safe in a world with Synapse in it. Of course, Fulgistan had its own little ways of catching lawbreakers, and there were the Sakers...but this was on another level entirely. Tomur Almas was a man with sweeping plans for his nation, and those plans did not have room for computers directing the actions of a police force that claimed to serve the people. No, indeed; Synapse was not for Fulgistan, now or in the forseeable future.

At the conclusion of the tour, Almas saw an opportunity to cut off LaFleur before they moved on to yet more Synapse-themed agenda items. "Mister LaFleur, I understand our itinerary calls for us to visit the University of Canastota for discussion of Synapse's implementation, but may I make a suggestion? My nation is very concerned with education, and many of our students are choosing now to study abroad, including in the United States. Would it be much of a bother if I were to sit in on a typical class at UC, to better understand the system of higher education in Prymont?"


Honjō wasted no time in pulling the drafts and specifications from his briefcase. Galbei was more of a "big picture" woman herself, and was largely here to look over the Islander's shoulder and make sure he followed the design brief. The other aides fulfilled basically the same function with roughly none of the responsibilities. Truly, bureaucracy was a thing of beauty. The young man laid his papers out and began his schpiel.

"As it stands, the Revolutionary Guard Air Force is operating primarily Khiimori 33s from the 60s and 70s. As short-range, Fulgistani airspace interceptors, they get the job done. However, the Guard is rapidly becoming a presence on the world military stage, a role for which these aircraft prove unsuitable. As such, we've now turned to Aamotech."

"Succinctly, we require a multirole, preferably budget, fighter aircraft. Desirable capabilities are, naturally, the ability to carry several payloads of modern munitions, to take off and land at underdeveloped airfields, whether within Fulgistan or in a conflict zone, to contain modern aerial countermeasures and to perform, in essence, all the roles of a modern fighter. If agility and speed need to be sacrificed for ruggedness and firepower, this is understandable; we plan to make use of this aircraft in ground-strike missions as well. However, the aircraft must remain competitive among other fighters of its generation, regardless of whichever configuration you decide upon"

"In addition, with the permission (and cooperation) of the Aamotech Corporation, the Worker's Republic of Fulgistan and Khiimori Aeronautics desire to produce, at least in part, the aircraft, and to export it (under liscense from Aamotech) to her allies and to friendly developing nations worldwide. This is, in part, the reason for the lower cost requirement. We would also be very interested in developing a carrier-based variant of the aircraft alongside the main terrestrial model."

Galbei smiled. When the young man was on a roll, there were few people he could not impress. "I believe that covers our requirements and objectives quite nicely. Do you have any questions, Miss Aamot, Mr. Dale?"

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  • 4 weeks later...

Vice President Lafleur was at a loss. Throughout the entire duration of the tour, something which Lafleur had poured his heart and soul into, Almas seemed disinterested at best. The man almost seemed bored when he was introduced to every team member, being given a description of their role and being told how positive they were about the future of Synapse. The past two hours had been spent in an eye-opening tour of next generation observation offices, and the General Secretary now had the audacity to ask to change the schedule?

Having been instructed by Duval to make Almas feel at home, Lafleur felt there was no other option but to bend over backwards to accommodate him. Fostering a strong partnership between a recently liberal, conservative country and a progressively socialist one was important not only for the future of the United States, but for the future of Argis. With the continent further delving into a wild mixture of Greater Serbian communism and Ahranan communism, Prymont's relations with Fulgistan would set a precedent. The country could work with others of varying ideologies, something Duval was desperate to prove after allegations following the Verde Blockade.

Accepting defeat to his master plan for the day, Lafleur stepped aside to make some calls to the University of Canastota to allow a difference in their visit. As he led the General Secretary to the car, it became apparent how considerably incompetent he really was. "Yes, I understand... No, listen... No, I have the General Secretary of bloody Fulgistan right with me, he's asked for a change... I know it's short notice, it wasn't planned! Are there any classes with kids from Fulgistan? What would you call them, Fulgistis? Fulgistanians? Whatever, I just want him in a class... Women Studies? Who do you think we are? Is that all there is? Surely not... Okay, yes, that'll do."

A thirty minute car ride later, and the convoy had arrived at the prestigious University of Canastota. Consistently ranked as Prymont's best university since 2000, the institute would be the perfect location for Tomur Almas to develop a greater understanding of what his citizens were travelling abroad for. Lafleur had arranged for them to sit in a biology class. With Prymont turning to increasingly environmentalist ideals, biology was a critical aspect for future generations to study, in order to gain an understanding of nature conservation. The recent completion of the world's first global seed bank in the country also spiked a worldwide biology interest, with the United States emerging as a up-and-coming key player in the industry. Experts and students alike flocked for the career opportunities that were blooming within the area. Combined with cheap tuition fees for international students, Prymont was an appealing study destination.

Joining partway through a lecture, Lafleur and Almas were seated at the back of a grand, cascading sea of seats. Before them were waves of students, jotting down notes in books and laptops as Professor Djuve droned on at the forefront. Perhaps with better timing the delegation could've been seated with a more enthusiastic tutor, but this was the best that could be done on such short notice. Wanting to further prove his knowledge and suitability for such a position, the Vice President was eager to ask questions. After being ignored the first time and abruptly shut down the second, Lafleur sulked for the remainder of the session, choosing to make snide remarks under his breath.



Aamot and Dale took a moment to review the proposal. Naturally, a thorough presentation had been sent months prior to allow time to plan and research some concepts. Dale had worked with his design team to create a shortlist, and had decided upon the one unit they favoured the most. Of course, their customers were able to pick and choose, but being the specialists, Dale hoped that they'd be immediately satisfied.


The Chief Engineer revealed a wad of paper and neatly slid it across the table, glancing briefly at his own copy before clearing his throat to begin. "I've worked with my team for some time to create these blueprints for you. Having taken your requirements into account, we've created an idea that uses existing concepts to reduce costs. Aamotech utilise a unique metal alloy refining process that can produce sturdy compounds from cheap sources. We've used this to great success in our current Lysstråle unit, and we're more than happy to carry over for your request too."

"All of your requirements can be met. We already have the knowledge and proof of concepts to lower research and development costs, which will already significantly decrease the final price. Cheap metals will further cut costs, and electrical systems can be borrowed from other successful, reliable counterparts. This also allows room for your carrier adaptation if required, although slightly more funding will have to be sought."

"Additionally, you've mentioned the desire for the Worker's Republic and Khiimori Aeronautics to partially produce the finished product. Aamotech would be more than happy to manufacture the internal electronics systems with our sister company TechMan, while allowing Khiimori to produce the shell. Not only does this create more jobs for both businesses, it allows us the opportunity to work closely together and create a relationship which can be utilised in the future if further mutual projects arise. We're also happy to sell a license for it to be sold under the Fulgistani flag. Hopefully this satisfies all of your needs; if not, we do have other shortlisted concepts that we can bring forward."

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