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A Peculiar Acquisition

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Gastone Terrone silenced the alarm on his phone almost the moment it sounded. Faramount's Minister of Economy had set aside ninety minutes for rest between the day's events and the night's events, but he had not slept at all during that time. Terrone had struggled with stress-induced insomnia all his life, but in the past few months, sleep had escaped him more commonly than at any prior time. This was hardly surprising, given that Terrone was in the midst of the battle of his career. If he could succeed in his next few ventures -- including this important meeting tonight -- he could be Faramount's next leader. And if he failed, well, he'd probably live -- but as a shell of his former self, relegated to solely supervise oil and gas policy until his inevitable forced retirement. What's more, he would be forced to live in a nation run by Raymond Foquet, a military man with no vision. Foquet sought nothing more than the maintenance of the status quo; he would leave Faramount no different than he found it. Terrone, by contrast, was committed to fundamentally changing Faramount.

Minister Terrone had travelled to @Rihan today, both formally and informally, to effect that change. Formally, he was here to procure Rihannsu investments in Faramount's oil, gas, and coal sectors. He had spent all day meeting with private and public Rihannsu officials to this end, and would spend the next two days doing the same. Terrone had made substantial progress already, and he was confident that by the time he left, he would have convinced several Rihannsu corporations to invest tens of millions in petroleum and coal mining in Faramount. But Terrone had truly come to Rihan for a separate, informal purpose: to gain much-needed capital for his effort to gain power and to create a new industry for Faramount. It was in pursuit of this second purpose that Terrone, who usually liked to retire early, was now readying himself at 21:00 to leave his hotel room. The minister prepared himself quickly, donning a fresh, starkly pressed three-piece suit, reviewing his notes, and then finally exiting the presidential suite of the five-star hotel in which he was staying. An aide and two bodyguards met Terrone at his door, and escorted him out the back of the building.

Terrone's potential partner in Rihan had directed the minister, and his staff, to gather in a small parking lot in the rear of the hotel compound. And so Terrone and his party made their way through the pool area, out the back of the hotel, past the tennis courts, and finally to the small service area. Always a punctual man, Terrone and his group arrived five minutes before the pre-arranged time, and then waited to be picked up.

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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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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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  • 2 weeks later...

Terrome grinned broadly as Gathan detailed his counter-proposal. This would work perfectly, in Terrome's mind -- indeed, it might even work better than what he'd originally envisioned. "65 million chaks as a finder's fee, plus 10,000 chaks per person. I'd be taking the 65 million personally to cover the cost of setting up this system, and to cover my own risk in involving myself in this venture. The 10,000 per person would be paid to the Faramontese government itself."

"I do believe what you're suggesting here would indeed be preferable. We can give prisoners a choice -- a long sentence or a chance at a better life in Rihan. Indeed, with that chance of a better life available, we might actually even see some willing volunteers. There are some areas of rural Faramount that have...essentially not changed in centuries. The more ambitious of their inhabitants would give anything -- even a decade and a half -- for any opportunity to escape."

"Would you need anything from me on your end to make the necessary arrangements?"

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Terrome nodded, shaking Gathan's hand. "A deal, indeed. It has been a pleasure, senator. I'll let you get back to your evening."

The Faramontese minister exited the vehicle, making his way back to the hotel with the two guards. He could not be happier. This arrangement would give him the financial resources needed in the short term to hire Monarch, and in the long term, create a new source of cash flow for the Faramontese government. And in return, he'd be able to get rid of some of Faramount's problems, while simultaneously tightening the labor market, something that would be necessary with time. It was a true win-win.

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