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The Lake Qasqatuu Affair

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Qaraic Ministry of Resources Begins Talks with MMC

MAY 22, 2003 - Following new prospection of the Lake Qasqatuu region, the Majaca Mining Corporation has announced that it has begun negotiations with the Qaraic Ministry of Resources to purchase the land rights to the region.

The Maangqu area, of the Lower Kuulna, has recently been found in 2002 geological surveys to hold a great deal of untapped mineral resources, particularly copper and gold. The QMR, up until the announcement of MMC collaboration, has held out on providing the land rights to the region, despite the great deal of domestic and foreign companies willing to purchase them.

In a statement to the press, MMC spokesman Cavier Maltez has stated that “the Majaca Mining Corporation plans to develop the Qasqatuu gold deposits will create jobs and income for the region, which will reinvigorate the local economy.” The statement also expressed hope that the deal will “pave the way for further cooperation and shared prosperity with the United Dumaaqdoms.”

QMR Premier Naalqadu Raada has reciprocated the MMC’s cooperation in a similar press statement, stating that “the Qasqatuu developments will be the first of many new investments in the Lower Kuulna, as we begin to more thoroughly explore the greater Maangqu region for untapped mineral deposits.” However, Raada also stated that accusations of “selling out Qaraic land” were “entirely unfounded,” adding that “the QMR will endeavor to create new economic opportunities with foreign investors, but will not neglect local development in this aim.”

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Intern Yaaluqra finished reading out the article in the newspaper, and set it down on the table. All around the boardroom, the most senior associates of the Udaangqa Coal and Steel Corporation sat in stony silence. Many wore expressions of worry, or disappointment, and some even wore expressions of betrayal. None replicated, or even could replicate, the seething scowl of Muq Taludaalqa ngu-Udaangqa, tensed in his chair at the table’s front.

The director’s board had done this act many times before, but they still knew the danger they were in. In a complicated ritual of barely-perceptibles glances and nods, they drew straws. Head of Marketing Naal Laqasqi lost, and then focused on a point a foot above and to the left of Taludaalqa’s face. With sheepish delicacy, he murmured “Well, they are, after all, only, um, negotiations. Nothing is confirmed yet.”

The icebreaker, as the board knew it. It was, by all accounts, a fairly good one. Taludaalqa had slightly loosened the vice grip on his armrests. By consensus, Head of Finances Uyii Kalaaqat was next, and quietly added “Mr. Laqasqi is right, my Muq. The QMR is finally, now, offering Maangqu. I have no doubt that, given this new, um, development, it will be much easier to secure a contract for the UCSC, especially with some financial incentives and your, er, diplomatic charms, my Muq”

A serviceable turn, though perhaps a bit heavy on the flattery. Taludaalqa let go of the armrests, and inhaled slowly. By an inch, the room’s atmosphere relaxed. When he started talking, you were almost safe.

“I see. However, I am worried that we have grown an overreliance on these ‘financial incentives.’ We cannot ‘incentivise’ contracts forever, and their returns have been, diminishing, to say the least. You, Ms. Kalaaqat, should know this best.”

Kalaaqat felt something cut inside her with that word. Taludaalqa’s speech had that quality. She sat upright, sweating with the effort of doing so, keeping a melting facade of professionalism up against the searing heat of his glare. Recognising the emergency, Head of Human Resources Riinu Uluukiq stepped in as the reserve, and drew the Muq’s attention. “My Muq, surely they cannot give the entire Maangqu formation to just one firm. This is merely posturing on the part of Mr. Raada, a publicity stunt for foreign investors. I’m sure that after the, um, commotion, dies down, the QMR will be much more willing to cooperate with domestic companies, especially with, er,  financial incentive. This is a hopeful sign for the UCSC’s future growth, my Muq.”

Taludaalqa sat upright, finally untensed his face, and drew his chair to the table. Every board member collectively released a mental sigh of relief. The meeting was now safe. Just as he began to open his mouth, though, Intern Yaaluqra opened hers.

“Financial incentives? Is that all you do around here?”

The board collectively winced. Taludaalqa immediately regained his expression, and turned his gaze to Yaaluqra. “What?” he spat out, compressing as much contempt into a single syllable as he could.

“It seems to me like the UCSC sells a lot more ‘financial incentives’ than coal or steel. Feels like that’s all anyone talks about around here. Perhaps, and this is just a thought, you’d have gotten the contracts in Maangqu if you did any mining instead.”

The board’s silent expressions were split between desperately trying to warn Yaaluqra and averting themselves from the inevitable. She did not notice them, entirely focusing on Taludaalqa rising from his seat.

“Let me explain something to you, girl. Do you see the symbol behind me?”

Yaaluqra glanced at the matte grey wall behind his chair. An elaborate and broadly circular design was embossed into it. “Looks like some kind of coat of arms?”

“If you had even the slightest bit of pride in your heritage, you would know that to be the seal of Udaangqa Dumaaq. Do you know what that means?”

She shrugged. “Some Muq bought a fancy picture for a couple thousand stolen coins?”

Taludaalqa exhaled deeply. “That is a symbol of honour. A symbol of heritage. Qarau was built by the Dumaaqs, girl. Through blood and sweat, we made what it is today, and look what the Riikamaq are doing with that legacy. Three thousand square kilometers of our land, flogged off to foreigners for a quick payday. Just like that. Udaangqa have only done what we must against these atrocities. We cannot sit idly by while Raada and his cronies sell the land under our feet. It was never just about coal and steel. It was about our sovereignty. And while we work to take our country back, I think it would be best for you to sit down.”

Yaaluqra, against the protestations of her subconscious, did not sit down. “Sovereignty? Really? You sit here, at the head of this sinking mining firm, kept afloat with nothing but ’financial incentives,’ and go on about heritage and honour? Your great-granddad sacked Haqar, and that gives your whole family the divine right to lord over seven million people and a billion miles of desert-”

She screamed, and collapsed to the floor. Scalding black coffee dripped down her clothes, and shards of pottery littered the floor. Aside from the two at the front, every face in the boardroom was still, and coated in sweat.

Taludaalqa turned towards the table, his suit stained with small brown specks.

“I am getting a Maangqu land lease by the end of this quarter. That is not a request. You are all dismissed.”

One by one, the board left their chairs and exited the room, exerting a great deal of effort in doing so silently. Ms. Kalaaqat carefully helped up Yaaluqra, and led her out last. After the room had emptied, Taludaalqa disposed of the bloodied shards of pottery.

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