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New Dawn in the Sun's - Chapter 20[]

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Negotiating with the Dame[]

The Dark Tower, Planetary Capital City of Jojoken
Andurien, Free Worlds League
February 9th, 3017

"Much as I like the idea of gaining control over Andurien Industries, my worry is the length of the trade route and its stability. While the Suns and us in the League haven't come to blows recently, going through the Terran corridor is an inherently risky thing to do." Catherine Humphreys had been a bit surprised that Brenda Brockton hadn't taken the lead in the negotiations. She had thought that she would be dealing with the older woman, rather than her son. It wasn't that the son was completely hopeless so much as from what her spies could tell her he had been in the background of any negotiations concluded in the Commonwealth. Perhaps this was Brenda's way of pushing him forward as a possible husband for Mildred? It had been on a whim she had her daughter fetch the young man, but to her mind it would be a good match. Especially given just how toxic Janos had made Mildred recently, getting her out of the League would be to the girls benefit, not that she could see it at the moment, the girl was far too fixated on her hurt pride and lost command to take advantage of the opportunities in front of her. Something that Catherine would need to have words with her about, but that was a thought for the future.

"It is an established route, your grace," Harry managed to keep his frustration contained, barely, the Dame of Andurien was turning out to be a vexing negotiator. For every point he raised she had multiple objections, even when she was clearly interested.

"To the League, it is, but through the League itself? I don't think I need to remind you of our favorite sport here." Catherine gave a small smile as she raised the League's infamous instability. Having any of her supply lines running that way would not be conducive to her plans, especially not something that could turn out to be as valuable as DropShip engines. Using the stereotype that of it always being civil war o'clock in the League pleased her, and if things went the way she wanted them to could very well give her the opening in Crimson she had been looking for.

"Do you have an alternate suggestion?" Harry inquired mildly.

"Between the two families, we have excellent relations in the periphery. Your own family has done a surprising amount of business with Samantha, and I don't think I need to tell you about my own family's connections to Crimson." Catherine stated blandly. "Being from the Outback I'm sure that you can think of multiple ways that a new trade route could benefit your people, rather than having it run through the Suns interior."

"That would be a hard sell in Samantha. While Zarantha was open to the idea of cooperation with a known quantity in the Suns, Thomas is more reserved." Harry cautioned. "I don't dislike the idea especially if we can anchor one end of the proposed route in Basantapur, using the continued goodwill that the former UHC worlds have with the Concordat, but we would need to include a hefty package of inducements before Thomas would be willing to bite."

"I had thought you had better relations with him." Catherine observed mildly. "Certainly, your man signore Azad managed to get him to approve exporting one-sixty rated engines into the Suns…"

"I didn't say that it was impossible, just difficult." Harry temporized. He had known his family had been trying to get engines out of several sources due to his father's letters, but their success or failure hadn't been included. "We aren't going to need to overcome just the bad blood between the Suns and the Concordat, but also the resentment that the Magistracy has for the Concordat."

"I wouldn't worry about that, My Dear." Catherine smirked contemplating just what she would need to get Kyalla to approve. It wouldn't be much, just a few seats at Humphreys would do it. Kyalla had been looking to improve her military for a long time, going so far as to waive the purchase price for those seeking commissions if they had graduated from an accredited academy. It hadn't been a hugely successful program so far, but that was more due to the only takers having only managed to get into one of the Hero Institutes rather than a more respectable institution. Letting Kyalla grant a few of her favored family's seats at Humphreys would sure up her political support and give Catherine a greater in with the MAF in the long term. Ties of tradition were nice, but they faded over time unless you spent the effort to maintain them. "Herotitus is already used as a go-between for trade between the two, and beefing up that route would be much easier than establishing something new."

"You already have an existing route with Canopus." Harry frowned as he thought about the deal and what would be required from his end to fulfill it. Catherine had honestly out-maneuvered him here, she wouldn't just be getting a connection with the suns, but a direct connection with the Concordat. Given the misgivings that Thomas had about dealing with the Suns, he would be delighted with the prospect of having a major alternate buyer lined up for his excess military production, beyond the Liaos. The mercenary market had been good to the Concordat, but it could be inconsistent at times, and the Liaos had the unfortunate habit of being just as bad as the Suns about raiding although they did have better publicity in the Concordat. Harry knew his father had hoped that with a lot of effort, they could turn Trevlu into a recognized reseller of Taurian mechs in the Suns, but if Thomas had a choice that wasn't likely to happen. Then again…

Harry looked around the sumptuously appointed room that Catherine had chosen for this meeting. It was a testament to the wealth of Andurien, with pieces of art from all of the successor states hanging on the walls. While they could be war prizes, if he was honest with himself, he thought it more likely that they were the rewards for trading well. A statement of power as it were, playing off the league's reputation as an entrepôt for trade, and indicating that the Anduriens were good at that sort of game despite their stellar position. It was something that Harry found he wanted for Brockton, they were a wealthy system for the outback, but hardly competing with one of the golden five or even some of the interior Crucis March worlds. The critical words in that phrase were 'for the outback' something that generations of Brocktons had tried to change.

"If we can get an agreement out of Samantha, I am more than open to the idea." Harry stated cautiously. "I would need reassurances that you are invested in the idea though. My family may be wealthy, but we are hardly in the same class as your own."

"But you do produce military hardware, a growth business," Catherine could see that Harry was on the hook. Now all she needed to do was reel him in.

"A necessary bit of diversification," Harry corrected the grand old dame his mind racing for ways to get her to commit firmly to the deal. "The primary driver of our economy has always been our extensive Biotech industry, which has been in decline for centuries as new colonization efforts are a dead letter, and bioengineered crops have been deemed too expensive despite their obvious advantages. Perhaps you would be interested in our scientist's services?"

"For new colonization efforts?" Catherine barely managed to keep the disdain out of her voice. Colonies were a fool's game, expensive pits to sink money into with only a fraction of a percent ever surviving long enough to produce even the slightest bit of revenue.

"Recolonization I would think, you do have nineteen dead systems within a two-jump radius." Harry pointed out mildly. "While recovering systems from the Confederation might be satisfying how many have you managed to keep in the Dutchy? Besides, it's an area you are going to need to look into soonish, depending on when you intend to take Sigma Mare."

That statement caused Catherine to freeze for an instant. She had thought that her plans to push back the border and invest Betelgeuse had only been known to her closest associates. Mildred hadn't even known about them, so Harry hadn't learned about them during his rather extensive talks with the girl. He was probably just stabbing in the dark for any advantage that he could find, although she could use this.

"What makes you think I'm going to attack there?"

"Betelgeuse isn't a soft target, you're going to want to draw down the reaction forces the Confederation has available before you go after it." Harry shrugged slightly as he talked. "It might not be your first target, but it has to be on your list. You've pushed back the border consistently, so I can't see you not taking a stab at it eventually."

"And what makes you think I'll need biotech expertise if I do go after the system?"

"Unless you want it to be twenty dead systems within two jumps?" Harry contained his smirk as he played off the Dame's contempt for the Capellans. "It's a system with known problems dating back to the days of the Star League, which is why the Capellans put their terraforming research on world. We might not have the reputation that the department of colonization had, but we keep an eye on our competitors in the biotech sector. Obviously, the Capellans aren't very good at it, given the number of failed colonies in this region of space… meaning that the Dutchy is going to have to step in with extensive support to keep the system alive. Unless I miss my guess, you don't have the knowledge you need to fix the Capellans' errors otherwise you already would have."

"So you do have this knowledge?" Catherine asked with a raised eyebrow. Internally her mind was racing, she had known that Sigma Mare was a troubled system but it sounded like there was more trouble there than she had known about. Her original plan of just pulling at least part of the population off world to reduce the overcrowding might not work, then again perhaps she could adjust. If she set up an investment brokerage to cover the costs of any recovered colonies, she could get buy-in from the local system governments. If her lawyers worked their magic the correct way the money planetary governments invested could be written off as losses reducing the federal tax burden, especially if she reduced the provincial taxes to match, thereby keeping more of the province ineligible to take advantage of Camlann. If the financial structure was right it would be possible to have any profits go directly to the province in leu of provincial taxes, further depreciating the federal taxes paid, while pleasing the planetary governments as they would have more income to spend while still reaping the benefits of being a province member. It was an intriguing idea, though one she would need to have looked over by both her own personal lawyers and those who were part of the provincial administration.

"I won't say we could help you recover everything," Harry said, making sure to keep his promises modest. "From what I've heard we have a very good shot at returning Tengil, Kalmar, and Borka to your rule. I would want some extensive survey work done before I could promise anything solid, that said their loss is relatively recent and probably had to do with the Capellans cutting corners where they shouldn't have."

"That's an interesting suggestion," Catherine didn't betray just how interesting she found the possibilities. "But perhaps we should come back to the point?"

"I rather thought that was part of the point," Harry grinned slightly. "There are benefits to us both should we work out a support structure for the proposed trade route. I do not doubt that you have similar hidden depths in your economy we could benefit from. Besides, the Far Lookers political movement in the Concordat would be very interested in anything you do in regards to colonization, and having them on board would make setting everything up far easier in Samantha."

"That young man is a solid hit." Catherine had to smile at that. Harry Brockton was turning out to be an interesting young man, and not completely out of his depths politically. His efforts to dangle just enough bate that she would end up bearing the primary cost of setting up the trade route was an interesting move, but not one she objected to. Given his family's position, it would be worth pushing Mildred to express more interested in him personally, directly that was. He seemed to be at least somewhat interested in her, but Mildred appeared to have missed the ques. Between her cousin on Gibson and Louise's thoroughly inappropriate pursuit of Sigmund Hughes she already had greater access to military hardware than even SAFE realized. Given her ambitions, a little more wouldn't hurt though, especially if it came at such a cheap price. Good colonels were a dime a dozen, connections to battlemech producers were much rarer, and if she decided to tie the Brockton family to her own through blood it was a two for one deal. She would get favorable treatment with the Suns-based Trevlu, and by maintaining her connection to them she would also get preferential access to the Concordats industry. Getting behind Brenda's idea and pushing might very well be worth the political cost of having a family member marry outside of the League.

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