Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Failure of Diplomacy

Diplomacy Failure

The Lykosky Trade Protectorate ambassador to the Court of Talavera arrived at the Imperial Minister of Trade’s office, in response to an insistent summons to appear.

      Ambassador Langstrom strode confidently into the Minister’s office. He strode confidently everywhere he went; it was his considered opinion that it projected an aura of strength, both his own and that of the LTP.
      Trade Minister Lord Marcus Allerton, Count of Upper Columbia, Valadon stood up and waited unsmilingly as the ambassador settled himself into the comfortable chair on the other side of the desk. Ambassador Langstrom was not a very large man, and the arrogant smirk he usually wore (which the ambassador had made part of his ‘confident’ image) actually underscored his average size and appearance.
Once he was situated, Langstrom leaned forward resting one elbow on his knee, and asked with total innocence, “What can I do for you, Minister? I must admit I’m very surprised by your insisting to see me on such short notice.”
The Trade Minister’s face hardened. “For openers, Julius, you can drop that stupid smirk. There are no reporters here, and you do not impress me. What you can do is start explaining what your people have been up to.”
      If Langstrom was upset by Allerton’s presumptive use of his first name, his smirking face never showed it for a second. “Explain? I have no idea what you’re talking about, Marcus.”
      Allerton, ignoring the impolite use of his first name, opened a drawer in his desk and withdrew a stack of computer file chips. Then he pulled out another, and a third. “These,” he began, the tone of his voice going very flat, “are official complaint reports that have been coming in from ports all over the Empire. They are complaints about your company’s ships, their crews and their activities. Fourteen significant violations of the Restricted Materials Act, eleven cases of LTP ships jumping the docking queues resulting in five near-collisions, nineteen disturbances, no, fights involving LTP crewmen, several of which resulted in Imperial subjects or third party shippers requiring hospitalization.” Allerton’s voice began to rise. “Last but not least, twenty-three complaints of intimidation in word or actions directed against Imperial or third party shippers. Your boys have been seriously misbehaving and what I want you to explain is who the hell your people think they are and what your government is going to do to put a stop to this! Am I understood Mister Ambassador?”
Langstrom’s smirk began to fade as Allerton read the list, but he composed himself quickly. “Every organization has a few problem employees, Marcus and after all the time the LTP has been providing shipping service to the Empire, I’m sure that - "
      Allerton pounded on his desk, cutting him off mid-sentence. “This stack of complaints has appeared on my desk just in the last two weeks! If you’d like, we can pull out the records and see how much crap your people have been pulling all year! Or how about the last two years? Your shippers have never been well behaved but we were willing to pass it off as the occasional crank. But this looks like an almost intentional effort to set off an international incident.”
      “I can’t imagine what you think this is going to accomplish, but let me remind you that the LTP operates in our space by the consent of the Emperor, and that consent can be withdrawn at His Majesty’s leisure.” Allerton held up his hand in a rebuking gesture as Langstrom opened his mouth to complain. “And before you start sputtering about how much we need you for our economy, let me remind you of all the Imperial battle squadrons patrolling your space right now. We both know your government is terrified that the Unionists will swallow you whole. That’s why you invited our navy to maintain a presence in your space. Suppose we withdrew our naval forces? Nobody else has the capability to defend your systems. The Dothans would like to try but they don’t have the tonnage to stop the Unionists, and the Americans are your other major competition, so they’d probably be happy to see you get taken out of the market. I’d be really interested to see how cocky one of your Strassencruzer super carriers is when it gets radar-locked by a Unionist battleship. You may think we need you, Mister Ambassador, but the truth is that you need us. Do you know what percentage of your GNP comes from trade with or through the Empire? Twenty-two point six percent this year, and it’s been going up the last nine years running. If you lose that, where are you going to pick up that much business? The only other polity large enough to take up that volume of trade is the Union, and you don’t want to think about that.”
      Langstrom sat back, his mouth agape, and had absolutely nothing to say. Allerton sat back as well, lacing his fingers under his chin. “If you want to play hardball, Mr. Ambassador, we are the wrong people to play with. Now you go back to your embassy, and do whatever diplomatic thing you need to do to make it clearly understood that this adolescent behavior is not going to be tolerated any more.” With that, Allerton made a dismissive hand gesture, indicating that the meeting was over. Langstrom rose, collected his note case and left without saying a word, walking too quickly to radiate much confidence.

* Author's note to Traveller players- ways this story can be mined for adventure ideas. 

  • The PC group can be free traders harassed by LTP employees as they go about their business. 
  • The PC group can be an LTP crew, and see how much crap they can get away with. 
  • They could be Talaveran customs officers tasked with enforcing the rules with these jerks. 
  • The LTP is trying to provoke something, but what, and to what end?  
  • What if some third party is trying to cause friction between the Empire and the Protectorate?  
  • Espionage, revenge, law enforcement, cut-throat trade competition or just trying to get by without getting squashed.

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