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Back Room Dealings
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PPC: Ambassador Kent Stevens

Just ten years ago, Kent Stevens commanded a destroyer in the South China Sea, with orders to sink any Chinese ship that came near. It was strange, now, to find himself working in the American embassy in Beijing. Diplomatic ties had been frayed, some feared beyond repair, but after several years of trying the Chinese knew they had more to fear from Nikolai Brandon and his so-called peaceful hegemony than they ever had from the United States.

Besides all that, it wasn't like the war hadn't come to an amicable conclusion. Taiwan maintained its independence, and China finally controlled the gigantic swathes of oil-rich land under the South China Sea that they had always claimed were theirs. Old men sent young men to die in war, as they always had. A new found peace between the two giants was built on their corpses, left to rest on the sea floor. And now here he was, awaiting a meeting in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the Minister.

Kent's reverie was broken when a secretary entered the waiting room. He stood as she bowed, and then responded in kind. "Minister Yang is ready to see you now," she said. Her English was impeccable. Not surprising, given her position in the Foreign Ministry.

She invited him to follow her, so he did. It didn't take long for them to reach the Minister's office. Two large doors of dark oak, carved in various traditional patterns barred the entrance. She opened one, with such ease as to imply hidden motors in the hinges helped her along, and ushered him in.

Kent strode into the office. There were two chairs and a coffee table to one side of the office, but the thick handwoven carpet and gold-trimmed laquer panels of the room pointed toward the portly man sitting behind the dark wood desk. Very Feng shuei. The Minister, middle aged and much stouter than the average Chinese he'd seen, came to his feet.

The Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs didn't seem to care for ceremony. "Ambassador Kent," he said, "I assume you have come to return our defective merchandise after all, no?"

A joke, of course. Kent gave a light twist of his lip as he patted his hip, where three shards of shrapnel were still embedded. The rocket hadn't gone off quite right when it hit. "Not today, I intend to keep it as a memento of the pleasant times we've shared."

Foreign Minister Yang gave a chuckle, at least that's what Kent assumed passed for a chuckle from the man. "I do not wish to waste either of our time with a meeting if this matter has been settled. And I trust is has been." They both knew the drone was already in the air, safely tucked away inside a C-130 cargo plane. The United States had worse things to worry about than Chinese spying. And that was why they were here.

So, Kent thought, To business then. It wasn't exactly rare for the crypto boys in Hawaii to hack into and pilot down Chinese drones. "I'm afraid this meeting's about a little more than lost hardware. Tell me, Minister, what's been going around the office about the situation in Africa?"

The Foreign Minister squinted at him. "Our dealings in Africa are none of yours, or your country's concern."

The Minister's stance was amusing. It wasn't as if Kent didn't know. China had long since mined out the majority of its mineral stores. Losing their supply of Rhodium from Sierra Leone would be crippling - and that wasn't the only thing at stake. "I'm not here to browbeat you, Minister. I'm here to work out a deal. You're not the only one who needs those resources, and with the way things are going it's only a matter of time before the Custody moves in."

If there was one thing the socialist Chinese government understood, it was how to improve its hand through making a deal. Had the Custody not appeared on stage, they would likely be top dog by now. Kent knew the Central Committee and the Premier had no interest at all in playing second fiddle to Nikolai Brandon. They'd spent decades chomping at the bit under United States global hegemony. But the Minister remained silent, considering. "There are...players afoot on that continent," Kent continued. "We intend to throw our backing behind one of them. Perhaps we can work something out that is in both of our best interests."

Specific proposals would come later, of course. Kent was pretty sure Minister Yang got the idea of this proposal. They'd carve the continent up like a slice of pie. Chinese colonialism, what an interesting concept. Yet given the chance to get as large a slice of the pie, of course they would. If not, the Custody would swallow it all whole.

((Written with Jon Little Bird))

Edited by Nick Trano, Aug 18 2016, 10:12 PM.

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