The Land at Rainbow's End [IC, Invite Only]

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The Land at Rainbow's End [IC, Invite Only]

Postby Knootoss » Sun May 15, 2022 2:19 pm

((This is a Joint Post by Knootoss, Pantocratoria, Excalbia, The Resurgent Dream and alts. The idea of this thread is to write the proceedings of a political conference of the Western Atlantic powers from the perspective of the 'lower ranked' people in it, rather than the national leaders. Preparation for these things starts months before the national leaders actually shake hands. So we'll pick things up with the first of the preparatory meetings about meetings!

The thread is intended for members of the region, but feel free to read along.))

Nivelet, Hesbayeux Province
Free Republic of Knootoss

“.... n'oubliez pas vos bagages lorsque vous quittez le train. C'est la gare Centrale de Nivelet”

The computer-generated tannoy voice had spoken clearly and crisply. Then a small chime indicated a switch of language, as the announcement was repeated in English:

“We will be arriving at Nivelet Central Station momentarily. The time is thirteen oh-seven hours and this intercity train is arriving on schedule. Nivelet Central Station is the end point for this train. Please remember to bring your luggage and belongings when you disembark. This is Nivelet Central Station.

Messages on the digitised displays showing arrival times, inside and outside temperature and the time tables of trains departing from other platforms. The intercity to Droogenbosch, departing from platform six, was delayed by two minutes. The chime sounded again, indicating a final switch of languages:

“We komen over enkele ogenblikken aan op Nivelet Centraal Station. De tijd is…

Stepping out of the air-conditioned, sterile environment of the first class passenger compartments, the Western Atlantic delegation was hit by the woody, sappy green fragrance of birch trees and undertones of car exhaust. Nobody in the busy train station wore face masks, in stark contrast to the station from which they’d departed. The city had an air of benign neglect. Wide, red-brick buildings that had seen better days dominated each side of the train stations’ east-side square. Further away, similar buildings rose up on gentle slopes. Churches and a 19th century department store sticking out above the cafés and window stores that sat along narrow bricked streets leading onto tree-lined boulevards.

“This way,” Cilicia de Graaf said, affecting an air of local knowledge whilst studiously checking her smartphone. “It’s about two hundred metres to the hotel. We can either walk or take the tram right, uh, there.”

“No taxis?” Walter Zvirbule scrunched up his nose and frowned. He was a tall, thin man dressed in an expensive tailored suit that seemed more akin to what an investment banker might wear than a bureaucrat. Of course, he had been an investment banker before joining the Ministry of Treasury’s Office of International Affairs.

“I don’t think so,” Bryan Rossler said. The Deputy Director of the Ministry of State’s Office of Strategic Planning looked towards the delegation’s Embassy liaison. “Jordan?”

Jordan Tylenis, the Embassy’s Deputy Political Counsellor, sighed. “It’s not far and the tram transfer should be fairly efficient.” He shrugged. “It’s Knootoss,” he murmured.

Rear Admiral Alexandra “Alex” Prescott smiled. Dressed in a business suit rather than her uniform, she blended in with the rest of the delegation, except for her expression. “It’ll be fine,” she said, lifting her suitcases. “Need help, Mr. Zvirbule?”

Zvirbule frowned and shot the Military Attache a sharp look. “No. Thanks. I can manage.”

“OK,” Prescott said.

Tylenis turned to de Graaf. “Cilicia,” he said, “we’ll take the tram. Could you show us the way?” Even as he spoke, he muttered a silent prayer of gratitude that the two senior members of the working delegation - Ms. Medne and Ms. Auzins - had decided to come by Embassy vehicle and were already arriving at the hotel.

Paul Sinclair carried himself with the air of energy and confidence that seemed to define the Calvert Government. A career foreign servant, Sinclair was nonetheless increasingly seen as the prime minister’s man. It was, as they said, a good fit. He led the Caldan working delegation. Formally, he was Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative for Regional Affairs. The latter title, while it might sound general, had been created solely for this series of regional conferences, granting Sinclair plenary authority over a working staff gathered from various ministries. He was a young man, lean and well-dressed, with thin, wiry glasses and tousled golden brown hair. “I think the tram will be fine,” he said almost automatically.

“Of course”, the young Knootian woman replied, gesturing towards one of the suitcases that seemed to be in excess, since she was only carrying her purse. She led the party across the square towards the nearest tram station, a small shelter with digitised displays that indicated a tram would arrive in approximately one minute and thirty seconds.

While those who arrived via the train ummed and ahhed about whether to walk or catch the tram the remainder of the way, a large black luxury sedan with diplomatic plates pulled up. Inside, members of the Pantocratorian working delegation bickered with the driver about whether they could get any closer to the final destination, but given the flow of traffic it would seem to require driving around and coming at the place from another route, and so after some frustrating exchanges, the quadrella disembarked their vehicle and meandered towards the other delegations as they entered the hotel.

Behind them came the Tehuans, in an elegant limousine. Emmanuel Ochoa paused for a moment and looked behind him. The Advisor to the Department of International Affairs was a large man who looked temporarily puzzled. The Marlund delegation pulled up in a sedan of their own and stepped around him, looking slightly irritated. Only then did Ochoa return to his colleagues..

The vehicle that actually arrived at the tram station, looked rather like something from the 1920s, chiming an old-timey bell and huffing as it came to a stop, disgorging a small crowd of animated, French-speaking Hesbayeux. The tram was near empty when the delegation got in, running the SIN-chips in their wrists (or on cards) past the scanner as they did. From there, it was only a short trip to the hotel, a single stop away from the central station. The Quartier Central des Affaires into which the tram took them felt different from the rest of Nivelet. As though someone had scooped a segment of Harstad out of the ground and sent it crashing down onto the outskirts of the mediaeval city centre. The metal towers and spirals that jutted out from the ground aspired to the modernist and post-modernist size and volume of the spires around Haag whilst not quite managing.

Among the tallest was the Hôtel du Grand Faucon, sixty floors of white-plastered flowing lines, the abstracted form of a large bird of prey looming perilously over the entrance. The interior of the Grand Faucon had that same sterile quality signified so much of Hartstad architecture. Corridors were lined with imported plants that would thrive, so long as they were drip-fed water and kept at 21 degrees Celsius and 40 percent humidity.

Lunch in the meeting room on the 59th floor was an example of ostentatious simplicity. Serve-yourself white bread sandwiches and currant buns with square-shaped slices of cheese were served on silver platters. A coffee machine in the corner touted that its Ambaran beans were slave free, vegan and compliant with the highest of industrial processing standards, and that the paper cups in which it was being served were recyclable. Peter-Jan Munt was drinking black coffee from a paper cup when the delegation came in. The ‘Policy Coordinator for the Secretary General of the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs’ had taken the train from Haag two hours before everyone else, leaving at the crack of dawn so he would have time to work on his presentation.

“Peter”, Cilicia de Graaf said, as though to summon him away from his spreadsheets.

“Mrs. De Graaf”, he replied dryly, as though only just becoming aware that the multinational delegation had arrived, and apparently deeming it a distraction from his much more important spreadsheets. “Rob Brouwers is somewhere else, taking some calls.” Munt had asked if Rob Brouwers, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, could take his calls somewhere (anywhere) else after successfully dissuading him from making small talk in the lobby. He gestured vaguely in the direction of the door, suggesting the man would be somewhere out there.

“Of course, thanks. I’m sure he’ll be along. He knows we’re scheduled to meet at a quarter two. Baroness van Zeuvel and Dr. Visser will be attending remotely.”

“So I read”, Munt affirmed. He then reached out his hand to the first of the foreign delegates

Yulia Medne and Linda Auzins met the rest of the Excalbian delegation upon their arrival. Both looked well-rested and recently freshened up, thanks to their early arrival by car. The two senior diplomats led their colleagues into the meeting room. Medne, the Staff Director for the Ambassador-at-Large for Regional Integration, nominally led the working delegation, so she took the lead. Dressed in a dark blue business suit with square-framed glasses, she was the epitome of a senior female Excalbian official. She was followed by Auzins, the Staff Director for the Director-General for the Western Atlantic. Auzins, though a few years younger than Medene, held the same diplomatic rank and was similarly dressed, except her suit was dark grey and she wore no glasses. The two women were followed by a third - Rear Admiral Prescott, and then Zvirbule and Rossler, with Tylenis bringing up the rear. Medne exchanged a quick, firm handshake with Munt, then briefly introduced her delegation. Each shook hands in turn.

Like Medne and Auzins, the Ajuban delegation had arrived early to ensure that they could make their best impression on their Knootian hosts, whom they knew to be skeptical of their… seriousness as a modern state. Ayokunle Akintola was a modestly built man with very dark skin, greying hair and glasses. He wore a tailored blue business suit with a bright green tie. As the Staff Director for the Ajuban Ministry of State’s Director-General for the Western Atlantic he was nominally the Union’s senior official. At least until the Minister, Sir Muktari Usman, arrived with the other principals. Beside him was Jackson Etienam, the biracial Director of the Office of International Affairs in the Ministry of Treasury. They followed the Excalbians, chatting amicably with them, then greeting the Knootians with firm handshakes.

The Pantocratorian working delegation wore dark, formal business attire which aligned with the general expression on the face of Undersecretary Raimond Tremble, its leader. A career civil servant, Tremble was the Undersecretary for the Atlantic Ducat in the Pantocratorian Treasury Department, one of the largest and most powerful departments of the Pantocratorian civil service. The mandarin was in his late fifties, old enough for the lines on his face to make it clear that he hadn’t wasted time smiling much in his youth. He was tall and powerfully built, with a distinctive mop of greying dark hair, and a slowly softening midsection as befit a man of his age and station. Tremble grunted his name and shook Munt’s hand before moving along. The slightly urgent, strained expression of the blonde-haired woman in her early thirties standing just behind him and to his side, his Executive Assistant Geneviève LaPlage, indicated that the Undersecretary’s apparent bad mood was a known and somewhat dreaded phenomenon, at least to her. She forced herself to flash a quick smile at Munt as she introduced herself but only gingerly took his hand, unaccustomed as she was to shaking hands. The other two Pantocratorians appeared less anxious - the immaculately put together raven-haired Marie-Rosalie Clément didn’t work for the Treasury, but for the Department of Foreign Affairs. She was the Executive Assistant to Pantocratoria’s Permanent Representative on the Atlantic Council. She was also accustomed to Knootian customs and manners, working with them closely in that role in Andrium, and having taken a year of her Bachelor’s degree on a study abroad scheme in Harstad nearly a decade ago. She shook Munt’s hand and introduced herself without betraying the slightest hint of a Pantocratorian accent. The final delegate was Pierre Clairveaux, a weak-chinned political hack in his early forties. The Senior Advisor from the Office of the Imperial Chancellor wore a Pantocratorian-flag lapel pin and was thumbing his PeacockPhone with his left hand even as he shook Munt’s hand. He didn’t give his name, but that wasn’t intended as a snub - he was just already looking past Munt at de Graaf and evaluating her as a potential sexual partner as he did reflexively upon meeting new women.

John Douglas and Leonard Weston, Deputy Director for the Office of Western Atlantic Cooperation in the Confederation of Sovereign State’s Department of Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Director of the Office of International Affairs in the Department of Commerce and Trade Promotion, respectively, each shook Munt’s hand in turn. “Douglas,” the senior of the two men said with a nod, “and my colleague Leonard Weston. From the C.S.S.”

Thinking that such curt introductions were the standard, Janice Thornton, Upper Virginia’s Deputy Assistant Treasurer for International Affairs followed suit. “Thornton,” she said, “Dominion of Upper Virginia.” She turned slightly. “My colleagues, Baker Longstreet, Deputy Director for the Western Atlantic, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” a rather round fellow with pleasant smile offered his hand, “Robert Andriulis, Office of the Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” a fellow, distinguished gentleman bowed slightly and offered his hand, “and Hope Vilkis, Deputy Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister,” the young woman, much younger than the rest of the delegation, “smiled and offered her hand.

Sinclair shook Munt’s hand with an easy, casual grip as he introduced himself and his delegation. He was crisp and brisk in his manner. He knew Munt had a lot of hands to shake. He saw no need to belabour this part.

Ochoa seemed not to know this was meant to be a brief formality and loitered after introducing his team. “I’ve always been fascinated by Knootian architecture,” he commented, “such a study in contrasts.”

“The old and the new”, Cilicia de Graaf agreed, remaining on the surface with a smile.

“New standards for government-owned buildings have increased thermal efficiency by fifteen percent over the last decade. Of course, this isn’t a government building”, Munt chimed in.

“It is striking,” Ochoa said.

The Marlunders were again close on Ochoa’s heels and seemed a little irritated that he seemed not to realise when he was in the way. The leader of their delegation was an athletic woman in her mid to late thirties. She smiled coldly as she slid her hand into Munt’s. “Kamina Grange,” she said in an accent that sounded more Danaan than Marlunder, if one was alive to such distinctions, which Munt was not. She looked around as though expecting something and then introduced her delegation, which was really unreasonably large given the small substantive role Marlund was likely to have.

“Munt”, came the one-syllabic reply to each of them. He expected everyone to have read up on all the participants.

Judging by the actions of the Knootians present, ‘lunch’ would consist of chowing down the hotel sandwiches and washing them down with machine coffee while Peter-Jan Munt struggled to hook up his laptop to the beamer and the camera-system that would display the remote participants in preparation for the meeting. “This is dreadful.” Undersecretary Tremble scowled at his sandwich. He turned to LaPlage, who appeared to any onlooker to practically wilt under her boss’s gaze. “You should have checked ahead, we could have had a proper lunch before we arrived.”

“I’m sorry, sir.” LaPlage answered just above a whisper, not wanting to cause offence either to the Undersecretary or to their hosts. “Perhaps I can see if the kitchen will bring something else up?”

“Don’t make a scene.” Tremble growled back quietly.

Clément leaned across LaPlage so that she could speak to the Undersecretary directly, subtly extricating her right arm from underneath Clairveaux’s unwelcome hand as she did so. “Monsieur, respectfully,” she said beaming with the unfeminine confidence Tremble associated with the diplomatic service. “I think our hosts would welcome any contribution we could make to catering with a call to the kitchen. We do have more agreeable expense claim arrangements than they do, in my experience.” This last sentence she added quietly with a slightly wicked grin which even elicited a momentary smile from Tremble, involuntary of course.

"Perhaps we can bring up something from the hotel restaurant, Cilicia de Graaf suggested. "My treat."

“That sounds wonderful,” Zvirbule said, giving the buffet of sandwiches a sideways glance.

Medne raised an eyebrow in the thin Treasury official’s direction, but said nothing before turning to de Graaf. “This is fine. We appreciate your kindness,” she said. She turned back to Zvirbule with another raised eyebrow.

Munt looked simultaneously mildly offended and troubled that such trivialities as food and drink were even discussed. "I was here first, so I suggested that the most economical package be brought up", he said in his own defence. "And it is fine", De Graaf answered. "But hostmanship is also part of our mission and General Affairs can cover it." That seemed to appease Munt.

“And we wouldn’t dream of insulting your hospitality, Ms. de Graaf.” Clément answered with a broad smile and without a trace of a Pantocratorian accent. “The Hôtel du Grand Faucon is a splendid venue, renowned for its restaurant and other amenities, and so you might appreciate that my colleague was looking forward to a… more expansive dining experience.”

Zvirbule nodded at the Pantocratorian’s comment and gave Medne a sharp look. Tremble scowled at Clément, wondering when this jumped up secretary decided he was her colleague, and dismayed that his appetite had become a point of conversation. He then forced himself briefly to smile graciously at de Graaf and nodded.

“This is perfectly fine,” Ochoa said with marked insincerity, staring at one of the square slices of processed cheese as if he couldn’t quite determine just what it was.

“Quite so.” he agreed. He then looked back to his own assistant and hissed “Next time, think ahead.” at her. LaPlage flinched and nodded vigorously.

Ideological Bulwark #7 - RPed population preserves relative population sizes. Webgame population / 100 is used by default. If this doesn't work for you and it is relevant to our RP, please TG.

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The Meeting about the Meetings to organise a Meeting

Postby Knootoss » Sun May 15, 2022 2:23 pm

When everything had been set up, Cilicia de Graaf opened the meeting, speaking English with a distinct Caldan accent and looking between the device at the centre of the table and its small display and the people physically present at the meeting: “I would like to thank you all for being present today. And I’d especially like to thank our Western Atlantic guests, who have travelled from quite far to help organise the policy preparatory aspects of the conference. Today’s focus will be on the first two days, here in Nivelet. So we’re talking about the Western Atlantic Diet, the forum for the entire region. We’ve circulated a draft agenda, invitees, etcetera. The final product ought to be a consensus document that can inform the Vasconian Cooperation Summit and 36th Biannual meeting of Heads of Government signatory to the Treaty of Courtland. As I think you already know, I am Cilicia, twenty-nine years old, one daughter and now working at General Affairs for about a year.” She smiled softly. “Charlotte van Jonkervelde has asked me to represent her staff in these working groups. I hope nobody minds if I chair these proceedings?”

She nodded to the person to her left, indicating that she’d go clockwise on the introductions. The most senior Pantocratorian spoke first: “My name is Raimond Tremble, Undersecretary for the Atlantic Ducat, Department of the Imperial Treasury.” said Tremble, pointedly omitting biographical details about his age, wife and children. “Of course the Imperial Government recognises that the Western Atlantic Diet is a broader topic than the Atlantic Ducat alone, as vitally important as the Atlantic Ducat may be, but I am here as the ranking Pantocratorian civil service representative, not just to discuss currency matters, as I hope would be clear. We thank you… Cilicia…” he seemed uncomfortable addressing the chair by her first name. “For your work preparing the draft agenda and all your other arrangements, they have been most satisfactory.”

Next to him sat Geneviève LaPlage, but just as she opened her mouth to speak, Tremble spoke again. “This is Geneviève, my assistant.” he declared, concluding her introduction.

“Good afternoon,” Medne said. “I am Yulia Medne, the Staff Director for Ambassador Abola, our Ambassador-at-Large for Regional Integration.” She paused, as if considering her next words. “I am a veteran of our diplomatic service, with postings in most of the nations of the Western Atlantic and I’ll be heading our delegation until our… senior delegates arrive. We look forward to the body confirming Excalbia’s accession to the Atlantic Ducat.” She nodded towards Zvirbule. “And to strengthening regional cooperation.” She looked at de Graaf. “And thank you for your hospitality and warm welcome, Madame Chair. I look forward to working with you.”

Beside her, Auzins leaned forward. “Linda Auzins,” she said, “I’m the Staff Director for the Director-General for the Western Atlantic - Ambassador Alexandra Maculane - who, unfortunately, will not be joining us due to a family situation.” She smiled. “I, too, am a 20-year veteran of the diplomatic service and I’m here,” she smiled more broadly, “to serve as something of the subject-matter expert for the rest of the delegation.”

“Munt”, Peter-Jan Munt grumbled after downing the remainder of his coffee. Then he conceded a more extensive introduction may be required: "Peter-Jan Munt. Here to represent the SecGen for Finance and Economic Affairs. My main interests are in fiscal and monetary regulation."

“Walter Zvirbule,” the tall, thin Excalbian said, looking at Munt. “Director of the Office of International Affairs at the Ministry of Treasury. I’m here for our discussions related to accession to the Atlantic Ducat.”

“Pierre Clairveaux, I am a Senior Advisor to the Imperial Chancellor.” Clairveaux stood up and declared, having set his PeacockPhone aside. “I’ve worked in the Chancellor’s office, his political office, since before he became Chancellor, in fact, I originally started working for him when he was the Imperial Treasurer. Before that, I worked as a party official for the United Christian Front in the national secretariat, and I was the chairman of the Western Atlantic Policy Committee from 2005 to 2016. I suppose I’m pretty well connected, you might say, to the nerve centre of Pantocratorian policy thinking. Personally, I’m single,” he smiled at various female delegates, “I play golf, used to play football, but have a bit of a bad knee so I had to give that up a few years back. Looking forward to a really productive discussion.”

Clairveaux sat down and patted Clément on her knee. “You’re up.” he told her with a wink.

Brushing aside Clairveaux’s hand as she stood up, Clément concealed her disgust with her so-called colleague behind a well-practised, winning smile. “My name is Marie-Rosalie Clément,” she began. “I serve as the Executive Assistant to His Excellency Monsieur Petros Hellenic, Pantocratoria’s Permanent Representative to the Atlantic Council. I studied International Relations at the University of Christ Pantocrator in New Rome, and I did my junior year in Harstad on a Drapeur Fellowship, so it’s wonderful for me to be back in Knootoss. I graduated with first class honours and joined the Department of Foreign Affairs, where I have been employed for the last eight years, the last two of which have been in Andrium at the Atlantic Council. It’s a pleasure to be here and I look forward to working with all of you.”

Clément sat back down, subtly pushing her chair an inch and a half further away from Clairveaux as she did so, while affecting to be straightening her skirt.

“Rear Admiral Alex Prescott,” the tall, muscular woman in a dark blue pants suit said, smiling, “Excalbian Imperial Navy. I’m the Military Attache at our Embassy in Hartstad. Served in the Iesian War alongside many outstanding Knootian sailors,” she said, her face turning sombre for a moment. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to serve here in Knootoss.” She paused and smiled again. “And I’m looking forward to a productive meeting.”

“I’m Bryan Rossler,” the man beside her said, “Deputy Director of the Ministry of State’s Office of Strategic Planning.” He paused. “We’re sort of the Ministry’s in-house think-tank, if you will.” His face flushed slightly, realising that everyone probably already knew what his office did. He quickly turned to the young man beside him - the youngest member of the Excalbian delegation.

“Jordan Tylenis,” the man said, “Deputy Political Counsellor at the Embassy here. I’m here to support the rest of our team.” He smiled and leaned back.

“Ayokunle Akintola,” the short and slender Ajuban said with a slightly lilting accent, “Staff Director for the Director-General for the Western Atlantic, Ajuban Ministry of State.” He turned to his colleague.

“Excellencies,” the taller Ajuban began, speaking with a distinct Highland Excalbian accent, “I am Jackson Etienam, Director of the Office of International Affairs in the Ajuban Ministry of Treasury. As part of our compact of free association with the Holy Empire, I am here for the discussions on Excalbia’s entry into the Atlantic ducat zone.”

Thornton cleared her throat. “I am Janice Thornton, the Dominion of Upper Virginia’s Deputy Assistant Treasurer for International Affairs.” She smiled. “I, too, am here to negotiate Upper Virginia’s possible entry into the ducat zone.” She looked at the rest of her delegation. “And my colleagues are here to keep me on side, as it were,” she laughed.

“I’m Baker Longstreet,” the man beside her said, “Deputy Director for the Western Atlantic. And I suppose I’m the chaperone.” He turned to the man beside him. “And this is my colleague, Robert Andriulis from the Office of the Foreign Minister.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, a pleasure,” Andriulis said with a nod.

“And,” the young woman beside them began, “I’m Hope Vilkis, Deputy Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister.” The woman paused and smiled. She was dressed in a red jacket and skirt and had her dark blonde hair pinned up. “Since the Dominion’s political system involves a… condominium between the President, represented here by my colleagues from the Foreign Ministry, and the Prime Minister, I’m here to… represent the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.” She paused. “And I look forward to working towards deepening Upper Virginia’s integration into the Western Atlantic.”

A small delegation that had joined during the discussion about the food selection, introduced themselves. “Good afternoon, colleagues,” a woman dressed in a dark violet suit said, holding her glasses in her hand, “I am Constance Murphy, the Deputy Assistant Minister for the Western Atlantic, in the Saxmerean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” She gestured to the gentleman beside her. “With me is David Kent, Director of the Office of International Affairs in the Ministry of Treasury,” she looked past Kent to a younger fellow to Kent’s left, “and Bradley Sullivan, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

A bearded man had joined the group after everyone had been seated, ending his phone call when he realised the meeting was already in progress. Nursing a fresh cup of espresso and a currant bun, he introduced himself when his turn came, speaking with a Dutch accent: “I’m Rob. Here from Knootian Foreign Affairs. Very nice to meet you all, and I’m sorry for being late.” He showed a disarming smile. “My portfolio is regional trade policy, business climate and stakeholder engagement. I hope we can work together to build something visionary that can move the region forward to the next level. When it comes to the technical details, I’ll happily leave those to Peter-Jan. But I hope we can all focus on the big picture.”

The two Confederals nodded. “Leonard Weston,” the first said, “Deputy Director of the Office of International Affairs, Department of Commerce and Trade Promotion.”

“And I’m John Douglas, the Deputy Director for the Office of Western Atlantic Cooperation in the Department of Foreign Affairs,” the other said. “And I second Rob’s hopes for a truly visionary meeting that moves the entire region forward.”

“I’m Paul Sinclair,” the Caldan said with a small smile that seemed natural to him. “I’m an Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative for Regional Affairs. The Caldan Union, of course, is interested in being part of the expansion of the Atlantic Ducat and also in strengthening regional environmental standards and providing for cooperation in attaining them. We are interested in broadly strengthening regional cooperation and promoting dialogue.”

“I’m Carl Burkhalter,” said a man who looked more than a decade older than Sinclair, short and stocky with greying hair. “I’m an economics professor at St. Augustine’s and I’m a Special Consultant on International Affairs for the Minister of Finance.”

“I’m Lucy Hilsman,” said a dark-haired woman next to Burkhalter with a lift of her chin. “I’m a Stakeholder Liaison from the Office of the Prime Minister. My job here is to remain in contact with the representatives of Caldan NGOs, provincial governments, businesses, and advocacy organisations who have an interest in the conference and representing their interests to the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative.”

“Dan Atwater. I’m a Special Adviser to the Minister of Finance and my role here primarily concerns representing Caldan interests with respect to the expansion of the Atlantic Ducat and our hopeful accession thereto,” said a man who looked entirely too young and entirely too handsome to be in this position. He turned to the woman next to him.

“Hi!” she began cheerfully. “I’m Donna Spencer. I’m Associate Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection with responsibility for international affairs.” She looked like she had a few years on Atwater, though not many. She was of mixed heritage, wore a rather solid looking pair of glasses, and wore her dark brown hair straight.

The bearded man next to her smiled warmly. “Bilawal Talpur,” he said, straightening slightly in his seat. “Associate Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs with responsibility for regional policy. I’m interested in some of the more technical things we might accomplish on a truly regional scale in tandem with the Diet. I think it creates tangible benefits now and might plant the seeds of even greater and broader regional cooperation in the future.”

“Ronald Kattenburg,” said a man just approaching middle-age, seated next to Talpur. “I’m Associate Deputy Minister of Justice with the international brief. I’m here to advise the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative on the legal aspects of these agreements.”

“Emily Pence,” said a woman in her mid-thirties with dark hair and almond-eyes, dressed impeccably. She shifted slightly in her seat, her hands remaining in her lap. “I’m Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer of the Bank of Caldas, which obviously has a significant stake in any major change to Caldan monetary policy as a result of this conference.”

“I’m Michael Prommersberger,” said a lean young man with his hair worn short. “I’m First Secretary at the Caldan Mission to the Atlantic Council. I previously served as Third Secretary at the embassy to Knootoss and Second Secretary at the embassy to Excalbia among other postings.”

The last of the Caldans, a young woman who looked well short of thirty, with a bright expression and a bookish air, spoke up. “I’m Nicole Clinton. I’m the Personal Assistant to the Personal Representative of the Prime Minister. I’m mostly here to provide clerical support for the working delegation.”

After all the Caldans were introduced, it moved to the Tehuans. “Emmanuel Ochoa,” said the lead of their delegation. “I’m an Adviser to the Department of International Affairs. I’m mostly a policy expert, given Tehua’s limited role in this conference, but I hope to lay the groundwork for better future integration in Ambara and throughout the region” He smiled slightly and looked to the rest of his team who also introduced themselves in good order.

Kamina Grange then rattled off the names of a rather large team, all of whom bore the title of Special Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and who specialised in areas as diverse as monetary policy and wildlife preservation. She introduced herself last. “I’m Kamina Grange. I’m Special Assistant to the Chief Director. I was born in Dana and originally worked in the Reconstruction Agency in Marlund. When Marlund became independent, I remained there and continued to work for the new government. We are here to promote regional integration, to advocate for even broader and more inclusive regional institutions, and to re-engage in regional diplomacy following the…eventful….conference at New Excalbia.”

When everyone in the conference room had been introduced, the list of introductions continued with all those in remote attendance. With far too many faces to remember, displayed on small video cut-outs, some of the participants may have looked tired by the time all introductions had been made. It was however a Knootian custom that everyone should be able to have their say, even if Cilicia de Graaf felt it would make everyone far more amenable to her efforts at moderation if everyone had a taste of what ‘everyone speaks on everything’ would mean. “Let us turn to the draft agenda that has been circulated amongst all the parties that have signalled interest. On what we’re calling ‘Day Zero’, we have a formal welcome by the office of the Grand Pensionary with a red carpet opportunity, and a sponsored gifting ceremony by the Grand Pensionary and some of the 2021 Miss Knootoss winners. We have assigned twenty minutes for each of these individual meetings so please make sure your leaders don’t linger too long, or we’ll have a pile up. Following this, we have bilateral meetings between all your Heads of Government and Charlotte van Jonkervelde and Minister de Lange. This will be public, press present, so talking points will be agreed upon between each delegation. As I understand it, Rob will be taking point on this.”

Rob Brouwer nodded but didn’t add anything, so Cilicia de Graaf continued: “For evening’s entertainment, we would like input from all of your delegations. We’ve circulated some possibilities in one of the attached files. State dinner. Philharmonic orchestra. Possibly an Iesus monument visit here in Nivelet, though that may be a bit much for day zero. We’re also open to other suggestions. The Grand Pensionary has also offered to play host at a live streamed event, and I can tell you that the Prime Ministers’ office would certainly not break ranks by suggesting that your high level delegations should not attend what is certain to be a unique experience. We’re just all about providing more low-key alternatives.” She paused there, wondering if she’d slipped in one denial too many.

“I know the Prime Minister will want to visit the monument,” Sinclair said.

"What do you mean, a sponsored gifting ceremony?" Undersecretary Tremble asked, frowning in concern.

“The Grand Pensionary wishes to provide an opportunity to provide the heads of the foreign delegations with a selection of products that exemplify the best that Knootian and Western Atlantic business communities have to offer”, Cilicia de Graaf ventured carefully. “I believe Peacock Motors has also been approached. So there may be some keys in that basket, if the delegates are lucky.” She showed a small smile. “We have of course appraised the Office of the Grand Pensionary that such gifts should preferably remain under the various legal thresholds for the attending countries. They have urged me to convey that each gift in the basket should at least be considered a separate gift for these purposes.

"So the heads of government would be given sponsored gifts, possibly including cars?" Tremble asked, his tone making it clear he didn't approve. "Is any kind of advertising consideration being offered to these sponsors?"

“Not in the conference venue itself”, Cillicia responded with a wry expression.

“That was very specific.” Tremble observed. “Beyond the venue? In the media?”

“I will contact the Grand Pensionary’s office after this meeting and suggest they send all the participants an overview of any commercial tangibles. Will that suffice for now?” Cicilia replied again, a little testy. This wasn’t something she’d asked for, after all. And to get Viljoen to back off the actual negotiations, he needed something he could spin as a ‘win’. Charlotte, she knew, cared much less about such appearances.

Tremble half-nodded, half-shrugged noncommittally. His assistant, Geneviève LaPlage, helpfully firmed-up the response with a more definitive nod. Clairveaux started to do an image search for "2021 Miss Knootoss winners" on his PeacockPhone in the meantime, finding that the finalists were nine rather skinny, blonde, blue-eyed girls and a ‘plus sized’ part-metahuman part-Epheronian woman who had apparently won some kind of science prize, and to whom most of the attention in the media had gone. "2021 Miss Knootoss transsexual?" Clairveaux now typed into his phone, his political instincts warning him of a potentially unfortunate photo op for the Chancellor which could spell an end to his further advancement, but only found a number of opinion articles suggesting that the next Miss Knootoss should be a trans woman. He exhaled in relief.

For their part, the Excalbians mostly kept their eye-rolling to a minimum and remained silent on the idea of sponsored gifts presented beauty queens, though Yulia Medne did share a brief smile with Linda Auzins at the thought of Lady Gordon-Robb’s and Lady Freedman’s reactions if they were still Chancellor and State Minister. Of course, Lady Freedman would have easily “out-glammed” any twenty-something beauty queen even on an off-day.

When the discussion turned to the evening’s events, Medne said, “A State dinner with a philharmonic performance sounds quite appropriate.”

“Agreed,” Janice Thornton said from the Upper Virginian delegation.

“Quite so,” Aktintola added.

“I would very much like to include a visit and wreath-laying at the Iesian War monument,” Admiral Prescott said, “I think it would be… most appropriate. Even overdue.”

“Next, we have security measures and accomodations in and around Nivelet.” Cilicia de Graaf brought up an image from her presentation. “The area between Avenue Petit Village, Avenue Saturnales and Avenue Moinshaut will be designated a high security zone. Side roads will be closed and the Avenue de la Justice will be controlled access. We’re still investigating whether the trams can continue down that road without stopping, as the municipal authorities have asked us to permit.”

“There will be two types of accommodations. Inside the secure zone, and surrounding the secure zone. As those of you who have consulted the map will have seen, Hôtel du Grand Faucon and Le Pilier Bleu are five-star accommodations inside the zone so Heads of Government and their immediate staff will get priority. There are smaller but still high quality accommodations within the zone around the Palace of Justice that will be fully certified before the end of the week. The second type of accomodation is for those who do not have security clearance. So if you or your staff are not vetted by Knootian or affiliated security services, Caldan, Pantocratorian, Excalbian, Confederal… you will be exiled to the facilities around Le Collier, the saturnalia market square or the Quartier Snefaldienne.” She spoke those chiding tones in a motherly tone, even though the average age of the attendees was higher than hers.

“I would question the propriety of this procedure for credential diplomats of sovereign nations here at your invitation,” Grange said indignantly.

“Caldan security has already cleared the Marlund delegation,” Sinclair said with a faint note of irritation to his voice, “as you know, Miss Grange.”

“Nonetheless,” she repeated. “I’d like the objection on the record.”

Ochoa looked like he was wondering if he was supposed to object too when an aide whispered in his ear. He nodded slightly and settled down. It had already been worked out between security services.

“The objection is duly noted”, Cilicia de Graaf said. “I’m sure it’s just a formality. Making sure that everything goes smoothly when all of our bosses are in town.”

She smiled and continued: “So, after everyone’s had a good nights’ sleep and a solid breakfast in the right hotel, we were planning to start the Landdag - the Western Atlantic Diet at 10 AM on Day 1. This will all be broadcast live, and will likely be the most visible part of the conference cycle. If we have around thirty-five leaders in attendance, that means thirty-five speeches. So we’d ideally like everyone to keep it snappy and watcheable. Four and a half to five minutes, ideally?” She drew in a breath, knowing she was testing the waters here. “It would greatly increase the probability that the whole opening ceremony will be carried and watched”, she added in a peremptory defence.

“That seems reasonable to us,” Medne said, glancing at Auzins and Rosales, both of whom nodded. Fortunately, Medne thought to herself, it’ll be the Chancellor speaking, rather than the more loquacious Minister of State.

“That sounds rather… short,” John Douglas said. “I think President Rudeles might be planning a… broader statement.” He frowned. “Our colleague, Clifton Webb, from the President’s office is arriving later. I can consult with him when he arrives.”

“It does seem a little short,” Sinclair agreed. “Granted, there are many nations represented but these are heads of government speaking to one another and the region. I am not sure snappy and watchable quite does it justice.”

“Wouldn’t it be available to stream anyway?” Hilsman asked. “It seems a small thing to let anyone in the region stream the full speeches of those leaders they wish to hear and, as far as networks are concerned, in the Caldan Union, it will be carried by FBC3 in its entirety and anyone anywhere with internet access can stream it at their leisure from the FBC3 website.”

“It will be available to stream”, Rob Brouwer chimed in. “But if it takes too long, there will be cut-aways and summaries after significant speeches on commercial news channels. If it takes all day, there may be commercials and break-ins.”

“More to the point”, Cilicia de Graaf added, “It is a matter of where we want our national leaders to be on day one. If it runs beyond two and a half hours, we are going to need to introduce breaks for practical reasons. And at that point, it may be more practical to run the sessions parallel to the assembly.

Douglas leaned forward. “I think we can be a bit more generous with the time while still keeping to the two and a half hour limit.” He looked around. “I think we can all keep our principals within a reasonable limit without being too too strict.”

“How would that work?” Munt asked of Douglas, looking over to the Confederal delegation. “Time being linear, the speaking time is a matter of dividing the allotted two and a half hours between participants. The final number of participants will determine the permissible speaking time in minutes and seconds, surely. I’m not a speechwriter, but I can count.

“And so can I,” Douglas said with a thin smile, “and two and a half hours at five minutes per person means you’re expecting 30 speakers. I must say that I wasn’t aware that quite that many delegations would be represented. There is no more than half that number here now. Just how many people do you plan to speak at the opening of the Diet?”

“Everyone except the countries banned by law are invited”, Munt replied. “So yes, a little over thirty. If countries decline to send a high-level representative, we’ll have more time for those remaining. This is for the Diet, of course.”

Douglas leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “Very well, then, five minutes.”

“What about the sequence of speeches?” Clairveaux asked.

“Heads of state should probably speak before heads of government, who should speak before ministers,” Douglas said.

“We agree,” Thornton said, with a nod from Longstreet.

“All these other things being equal, I’d suggest we have the hosts open and take things in descending order of population”, Cilicia de Graaf suggested.

“That would be,” Douglas said, “a… novel approach to diplomatic protocol…”

“The diet is a novel regional institution. It need not be bound to 19th century ideas of protocol”, Cilicia de Graaf replied, “But I wouldn’t want anyone to feel aggrieved either. This is all open to discussion. It just strikes me that the Knootian diplomatic order of precedence, such as it is, has little relevance to the region at large. The order in which countries recognised the Covenant as a state would affect the duration of diplomatic relations. And since ambassadors will not be speaking, the order in which these presented themselves to the Grand Pensionary doesn’t seem apt either. Ideally, the order in which our leaders speak should build some kind of narrative.”

“Heads of state in order of how long they have been in office followed by heads of government in the same order is how we would do it,” Sinclair said indifferently. Cilicia looked around and nodded, confirming that there was consensus before noting down the decision.

“Next, there’s the side events”, Rob said, taking over from Cilicia. This was his bailiwick, after all. “We’ve got the technical sessions. Open to NGOs, businesses and administrative bodies. Counting off, aviation, telecommunications, intprop, etcetera. The goal is to get a consensus document that will inform the Vasconian Cooperation Summit and 36th Biannual meeting of Heads of Government signatory to the Treaty of Courtland, and hopefully also future treaty or regional body that can include everyone in this room. And erm.” He gestured towards the camera with the many tiny screens. “... the meeting, that is.”

“We would definitely support expanding the Treaty of Courtland,” Medne said.

“We could also potentially support expanding the Treaty of Courtland,” Sinclair agreed, “but not quite so broadly as we’d like aviation bodies to be, for example, so the Caldan Union would like to keep those issues separate.”

“We want to set realistic expectations for these sessions,” Clément began. “If we can find consensus on issues which will be conducive for expanded trade, that would be productive for expansion of existing agreements or for new, extended agreements. But we shouldn’t allow NGOs or other lobby groups to drag these discussions into territory where no consensus is likely.”

“His Imperial Majesty’s Government,” Medne said, almost sounding rehearsed, “believes that Western Atlantic cooperation has been… fragmented for too long. With some countries belonging to the Courtland Treaty, others belonging to other regional accords, some participating in the Atlantic Ducat, others in other collective organisations… and both His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor, and His Excellency, the Chancellor, believe it is time to try to unify these accords as much as possible. Ideally, we would like to see a new Courtland, if you will, that would bring all these other agreements under one umbrella. Also, ideally, we would like to see all parties included in all components of a ‘New Courtland’; however, we know that is unrealistic.

“We would, nonetheless, like to bring, to the fullest extent possible, all these agreements together under a single umbrella and allow the countries of the region to sign on the various components within a single framework.” She smiled. “Of course, we will not derail things if there is no consensus to move in this direction.”

“Monetary arrangements, the free trade zone and the external trade barriers can surely not be unified into one arrangement”, Munt chimed in with his thick Dutch accent, sounding alarmed and looking to the Pantocratorian delegation for support. “We cannot dilute the negotiating… er…” He caught a warning glance from Cilicia de Graaf, suggesting he was speaking far too bluntly. “.... I mean… part of the strength of the Atlantic Ducat has been its relatively synchronised business cycle. The data shows Vasconia and the Excalbian Isles to be more synchronous than more distant regions, and nations at different levels of development. Setting interest rates, regulatory standards or trade policy for the entire Western Atlantic region would be very ambitious. One might even say it is courageous.”

“Or visionary”, Rob chimed in with a smile, clearly not seeing 'courageous' as the phrase to kill any policy idea being proposed.

“I… understand your position,” Medne said. “However, if Excalbia accedes to the Atlantic Ducat, we are bound by our Compact of Free Association to include the Ajuban Union.” She turned towards the Ajubans.

Ayokunle Akintola gave an almost genuine smile while stifling a sigh. “Yes, indeed,” he said. “We are… or rather, we share with Excalbia a common sovereign - the Emperor - and a common currency. For the moment, the Imperial sov.” He turned to his colleague.

“Yes,” Jackson Etienam said, again sounding more Excalbian than Ajuban, “we share not only a common currency, but, as a result, a common monetary and fiscal policy. We also maintain a customs union - one market - as it were.” He paused. “So, our… hope, naturally, is to maintain our common currency and market with Excalbia as she… as we move into the Ducat Zone.”

“Well, Pantocratorian Ambara is already covered” Grange mentioned impishly. “If the Caldan Union is also admitted…”

Etienam and Akintola nodded and looked at the Knootians. Munt looked sour, Cicilia appeared noncommittal, and Rob was positively amused, exclaiming: “Progress!”

“I think it makes sense that we have some kind of centralised umbrella,” Sinclair said. “This entire set of meetings, after all, is being billed as a regional summit and yet there’s no proper overarching term for it. However, except possibly for some of the technical organisations, I don’t think we should push for uniformity. Different nations have different needs and there are obviously regions within the region where more local cooperation might be promoted. There’s no reason, for example, that we wouldn’t also want to participate in Ambaran trade discussions where we have obvious interests, but those should be distinct from the Vasconian Cooperation Summit and the Atlantic Ducat.”

“Given Ajuba and Excalbia share monetary and fiscal policy, I think the position of Excalbia and Ajuba both on joining the Ducat Zone together is understandable.” Tremble observed, looking at Munt in particular. “In or out together seems a reasonable basis for negotiation. It will potentially complicate some aspects of those negotiations, of course, but I would rather know that is the position upfront. We can work on the details. I don’t think it’s a red line.”

“I would like to talk about it. Perhaps not during these opening meetings, so as not to derail the agenda”, Munt said whilst fingering his spectacles, and finally pushing them back onto his nose. “After all, by accepting the annexation of Confederal territories, Excalbia has already created certain facts on the ground. These facts do not extend to the Epheronian region.”

“Nobody’s talking about the Epheronian region,” Tremble entoned. “Just Ajuba, whose currency, monetary and fiscal policy is shared with Excalbia’s. Of course you want Excalbia to join the Ducat Zone, don’t you Mr. Munt?”

“It is government policy”, Munt replied. “And I do. I just believe it is best not to take decisions about monetary policy lightly. There are matters of representation, of the business cycle, of the effect on neighbours, and so forth. Matters I look forward to discussing in a more select committee of technical experts, including yourself, Undersecretary.”

Tremble nodded wordlessly.

“Prime Minister Jonkervelde agrees with the Excalbians”, Cilicia de Graaf resolved, “that it is important to unify these agreements as much as possible. It’s also plainly time to update and expand or replace Courtland. But different levels of engagement are to be expected. Part of the Landdag’s goal is to see where we can get with the entire region, and where smaller groups may seek more advanced cooperation.”

She touched one of her temples and then continued: “I suggest we leave the technical discussion to the technical preparatory sessions scheduled for tomorrow and beyond, though, and see if we can come to a consensus on the overall agenda before dinner? Clearly, the future of Courtland and the expansion of cooperation in all areas, including monetary, will be on the agenda of the Landdag. And in my meetings here, at least, I would like to include any party who has a serious interest in any topic in the relevant preparatory subcommittees.”

Medne nodded. “Agreed.”

“We’ve also got pandemics, disasters and health crises - I don’t think we have a clear picture yet what status to give those discussions. Our Minister for National Recovery and Renewal - Jasmijn van Kruissen - wants to put it front and centre. Along with climate change.” Both of which happened to be part of her portfolio. “So where are your delegations on this, and what sort of format would be preferred for these issues?” Rob continued.

“The Caldan position is to treat environmental cooperation and the expansion of the Ducat zone as of a piece. As we integrate our economies, so we harmonise, at least to some extent, our legislation and work together for the preservation of the commons,” Sinclair said.

“These topics are unrelated.” Tremble objected. “The Atlantic Ducat and the WACA have their own framework. These should be unrelated to environmental cooperation. Besides that, environmental cooperation is unrelated to pandemics, disasters, and health crises, surely. I mean other than the long-term disaster management and containment efforts here in Knootoss, of course, those require cooperation and action in neighbouring states…”

“If I may, the Undersecretary is right.” Clément began, trying to rephrase the Pantocratorian position more acceptably. “These topics are so important that they deserve to be discussed separately, so that proper emphasis can be given to all the issues. Combining them runs the risk of suborning environmental policy to the WACA or the reverse.”

“Thank you, mademoiselle.” Tremble growled, not appreciating this jumped up girl from the Foreign Affairs typing pool’s continued presumption.

“Forgive me,” Sinclair said, raising a hand. “I was not suggesting that everything be discussed in tandem. However, my understanding was that the Atlantic Diet’s discussion of environmental issues, in addition to whatever limited region-wide cooperation they might spawn, which is, of course, very important, would also inform the discussion of environmental cooperation at the Vasconian Cooperation Summit, which is a high priority for us. Monetary policy does not exist in a vacuum and, to integrate it this closely, we would like a shared ‘floor’ on certain issues and certain provisions regarding the regional commons. Nothing extreme or particularly controversial.”

“Our primary concern is air pollution near border areas and the pollution of shared waterways,” Pence added.

Sinclair frowned slightly, worried she might have offended the Knootians to placate the Pantocratorians. “We are, of course, willing to contribute substantially to clean-up and containment efforts in Knootoss.”

“A shared floor on certain issues where there is an obvious economic impact is reasonable, so as to not create relative advantage or disadvantage in the terms of trade, since we are striving to eliminate trade barriers.” Tremble conceded. “So some baseline environmental regulation might be part of that shared floor. But we should also discuss other… market distortions… with respect to wages, for example, and other cost components.”

“Of course, Pantocratoria doesn’t seek to encourage a race to the bottom, as it were.” Clément added with a smile which could melt a polar ice cap as effectively as any Peacock Holdings Group heavy industry.

“No.” Tremble scowled back at his ‘colleague’ from Foreign Affairs.

“That’s certainly agreeable to us,” Sinclair said.

Cilicia de Graaf decided to take Munt’s quiet agreement with Tremble as a good sign (after all, it was only quiet agreement now) and nodded. “I believe we are in agreement on the big picture. High-level discussions on these topics, which all together will inform the Vasconian Cooperation Summit and the Courtland biannual. Future steps can be decided from that point on. And this will not necessarily be limited to either Vasconia or the Courtland signatories.”

“And finally, there’s … “ … Rob barely resisted doing a little drumroll with his fingers, but his child-like excitement was obvious on his face. This was going to be the networking opportunity of a lifetime: “The exhibits and presentations. We’ve got so many exciting things lined up for you guys, and I really hope your business communities will bring their A-game. We’ve got concepts for a Western Atlantic Space Station, Mars in 2030.”

“That sounds imminently promising,” Sinclair said.

“We certainly have broad participation in this component of proceedings from the Pantocratorian private sector. But shouldn’t something like a joint space program have been discussed at a governmental level before private sector marketing types use the platform we have given them to work the public up about the idea?” Tremble asked.

“I believe New Boston Shipbuilding will be part of a presentation of the new class of naval vessel developed jointly with Knootoss,” Medne said. “And AzIntel intends to introduce its newest version of the DAIN interface - a holographic human assistant capable of responding to verbal and non-verbal communications. Or so I’ve been told.” After a stage cough from Rossler, she added, “And our space agency would be most interested in participating in a regional space station.”

“As would Upper Virginia,” Thornton said.

“These are concepts from a private, Knootian company, correct?” Clément clarified. “By including this, we’ll be suggesting that a Western Atlantic Space Station has governmental support, even if the political delegations avoid having their pictures taken there.”

“The Grand Pensionary and Charlotte - the Prime Minister - are both very keen on its inclusion”, Cilicia de Graaf answered. As if to stress that this was one of those rare events where the two agreed. “And likewise, Pantocratoria is welcome to include its national champions in any exhibit. I am looking forward to learning how Peacock Motors sees the future of mobility in a more united Western Atlantic region. If we are all doing it, it won’t be construed so much as government support for this or that company, but simply as patriotism. Or think of it as a corporate contribution to the festival of NGO’s that will be joining us, too, to advocate for their vision of the region.”

“The Imperial Chancellor doesn’t take a personal interest in the advancement of particular businesses, but rather upon the advancement of all businesses and the Pantocratorian and regional economy as a whole.” Tremble added.

“Yes, the Pantocratorian Government does not wish to create the false impression that it supports or endorses particular companies or products.” Clément explained. Tremble scowled at her but she apparently didn’t notice. “Pantocratorian businesses will be welcome to attend, though, at their own expense.”

“Right. The point is, these stands will be amazing,” Rob Brouwer enthused, hardly about to be brought down by the question of who would pay for some stands. “Back on earth, we have some cutting-edge presentations on development and education programs, with space for tech entrepreneurs to promote innovative solutions to the challenge of dragging education into the digital age. Leapfrogging over chalk boards and professors talking to students in large class rooms, and replacing them with Web 3.0 solutions. Using blockchain, streaming video, broadband, and socials to foster horizontal learning.”

“Literally none of those words mean anything, individually or collectively.” Tremble snorted in disinterest.

“I’m curious about horizontal learning,” Ochoa said. “I’m not quite sure what it is.”

“Excuse me, sir,” Geneviève LaPlage timidly asked Rob, as she looked at the print-out of the schedule and traced over it with her pen. “The political delegations would have left, at this point, correct?”

“They will take place in parallel from day zero to day two. So long as the caravan is in Nivelet”, Rob expanded. “There should be plenty of time for the political delegations to visit and marvel. We can make sure there’s some good photo opportunities as well. Our own photographers, of course. For public release stuff. And…” His smile grew wider: “Since Emmanuel and Raimond both aren’t fully up to speed yet about the education program, I’ll be sure to sign them up for one of their sessions. I know the gal in charge. She is amazing. Visionary. A tech entrepreneur who is taking her disruptive potential to the education industry. You’ll love her.”

“I will of course be too busy to attend such a manifest waste of time.” Tremble growled.

“Why is disrupting education good?” Ochoa asked in genuine confusion.

Rob looked flustered. Confused why anyone would even be asking that question. “It’s …. It’s how innovation happens. I mean, think about it. Education has been the same for centuries, even as society has changed. Our lives are completely different now. Shouldn’t education be too? And it needs an outsider to shake things loose. Someone with a fresh perspective. An entrepreneur.”

“Education has changed rapidly and radically in recent years, largely through an orderly and not especially disruptive process” Ochoa protested. “Why do you believe it’s been the same for centuries?”

“Has it, though?” Rob asked.

“Yes?” Ochoa said cautiously.

“Are you an investor in this visionary gal’s business or something?” Tremble grunted. It wasn’t clear whether Tremble was joking because he always seemed like he was barely tolerating those around him at the best of times, but his assistant, LaPlage, laughed tentatively anyway.

“Perhaps this is a topic better discussed over dinner”, Cilicia de Graaf suggested when Rob began to utter a denial-of-sorts. “We’re coming up on time for today, anyway, so I would personally suggest we adjourn here. We can then wrap up the agenda in the first block tomorrow and then move on to the subcommittee meetings. My office has e-mailed you all a list – I think a few of you may not yet have signed up for your desired meetings, so please do so. Meetings will be held in parallel, but so far at least, the topics don’t overlap. Much.” She showed a little smile, and waited to see if there were any objections. “No? Alright then. Meeting adjourned.”

Ideological Bulwark #7 - RPed population preserves relative population sizes. Webgame population / 100 is used by default. If this doesn't work for you and it is relevant to our RP, please TG.

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