(14) Solving the Nakege Problem
The Regency Campaign (258-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
0:00 today is 0:00 Imperial time.
Night and day here depend on the positioning of the
locals measure day by the primary, but at this time of year the
secondary will be in the sky for about half the night. Since the
world rotates anticlockwise and orbits the sun the same way, that means
in autumn, like it is now, the secondary rises before sunrise.
Sir Misha Ravanos has decided that watches were not
necessary, but they have set up their hand puters to provide a video
and audio feed back to Nightshade.
His suite shares a wall and a mirror image layout
with that of Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege. There is a main
central room, which goes through to a balcony. Off to the side
are several bedrooms, a couple of dressing rooms, and a kitchen.
Mich Saginaw and Teri Cralla have smaller suites
either side of these.
Misha has checked Kalida's bedroom for exits: there
are two ways into it, to the main room and to a dressing room that in
turn leads to the main room. That means there is no way in except
through that room, and he approved the puter setup.
Nightshade too settled for the night, taking
up a locked position over the city of Crow.
Kalida wakes up at 06:00. Misha had already
put in an order to wake him and Teri up when she woke, so they're up
quickly too. Mich is allowed to sleep off the night before, but
Shark maintains a remote watch on him.
Kalida knocks on the connecting door to Misha's
room, and he pulls the bellrope to order breakfast.
Breakfast does not, to Kalida's disappointment, come
with coffee. They haven't heard of coffee here, or cocoa for that
matter. Kalida -- who would be fine with chicory if that's what
they had -- decides to wait and see what is delivered. Teri has
joined them by the time it arrives.
Breakfast consists of toast, as well as large crusty
bread, fruit perserved with bourbon, meats, soft and hard cheeses,
accompanied by some hot beverage that is not something they've seen
before. The drink smells malty, definitely grain derived.
Outside a light rain falls over the town and
lake. The dark red glow from the secondary barely pushes through
the clouds, but the primary is starting to rise and illuminate a
On Nightshade, Chuck's usual concoction of
sweet smoked and fried meat with a heavy bread is their breakfast.
Mich still hasn't emerged. The heavy
atmosphere and copious Blockade Bourbon took its toll, and he is really
not feeling well.
Kalida rings for a servant, and asks for a meeting
with the Gravella as soon as he is available.
Five minutes later, there is a knock on the
door. The Gravella himself has arrived. He greets them, and
they settle down to business.
Kalida asks for a brief top-level description of
their operation here.
The Gravella says their purpose is to make
bourbon. Everything else that is required to support the
operation and the people is also done here. They make their own
casks from the forest wood, they grow their own grain, they operate
their distillery. The town supports the farming, the woodlands,
and so on. The whole community is build around crafting bourbon,
and that is their purpose here. They have limited trade with the
Kalida very politely feels him out on the subject of
the blockade itself. She knows what the smuggled bourbon makes
once it's sold in the Imperium, but she asks what cut the locals get.
The Gravella says they have an arrangement with
Creative Imports. They can sometimes make arrangements with the
blockaders to bring stuff in and take stuff out. Once in a while
they can take a case of bourbon, depending on what arrangement they've
made and what kind of financing they have. THC gets 1000 Cr per
Misha asks if they produce anything other than
They produce custom wooden furniture and
panelling. There is a room on Mongo, the Gravella
believes, that is outfitted entirely in Nakege work. They
do not get a lot out of what they export, certainly not enough to make
a profit. They are self-sufficient here. Their hospitality
is a good draw for certain types of trader too, to be able to relax
here with a few bottles of local bourbon even if they can't take it
out. That too requires an arrangement or license with Creative
Imports. If the blockade did not exist, they would probably
export only bourbon.
Kalida feels him out further about the existing
The Gravella says they have mixed feelings.
The blockade prevents their main purpose, of course. They would
like most of their stock to be exported. At the same time, they
like their isolation. Their culture, while affected of course by
trade imports and a little technology, their society, their
self-sufficiency, is a very good thing. They like the cultural
isolation. They don't want exclusive resorts built here, or
Imperial corporations exploiting their world.
Kalida asks that since they own the land here,
wouldn't they have to give permission to build?
Technically that would be true, of course. But
when they'd have to walk halfway around the world to find a site some
company had built, how would they know it was there? Not until
they started turning up at their doorstep could they even know about
it. At the moment there is no reason for corruption. There
is no profit in being here, there is no reason to take a large sum of
Imperial currency to let someone build outside the town. He
himself would not let someone build, but who knows whether his
grandchildren would? From that point of view, they like their
Ideally, the Gravella continues, the world itself
would remain as it is. A decent capacity starport in orbit would
allow trade to go through there without affecting the world
below. They could simply ship up the bourbon, ship down the
limited technology and resources they need. They are short on
metals here -- any quality metal has been imported. They do not
have -- and do not want -- mining operations or smelting
facilities. They do not want to become part of the Imperial
Kalida observes that is not likely this far out.
The Gravella nods. They do not see much of
what goes on in the Spinward Marches, what political undercurrents
might be going on. They do know they are very close to the
border. They have had warships come through during the Frontier
Wars, but they have stuck to the gas giant. The mainworld itself
has no strategic resources or facilities. But the Zhodani
Consulate is a jump-3 from here, and that does make them an attractive
waypoint in times of conflict.
As Kalida points out, the blockade would have no
effect on that whatsoever.
The Gravella summarizes: they dislike the blockade,
but they like some of its side effects. The blockade is wrong on
fundamental principles, since Tukera was never promised any stake in
the system at all. Their whole approach is based on corporate
lies, and that should be punished and stopped. The are other ways
of remaining isolated without a wrongly founded corporate blockade.
Back on Nightshade, Shark jokes that they
should move their asteroid hotel here. Great idea if they could
get it here...
The Gravella continues, saying that yes they want
the blockade stopped. The Marchioness's direct involvement in
making sure that getting rid of one company just leads to an invasion
of others, that is important. They don't want free traders
landing in the market square, loading up with bourbon, and taking off
again. That said, they prefer free traders to corporate ships,
because they share some of a common attitude with them. Perhaps
they don't want an orbital facility after all, because that would allow
larger ships. Perhaps just an occasional subsidized merchant run
would do it. It's not like they are a volume producer, after all.
Kalida points out that simply because a trader
lands, that doesn't mean they have to sell them anything. They
can control the stock, and sell as much or as little as they want.
As long as they have the firepower to defend
themselves, Misha adds.
This clearly shocks the Gravella. This was not
something they had ever considered. That is very disturbing --
they had never thought that someone would try to take something with
force. They themselves would not, of course.
Misha says that would be the Marchioness's
responsibility. The Marchioness herself clearly wasn't thinking
along the same lines, but says nothing.
The Gravella says that they will have observed that
this building is defensible to a certain extent at least, but that was
because they did not know how this world itself might threaten them,
but it was not intended to defend against anyone in particular.
They have lapsed any security force they had in the past because it was
no longer needed. It seemed like an unpleasant addition that was
no longer necessary. The last thing they need are extra levels of
management and departments demanding other resources, making other
departments unhappy, introducing rules to make sure that activities are
"secure". That just gets in the way of business.
Kalida mentions the blockade as an example.
The Gravella respectfully disagrees: the blockade
gets in the way of trade, but the business still goes on. Now
technically they owe some vast sum of money to the Bank of Mongo and it
would be nice to reduce or eliminate that, but at a thousand a bottle
he's not sure that would take some time to do.
Kalida takes a deep breath and asks if he knows how
much these bottles sell for outside Nakege.
The Gravella has heard that some of the traders can
occasionally get as much as a hundred thousand for one.
Kalida and her entourage exchange glances. On Regina,
Walter Elliot bought their bottle from them for a full five
million. Kalida tells the Gravella about it, and that they could
guarantee five million from the Emperor, and move a bottle very quickly
indeed for two to three million.
The Gravella is, once again, shocked. He
manages to suppress uttering what he obviously thought, but doesn't
find any words to say instead.
As Shark points out over the commdot, at two million
each they could cut people a deal and pay off the debt with just five
thousand bottles. Ten thousand bottles and they could sell
batches to distributors at a hundred a time and eliminate the debt in
just a month or so.
Kalida tells that to the Gravella, but adds that
doesn't stop the blockade. There is an Imperial Commission
meeting to consider the matter, but she doesn't know when or exactly
where it would meet.
This too is news to the Gravella. The
Marchioness came here to find out about her world and the blockade, but
the most important information seems to be going in the other
direction. The Gravella then wonders aloud why Tukera is so
insistent on this blockade.
Kalida explains that they are making a lot of money
from it. As prompted by Shark, she says that they write off the
losses from the blockade and the interest against taxes they don't
actually have to pay.
The Gravella says that if they paid off the debt,
then their profit would go perhaps?
It would not, unfortunately. A lot of the
profit, yes, but the blockade expenses are still translating into
corporate income in Aramis subsector. And then too, if they
became profitable, it would be worth Tukera pursuing their ownership
claim on THC. On the other hand, it reduces one of their
vulnerabilities and pushes Tukera into a long term view rather than
current cash flow.
At this point, Mich wakes, decidedly the worst for
wear. Fortunately Shark added some hangover drugs into Teri's
medical kit, knowing they were going to the Planet of Bourbon.
Teri slips out to assist Mich into the waking world.
Shark suddenly realizes that bourbon has been
produced here for about four centuries. If as is likely they've
been selling the current bottles, how much more could they sell bottles
that were centuries old? Just a thousand bottles delivered in the
direction of Core would be worth a fortune.
The Gravella wonders how they would get so many
bottles off this world and out of the system.
Kalida simply says they have ways. Cargo
capacity certainly wouldn't be an issue. They can put 1800
bottles in one 1.5m square of storage. That, assuming 9 bottles a
case, is 200 cases in one standard storage square. They certainly
can do it from practical terms, but Shark and Misha are still not sure
it will help.
The Gravella also wants to think in terms of a
business deal through the Marchioness. She should double the
amount to make sure she gets a reasonable 100% markup. Assuming
they do this and pay off the debt, step two would be making sure they
don't want to own the company. A company that can make so much
profit on one trip is very attractive. That then comes down to
politics -- how much pull does the Marchioness have?
She certainly has some political pull in Rhylanor,
Mora, Regina and therefore Jewell, but this is going up against
Tukera. In her ear, Shark whispers that a look into the future
might be a good thing here. The commission was announced on 248-1122, with
Baron Frederik Gaussla of Rhylanor as the head. It really depends
on when they are meeting, because the timing of paying off the debt is
important. They don't want Tukera to have time to react, and they
don't want to do it after the Commission meets. The Duke in
charge of this Commission would be Rhylanor, who set it up, or the Duke
of Regina when he gets here.
However this works, the Gravella sees a glimmer of
hope on this. If the Marchioness can break the blockade, then she
can handle the isolation herself -- the Imperium explicitly controls
trade, and that is therefore exactly her jurisdiction.
Kalida says, though, that he would have to back that
The Gravella would prefer not to have a system
navy. That would introduce all sorts of problems. Perhaps
they could come up with a set of trade restrictions or practices, not
to replace the blockade as such. They could retain the Amber Zone
if the Marchioness were to talk to the Travellers Aid Society who
issues the travel zone notifications. That would keep out the
major players, allowing in the small traders they would prefer
anyway. Being out of the way and off the main routes would help.
Misha asks Kalida if, once the blockade is gone, it
would be within her purview as Marchioness to restrict what kind of
ships could enter the system.
Kalida believes so, but of course they would have to
back that up.
Misha thinks that is practical. Given the
healthy income even at the lower prices resulting from a controlled
release, that would buy a lot of security. He hints at what Shark
just said to him, that they could do their own trading company.
The Gravella says meaningfully that they would
certainly be open to a benevolent monopoly. There would have to
be appropriate termination clauses on both sides to cover their
successors. If they think they can get it out of this system to
get everything started... but he wants to know how.
Misha says they can't talk about that.
The Gravella says he needs to be able to assess that
for himself before committing a large shipment of bourbon to
them. Clearly they have a trick: what is the trick? He
doesn't need to know the precise mechanics, but he does need to know
that it was not going to be dumped into space by Tukera. Is it a
bribe? Is it some knowledge of the precise nature of the Vemene
patrols? A bottle or two is one thing, a case even, but this is
their bourbon and they will not allow a large quantity to be wasted
Shark says they could go out and bring in something
they really need, like metals and so on. Mich mentions the front
end of the Wandering Pearl, but they wouldn't have the
facilities to do anything with it.
The commdot breath conversation creates a
pause. The Gravella breaks it by asking if they can at least tell
him why they can't tell him.
Kalida asks if they were able to leave and bring
something back to him...
That would not help, he says.
Mich suggests quietly taking the Gravella himself as
a passenger and bring him back, run one case with him aboard.
Misha says they will need to talk about this.
The Gravella respects that, and leaves politely.
In private, the conversation continues. Misha
wonders if they can trust the Gravella -- is he simply a stooge for
Tukera, or will he report back to them? That could be a
problem. On the other hand, if Tukera doesn't already know what
they can do, they just aren't trying.
All agree. Taking him through the blockade and
bringing him back should be safe enough and achieve the purpose.
Shark suggests Boughene, but would prefer
somewhere they can get news of Norris's movements. Unfortunately
these subsectors are too long away for reasonable news travel. Mora
to Regina is 13 weeks by TNS.
Possible places would be Mongo, or Jewell
-- there are places nearby that would do the job. They could sell
a bottle or so to show that they are not lying about the price. Mongo
would not be a good idea for that, however, and just taking the
Gravella should be enough.
Before they do all this, however, Misha would like
to visit the Marquisate holdings. Everyone agrees this is a good
In the long term, however, Misha thinks they should
get their own lawyers and accountants to deal with the commission and
Tukera, and to advise them on the right way to proceed.
Kalida says this is a political issue, not a legal
one. If they solve the politics, the legal issues will go
away. This is also a nice little sideline for Tukera, not a
massive operation that they'll fight tooth and nail for.
Shark wonders who they know on the Commission, and
could they go to them directly and talk about it. While Kalida
doesn't know Baron Gaussla directly, he would know her since he was
purposefully appointed by the Duke of Rhylanor to free Nakege
from the blockade.
The actual subject of the Commission would be
whether Tukera actually had a claim on the ownership. Since that
happened 400 years ago, that is going to be hard to determine
objectively. Now if the Commission rules against Tukera, that
does not directly affect the debt with the Bank of Mongo.
Tukera's next move could be to foreclose the debt through the Bank that
they (secretely) own.
That prompts Misha to say that they should hold
paying off the debt in hand, using the political power they have to
negotiate it down but not to get rid of it.
The discussion continues for a while. To
summarize, they plan to take a shipment of bourbon and use it to pay
off THC's debt. They can sell it directly, or use it as
collateral for another loan to pay off the Bank of Mongo debt, then pay
that loan off from the planet directly. That gets them out of
being the salesmen, and put it back in the hands of the Gravella.
To get the Gravella to buy any of this, they have to
take him somewhere to show him they can do it.
Also they need to talk to the head of the
Commission, both to push him in the right direction and to find out
more details about the timescale and location of its operation.
It's likely that the members would currently be on Regina, so
that is where they would have to go for that.
Misha in particular wants to avoid becoming bourbon
salesmen. They can set up a small scale operation to deal with
the Gravella himself.
Shark is emphatic that they need to kick Tukera out
in a way which does not cause them to fight back, at least not too
hard. As he says, they need the Commission to shut that door and
From Kalida's point of view as Marchioness of
Nakege, these are the points she considers important to consider in
Now in terms of an actual list of things to do, she
lays out the following:
- Use bourbon they can take from the planet to collect the money to
pay off the debt to the Bank of Mongo.
- Ensure the commission on Nakege gives her the verdict she
wants. Political pressure from Kalida should be enough, she hopes.
- Pay off THC's debt.
- Maintain the Amber Zone restriction on Nakege, to keep them
- Do not build any type of facilities that will enable large
shipping companies to come in: keep it restricted to small ships.
Although an orbital starport was discussed, it was decided a better
choice is to keep the Nakege system isolated and manage trade
from somewhere nearby, like Jewell.
- Find or create a company to manage their trade. This company
would be the only one allowed to purchase bourbon on Nakege.
They can then resell it wherever they wish, although Jewell
would seem an appropriate and convenient place.
- They do not want to become bourbon traders themselves.
Step 0: (Nakege)
- Visit the Nakege estates. That will provide an
opportunity for Chuck to go hunting.
- Take the Gravella, or a representative of his choice, off-planet
and back again, to prove their capabilities. Jewell or Mongo,
or anywhere close by he will accept as proof, would be ideal.
Step 1: (Jewell)
- Take a load of bourbon and acquire the cash to pay off the debt.
- Try to use it as collateral for a loan
- Failing that, find someone to buy it all for enough cash
- Failing that, sell it off themselves.
- Place the money in a safe bank close to Mongo (probably
on Jewell). Don't pay off the loan until after the commission
renders its (presumably positive) verdict.
Step 2: (Regina)
- Find out when the commission convenes.
- Push the commission's findings against Tukera.
Step 3: (elsewhere)
And with that settled, they can move on to lunch and
- Maintain the yellow zone to keep trade manageable. Kalida
as Marchioness can arrange with the TAS for that.
- Find/arrange a trading partner for THC.