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Cost of profit

Posted on Wednesday, 5 July 2023 - 6:22pm by Lieutenant Alex Kingsley

Mission: Operation: Lobes & Liberties
Location: Balancar Agricultural Ministry, Balancar.

Once a region dominated by agriculture, where generation after generation harvested the lands, Balancar was a rather unassuming world. The indigenous people were farmers who knew the land and the seasons and who by all accounts prospered, despite their relatively small numbers and the population centres never venturing far from the area now known as the Ikarin Province. And until a little over one hundred and fifty years ago, they were also blissfully unaware that their planet was existed within the domain of the Ferengi Alliance.

It was the lack of any significant natural resources which had allowed Balancar to exist in relative peace. At least until, exiled there as punishment, a Ferengi by the name of Squill came to guide them in the ways of 'profit'. And he discovered the secret to profit lay in one of Balancar's most abundant resources, Scilla.

Found in abundance in the central regions, the plant had numerous applications from food, medicines and textiles... yet his first experience of it was in as a delicacy guaranteed to make the mouth water and guarantee a profit. Echalin was the local name for it. Which, naturally, would not do. In that first taste, a plan was formed and what was now known throughout the Ferengi Alliance as Squill Syrup.

And so the corruption of Balancar began. All in the name of profit under the watchful eyes of the Ferengi.

Until today they were faced with this.

Minister Ryvek stood with her hands clasped behind her back as she peered out at the dense fog which had rolled in during the night and lingered even now. The air quality beyond her office building was... disturbing... and made her thankful that at least here some effort was made to maintain the environmental systems. Many were not so fortunate.

It almost made her wish for those childhood days when her family, one of the last to sign over lands to the Agricultural Commissioner to begin a new life in the city and the opportunities it offered for their children. Clean air, clear skies where you could see the stars. Now those farms were largely automated with computers regulating everything from how much sunlight to the composition of the soil.

Although not even all the wonders of technology could combat the power of nature.

"...another ten percent," her assistant finished, ending his report with a nervous tick that was always worse when he knew he was delivering bad news. Bad, but not unexpected.

Scilla required a moderate climate - too warm and the sap was too bitter, too cold the sourness was like torture. And of course it needed an abundance of water. Clean, unpolluted water which they had to build a network of pipes to divert from the other side of the mountains. The protesters had warned them, scientists had warned them but she and ever predecessor in this office had stamped approval on every trade agreement, every development to encroach upon the lands her very ancestors had worked.

“I will raise the issue at the meeting of Ministers. But unless this weather improves we are looking at another failed harvest,” she pointed out as she turned from the bleak view. “And we all know there is no profit in that. Now tell me more about this weather net. Do the engineers think it will work..?”

“Yes, yes,” Klu nodded, “but even if we can restore conditions, it wi take time. We are already in breach of three contracts, a fourth when tonight’s shipment cannot depart. And everyone blames us!”

“Of course they do, Klu,” she sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Because it doesn’t do to blame yourself does it? We have elections in two months, after all. Speaking of which…”

“As expected, you are gaining in the polls and on track for a clear victory,” the woman seated on the opposite side of the room chimed in, sounding for all the world as if she were bored out of her mind to be dealing with something so tedious on what was for all intents and purposes a backwater planet. “News reports have confirmed Mylen Arum has decided to withdraw from consideration to spend time with his family. I believe he intends to retire and settle on Risa.”

“Wonderful news!” Klu enthused.

Ryvek nodded, trying to mirror his enthusiastic response to the news. Victory was far from secured, however, even if she had one less competitor to deal with. “Quite. Klu, perhaps you would be so good as to go ahead and begin briefing the delegation from the economic committee, I will join you shortly.”

With a nod and a glance at their guest, Klu turned on his heels and hurried outside.

Alone, Ryvek rounded her desk and leaned against it. “Retirement on Risa?” she began, sounding skeptical.

“It was a more attractive alternative to the other headlines on standby,” Vaelarin replied with a dismissive shrug as she unfolded herself from the chair. Even without the expensive footwear, the younger woman towered over Ryvek. But then again women native to Balancar rarely achieved five feet in height. Ryvek barely reached even that, and at her age she had little time to wearing uncomfortable shoes for vanity.

Vaeleris on the other hand always looked perfect, down to every tiny detail. The woman was Trill, although beyond that she knew little. Young yes, but with a sharp mind and a ruthless streak.

“Akkad has a strong lead,” Ryvek broached. “He is popular amongst the off world workers…”

“I assure you, my employer has the matter in hand. You were briefed on the debate, yes?”

“Yes -“

“Good. Then by tomorrow you will be the leading candidate to be Prime Minister. My employer is nothing if not true to his word. Now, sit. We have other business to discuss. We require your personal attention on several matters. Beginning with the weather net…”



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