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Old February 23rd, 2014, 04:00 AM
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When all of his preparations are complete, Laclede relaxes at his hotel until it is time to go to
the meeting; if it is within a few blocks he will walk, if further he will hail a cab. At the
meeting place, he introduces himself to whomever seems to be looking to greet him, then follows
directions to the conference room.

When introduced, Laclede goes to the podium and arranges his notes in front of him, lays out a
stack of information sheets that he has had printed, and stoops to place his other items (bags of
goods, and the globe of Mars) under the table within easy reach.

Then he clears his throat and begins to speak: "First, let me state what an honor it is for me, a
travelling merchant, to be here addressing The Honorable Benjamin Tracy and you other
distinguished gentlemen of the government. For those of you that I have not met, my name is James
Laclede and I am a native of the great State of Missouri. However, I am not here to address you
on my personal history, but to advise you gentlemen on the best goods and methods of trade to
improve the results of purchasing of Martian liftwood for the United States Navy. My
qualifications for advising you on this topic are that I have been a successful travelling
merchant on the planet Mars, over a reasonable portion of its settled and wild areas, for the
past ten years."

Before going on, Laclede reaches under the table and sets out the globe of Mars in front of him,
where his listeners can see it.

"I will attempt not to insult anyone's intelligence by going over too much information that you
already know, but I have been away from Earth for ten years and am not entirely familiar with how
much knowledge of Mars you gentlemen may have, so I will go over some basics and will be open for
questions after my presentation if I have omitted some important fact."

He taps the globe. "This is a globe of Mars. The most advanced civilization of Mars, the Canal
Martians, live in individual city-states and a few larger nations centered around the canals and
the ancient cities at the junctions of canals. Overall, we Earthmen have found the Canal Martians
the easiest to deal with, as they understand civilization and commerce. Unfortunately, the Canal
Martians have no liftwood of their own, but must purchase it from others, the same as we do. In
that sense, they are our competitors in the market for buying liftwood from those who have it."

"So who does have the liftwood? All of our purchases, and those of the Canal Martians, are from
the second breed of Martians, the Hill Martians. I have spent a great deal of time with the Hill
Martians myself, and could lecture you about them at length, but that is not the purpose of this
meeting, so I have sought an easy comparison to civilizations that you are all familiar with: the
American Indians. Now I understand that much has changed in the ten years that I have been gone,
but the comparison I wish to make would be to the tribes as encountered in the areas between the
Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, say fifty years ago. Some tribes were more civilized
than others, but when not actively at war with us, most could be communicated with and traded
with. Unfortunately, one never knew when approaching a particular encampment whether they would
be reasonable in trading, or angry over some recent incident and looking for a white man to
scalp. That is what most of the Hill Martians are like; they may be ready to trade and share
hospitality, or they may be looking to kill you and take whatever they find of value. However, in
the market for liftwood, their role is simple: they are the middlemen, trading with the High
Martians who control the liftwood, and selling it, often through repeated sales from which each
seller extracts as much profit as he can, eventually to the Canal Martians, or in more recent
years to us Earthmen."

"There, you see that I finally mentioned the actual source of the liftwood: the High Martians.
Contrary to their name, these are the lowest of the Martian breeds in terms of civilization; the
name comes because, unlike the other Martian breeds, the High Martians have the ability to fly,
and they live in high places, difficult to access. It is in these high places that the liftwood
natually grows, and despite centuries of trying, the Canal Martians have been unable to get it to
grow anywhere else. And to extend my analogy of Martian breeds to the American Indians with which
you are more familiar, these High Martians are the wildest barbarians of the bunch, analogous to
the wildest Apaches and Comanches of Texas and New Mexico. They would as soon kill you as look at
you, and are much more likely to try to take what they want by raiding than by trading. It was a
tribe of these High Martians that recently captured the American Ambassador and his daughter, and
if not for the gallant raid by the United States Marines, aided by British naval vessels, I'm
sure they would have met a grisly end. The High Martians are not to be trifled with, yet I am
about to suggest to you that the first goal of this expedition must be to establish trade
directly with them, cutting out the Hill Martian and Canal Martian middlemen who raise the prices
at each stage of the liftwood trade."

Laclede takes a sip from his water glass and waits for the commotion to die down.

"Yes, as many of you are no doubt aware, if we are able to establish direct and continuing trade
with the High Martians, we will be the first Earthmen to do so, despite two decades of trying,
since the value of liftwood was discovered. But note that I said that should be our first goal,
not our only goal. If direct trade with the High Martians proves impossible, as it has for all
other Earthmen on any regular and sustained basis, then our secondary goal must be to establish
trade with Hill Martians as close to the source as possible, to remove as many middlemen as
possible from the stream of trade and thus obtain lower prices and greater quantity of liftwood
for the Navy's needs, both on Mars and here on Earth."

"Naturally, those who are being cut out of the process will be hostile; we may be able to mollify
them by establishing trade in other goods for mutual profit, but to begin with, any transport of
liftwood will need military protection. I leave the details of that to you military men who no
doubt know much more than I of strategy and tactics, but would offer as suggestions the
establishment of a strongly defended and fortified trading post as near as possible to where we
would be taking possession of the liftwood, and either direct transfer to ether ships there at
the trading post for transport to Earth, or else either strongly defended caravans or armed
airship tranport to Thymiamata, to be loaded there into ether ships for transport. Eventually our
works in the area should have a civilizing influence at least on the Hill Martians, and perhaps
even on the wild High Martians, as they all realize the benefits of trade with us and the high
risk of trying to take what we have by force, but to begin with we must be prepared to defend
ourselves at every step of the process, as we shall be stepping on a lot of toes by changing the
liftwood trade in this area to our own advantage."
Why is there a Bwap on TV trying to sell me car insurance?

GM Maxim #2: If the Players have any kind of Ship, deckplans are mandatory. Otherwise, the Players will wander around with vague and contradictory notions of where things are, and Chaos results.

Currently playing ex-Ranger Frank Masuda in Magnus's Permatic Imperium T5 PbP

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