Chapter 3625: Trade Consortium |
"There are only two high-quality workshops on the Spirit of Bentheim. Can I borrow yours in order to fabricate my Thorn Project?"
"Oh. Sure. Just make sure to put everything back in their previous settings when you are done."
"I will be sure to do that. Thank you for your trust."
While Dulo Voiken enthusiastically fabricated the first mech of his own design for the Larkinson Clan, Ves followed up on the proposal they discussed earlier.
The longer the Larkinson Clan went without finding a channel for raw materials, the more he grew concerned about this matter.
He was worried that his search in the Davute System would not yield any progress. After all, he and his staff already tried to find a solution back in the Pellysa System.
Minister Shederin came back remarkably quickly. A day after Ves passed on his instructions, the productive foreign minister requested to hold a virtual meeting with the top leaders of the clan.
Chief Minister Magdalena Larkinson, Chief Minister Novilon Purnesse, Chief Minister Raymond Billingsley-Larkinson, Director of Intelligence Calabast Arnlend, Director Ranya Wodin and General Quinlist Verle had all gathered moments earlier.
By the time Ves and Gloriana entered the virtual meeting room, the inner circle of the Larkinson Clan had gathered in full!
While the Legion Commanders and expert pilots weren't invited, that was not a big deal as the subject of the meeting was primarily centered around economic development.
Ves nodded to everyone in the meeting before he sat next to Gloriana.
To be honest, he didn't know how his wife got word of this meeting and invited herself in, but he couldn't shoo her away.
Fortunately, she was more preoccupied with pampering and playing with Aurelia than anything else at the moment.
"Guuuwwa… buuua.. aaaa…"
"Do you want to play with this pink elephant that I made?" Gloriana impishly smiled as she dangled a cute plushy above her daughter's head. "Then say ‘mama' first. Maaaaamaaaaaa. Ma-Ma. Can you say mama?"
Aurelia didn't seem to listen at all. Her only preoccupation was trying to get her hands on the pink elephant!
Minister Shederin Purnesse commenced the meeting when he saw that everyone took their places.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that each of you have already been informed about the gist of this meeting. Ever since our entry in the Red Ocean, we have persistently tried but failed to enter into a stable business agreement with companies that are responsible for supplying much of the raw materials and other goods to pioneering organizations. What we have discovered time and time again is that the few resource suppliers that are active in the early stage of the colonization of the new frontier are already locked in alliances or long-term agreements with more powerful and prominent powers. It is practically impossible for a small player such as our clan or the Golden Skull Alliance to gain their attention."
"We already know that, minister." General Verle impatiently said. "Can you get onto the new developments?"
"Recently, our patriarch has tasked us with exploring the possibility of increasing our bargaining power by finding enough partners to form a consortium."
"What does that mean, exactly?" Chief Minister Magdalena Larkinson said with evident confusion in her tone. "I mean, we have encountered this kind of group before, but what makes them different from a regular company?"
"Very loosely speaking, a consortium is like a club." Ves quickly explained. "It consists of two or more members who rely on the consortium to pool their resources together to achieve a common objective. However, the consortium's role is rather limited and does not have the right to dictate what its members should do, though agreements and contracts can exert a bit of influence. In any case, the advantage of a consortium is that every member still stays independent while enjoying the benefits of being a part of a larger consortium."
"So it's like the Golden Skull Alliance."
"There are differences and nuances that would take too much time to explain." Shederin replied. "Suffice to say, the alliance that we have formed with the Glory Seekers and the Cross Clan does not merely involve economic interests but also political ones. The Golden Skull Alliance is a much stronger collective where exiting it is much more serious. It does not have to be that way with a consortium, especially a looser one that we are currently investigating at the moment."
The former mech officer still looked confused. "Okay, but why would we look into this anyway? Don't we already have the Golden Skull Alliance? We could just look for more alliance partners if we want to have a bigger voice. Why put in so much effort to start an entirely different group?"
"It is a matter of trust and commitment." Chief Minister Novilon Purnesse clarified. "My father and his ministry have been looking hard to find useful and trustworthy partners to invite into our Golden Skull Alliance, but it is nearly impossible to seek them out at the moment. Years will pass before we might be able to find a good candidate that will actually consider our offer. We can't waste that much time because the longer we go without any progress, the more our supply situation will deteriorate. Isn't that right, Minister Raymond?"
Chief Minister Raymond Billingsley-Larkinson nodded. As the former COO of the Living Mech Corporation, he was still closely involved with overseeing the industrial side of the Larkinson Clan.
"We are still months away from running out of certain spare parts and materials that are often used. This is not an immediate crisis. We can stretch what we currently have and extend their longevity by performing frequent repairs and refurbishments. However, the longer this goes on, the more we need to employ increasingly more drastic and time-consuming methods to keep important systems running. If anything large, critical and technologically sophisticated breaks, then we may have a serious problem on our hands. One example of that would be suffering a malfunction on one of our FTL drives."
That indeed sounded serious. If one of the capital ships lost an FTL drive and there weren't any backup ones on hand, then the entire fleet would be stranded for a time!
The supply situation of the fleet was extremely complex. Parts and materials were being used all the time and even if the Larkinsons already developed the habit of treating their assets carefully, wear and tear was unavoidable.
"How long can we go without resupply if we employ the most extreme measures?"
"If we want to keep the fleet moving, then we can easily last a year, maybe two." Raymond reluctantly replied. "We will need to suspend a lot of actions that we take for granted such as allowing our mech pilots to deploy into space to conduct live practice sessions or putting too many mechs on patrol. We'll also need to shut down numerous non-essential functions and systems on our starships and lower the power settings on what remains in order to lower their stress. It will not be pleasant for any of us, but if our goal is to survive without taking in any supplies, then we can do it if necessary."
This sounded too extreme for everyone.
General Verle frowned. "We cannot afford to suspend our live practice sessions. We have an excess number of mech pilots relative to our mechs. In order to keep up their morale and make sure their battle readiness remains intact, we have set up a rotation where they can regularly remind themselves what it is like to pilot an actual mech."
"Defense is one of our highest priorities." Ves said in a decisive tone. "We will not suspend the practice sessions. At most, we may reduce the frequency of holding them. You'll just have to rely more on simulation training even if they are not an adequate substitute."
"This makes it even more vital for us to solve our supply problem once and for all." Minister Shederin drew the discussion back to the main topic. "The requirements to expand the Golden Skull Alliance are too high, so we need to find a more expedient and less demanding solution to our problem. Forming a consortium with a decent number of smaller players is a viable option."
"Will it be similar to the THZ Consortium that we encountered back in the Pellysa System?" Chief Minister Magdalena Larkinson Asked.
"No. Not exactly. Consortia can come in different forms and the THZ Consortium is the most integrated and rule-bound among them. It is closer to a permanent alliance than anything. What our patriarch and I have in mind is a weaker collective. It should not impose too many rules and members should be able to enter and exit without too many requirements or protocols. It should purely exist to pool our bargaining power and form trade deals with larger business partners. Members are not obligated to defend each other or supply other forms of aid to each other. This is different from our Golden Skull Alliance where our fellow partners are true comrades-in-arms."
This sounded a lot easier to organize. If the demands weren't great, then other organizations would have much less scruples about joining it. If they didn't like the consortium, they could just apply to leave.
There were still a lot of questions, though.
"What kind of orgs should we invite into the consortium? How many do we need?" General Verle asked.
"We should set our sights on smaller and less well-connected pioneering organizations." Shederin answered. "We should vet them well and make certain they will abide by the rules and conditions of the consortium. As for the number of members, that will likely remain fluid over the course of the consortium's existence. If the members are only as large as our clan, then we should try and gather thirty to fifty members in order to comprehensively strengthen our consortium's voice."
Ves became startled. This was much more than he expected!
"Thirty?! Fifty?! How can we manage so many different groups?!"
"We won't have to be alone in this, sir. If we are the founders and leaders of the consortium, we can set up the rules in a way that will create different tiers of members, with the more trusted, loyal and powerful ones gaining the power to administer different parts of the collective. If we want every member to stay in the consortium, then we must make it bigger than ourselves. We cannot be the sole party in charge of everything."
Ves scratched his head. "I get it, but trying to gather thirty different players and making sure they are sincere about supporting the consortium is going to be a nigh-impossible task. I've encountered a lot of smaller groups like the House of Barach and they are so different from each other that they'll probably argue themselves to death in their attempts to steer the consortium in their preferred direction. How the hell can we herd so many cats?"
"By putting the Golden Cat in charge." Shederin smirked.
"Ah, this is just an analogy. What I am truly trying to convey is that in the absence of sufficient power, wealth deterrence or respect, we should leverage one of our special advantages to form a contract structure that is effective at making certain that every consortium member abides by its rules. As long as we develop an effective trust mechanism, you will find that it is not that impossible to herd thirty or more cats."
Everyone turned to Ves. He was the only person who could create this special ‘trust mechanism', so his approval was essential.
The matter of forming a new network to provide substance to the consortium was an extremely difficult matter for him to decide. It was one thing to provide kinship networks to his close alliance partners. It was another thing to set up a broader network that was meant to bind a lot of small and eccentric pioneers together!