Chong couldn’t help it. He laughed.

“I’m sorry Mr. President, but your presentation strikes me as melodramtic. Ther is someone named John Ford who wants to kill me to encourage the withdrawal of UMC troops from Earth. I understand. So what do we do?

The American President arrived at that moment and joined the conversation.

“You need to go home, Chong. The business of this conference can finish behind closed doors without you. Your man Lawrence seems very capable. The only point of contention can be worked out here this evening.” The American President tried to look like a commander. You could tell he was used to being doubted but still used to getting his way. The Fundys in the United States had been the most vicous and the US repsonse had been the most criticized in the early stages of the war. However, the US had also held out the strongest of any Fundy occupied territory and held out the longest before the UMC entered the war. You could see every line of that experience in his face.

Chong had communicated quite often with the American President, Rodrigo Torres, through the course of the war.

“Thank you for your concern Rudy. I mean it. And I may take your advice. But let’s get down to business first and worry about that later.”

The leaders were drawn into two camps. One camp led by the China and the European countries argued for a long-term occupation with a strong rebuilding plan directed by the occupying forces with a 10-year plan for elections and resunption of local control.

The American leaders and the UMC preferred a very short term military occupation with a longer term advisory council moving quickly into hybrid local control, while still waiting for a ten-year period before withdrawing entirely.

At one point China insisted that no matter what agreement they reached, their military would tsay in occupied territories for security. This angered even the Europeans and threatened to break down discussion.

“Let’s wait for moment,” said Chong. “If China wishes long-term military occupation so be it. I propose we cede our territory to them immediately to restructure as they will. The UMC forces will withdraw now.” The President got up to leave during the stunned silence.

He made it out the door where Lawrence was waiting for him and seemed surprised.

“So you’ve come to an agreement?”

“Not exactly.”

“President Chong?” It was the British Minister. “Before you leave, the Chinese Premiere would like a word with you.

“Very good. I’ll be right back Lawrence.”

“You’ve made your point Mr. President,” said the Chinese Premiere. We will negotiate the military term.”

The rest of the meeting was awkward and uncomfortable, but ultimately productive. Most of all Chong had bluffed his way into discovering just how much leverage the UMC had. His was the only territory that had not experienced any fighting. His was the only Army with minimal losses. He didn’t have the tactical advantages to rule the territories he occupied but he could certainly get his way.

After the meting President Torres walked him to his room.

“I mean it Rich. You need to get back for your own safety. There’s no reason he couldn’t compromise the elevator. The sooner the better.”
“Thanks Rudy, but I have to see some stuff through and I’m not worried. I’m really not.  Maybe I should be but I’m not.  I think what he really wants is to make me leave and weaken our standing.  I’m not playing into that.”
“He’s willing to kill you if you don’t.”
“How do you know so much about him.”
“Because he used to be a top advisor to all of us before the War.  He was the UN economic liasion.”
“THAT Ford? Well I guess I wouldn’t know him but I certainly remember him.  He wanted a free trade pact with us but nobody would let down their guard.  What happened to him?”
“During the War his family was killed and he led a home guard division voluntarily in Omaha.”
“Was he there when….?”
“Yep. You bet. The UMC terror bombing, he calls it.”
“It was a mistake.”
“He doesn’t care and he wants you dead.”
“This is my room.”
“Think abou it Rich.  Good night.”
Lawrence opened the door and Chong walked into his room to find John Ford lounging on the couch.
“Mr. Chong.  I’m sorry, President Chong. Thank you for coming.  I won’t be long.  I just have some brief business to take care of with you.”