Victoria was impressed with this facility, considering its age. No, not even considering. It occurred to her very early on in the tour they were giving her that this place was nicer than the pre-fab housing she was bunking in at Rapid City. And cooler. Was it the reservoir or the trees that caused that? Either way they needed more of this at the compound.
The maintenance room was a little noisy, but the smaller offices nearby seemed well soundproofed, so much so, that Victoria wanted ask if she could move in. She didn't, even if they said yes she was needed elsewhere right now. The facilities room, where the new equipment was being installed, had been rapidly turned into a classroom. Here Network personnel were giving their new Lakota partners an intense boot camp in modern Dam maintenance.
Finally, after what seemed like a kilometres walk, they reached the boardroom. Victoria Wells placed her portable display flat on the antique boardroom table that ran parallel to the room's perimeter, and toggled the holographic projection mechanism. Instantly the display filled the space above it with crystal clarity that caused some alarm among Chief Spottyrivers and his clan.
Victoria had hoped that would be the case. She smiled as she pretended not to notice.
"I'm not here to negotiate the land rights, or ownership of the dam."
Spottyrivers lurched forward in his seat. He turned to Kellam and then instantly to Dani, "I thought we had prevailed? What sort of trick is this?"
Victoria had her hand up, calmly. She was in control and the sooner they realized it the better. "We're not negotiating what we do not contest. The land is your, the dam is yours. We get it, we do not contest that."
She pivoted on one heel and began to wander around the room while triggering the holo-display to bring up the local area map. The recognized boundary of the Tribal land was glowing, "We will need to establish just what the boundary of your land is..."
Spottyrivers looked at Kellam, then back at Wells. "How much can we claim?" It was a naive question, the sort that probably led to their ancestors being herded onto reservations in the first place. Fortunately it wasn't an issue this time.
"Take as much as you want," Victoria started. Their eyes went wide with greed, "Claim the whole of Buffalo Commons if you want."
"Absolutely. Just be sure that whatever you claim you can support. We will expect you to provide a minimum level of infra-structure, government services, water, electricity, fire protection, police, medical, that sort of thing."
Spottyrivers slumped back in his seat. He couldn't even do that for his own village, was that how these people would justify taking them over?
Victoria continued as though he hadn't interrupted. "What I am here to negotiate is rates and terms of service."
Both of them had confused looks on their faces. Even Dani Bennett looked bewildered. Victoria continued, "we need this dam to supply power and water for our base of operations at Rapid City. We're willing to pay you for that, we need to know how much you wish to charge?"
That was unexpected.
Spottyrivers looked at Kellam and spoke quietly in their own language. It was a silly exercise, the portable display Victoria was using had multi-functionality and was recording everything with systems just slightly less sophisticated than Rez-Nay, the translation was coming up as text in the bottom corner of the display as fast as they spoke.
"What need do we have of this...?"
"It's called money."
"Money?" The word was completely foreign to Spottyrivers. What would they do with money? "What do you know of it?"
Kellam shrugged, "I remember hearing it is the root of all evil. Other than that, I am unfamiliar with the concept."
Victoria looked up from the display, these people were idiots. "You don't need money."
The both froze, their eyes glued to this woman who apparently understood their language.
"What you need is medicine when you get sick, better clothes for colder weather, food when hunting and farming are difficult, perhaps better tools to build shelter, perhaps materials to teach your children. What you need you can get from us."
"As we use the energy from this dam, which you will operate. As we draw water from this reservoir, which you control. We will assigned credit for you. You can exchange that credit for goods from us."
Dani interrupted, suddenly becoming animated, "or services!" She turned to them both, "you can hire people to come here and help you farm better, build your own manufacturing plants."
Victoria nodded, "Give someone a fish and you feed them once; teach them to fish and you feed them forever."
Kellam nodded with her, that made sense. His look to Spottyrivers reinforced that.
Spottyrivers was suspicious. "The dam remains ours?"
"The dam is yours. You've got the papers. What we're trying to do Chief is bring peace, order and good government to the area around here. You can be the start of that."
"As long as you have peace and order then, yes."
"And if we don't? If problems arise later that disrupt our peace?"
"Then as partners we would offer our help. We need you to remain peaceful so you can effectively run this dam, we need the energy and water from this dam, from you."
"I will not sign a treaty."
It was a forceful statement that impressed Victoria. She smiled as she turned and pulled from the bottom slip on her portable display a thin piece of Paperette. It had text on it in both Lakota script and English, tahoma font.
"We call it a contract. It says your people will earn a Quarter Geo for each kilowatt of energy, or litre of water we consume, and we will continue to pay for the upgrade of this facility and the servicing of lines from this location to Rapid City."
Spottyrivers looked at the paper, it was like everything these strangers had, foreign and glossy, but it was also in writing he understood. He looked at Dani, wishing she could advise him.
Dani saw his gaze and knew his question. She leaned in and looked at the English side of the terms. She bit her bottom lip and then looked up at Victoria Wells, "Half a Geo each."
Wells looked at Dani sternly. Didn't Bennett know which side she was on?
"Half a Geo is the going rate most everywhere these days."
"We're still on the hook for maintenance and repair costs."
Dani snorted, "We were on the hook for those anyway. C'mon, Half a Geo."
Wells looked at Spottyrivers, whose face reflected Dani's now. The side of her lip pursed. Half a Geo was half what it would have cost them to maintain operations after the upgrade, and she'd read the report, these people had maintained the dam facility very well over the last century. They had, as they say, proven reliability.
"Fine." She tapped the spot on the Paperette where the terms of pay were and flicked her nail upward causing the amount on the sheet to jump to Half a Geo-Buck. She closed the spot and turned the paper back to Spottyrivers before pointing to a box at the bottom of the sheet. "Put your thumb there and hold it until it beeps."
Chief Spottyrivers did. A moment later the sheet of what obviously wasn't really paper beeped. He took his thumb off and saw his print remained. Victoria Wells swiveled the sheet her way and did the same in another square before it beeped again. Then she turned it for Dani Bennett, "If you wouldn't mind?"
Dani thumbed the first witness spot. Victoria slid the sheet over to Kellam who hesitantly put his thumb where she said to. At the fourth beep the Paperette hummed for a few seconds and then grew stiff. Victoria threw another sheet on top of it and smoothed her hand over the surface. It too hummed and then grew stiff.
Victoria picked up the top sheet and handed it to Chief Spottyrivers. The terms were locked solid, the organic materials in the sheet had been 'cooked' into place. In those few seconds the contract had been signed, sealed and delivered. Victoria picked the original up and returned it to the slip in the bottom of her porta-display.
Seconds later, it was packed and she was ready to go. Chief Spottyrivers was holding the contract, reading it over again carefully. He looked up at her, "How will we know what we can trade these Half a Geos for?"
Victoria pointed to a small box in the bottom corner of the sheet. The number there began increasing in increments, apparently they were already drawing energy or water from the dam. "This will tell you how much you have in your account."
Dani interjected, "I'll show you how to shop through the status board before we leave." She turned to Victoria, "Perhaps the first thing we could get them is a Purchase Pod?"
Victoria looked back at her smugly, "That's up to them. Grand Designs has a nice one for Forty-Two Ninety-Seven. Delivery not included."
And with that Victoria Wells left. Dani looked at Kellam and Spottyrivers, "I'm sorry for that. Excuse me a moment please." Dani rushed out after her.