Regarding relics: anything from foreign lands with a mysterious provenance will be promptly offered back to the country of origin. If they don't want it, it goes to the British Museum by courier; their karma's bad enough and Hubs and I can use the tax writeoff.
"Mrs Winthrop, this is a most generous offer you and your husband are making," the cultural attaché from the Ankoran Embassy was a charming man and his smile oozed genuine enthusiasm, "however, we cannot possibly accept it. The value of this item to our people is incalculable, but it was legitimately sold to your husband's ancestor by someone with the authority and right to do so. We cannot just simply take it back. It would be offensive to us."
Amelia Winthrop suggested, "Perhaps a token payment? I understand that Anderson's great-great-grandfather originally bought it with blankets."
"We could, potentially, trade the original blankets back," admitted the cultural attaché, "but they are now a critical component of the Ankoran National University's colonial artefact collection. Even if the University could be persuaded to release them, it might require legislation to allow them to leave the country." He added smoothly, "And of course, your government might not wish to allow such a valuable artefact to leave the country without appropriate safeguards. They might, for instance, specify storage conditions that must be met before the item can return to us."
"It's been sitting in a cabinet in the foyer of my husband's family home for at least the thirty years," replied Mrs Winthrop. "Surely it would be hypocritical to demand anything?"
"That's not stopped a number museums making such stipulations about items in their holdings," returned the cultural attaché gravely.
Later, after Amelia Winthrop had left the embassy grounds, the cultural attaché dropped into his seat in the embassy conference room and groaned. "They really want to give it back. This new Mrs Winthrop is determined to clear out the family's dubious acquisitions, and although I agree in principle, of course I tried to dissuade her from giving or selling us that thing. Is there any way we can avoid even negotiating the subject?"
"There's a limited number of people who could agree to receive custody of it," remarked the embassy legal officer thoughtfully. "What if all of them went on a religious retreat or a pilgrimage at once? Or simply went away on extended holidays without leaving a forwarding address?"
"Perhaps a back-country wedding would make a good story," suggested the military attaché. "If we pick the right location and degree of relationship, we can explain their absence for months."
"This is way over our paygrade and definitely beyond our scope," said the ambassador grimly. "I'll alert the Foreign Ministry, and they can contact the President's Office."
The subsequent gathering in the Ankoran capital had been described as "informal drinks and canapes" and the guest list would have raised serious questions, except everyone who would have questioned it had a representative in the room. A well fleshed, comfortably dressed woman of middle years had the floor. "My predecessor thought he'd found the perfect person to give that object to," she said apologetically to the room. "Stephen Winthrop was a grasping, acquisitive colonial monster. He took everything of value that came within his grasp and broke it if he couldn't take it away. It never occurred to the then Elder Uncle that a Winthrop would try to give anything back."
"The then Elder Uncle was probably right," soothed the representative from the Treasury. "The new Mrs Winthrop shares no bloodlines with her husband and genuinely seems to be trying to make her new family into better people than they have been. No-one could have predicted that, especially from so long ago."
"Regardless," the middle-aged woman replied, "we thought that we'd gotten rid of it and now it looks like we may not have."
"We need to stop that thing from getting back within our borders," said the President grimly. "How do we do that?"
"If the problem was just the land borders," replied the Treasury man, "it wouldn't be too difficult. Customs can man the road and rail entries twenty-four hours a day, and the various local interest groups can keep the spaces in between secure." He carefully didn't look at any of the poachers' or insurrectionist groups' representatives who were in the room. "Air travel is what complicates things. Once the plane lands, its contents are on our soil, and that's too late for our purpose."
One of the senior military officers in the room cleared her throat. "What we really want is for that object not to leave the land mass it's on now. If we can get someone else to do the work for us, better still." She looked around the room and asked, "Who can we make want it? Desperately, desperately want it? For knowledge, prestige, or just to stop us having it?" After a moment she added, "Preferably someone we don't like."
"I have a list of names you might be interested in." Everyone turned to look at the quiet young woman who'd come with the National Museum's director. "Do you have a preference for the type of unpleasantness we'll be rewarding? My list is coded for artefact theft and various types of gatekeeping."This entry was originally posted at https://rix-scaedu.dreamwidth.org/130131.html. There have been comments there.