Monthly Archives: February 2015

2-3: Relation

“Your cousin seems the safest bet. I would rather deal with someone we can trust.”

“Very good, Captain. I can make contact with him, but we will need a front until we can speak alone with him.”

“I’ll call in some favors from Haluush.”

“I’m curious what favors those are, Captain. Maciian’s have been trying to establish trade with Haluush for as long as I can recall.”

“Story for another time, Scorch. Why don’t you and the Bartender go get what supplies and parts you need while I make the call.”

“Yes, Captain.” Scorch climbed back inside his armor and the Bartender followed him outside into the burning sun.

Once they were outside, Laurie climbed back up to the cockpit, activating the communicator. Shortly, a hologram of a human appeared above the console. He was male, and stately in appearance despite the worn coveralls he wore.

“Captain Mack, good to hear from you.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have good news, sir,” she replied, making an effort to keep her voice steady. “It’s your son.”

“Chip? What is it?”

“I’m sorry, but he was killed.”

The old man let out a long, haggard breath, grasping for the chair behind him and sat down. He rested his head in his hand for a long moment, digging at his temples. “How… How did it happen, Captain?”

“We were set up by mobsters on Fuesillia. Ambushed by the government, mobsters and revolutionaries all at once. He allowed us to escape.”

“His body?”

“The Fuesillian sun.”

“Good. He always wanted that. Didn’t want to die in the mines like his old man.”

“I’m sorry, sir. He was a good friend.”

“He admired you so much, you know?” The old man fought back tears. “He always wanted to go fly, and when you came here, it was all he could think about. I’m glad you could give him the life he wanted.”

“It ended too soon.”

He took another long, stuttering breath, fighting back tears. “I run a mine, Captain Mack. I see lives cut short a lot. It may have been no different here, and he would have been miserable. At least his mother didn’t live to see it.”

Laurie stood silently, letting the man grieve and talk.

“It was his mother who called him Chip. When he was a boy, he wanted to run the mine one day. Played miner all day long. Chip off the old block, she said. Look at us now.”

Laurie nodded silently, wishing there were any words to say. The old man composed himself, wiping away unwanted tears from his eyes. “Where are you now, Captain?”

She spoke as confidently as she could manage. “Well, that’s another reason I’m calling. I’m on Maciia, and could use a favor.”

“Maciia? Those crooked traders?”

“I happen to know one pretty well, and he’s in a bit of a pinch. I’d like to help him out.”

“What can I do?”

“We need to set up a meeting with a trade family, but need a reason for doing so. It’s a metalworking guild, and if we had some ore on offer…”

“You need a contract from me?”

She nodded. “It doesn’t have to be enforceable. Just a ticket to get us in the door.”

“I’ll have it to you inside an hour.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Laurie…”

“Yes?”

“Come see me after your business on Maciia.”

“Of course.”

He nodded and switched off the call, leaving her standing alone in the cockpit, arms crossed and chewing her lip. She closed her eye and fought back tears.

She composed herself and returned to the cargo bay, where Scorch and the Bartender were returning, several small crates in tow.

“All sett?” she asked.

“Yes, Captain. All the parts I need.”

“Good. We will have a dummy contract in the next hour or so, so let’s get a meeting set up with this cousin of yours.” Scorch nodded, the torso of the armor leaning forward. “But first, we have some business to discuss.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, what to do about you.” She nodded to the Bartender. “I can’t help but notice we gave you a ride, yet you’re still here.”

“Well, Captain…”

Laurie held her hand up, palm out to silence him. “I know. I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of places you can go?”

“There is certain to be a price on my head, yes.”

“If you don’t have at least one bounty out for you, you haven’t really lived.” She smiled. “You’re handy in a fight and can make drinks. Any other skills I should know about?”

“I do have contacts in the underworld around the galaxy, as well as many governments- at least those sympathetic to Fuesillian Rebels.”

“Good enough for me. Scorch?”

“I agree, Captain.”

“Well, Bartender. Feel like joining our merry little company?”

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2-2 Scorch

Laurie’s knuckles were white around the grip of her pistol, ready to fire. The last few days had brought enough excitement, and now her lifter was apparently possessed.

“You won’t need the gun, Captain. It’s me.” Scorch spoke, something different in his voice.

“Like I told the Bartender here, I’m not feeling particularly trusting right now.”

“I hardly blame you. But, you see, I’m not a robot.” The metal torso developed a long, thin seam down the front and opened outward, revealing a Maciian, surrounded by small displays and controls. He wore a headpiece which encircled his head like a crown, and had several small overlays that could flip down over his eyes.

He stepped forward and jumped down to the ground, looking up at Laurie.

“See? See? This is what I’m talking about! This is why I don’t really feel trusting!” She took a deep breath, and holstered her pistol, since they clearly weren’t needed.

“Why, Scorch?”

“I’m Maciian…”

“I can see that.”

He smiled sheepishly. “I do apologize for the deception, Captain. But while my people are respected traders and inventors, no one takes us seriously as warriors, or adventurers. I wanted to be something none of my people had been before.”

“Well, I can confidently say that no Maciian has ever been a heavy lifting robot that is armed to the teeth.” She laughed, chuckling at first, then threw her head back as it turned deeper.

“My friend,” she said, wiping tears from her organic eye, “This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. But really,” she walked closer the the suit of armor, “it is very well done. I don’t think anyone ever suspected.”

“Thank you, Captain. It took me almost two years to build. I had it shipped offworld, then followed on a ‘trading’ expedition. I got in it, and put myself up for sale as a robot, which is when you purchased me.”

“I never really approved of slavery, Scorch.”

The small being shrugged. “I managed. I planned for it, and survived comfortably enough.”

“Well, from now on, you get proper quarters.”

“Thank you, Captain.” He hung his head.

“What is it?”

“I would have liked… liked to say a proper good-bye to Chip.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s my fault. As you say, perhaps I should have just told you.”

She circled from behind the armor and looked at him, barely half her height. She crouched to his level and put her hand on his shoulder. “Scorch, you’ve been with me for a while now. I promise you I won’t respect you less because you’re not a giant weaponized construct.”

“Thank you, Captain. I’m sorry for keeping it from you.”

“I understand. But you really should tell me why we’re really on Maciia, because I know it’s not for parts.”

“It’s for the trade guilds, isn’t it?”

Laurie and Scorch both turned to look at the Bartender, who had stood silently during the whole exchange.

Scorch nodded. “I must ask you both to keep my secret a little longer. No one can know I am here, or we will all be in danger.”

“What’s going on?” Laurie asked.

“I would guess our friend here-” scorch nodded to the Bartender- “is actually better informed of much of the goings-on than I, the short version is there are numerous trading guilds on Maciia- some are geographic, some for certain areas of trade, so on and so forth. It’s all rather complicated. To us Maciians, we are traders, so the guilds are also the governments.

“Since there is monumental overlap with the territory that is covered- for example, one guild may have a certain region, but must work with the guilds which trade specific goods- there is a constant power struggle, and if a guild is taken over, it can mean ruin for the families which make it up.”

“So why are we here? Didn’t you kind of leave it all behind?” Laurie crossed her arms.

“Sort of. But I still have a responsibility to my family. You see, my father runs a metalworking guild, or rather, he did. He was killed recently, and my uncle stepped in to run the guild. But he is strongly tied to at least one other guild in the region, his motives are, at best, suspicious.”

“So you want to take over the guild?”

“Not at all. I want to set it right. Guild control should go to my mother, not my uncle, particularly with such clear conflict of interest.”

Laurie sighed. “What is it with you two and politics?”

“I can go it alone, Captain, if that is your wish.”

“I bought you fair and square. I don’t want my property damaged.” Scorch smiled. “So what’s the plan?”

“We have a couple options. I have a cousin who assisted me in building the armor. He is the only one who knows my secret. We could discreetly make contact with him to gain more information. Or we could go to the trading hall and meet with the workers to see what we can glean. In either case, it would help if we had something to sell. Or, if we had something really big to offer, we could even go directly to my uncle.”

“It’s a metalworking guild? I have some contacts in a mine on Haluush’s moon. We could set up a dummy deal.”

“Perfect. I leave the choice in your hands, Captain.”