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.
“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.”
“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.”