2-4: Contracts

The Bartender looked down at the ground for a brief moment, before meeting Laurie’s eyes. “Captain, I would only be too glad to. But I do have my own concerns that must be attended to. The plight of my people is my chief concern. I need to find some manner of home, certainly, but were I to come, I do request that you allow me to use the flexibility to help my cause.”

“Well, we’re on Maciia for Scorch here, so I don’t see why we can’t help you out. The way the universe is these days, we need all the friends we can get.”

The Bartender regarded the other two in turn. “Small group of friends we seem to have.”

“It’ll have to do.” The wrist computer Laurie wore chimed, and she glanced at the small display. “Our contract is ready to go. Let’s see what we can make happen.”

They walked down the ramp together into the hot afternoon sun. The sand-colored buildings of Maciia stood around them, thick-walled with yawning arched entryways, offering shade from the heat.

Scorch had provided a destination for them, and they made their way through the wide streets, past the myriad trading centers that made Maciia the trading hub it was. The metalworking guild hall was long and narrow, arched ceiling allowing the hot air to rise and turn the wide-bladed fans which hung from it.

Scorch’s cousin was Daamen, occupying a spacious office in the rear of the building. He gestured Laurie and the Bartender into humanoid-sized chairs across his from his desk. His hovered opposite them, the translucent surface displaying a wide variety of information relating to metal trading prices.

“Captain Mack, good to meet you,” he said once seated. “This guild has been trying to establish relations with Haluush for years, so this is a most welcome visit.”

“The time seemed ripe. The mines have been productive this year, and the Maciian metalworking guilds seem in a strong position.”

The Maciian shifted, ever so slightly, yet a wide smile danced across his face. He bore a remarkable resemblance to Scorch, with pale gray skin and large black eyes. “Of course. The Maciian metalworking guild has been established for centuries. I can promise you, without hesitation, that you will receive the greatest return from us, and greater stability in future dealings. We are not so prone to volatility as other traders are.”

“There is no instability within the Guild families?”

He shifted more noticeably this time. “You must be speaking to some disgruntled workers, Captain.”

“You could say that. So it’s true?

“I am curious as to your sources, Captain.”

Before she could respond, her wrist unit lit up, displaying a message from Scorch.

Don’t trust him.

That’s new, she thought. He had never communicated like that before, either due to lack of ability or because he felt it would compromise his cover. She smiled to cover the interruption.

“I’m sorry. It’s surely just talk; one must ask anyway, of course.”

“Of course,” Daaman replied. “But come, it’s growing late. Let us save business for the morning- come eat with the Guild Family and you will see just how strong and untied we are.”

As Daaman spoke, Laurie manged to reply Why to Scorch. She glanced at the Bartender, trying to buy time, but no reply came.

“Surely you wouldn’t refuse, Captain?” Daaman pressed.

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