“We need to confront them as soon as possible, but they must be exposed publicly. Other guild heads will be there tonight. We can unmask them in front of them.”
“And get out of there alive?” Laurie crossed her arms and regarded the short being critically.
“If there intentions are exposed, the other guilds will turn on them. Maciia has ever thrived on competition and capitalism, the other guilds will not tolerate such a monopoly.”
“So… why are we here? Seems like something you can take care of for yourself.” “I need proof. If I speak up, it will be viewed as an attempt to seize power on my part.”
“So we present our proposal, they offer to sell the ore and ship it, at which point we…?”
“If you can get them excited enough over the opportunity, they might do all the work for you. But if it is pointed out that they are in collusion, then they will be ousted.”
“Very well. We’ll see you at dinner then.” Daamen exited the Venturess and Laurie turned back to the crew. The Bartender was replacing his weapon in the locker. “What are you doing?”
“Seems like this won’t be needed.”
“Bring it along, just in case. Seems like we’ve been needing guns a lot lately.”
“Perhaps that’s because you always have them.”
“Wasn’t my guns who got my pilot shot on your homeworld, Bartender.”
He concealed the weapon in his belt. “That is fair,” he remarked.
The light was fading as they exited the Venutress later and made their way to the banquet hall.
It was a long hall, with high arched ceilings and natural light seemingly radiating from the walls. Long tables were arranged, with one prominent circular table in the center of the room. Suspended above each table were platters of food, drink and ornate decorations.
“You should wait outside, Scorch,” Laurie said. “I don’t know how I’d explain bringing my lifter in to a feast.”
“Agreed, Captain. One favor?”
“Bring some food back for me? I have not had Maciian food in a long time.”
Laurie laughed. “I’ll see if I can get something to go.”
Daamen came over to greet them as she entered with the Bartender. “Welcome, my friends. I’ve saved spots for you at the head table.” He gestured them into two chairs. “I’d like to introduce you to my family- my uncle, Miiram, and my aunt, who now runs the metalworking guild, AAshlek.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Laurie said. “I’m sorry for your loss, Aashlek.”
“Thank you,” the Maciian said. “We must press on. Business never waits on personal matters.”
“Indeed,” Laurie returned, taking her seat. “Daamen, it occurs to me- who are your parents?”
Daamen hung his head sadly. “Fortune has not been kind to our family as of late. They died offworld two years ago in a transport crash.”
“Yes,” said Aashlek, “And my only son forsook the business before that. He left the planet without a word, and I haven’t seen him since. I don’t think he even knows his father is dead. Or if he does, he doesn’t care.” She hung her head, wiping her large eyes.
Laurie glanced at the Bartender out of the corner of her eyes. He was sipping his water discreetly, reptilian face not betraying anything. She regarded Aashlek and Miiram. Both appeared genuinely pained, and not the cold and calculating pair she had been lead to believe they were. Something was amiss, and she was unsure of how to ferret out the truth of the matter.