“I’m sorry to hear that.” Laurie hoped her voice didn’t betray any knowledge she possessed. She glanced around the large hall, taking in the many richly decorated tables, all themed based on which guild occupied them. She looked up at the bits of ore, floating like small asteroids, mixed with Maciian cargo ships.
“Why is this the only table with two guilds?” She asked.
“Two guilds, for the moment,” Aashlek answered. “We cannot split the family to run two guilds, so our stake in one must be sold. Guild monopolies are forbidden, though some have attempted it in the past.”
Laurie narrowed her eyes at Scorch’s mother. “How, exactly, would that be possible, if it is forbidden?”
“Well, it’s not strictly illegal. But it is looked down upon. It could only be done with the support and permission of the other guilds.” She looked down mournfully at her glass, swirling the golden liquid in it slowly. “It might not be the best business statement to make, but I wish my son were here. I’d rather be done with it all and step back from the business altogether. I am weary of the politics.” She looked up at Laurie and smiled. “But I am sure our arrangement with you will be beneficial for all of us.”
“I’m sure it will,” Laurie said, returning the small being’s smile. She was hardly the calculating individual Daamen had presented her as. She mulled it over when a glint of light reflected on metal caught her eye from the door.
“No, no, no,” she exclaimed, standing as Scorch entered. She ran over to the armored figure, pressing her hands against the robust chest that was even with her face. “Scorch, get back outside,” she hissed.
“I can’t,” he replied. “We are being used, Captain.”
“I can see that, but what good does this do?” she tried to push the construct back, but it didn’t budge.
“Is everything well with your lifter?” Miiram stood behind her. “I can call a mechanic if you need.”
Laurie turned, back pressed against Scorch’s armor. The entire room was focused on them. “No, that won’t be…” the suit hissed, and she felt the plates slide apart behind her. “Dammit,” she whispered and stood aside.
An indescribable sound came from Aashlek as Scorch stepped out of his suit. Miiram gasped in disbelief along with the rest of the dining hall. “I hope you’ll forgive me, Mother,” Scorch said, “If I address my cousin first.”