“Do you mind if we just sit outside today?” Akira asked.
“Sure grandfather, are you feeling ok?” Rishi asked.
“I’m fine, but our story today requires us to be somewhere else. There, next to that tree.” Akira pointed from the study window.
Rishi didn’t understand but welcomed the change of scenery, the winter was subsiding and a warm sun now bathed the house.
“So, what are we talking about today?” Rishi asked.
“Well, all I can say is that today’s relic is kind of hard to hold. The house… It’s the house…” Akira replied.
“Sir, the messenger just arrived at the station and is requesting an audience.”
“Tell the messenger we can meet near that fake ramen joint next to the customs office. I’m already on my way.”, Samskara replied.
He was one of the team leaders within The Club guild. As a valued member, it was only right he would be chosen as a representative in such an important negotiation. He had a knack for people, understanding their pains, and building the necessary bridges when there were none.
“They didn’t tell me you were an Ustur.”
“And they didn’t tell me the messenger was a Human, your point?” Samskara replied.
“You are right, I was rude, I apologize. Randgrid Maldoran, messenger for the M1n3rs guild.”
“I’m just messing with you, I’m very used to that reaction. It’s not widely known because, in the end, it doesn’t even matter, we are all just brothers and sisters, trying to find where we belong, together, and everyone just forgets it was ever a thing.” Samskara replied extending his arm as to ask Randgrid to enter the restaurant. “I thought you could deliver me your message over lunch. I don’t eat but I do enjoy the social side of Human food.”
“I was hoping to follow procedures and return to my ship as soon as possible.”, Randgrid said.
“Oh, come on, the food is not that bad here. As an Ustur, I know the importance of doing more than procedures and protocols from time to time. They are so cold and mechanic, pun intended. People need to connect more, share more, feel more, and what better way to do it than through a meal, my treat?”
“Very well.” Randgrid hesitantly replied.
“Great!”, Samskara replied, opening both arms. Turning to the restaurant owner, “Two of your best bowls, kind sir.”
The restaurant was full and the general noise was more than enough that no one would overhear them, it also helped that they chose a small table in the back corner.
“So, what do they say?”
“They find the terms agreeable. In fact, too much so. They say the offer is just too good to be trusted.”, Randgrid replied.
“And you, what do you think?”
“I don’t know, I’m just a messenger.”
“Sure, but you have just entered these negotiations, I’ve been in them from the beginning, I‘m wondering how a newcomer would feel, looking at these terms. And please be as brutally honest as you can.”, Samskara asked.
“I agree with them, you are paying above market for materials you never needed before in a moment when other guilds are approaching us.”
“It does look bad, huh? So, we should lower the price so that our offer doesn’t raise suspicion, is that their suggestion?”
Randgrid froze before replying, “No, I meant…”, being interrupted by Samskara’s raised hand.
“I know, I was joking. That fact is, I understand their point. But what can I say, we really need the materials. Quite honestly, I expected you would be the ones to raise the price because we have shown an urgent need. Hence I tried to save time and skip the ping pong negotiations. Have they requested anything that could soothe their anxieties?”
“They asked for a detailed plan for the deployment of the materials.”
“I see. Unfortunately, that cannot be arranged. I’m just wondering why would they care. They are selling their stuff, the profit is good, why question?”, Samskara asked, leaning back and staring at a small fan showing a Solana hologram in front of the blades. “Have they already promised the resources to someone else?”
“I’m not at liberty…”
“Ahh, spoken like a true diplomat, you should ask for a promotion from messenger to ambassador.” Samskara interrupted laughing. “But I see that I may be right. Well how about this, The Club provides the security fleet for the trade also? You guys are new, trying to operate security and trade at the same time is no easy task. If you are indeed expanding, you’re going to need more than just the ATLAS.”
“Discounted escort costs?”
“If this continues we will be forced to take the deal.”
“You know I want to take the deal, we have just started and the high-risk zone can be a scary place but we can’t accept it, we would be left dry, forced to turn away every customer for months, we would be rich for now but then that money runs out and when we try to go back to the market, no one will remember us and they will stick with their suppliers, might as well close shop right after the deal is done.”
“We need to know why they want it, they might keep coming back for more, we can’t just turn away this amount of Atlas.”
“Our sources keep confirming that they never bought these minerals in these quantities previously.”
“What if they just want to drive our business to the ground and maybe later come in and buy us out with a discount much bigger than this mark-up.”
“Ahh, dear Randgrid, good news I hope?” Samskara asked.
“I’m afraid not. I’m here to inform you that the M1n3rs hereby decline your offer as a final say.”
The warmth on Samskara’s face faded, changing to a darker expression. “This saddens me greatly. Those minerals are needed. Is there really nothing we can do?”
“I don’t think so. It is their position that the future of the guild depends on having multiple customers and selling our entire haul to you is the opposite.” Randgrid explained.
“So they think we are a one-time buyer. What if we were not?”
“You would be a repeating customer but still just one, I’m not sure they will go for it. You will just have to go somewhere else. If I may ask, why do you want to buy from them so badly, there are others.”
“As I said, we do need the minerals, and you guys are starting out, rather than just order from an established mining guild, we were trying to help a starting guild with a good payday. But, what else can I say? I hope our paths cross again.” Samskara replied.
“Randgrid, I’m glad to see you. I heard the sale was a success, dozens of new contracts. The future looks bright and it couldn’t have done it without you.”
Delivery operations were initiated for the new clients, several Packlites from a transporting guild were chartered and were being loaded. Randgrid started requesting from the clients the delivery coordinates, and a stark realization settled in, dozens of clients but they were all going to the same planet! These were coordinates to a sector controlled by The Club Guild. It was too late to go back. She had been played. Torn between telling her superiors or not, Randgrid felt so guilty that she had let them down, she left the guild and decided to confront Samskara herself.
“Long time no see.” Samskara greeted, with excitement in his voice.
“You lying piece of shit. You just couldn’t take no for an answer now, could you?” Randgrid asked.
“You seem very tense and I do apologize. I’m not proud of a lot of things in my path, can you help me figure out in which way have I wronged you?” Samskara asked leaning against his favorite spot at the restaurant.
“The trade deal, are you going to tell me you don’t know the dozens of clients that mysteriously asked for the same materials that you were going to buy?”
“Oh, I know them alright.”
“I’ve checked, a lot of them weren’t members of the Club.”
“Until you backed out of the deal. You know something, I don’t think we have ever seen such a dramatic increase in members. I guess we should thank you!” Samskara replied laughing. “Please, sit down and let me explain.”
Randgrid, kept standing.
“Well, I believe now it’s ok to tell you what we were planning for the materials. Putting it simply, we colonized a planet. The first project of this magnitude for the Club. I’m talking, about the entire planet here, not just one claim stake. At the time we were planning to distribute the land claims to new members who couldn’t afford them, this way, the claims would not be sitting idle and they would have a healthy share of the profits themselves. The minerals were to be distributed among them to build their infrastructure and have a little for initial maintenance.” Samskara explained.
“You would do that for your members?”
“Sure, we are only as strong as our members, if we help each other, we all benefit, right?”
“But it still doesn’t explain why all these new members joined you and bought the materials? You paid them or something just to spite my former guild?” Randgrid asked.
“Yes, I left the M1n3rs. I couldn’t bear the shame of being played and now that I know that I wasn’t, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“Ok, first things first, we could no longer offer the free resources but we still had the land. You know the old saying, necessity breeds invention. We were forced to re-think our plan and, if I do say so myself, what we came up with was quite special!"
Samskara opened up a hologram of the planet and started to zoom in.
“We put out an ad in the safe zone of every faction, offering land rent-free for two years to anybody who does not yet own their own claim.”
He zoomed in to show the number of claims already deployed on the planet.
"Plus a sizeable relocation bonus to be used specifically for investment directly into the planet’s development. There was just one condition, applicants must be members of the Club. I couldn’t believe the number of applications we received in just the first hour!” Samskara shrugged, “Oh, and I may have also recommended the M1n3rs as a good outlet to spend the relocation bonus”, he winked, “Second, I’m truly sorry for creating a situation that made you think you had to leave your guild. If you want, there’s room there for a talented messenger when the planet’s leaders need to interact with third parties. It’s the least I can do.”
Randgrid stood there silent, eyes wide with astonishment. “I can’t believe I thought you were trying to screw us. This is just…that’s so… it’s just such a great project!”
“And she took the offer. This is the place, the old mining claim now turned garden. Randgrid gave this house to your great great great grandfather Emilio’s father as a gift.” Akira said.
“So this house has seen it all.”, Rishi said.
“Sort of, it has been rebuilt a couple of times, and for some time, the Maldorans didn’t even live here. But yes, it is an important part of our family history.” Akira replied. “Now come, it is getting cold again, we should go inside.”