Thenos sat back in the passenger compartment of the shuttle that had collected him from the Revenge. He was being taken to the RFT Assailant, which would then take him to the second moon of Finley IV. With him was one of the hunchbacked combat drones that were used in the rare instances that ship board combat was necessary. At the moment it was crouched on the floor, too bulky to fit on a seat, and too tall to stand up in the shuttle. Thenos had seen the look of worry on the pilot’s face when he had seen the drone get on board. It was probably the heavy weapons mounted on the drone’s arms and shoulders that made the pilot uneasy, but the drone was a combat unit. It wasn’t around to make people feel good.
As Thenos and the drone were escorted to the bridge of the RFT Assailant, the rumble underfoot made it clear that the ship was already moving. As they walked, the combat drone’s head swivelled left and right, checking for threats. Thenos didn’t expect to be harmed, but it was always best to play it safe. Arriving at the entrance to the bridge, an officer turned to Thenos.
“Could you leave your… guard here please?”
“Sure,” Thenos replied, gesturing to the drone. It hung its head as it went into standby mode. Thenos was then allowed onto the bridge, and was led to a man that he assumed was the captain.
“Ah,” the man noticed him, “the visitor. Fleet Admiral Timothy Hodgkins.”
Thenos shook the man’s hand and introduced himself, “Knight-Reaver Thenos Garr. I’m probably technically an admiral with your ranks now, but I don’t have much of a fleet.”
“Well, I understand that we’re going to help you with that problem.”
“Indeed. I will be heading home with a far lighter wallet, I assume.”
The admiral laughed. Hopefully the laughter hadn’t been forced, as Thenos wanted to get on friendly terms with these people. After all, he needed a good deal, because he didn’t have many credits to spend. Taxing was yet to begin on Rebirth, as there was a low population, with everyone working to survive, not for profit. The equivalent of tax was work. The builders earned their place in the community by setting up houses, the farmers through providing food. Everybody had their place. However, this wouldn’t last for long. Soon people would start wanting more, or get lazy. The society on the planet had to be returned to a normal set up, which would require advanced desert colony gear. Hopefully the Roesh Free Traders could help with this.
The trip wasn’t a long one, and soon enough, Thenos was once more stepping off a shuttle, this time into a trade port over the savannah moon of Finley IV. The admiral had come with him in the shuttle, and now led the way for Thenos and the drone. The admiral led him through a series of corridors, and into a lift, that headed upwards.
“Is business a bit slow at the moment?” asked Thenos, commenting on how few people he had seen in the trade port.
“This trade port’s actually just been finished. If you hadn’t been around, it probably wouldn’t have been completed quite as fast.”
The lift reached the top floor, at the peak of the central spire of the trade port. Stepping through a small crossroads, with escape pods off to the left and right, Thenos and the admiral came to a grand set of doors. As they slid open, Thenos saw a lavishly decorated conference room. Inside, four people were discussing something. However, hearing the door they turned to look at the new arrivals.
“Tim, there you are,” said one, and then turned to greet Thenos, “I’m Roesh. It looks like you’re my first bit of big business here!”
“I’m Thenos, pleasure to meet you.”
They shook hands, and Thenos was introduced to the other three people in the room. There was Henry Stolvey, who looked to be in his fifties, like Roesh. Then there was Todd Degroff, who Thenos noticed kept watching the drone. Finally, there came Casey Tahira, the one that Thenos had sensed in his meditations. As they exchanged greetings, Thenos sent her a psychic message.
What’s an Advent like you doing alone out here? he asked. The only reply he got was a sudden feeling of annoyance from her. Did she dislike being treated differently to the others? Perhaps she didn't like having psychic gifts.
The four he had greeted, and the admiral, took seats on one side of the table, leaving Thenos all alone on his side of the table. An incredibly obvious psychological tactic that would work on the nervous, but not on him. There was a soft noise behind him as his drone took up a position just behind his shoulder.
“Well,” began Roesh, “I believe we all know the reason that we’re here, so let’s get on with it.”
From the centre of the table rose a hologram.
“This,” explained Henry, who had brought up the hologram by remote, “is your very own holographic shopping list. On it is everything that we are offering. Over to you Casey.”
“There are blueprints for all Advent cruisers and frigates at the top. Further down, there is advanced desert survival equipment, plans for modular architecture, and colonising gear for hostile and tropic environments, that you should be able to replicate and use.”
Henry fiddled with the remote, and a new figure popped up at the bottom of the list. It was the grand total. 7600 credits, 900 units of metal and 1475 units of crystal. The crystal and metal requirements would be no problem, but Thenos had been given a limited budget of 2500 credits, and most of this stuff was vital. He would probably never get a better offer, and it was only a matter of time before advanced combat vessels were needed.
“I already have the design data for Drone Hosts, and I’m not interested in Purge vessels,” Thenos said. Henry altered the price, but it was still way to steep. How could he possibly get it down to 2500 credits? As he thought this, Thenos felt something brush against his mind. He glanced at Casey. She had an innocent smile on her face, but probably found this hilarious, knowing that Thenos would walk out empty handed and humiliated, but if she was going to do these negotiations Advent style, so was he. Until now, he had kept his mind to himself out of respect for his business partners, but now he subtly listened in on Casey’s thoughts. To the others, it would look like he was thinking about the deal, but he was sifting through every one of her passing thoughts, until he found a key word: Contract.
“This looks a little steep for my current budget,” Thenos began, “so I’m wondering if we could set up a sort of contract, so that I can pay you back over time.”
Casey’s smile vanished, and she shot him a glare. Her mind radiated embarrassment about how easy reading it had been. No love lost there, then.
Roesh turned from talking to Henry and said, “Yes, that sounds reasonable. I think that you could start with a payment of forty percent of the total price. You could then pay us back over time. Interest would be added, of course.”
“Naturally. So what would be the starting payment?”
“2640 credits, 340 units of metal, and 540 units of crystal, if you still don’t want the Drone Host or siege frigate,” informed Henry. Still too many credits.
“How about 2500 creds,” Thenos offered, remembering how Todd had looked at the drone, “and I throw in this drone as well.”
Todd leaned over to talk with Roesh. Thenos had pulled the right strings.
“How does it work?” inquired Todd. Seeing Henry roll his eyes, he added, “so that we know what we’re doing with it, I mean.”
“It can either be operated by an anima,” Thenos told him, “or off its AI, which can figure out allies, enemies, and responds instantly to gestures by confirmed owners. If you wipe its memory, you can reprogram it to recognise you as its owner. I can ask a technician to come and help you out at some point if you want.”
Todd started talking with Roesh again, so Thenos decided to make one last point, “and they can easily take down a –UE_ exosuit in combat.”
Todd and Roesh seemed to reach a decision, as Roesh turned back and said, “Todd says that it’s worth 140 creds just for the hardware inside that thing, so I’ll go with your offer, but turn that thing off before we make the deal. I don’t want it shooting my technicians while they take it away.”
Thenos stood and powered down the drone. As he took his seat, Roesh began talking about the final conditions of the deal.
“We will send you plans for a trade centre via our broadcast centre. Once you’ve completed your trade port, you will dispatch a convoy containing your first payment. Once we have confirmation that it’s on the way, we will transmit the plans for your ships to your Temple of Communion, and send our own ship with the colonising gear, desert kit and some modular architecture. We will agree on a rate of repayment here and send it to you. Don’t worry; we won’t make it too steep, because bankrupting you isn’t profitable. Anyway, do we have a deal?” asked Roesh, standing and extending his hand. Thenos stood and shook it.
“We have a deal.”