The blue streaks outside the ship’s windows calmed to the black void of space as it dropped, and the fiery red and brown surface of Aeten II appeared before their eyes. If the others had been nervous about a blind girl flying the ship, hopefully they would be reassured by now. Though Malou could not see the brilliant blues of hyperspace or the volcanic hues of the plant before them, she was otherwise able to navigate just fine.
“We’ll be on the ground in five minutes.”
Malou, in her master’s absence, figured she might take the initiative in expanding the Kingdom of Avilion. Aeten II, though a volcanic wasteland of a planet, had a few small settlements which oversaw the mining of the planet’s most valuable resource: stygium crystals. The crystals could be used to power cloaking systems. They were an expensive, but valuable resource. If Malou could convince the few inhabitants of Aeten II to join, she was sure Artorgias would be pleased.
She did not expect to do it alone, though. The acolyte had reached out to her fellow acolytes, Senin and Soren, both of which she had met not long before. Malou purposefully asked for their help rather than someone of a higher rank; she did not want the credit for this expedition stolen by a prideful champion.
The Miralukan acolyte piloted the ship down to the largest settlement on Aeten II, which had a population of maybe 20,000, and served mostly as the main hub for the industry on the planet. Other than the planet’s crystals, Aeten II had few other resources and especially not any that could nurture a population. They had to import most of everything. After money from the crystals was spent, they weren’t left with much. It did, however, leave her something to work with.
“Alright, are you all ready?”
Malou had changed from her traveling robes to robes much more suited for this diplomatic excursion. The others on the trip had been asked to bring something that looked wealthy, but wasn’t too over the top. Her plan was to have the air of casual wealth. She wanted to look as if they would have no trouble being able to supply the planet with aid--which they wouldn’t--but she didn’t want them to look greedy or as if they had ulterior motives. Whether the subtleness would work or not, she wasn’t sure. But if Malou knew one thing from her noble upbringing, it was that clothing could have a lot of influence.
They had landed not far from the settlement’s main building. They had about ten minutes before the scheduled meeting.
While the ship was exiting hyperspace over the planet of Aeten II, Senin was still surprised that Malou could pilot a ship so well. The Acolyte had to confess that he had been a little apprehensive when the Miralukan had said that she would be the pilot. But after seeing her in action, the young man would never again doubt the girl's capabilities.
When the Miralukan invited him to participate in a diplomatic mission to bring this planet to the Kingdom of Avilion, the Acolyte promptly accepted. Senin knew that his master had a problem with Darth Caelestis, but he didn’t want to be part of it. He hoped that doing this mission the Sith Lord would not consider him part of this stupid and one-sided rivalry.
"Yes,capitã!" Senin said playfully. Since Malou was leading this mission, he decided to call her this way. "I never went to Aeten II. I'm so excited!" before the trip, he had studied about the planet. Although the planet didn't seem impressive, with it being sparsely inhabited, the Acolyte never visited a volcanic world like this one. It was going to be an interesting experience.
After the landing, Senin changed into his clothes for the diplomatic mission. Even with it being a formal and wealthy attire, the Acolyte was able to add some leather to it. His hair was dyed platinum blond and he was using blue eyeshadow. "I'm ready,capitã!" he said, answering the Miralukan's question. “Who are we going to meet there?”
It was time for Soren's first mission. He hadn't been able to get the full Sith experience just yet. This would be a good stepping stone to get there, as this was going to be a diplomatic mission. The invitation from Malou, the girl from Senin's party, had brought out Soren to this very thing. The Miralukan hadn't spoke to Soren much, but it came out at some point that Soren was from a noble family. This would undoubtedly be the reason for his invitation.
The other individual that would be tagging along was Senin. He was an interesting fellow, and Soren thought having him around would keep the mood lifted. That was a necessity, knowing that Malou was more of a low energy kind of person. At least that's how she came off when Soren was around her. Then again the same could be said for him.
"I'm ready when you are, let's get the show on the road."
Soren was dressed in his formal attire and ready to show what the Sith could offer. The other two Acolytes were very well dressed, and Soren was very well impressed.
"We're meeting the heads of the mining company here on Aeten," Malou began. She balled her fist and pressed it against the button to lower the ship's ramp. Slowly, the metal ramp detached from the wall and lowered itself to the ground. Warm air hit her lungs, dry and hot but fresh compared to that of the ship. Though entirely industrial, Aeten II's main settlement was about the only place on the planet with any amount of vegetation. It was red in color and crunched under her boot, but it was a nicer view than bump, black volcanic rock.
Standing outside the ship were two men, dressed in what could only be described as functional suits, waiting for the three with neutral expressions that morphed into pleasant smiles. "Welcome to Aeten," one called out to the three as they descended the ship. They introduced themselves and informed Malou, Senin and Soren that they would be escorting them to the meeting. Considering the chaotic appearance of the city, with streets above streets and copycat, featureless building, Malou was glad for that. The two turned to lead them, and Malou followed, falling in line with the two boys who had accompanied her.
"What do you guys think of Aeten?" Malou asked, curious to hear their responses. They knew why they were here, but how much they knew about Aeten itself, she wasn't sure. Malou had mixed feelings about the planet herself. It was hot and dry, and she did not like the heat all that much. Its terrain was interesting--it was nothing like Serenno--but its settlements were ugly and smelt of smoke. To the noble, it was not a pleasant place.
Soren exited the ship knowing what they were ready for, until he looked around and could see that the planet was actually a hell whole. Why would the Sith want this planet? For rock? Lava? They'd be wasting their time if you asked Soren. He was suddenly very confused on the reason behind bringing this planet into Sith control.
"Uh well, it's a planet at least."
Soren had no idea how to tell Malou this was absolutely awful to see. Hopefully the inside of this building is nicer.
"I trust that you know what makes this planet so cool to the Sith! You're super smart after all!"
Soren would turn and smile to her. Then turn back and keep walking behind the escorts to where the meeting would take place. This was his first mission, and he was glad to be doing it with people he at least knew. Kinda. They met once before but they seemed alright in his eyes.
After Malou said who they were going to meet, Senin controlled himself to not grimace. Businessmen, he hated needing to deal with this type of person. Being the heir of the Ravelo family, he was forced to participate in meetings with these people, in addition to having to go to parties promoted by them. These events were always boring, he couldn’t even find someone to spend the night with there because Maxim would throw a fit. And because most of the guests were insufferable snobs. “I hope that they don’t try anything. This type of person can be very backstabbing.”
After the Miralukan opened the door of the ship, the Acolyte felt the hot and dry air of Aeten II. That didn't bother him too much, after all G'wenee was also very hot. However, the landscape was quite different. While his homeworld had seas and forests, this planet was volcanic and the little vegetation that it had was red in color. Senin couldn't say that he considered it beautiful.
Senin followed the men that were going to guide them to the place where the meeting was going to happen. While they walked, the young man annalized the city. The buildings there were so boring, being so similar to each other. It was like someone made one first and copy pasted it everywhere. The air was terrible. It reminded him of some of the worst industrial areas of G’wenee.
When Malou asked his opinion about the planet, Senin approached her. Before answering, he looked at the two men in front of them “This is an interesting planet, with its volcanoes. The presence of the stygium crystals make it very important too.” then he leaned to whisper in her ear “Mina, this planet is horrible. The smoke in the air will probably make my hair smell bad for weeks. At least the crystals are valuable enough to justify a visit.”
Malou gave her head a slight shake at Soren's enthusiastic compliments. She was glad at least that he thought she was smart, but this didn't feel like a particularly smart maneuver. It just... made sense. Aeten II was already close to both Namadii and Adumar, it had the desirable crystals, and they were disorganized and corrupt enough that it shouldn't be too hard to convince them to join the Kingdom of Avillion. It did make her feel better about the upcoming "negotiations." It was something she'd never really done before.
Neither Soren nor Senin seemed to like the planet. 'Honestly, fair.' Malou didn't much like it either, but she was already here and already driven by the desire to impress her master.
It wasn't much longer before they reached the building, led by the two men who had greeted them at their ship. It was different from the other buildings in shape--while the others were square with sharp edges, it was a dome--but was still just as plain-looking as the rest of them. Once they were led inside, that was a different story. While not opulent by any means, the dull greys and industrial style of the settlement transformed into something much cozier and much nicer. The floor was carpeted, the metal walls were covered with painted drywall, and the room they were led to was home to expensive looking furniture and decorations.
"Go ahead and take a seat," offered one of the men. "Mr. Miller will be in soon."
Malou took the suggestion and settled into one of the chairs. Once the men left she adjusted her blindfold, making sure the satin cloth was secured against her face.
"I will do most of the talking," Malou began. "Feel free to offer your perspectives to the man if you think it'll be helpful, though. Our goal is to convince them the Sith will be able to supply them with trades better than what they can get on their own."
The Entrallan Sith would walk into the building behind the men leading the way. He was ready to see how this would go down. He's never done an actual business meeting before. It would be so cool and very exciting to see how well this all went down here. Malou was smart, she knew there would be a good reason to take this place into Sith custody, and by making the individuals who called this place home think that they were in charge of their allegiance, it was genius.
"Thank you gentlemen!"
Soren would look at the seat that sat closest to the small coffee table in the middle. He wanted a good spot to prompt his feet up and relax. He was hear to help of course, but mainly to learn what this was going to be like. Would the business man be kind? Rude? Who knew?
Soren looked over to see Malou adjust her blindfold, and felt an urge inside to ask if she wanted some help with it, but then he had to remember she had been doing this all her life.
You actually think she needs your help? She could kick your ass in 6 million different forms of combat, I'm sure she can handle it.
Surely she'd be better at it than he is. Senin had barely acknowledged that Soren was present, which for some reason was a bit of recurring theme. It was obvious he was close with Malou. They seemed to be good friends, and Soren was the knew guy to the group. Maybe they'll come to like him later, but for now he would see where doing business with them will go.
Hearing Soren call Malou as smart, made Senin smile. That compliment didn't sound like the ones he gave her, sincere but in a playful way. The G'weneen started to wonder if Soren was wanting to impress the Miralukan. In his opinion the two would form a cute couple.
While they walked, Senin approached Soren and whispered so only the boy could hear "So, what do you think of Malou? I mean, besides thinking she's smart." he would start to investigate the other boy's intentions. Even if he thought that the two would form a cute couple, Malou was his friend and he would never allow someone to hurt her. He would kill Soren if he did it. Although he was certain that the Miralukan would be totally capable of defending herself. Maybe the two would kill him together.
After some time following the two men, they arrived in the building where the meeting was going to happen. When they entered, Senin was relieved to get out of the heat and smoke. The room was quite nicely decorated, a relief from the industrial vibe in the rest of the city.
After one of men said that they could sit to wait for someone called Mr. Miller, probably the head of the mining company, Senin took a seat next to Malou. He nodded to what she said. "Yes, Capitã! However, I think that we should be careful with them. I really don't trust businessmen. They can try to backstab us." he hoped that things would go without problems.
"If they try, they will find that Avillion does not need to be diplomatic," Malou replied coolly. She did not expect the businessmen here today to be so unwise as to not see the value in what she wished to present them with, but if they declined her proposal or did not hold their end of the bargain, it was not outside of her power to repay them with a forceful takeover of their settlements. Her master had taught her that it was easier to ensure loyal subjects if they joined diplomatically, but if they did not... well, that changed things.
The three would remain in the room alone for only a few minutes before two guards entered the room, escorting a short, heavyset man dressed in an expensive-looking black suit. The man, Mr. Miller, Malou assume, walked in with an air of importance and a smug look on his face.
"Welcome Lady D'Amaris. Friends of yours, I presume?" His voice was posh and his words were perfectly pronounced, but he had the unmistakable accent of a Coruscanti native. The man sat as he spoke, and once he settled into his chair, snapped his fingers and dismissed the two guards which brought him in. He crossed his legs and leaned back into the velvet fabric, presumably completely at ease.
"Mr. Miller," Malou began, acknowledging the man who had greeted her. "These are my peers; friends of Avillion and members of the Sith." Malou would pause to allow Soren and Senin to introduce themselves as they pleased. After they did, she would continue. "Now, I understand that you are aware of Avillion and what we have to offer-"
"Now, now." Malou was interrupted by Mr. Miller's voice and the holding out of his hand. "Let's not jump so quickly into things hmm? Can I get you all a drink? Tea? Whiskey? Well, perhaps not. You all look quite young. Coffee?"
Malou regarded him for a few moments in silence, not sure how to react to being interrupted. But, after deciding that it was not worth challenging, she opted for a tea. Once Soren and Senin requested something, if they wished for a drink, Mr. Miller would continue.
"I'm sure we're all eager to get down to business, but there's no rush! Let's enjoy a few moments; get to know each other, no? If what you offer is beneficial to me and my company, I am sure we will be speaking much more often. Tell me, have any of you ever been to a planet like Aeten before? Quite warm, isn't it?"
Just as Soren began to relax awaiting the meeting to take place, it seemed someone wanted make him tense again. Senin seemed to think that Soren was trying to steal Malou's heart. Which honestly is pretty silly, Soren had barely gotten to know Malou. Only one encounter before this. She was smart, yea of course, but that didn't mean Soren would want to chase after her emotionally. So the teen would look at Senin and smile before continuing,
"Oh uh, she's cool! I think she would be a good friend to have watch your back and to have in your corner."
Soren would then be interrupted by the entrance of the man Mr. Miller. Coming looking quite slick, and ready to get business conducted.
"Soren Shaggelian! Pleasure!"
Soren make a small wave to the man as he remained reclined in his seat. When the off of a drink came he would take advantage of the offer.
"Hot chocolate. Make it with milk. I like the way hot choccy hits."
Soren would keep a smile on his face. It was amusing when the man would talk about what the Sith can offer. The Sith Acolyte took a look around and remembered what a hell hole this place was and then he laughed to himself.
"Uh.. I think the real question would be what can't the Sith offer this place. Take a look around. You have very little if anything at all. I don't think there's much of any other options that seem best fit here. But that's just me."
”A friend, I see. But do you think that she is pretty?” Senin would said to Soren. Even if the other seemed to be disinterested, the G’weneen still suspected that the boy could have some interest for Malou. Perhaps he was too shy to talk about that, maybe the young man could offer his help to assist him in talking with the Miralukan. Of course, he would just give a little push, the two would have to see if they are compatible as a couple by themselves. The worst that could happen was him and Malou teaming up to kill Soren.
Before he could ask anything else, their host entered the room. Mr. Miller seemed the typical businessman, he had even the insufferable accent of Coruscant. “My name is Senin Ravelo. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” he said to the man, with a fake smile on his lips. “I would like a whiskey, if it isn’t a problem.”As Malou had asked, Senin would let her do the negotiation. So he asked for a drink so he could have some distraction. He raised an eyebrow when Soren asked for hot chocolate, but said nothing.
Then he heard Soren say to Mr. Miller that his planet basically had nothing. It made Senin widen his eyes. What was he doing? They were trying to convince the man that joining the Sith would be good for their development, but to say that the planet has nothing good right at the beginning of the negotiations was something very risky, the locals could be offended. He wondered how the man would react to that.
Mr. Miller's reaction to Soren's rude response was much kinder than Malou would've been. While the man simply raised an eyebrow at the boy, Malou would've been staring daggers at Soren if she wasn't blinded. 'Are you kidding me?' Though she didn't know Soren nearly as well as she knew Senin, she figured his noble birth meant he would be useful in the negotiations. Unfortunately, it appeared to her that he was not the competent noble she had assumed he would be. 'Reminder to self: never invite him to anything again.'
Mr. Miller snapped his fingers and crossed his legs as a droid nearby lit up and suddenly exited the room. The man then smiled, replacing the cocked eyebrow and disapproving look with a practiced look.
"You seem mistaken Mr. Shaggelian," began the man in a low tone. "If Aeten had--" He raised one hand to mock air quotations. "--very little at all, your friend Lady D'Amaris here would not be so interested in annexing us into the Kingdom of Avillion. Am I wrong?" His dark eyes met with Soren's, a twinkle of amusement in the otherwise pleasant resting features of the man. He shifted his body to point more so towards Senin and Malou.
"Mr. Miller, my apologizes for his behavior. You are entirely correct; Avillion sees an incredible value in the resources your company manages here." As Malou began to speak, her mind was racing as she tried to recall every bit of information from her business and negotiation lessons. She wished she had paid more attention to them now. "We also see that the volcanic nature of your planet leaves very little room for agriculture. Should Aeten--and your company--agree, it would be no issue for us to make importing such things much easier for you."
The robot return then, carrying a tray containing two glasses with a few fingers of whiskey, a hot mug containing Soren's hot chocolate, and a cup of tea for Malou. Mr. Miller lifted one of the glasses off for himself, and the other was given to Senin.
When the business man tried acting like Aeten was worth so much to the Sith, Soren couldn't take him seriously. Were there some nice things that came from this planet? Sure, some crystals. Though all in all, the Sith would be giving more to Aeten than all that Aeten would be providing. Soren knew Avillion would only look to claim this planet for growth. It was obvious. Somehow this business man had his head too far up his ass to tell he was just being used.
"My apologies. It was a long trip. Forgive my mistake of thinking so little of this.. planet."
What a joke.. We can force him to sign this planet away to the Sith yet we choose to deal with numb skulls who they're better than us. Seems like a waste of time to me.
Soren would keep a smile on his face as it would become his signature look. He was always showing that there was a reason to smile, this time his reason was to keep himself from laughing but looking like he was genuine. He didn't need the other Sith thinking he didn't feel bad for what was said before.
When the hot chocolate finally made it to Soren he would take a sip and then lean back in his seat. He may as well just ignore everything and enjoy this drink while he could. Clearly his observations were not wanted.
Mr.Miller reaction was better than Senin had expected. If the man was like some of the businessmen that he knew, Soren’s comment would have completely ruined the negotiations. After that the G’weneen had doubts if Malou could end up interested in the other boy. She was probably furious with him right now.
Unlike Soren, Senin decided to remain silent. This was Malou's moment to shine, he wouldn't do anything to hinder it. However, he kept watching Mr. Miller closely. Even if the man had proven himself very nice so far, the young man would not let his guard down. For him, businessmen aren’t trustworthy.
Then, the droid returned with their beverages. Senin watched Mr. Mille picks one of the glasses with whiskey. After Soren took the mug with hot chocolate, the G’weneen reached out to take the other glass with the alcoholic drink. He gave it a sip and his eyes widened. The man had a good taste for drinks.
With the glass on his hand and occasionally sipping from it, Senin would turn to watch Malou talk with Mr. Miller. This diplomatic mission was going to happen as planned and he was only being paranoid. Probably he was becoming too much like Xeno.