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The Big Yoink: A Smol Detective Story, Chapter 7

Standard Disclaimer: I do not take credit for the setting, this story is set in the 'They are Smol' universe, written by our very own u/tinyprancinghorse.
TPH has a Website, a Patreon, and also a Discord if you need more smol shenanigans.
The first Smol Detective story can be read starting here.
There will be some spoilers/references of the first SD story in this one, so consider yourself duly warned.
________
First Chapter
Previous Chapter
Next Chapter
________
In the previous chapter:
The Plot acquired a Complication.
Road Trip!
Myyreh did a Yoink of her own.
In this chapter:
The Road Trip makes a Stop.
There is some Screeching.
The Plot Complication acquires another Complication.

________

Ter'yeik combed a claw through his crest. The listless, reflexive movement resulted in another cream-colored feather coming off in his hand, and he stared at it in dull surprise before letting it drop to join the others strewn about the deck. He looked up at the terminal in front of him, the screen of which was half-filled with his meandering thoughts. Thanks to his deactivated implant he was forced to resort to manual entry. He found the process took some getting used to.
At least his quarters were comfortable, if on the small side. He could hardly complain about the latter. The ex-Second Claw scratched absently at a healing welt on the side of his neck. He could just barely feel the little lump of the implant now nestled close to his spine. It was a small but powerful piece of technology, capable of broadcasting his location if he managed to slip his current prison. More importantly, it could also be commanded to shut down his central nervous system and leave him paralyzed and helpless until he was back in custody.
Back into a custody that he still didn't know the end of. Would he be simply sentenced to prison? Would the Matriarch break his claws as a permanent mark of his treachery?
No, not treachery. He had acted as Ta'irrl'qc had commanded all those [millennia] ago, and he needed to make everyone understand his reasoning. It would do no good to sit in his cell and stress-molt himself featherless. He had to reach people...
Hmm, perhaps even the other Path's Matriarch? She might be a heretic, but surely she could be reasoned with? The Karnakian straightened up and began typing again with renewed purpose.

________

Tra'nel'ril Station was a slowly-rotating cylinder of dull gray metal festooned with twinkling lights and antennae. Oscar thought it looked rather uninteresting until he saw a Karnakian dreadnought pass in front of it. The miles-long warship looked like a flea when beside the gigantic construct.
"Whoa." Maria stood next to Oscar's chair on the bridge as she gazed with awe at the scene projected in front of the crew. "This sort of stuff never gets old. When was this place built?"
"[It's fairly new, only about five hundred years in age.]" replied Ngralh.
Maria's brow furrowed. "Wait, if it's that new then why does this place use rotation to simulate gravity? We figured that trick out even before we went into space. Why not use gravity generators?"
"[Because gravity generators can break,]" said the XO. ["This station has an expected lifetime of about five thousand years, and that assumes minimal maintenance.]"
By now the petite human was bouncing on her toes while grinning. "We did a couple of expeditions in an abandoned station...well, in what was left of it. I can't wait to get on board and see how this one compares."
Rgrarshok let forth a soft whoof that was somehow more commanding than a snarl. "[I'm afraid you'll have to see it from afar, little one. As will [Oscar].]"
Oscar had expected the first statement, but not the second. "Hey wait a minute, Captain. I need to be there if I'm gonna get a read on the 34th Path Matriarch."
"[It's too unsafe. You have no idea how intense the enmity is between these two Paths. They haven't spoken directly to each other in [centuries], and we're still trying to figure out how to set this all up safely. If the meeting goes wrong I'm not having two [humans] stuck in the middle of a firefight.]"
"I'll have Reshy looking out for me," said Maria.
"Yeah, and I'll have Myra and a drone. We can program Junior to look after Maria as well, or just get her a drone of her own...]"
The Captain made a slashing motion with one paw. "[This is not open to debate. [Oscar], surely you remember what happened the last time I allowed you to go into an unsafe area?]"
He leaned back and shrugged. "Worked out okay in the end." Left unspoken was the fact that he was only alive thanks to some quick thinking and a healthy dose of sheer dumb luck. Not to mention Myyreh had damn near died during that whole mess.
Rgrarshok put a paw on his shoulder. "[We'll have plenty of camera drones at the meeting. It'll be just like being there.]"

________

Ma'elge'yk, known to most as The Most Reverend Beacon-of-Light-and-Matriarch-of-the-34th-Path, smoothed her yellow-hued crest in an irritated preening manner. "|She still insists on only two guards? Impossible. She still hasn't told me why she's requesting this meeting, and I'm not about to face that heathen scum with no back-up.|"
Her Second Claw looked miserable as she lowered her head in genuflection. "|Most Reverend, the other Path's Matriarch claims that she will also be accompanied by only two guards. She says that there will be one other Karnakian present in their delegation, but he is apparently her prisoner.|"
The news of the prisoner sounded intriguing. Ma'elge'yk rose and began pacing around her large office. Large windows gave the room a commanding view of the city around it. As opposed to the low-slung approach of the Thirty-Third Path, her Path's main temple consisted of a huge tower. Her office, of course, was at that tower's apex.
"|Do we know the identity of this prisoner?|" she asked.
"|Not yet, Most Reverend. Their ship is docked at Tra'nel'ril Station but no Karnakians have emerged. I have checked its registry and the ship is that of a Senate investigation team composed of Dorarizin. They are known as 'We Who Hunt Between The Spaces' and they have a reputation for extreme competence.|"
"|I see. Were the guards all that the Matriarch requested of us?|"
"|Not quite. She insists that we bring two other Karnakians to the meeting. The names are Tk'rii'na and Ka'iirt.|"
Ma'elge'yk stopped pacing and tapped one foot-claw on the stone floor in deep thought. "|That first name is familiar...oh, yes! He's the defector who arrived recently.|"
"|Correct, ma'am. I'm still trying to find out who this other 'Ka'iirt' person is. We have no record of her and she certainly didn't arrive with Tk'rii'na.|"
The Matriarch stopped her wandering and stared out the window at the sunset that streamed golden rays over the low roofs of the city beyond. She ignored the sight as her brain worked over the political ramifications of this unexpected visit. "|Very well. Contact the head of the Dorarizin and notify her that I am holding them personally responsible for our safety during this meeting. Make sure we send a copy of that message to our bishop. In the meantime, get in touch with our contacts in the Senate bureaucracy. I wish to know everything I can about that team before we meet.|"
"|It shall be done as you command. I will also make every effort to determine the identity of their prisoner.|"
Ma'elge'yk relaxed and allowed herself to drink in the vista outside. She bared her teeth without humor. "|I know of one area where we can start asking questions. Have Tk'rii'na brought to me, now.|"

________

Rgrarshok looked over the atrium one last time. It was a green and humid place, with several large pools ringed by abundant shrubs. A drone hovered above the center of each pool, casting artificial daylight over the growth. Above the drones stretched a domed ceiling, mostly transparent and overlaid with a metallic latticework. The station's current orientation meant that the ceiling showed nothing but a star-speckled blackness.
That ceiling was what really worried her. The two contending Paths were technically pacifist, but each had a congregation numbered in the billions. When dealing with such numbers even a vanishingly small percentage of bad actors meant there was a credible threat of assassination. Having a big window looking in on the meeting seemed like an open invitation for some splinter-group of feathery nut-jobs to go and get creative with a mining laser.
She turned to Ngralh. "{We've planned out each Matriarch's approach?}"
Her XO pointed at the two opposite doors leading from the atrium. "{The corridor for each has been locked down, and any corridor leading into them is covered by security drones.}"
"{Good. How are the station personnel dealing with all this?}"
Ngralh shrugged. "{Some grumbling.}"
"{If it gets bad refer them to me. Then I'll go and refer them to the First-Pack-be-Damned Senate.}" She rubbed absently at one ear. "{Also let the crew know that when this whole thing is over I'm putting in a liberty request for all of us. We could use the break.}"
He reached up and rested a friendly hand on the back of her huge neck, then squeezed gently in a massage of her tense muscles. A [human] would have thought the gesture incredibly forward, but among Dorarizin pack members such a caress was normal.
"{You need relief,}" he said matter-of-factly.
She allowed her heavy shoulders to droop a little under the force of his kneading. "{Not right now. I'm the Captain, I can't afford to play favorites...}"
"{You can't afford to run yourself down until you're furless either. You only need to say the word to any of us, you know that.}"
Rgrarshok smiled as she reached over and pulled Ngralh into her chest. "{I know, dearest. And I'd happily take any of you to bed...well, except for [Oscar]. He's a brave little thing, but perhaps too brave for his own good.}"

________

Oscar looked on glumly as he strummed his guitar. The atrium chosen for the meeting of the Matriarchs was projected in perfect resolution along one long wall of the Claw's recreational lounge, as if they overlooked the space through a clear window. He still thought it was still no substitute for the real thing.
"Must you do that?" asked Maria from her seat upon Hrathra's 'lap' of coils.
"Yeah. It helps me think," he replied.
"[Free Bird!]" said Resh'ssk.
Oscar looked in shock at the huge Jornissian curled up next to him in a loose pile. "Where the fu...flipping hell did you hear that?"
Resh'skk motioned towards Maria. "[She says it all the time whenever anyone so much as picks up a musical instrument. She refuses to tell us what it means.]"
Hrathra shushed them all with a wave of her hand. Her eyes were fixed on the display with laser focus. "[They're entering!]"
With a simultaneous precision worthy of a Marine drill team, two pairs of Karnakians emerged from opposing entrances and took up station on each side. Oscar recognized the two nearer guards as Frick and Frack.
Then with equal precision the two Matriarchs entered almost in lock-step with each other. The copper-colored feathers around Ck'Trrk'Ka's neck spread out in an instinctive threat display, then laid back flat against her neck. For her part, the yellow-colored Matriarch across the way also had a similarly brief flutter of neck-feathers which betrayed her own anger.
The two Karnakians paced closer to each other, and Oscar half expected to see them start to circle and get ready to throw down.
"[The Matriarchs have never met in person before,]" said Hrathra. "[This is a historic moment, regardless of its outcome.]"
The Dorarizin crew were spaced out in an obvious skirmish line between the two parties...with one notable exception.
"Where's your girlfriend?" asked Maria.
Oscar smiled. "She's somewhere around there, getting ready to do a ninja attack if somebody acts up. I still don't know how somebody that big can vanish so well."
Rgrarshok moved to the exact center of the atrium, then turned to address each of the posturing Karnakians. "[We are recording this meeting, but our records will be held secret as requested by both parties. My team is acting as a mediator for this conflict. I trust there will be no issues?]"
"[None on my part,]" replied Ck'Trrk'Ka. "[As for Ma'elge'yk, I would advise you to be on your guard. Who can say what sort of schemes she has planned?]"
"[May you always nest in darkness, Ck'trrk'Ka]" said the other Matriarch. She bowed, and even though he was a human Oscar picked up the sarcasm in that alien gesture. "[I see you are the first to resort to insults.]"
"[At least I'm up front about my feelings, you wretch! Admit that you possess stolen property! GIVE ME BACK TA'IRRL'QC'S CLAW!]"
Ck'Trrk'Ka gestured behind her and from that entrance Ter'yeik came slouching out. He wasn't in chains, but from his shuffling posture and downcast head he might as well be.
The coppery Matriarch turned back to face her foe. "[This fool has admitted that he goaded Tk'rii'na and Ka'iirt into stealing our most sacred object. He intended it to be a simulated robbery, however those two made it a real one. But you know this already, don't you? Bring those miscreants forward, AND the Claw!]" Her feathers began to rise in fresh rage.
Ma'elge'yk's front pair of eyes narrowed at Ck'Trrk'Ka's last imperious chirp. "[Would it surprise you to know that I had no idea of what had happened until you insisted I bring those two?]"
Ck'Trrk'Ka's feathers subsided. "[What?]"
"[I am being nothing but honest with you, which is more than you deserve.]" Ma'elge'yk turned and made an imperious gesture of her own.
The gray-feathered Karnakian that emerged into the atrium wasn't in chains either, but he walked forward as if he expected to break into shards at any moment. He held his arms against his stomach in a way that Oscar recognized all too well.
The detective stopped strumming his guitar. "That poor bastard's been beaten on."
Maria gave a little gasp. "You think so?"
"[[Oscar] is correct,]" said Resh'skk. "[I'm guessing he's taken a lot of body blows, perhaps some joint manipulation. Nothing that would leave a mark or do permanent damage.]"
Oscar saw Rgrarshok's paws clench into fists and knew that the Captain had come to the same conclusion.
Ma'elge'yk pointed at the deck beside her, and the gray Karnakian flopped forward onto his belly on the indicated spot. Oscar winced and felt a sympathy pang in his chest. He'd only gotten one good beating during his previous career but it had taken weeks before he could so much as breathe without hurting.
Ck'Trrk'Ka lowered her head in a way that looked like a bull getting ready to charge. "[Where is Ka'iirt? You will present her immediately or this meeting is at an end!]"
"[Patience, dear Reverend Mother.]" The yellow Matriarch nudged the prone Karnakian with one foot. "[Well, Tk'rii'na? Tell your former Reverend Mother where your paramour is.]"
Tk'rii'na mumbled something too softly for the camera drones to pick up.
"[Louder!]" shrieked Ma'elge'yk.
He raised his snout and gave a despairing cry. "[She stole the Claw from me on our way here! She's vanished, I don't know where she is, but Ka'iirt still has Ta'Irrl'qc's Claw!]"
The Dorarizin on the display froze while those in the rec lounge stared in shock.
Oscar stopped his plinking. "Aw, crapola."
Ma'elge'yk gestured in a 'there it is' way towards the sobbing gray form. "[You see? He showed up at our temple claiming to be a refugee from your accursed Sect and that he'd seen the error of his ways. He never mentioned taking part in any theft. We welcomed him into our group and started him anew on the path of enlightenment.]"
Ck'Trrk'Ka let forth an annoyed grumble. "[You wouldn't know enlightenment if it pulled your tail-feathers off.]" She took a few careful steps towards the prostrate Karnakian. "[Tk'rii'na, you and I have had our differences but I am willing to forgive that...]"
Ma'elge'yk gave a derisive snort, and Ck'Trrk'Ka glared up at her for a moment before continuing.
"[Help us, please. The Final Sutra is now loosed upon the universe for all to see. Surely you don't want that.]"
The miserable Karnakian shook his snout. "|My help is worthless. All I can tell you is that Ka'iirt was the real instigator. She poured honeyed words into Ter'yeik's ears, convincing him of the necessity to 'pretend' to steal the Claw. For me Ka'iirt used more, er, direct methods.]"
"[You knew from the start that the two of you would truly steal the Claw?]" asked Ck'Trrk'Ka.
He gave a slow nod of his crest. "[I confess to taking shameful delight in tricking Ter'yeik...while never imagining that Ka'iirt was tricking me just as much.}"
Ck'Trrk'Ka stared into space with a lowered crest and a haunted look in her eyes. "[So we must continue our hunt and track down Ka'irrt. She seemed to be a promising student, if a bit shy and reserved.]" She shook herself out of her musing and glared again at Ma'elge'yk. "[You do realize we'll need more evidence than this?|"
"|Of course. Interrogate him yourself, and don't spare him any pain on my account. I'm still angry he didn't tell us the truth until you arrived.|"
Rgrarshok stepped forward again. "[May I remind everyone that this is still officially a Senate investigation. If I hear or see so much as ONE more hint of torture I will take personal charge of this entire matter and pursue it as I see fit. Trust me when I say that neither of you want that.]"
She pointed a finger at the cowering figure of Tk'rii'na. "[That man is a key suspect in my investigation and I am taking charge of him Right Now.]" The Captain peeled back her lips and showed both Matriarchs all of her teeth. "[Unless someone would like to complain about that? Anyone?]"
The Matriarchs might be blinded by their hatred for each other but they weren't idiots. Both of them gave hasty nods of their crests while Ma'elge'yk made as if to nudge the gray Karnakain again. She stopped with her foot halfway to his body, looked up at the grim-faced Captain, and settled her toe-claw back down without touching him.
Rgrarshok sighed and spoke in a more gentle tone. "[[Tk'rii'na], do you have any idea where [Ka'irrt] might have gone?]"
He didn't speak, just shook his crest in a negative.
"[All right. I'm taking you to my ship, we'll have our medic look you over and perform a more detailed questioning there.]"
Tk'rii'na shuddered, and in response Rgrarshok spoke even more quietly.
"[We'll just ask questions, all right? You might know something important and not realize it.]" The Captain looked up towards one of the floating camera drones. "[Kgrashak and [Oscar], meet us in the hangar.]"
Ma'elge'yk raised her crest. "[You would involve a [human] in an internal Karnakian affair?]"
Rgrarshok narrowed her purple eyes. "[You know of him?]"
"[I make it my business to know everything about the people I meet. I'm surprised you trust a primitive to run about loose on your ship. Or perhaps you merely use him as a distraction?]"
Rgrarshok didn't reply. Instead, she walked over to Tk'rii'na and gently pulled him to his feet.
"That's bullshit," said Maria. "You were the one who nailed Teriyaki. Why doesn't the Captain correct her?"
"Because she wants them to underestimate me," said Oscar. "And so do I."
As the Captain began to lead Tk'rii'na away, Ma'elge'yk chirped up again. "[Hold! That creature has brought dishonor to our Path. I insist on being present for his questioning.]"
"[As do I!]" chirped Ck'Trrk'Ka.
The Captain performed The Migraine Salute as she gently rubbed her temple with her free hand. "[Okay. You may both be present at Tk'rii'na's questioning, but only the two of you. No guards. And if either of you so much as raise your voice to me or to each other during my questioning I will invite you both to watch the proceedings from inside our lovely and spacious airlock.]"

________

Ma'elge'yk stopped dead as she settled eyes upon Oscar. She was halfway out of her own shuttlecraft; letting the latter land in the Claw's hangar was a necessary allowance since there was no way they could put the two Matriarchs in the same shuttle. That would just end in a lot of blood and many loose feathers.
The 34th Path Matriarch continued to stare at him for a long moment while Oscar realized that being stared at by an apex predator didn't trigger a 'flee for the hills' response in him like it used to. It seemed that humans could get used to almost anything.
"[What an amazing sight,]" she murmured.
"Yeah, yeah, humans got a sparkly soul, heard it before. You go stand over there."
Ck'Trrk'Ka emerged from the Claw's shuttlecraft parked on the other side of the deck, and Oscar turned to point at a spot opposite the 34th Path Matriarch.
"Ma'am, you stand there please."
He looked up at Kgrashak, and the ship's medic nodded. "[We're ready, [Oscar].]"
He glared at each Matriarch, then hooked a thumb over his shoulder at the dull metal sphere of the security drone hovering behind him. "Okay, ladies. This here's Junior. He takes it unkindly if anyone comes towards me, and he's got lots of tasers and nano-net guns with which to express his displeasure. So I'm gonna stand next to Mr. Gray Boy while Kate does her exam and while the Captain talks to him. If either of you get all antsy and approach, he's gonna take it as a threat to my person. Understand?"
He got two reluctant nods in response. Oscar knew that Myyreh would not be happy with him for placing himself right in the middle of two feuding Matriarchs, but he figured it was a reasonably safe situation. For starters, there were only the two Karnakians to deal with instead of them plus their respective retinues. Second, each of them was trying to act as the 'reasonable adult' while goading the other into doing something foolish. Oscar figured that their pride wouldn't allow them to make the first attack. Not to mention that with him in the center there was no way they'd risk harming a human. Again.
He made a mental note to treat Myyreh to a nice long ear-rub session tonight as an apology for making her worry.
While he mused, the Captain stepped out of the Claw's shuttle while holding Tk'rii'na's wing. She led him to the center of the hangar. "[This is our ship's medic, Kgrashak. She'll check for any serious injuries.]"
Tk'rii'na still looked miserable, but he did seem to appreciate the attention as Kgrashak stepped forward and began to touch his chest with gentle paws.
As the doctor and patient murmured to each other, Rgrarshok turned to Oscar. "[What did you make of the meeting?]"
He blew out a breath. "This is turning into an absolute clusterfuck." He nodded towards the gray Karnakian next to him. "If it turns out he's telling the truth then it seems this Katy-bird character played everybody for suckers. Do you think money's her motive? I can imagine the Claw would be worth a lot to the right people."
The Captain gave a thoughtful click of her fangs. "[It is a unique item. There are certain unscrupulous collectors out there who would pay a great deal for such a thing.]"
"Would the 33rd Matriarch have Katy-bird's picture and DNA on file?" asked Oscar.
She nodded. "[I already have Bgrarh and Egwreh scanning public records for [Ka'iirt's] likeness and DNA. We should be able to correlate it with [Tk'rii'na's] information and track her from the time she left him.]"
"[I already tried searching for Ka'iirt,]" said Tk'rii'na. "[I was hoping that if I could contact her then I could convince her to return the Claw.]"
"[With respect, our people are very well-versed in this sort of search,]" replied the Captain. "[How is he, Kgrashak?]"
The medic straightened up from her examination of his wing-root. "[No broken bones or torn tendons, just a few contusions. More painful than anything else, certainly nothing life-threatening.]"
"[Bunch of savages,]" muttered Rgrarshok. "[They're no better than the Inquisition.]"
Oscar was surprised that the Captain would speak of a Dorarizin institution with such venom. She looked down at him with a half-smile at his unspoken question. "[One can be a Dorarizin and still object to their methods.]"
Her eyes unfocused, and Oscar knew she was thinking of the past. Then she shook herself back to the present. "[Now [Tk'rii'na], let's go over what happened in detail...]"

________

"And she didn't say anything before she up and vanished?" asked Oscar.
Tk'rii'na shook his crest. "[No. That last night we nested together as usual, and when I woke she was gone from my arms, and so was the bag that held the Claw and its case.]"
"[We might be leaping before properly cornering our prey,]" said Kgrashak. "[Perhaps [Ka'iirt] was kidnapped?]"
"No, she did leave me something,]" said Tk'rii'na. "When I woke I found a note from her along with a crudely-made replica of the Claw.]"
Oscar rubbed his forehead. "Talk about burying the lede. That's the first piece of physical evidence we've heard of! Why didn't you say so before now?"
The gray Karnakian motioned with his snout towards Ma'elge'yk. "[She told me not to speak of it until on board this ship.]"
Rgrarshok looked daggers at the yellow Karnakian. "[Is this true?]"
"[Such evidence represents a great deal of leverage,]" said the 34th Path Matriarch. "[I knew you would interrogate him here and I wanted to ensure that I was present.]"
"[You see?]" hissed Ck'Trrk'Ka from across the hangar. "[I warned you of her deception!]"
"[True, and I warned both of you I was not going to put up with any shenanigans,]" said Rgrarshok. She pointed a claw at Ma'elge'yk. "[If that evidence is not in our hands within [sixty seconds], I will charge you with obstruction of justice and arrest you. I am not bluffing.]"
The yellow Matriarch bowed. "[I have seen your service record, Captain. I know you never bluff. And I also know why you object to the type of...physical persuasion that I used on that wretch.]" She settled her red eyes on Oscar and grinned. "[Does he know, I wonder? Have you told him anything of your former career?]"
Oscar folded his arms and gave her an unimpressed stare. "Lady, are you expecting the cute little human to be shocked by someone's dark past? You have no idea of the shit I've been through. And by the way, you've now got thirty seconds left to make with the handing over."
Ma'elge'yk sighed. "[Very well. Consider this a gesture of good faith.]" She unfastened a side pouch from her clothing and held it out. "[It may not be the most pristine piece of evidence. I haven't touched it, but other than that I can't say.]"
Within moments Rgrashok had the pouch in her paws while Oscar reached into a side pocket to retrieve a few self-sealing evidence bags. The Captain shook the contents of the pouch into separate bags while the pouch itself went into another.
Once the bags were sealed, Oscar finally took the time to look their contents over while Rgrarshok looked over his shoulder. The note was on a piece of scrap paper and was of course unreadable to him. The fake Claw was as Tk'rii'na had described, a rough copy of the real thing formed from some sort of red clay.
He pointed at the note. "Can you read this?"
The Captain peered closer. "[It says, 'This is the only Claw you deserve, you fool'. It's unsigned.]"
"[It's her handwriting, though,]" said Tk'rii'na. He stared at the deck sadly. "[In the end, I was nothing more than a convenient idiot for her.]"
Oscar bounced the bagged-up fake Claw in his palm. "Why this, though?" he mused. "The note kinda makes sense, but this bullshit is way too theatrical. There must be some reason she left it."
He bounced it again. Something was off about the replica, something his hindbrain was yelling about. "Is this clay?"
"[It appears to be,]" said Rgrarshok. "[It must have been air-dried instead of fired. It's already starting to crumble at the tip, there.]"
"Yeah..." Oscar bounced it once more, and knew what was wrong. "It's too heavy."
Rgrarshok tilted her head. "[Eh?]"
Oscar held out his palm with the bagged Claw resting on top of it as he judged its weight. "This is too heavy to be just clay. Now you folks might not have noticed, seein' as how y'all can pick up cars with your pinkies and whatnot. But this feels more like a metal in density."
He held the bag up so that it was in line of sight of his drone. "Junior, can you do a scan on this and see if it has anything inside it?"
A grid-work of glowing blue lines appeared over the fake Claw, then the grid collapsed into a single dot in the center of the clay replica. "[There is a metallic device buried in the middle of this object,]" said the drone in a monotone voice.
"[Does it appear dangerous?]" asked Kgrashak. Her paws twitched as if she was getting ready to grab for Oscar.
"[The object is quiescent at the moment,]" replied Junior. "[It appears to primarily consist of a Galnet node.]"
Oscar felt the familiar endorphin rush from figuring out another big piece of a puzzle. "Shit. I was wondering if something like this would turn up."
Tk'rii'na looked up in surprise. "[You expected such a thing?]"
"Sure. See, if money's her motive then Katy-bird can try to sell it to a shady collector. But it would be even better to sell it back to the people she stole it from. Which means she's got to have a safe way to get in touch with us..."
"[The device has reacted to this unit's scan,]" said Junior in the same robotic voice. "[It is becoming active.]"
Before Oscar could blink the evidence bag was gone from his hand and tossed into the far corner of the hangar. In another eye-blink his world went dark as he was surrounded by dual mountains of muscle and fur.
"Pthah!" He spit out a mouthful of the Captain's gray fur. "Guyth, theriously, ith not a bomb." He wriggled against both Rgrarshok and the medic as he tried to figure out which way was up. "Let me out, dammit!"
From beyond his little cocoon he could hear an unfamiliar voice. It sounded a bit tinny, as if projected from a loudspeaker. "[Eh? What's that? The signal! Ah-HA! Yes yes yes, it's about time!]"
Oscar made a desperate push in the voice's general direction and managed to pop his head out from an area near Kgrashak's armpit. He spat out more fur and looked in a hurry towards the bagged fake Claw while the rest of him was still swaddled between a pair of Dorarizin.
A holographic projection now stood over the bag, a Karnakian with bright green plumage accented by a 'collar' of yellow feathers around her neck. Her teeth were bared in a triumphant smile as she swept her gaze over those assembled on the hangar deck.
"[Ka'iirt! You TRAITOR!]" yelled Ck'trrk'ka. "[We know of your crimes! Give back what you've stolen!]"
The green Karnakian peered at her. "[I'm afraid that Ka'iirt is not my true name, dear Reverend Mother.]" She looked over at Ma'elge'yk on the other side of the hangar, then reared back and let out a trilling cackle as she raised her clawed hands in triumph. "[Both Matriarchs are present! This is glorious, truly a fitting finale to a crime [three decades] in the making! You privileged few are witness to the greatest criminal feat of the last [five hundred years]!]"
The Dorarizin unfolded themselves from around Oscar. The Captain held him off the floor with one paw before setting him carefully down on his feet. "[Rgrarshok-of-of-Ngraz, Captain of the Senate ship Furious Claw of Inquiry. Whom am I addressing?]"
"[And there's a [human] here too!]" said the projected Karnakian as she gazed at Oscar. "[Even better that the newest species be present to see my triumph. My dear Captain, I shall not be so foolish as to give you my real name. But in due time all shall tremble when they hear of my deeds, of the crimes committed by...]"
She paused, Oscar couldn't believe it, the crazy dino actually did a fucking dramatic pause and looked around at all of them while she bounced on her feet like a kid bursting with a secret. She clenched her claws together before screeching out...
"[THE SILKEN FEATHER!]"
There was a very long and utterly silent pause on the hangar deck, one that was finally broken by Rgrarshok.
"[Who?]"
submitted by Frank_Leroux to HFY