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Scatterhorn Mask / Helm / Hood
"Anything else, Arrha?"
"I'm already bored."
"Tee-tahn is still ripe with plunder, the Spider, and now the plunder comes to us! The Guardian Slohn sends shipments of it to Terra in unmanned craft. Relies on the cloaking to protect it. But the cloaking cannot stop a web. Not if we know where to cast it."
"How interesting." Spider scratches his chin. "Very good, Arrha. It's time for you to go fishing."
Spider heaves a put-upon sigh. "Catch me one of those boats, you fool."
"Yes, the Spider. I shall."
Only when he is outside the Spider's audience chamber does Arrha allow himself a frustrated growl. "'Catch a boat, Arrha.' That was the idea…"
Scatterhorn Grasps / Gauntlets / Wraps
Spider leans forward in his throne, surveying the crates Arrha has brought before him. "What have you caught in my web?"
The haul, it turns out, is almost entirely composed of Golden Age astronomy equipment. Deep space scanners, detailed maps of arcologies, comets, space stations within the system—even a few outside it. Arrha has only ever heard of a few of these places, and he grew up devouring the tales of his ancestors' journeys after the Whirlwind.
This haul is priceless.
Spider is uninterested.
"I suppoooose I can find a buyer for this," he says with a dismissive wave of his hand. "The Awoken have no use for these trinkets, of course, but perhaps someone in the Earth-City will bite." He clicks his mandibles. "Disappointing, Arrha. Disappointing."
"I hope very much that the ship's log will be more edifying. You brought it to me, of course?"
"Yes, the Spider." Head bowed to hide his disappointment, Arrha hands Spider a datapad.
Spider scrolls through it with three of his eyes closed. Only when he reaches the bottom do all of his eyes open. "It says here that your Sloane believes an unknown party is stealing from Green Dove Arcology."
"I am stealing from New Pacific Arcology," Arrha says with a trace of a pout.
Spider ignores him.
"Arrha, let Brivi take over the web. You will discover for me the identity of this enterprising thief."
"Yes, the Spider."
Scatterhorn Vest / Plate / Robes
"Come now, my potential new friend," Spider encourages. "Let's have a chat. I see from your robes that you are from the noble order of the Dead Orbit. You were returning from Green Dove Arcology when you accepted my invitation—"
"—Your four-arms captured me!"
"—and I have here your ship's manifest." Spider waves a data pad. "How careless of you, little thief."
"That was encrypted."
"And now it is not."
Spider considers Ghislaine, his four eyes closing one after the other and then opening again.
He sits up. "How rude of me. This is no way to begin a friendship. Not only will I speed you on your way to Titan, my friend, but I will give you an armillary recovered from New Pacific Arcology."
In the corner where Petra used to stand, Arrha sulks.
Spider grins. "In exchange, perhaps you will give me something from your previous shipment. Nothing of value; just a symbolic gesture of our new relationship. Perhaps… number eighty-nine on the manifest?"
"My manifest only went up to seventy-one," says Ghislaine.
"Now, what a useless little lie."
"It's true. Search my ship, if you haven't already. You must have scraped a different Dead Orbit ship manifest off our network."
"Ah." Spider tries not to click his mandibles in displeasure, even though he's fairly certain this Earthling wouldn't recognize the gesture if he did. "So this…" he pauses to read from the data pad, pretending like he's forgotten what it says. "…Oil likeness of eight moons over a village… is already with your Dead Orbit associates on Earth?"
"Unless they're even unluckier than me."
Spider gestures at Arrha. "See our new friend out. Make sure she and her ship leave here unharmed."
Scatterhorn Strides / Greaves / Boots
Spider's operative within Dead Orbit is a man named Howe who sounds truly terrified to receive a direct call from his covert employer.
Spider buries his real desire within a long list of weapons and ammunition, but Howe still manages to single it out.
"Did you say number eighty-nine on manifesto Dove 15?"
"I do not believe I stuttered."
"But that's… it's so old. Pre-Golden Age, we think. Linde's best guess is that it was part of a moving art exhibit."
"You tell me nothing I do not already know."
"But… why do you want it?"
Spider might have let the man live, up until now.
A pity, really.
"All you need to know is how much I will pay you if you bring it to me."
"All right," Howe says dubiously. "Give me a hundred hours."
"You have forty."
Spider ends the call, and begins the process of wiping it from the records.
Scatterhorn Cloak / Mark / Bond
Howe's body grows cold by the time Spider can tear his eyes away from the painting.
"Beautiful. Truly beautiful. And achieved without a Traveler or any of its nonsense."
He waves to Arrha with a lower arm while holding the painting with his other three.
"Clear the room."
Arrha bows and exits, dragging Howe's body with him. The doors slam closed.
Spider pushes himself to his feet, turns to face his throne.
He sings. Mo Li Hua, an ancient song of Earth. As he finishes the first verse, his throne dematerializes to reveal a stone stairway leading down.
The chamber below is cool and dry. Shelves line the walls. This display case contains crowns made of gold and silver, antler bone and velvet. The next is filled with red clay pottery adorned with monsters and heroes.
Spider passes a case filled with beautifully illuminated books and scrolls. He reaches a wall nearly covered with paintings.
In the gap between a painting of a bovine skull over a double waterfall and a portrait of a human with a coy smile, he places his prize:
"The Starry Night."
List of appearances