Time: Shortly before the beginning of Beside a Black Tarn
Benny squinted at the pink being on his viewscreen. "Does your Papa Shax know you're using comm without, you know, adult supervision?"
The spiny head bobbed up and down, vanishing and reappearing several times before the little guy managed to get something in place to use as a booster on the pilot's chair.
"No, he does not know. I could ask him things instead. But, independence."
"Hope I don't catch shit for this, short stuff," Benny muttered.
The Brimstone had caught up to Lunette during the ship's night cycle. Since it was a planned meeting, Lunette the space shark was content to circle the Brimstone until captain and crew woke up. Benny was awake. He was usually awake. Self-preservation had beaten the habit of sleeping more than twenty minutes at a time out of him.
The hedgehog managed to look offended, and that wasn't an everyday kind of thing. "My side jobs are mine. He is aware I have them. My private income."
"Okay." Benny drew the word out as his mind raced through probable outcomes. As long as the little demon spawn was telling the truth, everything would be fine. If he was lying… Well, Shaxy needed him. They had a good business relationship. "So you've got something of your own you want me to, ah, appraise for you. Something your papa can't, maybe?"
Leopold vanished again and there was a lot of peeping and grunting. Finally, the pink spines reappeared and Leopold wrestled a black box up onto the console. His cute little paws struggled with the latch for a few seconds. Easy to dismiss Leopold as cute, to underestimate him. Benny knew better than to judge the intelligence or threat-level of any being on appearance. Box open, Leopold turned it toward the screen.
Benny stared for a good thirty seconds. "Fuck me sideways with an engine turbine," he whispered. "It's been years since I saw one of those."
Inside the box on padded satin sat a black orb, so dark it tried to drink the light around it. While the thing did a good impression of a black hole, it wasn't one, of course. Lunette would never have circled so close to one. Instead of swallowing light and matter, it absorbed something else. Truth.
"You even know what you have there, Son of Shax?"
The pink head bobbed up and down. "I have done research. An Obfuscational Orb. At least that's its name."
"Okay. Close the box, kiddo. Um. Do you know what it does?"
Somehow hedgehog shoulders managed a shrug. Uncanny. That was the word for things like Leopold. Sure, Benny felt a little bad about it, but the bizarre giant hedgie made him uncomfortable. He shouldn't have existed.
"Great. A little background on the OO. From what I know, there's only five of the things. There were six but one got smashed in the wreck of the Polyphemus. Supposedly."
Again, Leopold nodded, pointing to the box.
"Yeah. Was afraid of that. You've got the one from the Polyphemus." Benny sighed. "Great. Just fucking great. Anyway, what it does is make it impossible for everyone around you to know if you're lying. You can tell the biggest juiciest lies ever and people think it's, you know, gospel and stuff. It's some neuro-interference transmitter. No one knows how it works, since the guy who invented them's dead. Really, really dead. Don't ask."
Leopold closed the box slowly and fastened the latch.
"You want me to give you a price on it? Can't do it. Only way to sell it is to a hungry buyer, some schmuck willing to toss down a pile. Finding a buyer and negotiating exposes you. Exposes me. That one's hot. So hot you could power a freighter with it. The owners are still alive and liable to ping to it if you try to sell, right? You hold onto it for a few decades until it's not so hot. Better yet, get rid of the scary fucking thing."
Leopold let out a sad peep and reached to cut the connection.
"Hey. Leo. You came to me for advice? You don't gotta listen. None of my business. But I've got one more important bit for you. Don't hide things from your papa. It'll just come around to bite your ass."
The little guy signed off and Benny stared at the screen, still for a long moment while he processed. When he had sifted through his brain to be certain there wasn't anything immediately dangerous about the information, he filed it with all of the other items his mind held onto for possible future need.
He shook himself, chomped a corner off a protein bar, and went back to processing the interstellar datastream.