Swamped Chapter 56 Page 4

Well. You can’t just reveal the big one right away. That’d be too obvious. It’s better to start with a few of the more recognizable sightings. Make them think this is a normal piece of business, for now. They’re likely to let down their guard if they think you’re not trying to pull something.

“So to begin with, we’ve confirmed several sightings of rainbow mallows taking over the nesting grounds of the common variety…”

Odd. This story’s been going around the base for a couple of days now. So why does one officer look so nervous?

“You, there,” you call out, pointing to them. “Get up here.”

The officer walks to the front, clearly worried.

“What’s your name? I don’t think we’ve worked together before.”

“It’s Toobles. Er, I haven’t had many assignments as an officer yet. I arrived here two years ago, and only got promoted just before the last storm.”

“Oh, really? Guess that’s why. What’s that name mean?”

“Well, er, I couldn’t think of anything better when they asked me for one.”

So. Fairly recent recruit. New to the position. Nervous as heck.

Could just be how they are, or they could have something to hide.

“And who recommended you for promotion, out of curiosity?”

“Well, you see, when I got here my squad was rather injury-prone. I asked Doc for advice on how to keep that under control, and after about a year she was impressed enough with our progress that she got me made squad leader. Um, and apparently I did a good enough job of that for Snapper to put in a good word for me. Mind, it’s just provisional for now, to see how I do in the job.”

Snapper. He’s got a reputation as Claws’ “errand boy”. Gets the jobs that are too minor to give to more experienced officers. He doesn’t complain, though, probably because those jobs tend to be a lot safer.

“You seem a little nervous, Toobles. Any particular reason?”

“Well, I mean…” Toobles pauses. “I’m just always worried I’m not doing a good enough job, you know? If I mess up, that’s it, I’m just a regular grunt again. And, well, this is my first time in a meeting with the Council members, right? So I’m a bit on edge.”

“Really,” you say. “You seemed to be holding together just fine up until I mentioned the mallows.”

“Um. Well, you see, I’ve been sitting here for… two hours now? Three? And it was right at that point that I happened to realize I need to relieve myself.”

So far, Toobles’ story sounds plausible.

“There’s a closet over there with a chamber pot in it,” you reply, pointing it out.

“Oh! Thanks. I’m not familiar with the layout here.”

Toobles rushes off to the closet, and you feel like you haven’t really learned anything yet.

Well, guess you might as well get back on track. You’ll just need a moment to remember what you were planning to bring up next.

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This might be more difficult since you’ve made clear you’re singling out nervous folks.

…Razor must not think there are very many spies here, if there were, you’d be pretty outnumbered.

Mention a few more of the common sightings and then casually slip in the beetle larvae. Odd behavior could include people who are calm in the face of news, as if it’s expected.

Author’s Note:

I don’t remember if this was a deliberate choice I made at the time or if I just put down “two years” without thinking much about it, but Toobles here is actually newer than Rivers and Starling. Of course, we don’t know how much relevant experience he had when he arrived.