RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 3
Episode 3 â€" Dream A Little Dream

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
-Dr. Seuss


The Baroness found herself sitting at a patio table, looking at a single white daisy in her hand. A warm summer breeze ruffled her skirt as she stood up. She smoothed her hands over the chocolate-colored cotton dotted with small cream polka dots â€" her favorite dress, though it occurred to her that she hadn’t worn it in years. A few dark storm clouds flickered in the distance, but for now a perfect pink sunset framed the western sky.

She made her way toward a gazebo where a live band was playing. She’d been here before, she knew it. There was the bride dancing with her groom, laughing as they plodded through their moves to the song they’d first kissed to. In a moment, their flower girl would knock over a punch bowl and cry until she realized her white dress would now be pink â€" Baroness wasn’t sure why she knew that, but she did. On the other side of the party, her date was off having a drink and laughing with his friends. They hadn’t spoken since they arrived, something he did increasingly often now that they were engaged, and she was sure that any mention of that fact would just lead to a blowup on the way home. She looked down at the ring weighing on her finger and sighed. She was so tired of being in the middle of a crowd and feeling so completely alone.

Still clutching the daisy, she leaned against the stair rail to the gazebo as the band picked up a melody. There was something familiar, yet out of place about it as the violinist picked through the opening notes. As she puzzled through that, a cooler breeze from an approaching storm caressed her hair while her eyes registered the first of the fireflies signaling in the dying light.

“Good evening, Butterfly.â€

She turned toward a familiar voice, his green eyes making her heart skip a beat. Her smile was involuntary. “Baron von Gosu.â€

“May I?†The next thing she knew, Baroness was up in the gazebo, swaying with Baron to the strains of the song. Except that she wasn’t Baroness; not yet, anyway. Thunder growled faintly in the distance, and he held her a little bit closer against the cooling night.

As they danced, it suddenly occurred to her what was wrong.

“I’m dreaming, aren’t I?â€

Baron didn’t miss a step. “What makes you think that?â€

“Because I remember this day. Two things are off about it. The first is that this song won’t debut for another three years.†She looked up at him a moment, then squeezed him tight. “The other is that you weren’t at that party. I’d just spent that whole night wishing you were.â€

As the storm approached, a rumble sounded a little more closely as they continued to circle the gazebo. “Alright, Butterfly,†he continued as the first drops of rain blew in on the breeze, “so if you’re dreaming, what is the dream trying to tell you?â€

Her brow furrowed in thought for a few moments as they danced on. “I…â€

Just then, a loud crash of thunder startled the Baroness awake in her own bed.

Across town, Hax sat on the balcony of his new flat watching the storm roll in over the lake. The air was chilly, but still much warmer than it had been, and he left the sliding glass door open to circulate in some fresh air while he waited for his coffee to brew. Beside him on the small patio table rested the crumpled front page of the morning’s Plain Dealer, its headline reading about a bus fire the day prior in Public Square â€" slow news day, he guessed.

He stayed out a few more minutes, watching the small boats on the water racing for shore before he went back to the kitchen. As aggravating as American life was to a steadfast Brit, as he stood in the doorway looking about the rooms, he had to admit there were some perks to working with Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The penthouse they’d arranged for him had been kitted out to his exact specifications: sound- and RF-proofed walls, a dedicated server room with adjoining office hidden behind a bookcase door, and plenty of ethernet sockets in all the rooms. These were necessary for his work -- his real work, not this cocked-up cover that had him contracting brain cancer at intervals throughout the week. Hax frowned. He’d have to remind HQ that his time might be better spent on alternate pursuits, like banging his head repeatedly against the wall, or perhaps even seeking out information on the whereabouts of Da Bark Lurd.
The personalised touches, however, were quite nice. His patio area opened off of a large, light-coloured room with plenty of comfortable seating for the LAN parties he looked forward to hosting. The short wall was taken up by a rather ostentatiously sized flat panel television set run to his gaming computer; the remaining walls were covered in framed posters of bands, favorite movies, and RCM shows. To one side of the room, a well-stocked mini bar sat near the entrance to a large kitchen; opposite that, the hallway which ran back to the secret bookcase, a well-appointed bath, and Hax’s bedroom.

But his personal favourite was a smaller, yet comfortable room just off the main area. Filled with sunlight, stacks of CDs and sheet music spread everywhere, it was anchored by a magnificent 1953 Bechstein grand piano. Hax chuckled to himself as he resumed his trek to the kitchen. There was nothing particularly special to him about the 1953 year; it had been more of an arbitrary condition he’d thrown in solely to make Parker Bennett’s life slightly more aggravating. But sod if he hadn’t found one, and an exquisite one at that.

As he poured the fresh brew into his cup, the one thing Hax decided did need some ramping up in the flat was the electronic security, as he saw the reflection of Bennett’s face appear suddenly on the side of the steel carafe.

“Bugger me,†the spy said with an air of awe, “where in the hell did you find Taylor’s? That stupid piano was a cakewalk to find in comparison of acquiring decent coffee in this country.â€

Hax smiled politely. “It was a gift. Baroness has an…uncanny way of procuring exactly what she wants.†He paused. “Well, aside from real Cadburys, but knowing her, even that will be only a matter of time.â€

“You might have said something,†Bennett stared longingly at the coffee cup. “I think it’s time I formally met your lovely friend, and real chocolate might have made a splendid gift.â€

Hax’s face turned dark. “Leave her alone. The last girl you brought chocolates to almost died as a result.â€

“That wasn’t my fault!†Bennett snapped. “I would never have…†He let the words trail off as he and Hax stood glowering at each other for a moment, then closed his eyes and slowly drew in a calming breath. “I would never have intentionally hurt her. That poison had been intended for me, not by me.â€

For a second, Hax noticed a flash of something he didn’t think was possible in Bennett’s nature â€" a look of anguish. It was so pitiful that in spite of the history between them, he muttered a bit of an apology and poured a mug of coffee for his uninvited guest. As Hax offered the milk and sugar, Bennett pulled an envelope from his inner coat pocket and tossed it onto the table.

“What’s this?â€

“I was hoping you could tell me.†Bennett took an appreciative sip of the coffee as Hax pulled out a handful of photographs. There was something strangely familiar about the scene in the backgrounds, and when he flipped to the third shot he suddenly understood why.

“The bus fire from yesterday?â€

“Quite. Keep going.â€

Hax sifted through a few more close-ups of the smoldering vehicle before hitting on that to which Bennett was referring: There, in the middle of a large horde of supermodel-esque women, was Baron von Gosu. “What the bloody hell…?â€

“Our informant recognized von Gosu from a picture on the bulletin we put out regarding the whole Bark Lurd business. He was seen coming off of the bus as the flames gutted the interior, but no one can figure out why he was there. Traffic cameras put him driving his own vehicle into the city and parking not far from where the bus stopped. He was scheduled to be at an appointment in the southern suburbs of the city at that time, and the interior of the bus was completely incinerated â€" our team couldn’t collect anything to help us figure out what happened. The only avenue left that might pose a clue was that the traffic cameras showed him taking a route in the direction of his appointment, but then taking a call on his mobile and suddenly changing directions.†Bennett paused and gave a scowl. “And of course, the Americans won’t release us the call logs because of their “citizens’ right to privacyâ€, although they keep and use extensive illegal recordings themselves constantly. The hypocrisy in this nation is astounding.â€

Hax sighed as he stared at the photo. “So in short, no one knows what happened.â€

“Precisely. So chin-up; you’re trading your new day job for a much more interesting spy assignment.†Bennett took another swig from his mug, pausing mid-sip before he suddenly grabbed a serviette from nearby and slammed his fist hard on the side of the table. The sudden movement caused Hax to jerk backward. Bennett pulled the towel back and presented the remains of a large brown spider. He grimaced, tossing the mess into the waste bin before pulling out a package of Benson & Hedges.

“Really, Haxor, the place is new. You should make a point to tidy up a bit.â€

Hax pointed at the door. “Out. Now. I will contact you when I find something.â€

Bennett raised his hands in surrender and said nothing as he headed out.

“And stay away from Baroness. I mean it.â€

“Just find out what her husband was doing on that bus,†Bennett called back over his shoulder as the reinforced steel door swung quietly shut on its hydraulic hinge.

Hax waited a few moments, then went over and turned the deadbolts on the door. Not that it would really matter; he’d once gone on a mission with Bennett to break into a certain government’s communication facility to code a program designed to counteract one put in place by Hezbollah agents, and had been impressed with how Bennett cracked through multiple mechanical locks in no time at all. An electrified lock, however, might shock Her Majesty’s top spy into some semblance of humility. That would be a long shot, but at the very least it would be an entertaining zap.

But home improvement projects would have to wait. For now, the most important thing was retracing Baron’s steps over the past few weeks; Hax’s gut told him the bus incident might be related to the concerns Baroness had recently shared about her husband’s erratic behaviour. To that end, he felt it best to invite his first guest over to the flat and reached for his mobile. She picked up on the third ring.

“Baroness? It’s…well, yes, I suppose you would know who it is. I wanted to say I’m terribly sorry about the incident with the waitress. I’ve been given a different work assignment better suited to my skills, so perhaps...yes, I did receive the package, thank you, and yes, I think it did help. In fact, I was wondering if I might invite you over for dinner…â€

Crap, what happened last time?
On to the next episode
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