RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 6
Chapter 6 â€" Snakes and Spiders

“I haven’t seen a spider around the house in days. WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY PLANNING?†â€"Robin Williams

*****

Hax had brought his suitcases out and was just sitting down to play a little XCOM while waiting for Varyar to pick him up on the way to the airport when a knock came on the door. He checked his watch in confusion; Varyar’s stated time for arrival wasn’t for another twenty minutes, which meant his actual arrival would be in about an hour. Checking his CCTV feed, whomever was on the other side of the door knew of his security precautions and had blocked the camera’s eye. Hax ran through his options: It could be a rogue assassin from one of his previous adventures with MI6 finally catching up with him for revenge. Worse yet, it could be one of his former “customers†from the asinine “home computer tech†cover showing up for similar reasons (he may have entertained himself with the inclusion of questionable animal pictures when he reinstalled the OS and software programs on certain users’ PCs). The most likely candidate, of course, was Bennett, but Hax decided to pull his Walther out from its hiding place behind the stereo just to be on the safe side.

“Really, Haxor?†the Brit said with annoyance as Hax nudged open the door. “You know I could disarm you in seconds, but it would be difficult to explain to your friends how your shoulder became dislocated. Now, if you’ve finished playing with your gun, we’ve only twenty minutes until your friend arrives, and there’s work to be done.â€

Now was Hax’s turn to be annoyed. “You’ve tapped my mobile, then?â€

“Don’t sound so shocked. You’re the one who came up with the technology for us, so you knew it was a probability. Now come along, we’re wasting time.â€

This person truly has no appreciable qualities, Hax thought to himself. There should be some sort of basic test and graduation before one gets any civilised treatment. But if Bennett really believed that Varyar would arrive in twenty minutes time, which meant he hadn’t yet realised the Varyar Time Differential, Hax might get a solid forty minutes of gameplay after all. He bit his lip and tried not to grin smugly. “Quite. Better hurry, Varyar’s been known to arrive a few moments early.â€

Bennett was already plugging a laptop into the LAN and entering in his retinal scan and encryption code, which meant whatever he was about to share was stored in the server that held the most classified secrets of the United Kingdom. Hax had been asked once by Her Majesty’s government to hack into that server to test for any weak spots in the security, and it had been one of the most challenging puzzles he’d ever encountered. His interest was piqued. After logging in, Bennett stared oddly at the screen for a moment before stepping silently back from the keyboard and flopping himself down on the sofa.

Queued up on the screen was a video clip from the previous night’s BBC news broadcast. Puzzled, Hax glanced back at Bennett, but the secret agent had his eyes closed and his face belied no context for what the clip might contain. Slowly, Hax reached over to the keyboard and tapped â€~play.’

*****
“BBC News, I’m Moira Atkinson. A woman in Hampshire was shocked to discovered one of the world’s most venomous spiders in a pack of bananas purchased from Tesco.

“The woman, who has asked not to be identified, first discovered a white “spider cocoon†and webbing as she was about to feed her six-year-old nephew. When she went to investigate further, she realised the cocoon had broken open, and then noticed the spider hiding under the remaining bananas on the counter. Authorities praised the woman’s quick thinking to thrust the bananas into a sealed box in the freezer, as the RSPCA confirmed the specimen was a Phoneutria, commonly known as Brazilian wandering spider.


“Brazilian wandering spiders are listed by the Guinness World Records as the world’s most venomous spiders, and the nocturnal creatures have earned the nickname of “banana spiders†because of their preference for building their webs amongst the fruit when they are not hunting at night. They are one of the relatively few species of spiders known to present a threat to humans, having a toxic venom that in sufficient quantity can kill a human in just an hour. Authorities are still investigating the incident.â€

*****

“Wait,†Hax said as the video closed, “wasn’t there another incident not long ago where another woman found wandering spider eggs in her bananas as well?â€

“South Wales, beginning of March,†Bennett confirmed. “And of course, the NHS has no antivenom in the country because they let their batch expire in 2011 and didn’t see reason to restock. Bloody politicians. Fortunately, there’s an entrepreneur who has a factory in Australia churning out a synthetic version as we speak. Chap named Bippy.â€

“Well, you’d think Tesco would start checking these things before one of their customers pops their clogs.â€

“It’s not just Tesco, though,†Bennett finally opened his eyes and reached over to the keypad. A couple of clicks brought up a slew of articles from newspapers all over the UK. “October 2014 saw reported cases in Staffordshire and South London. September 2014, a woman in Essex found eggs in bananas she bought from Tesco. She had to incinerate her vacuum cleaner after using it to clean them up. The prior March had another incident in Staffordshire. November 2013, an incident in London originated from an ill-advised trip to Sainsbury’s. 2008, an outbreak that closed a Tesco store in Kent. 2005, a pub chef in Bridgwater was hospitalised for a week when he disturbed one of the creatures. The list goes on,†he continued, “but it certainly seems to have picked up dramatically since last autumn.â€

“It could be a shoddy job with Customs.†Hax thought for a moment. “However, since your department is involved, I assume there is the possibility of a terrorist connection?â€

“Possibly, but there’s more.†Bennett frowned and opened a map on the screen. It was a world map, with little pulsating dots marking spots over various countries. A couple of the dots were over Portugal, two in Canada, a few more in Sweden, some splattered across Australia and New Zealand. Hax noticed there were considerably more in the UK, and Norway had so many that the country was fairly well blanketed with the dots.

“The dots represent cases where the spider attacks have been reported over the past six months,†Bennett explained. “Notice anything peculiar about them?â€
Hax studied the map for a moment. “Those are the home countries of Rivalcast’s most active community members.â€

“Precisely. We believe that Da Bark Lurd, or someone working with him, may be coordinating spider attacks against Rivalcast as part of his perceived retaliation for losing the Lord of Terror elections last fall. Note that the incidents picked up in frequency during the elections, dropped off a little during your friend Biomed’s disappearance, and then started spiking again in recent weeks.â€

Still staring at the screen, Hax’s brow furrowed in thought. Something about the map was bothering him, and it took a moment to realise what was missing. “Why are there no dots over the United States? Since I’ve been staying here, the entire staff has been in this country, as well as most of the show hosts. Unless…†Hax looked at the suitcases set neatly by the front door and suddenly felt ill.

“Yes, we believe that the worldwide attacks are a precursor to a strike on your RivalCon.â€

“Bugger.â€

“Indeed. There is the possibility that the Yanks are keeping mum on any of their own spider attacks â€" heaven knows we’ve helped them eradicate other treacheries on their land that they’ve kept hush-hush, though they’d never admit it. Even so, the evidence seems to point that way, which is why I’ve been charged with accompanying you to Dallas.†Bennett grinned and pulled a VIP backstage pass from his inner jacket pocket. “It appears you may be introducing me to the Baroness after all.â€

“Doubtful,†Hax gave him an icy glare. He’d told Highlander that offering special access to the staff was a bad idea, and this was the reason why. “And don’t be a prat. Baroness is too classy to put up with your foolishness, and her husband isn’t likely to tolerate someone making advances on his wife.â€

“Ah, yes, the mysterious Baron von Gosu,†Bennett didn’t try to hide his sarcasm. “I’m hardly concerned about that, though you may be interested to know that there was a small amount of an unknown substance recovered from the bus fire. Our lab is analysing the sample as we speak. I don’t suppose you’ve had any luck in your quest to procure more information? As I understand, you had dinner with the good Mrs. von Gosu recently.â€

“We, erm, got distracted. Maths talk.â€

Bennett raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Indeed? I didn’t realise they called it that these days.â€

Hax felt his face flush hot as he tried to control his temper. â€~No appreciable qualities’ was an understatement; it took effort to control himself as his mind quickly went to more toxic thoughts of what he’d like to do to the intolerable individual fouling the serenity of the flat by his mere presence.

“Bennett, as a gentleman I must advise you that such insinuations are not only baseless, but reprehensible. To besmirch the reputations of either myself or the Baroness in such a way only validates my assessment of you as a vulgar, uncouth, despicable wretch worthy only of contempt and abhorrence. Unlike you, I have a respect for the relationships of others and would never deign to create strife for one to whom I profess to be a friend.â€

The spy grinned maliciously. “You always were rather prudish.â€

“Get out,†Hax’s voice came out in a frighteningly dark tone.

Bennett raised his hands in surrender before rising from the sofa, scooping up the laptop before heading to the door. As he started to step into the hall, Bennett paused and turned back to the still-fuming Hax.

“Oh, and Haxor,†he said over his shoulder, “you may want to advise your friends to stay away from any banoffee pie.â€

Hax gritted his teeth. “I don’t think they’d know what that is.â€

“Oh,†Bennett looked puzzled for a moment. “Hmm. Pity, that’s always been my favourite. Ah, well. I’ll meet you in Dallas.â€

And with that, the door closed and Hax was left alone with his thoughts.

*****

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