RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 8
Episode Eight â€" Storm On The Horizon

“And I’d have fought the world for you, if I’d thought that you wanted me to.â€
â€" Jackson Browne, Skies Blue and Black

*****
A cold rain splashed against Baron’s face as he sprinted through the neighborhood, frantically searching up trees and behind patio furniture. His throat was hoarse from yelling, and his limbs ached. A single thought kept driving him forward: Where is she?

As he rounded the corner near the elementary school, Baron stopped short. His once-idyllic neighborhood looked as if it were the unfortunate victim of a cotton-candy explosion â€" gossamer webbing was everywhere, and scattered throughout were dense cocoons where the spiders had made their victims. Baron’s heart pounded as he scanned the sacs. His stomach plummeted when his eye caught a glimpse of a black tennis shoe with pink piping sticking out from one of the snowy gobs.

Baroness!

In no time, Baron was elbow-deep in the sticky strands, desperately trying to pull the webbing off of her face so she could breathe. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally managed to get her free from the cocoon and gave a brief prayer of thanks that she was still alive. Barely, but it was still better than the alternative. He quickly wrapped his coat around her to protect her from the gusts of frigid air.

Baroness murmured something, but her words were lost in the gale coming down on them. It sounded like a thousand whispers coming together in an unearthly shriek. Baron got an arm around to help support her, then slowly started walking. They hadn’t gotten far when Baron heard a familiar skittering coming from behind; slowly, he turned around, expecting to see a large spider or two. Instead, he turned around to see a massive spider-monster towering over him, its gigantic head looming over Mrs. MacGowan’s ranch house. Its eight enormous eyes glowed red with hate, and it wore a brown fedora as if to mock Baron’s choice in headwear.

Baron was about to piss himself when a loud pounding on his front door woke him out of his nightmare.

*****

“What the fuck are you doing at my house?†Baron demanded as he whipped open the front door.

Although still separated by the screen door, the Messenger took an involuntary step back on the porch, clutching something against his chest. "I’m sorry, Mr. Baron, I wouldn’t have if there were any other way of getting a hold of you. I’ve been trying to call you all morning, and-"

“And I didn’t pick up because I DIDN’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU!†He bellowed the last few words as the Messenger backed into one of the porch columns. “My entire LIFE has been taken over by your goddamned spiders! I’m not sleeping well, I’m not eating right, my work is suffering, and my wife is on her way to RivalCon without me because I have to stay here and deal with this bullshit. Do you have any fucking clue what this is doing to our relationship? And now, NOW, after all that, you have the audacity to show up at my home.†Baron’s eyes glowed with fury as he paused to take a breath. “You have crossed the goddamned line.â€

“Please, Mr. Baron, I just received some disturbing news…â€

“No.†Baron shut the door, turning the deadbolt before heading back to his couch. An interesting property of the Castle von Gosu was that when the doors and windows were closed, it effectively blocked most sound from the outside world. He could hear the Messenger’s pleading tones outside, but it was muffled enough that he couldn’t make out the words. Finally, he heard the soft click of the screen door opening, the brush of something being left against the door, and the roar of a retreating ’91 Mazda Protégé which, like most of the Messenger’s possessions, had seen better days.

Baron waited until he was sure the little weasel was gone before going back to re-open the front door. Nestled inside the bottom corner of the storm glass was a manila packet, with the single word “PLEASE†scrawled across it in dying blue pen. He grimaced, taking a look over at his work laptop as if it would talk him out of what he would invariably do next, then ripped open the envelope. There were a bunch of newspaper clippings sprinkled with sporadic military reports, some marked “Freedom of Information Act†and some…well, Baron wasn’t going to probe too deeply on where the Messenger was getting his source material.

It was the eight-by-ten glossy photos he pulled out that gave him pause; as he flipped through them, Baron slumped against the bannister and slid slowly down to the floor. He sat a moment, then quietly pulled out his cell phone. “Yeah,†he said when the call connected. “Meet me at the Red Lobster in North Olmsted in twenty minutes. Take every precaution. And Messenger? Thank you.â€

*****

“Well, you three look like shit.â€

Edge Damodred gave a cocky grin and took another sip of his Jack and Coke as Varyar, Hax, and the Baroness walked into the opulent lobby of the hotel.

“Fuck you, too,†Varyar called back, while a matronly old woman nearby looked appalled.

“You were supposed to get in an hour ago.â€

Hax cleared his throat. “Varyar Time Differential.â€

“Oh, no,†Varyar turned to shoot Hax a dirty look, “you can NOT blame me for some piss ant little plane having engine trouble and blocking our goddamned runway.â€

Edge finished his drink while the others checked in. His words were meant playfully, but truth be told, none of them looked their best. Baroness was fighting a headache, and paused just long enough to give Edge a hug and mumble something about a nap before heading up to her room. Varyar was irritable from a combination of the humidity and lack of nicotine, and headed out to the smoking area as soon as he got his key. Hax, meanwhile, was sporting a look of even deeper consternation than usual and lingered in the lobby, glancing around periodically as if he was expecting someone.

“Bio went down for a walk by the river,†Edge offered helpfully.

“Erm?â€

“You looked like you were expecting to see someone. The others won’t be here til later tonight, so I assumed you were looking for Bio.â€

“Ah, right.†Hax gave the room one last quick sweep with his eyes. “I’ll just catch up with him later then. Does Highlander need help with anything? If not, I may power-nap before this evening’s activities commence.â€

“Nah, he’s keeping things pretty tight. The game rooms are set up for tomorrow, he’s got tables for all the various partners in the main hall, and apparently he’s got a special guest booked for the big party Friday night. He won’t say who it is, just that Baroness will be fan-girl excited. And that scares me very, very much.â€

Hax’s brow furrowed in thought. Baroness was one of those souls who tended to find joy in unexpected places, but there were a very few people he knew of that would catch her fancy to the point of near obsession. Most of them were writers; the other was a particular jazz musician who tended to think outside the box when arranging covers. If his presumption was correct, Highlander might become Baroness’s favorite staffer by the close of the weekend.

Just then, Hax caught sight of a pair of young women traversing the far side of the lobby. Both were dressed in black with dark hair, and while he couldn’t make out a lot of detail from a distance, one in particular piqued his interest. As their eyes met from across the room for just an instant, Hax couldn’t describe it exactly, but there was something about her that was alternately captivating and slightly terrifying. It had been a long while since he’d felt something of that complexity.

Edge followed his gaze and smiled. “Out of our league.â€

“For you, perhaps,†Hax retorted, “but I can speak with an English accent.†He lost sight of them as they left through the far side of the atrium, but he had the feeling he’d see them again.

*****

After the valet had brought up her suitcases, Baroness grabbed the ice bucket and took a stroll down the hall. Her head was pounding, and all she wanted was to put a bag of ice over her eyes and sleep until the pain stopped. She tried not to whine during the taxi ride from the airport, but by this point even the sound of the ice dropping into her bucket reverberated like a hammer inside her skull.

As she fumbled her way back to her suite, she gained a vague sense of being watched for a moment before an English accent broke the stillness of the hall.

“Excuse me, but aren’t you the Baroness von Gosu?â€

It was a different dialect from what Hax used â€" Suffolk, if she had to guess â€" though not unpleasant. “Yes,†she started as she turned around, then her words caught in surprise: there was the man from the airplane!

“I am terribly sorry to bother you,†he said as he extended his hand. “I’m a huge fan. My name is Parker Bennett…â€

*****

Crap, what happened last time?
On to the next episode
Comments
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I mentally heard this at the last line:

I love the line, "Oh yeah? I can speak with an English accent." One wouldn't think that would make a great comeback line, but I love it and it works.
I can't take credit for the accent line - it was one of my favorite quotes from Robin Hood: Men in Tights. But it did work perfectly here :D