RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 9
Episode 9: Smoke and Mirrors

â€~It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.†Henry David Thoreau

*****
Author’s note: omg sotp flamming guys if you dont like the SICK PLOT TWIST then go read somfin else!!1! H8TRS GONNA H8! I also want 2 giv special fangs (GEDDIT?!?1! FANGZ? Cuz it’s GOFF!) to teh_leet_haxor and BiomedAlchemist 4 helpin meh get deh tone rite in Part 1 evn tho we all got hedaches from tryin 2 rite lik dis 4 x-tended periods of tim. I LUVZ U GAIZ!!! <3<3<3 tho obvs not as much as I luvz Gerard Way (so sexxoi).
*****

Hax found himself strolling across the stage, trying to ignore the screams of the fans on the other side of the curtain as he picked up his guitar. His fingers moved deftly over the strings, checking that all was in tune â€" those few test notes pouring out of the amplifier sent a tangible ripple of excitement through the auditorium. He plucked out the first few notes of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,†delighted as the remaining band members seemed to form out of the darkness and started playing their parts perfectly on cue. Just as all the instruments came into play, the curtain separating them from the audience dropped while fireworks simultaneously exploded from either side of the stage.

The crowd went wild.

He played his way through the song, then went right into a cover of “Thunderstruck†while he glanced out into the sea of faces rocking out. The energy in the room was intoxicating. As Hax gave himself over to the music, his eyes caught those of a familiar face just beyond the front of the stage. He’d know her anywhere: the pale blue eyes, the raven-black hair falling just below her shoulders, the jumper fitted perfectly against the curve of her body. Both his heart and his body gave a little leap of joy in the middle of his guitar solo.

Mary was here! But what was she doing in Hogsmeade?

As he landed, it occurred to Hax that his trousers felt abnormally tight, and as he looked down he suddenly understood why. “What in the bloody hell…?†he said aloud to himself as he tried to remember where he might have gotten a pair of totally goff black leather trousers. He looked over to where Mary had been standing only a second before, but she was gone, replaced by a bunch of emo kids who were definitely neither preps nor poseurs.

As he played the final notes, over the screams of the crowd Hax heard the sound of a piano playing from somewhere behind him on stage. He recognized the piece; the song was called “Now It’s Over,†a piano instrumental from a metal band whose name escaped him at the moment. Now the stage went dark, and the crowd faded to the background as he walked toward the source of the music.

A spotlight was focused on a glossy black baby grand tucked backstage. Dark and heavy notes rolled out like a storm of sound, and as he stepped around, Hax was surprised to see the Baroness at the keys. She was pale and dressed all in black, which made her skin look almost paper white by contrast. All she needed to look totally goff was some heavy black eyeliner. And that, paired with her almost obsessive focus on the keys, was extremely unsettling. Before he could speak, he noticed something dark scuttling along the top of the piano’s casing before it leapt onto the Baroness’s hand. She gasped, but didn’t scream as the large, black spider bit into her hand. Hax suddenly realised the name of the band who write the piece Baroness was playing: Black Widow!

He tried to help her, but found himself being restrained by a very irate Gerard Way, who was also…Lord Voldemort!!!!! [duh duh DUUUUUUUUUUH! SICK plot twist, m I RITE! Shuddup Killer go flam somewhere elz]

“How dare you overshadow my super-secret MCR concert with me and my Death Dealers with your more super, secreter TLH concert?!†Gerard Way sneered.

“How dare YOU defile the English language with words such as â€~secret-er’?†Hax shot back as he elbow-jacked Gerard Way/Voldaermort in the face. “The correct phrasing is â€~more secretive.’â€

The Death Dealers surged forward, but Voldrimort held up a hand sexily. “No,†he rasped in a more Voldsmort-like way, “we shall settle this with…A GUITAR BATTLE!!!11!â€

Hax felt a headache coming on. “Oh, this ought to be good.â€

“I go first,†Woldirsmort cried sxily as he started to play a totally goffik song by Bloody Gothic Rose 666:

“To da depf of hell.
Wher Satan ringz hiz Belz
Goffs of da worldz
Slit da rist 2 da beat
â€

“Dear god,†Hax interrupted, “are you seriously going to spam the rest of this chapter with your fiendishly atrocious warbling?â€

“Shut up, you poser!†Voldesnort yellded at him suicidally. “U r obsv a prep an now I jes wan 2 slit meh rists while listenin to da radioz.â€

Just then, Hax woke up in a cold sweat as the morning sun filtered into his hotel room.

*****

“Yeah, we’ll just switch the tables so Ghost in the Podcast is in the middle, rather than On Tap. That way you’ll be able to bounce between the three sections with ease.†Highlander pushed his famous red fedora back and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. “They just put the AC on, so we should be fine before they open the gates. I don’t know why they didn’t think to turn it on a little earlier.â€

“There’s always some snafu at an event,†Baroness reminded him while she fanned herself with her notebook, “and the AC’s on now, so it’s a minor thing.†She frowned, watching as Highlander’s stage lackeys shifted the show banners around and started setting out the giveaways. “Not having GIP’s main show host here, on the other hand…â€

“That is an annoyance, I’m not gonna lie.†Highlander surveyed the room one more time, noting a few things to tweak slightly for a better convention experience. “It’s a shame we can’t even Skype him in for a little bit. Still, like you said, it’s a minor thing. He’ll be here tomorrow for the panel discussion and his ghost seminar…â€

“And to take me dancing.â€

“…and to take you dancing.†Highlander grinned a little. “I think you’ll like the live band I booked. They do a lot of jazzy numbers.â€

“I’m sure I will,†Baroness smiled back, then jumped a little as her phone went off in her pocket. “It’s Baron. â€~Got a flight for tomorrow morning, be in Dallas at noon.’ Well, that’s one less thing to worry about.â€

Before Highlander could reply, a slightly haggard-looking Hax shuffled up, glaring at Highlander as he approached. “I want it to be known that while generally speaking I find your antics entertaining, at this moment I cannot help but despise you for introducing me to the writing of Tara Gilesbie.†He yawned, rubbing his eyes. “That is all.â€

“Hax,†Baroness started gently, “why don’t you head down and get some coffee from the breakfast lounge? Bio and Killer just went down, and I’ll join you in a bit.†She paused, appraising the situation with one eyebrow raised. “You look like you barely slept.â€

Hax mumbled something about “not well†as he pointed himself in the direction of the much-needed coffee, when suddenly he caught a glimpse of someone who commanded his full and immediate attention. The raven-haired woman from the previous day was exiting the breakfast lounge, casting a sultry glance in Hax’s direction before disappearing into an elevator.

Perhaps it was merely a trick of his sleepy mind, but Hax could almost swear she winked at him as the doors closed.

*****

The weather in Cleveland was arguing with itself over what it wanted to do. All day long, the skies had been yo-yoing between sunshine and downpours. As he headed west on I-90 out of the city, Baron couldn’t help but notice the contrast between the blue skies to the south and the black storm clouds rolling in from over the lake. “This does not bode well,†he muttered to himself in his Bane voice.

Baron’s thoughts were as conflicted as the skies. The information The Messenger had shared was eye-opening: he had heard on the news a few months earlier that a British woman found a spider in her bananas, but he’d had no idea of how many other cases had taken place or how wide-spread they were. But there were two things that surprised him more. The first was the revelation that his show’s longtime sponsor, Bippy Industries, was making a mint selling various spider protection devices. Devices which, coincidentally, they started manufacturing shortly before the attacks started taking place.

The second was a copy of the dossier on himself put together by MI6, which listed teh_leet_haxor as an information asset.

In regards to the dossier, part of him didn’t want to believe it. Hax always seemed like a nice guy â€" good to talk with, helpful when needed, level-headed and fair. Sure, he knew that Hax occasionally did high-level programming jobs which Baron always assumed were government-related, due to the sensitivity with which Hax carefully dodged questions. They’d joked for years that as a dapper Brit he was obviously the James Bond type, but Baron had always taken that as just playful humor. Now, he wasn’t so certain. He couldn’t even be sure that Hax’s friendship with the Baroness was legitimate, or just a means to get to him. And the latter thought was what bothered him most â€" Baroness didn’t trust easily, and Baron knew if that trust was broken, she’d be crushed. Baron wouldn’t stand for that to happen to the woman he loved, spy-ninja shit be damned.

This was, of course, assuming the information was accurate. The Messenger admitted that even he wasn’t sure exactly who his source was for this information; he had taken a back-alley route to the corner store to avoid the traffic cameras on the main street, and by the time he’d doubled back with his groceries someone had left the package on his stoop. There was no note, no fingerprints, not even a blip of an elbow hitting the frame in the Messenger’s security video. Whoever made the drop got in and out like a ghost. Which meant there was a specific reason Baron was supposed to know he was being followed.

He just had to figure out what that reason was.

Baron exited the interstate and headed north along a country highway as lightning flickered over the lake in the distance. The downpour came all at once, and for a few moments his attention was completely focused on trying to see the road immediately beyond the hood of his car. He almost drove past the narrow drive that led back to the Bippy industrial complex, and would have missed it entirely had a terrific bolt of lightning not illuminated the scene like a castle from an old horror movie. Baron shivered. He had always assumed Bippy chose to keep his office complex so far out from the city for tax purposes, given how many different divisions there were to the company. But as the foreboding buildings towered in front of him, he felt uneasy and wondered if maybe they, too, weren’t all as they seemed.

The parking area was nearly empty as he eased his SUV into a spot near the front of the building. Baron noted that seemed to be normal from the times he’d had to come out there before, but that didn’t make it any less unnerving. He parked near the reception area and hurried through the raindrops to the door. Although he knew what to expect once inside, Baron drew an involuntary deep breath. The reception hall was built to impress.

The cavernous hall looked like a showroom out of Dartha Stewart Living â€" polished black granite covered everything from the floor all the way up to the cathedral ceiling thirty feet above him. The only light came from the occasional flashes from the storm outside and the desk lamp gleaming at the receptionist’s desk. As his footsteps echoed through the room, Baron almost expected to see Emperor Palpatine waiting for him. Instead, Mr. Bippy’s assistant, Lucia, glared over her small, square glasses frames at the hidden computer screen.

Like the rest of the room, the desk was paneled in black granite, but with a cold steel top to offset colors. The receptionist’s eyes were even colder, which made the disdainful purr of her voice that much more terrifying. “May I help you?

Baron fought the urge to shudder. “I was wondering if Mr. Bippy was in? Could you tell him that Baron…â€

“I know who you are, Mr. von Gosu.â€

Baron couldn’t help but notice how painfully tight she wore the bun in her hair. It made his head hurt a little just looking at it. Perhaps that was why she looked so sour?

“Mr. Bippy is a very busy, very powerful man. He does not take kindly to random visitors,†she continued. He didn’t think it was possible, but as she removed her glasses Lucia was able to look at him even more severely. “Perhaps you’d like to set an appointment? I might be able to arrange a meeting for next week.â€

“Hey, I’m sorry to intrude,†Baron said, forcing himself to look her in the eye. “It’s just that RivalCon is going on this weekend, and as a corporate sponsor for…â€
Baron didn’t get to finish the thought. No sooner had he said the word “RivalCon†than a small buzzer went off next to a red phone on Lucia’s desk. He thought it odd that she stood up from her chair at perfect attention as she answered it.

“Yes, sir…indeed…†She listened a moment. Baron could have sworn at one point he saw an eyebrow start to raise in surprise, but she either caught herself in time or he was imagining things. Through it all, Baron couldn’t shake the feeling they were being watched.

“Absolutely, sir. I shall inform him.†Lucia rung up the red phone, smoothed down the front of her black suit skirt, and walked around to the front of the desk. “Mr. Bippy wishes me to relay that he’s had an…opening in his schedule, and that he should be able to meet in a half an hour. In the meantime, I will take you to our visitors’ lounge to wait. I’ve been instructed to make you comfortable while you wait. If there’s anything you want, just say the word.†She smiled and stepped seductively towards him, placing a hand on his chest. Even through his tee shirt, her touch was like ice. Lucia dropped her voice to a whisper as she leaned in dangerously close to his ear. “Anything at all.â€

Baron surprised her by taking a step back. “That’s…very kind of you,†he stammered. “But I’m mar- I mean, I’m good.†He paused, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “Thank you.â€

“Alright, then.†Lucia locked her eyes onto his with a playfully suggestive sass that almost reminded him of the Baroness. The key difference he noticed was that while Baroness’s colors had the warmth of a springtime sky, Lucia’s pale blues had a frigidity to them that made his blood run cold. Even so, it was exceedingly difficult for Baron to force his attention on something else as she spun around on her shiny heels and sauntered toward a panel on the wall. A couple decisive taps opened a hidden sliding door.

“Right this way, Mr. von Gosu.â€

As Baron took a few hesitant steps toward the portal, praying to God that externally he was exhibiting more confidence than he felt inside, Lucia said “Oh! I almost forgot.†She tapped the panel again, and this time Baron heard what sounded like a large jail cell being closed behind him. She smiled at him sweetly.
“Just securing the main doors while I’m away from my desk. It’s very quiet out here, but you never know what nefarious deeds might take place at the end of a desolate country road.â€

Baron’s heart sank a little as she disappeared into the darkened corridor. He kept telling himself that everything was fine, and tried not to look over his shoulder as he followed her into the abyss.

This spy shit was a lot harder than he thought.

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