RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 10
Episode 10: Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady

“Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says â€~Oh crap, she’s up!’†- Unknown

*****
“This is amazing,†Miggnor said after a pair of young cosplayers left the table. He kept staring over at them in wide-eyed amazement. “I never expected… Baroness, I have fans.â€

“Well, yeah,†Baroness raised an eyebrow in his direction and smiled. “Your stories have been very well received, so I don’t know what you were worried about.â€

“Oh, I wasn’t worried about people liking the stories. I got into that because it’s fun. It’s just…†he trailed off, the bewilderment in his eyes offset by the grin spread over his cheeks. “It’s just they were dressed just like how I pictured Alicia and Valtyra to look. I didn’t expect that at all.â€

“Careful, Baroness,†Killer kicked back in his chair from the other side of the table, “he’s starting to get convention cocky.â€

“Oh, let him have his fun.†Somebody needs to, Baroness thought as she looked at the empty seats between them. It had already been a long morning. The convention wouldn’t properly open until that afternoon, and the info tables she was sitting at now had been meant as a way to meet and greet with fans beforehand as a buildup to a community gaming tournament. They had only expected a small group of diehards to show up, but had grossly underestimated the popularity RivalCast had with their fandom. Earlier, a group of cosplayers had come to the On Tap table dressed up like the three co-hosts; Killer’s doppelganger was almost spot-on to the man, but Bio was so extremely conflicted about the Asian coed dressed as “sexy Bio†that he had to leave the convention hall for a bit to regroup. As she glanced across to the other side of the room, Baroness could see Dee, Val, and Bubba juggling their own groupies while Sayomara was deep in conversation with a group enthralled by Babylon 5.

Killer grinned his biggest grin. “Speaking of fun, can you imagine the pranks I can pull on my roommate now that I have a clone?â€

A British voice responded, “Some rather brilliant ones, one would presume.†Parker Bennett grinned cockily as he sauntered up to the table.

Before Baroness could respond, a shrill voice boomed over the din of the room: “THAT IS NOT OKAY.â€

*****

Baron managed to keep his cool until Lucia left him alone in the posh visitors’ lounge. After his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he helped himself to a cold Dr. Pepper from the tray of snacks and beverages she had left on a large mahogany table and took a careful look around the room. Like the reception hall, it was large, dark, and built to impress, though the dark woods used for the paneling and furniture gave the room a slightly warmer reception than the granite monolith from where he entered. There was little in the way of decoration; just a long, framed mirror over a sideboard which Baron noticed was topped with a large, Gothic-styled letter B. The rest of the walls were bare, the room anchored in the center by the oblong table and dotted with chairs. He checked his phone, and as he’d expected, there was no reception. With nothing else to look at, Baron sank into an overstuffed leather armchair to await his host.

Although he’d been in the complex a few times before, his meetings with Mr. Bippy’s various agents had always been in small, bland meeting rooms in what Baron had privately dubbed the Maze of Middle Management. He had never been in the executive hall before, and indeed had never actually met Mr. Bippy in person. As such, Baron wasn’t exactly sure what to expect â€" would he be some suave playboy billionaire with a country-club smile? A Bill Gates type with an affinity for lovable podcasters? Or, as the raging storm outside suggested, would he be some Bela Lugosi creature of the night, tinkering in his mad scientist lab and draining beautiful maidens of their blood?

Baron jumped as a loud crash of thunder shook the building. There were no windows in this room, nor had there been any windows in the passageways Lucia had led him back to get there, so he had no idea how bad the storm was outside. He hoped it wouldn’t delay the flight he’d booked for that evening â€" after reading the dossier from MI6, Baron was determined to get to Dallas as soon as possible. He told himself it was just nerves; there was probably nothing sinister about either Hax’s or Mr. Bippy’s dealings. Still…

“Mr. von Gosu.â€

Baron started again; the man standing just in front of him had come in so quietly that he stood just a few feet from Baron’s chair before being noticed. He was a shorter man, reminding Baron very much of what Igor might look like if dressed in an ill-fitting suit and glasses, and his voice came out even creepier than his stare. “I am Mr. Moneycraft, one of Mr. Bippy’s associates. Mr. Bippy wishes for me to extend his apologies for not being able to meet in person, as unfortunately he has to deal with an emergency that’s just come up with one of our overseas interests. I hope that I may be of assistance in his stead?â€

“Yes,†Baron said as he rose, setting the still-unopened Dr. Pepper on a side table. He stalled by going through the usual social formalities of hand shaking and re-introducing himself while his brain whirred with where to go next. He didn’t have a set plan when he walked into the complex, preferring as always to live in the moment and roll with whatever came up. Plans, in Baron’s experience, were nothing more than an idealized version of how things almost certainly were not going to happen. It was an opinion which often put him at odds with his wife, yet allowed him the experience and flexibility to deal with situations as they arose. He had just finished his canned explanation of RivalCon to Moneycraft when an idea popped into his head.

“Anyway, the reason I’m here, and I know this is short notice, is that I wanted to know if Bippy Industries had any promo items from their anti-spider line that we could demonstrate at RivalCon? I’m heading to Dallas this evening, and figured I’d stop by since I was in the area.â€

Moneycraft, who’d been politely nodding his head as Baron spoke, paused and looked into Baron’s eyes as he contemplated the request. “An interesting idea,†he said finally, a hint of suspicion in his voice, “though that line is currently available only in Europe. We hadn’t planned to announce an American version until later in the year. How is it you came to hear of it?â€

“RivalCast Media may be small, but we’re growing, and from our earliest days have had fans and friends all over the globe. And knowing my hatred of spiders†â€" he watched for any reaction from Moneycraft at the statement, but the man’s expression was immovable â€" “a friend had clued me onto some of the devices available earlier today. I figured since Bippy was a major sponsor of the show, it might be nice to help showcase some of the fine work your team has been doing.†Baron smiled. “Besides, even if I came in and heard this wasn’t going to be an American product, I’d still beg for a few for myself. I fucking hate spiders.â€

“Indeed.†Moneycraft seemed to ponder this a moment, then his shoulders relaxed. “I can have a few of our samples brought over from the factory area, though in the future we would ask that you take more time to plan ahead. I feel the devices themselves are rather intuitive in their operations, and hope you find them useful.†His grin felt almost malicious as he continued, “They say everything’s bigger in Texas."

Baron forced a chuckle to help mask the shudder running through his body.

"Come," Moneycraft continued, "let us go to my office and I'll make a call so you may have them before you leave.â€

As they left the lounge, Baron failed to note his Dr. Pepper had melted through the bottom of its can and was slowly eating into the wood of the table...

*****

“I cannot believe how much misogyny and oppression could be concentrated on one side of a convention hall.â€

On the other side of the table, Killer was still kicked back in his chair, his expression cool as he stared down his adversary. He had learned early on that the best way to deal with Mysti was to not engage in her particular brand of crazy, while at the same time not cow-towing to her demands. The hardest thing, as Baroness had pointed out, was to not become mesmerized by her bouncing pink curls as she tossed her head around. Bennett and Miggnor, on the other hand, appeared absolutely mystified.

“Cosplayers persist the systematic objectification of women,†she continued. “They represent the very foundation of social constructs aimed solely at keeping women in a submissive role, stating that their value is only in the ability to look like the dream women that gamers lust after.†Mysti huffed, blowing a curl back from her angry eyebrows. “If I were able to force you into an education center, Killer McCoy, you would know how wrong you are on most things.â€

“God bless America.†Killer shuddered, partly because the pull of the pink was strong, but mainly because even without looking at her, he could feel Baroness’s irritation rising to the danger zone. Miggnor must have sensed it, too, because he kept shifting his gaze between the two women, wondering which would win this showdown â€" Baroness didn’t take kindly to people attacking members of her team, and Mysti didn’t take kindly to anything she saw as working against her agenda.

Bennett was just getting himself excited at the idea that he might actually witness the Baroness slug someone when both Highlander and Hax came quickly from opposite directions.

“Mysti! There you are!†Highlander exclaimed. “I wondered where you were. You’re going to be late for your seminar.†He paused as he caught his breath. “You already have some fans waiting in the auditorium.â€

As Highlander gently ushered Mysti away, Hax arrived at the table. Baroness could have sworn she saw Hax’s eyes narrow for a second as they locked on Bennett, but she didn’t have time to muse on it before he quietly asked, “Baroness, a word?â€

“Of course,†Baroness stood up and looked at Killer and Miggnor. “You guys have this? We only have a few minutes left anyway.â€

“Roger,†Killer nodded. “Then I have to go find wherever Bio’s hiding before we get ready for tonight.â€

“Thank you,†Baroness replied, and as she left she turned to Bennett added “I’m sorry, please excuse me.â€

Killer noticed that Bennett grimaced a little as Baroness left. As Bennett shuffled off into the crowd, he didn’t think he’d ever understand the strange symbiotic fascination Baroness had with Britain.

Miggnor, meanwhile, looked as if he had weightier matters on his mind. He contemplated a few moments. “Killer, I’m… I mean, do you…†he stammered. “Have you ever noticed how Bio and Mysti are never in the same room together at the same time?â€

Killer shot him a sideways glance. “Yeah. They HATE each other.â€

“No, I meant, well…†Miggnor shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “They kind of look alike? I mean, exactly alike.â€

“Um, no. Biomed does not have pink hair.â€

“Killer, they have the same facial hair!â€

Killer just shook his head. “What, exactly, are you insinuating?â€

*****
She could have been mistaken, but as she and Hax left the hall, Baroness could have sworn she heard Bennett grumbling the words “talking about maths.†Something clicked in her mind, and when they were out of earshot of the others, she whispered to Hax. “So, that’s your MI6 handler? Funny, I didn’t expect him to be blond.â€

Hax looked surprised. “How did…?â€

“Oh, please. Who else could it be? How many other British guys do you see running around stalking the staff at RCM?†She exaggerated the roll of her eyes, then grinned. “Subtlety does not seem to be one of his strong points.â€

“You have no idea.â€

“Come on,†she said as she pulled him toward the hotel’s bar. “It appears that we both need a drink.â€

*****

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