RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 11
Episode 11: The Game's Afoot

“It’s all going just so perfectly wrong…â€
-Joy Williams, One of Those Days


*****
The sun was warm on her skin, and the air retained its heat even as the shadows reached farther and farther across the sandy shore. They were walking away from the sunset, watching the waves lap gently over Lake Erie while the Cleveland skyline shimmered in the distance. The days were getting shorter now, and there was a pile of work from her analytic functions class waiting for her when she got home, but for the moment her sole focus was on trying to keep her ice cream cone from melting all over her new sundress. It was not an easy feat, and as she cocked her head to the side to catch an errant drip, she caught Baron watching her with mock disdain as he attacked his milkshake. She grinned. “What?â€

“You could have had anything you wanted, anything at all. My treat. And you got a small, plain vanilla cone.†He raised an eyebrow at her. “Seriously?â€

“I happen to like small, plain vanilla cones,†she replied, coyly licking around the top of the ice cream before it had a chance to start dribbling again.

“You could have at least got sprinkles. Humor me a little.â€

“But I don’t like sprinkles,†she frowned. “When it comes right down to it, I have very simple tastes.â€

“Well, that explains your last relationship.†Baron just shook his head and took another slurp of his milkshake. Up ahead of them, some high school kids were laughing and chasing each other around the beach. His eyes went distant for a moment, but before she could ask what was on his mind he came back to her. “Want to walk out on the rocks? The view out there is amazing.â€

“Sure.†They walked in silence for a few minutes, listening to the waves and the calls of the seagulls swooping in to steal the teenagers’ picnic food. As they got to where the rock wall jutted out into the lake and Baron clambered up onto one of the boulders, she looked first at her red and white polka-dotted skirt catching in the breeze, then at the ice cream cone in her hand, and realized she had a bit of a problem. “Baron,†she called up, “a little help, please?â€

She wasn’t sure what she was expecting as he reached out to take her hand. There was no electric spark, no cherubs coming down from the heavens, no crescendo of a sappy â€~80s love song as he pulled her up. There was just the warm solidity of his hand wrapping around hers, just for a moment. Then he smiled and turned to lead the way out over the lake.

Baron was right: the view from the end of the breakers was breathtaking. On one side, they could see the entirety of the park and its beach; on the other, Lake Erie stretched off into the horizon. Right in the middle, the buildings of downtown Cleveland rose up from the shore like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. She could easily pick out the structures of Key Tower, Public Square, and Terminal Tower gleaming in the evening twilight. As they kicked off their shoes and sat down on the warm stones, letting their feet dangle into the cool water, a blast of fireworks lit up over Jacobs’ Field. “Home run,†she murmured. “It looks like something out of a fairy tale.â€

“Maybe it is,†Baron mused. “Cleveland is a pretty magical place. Who knows, maybe you’re a heroic princess and your happy ending is just around the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.â€

She snorted, glancing over at him before returning her attention to the skyline in the distance. “Maybe, but I never believed in happy endings.â€

“Really?â€

“Really.â€

Baron thought a minute, that same look coming over his eyes that she noticed when they were walking. “That’s just because you haven’t seen one yet, but that doesn’t make them any less real. There’s magic everywhere, Butterfly. I’ll show you.â€


*****

From their table just beyond the reach of the afternoon sunshine, Baroness reflected on the path she and Baron had taken since that day at the beach. As she gazed through the window, watching the waves of heat snake up from the asphalt outside, she gave a silent thanks for living in the 21st century. Sweet, blessed, air-conditioned 21st century. She shifted her gaze as Hax came back with two pint glasses filled with a rosy amber liquid. “Expanding my horizons?â€

Her friend chuckled as he slid into the booth across from her. “Indeed. It isn’t exactly a proper bitter, however, it is passable. Besides, you’ve forced me into trying countless new things over the past few months.â€

“True.†Baroness picked up the glass Hax set in front of her and took a taste. It was slightly cooler than room temperature. “Not bad. I like hoppy things.â€

“Well, as stated, it isn’t the best candidate for English brews, but still better than the commercial swill most establishments serve in the United States.†Hax lifted his glass. “To RivalCon.â€

“May our luck continue to hold.†Baroness smiled, but noticed the slight flicker in Hax’s eyes when she’d mentioned luck. She took another sip of her drink and raised an eyebrow. “So what was it you needed to talk about?â€

He grimaced slightly. “It appears your husband wasn’t so off in his spider paranoia as we’d thought.â€

*****

Baron was waiting impatiently in the airport lounge for the call to board. The storm had subsided slightly when he left the Bippy complex, but by the time he reached the airport the rain was coming down in buckets. He’d just finished checking his baggage when the word came his flight was delayed. As he checked the monitor showing the departure times, Baron was dismayed to see his departure pushed back another twenty minutes. At least they would begin boarding soon.

“Some days,†he muttered to himself as he watched the trails of water stream down the lounge windows, “even your lucky rocketship underpants don’t help.†At least he had told Baroness his flight was the next morning, so she wouldn’t be waiting for him â€" he wanted his early arrival to be a surprise. Baron pulled out his cell phone and sent her a text message that read I’M SORRY, AND I WILL FIND A WAY TO MAKE THIS UP TO YOU. Then he switched off his phone to save the battery and got up to take a stroll over to the restrooms.

He was mid-piss when he heard the boarding announcement come over the public address system, echoing through the otherwise empty bathroom: “ATTENTION PASSENGERS. AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 2238 TO DALLAS IS NOW BOARDING. PASSENGERS PLEASE REPORT TO GATE A1.â€

“Finally,†Baron mumbled as he finished up.

Though he heard nothing aside from the water splashing its way into the sink, as he washed hands Baron suddenly felt the presence of someone behind him. He looked up into the mirror just long enough to see a black-haired vixen sauntering up with the face of an angel and the countenance of Satan himself. In the second that he saw her, Baron noted her black cloak, almost translucent white skin, blood red lips curled back in a sneer. The last things he noticed, a split second too late, was the chloroformed black hood she suddenly raised to his face and the black widow tattoo inked onto her wrist.

*****

As he filled her in on the revelations of his meeting with Bennett, Hax kept a careful watch of Baroness’s reactions to get a sense of what she was thinking. However, with the exception of asking a few small clarifying questions at various points in his narrative, she seemed impassive. It was not unlike debriefing sessions with government officials, which was slightly unnerving. As he finished, Baroness lounged back against the cushions of the booth and closed her eyes. It was several moments before she opened them again to look at him.

“Well, at least we have a better idea of what we’re up against,†she said with a sigh. “Of course, this all could have been made a lot easier had we all, you know, shared information from the very beginning or something.â€

“But I…â€

“I wasn’t referring to you specifically,†she snapped. Pausing a moment, Baroness closed her eyes again and started massaging the bridge of her nose before continuing in a slightly softer voice, “I’m sorry. But it’s hard to get a handle on what’s really going on when Baron is sneaking around. He’s obviously connected to this in some way, but I can’t see how exactly, and that’s frustrating. I feel like we’re missing something important. Besides, you have legitimate reasons for keeping secrets, and yet you’ve still been more forthcoming with me than he has. More than you had to be.†Just then, Baroness’s phone buzzed with an incoming message. “Speak of the devil,†she muttered as she read the few lines, grimaced, and placed the phone face down on the table without bothering to respond.

Hax shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Do you want to talk about it?†he asked hesitantly, not sure quite what he’d do if she replied yes.

She levelled her gaze onto his. “Do you want to talk about the photo in your secret office?â€

“Ah…no.â€

Baroness drained the remainder of her glass and set it back on the table. “The more immediate problem, of course, is keeping RivalCon secure. The three of us â€" you, Bennett, and me â€" aren’t enough to keep tabs on everyone and everything moving through this building over the next few days. What we need is a way to have more people â€" a LOT more people â€" on the lookout for arachnids, but quietly so as not to cause panic.†She took a deep breath. “I absolutely will not stand for my first convention to be ruined by an outbreak of eight-legged assholes. They didn’t buy tickets.â€

Hax chuckled, grateful for the break in tension. “Ideally, it would be nice to have the hotel staff looking, as they have ready access to places we do not. We just need a proper cover to make them look without giving away the real reason as to why they are looking.â€

Baroness thought a moment. “I think… Hax, can Bennett get us a venomous spider carcass to plant in my room?â€

*****
Crap, what happened last time?
On to the next episode
Comments
Comment thread »
No comments!