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RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 17
Episode 17: All That Glitters

Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath.
–Eckhart Tolle


*****

Varyar himself was already seated and enjoying his pre-dinner drink when Vampy and the Baroness decided to grace the team with their presence, blowing into the dining room like they owned the place. "Dressed to kill" didn't begin to describe it. Vampy appeared first, breezing into the room swathed in a black satin that swished just above her red t-straps. She knew how to make an entrance, and the little toss of her hip when she stopped to wait for Baroness caused the saxophonist onstage to miss a note. Smiling, the blood red rhinestone clips in her hair caught the light just right as she nodded to B from across the room before continuing her saunter to their table.

As Vampy turned toward the table, Baroness came into view in a dress very much not the one she had been wearing the night before. Her dark hair pinned back on one side with a diamond-esque barrette, she was dressed in sleek, low-cut red chiffon that shimmered a bit when she moved. The slit up the side of her long skirt stopped just short of betraying the imagination, giving a peep of strappy silver shoes as she approached.

Killer was immediately concerned. This, paired with Baron's designated arrival time passing without the actual arrival of Baron, spelled trouble. "Why is she dressed like that?" he whispered to Bio.

Bio raised an eyebrow. "Why is she wearing heels?"

"Are you two going with Hax to apprehend Bond villains after dinner?" Varyar asked as Baroness dropped into the seat beside him. "Because that would be awesome and I wholeheartedly approve."

Across the table, Hax shifted uncomfortably. "Erm..." He was about to say something else when his eyes fell on another new arrival making her way into the room and quickly excused himself.

"We finally get everyone here, and of course Hax runs off," Edge griped. "Fuck it, I'm ordering without him."

Vampy smiled sassily. "Remember, Edge, it's always better to arrive late than to arrive ugly."

While the others kept up their cheerful banter, Varyar noticed his usual social butterfly was being eerily silent. Her face hidden behind chestnut tresses, he could feel his friend's tension and discretely nudged the Baroness. "You okay?" he asked quietly.

He heard her take a sharp breath before shaking her head.

"Headache?"

"No. Well, yes, a little one since I didn't sleep much, but..." She paused, brushing her hair back as her gaze shifted to some undefined spot in the distance. The paleness in her eyes was more concerning than even the fact Baroness had allowed Vampy to come near her with makeup. She stared absently for a moment before shaking her head again, reaching for her phone. Dropping it to her lap, she bit her lower lip as she quietly pulled something up on the device and passed it to him under the table. He could have been mistaken, but Varyar thought he saw the beginning of a tear glisten in the candlelight as she slipped the phone from her hand to his.

Varyar's own face went stony as he watched the clip play out. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. After watching the clip a second time, he set her phone gently on the table and was silent for a moment as he thought through the situation. But as he watched Baroness taking deep, calming breaths out of the corner of his eye, Varyar knew there was little he could offer her in the way of comfort. As their companions continued their lively conversation, erupting in peals of laughter from some joke he'd missed, he leaned closer to the Baroness. "I take it this isn't public information, then?"

She shook her head again. "No, I... oh, hello," she forced a smile and nodded at the greeting of a fan passing their table. When she was out of earshot, Baroness continued, "No, you're the only one who's seen this, though the others suspect something. Killer and Vampy both know Baron missed his arrival time, and calls are going straight to voicemail. And I think Hax suspects something, but I just...I needed some time this afternoon." She frowned, taking a sip of her ice water. "They may as well know, but I just didn't want...well, I don't know. I don't know what to even think at this point."

Varyar nodded, then looked her straight on. "I already know what you're going to say to this, but I have to ask: are you sure you're up for this tonight? We can come up with some cover if you don't want to deal with..."

Baroness set her glass down a bit harder than she intended, causing Killer to look over at her before turning his attention back to the others. "No," she said with a quiet ferocity. "No, it's bad enough my private life is falling apart on me, I'll be damned if I miss out on the biggest event in my professional one. I've worked too hard for this, and nobody is going to take that from me."

"I get that. And again, I already knew what you were going to say, but I just want to make sure you know I've got your back." Varyar gave her a weak grin. "As for the rest...I dunno, something doesn't feel right there. And I'm not talking about the fact Vampy made the rest of us dress up, either."

For the first time since that morning, Baroness let out a sound which almost resembled a chuckle. "You look nice, by the way."

"Thank you. You do as well."

Now she did laugh. "I'd better. Vampy spent almost an hour brushing powders on me, and I'm pretty sure my MasterCard shit itself when the shop girl rang up these shoes." She smiled. "The things I do in the name of Rivalcastia."

He smiled back at her, then looked more serious for a moment. "Just remember, okay? We've got you, no matter what."

"I will." Baroness waved at a group a few tables over calling their names. "No matter what, V, I have a feeling this is going to be a night people will talk about for a long time."

*****

The room reminded Baron of something a Bond villain would lounge in. The walls were rough stone, which paired with the dim lighting gave the feeling of being inside a cave. A cave with overstuffed leather recliners, but a cave nonetheless. One entire wall was a floor-to-ceiling aquarium, which Baron found himself drawn to. He was peering into it, admiring the various colorful fish and aquatic plants, when he noticed the reflection of a pale, wiry man standing behind him. The man smiled slowly as Baron started and whirled around.

"My apologies, Mr. Baron, I did not mean to frighten you." Between the man's dark cloak, pale complexion, and Scandanavian accent, he reminded Baron of a blond version of Bela Lugosi's Dracula. The slightly crazed glint in the man's eyes didn't do much to assuage his discomfort, nor did the man's habit of constantly rubbing this slender fingers together. "I trust your journey was comfortable?"

"Well, considering I was kidnapped, strapped to a chair in an airplane by a goth dominatrix, and have no idea where I am...it was okay, I guess?"

"Oh, I do apologize for that," the man's voice was soft in the way that made the hair stand on the back of Baron's neck, "but I really had no choice. My previous inquiries and invitations went unanswered, except for one that was rather rudely referenced to by your wife during RCM On Tap."

Baron looked confused. "Wait, what?"

"I understand that an entertainer of your stature probably receives a sizable amount of fan mail, and it would be unrealistic to expect a personal reply to be sent to each one – that would leave no time for your amazing skits and shows! But for fans such as myself – true fans, mind you, not those silly 'where's the horror' people who somehow make your wife all giddy – to write regularly both on the forums and through the postal service, and have multiple messages ignored, is infuriating." The man clenched his fists in anger for a moment before going back to his weird finger-petting.

Something clicked in Baron's mind. He gasped. "Are you... Tortured4Baron?"

The man looked surprised and somewhat delighted. "You know my tag! But please, that might get confusing. You may call me Sven."

"Alright, Sven," Baron looked around the room, but the only door he could see was the one he'd come in through, and Sven was blocking the way. "But that doesn't answer the question: why am I here?"

"Ah, yes." The finger thing made Baron ready to scream. "I have brought you here because I, too, am an entertainer, though not quite of your caliber. I know that we have many things in common, and that you can teach me things. In fact, I wrote a movie that I wanted you to star in, one which could have been farther along in production, had your wife not tried to interfere. That's why I brought you here to Australia."

"Australia?!" Baron stared in disbelief as his head whirled. "No. Noooooo. I'm supposed to be at Rivalcon. Australia's, like, an eighteen hour flight. Why the fuck would you think I'd be okay with this? Baroness..."

"Baroness is no longer your concern, Mr. Baron. I left enough clues behind to ensure that she won't come looking for you." Sven looked over at him coldly, then his mood seemed to change in an instant. "One of my first directing projects, actually. It goes to show how naturally talented you are, being able to pick up on my cues from half a world away and fall all over your – what did you call her? – 'goth dominatrix' for the camera. It was really quite convincing."

Baron's green eyes blazed with fire. "What have you done?"

"Liberated you."

Blind with rage, Baron moved as if to lunge at his captor, but before he could act a rope net dropped down from the ceiling to ensnare him.

"Save your passion, Mr. Baron. You'll need it when shooting today's scenes. Besides, in the end, you'll thank me for freeing you from RivalCast Media and that troublesome woman. You'll finally get the respect you deserve, the support you deserve, and the freedom to create whatever you want."

Baron shuddered as Sven paused in his monologue and smiled. "You'll thank me, Mr. Baron. You'll thank me..."

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