Live now: Internet Dad
Upcoming: Wolfpack in 22h 36m
Upcoming: The Roundup in 1d 23h
RCM FanFic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 28
Episode 28

*****
"It's on a loop," Baroness said calmly. Her eyes narrowed as she considered the puzzle before her, her expression focused and calculating. She leaned casually on her makeshift fighting staff, eyebrow raised in thought as the horrendous creature inched ever closer. "Weird. It's almost like a binary language, in a way."

"Erm?" Beside her, the now weaponless Hax was trying to stare down the beast while simultaneously groping about for something with which to defend himself. His steadfast Britishness prevented him from succumbing to outright panic, but the situation had become increasingly surreal throughout the evening. Logic had taken a backseat to the fantastic, and Baroness's comment about a binary language just seemed to drive that point home.

"Listen," she insisted. "It's a pattern of clicks and chirps. Like...I don't know, like music notes, kinda, if you only had two of them. Two sounds, put into patterns, almost like a binary language. And the pattern is on a loop. See? Here it starts again."

He was more busy trying to figure out how they were supposed to defeat the monster dangling above them with no discernable weapon nearby. In fact, the only thing he had within reach at all was some model of mobile phone left on the floor, which he'd accidentally smashed by stepping on it (though to be fair, he thought, it looked as though Baroness had jumped on it a few times first during her crazed melee). Behind them, their friends' gunfire had stopped as the creature descended to the point where he and the Baroness were in the line of fire. Not that it would have done much good - now that they were so close, the web ninja could see clearly that the creature was shielded by an incredibly thick exoskeleton that effectively provided it with a much heavier armour than its underlings. So how to kill it?

As he and the Baroness pondered, somewhere in the recesses of his mind, Hax did start to hear the pattern:

Click click click click click click click chirp.
Click click click click click click click chirp.
Click chirp click chirp click chirp chirp.
Click click chirp click click click chirp.

Click click click click click click click chirp.
Click click click click click click click chirp.
Click chirp click chirp click chirp chirp.
Click click chirp click click click chirp.


It was looping. Hax found this slightly disconcerting, though he couldn't readily think as to why. In fact, as his eyes frantically searched the spider's underside for any clue of a weak spot, he was frustrated to find his thoughts wandering back to his university days. The clicks and chirps reminded him of evening strolls over the campus green, a chorus of crickets serenading over a warm spring breeze. He shook the thought from his mind and snatched Baroness's staff away as she tried to poke the spider with it.

"Stop that," he hissed under his breath, partly to her, but partly to himself. He gently took her arm, slowly backing them both toward the edge of the creature's belly and away from its dripping spinnerets. She glared at him.

"Crickets," she said, almost as if she were reading his mind.

"What?"

"Crickets." She repeated the word meaningfully, as if she'd just found the key to a treasure box. "That's what it reminds you of, doesn't it? Or, well, it does to me, anyway." She grabbed her staff out of his hand and pulled back against the web ninja's grip, taking him along with her as she headed back toward the spinnerets.

"I'm not following..." The pattern of the clicking and chirping seemed to get louder, drowning out coherent thought as his mind tried giving itself over to the code.

Baroness tsk'd at him. "Of course you are, you're still holding my arm. Which I'm going to need in a minute, by the way."

"No," Hax said desperately, "I meant I'm not following your line of thought. What is important about crickets?"

"OH!" Baroness exclaimed. "Sorry. Well, what do you know about crickets? They chirp, obviously, but they don't have vocal cords, so how do they do it?"

They were on the other side of the spider's belly now, out the line of sight of both the arachnid and their team. The creature was almost upon them now, and Hax wondered if Varyar would attempt another volley of fire. To his right, there was a clear path out from beneath the monster and back to the stage from whence they came; Hax noticed Bennett was nowhere to be found. He considered taking Baroness by force and pulling her out to relative safety, but something about her question gave him pause.

She smiled at him, her eyes sparkling. "They scrape their wings together. One has like a kind of jagged file, and when rubbed against the other wing, it makes the chirping sound."

"But the spider doesn't have wings." He still wasn't quite sure where she was going with this, and it was hard to hear her over the clicks.

"EXACTLY!" She shouted over the din. "So if the spider doesn't have wings, what is it using to make its call?"

Baroness's smile was so huge now that Hax thought for a second she might actually explode from excitement. Improbable as that may have been under normal circumstances, Hax was starting to wonder if the world worked the way he thought it did. But before he could hazard a guess, Baroness pointed to a spot on the creature's abdomen. Hax saw a small spot where two plates of the exoskeleton came together, but for the sake of movement weren't fused. Suddenly, there was a new click in the web ninja's mind, and not of the audible variety. "Oh, right!" he exclaimed.

Baroness was already lining up the shot with her staff. "If I remember my biology, its lungs should be right about there as well. I think it's about time we explain to these bastards that I don't appreciate their crashing RivalCon without a ticket. Mr. Haxor, would you be so kind as to help me drive the point home?"

Hax returned her smile. "With pleasure."

*****
Baron sat at the edge of the satin bedspread, rubbing at his recently freed wrists as he tried to think of his next move. Preferably not a horizontal one, though he had to admit his surprise at how attractive he found his captor, in spite of her crimes. Absinthe had left him for the moment, though not alone - while she readied herself in the bath, a posted guard who reminded Baron of the wrestler Goldberg stood attentively staring him down, his expression very much like a father staring down his little girl's prom date. The guard's locked-on stare and locked-and-loaded weapon discouraged exploration of the room as well, not that there was much light to go by anyway. The subterranean lair was lit solely by candle sconces on the windowless walls, which paired with the posh fabrics and deep red upholstery gave an ambiance Baron was fighting hard to ignore.

He had to think. Varyar had told him once that Marines always took assessment of what resources were in their immediate vicinity in case they needed to kill someone. The four-poster bed on which he sat used thick ropes to tie back the curtains - maybe he could use those to choke her? Baron doubted she'd let the guard watch her do whatever depraved things he was sure she wanted to do to him. He faked a stretch, falling backwards against the soft mattress. He could try to suffocate her with a pillow, too, but he was pretty sure she had the strength and dexterity to kick her way out of that and possibly scream. What if he could get to the bathroom? What potential weapons could he fashion from things in there?

Just then, the bathroom door opened, and all thought immediately stopped. "Oh, dear God," Baron muttered as he tried to breathe.

Strappy stiletto heels snaked their way around her ankles and perfectly pedicured toes. Baron's eyes moved slowly up perfectly toned legs, the smooth, bronzed skin broken only by a bit of black lace over her naughty parts. From there, sculpted abs flowed upwards to a matching bit of lace over her perky breasts, above which stood a face framed with bright copper hair. She waved the guard out of the room without a word, then slowly sauntered to the edge of the bed. With the agility of a cat, she was on top of him before Baron had a chance to react. "I seem to recall," she purred in his ear, "reading something in your profile about an affinity for redheads."

Ruby lips were on his and sucking the breath out of him before he could respond. His hands reached up to support her waist without him realizing what was happening. Suddenly, she broke off and leaned back, laughing.

"I was about to ask if you liked what you saw, but I think I already have an answer," she giggled.

Baron felt his cheeks flush, but again had no time to say anything before they were interrupted by the guard bursting back into the room. Absinthe looked up sharply, her eyes immediately switching to battle mode.

"Your excellency! The intruders have taken out the squad at the landing site and are infiltrating the gate! And one of them is..." He looked at Baron, eyes narrowing in disgust. "At least one of them is with the Master's enemies."

"Indeed? Then we must have something that they want." She reached over and pulled open a drawer in the night table, revealing a small silver pistol.

"Darling," she said to Baron as she lifted the weapon, sliding her body over his as she placed the end of the barrel against his temple, "I want to believe that our feelings for each other come from a genuine attraction, but I need to be certain of something." She kissed gently at his neck. "I need to know," she whispered. "I need to hear you say it."

"I..." Baron hesitated. Between the sultry voice whispering in one ear and the gun leveled just above the other, he wasn't quite sure of what she wanted him to say. Then he felt her kiss the skin at his collarbone, tracing the outline of her lips with the tip of her tongue as Baron let out a tiny moan in spite of himself.

"Say it," she insisted.

Baron swallowed hard, pushing her back so he could look her in the eye. "I want you."

Absinthe smiled as she felt a little flutter underneath her, kissed him hard, then reached up to grab something else from the nightstand. Baron blanked again as her chest was suddenly in his face, then felt even more confused as he suddenly felt cold metal clasping onto his wrists.

"It's not that I don't trust you," Absinthe said as she grabbed her clothes. "But just so you know, the next time I see you, I'm going to consume you, body and soul."

At that, the vixen left the room, guards in tow. Baron, now cuffed to her bed, stared at the closed door and tried to figure out what in the hell just happened.

*****

After the spider toppled, spraying its webbing all over the place in a final act of defiance before transcending to that big cocoon in the sky, the Rival team was so overjoyed with the feeling of victory that Hax and Bio didn't even complain when the others lit their cigarettes in the middle of the now-decimated ballroom. Half of the team went out with pieces of chairs and mop handles to start clearing the sticky webbing away from the hotel entrance; the others were taking a few moments to congratulate one another on a job well done.

Dazed in her own little world, a dozy Baroness sat cross-legged in the middle of the room, absentmindedly fiddling with the fallen creature's crown. Hax wasn't sure if she even registered his presence as he sat down next to her, until she suddenly turned to him.

"Hax?" Baroness yawned. "This is fun, but can we stop now and get the other one tomorrow?"

He looked at her, puzzled. "Other one?"

She nodded sleepily. "You know. The other king spider."

Hax's blood ran cold as the proverbial lightbulb went off in his mind. The clicking pattern, the cricket thoughts, the feeling that the spider they faced looked different from the one they'd seen earlier. As his mind played back through the events of the evening, he remembered something else: there had been two spiders sealing off the atrium at the beginning of the evening. With a sickening feeling forming in his stomach, Hax realized why the spider they'd vanquished seemed different from the creature giving orders at the beginning of the battle: it was because it was different from the one they saw at the beginning of the battle. "Oh shit," he whispered, then spun around toward where Dee was talking with Killer.

"Guys! It was a mating call! We have to find the other spider!"

"That might be a bit more difficult than you realise."

At the far end of the room, Parker Bennett emerged from the shadows, tugging along an elegantly dressed Ginger at gunpoint. She sneered at the group, and at Baroness in particular, though the latter was dozing off in the middle of the party and didn't seem to be paying anyone much mind.

"Go on," Bennett nudged, jabbing the barrel into the small of her back, "tell everyone what a naughty girl you've been."

"It's too late, RivalCast," Ginger gloated. "You may have won the battle, but Arachnos is almost to the land down under. From there, she will take up among her arachnid army, and the spider attacks you've been whining about will seem like child's play compared to what we will do. Not to mention," she said as she turned toward the Baroness, "I doubt she'll be pleased to hear you killed her mate. Especially since we have yours in our clutches."

"Wait, Arachnos has Baron?" Killer asked.

"Wait, Arachnos is a girl?" followed Dee.

Hax shook his head. "Then what of the other spider at the beginning of the battle?"

Ginger grinned maliciously. "Oh, you mean the hologram? Very realistic, wouldn't you say? I believe you knew the programmer who worked on that project. Don't worry, though. If there is such thing as an afterlife, I'm sure you'll be meeting him again soon. After Arachnos is done sucking the life out of you and everyone you hold dear, of course."

"Come along," Bennett wrenched Ginger's arm, making the sultry temptress cringe in pain. "We'll see how smug you remain after questioning."

She smiled sweetly. "I don't know how you do things in England, but in America, I don't have to tell you anything without my lawyer present."

Bennett smiled back, his eyes hard as he gave her an icy stare. "I find it quaint how you seem to think you'll be questioned in America. Now get moving!" There was a brutal harshness to his voice which caused her to jump, then quickly march out of the room without another word.

"Should we...?" Dee started.

"I think she's one of the bad guys," Killer replied.

"Hey, guys?" Vampy came jogging into the room. "We gotta go. Like, now. Varyar just dropped his cigarette onto a wad of webbing, and..."

Just then, the fire alarms went off and the hotel's sprinkler system kicked in. Still sitting quietly on the floor, Baroness slowly looked about the room, taking in the damage. "If this isn't a dream," she muttered, "there is no way we're getting our deposit back..."

*****

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