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Agents of ARACHNOS, Episode 29
Episode 29 - It's Almost Over

*****

Outside the hotel, Lucia Riley stood staring at the white shell of webbing encasing the front entrance. Holding her mobile in one hand and a walkie-talkie in the other, her expression was hard and focused. The Messenger had been entranced by strong women before - his boyhood fantasy girl had been Lucy Lawless's character of Xena, Warrior Princess, a poster of whom was still on his bedroom wall - but there was something about the way Lucia handled herself that was unlike anything he'd ever imagined a woman could be. Sure, she was a secret agent of a government he was pretty sure was more out to pursue their own agendas than to protect and guide their people. Nobody was perfect. But as he watched her in action, the Messenger was conflicted about whether he more wanted to make love to her or craft himself a tin foil hat to block her from reading his inner thoughts. Given the way she seemed to stare through into his soul, it could go either way, which was slightly terrifying.

"That's right," she was saying to whomever was on the other end of her mobile call, "every entrance sealed with spider webbing. We've had contact with Bennett, and apparently the roof is the only access point at the moment.He's up there with the prisoner now, awaiting the transport helicopter. We have cordoned off all streets in a three-block radius and evacuated that area - 'gas leak,' officially... yes, we're certain. Dr. Funkenstein has already tested and shown it has the same RF-blocking properties as the samples from Cleveland, Staffordshire, Brisbane, and Olso. He also cautioned it is extremely flammable. We've already had to caution our boys not to smoke near it while we wait for the helicopters...yes." The Messenger's thoughts started to stray to imagining how she'd look in a Lt. Uhura tunic when the agent's eyes suddenly locked onto his, flashing furious death glares.

Yep, he thought to himself as he quickly walked away, definitely need to craft some hats.

"Understood," Lucia said finally, as the radio in her other hand squawked to life. "Our own unit should be hitting the drop zone in two minutes. And Shin?" Her voice got softer for a moment. "It could get dangerous out there. Tell Manly to be careful."

She grinned evilly as she listened to dead silence, followed by irritated Australianisms as her words clicked. Of all the agents she'd worked with, Shinzon Gamma was by far Lucia's favorite, if only because she could tease him mercilessly and have him bounce right back to the task at hand. It was so much easier of a relationship than the norm in their line of work, where the language of double-speak led to misperceptions and unnecessary complications. Just before she could end the call, however, Shinzon's tone took a serious turn.

"Wait, say again?" Lucia was quiet for a moment, concentrating on his words as a knot formed in her stomach. Her face grew pale for a moment as her eyes darted over to the hotel, where a small blob of movement could be seen breaking through the door. She gestured to her soldiers, who moved in with weapons drawn until they recognized Killer emerging from the opening with an unidentified lady in tow. He was followed by Miggnor, Lyserg, Vampy, and the others. A small relief, but not enough to offset the horror being relayed from the other side of the world.

"Right," she said finally as she saw teh_leet_haxor and the Baroness emerge from the opening. "Let me know as soon as you find anything. And seriously, be careful."

Lucia ended the call as Hax came jogging up. "Lucia! We need to get ASIO on the line. Arachnos is confirmed to be on the way there as we speak."

The secret agent just nodded slowly. "They know. Bennett managed to get a mobile connection from the roof and filled me in on what your group was finding, and we were able to relay that information to ASIO and have the Australian defence forces moving into position along the coast.We were also able to trace Baron von Gosu's whereabouts to an island off the coast of Melbourne; Manly Stuff's reconnaissance showed what appears to be a large compound with what appear to be a number of various munitions stockpiles hidden under the guise of some sort of film shoot." She hesitated, then continued, "They haven't found a body yet."

Hax looked up sharply. "What do you mean?"

Lucia looked over in the direction of the Baroness, who was being given a styrofoam cup of something from the medic and shaking her head at something Bio was saying. "I spoke with Shinzon just before you came. When they landed on the island... those monsters knew what they were doing. There were bodies everywhere, presumably people lured there under the pretense of working on a movie. Shin said..." She paused, looking slightly ill as she tried to get the words out. "He said the bodies were like shrivelled husks, completely drained of blood."

Hax's shoulders slumped at the implications. "Dear god."

"Von Gosu's body wasn't among the ones they found, though," Lucia continued, still looking strangely at the Baroness. "So there's still a chance. Shin's men are burning everything they can around the island to flush out any of those arachnid fuckers, with orders to shoot to kill. They've already eliminated around twenty of the little bastards, and are working towards the main mansion complex where they believe von Gosu was being held." She fidgeted uncomfortably. "I just hope for her sake it's not too late."

"Indeed," Hax started. He looked over at his friend, hoping above hope that they wouldn't have to bring her bad news, when a thought occurred to him. Something didn't fit right. "Wait," he said as he turned back to the secret agent, "why do you care?"

"Because she--"

Something about the perplexed look on Hax's face caused Lucia to stop herself. Her eyes searched his, growing wide as something clicked in her mind. "Oh, God. When I read in the dossier that you were working together... I'm sorry, Haxor. I thought you knew."

"Knew what, exactly?"

But before she could answer, the pair was interrupted by one of the guards escorting an equally perplexed Highlander to Lucia's command post. The Red Fedora gazed about the chaos. "So, I left for a bit to try out a restaurant I'd heard a lot about, and was just wondering...why are we all out here and surrounded by armed guards?"

Lucia immediately went into business mode. "Special Agent Lucia Riley," she said by way of introduction as she reached out her hand. "Long story short, your convention was overtaken by terrorists..."

"Giant spider terrorists," Hax corrected.

"...and we have put the area in lockdown. The immediate threat appears to be neutralized, but we are awaiting backup squads to clear the building of any remaining hostile threats."

"Also, Varyar set the fucking hotel on fire," Hax added nonchalantly.

"DON'T YOU TRY TO BLAME THIS ON ME!" Varyar yelled a short distance away.

"Wait," Lucia chimed in, "the hotel is on fire?"

"Sorry." Hax raised an eyebrow. "I thought you knew."

While Lucia went immediately into emergency management mode, Highlander just gazed slowly around him. "Well, I'm pretty sure we can kiss that security deposit goodbye."

"Nah," Killer said as he walked up. "The hotel manager was eaten by a giant spider, so I think we can justify our actions."

Highlander sighed, taking off his glasses as he rubbed the bridge between his eyes. "And I thought Tara's fan fics were weird..."

*****

Once Baron was alone, the physical strain of the previous few days finally caught up to him. Anxiety and exhaustion teamed up to fill his mind with nightmares of his wife in a cocoon, dangling helplessly while a ravenous spider monster grew ever closer. And that was the most pleasant scenario his brain could come up with. His stomach felt queasy remembering the triumph in Absinthe's voice as she gloated about Baroness succumbing to spider venom, and his having to pretend not to care. In the heat of the moment, he could hear Baroness's voice in his mind, feeding him the words to tell her so he could formulate an escape. Now, cold and alone, Baron's grief seeped out over Absinthe's satin sheets.

He could have saved her, his mind screamed. Had he been there, Baroness would be safe. There wouldn't be some blood thirsty, red-headed nymphomaniac with her sights set on him. He wouldn't have gotten Alex killed. He and his friends would be sitting at the hotel bar right now, having rounds and congratulating one another on an amazing convention - a convention, he realized, he had completely missed out on.

And if he hadn't, he could have saved her.

The train of thoughts looped in his head, over and over, until fatigue started to blend them together. Chained to a ridiculously comfortable bed, the acoustics of the room completely obliterating any sound from outside, he struggled to keep awake; lord only knew the dangers that may befall him were he to lose consciousness. But in spite of the peril, Baron found his thoughts wandering, and soon drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

He found himself wandering about again in the meadow. Fluffy sheep dotted against the lush green grass, nibbling here and there or shuffling down to the crystal-clear creek to drink. Baroness was in the middle with her back to him, blue skirts spread out over the sweet clover, wearing her favorite hat to shield her from the bright sunshine. The turf was velvety-soft as Baron dropped next to her, hugging her tight as she giggled at him. He buried his face in her shoulder, breathing in the scent of lemons and daisies, trying to make the moment last as long as possible.

"I'm so sorry," he mumbled, squeezing her tighter.

Baron felt her hand on his cheek, raising his face up to look at hers. Her eyes were a brilliantly deep blue, her smile happier than he'd seen in weeks. She kissed his forehead gently and whispered, "The story's not over yet. You need to wake up."

"No, I don't want to leave you. I shouldn't have left you in the first place."

"Baron," her voice got gruffer, "wake up, mate."

Baron started to panic as the world around him started to fade out. He clutched at the fabric of Baroness's skirt, but something was yanking his wrists again. An odd cacophony of voices started flooding his head, their sounds varied but indistinct, save for one which he was sure he heard say, "Well, I guess we found the horror."

"Let me go," he moaned.

"We're trying to," a familiar accent replied, "except you keep jerking your bloody arms around. Sit still for a moment."

Baron opened his eyes to find Shinzon picking at the locks to his handcuffs. Across the room, Manly Stuff was dialing a cell phone while a unit of commandos searched the rooms of Absinthe's suite. "All clear, sir," one of the soldiers reported as Manly nodded his head in acknowledgement.

"We found him," he said into the phone. "He looks a little rough, but we found Baron and he is alive."

Just then, Baron heard a click and his wrist popped loose from its shackle. "Thanks, Shin," he said, propping himself up and rubbing the sore joint. "How did you find me?"

"It's probably better that we don't talk about that right now," the Aussie replied, tapping his ear and gesturing around the room. "We aren't sure who might be hearing us. At any rate, we need to move quickly and get off this island. The agents of Arachnos have murdered everyone on the island, and a pack of really big, mutant spiders have been feasting on the carnage. And when I say 'big,' remember I'm from Australia, so you would think of it as 'really really REALLY big."

"Hey," Manly called over, "Hax says Arachnos is closer than we'd thought. We need to get back to the plane."

"Hax?" The mention of the web ninja's name set off a string of thoughts rapid firing through Baron's brain. If Hax was alive, then not everyone perished like Absinthe had led him to believe. He reached out for Manly's phone. "Let me talk to him a sec."

"Talk and run," Manly said as he tossed Baron the mobile. "Let's go!"

"Hax," Baron said, "you're alive? And the others?"

The Brit's voice was a little staticky over the satellite connection, but Baron felt a small relief at the reserved if slightly perplexed, "Erm, yeah?" he got for a reply.

"Good to hear. I got a little...false information that you'd all been eaten by Arachnos."

"Ah. Well, hmm, no. Rumours of RCM's collective demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated."

"What about..." Baron paused a moment as his mouth suddenly went dry. The logical part of his brain told him that Hax would have appended his answer had Baroness not been included in his set of survivors, but the emotional part needed reassurance. He swallowed hard. "What about Baroness?"

"Mmm? Ah! Yes, she's...well, not quite fine. That is, she's alive, certainly, though not exactly herself. The medic was rather fascinated, given the amount of toxin she was exposed to. He feels that she shouldn't even be awake, let alone running around smashing mutant spiders with a table-leg."

So the venom part was true. "So...wait, what happened? She killed a spider with a table leg?" Baron asked as the group re-entered the aquarium chamber.

"Loads of them, actually. The venom, instead of knocking her out, appears to have had some sort of psychedelic effect on her. She's starting to come off it now, but yeah, it was rather impressive to watch." Hax's voice took on an almost prideful air as he added, "Oh, and she also punched a member of Her Majesty's Secret Service, but that was prior to the spider thing."

"What?"

"In fact, she's...oh dear god."

Baron heard his wife in the background yelling "LOOK, BIO! I'm gonna press ALL THE BUTTONS!!!"

"She's wearing a crown and is attempting to steal a fire engine. I see Bubba over there as well, which cannot possibly be a harbinger of anything good in this case. I'm terribly sorry, Baron, however I have to go."

The connection ended before Baron could say anything more, but his relief was real. "Baroness was okay! And stealing a fire truck!" he reported joyfully to his friends.

That joy was tempered, however, when he caught sight of Alex's body still tied to Absinthe's web. "Hey, guys? I, uh...can we take Alex's body with us?"

Shinzon hesitated as he glanced over at Manly Stuff. "Well, we're a little short on time, and we weren't really expecting to bring back bodies..."

"Right, I know but...it's my fault he's here, and he deserves better than to have his corpse eaten by evil spiders. I can carry him, if it's okay to have him on the plane." Baron looked sorrowfully at his friends. "Please, guys. It's my fault he's dead, and I need to make it up to him somehow."

"I'm not dead," Alex mumbled.

Baron's expression changed from sorrow to shock. "What?"

"I'm not dead."

"He says he isn't dead," Shinzon repeated, at which both Baron and Manly glared at him.

Baron was confused. "But how can that be? I heard your neck snap when Absinthe was...finished with you."

"Lucky break, I think." Alex winced through the pain. "I can't turn my neck at all, but I can wiggle my toes, so I don't think she snapped the spinal cord." His fingers fluttered. "I may be able to walk, if I have help."

"We have to hurry," Manly reminded them as Shin and Baron helped carefully get Alex off the web. "If Hax's estimates are right, Arachnos will be on the island at any moment."

One of the commandos ran to Absinthe's room and came back with shreds of the satin bedsheets while another broke off the legs of a nearby side table to use as a makeshift splint. Carefully, they braced Alex's neck and used the strips of sheeting to secure the table legs as best they could, then each took a side and helped support Alex as he took a few tentative steps.Seeing he could move, the group proceeded as quickly as Alex's injuries would allow. The rest of the commandos went ahead as the rest navigated out of the mansion, across the wide open lawn. All breathed a small sigh of relief when they reached the relative safety of the treeline.

"Alright," Manly announced, "we've just got to get through this patch of woods, and then the plane if about a hundred meters away from the trees in the middle of a field. I'm going to have to taxi as close to the far end as I can to have enough room for takeoff, and even then, it's going to be tight. When you board, strap in as well as you can." He looked apologetically at Alex. "It's going to be a bumpy ride."

The Ben Affleck look-alike smiled. "It's alright, mate. I appreciate the lift."

"Ok," Shinzon agreed, "let's-"

He trailed off as he saw the commandos running toward them at full force.

"SIR!" the squad leader screamed. "INCOMING BOGEY AT-"

But before he could finish the thought, the most massive spider Baron had ever seen swooped down and landed just behind the squad leader, pinning him with a trunk-like leg before bending down to drink the man's blood. The creature was wearing a regal purple cloak trimmed in ermine, and on its head sported a massive crown set with blood rubies. Each of its claws also shimmered with matching gems.

"Well, I think Arachnos is here," Shin said dryly.

*****

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