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Agents of ARACHNOS, Episode 31: The Morning After
Agents of Arachnos - The Morning After

Hax topped off the mug with hot water, then carefully balanced it, his coffee, and a plate of scones in one hand while he grabbed a copy of the morning's paper in the other. Across the crowded breakfast room, the Baroness, clad in her Cookie Monster pants and a blue cardigan retrieved from the decimated hotel suite, sat curled up in a corner of the booth. She yawned as the web ninja maneuvered his way across the room and carefully set down his wares. It had been a long night. Her head was pounding from the aftereffects of the spider venom as Hax dropped with an exhausted plomp into the seat across from her.

"What does the paper say about it?" she asked groggily.

"Breakfast first."

"I'm really not feeling up to breakfast."

"Tsk," he said as he pushed over her tea and the scones. He could tell she was crashing, and she needed to get the venom moving out of her system before she slept. Her eyes were too bleary and unfocused for her to get the information on her own, which presently gave him the upper hand. "You need to eat something first, and have some tea, and then, if you're very good, I might be persuaded to read you a bedtime story from this morning's headlines. But not until you've eaten something first."

Baroness glared at him, grumbling something under her breath as she reached for one of the pastries. Hax sipped at his coffee, waiting patiently until Baroness finished one scone and started to nibble on a second before he continued.

"Now. The paper says what we want it to say, meaning the official story is there was a gas leak which caused an unfortunate explosion and fire in our former hotel. None of the guests were harmed, however, there was extensive damage to the building and several of the hotel's staff perished while trying to contain the inferno. They die as heroes, not victims."

She nodded solemnly. "That will be a lot easier for their families to digest. And they were careful to keep Rivalcast out of it?"

"I proofread the copy myself, since the others were busy restraining you from going near the fire engine again. One would think the editor for the Dallas Morning News would appreciate my pedantry, however..."

Baroness nodded slowly, taking a long sip of her tea. The heat soothed the raw feeling on her throat; it felt like it did when she'd been yelling for a while, but she had no clear recollections of anything after Varyar dropped her in her suite the night before. No, the last thing she clearly remembered was being in the elevator, her right hand aching from hitting Bennett as her frustrations leaked out onto the back of Varyar's shirt. As those memories returned, a million thoughts came back crashing into her head at once. "And what about Baron?"

"Ah!" Hax pulled Baroness's phone from his pocket and returned it to her. "You forgot this on the bar, and it helped us find the kidnapped Baron. He's fine. He, Shinzon, and Manly Stuff will be meeting us back in Cleveland tomorrow with what I'm sure will be a quite interesting briefing of their own adventure."

Baroness let out a sigh of relief before Hax's words fully sank in."Wait, kidnapped?"

"Yeah, it's...erm, complicated. It turns out the woman you saw in that security footage was part of a much bigger conspiracy than originally thought. Something that ties into our problems of last evening and the case Baron was secretly pursuing."

"Something," said a voice Baroness hadn't heard in a long time, "that will almost definitely require additional pursuit, if what we suspect is true."

Hax noticed Baroness's eyes widen slightly in surprise as Lucia Riley slid next to him into the booth, snagging his coffee mug with an imperial air. Ordinarily Hax would protest this indignity, but for the moment he was focused on how his friend stared at the new arrival, scarcely breathing for a moment as she composed herself.

"Lucia."

"Butterfly. Or, excuse me. It's The Baroness now, isn't it?"

Baroness looked slightly queasy. "I'll admit, I wasn't expecting to see you here, although thinking on it now I probably should have."

So they did know each other.

Lucia smiled. "If it's any consolation, I was surprised to find out you'd made acquaintance with Haxor. The odds of the two of you meeting by chance...well. Control had you watched for months to make sure you hadn't gotten back in the game."

"Mmm," Baroness shook her head. "I've always been your statistical outlier. And besides, you know where my loyalties lie."

Hax slowly looked back and forth between the two women. "Erm, pardon my intrusion," he started, "but it is difficult to be a part of the conversation if I'm unaware of what's going on."

Now was Baroness's turn to smile, though her eyes never left those of the blonde spy sitting across from her. "I'm sorry, Hax, I should have told you. Lucia is my cousin. We grew up together, went to school together..."

"...were approached together, trained together, and worked together. At least, until one of us decided to ignore her talents and go elsewhere." Lucia took a long pull from Hax's coffee, and seeing the blank stare he gave her, continued, "Oh, Jesus. Isn't it obvious? She's a not-a-spy, just like you."

Hax sank back slowly against the cushions of the booth as the weight of Lucia's words bore down on him.

"Oh, bugger all..."



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