RCM Fanfic - Varyar: Da Bark Lurd Saga Episode 8
EPISODE 8 â€" in which…revelations.

While the rest of the house dozed, Baroness sat in the darkness, watching the early gray light of the dawn creep through the windows. She hadn’t slept all night. Edge’s words from earlier echoed in her mind: He’ll be dead soon if we don’t figure out how to rescue him. And it was her fault. She was the one, not Bio, who’d opened her mouth on the air about the Cult of Sesame Street. She was the one who responded to threats with a flippant come-and-get-it attitude. She was the one who decided to take a stand by poking the bear, and it was she, not Bio, who should be God-knows-where facing the consequences of those actions. Restless, she hugged her pink bathrobe about her to ward off the morning’s chill and slipped out of the warm bed, doing her best not to disturb the sleeping Baron snoring quietly beside her. She crept silently past the guest rooms containing her dozing friends and down the stairs, through the darkened living room, and down a second set of stairs leading to her workshop.

She sank into her desk chair, a click of the lamp illuminating the photos on the wall. One was a snapshot of herself, Baron, and Varyar at the first Orbfest; Baroness smiled at the memory of how the team came together that night to pull off the event, in spite of numerous technical issues and the ever-present threat of banjo-wielding hillbillies migrating down from the hills. Another was of her and Vampy dressed to the nines for RCM’s first Webby Awards ceremony, with Killer photobombing in the background. A third, one of her favorites, was of Edge, Bio, and Varyar at the same awards event, all dressed in black-tie formal. In it, Edge gave a sly grin as he flipped off the camera while the other two stood laughing, Bio’s facepalm covering his eyes while Varyar hung his head.

Her heart caught in her throat at the next, a group shot of all of them together during their first Rivalcast roadtrip the summer before. Her eyes locked onto Bio’s smiling face beaming at her from in the middle of the photo, surrounded by friends, then the image blurred as the tears she’d kept bottled up for the past 36 hours finally broke loose in a torrent down her cheeks. Baroness sank her head in her hands, her tiny frame racking with silent sobs as she tried to get a hold of herself.

“You know this isn’t your fault.â€

With a start, Baroness’s head snapped around to find Edge standing in the doorway, watching her with concern. She tried quickly to wipe away the tears. “I didn’t realize you were still up.â€

“Me being up at this hour is normal. It’s you I’m surprised about.â€

Baroness tried to put on a brave face, but the look in his eyes told her that he was having none of it.

“It’s not your fault,†he repeated.

“It is, though. If I hadn’t antagonized them…â€

“Bio knew what he was doing and made his own choices.†Edge tried to keep his voice down, but it was imperative that they all kept their focus, and he was losing her to whatever darkness was playing out in her mind. He stepped closer into the light, trying to think of something that would snap her out of it. “Any one of us put in Bio’s situation would have made the same decision, no matter who on our team the target was â€" that trust and solidarity is what makes us as good a team as we are. You know damn well that if it was you who was approached by the Cult, you’d have stood up and done something.â€

She didn’t say anything, just nodded slightly. He noticed she also didn’t try to hold back the tears any longer. Edge started to get the strong impression there was something deeper to this than just Bio’s abduction, but wasn’t sure how, or even if, he should ask. She watched him a moment, the blue eyes bigger and more searching than he’d ever seen, and as if reading his thoughts she seemed to make a decision. She took a deep, shaky breath, then started talking quietly.

*****

A few hours later, after Baroness finally fell asleep in the papasan chair, Edge sat quietly across the room typing furiously on the laptop. He was in a state of flux, his irritation with the constant pings from Timmos countered by the calming atmosphere of the workshop. He could see why Baroness liked working down there. The room was a cozy one, with two of the walls lined on top with books and wide counters underneath for the plethora of projects she had spread out. Above her writing table, the framed photos from various RCM events hung interspersed with pictures of her nieces and nephews, while catty-corner to that her whiteboards hung on hooks, ready to be grabbed and switched around as needed while she brainstormed whatever article or marketing campaign she worked on next. It was a logical set-up. Edge’s only complaint would have been that all of the furniture was definitely set for the lower height of the Baroness, but it worked.

The typing paused a moment as she murmured something in her sleep, her brow furrowing as she shifted in the chair, and he wondered what she was dreaming about. A lot of things had clicked in his mind as she shared her secrets â€" the seesaw between motherly nurturing and arrogant bravado, the feverish energy to push forward, the slightly reckless reactions to trivial challenges and cautious approaches to the things that mattered. The conflict between her strength and her vulnerability was suddenly and irrevocably put into context.

When she finished, he’d needed a few minutes to digest it all; the young Baroness she described was very different from the woman he knew now. At one point, when he asked why she hadn’t left sooner, the response was very telling: “Where would we have gone? There was no one to take us in, and even if there had been, he’d have killed her as soon as we were gone. I know he would. She wasn’t strong enough to say no, to leave on her own, because any time she did he beat the shit out of her. And do you know what happens in the foster system?†She’d almost lost it completely at that point. “On top of the very probable scenario that we’d be split up, there was no guarantee that where we’d go wasn’t as bad or worse than where we already were. It was the gamble between dealing with the known evil versus the unknown, and I was the oldest; I had to keep them safe, if you could even call it that. I swore when I grew up and finally did break free that I would never, ever let myself be put in that position again. Never.†Baroness’s voice hiccupped at the end as she tried to stifle another sob. “And I thought I’d gotten past all that. But now Bio’s gone and I feel just as scared and helpless as I did when I was a kid.â€

He watched her sleep a few moments more, trying to sort through everything that had transpired over the past few days and how this new information would affect the team. By the time he heard the clatter of Hax fixing his morning tea in the kitchen above, he still hadn’t come to a conclusion. Closing the umpteenth poke from Timmos (he was not clicking that link, goddamn it), Edge finished what he was working on and slipped quietly back upstairs.

*****

The sun was up but still low in the sky when Lyserg’s Mini rounded the curves of the von Gosus’ neighborhood, the little red wagon carting Arnold Schwarzenegger in tow. The duct tape had come undone a couple of times along the trip, resulting in some hasty backtracking to retrieve the surly Austrian from the side of the road, but they finally made it. As he pulled in past the tiger mailbox, Lyserg caught sight of Hax watching from the front window, checking his watch with an eyebrow raised. Yes, they’d lost a couple of hours with the backtracking, but they all here now, damn it. He could finally get out, stretch his legs, and find out who the hell had been buzzing his cell phone the last two hours.

In the passenger seat, Killer had been gently snoozing while cuddling his favorite SCAR as if it were a mechanized death-dealing teddy bear before he was jostled awake by the bump of the enormous pothole just at the end of the driveway. As he stretched, he nearly smacked into Varyar, who was curled up in what little space remained in the back seat with the well-worn copy of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One he found earlier in Lyserg’s glovebox. Something about the puzzles and pop culture clues talked about in the story appealed to Varyar’s imagination; he stroked his magnificent lumberjack beard and wondered how he could work some of those ideas into the RCM homepage.

As the guys slowly worked their way out of the car, Hax’s posh English accent chided playfully from the front porch, “Well, I suppose by Rivalcast time this is punctual. At least one thing in life is still consistent.â€

“Fuck you too, Hax,†Varyar called back. “And I saw your expense report. We’re going to talk after this mission is over.â€

Arnold, uncramping himself from his seat in the wagon, cast a wary eye around the neighborhood. The well-kept houses, the neatly trimmed lawns â€" all acted as trigger objects to remind him Da Bark Lurd’s evil was subtle, and close by. As the local paperboy sped by on a shiny red ten-speed, flicking his bundles up the driveways with a practiced precision, Killer actually had to grab Arnold’s arm to stop him from picking the kid off.

Lyserg took a lap around the yard to check his messages while the others started unloading the arsenal from the back seat. Even though the Americans’ love of weapons borderlined obsession, even Hax had to admit that the collection brought up for their disposal was complete and impressive. As they worked to move the weapons safely into the house, Hax noted the special loving care with which Killer treated his SCAR. “So, what’s the name for that gun?â€

“An FN SCAR. This one’s from the MK 17 series,†Killer patted it affectionately.

“Oh, erm, no. I meant, what’s YOUR name for it?â€

Killer looked at him quizzically. “I don’t really name my weapons.â€

“Really? I thought all Americans named their guns. Like Big Betty or something of that nature.â€

“No, not me.†Killer carefully set his SCAR inside and went to bring in the rest. As he picked up a double-barrel shotgun with a worn wooden stock, he added, “But Lyserg does refer to this one as â€~Mr. Blasty.’â€

“Hey, guys?†Lyserg was walking rapidly across the grass, staring at the screen of his cell phone with a disturbed look in his eyes. “Hax, did Timmos send you guys anything last night?â€

Hax thought for a moment. “Erm, yes, I think. Not me, but Edge was irritated he kept pinging over a porn link of some kind. I’m pretty sure he didn’t open it though.â€

By this point, Killer had made it over to squint at the tiny screen. “Is that â€" "

“Yep.â€

“That is so very, very wrong.â€

Varyar set his armload of ammo in the house and came over. “What the fuck are you staring at when we have â€" "

Lyserg showed him the phone.

Varyar’s jaw dropped. “Jesus fucking Christ. Really?â€

By now, Arnold grabbed the Galaxy out of Lyserg’s hand, watched a few seconds, and threw it to the ground in disgust. Although the screen cracked on impact, the video of a red puppet creature going to town on a very goff girl was still playing as the device landed face-up on the pavement. “Da agent Tara Gillesbie wrote of this video in her secret coded fan-fic messages,†he reminded. “Dere is only one possible meaning to this: Elmo is Da Bark Lurd!â€

*****
Crap, what happened last time? On to the next episode
Comments
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Good Lord woman! What started out as a few lines in Episode 1 has blown up into a full blown saga now! I like it. :)

But I still say somewhere along the way, Highlander needs to show up in a rape dungeon. ;)
Glad to hear it! We're looking at 4, possibly 5 more episodes for this particular story, but there are rumors that we may not see the end of the RCM adventures... ;)