RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 1

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RCM Fanfic - Agents of ARACHNOS, Ep. 1

Postby JLMcCafferty » Sat Feb 14, 2015 5:00 pm

@image http://media.rivalcastmedia.com/staff/writing-team/public/images/stories/agents-of-arachnos/spider_compiled.png

The Agents of ARACHNOS

Episode 1: The Beginning

“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

*****

Baron grunted as he slid behind the wheel of the Space Donut, fumbling to find the release to adjust the seat. It had not been a fun week, and if the call he’d just received was any indication, it was just going to keep getting worse. Feeling something plush blocking the release bar, in frustration he yanked the thing out and tossed it off toward a tree in the yard without bothering to see what it was – he’d take care of it later. Right now the most important thing was to follow up on the lead he’d been given: a lead so important that he had to leave his friends figure out how to save the missing Biomed Alchemist on their own.
The seat finally giving, Baron slammed the door shut and started the engine when his wife, the Baroness, came running out. She was breathless as he rolled the window down. “You’re really heading to work at a time like this?”

Baron winced his eyes shut. He already felt guilty enough about keeping her in the dark, even though it was a necessary evil; he didn’t need the guilt from her accusations on top of that. “One of my kids is in the hospital,” he lied calmly, “the family is freaking out, and I have to take care of this. You guys have the Bio thing under control. Hey,” he caught her hand as her eyes teared up and she started to pull back from the car, “you do. I have never known you to set your heart on something and not get it, no matter how long it took or how much work you had to put in. You’ll rescue Bio. I know you will. But right now I have to take care of this.” He gave her hand a squeeze, then let her go.

“I may not be home until very late,” he continued, forcing a bit of lightness into his voice. “Good luck today, da hunnies. I love you.”

It killed him to back down the driveway while she stood there, silently watching as a couple of wispy snowflakes fluttered down around her in the cold air. He didn’t like feeling that he let her down, especially when he couldn’t explain himself. Not yet.

For there was an invasion coming. A horrible, world-altering invasion worse than any zombie film or virus outbreak imaginable.

As the sedan shifted and picked up speed, on the front edge of the roof a small brown spider lowered itself tight against the car’s body and held on.

*****
SIX MONTHS LATER

“I really don’t know what to do anymore,” Baroness sighed, digging into the breakfast on her plate. “He’s leaving before I get up in the morning and working late every night. When he is home he’s irritable and constantly attached to something on the computer, but won’t let me see what it is. He’s withdrawing more and more, and I don’t know what’s going on.”

Varyar picked at his french fries, watching quietly while she absentmindedly separated the yolks of her eggs from the whites with a near-surgical precision. He was interested in what she was saying, but the exactitude with which she ate every last silver of white without breaking the yolk, then popped the intact yolk into her mouth all at once… Varyar shook his head. In the years he’d known her, the Baroness had always been a quirky individual, but the egg ritual was fascinating him more than it should. At this rate, he’d wake up one morning to find his Youtube subscription list cluttered with cat fishing video channels.

He jumped a little as her fork clattered angrily on the porcelain plate. “Are you even paying attention?”

“Yes, God,” Varyar replied, exasperated. “Stop yelling at me, I’m not the one you’re upset with. And I don’t know. I hadn’t noticed anything drastic, but the more I think about it Baron has been a little odd lately. Jumpier, I guess. I wasn’t going to say anything, but when we stopped off for a beer the other night, he came out from the bathroom ranting about a spider in the corner watching him pee. I thought it was weird, but probably just the beer talking.”

“More Coke, sugar?” the waitress interrupted as she lightly tapped the laminate table top with the tips of her flamingo-pink manicure.

“Oh, yes, please,” Baroness smiled. “Thanks, Lorraine.” She waited until the waitress was out of earshot before continuing, “See, that’s the other thing. What’s with the sudden spider paranoia? He’s never liked the little bastards, but this is ridiculous. Three weekends ago, he came home with bags upon bags of caulk sealant and filled every single crack and crevice he could find, and then went around and re-sealed them again! And then last week when we went to the General’s house for dinner, just as we sat down to eat, a little tiny one came down from the chandelier right over my plate. Again, I know he’s not a fan of spiders, but I think you’ll agree that using a heavy serving platter to attack a creature half the size of my pinkie nail is overkill. Not to mention dinner was ruined when said chandelier then came crashing down onto the table.”

“Please tell me you’re fucking kidding.”

“I wish. And that standing rib roast looked delectable, too. Or at least, it did until it was covered in glass and spider carcass. I just keep thinking…” Baroness sighed, shaking her head as if trying to shake out an unpleasant thought. “We leave for RivalCon in, what, two weeks? This is a pretty big deal – I was amazed at the hotel Ivy helped me secure for this thing. And between the panelists we have confirmed, Highlander’s work organizing activities, and the ticket sales so far, if this stays consistent, we’ll be looking at PAX-sized venues in a couple of years. But this is the first one. And if something’s wrong with Baron…”

Just then, she spotted an uncharacteristically haggard-looking Hax shuffling through the door. Waving so he could see them, Baroness slid over to let him drop into the booth.

“What the hell happened to you?” Varyar asked.

“What happened? What HAPPENED?!” Hax caught himself as his voice started to rise, taking a deep breath to calm himself before continuing. “What happened is I’ve been plunked into the middle of the most backwards, educationally deficient, socially abhorrent country in the entire globe to do monkey work for a constituency of over-indulged egoists who have no concept of manners nor common sense. It baffles me how the United States and its inhabitants were able to convince themselves of their absolute superiority over the rest of the world, not to mention the audacity of their presupposition to entitlements, when they do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for themselves. When a society is so ridiculously incapable of even the most basic logical thought, such as ‘is the reason I’m not receiving power to my computer terminal a result of the fact I am too stupid to have plugged it into the electrical socket?,’ what right do they have to hassle someone who essentially BUILT the communications system they use to stream high-definition broadcasts of Honey Boo-Boo and the Kardashians about whether or not it is their fault or his regarding why the power cable was unplugged? Then multiply that conversation by a factor of twelve, and that, THAT is what happened.” He fumed for a few moments, breathing heavily while he again tried to regain composure. The other two stared at him in stunned silence. When he finally resumed normal breathing, Hax apologised. “I am terribly sorry, I meant no offence to anyone at this table. However, it has been a terrible morning.”

Baroness looked at Varyar, whom she could tell was having the same thoughts she was. “Hax, as much as I’ve been enjoying your company these past few weeks, I have to ask - why the hell are you doing this? World-class, all-England web super ninja crosses the Atlantic to help rescue his friend and then suddenly decides to stay in America as mobile tech support? I’m not buying it. What’s really going on here?”

“Well…” Hax’s mind flashed back over the last few months. The word of Biomed’s abduction; the brilliant clue Bio sent that led them to the abandoned television set that had been overrun by paranormal cultist puppets; the perplexing numbers video (which several teams, both at MI6 and Rivalcast Media, were still working to decipher); the subsequent meetings with Hax’s loathsome nemesis, Parker Bennett, which led to his reluctant acceptance to help his former outfit as they all worked to sort out this troublesome Bark Lurd business.

Varyar turned to Baroness. “Super-secret spy shit?”

She kept her eye on Hax. “That’d be my guess.”

“It’s…” Hax squinted as something seemed to catch his eye on the other side of the window. “I have asked you both repeatedly to stop saying things like that. I do not work for Her Majesty’s Secret Service, regardless how much you want to view me as James Bond.”

“Hax, as I’ve told you repeatedly, you will always be Bond to me,” Baroness smiled sweetly. As she followed his gaze, she couldn’t help but feel a little unnerved by the sight of a familiar blue sedan – she couldn’t quite place where, but she was sure she had seen it before. For the briefest moment, her eyes met those of the blond-haired driver before he pulled away, and she gave an involuntary shudder. “Anyway, I won’t force you to talk about it if you don’t want to, but just know we’re here and we care.”

“As much as I enjoy these touchy-feely pep talks, Baroness,” Varyar paused a second and scowled as she kicked him under the table, “we should really finish prep work for RivalCon before I have to head back to the store.”

“Right, right.” Baroness pulled out the small green binder dedicated to different RCM events and flipped it open. “Panelists are set, flights are booked, caterer confirmed the menu for the fundraiser dinner, and I finalized the last of the arrangements with the hotel this morning. I’m pleased to say that not only did all of our original block of rooms get reserved, they actually had to add rooms to accommodate the requests.” She grinned. “I thought thirty rooms would be ambitious, but we’ve actually taken over a whole wing of the hotel for four days.”

“Impressive,” Varyar nodded.

“I’m still not a fan of the chosen city, though it can’t be helped now,” Hax grumbled.

Baroness rubbed her forehead. “Sweetie, we’ve been through this. I know you aren’t big on the social events, but your suggestion of ‘the dark side of the moon’ for our location was ridiculous.”

“And Dallas, Texas was better? You picked the star city of a state that is so American, it tries to secede on a regular basis because it’s angry that the rest of America isn’t American enough, but I’m ridiculous? If you’re going to force me to go somewhere else next year, why don’t you just save some steps and book us directly to the Gates of Hell?” Hax’s cheeks flushed a little, and Baroness tried to stifle a giggle as he started to apologise again.

“Wait,” Varyar started indignantly. “I make a comment, you kick me; he makes a worse comment, and you giggle? Where the hell is the equality in that? You can’t show prejudice in favor of the Brits. I’m calling HR on you.”

Her eyes glimmered with that mischievous twinkle. “Bio’s HR wig is in one of the boxes that haven’t made it to his new place yet.”

“Damn it.”

Just then, the waitress returned with their drinks. “Here you are, sorry about the delay. One of the girls saw a daddy long-legs near the back door and, well, some people get a little chicken-hearted about that.” She smiled, then turned to the new arrival. “And what can I get for you, honey pie?”

Hax looked up at her and froze. The day had been ridiculous to the point of near-insanity, but it was the sight of Lorraine’s teased-up, bleach-blonde bouffant and thick black cat’s-eye glasses frames that finally caused a break in the web-ninja’s mind. After an uncomfortable moment of silence, Hax slowly and quietly laid his head on the table, locking his fingers behind his neck as he muttered quietly to himself.

Alarmed, Baroness looked at her friend, then back up to the waitress. “Coffee for him, please, quick as you can.”

“Maybe a slice of apple pie would help?” Lorraine tried to help, but at the words “apple pie,” Hax’s whole body visibly tensed.

“Um, no thank you, he’s…not feeling well,” Baroness patted his shoulder. “Maybe something lighter? Like toast, or…”

“Oh, we have biscuits coming up in just a minute! How about that?”

As Lorraine went back to the kitchen, Baroness tried to coax Hax into talking, but all they got was an incoherent string of grunts and random words like “wrong side of the motorway,” “sodding country full of sodding tech abusers,” and something about the metric system.

Varyar finished the fry he’d been nibbling on and whispered to Baroness, “I think we broke Hax.” He went to poke him with a spoon, but without even looking up Hax’s hand snatched it and tossed it away before the muttering continued.

“Here we are,” Lorraine came back and set a carafe on the table, “coffee and a plate of fresh biscuits.”

Hax waited until the waitress left, then slowly lifted his head. The thought of a biscuit with coffee actually sounded good about now; shortbread would be the probable option, although a small part of him hoped for a little bit of chocolate. Instead, when he opened his eyes he was presented with a hot, fluffy, distinctly not-British butter bun.

“Dear God, I hate this country.”

*****
Next episode posts 4 PM ET Wednesday, Feb. 25!
Thoughts? Comments? Hate mail? Get the conversation started on the comments thread below, by email at jen.mccafferty@rivalcastmedia.com, or @BaronessvGosu on the Tweeter
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