- The Spider’s Seven #13: The Absence
- The Spider’s Seven #14: The Enemy
- The Spider’s Seven #15: The Homecoming
- The Spider’s Seven #16: The Dearly Departed
- The Spider’s Seven #17 – The Visitation
- The Spider’s Seven #18 – The Others
- The Spider’s Seven #19 – The Misfits
- The Spider’s Seven #20 – The Setup (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #21 – The Set-up (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven #22 – The Set-up (Part3)
- The Spider’s Seven #23 – The Execution (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #24 – The Execution (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven Annual #2 – The Execution (Part 3)
- Spider’s 7 – Journey’s End
Tommy tried to keep his eyes on the road. High up in the cab of the state of the art Asphalt Emperor RV, that was even more important than it would have been in a normal vehicle, seeing as the Asphalt Emperor could do a lot of damage in a wreck.
The RV had been purchased by Wendell out of the World Spider funds Anansi had left the group access to. Two stories tall with more features than many houses, the thing was a beast to handle in even the best of circumstances.
What Tommy was in, at least in his estimation, was decidedly not the best of circumstances. First, the upper floor of the RV had been outfitted into a makeshift lab for Flo’s continued work concerning Anansi’s mystery list. Second, one of the closets had been converted into a cell for Aidan. Getting pulled over by the police would lead to a very awkward discussion followed by an arrest.
It was too much. Tommy glanced over toward the sound of metal on glass tinkling, already knowing he wasn’t going to like what he saw.
Flo was buckled into the passenger seat in the cab with him. She had the tray table pulled out from where it folded up under the dashboard, and she was tinkering with a pile of metal fixtures and suspicious-looking glass vials.
“Do you have to do that up here?” He asked, trying to sound nonchalant. Not really knowing Flo, he did know that she’d been broken out of a mental health facility and wasn’t going to take chances on her being homicidal.
“What?” Flo asked, sliding one of the vials into a fixture. When it didn’t fit snugly, she pulled the pieces apart and started searching through the pile for a better fixture.
“That thing you’re doing right there.” said Tommy. “The… building… whatever it is you’re building.”
Engrossed in her work, Flo responded at first with just a noncommittal grunt. When she found it though, she shrugged. “I can’t use the lab; I’ve got to be buckled up when we’re moving. If I wasn’t I might drop one of these vials and oh boy, that wouldn’t be good.”
Tommy put his eyes firmly on the road, but couldn’t stop himself from asking. “Why? What’s in them?”
Flo laughed. It sounded wrong to Tommy, who was expecting at mad scientists’ cackle, or the giggle of a good, old fashioned serial killer from the movies. He hadn’t been expecting her to sound quite so normal and earthy. It was the kind of laugh he imagined a rancher’s wife might have. Or given her name, the old waitress at some truck stop diner.
She held up one vial, displaying (if Tommy had been looking) the label with its chemical name and many and various warning symbols. “Let’s start with this one. It’s a powerful hallucinogen: one lungful of this and you’d probably think you were melting, or try to drive this thing on a yellow brick road that’s not really there.”
Putting that vial down carefully, she picked up another. All the while, she deftly ignored the clenching of Tommy’s jaw and the tightness of his knuckles on the wheel. “This one’s a mood enhancer. Not dangerous, but it’ll make you really loopy.”
Tommy wondered if he’d be able to tell the difference given the how reality had already gone loopy for him, but held his tongue.
“Now this one,” Flo was holding a third vial, “This won’t do anything on its own. It’s a catalyzer; helps the other two enter the bloodstream and take effect faster. With this mixing in properly, you’ve got… about the time between one heartbeat and the next before you start feeling them.”
“Right.” Tommy drew the word out and tightened his grip on the steering wheel as if he thought that might help.
This time Flo did notice. “I’m not crazy.” She said.
“I never said you were.” said Tommy, trying to sound like he wasn’t thinking it either.
“It’s alright.” Flo said after a moment of tinkering. “I expect civilians to think what I do is crazy. They think DARPA’s crazy. They think pretty much every new weapon, defense system, or surveillance technique that comes out of the military is completely nuts.”
She finally started fitting things together, carefully connecting nozzles and valves to the vials. “The problem is my superiors thought I was crazy too. Can you believe that?”
At her laugh, Tommy automatically shook his head. “No, I can not.”
“We’re a military contractor for God’s sake.” groused Flo, “If the people that ran the place can’t see the elegance and versatility of the grenade, then I promise you this whole world is in trouble.”
Tommy couldn’t resist. “The… elegance of a grenade.”
“Of course.” Flo arrayed the vials so that they all stood lengthwise in a brace, with their tops forming the points of a triangle. There was a nozzle screwed to the top of each that fed into a metal chamber positioned in the center.
Once the device was configured, she held it up and waved it vaguely in illustration. “Hand-delivered ordnance require skill, strength and incredible timing to use. Even if you’re using a launcher, there’s still a matter of programming the fuse and calculating launch vectors. At the same time, exactly what can be delivered is still a woefully under-explored field.
“With the ability to deploy almost anything that can be contained in a hand-portable casing, it’s almost criminal that we mostly use them merely for explosives and irritants. You’ve seen, after all, my breakfast grenade—there is no more efficient or balanced breakfast projectile in the world.”
He knew he shouldn’t. Tommy wanted to bit his tongue and shut himself up, but he just couldn’t. “But why would you even want a ‘breakfast projectile’?” Even before it came out of his mouth, he felt like banging his head on the wheel.
The stress only cranked up as, for a moment, Flo only blinked owlishly at him.
Then she smiled. “You’re a hell of a lot smarter than my superiors, Tommy—you mind if I call you Tommy? Everyone else seems to.”
Bewildered, he nodded. “Um… sure. Wait; how does that make me smarter than your old bosses?”
Flo sat the device down on the tray. “Because that ‘why’ is science, Tommy. You’re right—absolutely right, there’s not need for a breakfast grenade. There are very few situations in which someone might need to deliver food to an area within the effective targeting radius of the grenade and even then, there’s even less need for the cooking process to be initiated by the thrower.”
She hunched with her elbows on the table and turned to face him. “But there not being a need doesn’t mean there was no point. Two hundred years ago, there was no need for a man to fly. But hundreds of hobbyists and tinkerers experimented with everything from canvas wings to giant balloons and now we use the technologies they pioneered for things they never even dreamed of. And people called them crazy too.”
“So…” Tommy loosened his grip on the wheel a bit. “You make breakfast grenades… because people might use that as the basis of something better?”
Flo practically beamed. “Now you’ve got it. It’s the weird tinkerers who push this world forward, no matter how unimportant our focus seems. Did you know Goodyear drove himself into destitution before discovering the secret of creating vulcanized rubber? He had rubber, Tesla had electricity, Ford had manufacturing processes…”
“And you have grenades.” Tommy finished for her. He glanced in her direction, surprised at just how normal the conversation was… in a relative sense. “Okay, so why grenades? Why’s that your thing?”
Picking up the assembled interior of her device, Flo turned it around in her hands to examine it. “Same reason they picked what they did, I guess: I just like grenades. That and I’m good with them. I can make a grenade do anything given time and resources.”
“Ha.” said Tommy, “When Anansi first told us about you, he said if this was olden times, people would call you a goddess of grenades.”
Now Flo laughed too. “He told me the same thing.” After a beat, she stopped turning the unfinished grenade in her hands and cocked her head, perplexed. “You think he’s really who and what he says he is?”
“I don’t know what to think.” Tommy admitted. “A few weeks ago, I’d say ‘no’, just on principle, but now even Wendell looks like he’s buying into it and I’m not too sure about things anymore. Hell, I’m not sure what I want the truth to be either, because on one hand, I hope Anansi’s not just crazy and/or messing with us. On the other, I don’t want this Adversarial Force thing to be real either.”
He pulled the RV around a slower car, then looked over at Flo. The older woman surprised him with how easy the conversation was going. Granted, she spent most of her time sequestered in the lab, and the only times she’d really interacted with the group was after she’d been dosed with mood elevators. He was forced to admit that he’d been biased against her purely based her previous residence in a mental hospital.
“What about you? Anansi keeps you don’t in the lab all the time, so none of us know: what do you think of all this?”
Flo turned to look out the window at the passing scenery. “To tell the truth: I don’t have enough information to even venture a theory. What I do know is this though: Anansi respects me and what I do. From what he’s said to me, he thinks the same of all of us except Aidan. Whatever he expects to happen here…” she petted the grenade, “He’s got a plan to deal with it with plenty of fall-backs.”
She turned back to Tommy with an impish grin on her face. “And you know the most important thing?”
“He knows to ask ‘why’.”
“I still think it should be me going inside.” said Susan. She was sitting on the edge of one of the two beds in the small motel room in Demming, Colorado, listening to Wendell coaching Coyote on her role in their upcoming operation.
Wendell shook his head. He was sitting across the small table from Coyote, who was reading the information packet he’d put together on her ‘condition’. “She’s not old enough to be a nurse and Terrell is going to be needed elsewhere: that leaves you in that role. Besides, it’s a mental hospital for descendants and Coyote and Terrell are the closest we’ve got.”
Sitting on the other bed, Terrell scowled. “I agree in part with Susan: we don’t know Coyote’s powers…” He glanced at the girl in question, “And she won’t tell us anything about them. Do I have to remind you that you’re putting her into a secure facility crawling with cult members?”
“Not ‘crawling’.” said Wendell. “Hospital records show that the only confirmed cult members in Marble Pass will be Jeremy’s doctor and his staff—that’s a total of five people—plus an administrative assistant, two security guards and a night janitor.”
“That’s ‘crawling’ enough.” Susan protested. “Coyote is a teenaged girl… mostly. What is she going to do if they figure out what she’s doing—or worse, take an interest? Your whole plan to get her into the same sector as Jeremy makes her just their type.”
Coyote smiled shyly behind the tablet she was reading. “Don’t worry: I’ll be fine. And even if I wasn’t, I’ll be in communication with you at all times so I can call for help if things go bad.”
“Call for help from the most secure area of the building. The one built to resist the most destructive descendant powers. You think we’ll be able to get to you there?”
Her eyes glittered. “No, I think I’ll be able to meet you halfway. You’re not the only one who can get through locked doors, Terrell.”
Wendell ran a hand through his hair, then folded his arms. “Anansi picked her because he thinks and she thinks she’s a trickster god. Tricksters, by definition, are notoriously hard to capture or keep captive. God or not, Coyote’s powers probably justify the assumption.”
“The problem with that is they never surrender themselves into captivity right off the bat.” Susan pointed out. “We’re going to bring her in and let them lock her up”
“She says she can get out and I believe her.” said Wendell. “In fact, the plan depend on it. Once night comes and the security shift changes, she’s going to go walkabout with…” He picked up a plastic baggie from his briefcase, sitting on the table. The baggie contained several black dots the size of pinheads. “the freckle-cam and GPS to map out the secure sector.
“In case you’ve forgotten, we don’t know what the security systems and floor plan are like in there. The blueprints are classified. Without that, you can’t do your break in, Terrell. And with the break in, we can’t get Jerry out.”
Terrell grunted. “I could do it all at once if you put me inside instead of Coyote.”
Everyone but Wendell jumped in shock. The voice had come from the door leading to the bathroom. Coyote was there, having somehow moved from her seat at the table to the other side of the room without anyone noticing.
She gave them a cocky smirk and leaned on the door frame. “As long as no one’s focus is on me, I can do that through locked doors, onto completely sealed spaces… anywhere in a short range. The only problem? I can’t take anyone with me.”
Her smugness lapsed. “The only problem is, there’s another reason it has to be me. You’re either forgetting, or don’t believe that the Adversarial Force is after this boy. It wants him and it’s probably with him in there. There’s a chance it isn’t and it’s with the cult members instead, in which case, we can just grab him and run.”
“And if it is?” asked Terrell.
“Plan B.” said Wendell. “Tommy is rolling as we speak with the main component of Plan B and Plan C.” He licked his lips. “Plan C is where we damn well hope Anansi shows up before that becomes an option because I know none of us wants to resort to it.”
They all sat in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. They had deduced Anansi’s desperation move should everything else failed and Wendell was right that it made them all sick to contemplate it.
Wendell finally roused them by clearing his throat loudly. “Alright then. We know what we’ve got to do, but there’s still a day or so of pre-gaming to do before Tommy gets here with the RV. I think you all know what to do.”
Terrell rose from the bed with a nod. “Right. I need to start casing the ‘doctor’s’ rental house up in Marble Pass.”
He wasn’t up for more than a second before Susan stood as well, “Scouting roads and places we can hide the RV near the hospital.” she said, “On it.”
Wendell closed his case and looked to Susan. “I’ll ride with. I can get my part done on the road. Coyote?”
“I know.” She was back in her seat, “Stay out of sight and practice my acting. You do realize how insulting it is to tell a trickster her acting needs work, right?”
“In my defense,” said Wendell, “I very much doubt you’ve ever had to act like this.”
To Be Continued…