- 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
Wendell heard Terrell’s reaction on the comm, but being the seasoned con man he was, he kept his expression professional yet caring as it had been since he entered the center. By the time he’d heard it, the orderly had showed him and Coyote to the latter’s room and left them to get settled.
He scanned the place a second time, having already done so the moment he stepped inside. Its was an eight-foot cube with white tile on the floor and pinkish-white (supposedly a calming color) hexagonal tiles on the wall. Those were both soundproof and had a rubbery texture to reduce the damage that might be done by a patient slamming themselves into them. No doubt they were backed by layers of other material to block out any psychic or destructive powers the patient might have.
There was a bed with a foam mattress, a white plastic table with rounded edges and all four legs locked to the floor by brackets, and in a recessed alcove in the back of the room, a small toilet and sink. A touch panel above the bed controlled the level of light and could summon the staff if need be, and a flat-screen television was on the wall opposite, providing a carefully monitored selection of entertainment. It was set into the wall with a piece of what looked like, but was surely not glass blocking access to it.
What struck him the moment he entered was the total lack of corners and straight lines. The room and bed was actually ovoid, and everything else was all curves or rounded edges. It was like standing inside the soap-bar shaped electronics from the turn of the century he’d seen in a museum once.
None of that hid the cameras from his trained eyes. There was one in what appeared to a recessed screw hole in the frame around the television, another in the panel next to the bed, a third one the non-toxic soap dispenser over the sink, and finally, one beneath the plastic dome covering the light fixture high above them. Everything that happened in the room would be recorded and monitored. As Coyote’s ‘doctor’, that would be part of his job even.
Two visible cameras watched the hall outside, and there would be four more in Jerry’s room down the hall. With the level of infiltration the cult employed, someone would be watching those at all times: just one more obstacle for the plan.
He gently put his hands on Coyote’s shoulders just after hearing Terrell and steered her toward the bed, urging her to sit as only an older friend who cared deeply would. “Everything’s going to be alright, Janey. Just remember that this is nothing I haven’t already explained to you. It’s just a dark spot and you know what to do when you come face to face with a dark spot, right? You pull back, gather yourself up, and find someone to talk to about it. That’s our plan, right?”
In the motel, Wendell paced the room as he spoke. “Remember: once we’re actually in the center, every second of my presence there is going to be caught on tape. All it takes is a moment of chatter to tip the cult off and possible get us killed, so everything I say in there is going to be directed at Coyote, AKA: Jane. When I address her as ‘Janey’, that means I’m talking to the team.”
Coyote did her best to look small and frightened, allowing herself to be guided into sitting on the bed.
“Everything’s going to be fine now, Jane. Now that we’re here, I have access to all the tools I need to help you get well, just like I promised.” Wendell gave her a smile and started wandering the room. “And this place does look pretty comfortable. I’m sure you’ll be happy here while we work on helping you get a hold on your powers.”
He stopped in the bathroom, his back conveniently covering the soap-cam and thus putting him in the old blind spot in the room. Once there, he took put his palmtop and ran a program, scanning for local wireless signals. It would help them immensely if some of the cameras were running on an unsecured network. That deep in the building, it was a possibility considering a causal hacker would never be in so deep.
“And more importantly, you don’t have to worry about your powers in here. These rooms are special and you powers won’t do any damage here at all. I want you to keep that in mind: there’s no danger here. Even if you have a flare-up, it won’t hurt anyone or anything.”
He frowned down at the palm-top as the program continued to scan frequencies. The process was thirty-five percent complete with nothing popping yet.
“B-but what if someone’s in the room with me?” Coyote asked with big wide eyes that make Wendell almost feel sorry for her even knowing it was all an act. “Like you. I was so scared riding up here, Mr. Cobbworthy.”
Wendell’s eyes were glued to the screen. Forty-eight percent. Still, he kept his voice in character. “You have more control over this than you think, Jane. Descendant powers usually have a trigger and that rigger is usually completely psychological. What we need to do is shift yours from a fear reaction to something you can better control.”
That last part was real. Wendell had done enough research into descendant-specific mental illnesses and those the special challenges descendants faced with standard illnesses that he could hold entire conversations on the subject if need be. Research was the con man’s friend and being good at absorbing facts and arguments quickly was invaluable.
Scooting backward on the bed until her back was against the wall, Coyote drew her knees up to her chest and put her arms around them, hugging them to her chest. “You promise, Mr. Cobbworthy?”
Seventy-three percent and no connections. “I… I promise.” said Wendell. An extra hitch in the delivery layered in some human drama for whoever might be watching. If that person happened to know the field, they would also know that the understanding of descendant ability triggers was spotty at best with the best known treatment only having a twenty percent success rate.
If Jane Bravestar was real, her story would be the stuff of bad TV melodrama. That there were real patients in the building living that out for real was lost on Wendell, as they aren’t his concern.
“Thank you, Mr. Cobbworthy.” Coyote said in a small voice. “For everything.”
Wendell put his palmtop back in his pocket. There had been no unsecured frequencies connected to the cameras. He came over and knelt next to the bed. “You’re welcome, Janey. And even when I’m not here, I want you to remember I’m going to keep an eye out for you. We’re not going to let this problem stump us. If one treatment doesn’t work, there are others. And believe me, I’ll put everything in place that I can to help you get well.”
Back at the diner, Susan heard this and accidentally spilled some of her pie down the front of her blouse. The filling was hot and the blouse wasn’t thick enough to spare her the feel of molten blackberry seeping through. Later, she would deny that the noise she made was a squeal as she desperately tore napkins out of the dispenser to dab it off.
Almost everyone in the diner caught her moment of panic. A rough looking man at the bar with an anchored goatee watched her intently, clearly hoping that she might shuck her blouse.
She ignored him even as her ears turned red from the thought, and looked around for the waitress. “Excuse me!” She said when they made eye contact. “Where’s your restroom?”
The waitress pointed and Susan took off for it like a shot, leaving her palmtop and purse in favor of keeping hold of the napkins she was using to soak up the purple stain before it spread. She might have gotten there too if her heel didn’t pick that moment to wobble.
It was all a matter of physics at that point and she went ass over teakettle, her arms pinwheeling comically. Her arm bashed a table on her way down, making tableware jump and sending a half-finished plate of Salisbury steak flying off to break on the floor.
A spray of savory gravy and bits of beef joined the blackberry in staining the poor woman’s blouse.
Horror and defeat came to Susan’s eyes as she struggled up to her hands and knees. “Ohmigod. Ohmigod.” She muttered in disbelief, then looked to find here shoe, which had flown off in her fall. “Stupid, cheap knockoffs!”
“Er.” that was Herman Boyd, whose Salisbury steak Susan was currently wearing. “You okay there.”
Susan huffed and tore the wobbly heel completely off. “Just mortified beyond all belief, thanks.” She helplessly did what she could to wipe the gravy off her blouse, spreading both it and the pre-existing blackberry filling. “Damn it.”
The waitress came over with a towel and a bus tray to get up the broken plate and steak. “You okay, hon?”
Still wallowing in her embarrassment, Susan growled, “Super.” and tried to lever herself up. It didn’t go so well, as one shoe was now lower than the other and she lost her balance, falling on her ass again.
Herman groaned and got up, offering a hand. “Here.” He said brusquely.
Ignoring his dazzling anti-charm, Susan let him help her up. Once she was brought to standing, her mood improved greatly. “Thanks.” She said patting his jaw. Then she seemed to remember the waitress picking up the debris from her misfortune. “Oh. I totally ruined your lunch. Let me buy you another… liver and onions?”
“T-bone steak.” said Boyd without an ounce of hesitation. “Yeah, sure.”
“Right.” said Susan, knowing damn well what he’d actually been eating. She bent over the waitress. “Excuse me: Can you put his order on my tab. Least I can do and all.” The waitress shrugged her yes, because she was busy and Susan nodded happily, though a bit sheepish.
“Well that’s done.” She breathed, then looked around because the entire diner was staring at her thanks to the scene she’d caused. “Um… sorry again.”
Instead of going to the bathroom, she hobbled back to her table to collect her things, then left as fast as she could while walking lopsided.
Dr. Mueller, who had never moved during the entire scene, glanced up at Boyd as the man sat down heavily n his seat. “That seemed entirely too contrived.”
“I agree.” growled Boyd. “You get a picture of her?” He looked to Rochelle.
The woman rolled her eyes. “Do I look like an idiot? I’m running her now.”
Boyd grunted. “I told you were weren’t completely under the radar here. Anything that’s got to do with descendants or what people think is descendants, it draws eyes. And from the looks of her, they’re very serious eyes. You hear when her arm hit the table? Didn’t sound like no bone and muscle arm to me.”
“Cyborg?” Mueller asked, detached.
“Probably.” Boyd said. “FBI’s got spark-jockey agents these days. If they’re taking us seriously, that’s who they’d send: Someone that might think could survive the kid’s powers.” He exhaled sharply out of his nose, then scowled, reaching to feel under the table. He came up with a small piece of metal the size of a dime in his thick finger. “Knew it.”
He flicked the thing into Mueller’s tea where it sent up a few bubbles as it shorted out. “That’s phase one: gather intelligence. They’ll give that one more try before escalating. We’re out of time.”
Mueller took a sip of his bug-spiced tea. “We are not out of time. They know nothing. They believe nothing. At worst, they think there is a rogue descendant to deal with. By the time they realize the truth, it will be too late and the Adversarial Force will be free on this plane once more.”
“If you manage to push the kid.” Boyd pointed out, “Which you haven’t.”
“Security is your concern, Mr. Boyd.” Mueller said calmly. “Preparing the vessel is mine. With access to the drugs and therapeutic equipment here? It’s only a matter of time.”
Now it was Rochelle’s turn to look worried as the program on her palmtop turned out a match on facial recognition. She turned the screen for them all to see. “I suggest we try and hurry.” She said with a grave look on her face.
It was hard for even Wendell to keep his face schooled after hearing everything that had gone on with Susan.
Coyote, who had no comm in case she was given medical scans, continued with her act without any knowledge of what was going on. Poking out her lip, she looked around the room. “It… doesn’t really feel like home.”
“I’ll see if I can bring some of your things.” said Wendell. “They have to keep these rooms bare because there are some people here who are very sick and might hurt themselves otherwise. For you… I’m sure they won’t mind if I brought in some things from home for you. After all, making you comfortable and building up your self-confidence are the key to helping you with your problems.”
He straightened and fumbled a moment, searching his pockets as if he’d forgotten where his palmtop was. He took it out and checked it. “Lunch is almost over. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up to some of the other doctors and schedule some treatments for you tomorrow. I have to go find them.”
“Do you have to go?”
Wendell gave her a caring smile. “I know it’s a strange place and a little frightening, but this is a place dedicated to making you well, Jane. And don’t worry, I’ll be back later; I’ll also make sure they bring you something to eat, okay?”
“I guess so.” Her voice was so small and meek it was hard to believe it was really Coyote.
Another smile. “It’s okay, Janey, everything is going according to plan.”
“I have to say I’m impressed.” Anansi had searched then entirety of the base and now knew that the motley crew he’d assembled were gone. It wasn’t hard to reconstruct where they were headed and why from the notes and presentations left behind.
He stood in the empty room where Aidan Beck had been held.
“Either Wendell or Terrell, I imagine.” said Anansi, narrating aloud. “They’re both pragmatic enough to be trusted to eventually hit upon the idea of setting a monster to catch one. And it isn’t as if the Adversarial Force could make him betray the group more than he already might want to.”
For a moment, he stood silent, leaning on his staff. He contemplated allowing them to carry out his original plan, assuming they had sussed it out in its entirety. It would work, he was certain of it; either the primary or the fallback. The lives of countless heroes would be saved and the world would be on track toward a golden age.
But it would be an age born of an evil, callus act. No matter how vicious a beast Aidan Beck was. No matter how dangerous Jerry Galloway might become. It would be a Pyrrhic victory at best.
Being a creature of stories; all stories, Anansi knew all about those and the value they held all their own. But real lives, real consciences and real souls hung on this story he’d set in motion and he found that sort of ending to be unacceptable.
His intention had been to offer them a path to redemption, to weave them into a story that would make them more than who they started out as. If he simply stood back and let them carry out his original course of action, there would be no true redemption for them, only another gray mark in the books of their lives.
It would be his fault. It was his fault for having been made so blind by his fear of the Adversarial Force and a future with no heroes.
Now it was Anansi the Spider who needed to be redeemed.
In the quiet room where a monster had once been shackled, awaiting slaughter, the Spider nodded his head. “Yes.” He said, responding to a question no one asked. “This is a good story.”
And then he left; his destination: Colorado. He had a plan to ruin.
To Be Continued…