- The Spider’s Seven #1 – The Trickster God
- The Spider’s Seven #2 – The Penitent Thief
- The Spider’s Seven #3 – The Enforcer and the Faceman
- The Spider’s Seven #4 – The Wheelman
- The Spider’s Seven #5 – The Plan
- The Spider’s Seven #6 – The Base
- The Spider’s Seven #7 – The Myth
- The Spider’s Seven #8 – The Genius (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #9 – The Genius (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven #10 – The Genius (Part 3)
- The Spider’s Seven #11 – The Monster (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #12 – The Monster (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven Annual #1 – The Team
Anansi took his time heaping his plate from the buffet. He wanted to sample everything, the good and the bad and find out what was best to him. In his reckoning, it was the loss of this skill that was the great failing of far too many people. Choosing blindly was bad, but making informed decisions without having all the options on the table was worse; it led to people thinking they were more right than they actually were.
The Spider wouldn’t even declare a favorite food until he’d had every food. Though he did have a current favorite and lamented that chicken nuggets weren’t a breakfast food.
He wasn’t blind to the effect his procrastination was having on the others though. The sly smile curling his lip made that clear.
Finally, Wendell cleared his throat.
“Yes?” Asked Anansi, meticulously buttering a biscuit.
“The reason you felt the need to look us up on the internet, approach us with this job and put my life in mortal danger?” Wendell said sternly. Susan made a not very ladylike sound at the last one, which made him glower even more.
“Anticipation is a spice only surpassed by hunger.” Anansi informed him, at last returning to the table with his plate. He sat between Tommy and Susan. “It’s an interesting thing; people cannot stand suspense, and yet a drum roll always drags in their attention.”
“I think we need to just cut the bullshit and get some explanations.” Terrell made a point of catching the man’s eye and wished he hadn’t. When he wanted to, Anansi’s was a glare that channeled a thousand librarians and stern proctors. It made a man feel like an ignorant child.
Anansi held his gaze for several seconds before turning it on each of his other guests in turn, lingering on Wendell longest of all. “None of what is happening here it bullshit. Perhaps you don’t understand now; some of it you will never understand and that is simply how it is. But do not for one minute thing that there is not meaning in everything. Not just this—us; and this task.”
He sipped at his coffee and ate a forkful of eggs. “But we turn our attentions now to this, and it falls to me to explain it in a way that you can accept for now. Tell me: how many of you believe that I am a god?”
No one raised their hands. He expected as much. Low expectations made things more interesting.
“Of course.” He smiled and cleared his throat. “Then for now, I will only tell you the most necessary elements. The story behind it is important for many reasons, but at the moment, I feel that the telling will only shake your fragile trust in my sanity.”
When no one was willing to comment on this, he began. “There is a boy named Jerry Gallaway. He was born with a certain potential…”
“He’s a psionic then.” Wendell cut in.
“Descendant.” corrected Terrell sharply.
“Let us just say ‘superhuman’.” Anansi replied diplomatically. “In any event, he is currently in a psychiatric hospital for such people with abilities beyond the norm in a place called Marble Pass, Colorado. Now, this place is not the mental institution that your mind conjures from what you know of popular culture; no one is there against their will, the patients are afforded the utmost respect and dignity; and most of them will improve thanks to their stay. That said, young Gallaway is there under false pretenses. There is nothing wrong with his mind, but someone has worked very hard to convince him that there is.
“An outside party is attempting to drive this young man mad, to convince him to unleash this powers fully and manipulate him into becoming a pawn in their designs. Our aim is to prevent this event by any means necessary.”
He was silent for a time and the possible implications sank in. Surprisingly, Susan was the one that voiced the thought most of them had in their head. “By any means necessary… do you mean…?”
He didn’t reply, fixing his eyes on the three extra folders. “The hospital is well guarded both against incursions and against patients who lose control. They mean well, but we do not have time to convince them of what is really happening.” He looked to Terrell, “That is why we have an expert in getting into places he isn’t supposed to.” And then to Wendell, “And one in convincing people of things it wouldn’t be wise to believe.”
Susan’s lips tightened into a line as she looked in Tommy’s direction, “An expert in transport for obvious reasons… and a hired killer.” She avoided the gaze of everyone else.
“Not everyone’s roles are not quite as obvious as you might think.” Said Anansi. “There are choices yet to be made, and three other recruits to invite. Even for those that know the future cannot tell fate’s true course, only possibilities. None of you are being forced to do anything. At any time, you can walk away, free and clear—but then you will never know how you could have changed things.”
He looked at them all expectantly.
This was it. They each knew it all instinctively; the out where they could leave and be done with it before they got any deeper. Some of them considered it heavily, especially in light of what he’d just told them. But none of them did. Not even Susan. ‘By any means necessary’ left just enough room for hope.
Each of them looked to the others and seeing no one else making the choice they couldn’t bring themselves to strengthened their resolve.
Wendell leaned forward, looking pointedly at the extra folders. “Texas, Arizona, Oregon. Where are we headed first, boss?”
Anansi smiled slightly and said, “Kansas.”
Overland Park, Kansas – Two Days Later
Tommy was a bit put out. The new car Anansi provided was equipped with flight capability, but Overland Park had only about two dozen skyscrapers and those were spaced out so widely and/or so far from the streets that there was nothing for the magnetic repulsion system to push against more than twenty feet up. It felt like a waste.
More than that, he felt like an outsider among the others. Anansi had gone on ahead, leaving him to pick the other three up and fly them out. He spent the entire time either in the driver’s seat or in the cockpit, effectively hedged out of the conversation.
Not that there was much conversation. He glanced in the rearview. Susan insisted on riding in back, citing her need to think. Wendell had already been back there. In the interest of keeping their sniping at one another from driving him insane, Terrell sat between them.
Occasionally, Wendell would make a comment and Terrell would respond. Susan hadn’t said anything at all the he could hear.
Whatever Anansi was expecting of them, they weren’t even work acquaintances yet. Was that part of the plan too? Was there even a real plan in the first place? The whole thing seemed spotty; it would have been easier to file a complaint against the hospital instead of spending only god knew how much money on recruiting this group.
He realized that dwelling on it was getting him nowhere and looked down at his GPS. Right turn coming up and they would be at the address Anansi gave him; 15 Parker Ave. He glanced over, wondering if he could see the place from the road.
Indeed, he could.
“Son of a bitch, look.” Wendell must have looked up at the same time he did.
“What?” Terrell leaned over him to look out the window. “Son of a bitch.”
Soon, even Susan was joining in on taking in what was out the window and expressing her shock.
Directly beside them, running parallel to the road they were on was a long concrete wall, about eight tall, topped with solar panels and fronted by a perfectly manicured hedgerow. This was not what shocked them. What did was the building, far back beyond the wall.
It seemed to rise up from a sea of trees, twenty stories and fronted with glass and dark concrete composite. The front was slightly concave and up near the top floor was the sign: ‘World Spider Industries’ in white font with the same spider logo that adorned so many of Anansi’s effects.
“Did any of you know about this?” Susan asked.
“He gave me a card with that on it.” Said Terrell, “But anyone can print a business card. I never even thought about it.”
“Sort of make sense.” Wendell weighted in. “The private jet, the exorbitant pay… it had to come from somewhere.”
“Still think this is a grift then?” Asked Susan. She wasn’t fazed in the least when he shot her a glare for revealing his lingering distrust of Anansi.
“A bigger layout of resources indicates a bigger expected payout.” He replied after a brief silence. No point in hiding it now, they were all in the same boat anyway. “So either he expects this plan of his will be very profitable, or it involves something much closer to home than this random kid.”
“Maybe it’s his kid.” Susan guessed and was immediately disturbed by what that would mean if true.
“And maybe one of the lives he expects us to save doing this is his own, or someone he loves.” Terrell suggested.
“He wouldn’t need us to get to his own child in the hospital.” Wendell pointed out to Susan’s slight relief. “But your angle seems possible, King. And that makes this thing bad for us.”
Tommy frowned, then asked, “How do you figure that?”
“Simple. If this is to save someone’s life, there’s no payout; not for us, not for him. The man is already elbow deep in spent costs and seems more than fine throwing more money in the hole after it. No reason to believe he wouldn’t sacrifice a pawn or two if he has to. We’re just tools at best, liabilities at worst, considering what he’s asking us to do and how he’s already come close to killing me.”
Susan shot him a glare. “You’re insanely paranoid, do you know that?”
“I’ve never managed to grift someone who was properly paranoid and I’ve never gotten played myself.”
“Until the other day.” Susan smirked.
Wendell looked away, a dark look on his face. “I’m still alive, aren’t I? And this game’s still on. I haven’t been played yet.”
Tommy turned onto a short drive, which led to a security checkpoint. A thick necked man in uniform with a bad spray tan and clip on tie leaned out as the car rolled up. Tommy rolled down the window. “Hey, I’m–”
The guard hit the gate controls, causing the iron barred barrier to slide back. “Mr. Anansi is expecting you, sir.” He interrupted. “Go right in: straight down the drive and follow the signs to the underground lot. Mr. Anansi says for you to park in his space.”
“Um… great. Thanks.” Tommy said and rolled through the gates. Beyond them was a pleasant, wooded drive, which occasionally branched off toward out lying buildings that were entirely concealed from the outside by forest. There was the occasional electric golf cart traversing these paths. Once or twice, he also saw picnic tables set up, and once, a fleeing view of a basketball court.
After a few minutes of driving though, they broke out of the trees and into a wide clearing around the main building. There was a huge, stone fountain out front, it’ center styled in the form of a tall tree with a spider in the crook of a branch, clutching an overturned pot in its front legs, from which the water flowed.
There were stone picnic tables around it and solar arrays on the surrounding lawns. The drive threaded through them, looping under an overhang at the front of the building and splitting off at one point to got down a ramp leading to the underground garage.
Another security checkpoint stood in their path, but once again, the guard, this one a gaunt looking man with a hawkish nose, was all too happy to wave them through. From there, it was only a matter of following the signage to a space in an alcove directly beside the personnel elevator.
“Alright, so any idea where we’re supposed to go from here?” Tommy asked the others.
“No idea.” said Terrell. “We should probably go up to the lobby and have them call Anansi.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the car shuddered and the doors locked. “What the hell was that?” He looked accusingly at Tommy.
“It wasn’t me.” the driver said, holding his hands up to prove it.
Wendell cursed and tried to trip the lock on his door to no avail. On her side, Susan contemplated punching through the glass, but was stopped when she noticed that the car wasn’t just shuddering, it was sinking, lowering below the level of the parking alcove.
“It’s an elevator.” She announced to the others.
“What?” spat Wendell.
“Look.” she pointed out his window. They were now eye level with the bottom of the alcove and a space beneath it let in artificial light from the room below. Light and a view of white painted walls. Soon enough, they could see even more:
The room was effectively a big, white box with pillars running near the walls. There was a steel door with a security panel at the far end and a huge, black spider painted on the tiled floor in the center. As the car settled on the level, they also saw a sporty little silver sedan parked off to the side.
Anansi was standing at the very center of the spider. Gone was the expensive suit, replaced by pants of rough, beige cloth, and open vest of coarse, brown fabric, and a tattered, gray cloak that hung from his back and swayed in the still air as if it weighed as much as smoke and gathered around his neck. The bandages on his hands and feet remained, but his shoes were no longer patent leather, but stitched. His formerly tightly braided hair was looser, hanging down with a constellation of beads, coins and shells threaded into it.
He gestured for Tommy to park next to the sedan, a broad smile on his face.
“What the hell.” Wendell muttered as Tommy complied. The lift started back up once the car was clear.
Terrell motioned for him to open the door. “As if anything he’s done so far has made much sense. Let’s go see what’s going on.”
They climbed out of the car cautiously and started walking toward Anansi. There wasn’t much in the spartan room to look at besides him to the highly detailed spider on the floor. It had to be a trick of the light that it seemed, ever so slightly, to move.
Anansi’s smile grew as he spread his arms wide in greeting. “Welcome to the House of the Spider.”
To Be Continued…