- 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
The windshield wipers on the rented pickup truck worked at full speed, barely keeping up as the rain was coming down. Every once in a while, lightening would flash, reflecting off the falling rain to become an all-obscuring glare.
“It was a dark and stormy night…” Wendell mused.
In the seat beside him, Susan rolled her eyes. “I just hope this isn’t a bad omen.”
A rude noise came from Wendell. “Yes, better cover, the possibility of interruption to their connectivity and power, and guard reluctant to come outside are a bad thing. I thought you were a career criminal.”
She glared at him. Somehow, after collecting Coyote, his skittishness about her was dissolving. Whether it was a positive step or not, she hadn’t decided yet, but she didn’t appreciate his new cheekiness.
“I’m more concerned with this plan of yours. If I recall correctly, people who partner with you tend to have bad luck.”
“Only when they fail to execute and force me to cut my losses.” His eyes didn’t leave the road. “Besides, I’m just as surprised as you are to be doing this. I thought he was going to make it his show.”
They rounded a bend and the wooded area they were in cut off abruptly. Ahead, the road ran along the top of a hill, revealing the lights of the town of Swanson, and on the opposite hill, lit by the overheads in the parking lot, was their destination.
One week ago, Beneath World Spider Industries
“The J. Radcliffe Memorial Military Mental Wellness Center.” Anansi had a file photo of the building up on the holographic projector. “This is a different hospital than the one where our final goal lies; this one is where you will find your next comrade, The Genius.”
Terrell raised a skeptical eyebrow. ”They’re in a mental institution?”
“That is indeed what I said.”
“Are they there for treatment?”
“Do they need this treatment?”
“I am not versed in the medical field regarding it, but I would say this is true.” Anansi nodded, not seeing any problem with this. “She has quite clearly been judged by her peers to be a danger to herself and others if left unmediated and unsupervised.”
A tic began to form in Terrell’s eyebrow. “And you plan to remove her from supervision and her source of medication.”
“Of course not. This is Wendell’s area of expertise.”
Wendell drove right up to the security gate and rolled down the window, letting in the chill wind and the rain. The guard on duty looked none too happy to be forced to open his own window, but accepted the ID Wendell passed him.
“I am Dr. Price.” Wendell shouted over the wind. “And this is my wife, Anna. Dr. Riggs is expecting us.”
The guard checked the appropriate lists and did indeed find an appointment with Dr. Paul Riggs, the resident neurologist. He didn’t think much of it. Riggs often had visitors after hours. “Looks in order.” He said, passing back the ID. “Go ahead and use the staff garage, it’s mostly empty at night anyway.
As they passed through the gate, Susan grumbled to herself. “Wife. I still don’t see why we couldn’t be siblings.”
“We look nothing alike.” Wendell pointed out.
“Blame it on the delivery guy.” Susan turned back to watch the rain out her window.
Wendell snickered. “You really have to get into character, dear, we need to be convincing for Riggs.”
“I think all that money should be all the convincing he needs.”
Wendell had found the standard displays in their individual rooms to be too limited for the kind of research he needed to do, and so commandeered the briefing room where Anansi first gathered them when they moved into the new head quarters.
The free form holographic display made organization and cross referencing a breeze, but there were some drawbacks; namely the audience it attracted. Anansi came to watch him work often, always smiling like a father watching his son visiting the batting cages for the first time. Coyote passed through an unnecessary number of times, but rarely stopped. As the new member, Wendell decided that she was trying to get a feel for everyone.
Tommy wasn’t interested, but Terrell and Susan watched him constantly out of pure, unadulterated and open distrust.
So when Susan sauntered into the room this time, Wendell’s back stiffened out of more than just fear.
“You’ve read all of that in just three days?” It was the first time she’d spoken while checking up on him.
“Skimmed, really.” He answered, moving files around with a twitch of his fingers. “Once you know what to look for, you just have to look at a page and you’ll know everything you need to know; criminal history, poor relations, work history. I’ve already picked out our primary mark.”
He pulled up the file and brought it to the fore of the display. “Paul Riggs. DUIs and disturbing the peace citations; means he’s a partier. This part, I bet you can guess; his medical records: broken finger, broken wrist, broken fingers, broken leg, broken fingers…”
“Owed someone shady money.”
“And the lady wins a prize.” Smirked Wendell. “And if you combine that with the fact that Paul here makes a hundred thousand a year, still lives in a crappy apartment, and is swimming in debt and you have one logical conclusion…”
“He’s got a gambling problem?” guessed Susan.
Wendell nodded. “So all I have to do is approach him with the right request and right dollar value and we have our in.”
The rental truck rolled into the garage and out of the rain. Wendell headed for the space nearest the elevator and offered some last minute coaching.
“Remember, we’re here because ‘Anna’ is having problems with the neural interface in her prosthetic limbs; a rare disorder called spacial shift, where adjusting to the new range of motion throws off the body’s entire ability to judge distances. This is going to take some acting on your part:
“Act like I’m leading you, when you reach, over reach, or under reach like you’re seeing it closer or further from you than it actually is, and stumble as much as possible, maybe even run into things.”
Susan unbuckled her seat belt and gave him a dubious look. “And the highly trained neurologist isn’t going to notice my bad acting job?”
“That’s why I picked a rare condition. None of Riggs’s patients has cybernetics, so I doubt he’s ever seen it in the field. Now get into character.” He pulled out his phone, one purchased just for the job so all routes to it led to the non-existent Dr. Rupert Price. “Ready dear?”
She rolled her eyes, but this was too important to risk with their petty rivalry. “Of course, sweetheart.”
“Good.” He dialed Dr. Riggs and waited until the other answered. “Dr. Riggs? Yes, we’re here. Is everything ready on your end? Excellent. And the security?”
Two days before they left for Oregon, Wendell briefed the team on his plan.
“It wasn’t hard finding Riggs via social networking and online gambling. It was even easier to convince him that we met at a conference in Vegas where we both blew a ton of money. What he thinks he knows is that I, Rupert Price, finally hit it big and am set for life.
The deal is for him to get me in after hours to perform a battery of private neurological scans on my wife. It has to be secret because he’s under the impression that I paid to use experimental components, not yet approved for human usage to help her after her accident. He performs the scans, makes a diagnosis, and I pay off his gambling debts.”
“Which you will.” Anansi added. “Whatever the outcome, his debts will be paid. I won’t have any of my people dealing in false hope.”
Wendell glared at him. False hope was bad, but hiring an assassination was fine? But he didn’t say anything because he already wanted to see how this went.
“Fine. Whatever. In any event, he’s calling in a favor for one of the security guards. The system the registers when someone enters or leaves a room will be down while we’re there to mask our presence, and the cameras will be looped to the previous night’s coverage. That just leaves the locks and alarms. Terrell, Anansi says that won’t be a problem for you.”
Though he also looked unhappy with the situation, Terrell nodded. Not at all. Just make sure I can breath.”
As they boarded the elevator, Wendell made a second phone call and when he received it, Terrell did a slow count to sixty before pulling the hidden latch on large tool chest sitting in the back of the truck.
The came open easily and he tore the emergency rebreather out of his mouth, desperately breathing in the still, but fresh air of the garage. It wasn’t so much the rebreather as the position he’d been forced to fold himself into the hide the tool chest that made it hard to breath.
Cursing Wendell the entire time, he stowed the rebreather and hopped out of the back of the truck. He was wearing a replica of the security guard uniforms, but he knew small forces like that knew each other’s face well enough that it was only useful at a distance. With luck, that would be the only time they saw it.
Along with it, he had a pack of tools strapped to one hip. He took a fire department elevator bar from it and used it to open the doors while the elevator was on a different floor. The air in the shaft was rank and more still than it was in the garage, but luckily, he only needed to climb up to the third floor.
Though he’d been out of the game a few years, he kept in shape, and so the climb was nothing to him, nor was opening the doors on the third floor. The hall was painted a wretch inducing green that, in theory, was supposed to be calming, but in practice just reminded people that someone was trying to calm you through psychology.
The doors were all made of heavy ceramic and painted to look like wood, marching down either side of the corridor in perfect ranks. Behind one of them was Anansi’s Genius.
“Her name,” Anansi explained, “Is Florence Akron. She was, and officially still is a scientist for DARPA, the US military think tank on emergent technologies.”
Room 312: Flo Akron.
It didn’t go unnoticed that all of the patients on this floor had single rooms. He figured it had something to do with why all the doors were ceramic instead of wood or metal. It reduced the amount of raw materials at the disposal of the government’s truly mad scientists.
For similar reasons, the door had a traditional lock instead of an electronic one. That suited Terrell just fine. He took out a slip of paper, the fortune from last night’s takeout dinner, and concentrated.
His power made the plant fibers stretch, compress or stiffen like muscles, folding it mentally in ways most people couldn’t achieve by hand. The slip became a thin splinter, which he put into the lock. Then he worked his power again, causing it to flower open and push the tumblers. The door came unlocked.
Inside was a bare room with a tile floor. There as a ceramic stool and desk, and then there was a bad, also framed in ceramic. The only other object in the room was a television, recessed into the wall behind three-inch bulletproof glass. Even not knowing much about the system, Terrell knew there had to be some violations going on, possibly waved by the same laws that let them take ‘cruel and unusual measures’ if that was what it took to keep a descendant confined.
Upon the bed lay a middle aged woman with dishwater blonde hair. She wasn’t asleep, just staring up at the ceiling with her arms folded behind her head, but she didn’t acknowledge Terrell’s arrival either.
“Ms. Akron.” He said in a low, even tone.
Her eyes darted in his direction, and her hand came up as if to ward him away. “Shh. Thinking.”
Terrell rolled his eyes. Of course.
“Ms. Akron, I’m here to get you out of here.”
She shifted a little to glare at him. “Yes, but later. Inspiration is striking and they don’t let me have paper except during sessions, so I must commit this idea to memory.”
“Look, we don’t have time for this.”
“We have infinite time.” Flo sat up, frowning. “But you’ve made me lose it. You stupid bastard, you made me lose it. With the medication, I don’t get inspirations all the time you know? They usually come in dreams and I forget them when they do come.”
The fact that he didn’t care made her gaze harden. “Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand? Every idea I get… I don’t know what it’s going to turn out to be. It could be something amazing, the next thing that elevates humankind and you might have just stunted our entire species by generations of thought!”
“Her file says that Florence suffers from a mild case of messianic delusion.” Anansi explained to the others. “And an inability to judge the consequences of her actions. She conducted unsanctioned experiments outside of regulations with no regard to life or property. And she did this not out of evil, but out of impatience and curiosity.”
“You’d think you would be a fan of curiosity.” said Tommy.
“I am, but I have long since learned the penalties of impatience as well. Learning cannot be done in expedience. This is what Florence must learn.”
“Why her?” asked Wendell. “Just looking that the records, she’s not the only highly skilled scientist there. Why her?”
Anansi grinned. “I’m please to see you asking the right questions, Wendell. Why Florence? Because Florence also has an obsession that focuses her talent, that make her a master in a craft none would even consider.”
“And that would be…?” Terrell asked pointedly.
Another grin. “Grenades. And that is a very large category. Florence Akron is obsessed with hand thrown devices that have timed effects; from concussion and flash-bang to grass and glue. She has patented almost two hundred designs of her own, from conventional weapons, to a paper grenade the disgorges origami flowers and a breakfast grenade that distributes and cooks eggs.”
The others, including Coyote, laughed, but he didn’t for once. “This is no joke my friends. In another time, when people still elevated gods and portfolios, Florence Akron would be the patron goddess of the grenade.”
To Be Continued…