- 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
“I’m going to skip asking if you’re kidding,” Terrell said, “Because you never are. So here’s a question I think you’ll appreciate: why grenades?”
Anansi’s lips curled in a satisfied smile. “Indeed I do appreciate an intelligent question, Terrell. Unfortunately, this is the wrong question. ‘Why grenades?’ No. Why not grenades? Grenades is the medium Florence works in and given the proper materials and information, she can use that medium to anything.”
He got up and took his staff from across his knees, starting to walk around them while tapping out a regular cadence as he did.
“A god of water can master it in any form; can freeze it into blades of ice, move through it as if it were air, and make it rise and dance as vapor. A god of plants can grow the most nutritious roots, to the most deadly poison leaves. And a goddess of the grenade can lend to us a creativity that we will sorely need in the future.”
“And that all sounds good, until we come to the part where she’s considered a danger to her self and others.” Wendell interrupted.
“Yes, I’ve…” Anansi stopped and stood behind where Coyote was sitting and leaned on the back of her seat. “I’ve read the file. I know what they say about her. And yet, I feel that they misunderstand. What appears to them a mental illness is what I believe is a constant stream of inspiration: narrowly focused inspiration.”
In the present, still in her room, Terrell stared at Florence in the dark. He hadn’t been accused of damaging the fate of generations before.
He must have been staring for quite a while, because Florence’s expression turned from angry to disapproving. “Well?” She crossed her arms with a stern expression. “Aren’t you going to apologize?”
“Lady…” He started, but bit off what he wanted to say. For whatever insane reason, they needed her, so he’d better be polite. This went double when he noticed that there was a call button on the table bolted to the floor next to the desk.
“Ms. Akron.” He amended. “I’m very sorry about your thought, but…” He hated having to use diplomacy. It wasn’t for him and neither was intimidation. Breaking an entering rarely involved having to talk to people while you were in a place you weren’t supposed to be, at least not if you were good at it.
“Flo.” said Florence.
“Call me Flo. The nurses won’t. They’ve got rules or something like. When I had my lab, everyone called me Flo. I like that better.”
“Okay then, Flo. I’m here to get you out of here. My boss needs your help with… grenades…”
“That’s why they give me paper at my sessions.” said Flo. “I’m working on a cheaper glue bomb right now, but it’s harder, you know, with the medication. Hard to focus like I like.”
And there was the carrot he needed. Terrell grabbed it with both hands. “My boss’ll let you work without the meds… in a full lab!”
“Best apology ever.” Flo said, her mercurial mood finally shifting in his direction. “You have a deal. Just let me get my things.”
Terrell looked around the dimly lit room. As expected, it didn’t have much inside that wasn’t bolted down. As a legitimate mad scientist, Flo wouldn’t have been given anything that could remotely be used to escape or hurt herself.
Flo got up and knelt by the bed near one of the legs. With a few tugs, a section of the leg came off. Inside, Terrell could make out a mish-mash of shapes; rough spheres, cubes, and pyramids mostly. Flo carefully extracted each one and put them in the pocket of her hospital issue jumper.
“They really make you work for resources here.” She said nonchalantly. “Luckily, the ceramic in the bed frame can be turned malleable again if you file it into powder and soak it into vinegar, so casings were never a problem.”
“Trouble with keeping a genius in a place like this; you’re smarter than the person that runs this place.” Terrell observed. He pulled back his sleeve to check his watch.
Or at least it looked like a watch. It was really a specialized piece of electronics with a handful of very specialized functions meant for this job and designed not the be recognizable as anything but a watch should things go south.
He hit the second button and waited.
Two Days Ago
“These are our exit strategies.” Wendell said proudly as he handed the watch to Terrell and a locket to Susan. “My guy in Newport News outdid himself here, I’m really proud of them.”
“Really? Spy-tech?” Terrell asked. “You read too many books.”
“Exactly!” Wendell said with more energy than the others ever remembered him having. “Everyone says that anytime someone even considers something like this. Most of the time, it keeps them from even checking and that, my friends, is why we use them.”
Susan flipped open the locket and made a face as she discovered that it held a picture of her kissing Wendell on the cheek in a ball gown. Not only had that never happened, but she hadn’t worn a nice dress in years.
“Terrifying what you can do with image manipulation these days.” She muttered, then out loud said, “Okay, so no one is going to check them, but what do they do?”
“All the fun stuff.” Wendell’s eyes practically twinkled. “First and foremost, Terrell, your watch links to mine. You’ll notice that the hour hand glows in the dark. Blue glow, we’re doing fine. Red glow, the plan’s going south and you need to pull a fire alarm. The first button changes the glow on my own watch, just in case there’s a problem.
“The minute hand also lights up, but only when we’ve done out part. Second button lights that up, you’re going to hit that when you’ve found our ‘genius’.”
Terrell turned the watch over in his hands. It looked like an ordinary watch, not too nice, not too cheap. “And the third button?”
“Extra fun.” Wendell said. “Tap that and a high powered signal scrambler comes on line. All wireless communication goes ‘bye bye’. Only problem is, it’s still contained in something the size of a watch, so the battery’ll be dead in about three minutes. Long enough to run away and not much else.”
“And it also works as a watch?”
“A damn good one. My guy knows what he’s doing.”
“Okay, so that’s the watch; what’s this for, besides being the perfect aide to induce vomiting?” Susan held up the locket by the chain.
Terrell leaned forward and smirked. “You two look cute together.”
“Your jaw is going to look good broken too.” Susan shot back.
Wendell ignored the jabs from both. “The locket’s a nice little piece of work; I had a couple of rings that did this for a while; great for fake medical claims when you don’t have a friendly doc lined up. Right up front, it fixes that fact that you don’t actually have any neurological problems because it’ll send the appropriate signals to the machine for you.
“As for the other function… remember that video I was having you watch as part of your acting lessons?”
“You’re a painfully disturbed individual for that, by the way.” Susan said.
Wendell choked back a laugh. “All in the name of the good con. And the pendant is going to lend some weight to your performance.”
Doctor Riggs frowned at his tablet screen. In front of him, the woman he knew as Anna Price, really Susan Polanski, lay on the scanning table with the array of plastic and metal arches looped over her hospital gown draped body. Her husband, stood beside her, holding her hand and looking oddly uncomfortable doing so.
“I’m sorry Dr. Price.” He said, “I’m not sure what the problem is, but the scan isn’t showing anything that might indicate your wife is experiencing spacial shift. I’m searching with the highest sensitivity and it appears that everything is operational. In fact, whoever did your wife’s prosthesis did an expert job connecting the neural paths.”
“That can’t be true.” Wendell said, pursing his lips. His mouth suddenly felt dry. Why wasn’t the pendant working? “I did basic scans myself and I was seeing neural delay even then. You’ve seen how much trouble she has just walking into a room.”
“I did see, Doctor. But it isn’t showing up on my scans.”
“Well do them again.” Wendell said forcefully, hoping he sounded like a husband at the end of his rope. He let go of Susan’s hand and came around the table, blocking Riggs’s view of her. “For as much money as I’m paying you, I expect you to be able to read every nerve impulse.”
“Fine. I’ll reboot everything, dump the buffers and start over completely clean. Will that do?”
Meanwhile, Susan lifted her hand to the pendant.
Wendell held the pendant open so Susan could see inside. “There are buttons hidden under out heads in this picture. Press you to turn on the main function. Press me for the second.”
It was difficult going to fumble the locket open without moving enough to garner attention, but Susan managed it. Apparently, she hadn’t pressed the button hard enough earlier and the signal feed didn’t come on. This time, she pressed as firmly as she dared without having her strength break the circuitry.
A frantic beeping from his tablet got Dr. Riggs’s attention immediately. “My god. Mrs. Price, you…”
Five Days Ago
Wendell found Anansi and Coyote in the kitchenette styled break room, pouring over a huge, paper map of Huston. At least Coyote was pouring over the map, along with a palmtop displaying news articles from the same city. Anansi was reading a hardcover Ann Rice novel.
With no other fanfare, he announced, “I have an insane request from your information brokerage upstairs.”
“That should be easy.” Coyote looked up at him. Her eyes were green at the moment, but a too-bright, hellish glow kind of green. “You already think we’re both insane.”
That was increasingly untrue. Unlike Anansi, Coyote wasn’t shy about her illusory powers and day by day, Wendell was less and less sure about his initial assumptions. Not that he would tip his hand to them on that front.
“Right.” He replied.
Anansi put a bookmark in his novel and set it aside before standing to face Wendell. “Anything you need from World Spider, it’s yours. What is this request?”
“I need a video compilation made.” Wendell replied with a completely straight face. “Of people having heart attacks.”
“Mrs. Price, you’re going into cardiac arrest!” Dr. Riggs exclaimed.
“What?” Susan and Wendell said as one, shocked for an entirely different reason than he was.
Susan realized that it was her mistake. She’d pressed the wrong button. Now it was up to her to save it. “How can I…”She let herself trail off into a groan and trailed a hand from her jaw down to her arm. “Oh god. What’s wrong with me?”
As Dr. Riggs rushed to her, Wendell surreptitiously checked his watch. The minute hand was white. He had to restrain himself to keep from looking relieved. He rushed to Susan’s other side as Dr. Riggs started taking down the scanning equipment.
“God, Anna… I’m calling an ambulance.”
“Wait!” Dr. Riggs said, panicked. “If you do that, the hospital will know you were here.”
“What do I care? My wife is having a heart attack!” Wendell tried to sound equally panicked. All the while, Susan groaned and held her arm and jaw.
“Because this isn’t just trespassing. You broke into a federal building without authorization. That’s a federal offense. Listen: Swanson isn’t that far away. My car is fast, I’ll take you.”
“It better be damn fast.” Wendell warned, touching the button on his watch that let Terrell know they were ready to move.
“Green light, Flo. Time to get moving.” Terrell looked up from his watch.
“Was that some sort of signal?” She asked.
“Exactly. It means we’re now on the clock to get downstairs before the alarms come back up.” He opened the door a crack and peered out into the hall to make sure the way was clear.
“I’d be very interested in how you did that.” said Flo, walking up to stand beside him. “Whenever I think about leaving, the alarm always trips me up. An EMP would work; this place isn’t hardened at all; but finding a power source has always been a problem. I’ve been reduced to rubber bands and homemade ethanol to provide energy in all my personal projects.”
Terrell pushed the door open the rest of the way and edged out into the hallway. He really didn’t want to know how one made ‘homemade ethanol’, but at the same time, he would rather she not make more anywhere near where he slept.
“We bribed a doctor.” He explained. “And he bought a guard in.”
“Huh.” Flo sounded disappointed. “That feels a bit cheatish to me.”
“With our group? I don’t think playing by the rules is an option.”
To Be Continued…