Look at all these big damn spiders – Season 1, Episode 2 of Starlight

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Starlight, Season 1, Episode 2: Look at all these big damn spiders

Copyright (c) Ben Foth 2021

Word count: 6146


Bryce makes a mistake on the job – One that infests the city with large spiders that came from fuck knows where, but it wasn’t Australia.

The Starlight team moves quickly to stop this threat.

Meanwhile, Tom and Helene indulge in a secret they’ve been hiding from the rest of the team.


Look at all these big damn spiders

By Ben Foth

Loud club music boomed as Bryce and Ryan “whoo”ed with Claire, a girl they’d befriended at one of their parties. Claire looked like half the other girls in the club with her tight jeans and black tank top over a well-proportioned body. Ryan looked like half the other guys – brand tee and cargo shorts. His appeal was more his thick beard and strong stout build. Bryce was trying a new look – a tucked-in button-up shirt instead of his usual tight aesthetic graphic tee. He hoped the girls at the club would think he was cool and mature for it. Well, that and finally being employed.

“Let’s get shots!” Bryce shouted over the music. He was already a bit tipsy. He hadn’t drank that much in a while.

The three carefree students clinked their vodka shots together, and downed them in one gulp. Claire immediately chased hers with a cup of water.

“You’re not gonna chase yours too, are you?” Bryce teased Ryan.

“Sorry man, I’m a pussy!” Ryan sipped Claire’s water.

“Guys, turn around,” Claire said. She had gotten a club photographer’s attention. “What pose should we do?”

“Cheek kisses!” Ryan said.

Bryce and Ryan kissed Claire on her cheeks with their hands behind their backs. Claire smiled wide and didn’t quite know what to do with her hands. The photographer snapped it. Then Bryce and Ryan put their arms around Claire. Bryce held the group’s plastic cup of water like a badass, Ryan did a peace sign, and Claire had both her arms around the boys’ waists. Another snap.

“You putting that on your dating profile?” Bryce teased Claire. “To show you’re in demand?”

“Anything to impress the boys!” Claire laughed.

“Be right back!” Bryce excused himself.

In the dirty, greasy club bathroom, he pissed out the entire night’s drinks so far. Finally. The other young guys around him took their pisses and didn’t wash their hands.

Bryce’s phone vibrated loudly like a heartbeat. He’d chosen that vibration for only 5 of his contacts – Tom Holroyd, Jane O’Connor, Omar Atallah, Simon Bannerman, and Helene Ouellette.

It was a text from Tom – “Parliament Hill ASAP”

“Fucking Starlight,” Bryce said under his breath.

He rejoined Ryan and Claire, and let them know – “I gotta go, guys, sorry”

“Where, bro?” Ryan asked.

“Going over to a girl’s place,” Bryce said. “Met her on… Some fucking app.”

“Ouuuu, give us the gossip later!” Claire said.

Yeah, I wish I was getting laid tonight, Bryce thought.

***

Bryce kept his balance as he drunkenly walked through Rideau Street. He focused his eyes on the imposing Rideau Centre and kept an eye out for sketchy people. He’d made it home in one piece many times when he’d been too drunk to see right, so this buzzed walk was a piece of cake for him.

Bryce saw Tom and Jane questioning a man on the hill. He calmly approached them.

“What’s going on?” He sat on the decagonal base of the Centennial Flame fountain with Jane as Tom kept talking to the security guard.

“Australian spiders,” Jane said. “They’re not actually from Australia, but they’re so big and dangerous that they might as well be. One of them got into Parliament, and now we’re tracking it down.”

Bryce threw a few quarters into the fountain, for good luck.

“Where’d they really come from?” Bryce asked.

“We don’t know.”

“Usual tranq routine?” Bryce kept his speech as stable as possible.

“Yep,” Jane said.

“Well, he knows it’s in the building and it can’t phase through walls or anything, so it’s contained there,” Tom said when he rejoined the group. “We’ll walk in, tranq it, Bryce acts as an extra set of eyes after he brings us the carrier you forgot in the car, and we’ll call it a night. Bryce, you might have to shoot this thing, so…”

Bryce burped.

“Bryce, are you drunk?” Tom’s voice got stern. Must have smelled the booze.

“Yeah, I was clubbing, and…”

“Come here,” Tom stayed stern. He led Bryce a few metres away from Jane.

Bryce braced himself for the inevitable chewing out.

“Bryce, you’re unbelievable! What did I tell you about alcohol and drugs? Don’t let it interfere with work! Don’t show up to work drunk!” Tom barked. “Even if it’s a weekend! The slightest lapse in judgement on this job could get you or someone else killed! Dangerous things don’t always take weekends off! Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes,” Bryce feared getting fired over this. He almost said “sir”. “It’s almost worn off though, I didn’t drink too much tonight. Besides, it’s a weekend. I needed to see my friends after a long week.”

“You think you’re the only one missing out on his personal life tonight? I was in the middle of a date when I got called here,” Tom pushed down his anger. Bryce spied a bruise on his neck, and smelt wine on Tom’s breath. “Now, enough talking. Be our extra set of eyes.”

***

Bryce roamed around the empty parliament building’s halls. Its majestic library was barely lit, unlike the deserted halls where electricity faintly buzzed. Bryce was careful not to touch any of the books. Was that even allowed? Where even was the entrance to the higher floors that encircled the place?

“It’s not in the library,” Bryce said over the comms to Tom and Jane. Neither of them answered. “I said, it’s not in the library.”

“…”

“Guys, it’s not in the library.”

“We heard you,” Tom said.

Next, Bryce checked out the parliament hall. A Canadian flag was perched on the desk in the far end of the room. Wooden desks and chairs arranged in a U-shape filled the room. Bryce checked for the spider behind every one of them as he marveled at the majesty of the room’s high square-patterned ceiling and large pointed windows.

Bryce sat in one of the chairs and fantasized about being a politician. The parliament’s in session, discussing an important bill that will change Canadian law as we know it. Now it’s MP Bryce Waterman’s turn to speak up, and what he’s about to say will make the opposition see the light. Then he felt something tapping his shoulder. It was a large spider limb, of the spider on the back of his chair.

Bryce yelped and dashed away from it. “Guys, it’s in the parliament hall!” He froze as he waited for Tom and Jane to rush over. Adrenaline flowed through Bryce’s body, but he was frozen, staring at that spider the size of 3 cats. Then another one crawled out from under one of the chairs. “Guys, hurry, there’s more than one!”

Tom and Jane ran into the parliament hall. Tom pulled his tranq out and shot both the spiders. Bryce was still frozen in fear.

“Bryce, what’s wrong? It’s just a couple spiders,” Tom said.

***

Bryce, Jane, Omar, Simon, and Helene sat on the Starlight Manor conference room’s black leather couches as Tom began his briefing of the day. Bryce internally begged Tom not to out him as a coward who’d freaked over a couple large spiders.

“So, Australian spiders have infested Ottawa. Not really from Australia, but that’s what we call them, cause they’re big and dangerous. There wasn’t one at Parliament like the original report told us – there were fifteen. Jane and Bryce and I had a really fun night cleaning that up,” Tom briefed them. “So that’ll be our priority these days. We don’t know how these guys reproduce, so they could multiply fast enough to overwhelm us. If so, I’ll authorize the use of poison gas, as long as there’s no civilians in the way. Remember your gas masks, of course. So Helene, how will we spin this one if it gets out of hand?”

“We’ll say they’re actually from Australia, getting shipped to an insect exhibit. Then when they’re all cleaned up, we’ll say they were just rounded up and put back into storage. No one will question any weird creature that supposedly comes from Australia. They’ll just get on with their lives after it’s gone,” Helene said.

“Good,” Tom said. “And Simon, your report?”

“Same physiology as any spider you’d find on this planet, except it’s the size of a doberman,” Simon said. “They’re venomous too, so don’t let them bite you. The venom appears to be their lifeblood. Omar and I are working on an antidote along with a delivery system in case civilians get hurt.”

“Well, let’s get back to it,” Tom said. “Bryce, Jane, you’re on patrol duty. Drive around the streets, check the Internet, see if anyone’s Tweeted about any big damn spiders walking around. Me, I’ll be in my office. Don’t disturb me unless it’s an emergency.”

***

Bryce drove Jane in a black Starlight company car through the streets of downtown Ottawa, looking around for big damn spiders among the bright, hot summer’s pedestrian traffic. No sign of any of them. Jane was calm and silent, though still waiting for Bryce to chat her up.

“So, how do you like Starlight?” Bryce asked.

“It’s good, we’re helping people,” Jane said cordially.

“You know, I’ve always wanted to see aliens. Didn’t think it’d be so soon. Maybe I’ll end up befriending some, or even dating one,” Bryce tried to warm the air.

Jane anxiously smiled and put her hand on his shoulder before sharply pulling it away. “You never know, Bryce.”

Jane’s phone went off. Generic ringtone. She answered it, and “mhm”ed as Tom gave her some information.

“They’ve been spotted at a bar in Byward,” she said.

“Let’s go party,” Bryce said. Damn, that was a good one-liner, he thought.

Bryce turned the car around and drove it in that direction.

***

Back at Starlight Manor’s basement lab, Omar and Simon were working on an antidote to the spiders’ venom. Simon’s shaggy black hair was combed back, and he wore a white lab coat and safety goggles – perfect aesthetic as he experimented with adding various compounds to the spider’s venom.

“What if we make a vaccine?” Omar said, absently.

“No, those are for viruses, not poisons,” Simon didn’t take his eyes off the test tube he was holding. “Hand me another sample.”

Omar furrowed his brow, and reluctantly complied to Simon’s demand.

“Right. Well, if it gets out of hand and we have to save as many people as possible as quickly as possible, we’ll use bottles,” Omar said. “Quicker storage, bring it to crowds, get people taking sips.”

“You sure? What about the airborne delivery system you were talking about?”

“We don’t know how it’ll act when it’s heated or turned into a gas,” Omar said. “But you’re the doctor who knows chemistry and biology, I’m just the engineer with a master’s degree he earned at 22.”

“Right you are,” Simon didn’t take his focus off his experiment.

“Where does it all come from anyway? The spiders came out of nowhere. Tom found the blue glutton fallen from the sky in the middle of a schoolyard. The noodle monster came from a restaurant kitchen. The dog eater, fuck knows where. And every case we’ve done before those just happened. Some of them fell from the sky. Some of them were manmade. Some of them ancient but hidden. Have you ever thought, why Ottawa? Why’s all this alien, supernatural, weird stuff congregating here?”

“Could be a portal or a rift or some law of attraction type of energy,” Simon said. “Can you get Bryce to grab us some lunch? I’m starving.”

“He’s out with Jane.”

“Already? Have we even trained him for field work?”

“It’s what Tom wants: an extra set of eyes, an extra strong body, even if I could put him in the ground if I wanted to. If it was up to me, he’d be cleaning up around here while I’d be out doing the hunting.”

“Tom saw something in Bryce, now let’s see what that something is. Careful with the bravado, Omar. ”

“What bravado?”

Simon smirked as he got back to his work.

***

Bryce shut the car door and locked it as it chirped.

He and Jane proudly marched into Proudly, a gay bar Bryce had been dragged to by a friend once.

“I had a weird night here once,” Bryce said. “This gay dude dragged me here, and I just thought it was a normal bar at first, but then none of the girls were flirting back to me, and they were all pairing up and kissing each other. And this one guy tried taking me home with him. And that’s when I realized where I really was. Fun night as always though.”

Jane smirked.

“Was he not hot enough for you?” She teased.

Bryce laughed. “No, I like girls. Nothing against gay or bisexual people though. Love is love.”

Music from the radio played through the empty dance floor. The bar with all its bottles stacked behind it was also void of life.

“Alright, where is this fucker?” Bryce asked.

“Manager told us it was in the back room,” Jane led Bryce into the “employees only” area, which contained its stock and a big-ass spider in the supply closet.

“So, just one of them, eh?” Bryce brandished his tranq, and tapped the extra clips in his pockets. Jane was carrying hers in her purse.

“Tom finally taught you how to use one of those?” Jane said.

“There’s training?”

Bryce shot the spider. It flopped to the ground. A bit of venom trickled from its fangs.

“Ew,” Jane said. “Not again.”

“Now what do we do with it?” Bryce asked. “Can’t just leave it here.”

“Kill it. We’re incinerating it.”

Bryce’s eyes widened.

They ran into another Australian spider on their way out of the bar. Jane shot this one. She and Bryce checked every inch of the place for more. There weren’t any. The two Starlight agents put the sedated spiders into the car’s trunk.

“The sedation won’t last forever,” Jane said. “Let’s get these guys to the incinerator as fast as possible.”

***

Helene tapped away on her laptop in her office. Her desk had a lamp and framed photos of her on various adventures with her friends, along with tarot cards, an obsidian crystal ball, crystals, and other knick knacks.

Tom walked in. “How are the articles going?”

“Good, good,” Helene pushed her glasses up. “Almost good to go. Cover story hasn’t changed.”

Tom sat his slacks-with-suspenders-clad ass on Helene’s desk. His white untucked dress shirt’s rolled up sleeves exposed his tattoos.

“I know you like it when I wear the suspenders,” he said. “I wore them just for you.”

Helene playfully snapped one and leaned into him. “They suit you.”

Tom glanced at the open office door. Bryce and Jane were out. Omar and Simon were busy in the basement. He pierced Helene’s eyes with his. She looked like a deer in headlights. Sexual energy surged through him.

“It’s always hotter when the door’s open, right?” Tom whispered. “One of these days, I’ll fuck you right on your desk. Now, let’s pick up where we left off the last time.”

He softly pounced on Helene and held her shoulders while making out with her. Helene embraced Tom.

“Not yet, Tom,” Helene whispered as she kept her hands on Tom’s hard, strong shoulders. “We can’t. We shouldn’t. You know I want to, but… Work. I don’t want everyone else finding out. Please don’t tell anyone. Please.”

Helene pulled away from Tom, who lounged on her desk. “Anyway, any word from Bryce or Jane?”

Omar walked in. Helene’s eyes darted to him. Tom hid his erection with his forearm.

“Guys, we’ve figured it out,” Omar said.

In the Starlight basement, the three of them watched Simon introduce his antidote. Orally administered, highly potent. Ready for physical distribution.

“I’ll get in touch with all the hospitals in the area, ask them if anyone’s been poisoned. Usual public health official persona. They always buy it,” Tom said. His phone rang. Heavy punk rock ringtone.

Tom answered his phone. It was Bryce.

***

Bryce and Jane pulled up to the Starlight Manor’s garage.

“You carry one, I’ll carry the other,” Bryce said as he shut off the car and let himself out.

He opened the trunk, and the two conscious big-ass spiders jumped out. One was visibly pregnant. Bryce quick-drew his concealed tranq and shot both, but the visibly pregnant one’s sac exploded. Dozens of tiny (compared to their parents) spiders scattered around the open garage and crawled out into the open world. Jane screamed and jumped onto the car’s hood. Bryce had an “oh, fuck” look on his face.

“Shit! I didn’t know they were going to fuck in there!” he said. He pulled out his phone and called Tom.

***

“Well, Twitter’s blowing up, lots of big spider sightings in Ottawa,” Tom said in the passenger seat, scrolling on his phone. Omar was driving. Bryce was in the back seat. “You should have used a higher tranq dose! We were going to kill them anyway!”

“Sorry,” Bryce almost said “sir”.

“Simon and the ladies have caught a few, still a lot left,” Tom said. “A few civilians got bit, and they administered the antidote. Don’t beat yourself up about this, Bryce. Mistakes happen, especially when it comes to previously unseen things. You’d get fired for abusing any of our tech, not for being ignorant about it.”

“Understood,” Bryce said.

Bottles of the antidote filled the car’s trunk, thanks to Simon. Omar felt sorrow over not having completed an airborne delivery system in time for this emergency.

“You said there were dozens?” Tom said. “But if they keep reproducing, then… “

“End of the world,” Omar said.

The three men pulled up to the Rideau Centre, where a bunch of the spiders had congregated. Some civilians were running from them, others were still doing their shopping.

Tom pulled the fire alarm.

“Public health! Everybody out!” He yelled. “Peacefully! Anyone gets bitten, see me!”

The civilians did just that. Some ran out, some calmly walked out, some ignored Tom and continued shopping, then followed the crowd themselves.

“First, we make sure the entire building is empty, then we gas it. Split up for that. Omar, you   take the first floor. Bryce will take the second, I’ll take the third. Meet back here when we’re done.” Tom said. “You guys have your masks?”

“Yep,” Bryce said.

“Affirmative,” Omar said.

They all carried gas masks and tranqs in their identical backpacks. The three men ran through the mall, telling any human still in it to get out.

***

On the other side of town, Simon, Jane, and Helene were backed into a street corner. Helene held a plastic antidote bottle. Simon and Jane shot the bigger spiders and stomped on the smaller ones. They were filling up the streets, climbing up buildings.

“Oh my God, what do we do?” Jane tried appearing calm and collected, but her teammates didn’t buy it.

“Can’t tranq them all,” Simon said. “Can’t catch them all. They’re multiplying too fast. Hold them off.”

“It bit me! It bit me!” A disheveled man who seemed to be in his 30s was freaking out.

“Helene!” Simon pointed her in his direction.

Helene ran to the man and gave him a sip of the antidote.

“Could we gas them?” Jane asked.

“Not outdoors,” Simon said. “It’ll dissipate too fast and it could harm civilians. Better to do it in enclosed spaces. They’re easier to detoxify too. We need a better solution.”

“I have an idea!” Helene said, backing away from a spider that was gnashing its fangs. She poured the venom antidote onto it.

“Helene, no! We need that for…” Simon said. The spider died. “…civilians.”

Helene laughed giddily in pride and surprise.

“Brilliant,” Simon said.

“But how will we get every one of them?” Jane asked.

***

“All clear?” Tom said to Omar and Bryce as they reunited at the downstairs entrance to the Rideau Centre.

“Yep.”

“Affirmative.”

“Right, so let’s gas it. Masks on,” Tom said. The men took a metal box with a handle and a hose out of the car’s trunk, as well as a crate full of antidote bottles.

Tom pulled a large knife in a brown leather holster out of his backpack, unsheathed it, and cut the tape holding the crate closed.

“That gas there is only harmful if it’s inhaled. Don’t worry about skin contact,” Tom said, sheathing the knife and putting it away.

“Are you sure, Tom?” Bryce said. “This could end up killing a civilian.”

“I’m sure,” Tom said, regretfully. Then his phone rang.

“Omar, head back to the Manor! See what you can do about airborne delivery!” Tom ordered, hanging up his phone. “We don’t need the poison anyway. If we find a way to turn the antidote into a gas, we can drive around the city and fumigate the whole damn place. Bryce and I will stay here and do what we can.”

Tom removed the crate of antidote bottles from the car, then Omar drove off in it.

“Right, now what?” Bryce asked.

“Medicine,” Tom said. “Anyone who’s been bit by a spider, see me! Public health!” He yelled at civilian passerbys.

“We could make a sign,” Bryce said. “Anyone who’s been bit, see us.”

“Good thinking.”

Bryce ran into the empty mall and found a poster board and markers in the dollar store, dodging big and small spiders along the way, and shooting some who got aggressive. He wrote “Spider venom antidote! Public health!” on it, along with a couple downward-pointing arrows. He ran back out and gave the sign to Tom. He held it up to all the pedestrians passing by, including a familiar face for Bryce in the distance.

“Wait, I know that girl!” Bryce exclaimed. Claire! “She must be going to work, she works here!”

Bryce thought quickly. He walked in Claire’s direction. She was absent-mindedly listening to music while texting on her phone and sipping an iced coffee.

“Oh, hey, Claire!” He greeted her. “Going to work?”

“Yeah, did you just finish up?” She took an earphone out.

“Yeah, I was going to do some shopping after work, but the place got evacuated. It’s infested by spiders from Australia.”

“What, no way!”

“Yeah, so don’t go there. If you get bitten, there’s a public health official there with a bunch of antidote.”

“Oh no!” Claire wasn’t concerned, just relieved she didn’t have to go to work that day. “You want to go chill with me then? Tell me all about that new girl you hooked up with?”

“Yeah, I, um…” Bryce tried thinking of an excuse to stay with Tom.

“He’s hot,” Claire spied Tom. “Didn’t think a public health official’s job would allow tattoos like that.”

“Wanna flirt with him?” Bryce asked.

“I don’t know, he’s so hot,” Claire whined. “What if he already has a girlfriend?”

“I don’t think he does. Let’s say hi.”

Claire squealed.

“Hey sir, can you tell me what’s going on with all the spiders?” Bryce asked Tom, with Claire by his side.

“They’re from Australia,” Tom said in his best ‘chill, easygoing public servant’ voice. “They broke out of a shipping container in the middle of being shipped to a zoo’s arachnid exhibit. Some security guard sucked at his job, apparently. You should avoid them. Stomp on the smaller ones if you can, but don’t risk it with the bigger ones. If you or someone around you gets bit, come my way.”

“How long were they here?” Claire asked, playing with her hair.

“Couple days,” Tom asked. His phone’s rock ringtone went off. “Excuse me.”

Tom sighed as whoever on the other end of the conversation talked.

“No, don’t send the army in except as a last resort, Scott,” Tom said. “We don’t need to cause more hysteria than there already is.”

Current prime minister Scott Harrison? Bryce thought. Tom knows him?

“Sta- We have it handled,” Tom said. “Antidote’s ready for all civilians, and it works to kill the spiders too. Just give us a few hours to make it airborne. Thank you for the call,” Tom hung up.

***

“Fuck!” Omar beat up on the car’s steering wheel at a red light. It didn’t have any sirens nor the appearance of anything but an ordinary modern black car. Yet this was an emergency. If this was a fire truck or an ambulance or a police car, he thought, then he would have already been back at Starlight Manor.

The light turned green and Omar floored it.

He pulled up to Starlight Manor at the same time Simon did.

They hopped out of their cars and ran into the building, down into the basement.

“Let’s hope the plan you told me about works!” Simon said. “The bottles Jane and Helene are carrying around won’t save the entire city!”

“We’ll test the airborne antidote on the ones we captured. So make some more!” Omar ordered, as he and Simon hurried down the manor’s basement stairs into the science lab.

“On it!”

Omar chugged an energy drink he’d grabbed from the minifridge beside his work bench as he tinkered with a large vent-looking device.

“Liquid goes down here, you heat it up, and it goes into the air. It’s like a radiator!” He said with pressured speech, yelling at Simon, who was mixing chemicals together. “How’s the antidote coming?”

“It’s coming!” Simon yelled back, as he poured the concoction into a bottle. “We have two cars, you know! We’ll need a second one of those.”

“Right!” Omar said angrily. He jumped to work on a second device.

***

“…and dental’s pretty nice too,” Tom was explaining his fake job to Claire, as she stood with cocked hips and one leg bent in front of her.

“So is your job relaxed about the tattoos? If you work for the government, don’t they want you to cover them up?” Claire asked, checking out Tom’s muscular arms.

“No one’s minded them,” Tom said.

Bryce spied a medium-sized spider chasing then biting a running civilian woman, who screamed. They were starting to grow bigger. What were they even eating?

“Excuse me, the spiders are getting aggressive,” Bryce said. “That woman needs an antidote!”

Bryce picked up a bottle and ran to the woman. Claire’s jaw dropped at his heroism. She’d always known Bryce as just some typical dude she’d party and gossip with.

“Is that allowed?” She asked. “Can someone who doesn’t work with you just steal a bottle like that?”

“If it means saving lives,” Tom said.

***

“You get back to Jane and Helene, I’ll get back to Tom and Bryce!” Omar ordered after he and Simon lugged the radiators out of Starlight Manor and duct taped them to the cars’ roofs. They filled the cars’ back seats with bottles and bottles of antidote.

“You know, we don’t need them. Takes only one person to drive a car. They’re better off on the streets,” Simon said.

“Right, you’re right,” Omar said, agitated. He’d drank two energy drinks at work. “So, drive everywhere you can. Get the antidote in the air.”

“You know what I just realized?” Simon stopped Omar. “We could have filled the fumigation device with the antidote. We didn’t need to create a couple new ones.”

“Shut up,” Omar said. “We have a city to save.”

The two men drove off and started spreading the gaseous antidote.

***

Jane and Helene stood back-to-back, fighting off the slowly growing spiders surrounding them with tranquilizers, their shoes, and antidote-filled spray bottles that they’d lifted from a local shop.

“Did Tom finally teach you how to use one of those?” Jane asked, as Helene shot the biggest spider they’d seen yet, which was the size of a tiger.

“There’s training?” Helene said. “I just found this in the glove compartment.”

A familiar car drove by the two women, releasing the gaseous antidote. Every spider in the vicinity dropped dead. It stopped by Jane and Helene.

“Get in, ladies!” Simon said after he rolled down the window.

***

“Any word from the rest of the team?” Bryce asked Tom as they and Claire passed around antidote bottles to civilians. Claire’s flirting with Tom had been cut short by the spiders getting even bigger and more aggressive. They’d decided to make the antidote mobile, handing out bottles to civilians, and getting them looking out for people who’d been bitten.

Tom pulled out his phone. Simon had texted him – “Antidote and delivery devices ready. Omar and I driving around city. Victory is coming.”

“It’s almost over!” Tom said.

“I’ll check on Claire, see if she’s okay,” Bryce said, running off.

The crate of bottles was empty. The streets weren’t. Civilians ran from the spiders. Claire stood by the crate and didn’t quite know what to do with it.

“Ugh, hold me!” Claire said.

“Still better than your job?” Bryce teased.

Then he heard a loud crash and a car alarm. He let go of Claire and turned around.

“Holy fuck,” Bryce said, looking down Rideau Street.

A spider the size of three cars had crushed a car’s roof with one of its limbs. As it walked down the street, it chomped on smaller spiders. The few pedestrians left on the street were screaming and running from it.

So that’s what they’ve been eating, Bryce thought. He considered pumping the spider full of tranqs from his backpack, but that would blow his cover with Claire. And they were all out of antidote.

Claire screamed. She held on to Bryce, wishing he was Tom.

Bryce stood strong. “Don’t worry, I got this. Let’s hope there’s only one of them.”

The giant spider got closer and closer to them. It was fast for its size. Bryce looked around for anything he could improvise a weapon with. Nothing. His heart beat strongly and adrenaline filled every inch of his body.

“Let’s run, let’s run!” Claire screamed as the giant spider, dripping venom from its fangs, was almost right beside them. Bryce shielded her from it, alchemizing his fear.

Looks like I’m blowing my cover to save us, he thought. He reached into his backpack and felt around for his tranq gun. But the first thing he felt was Tom’s knife’s leather holster. He pulled it out. He and Tom must have mistakenly switched backpacks. Lucky Bryce. Or maybe it was a deliberate move by Tom.

Bryce set the backpack down and unsheathed the knife. He motioned for Claire to move back.

Bryce faced the spider, holding the knife like a sword.

“Where do you want it, the mouth or the eyes?” He taunted.

The spider caved in another car’s roof with its limb.

“Okay, you had it coming,” Bryce said through his pounding nerves and adrenaline.

Bryce hopped on to another parked car’s roof, then on top of the giant spider.

Fueled by adrenaline, he stabbed it as many times, as quickly as he could. Claire watched in awe. So did Tom, as he ran onto the scene. I was wondering where that thing went, Tom thought about his knife.

Venom spurted onto Bryce as the spider lost its bearing and its legs collapsed. Bryce shoulder rolled as he hit the ground, a habit he’d picked up as an adventurous, risk-taking teenager. He ran to Tom and Claire.

“Guys, I need an antidote!” He said, pressured. “Some of the venom, it got in my mouth. And all over me, so don’t touch me.”

“We’re out!” Tom said. “Fuck! Just wait till…” Simon or Omar drives by, but where were they?

Bryce started losing his strength.

“Come on!” He yelled. “I’m not dying here!”

***

Omar covered as many streets of northern Ottawa as he could. As he drove by, spiders of all sizes collapsed. He was running red lights this time, and oncoming traffic was letting him through.. Screw the law, lives were at risk.

He remembered that the Rideau Center was still infested with spiders, so he turned in that direction. He saw Tom and some girl standing near Bryce, who had taken a knee. The biggest spider he’d seen yet was laying motionless near them.

“Omar! Thank fuck you showed! Give this young guy some antidote!” Tom yelled.

Omar did just that.

The rest of that day’s afternoon and evening were spent fumigating the Rideau Centre and all other infested buildings with the gaseous antidote and rounding up spider corpses that the team threw en masse into the incinerator.

By 10:30 PM, the team was completely finished, famished, and ready to go home.

***

That night, Bryce bench pressed a couple of heavy dumbbells in Starlight’s basement gym. Tom was doing some rows with a barbell. The two men’s arms were pumped with flowing blood.

“Nice job with the spider today,” Tom said.

“Thank you, it’s the least I could have done to, you know, not be such a coward like I was the last time.”

“Gotta be brave, Bryce. Gotta be brave. Especially in this line of work. No one likes a coward.”

“Especially not girls, right?”

“That’s how it is. Be a man, Bryce. The world needs you to be a man.”

“I was such a coward with my ex. Madison. I met her at the campus gym, took her to a few parties, and pretty soon after, we were a couple. I started doing it all for her, my training, my schoolwork, looking for a job. There wasn’t a single hour where she wasn’t on my mind. I let her walk all over me cause I was so scared of making her mad. Then I went on the gnarliest bender of my life after she dumped me, which was ironically, because of all the drugs and partying I was doing. Man, you should have seen how needy my texts were. It felt like my heart got ripped out of my chest and the rest of my body got set on fire. I would have done anything to get back with her. But I’m happy she did it.”

“We gents all learn that lesson at some point,” Tom said. “A girl, she’s just a girl. Since I joined Starlight, I never had that problem. Got married to the work basically.”

“Yeah, that breakup made me realize that what I really needed was a sense of purpose, not a girl. And she could never be my biggest reason to live. Thank you for trusting me, Tom. I love the job so far.”

“You’re very welcome,” Tom said stoically.

“Have you ever been a coward, Tom?” Bryce asked.

“…”

“Tom?” Bryce was worried he’d crossed a line.

“We’ve all made our mistakes. Given into feelings we shouldn’t have given into.”

***

After Bryce went home, Tom snuck into Helene’s office. She was half-assing her work, or she would have been if she wasn’t engrossed in a game of computer Solitaire.

“You know, we have the whole place to ourselves now,” Tom said. “There’s a lot of overtime work we could do tonight.”

“Tom,” Helene whined. “We’re not having sex tonight. We’re coworkers, not a couple.”

Tom wasn’t deterred. He brushed Helene’s red hair behind her ears and kissed her. They both closed their eyes. Tom slid his hand up Helene’s shirt and into her bra. She put her hand on his crotch.

Then she pulled away. “I don’t know if I want to do this.”

“Whatever you’re comfortable with,” Tom leaned back onto Helene’s desk and shut her laptop.

Helene breathed deeply and couldn’t take her eyes off Tom, who took in Helene’s beauty and fucked her with his eyes.

“I’ll blow you and that’s it,” Helene said, pulling down Tom’s suspenders. “But we’re not going all the way.”

***

“Hey, Ryan,” Bryce popped his shoes off in his apartment. He’d arrived in his gym clothes, as his venom-covered street clothes had been put in the incinerator. “I’m starving. Worked out after work today, now I need my protein.”

“Cool, man. Did you see all the big spiders walking around?” Ryan said, turning the volume a bit lower on the TV program he was watching. “Until the public health officials rounded them up.”

“Yeah, I was doing office work all day. Bullshit paperwork. Then I ran into Claire on my way back and fought some of the spiders with her.”

“That’s dope, man.”

Bryce cooked himself dinner and sat on the couch with Ryan, absolutely uninterested in the workplace dramedy he was watching.

“Guess my new job means I’ll be out of here a lot,” Bryce said. “Every damn day. Beats the alternative though.”

“Yeah. Can’t wait for the weekend. What do you want to do if you’re not working?” Ryan said.

Besides go over to some hot girl’s place and bang her for real this time? Bryce thought. Aside from that, Bryce couldn’t think of a single thing he wanted to do with his life besides keep working at Starlight.

“I don’t know,” Bryce said. “You think of something fun.”


NEXT


Author’s notes:

  • My description of the parliament building’s interior comes from direct experience. I went there once on a tour. And I’ve visited the outside too, Centennial Flame and everything.

 

  • I know the Rideau Centre like the back of my hand. I’d pass through there literally almost every day at a few points in my life.

 

  • The summer that inspired this, I added button-ups to my wardrobe for the first time like Bryce did. They’ve been in my clothing rotation ever since.

 

  • Bryce’s story about a friend who dragged him to a gay bar that he didn’t realize was a gay bar at first, then got the hint when none of the girls flirted back to him and a guy tried picking him up… Is one of mine.

 

 

  • In the first draft, the reason Tom got so mad at Bryce was because he had a dead brother also named Bryce who died while drunk on the job. I scrapped this backstory because it fucking sucked and felt too forced.

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