Spider Silk - Charley Marsh - ebook
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Spider Silk. Lighter than air. Indestructible. No wonder Margarita King wears Spider Silk skinsuits and wants them for her crew. To get them Margarita must give in to the Spider Woman’s demand. “Come to Kwaku.” Kwaku. Mysterious. Isolated. Home to the giant silk spiders. Never before visited by any living being.  Book Six of the Junkyard Dog series takes Margarita King and her companions into the bizarre and deadly world of Spider Silk.

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Spider Silk

Charley Marsh

Spider Silk

Copyright © 2018 by Charley Marsh

All rights reserved.

Published 2018 by Timberdoodle Press.

Spider Silk is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and places are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. For more information contact the publisher: http://timberdoodlepress.com/

All rights reserved

E-Book ISBN# Double Cross

Copyright © 2018 by Charley Marsh

All rights reserved.

Published 2018 by Timberdoodle Press.

Double Cross is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and places are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. For more information contact the publisher: http://timberdoodlepress.com/

All rights reserved

E-Book ISBN#978-1-945856-27-3

Print Book ISBN# 978-1-945856-26-6

Cover Art: dreamstime.com

Publisher Logo by Peter Corbin

Print Book ISBN# 978-1-945856-25-9

Cover Art: dreamstime.com

Publisher Logo by Peter Corbin

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Also by Charley Marsh

About the Author

1

Margarita King led her three companions into the opulent office of Shia Marie, known galaxy-wide as the Spider Woman.

They were there because the giant spiders of Kwaku were the only source for the indestructible silk thread that made up Rita’s skinsuits. After the near death of Lexa, and Yani’s kidnapping on ZetiTau, Rita had decided it was time to dress the girls in the nearest thing to armor the galaxy had to offer—spider silk.

The girls were her responsibility and she had nearly lost them. Failure wasn’t an option for Margarita King, ex-Red Baron. She would not fail them again.

This visit to the Spider Woman was unusual. Normally if someone wanted to buy a spider silk suit they had to deal with Shia Marie’s sales force, a group of tradesmen spread around the galaxy who took the orders, made a three-dimensional mold of the buyer’s shape, and then took their money.

Shia Marie controlled the production of the silk, the spiders who produced it, and the weaving of cloth from the silk thread. No one had ever been able to break her monopoly of the supply chain.

And until today no one had ever been allowed on the planet Kwaku. Rita was here because Shia Marie had issued a thinly-veiled demand masquerading as an invitation.

So Rita had brought the girls to Kwaku, the spider’s home planet, hoping that the trip would dispel any lingering effects they might still be feeling from their misadventures on ZetiTau.

“Ooooh, nice.” Lexa giggled as her long bare feet sunk deep into the spongy, blue-green moss that covered the floor of Shia Marie’s cave office. “It’s cool and soft. Feel it Yani.”

Yani shook her head and shushed Lexa.

Rita knew they made an odd-looking group. Slim, ebony-skinned, elegant Yani, dressed in flowing pants and a bandolier top, with a multitude of intricate, gold bracelets on her slender arms and an emerald in her navel, stood quietly alert.

Lexa, a tiny, naked, deep blue-skinned Weegan with no hair and large amber eyes, stood safely between Yani and Rita, gripping their hands while her head swiveled about as she tried to take in everything at once.

Rita towered over them both, a dark-haired Amazon of a woman, with Darwin, her telepathic shadow-creature, draped over her shoulders like a fur stole.

“Come forward,” Shia Marie commanded. Her dry and raspy whisper echoed in the cave. She sat behind a heavy, solid desk ornately carved from an exceptionally large chunk of glossy, rare black fire opal. A shimmering gold robe enveloped Shia Marie’s massive, round body.

The humanoid face above the robe looked too small and strangely proportioned for the large body beneath it.

“Rita, look at all the spiders.” Lexa released Rita’s hand and pointed to the curved wall on their left. Spiders in every size, shape, and color—all carved from glittering precious gemstones—looked as if they were running up the gray stone of the cave wall and across the ceiling.

Lexa shivered, her amber eyes wide and suddenly fearful, and edged a little closer to Rita’s leg. “They look like they want to jump on us,” she whispered.

Rita cleared her throat softly, a reminder for Lexa. It was important not to offend Shia Marie. She had warned Lexa about the Spider Woman, but the young Weegan was still very naive when it came to odd strangers. Lexa’s expressive face showed exactly what she was feeling. That was one of the many things Rita loved about her little friend.

Yani on the other hand, had a great deal of experience with alien races and knew how to play the necessary diplomatic games because of her training as a translator. Her face remained impassive with no sign of what she was thinking.

“They’re quite beautiful, aren’t they?” Rita said, loud enough for Shia Marie to hear. She returned her attention toward the desk. “I’ve heard about your collection, Madame. I can see why. I think I see a spider carved from Rose Sunstone. That is a very rare piece.”

“You are very observant, Human King.” Shia Marie’s round black eyes glittered like the black opal of her desk. “Please come forward and introduce me to your companions.”

Rita led the girls forward. The carvings that from a distance had looked like mere geometric designs on the black surface, separated into spiders chasing one another along the edges. The brilliant fire in the opal moved as Rita moved, making the spiders seem alive.

She didn’t blame Lexa for feeling fear. The cave office was designed to be intimidating, and most creatures, no matter their size or fierceness, had a primal fear of spiders.

Rita stopped in front of the desk and nodded toward the girls. “These are my friends and shipmates, Madame. This is Yani who, as you can see, is a translator, and the blue Weegan is called Lexa.”

Shia Marie inspected the girls closely, then turned her attention to Darwin. “And the creature on your shoulder?”

Rita reached a hand up to touch Darwin. “This is Darwin.” She didn’t explain that Darwin was a shadow-creature. The fewer who knew that the legendary shadow-creatures were real the safer he’d be.

Rita waited for Shia Marie to finish her inspection before speaking again. “As I told your tradesman on ZetiTau, we’d like to purchase spider silk skinsuits. Three each for Lexa and Yani, and I have one that needs to be cleaned. It is saturated with Snakeman blood. If you cannot get the blood out I will also need a new skinsuit.”

Shia Marie raised her single thick, arched eyebrow. “You wish to purchase six, possibly seven, spider silk suits? That will cost you dearly, Human King.”

“Yes. I’m aware of that, Madame. We are prepared to pay.” Rita said no more than that. She didn’t believe in sharing more than the basic facts when it came to personal information.

Shia Marie’s curiosity seemed to thicken the office air. The silence dragged on.

Finally Shia Marie seemed to realize that Rita had no intention of explaining how she had come into what Shia Marie knew had to be great wealth. Anger glittered in the Spider Woman’s eyes before they flattened to opaque black.

“Very well, Human King. You and Translator Yani and Weegan Lexa will be met at the workroom at the base of the incubator wall at first light. You are dismissed.”

Rita inclined her head toward Shia Marie. The girls mimicked the movement and they headed for the cave entrance.

“One more thing, Human King,” Shia Marie rasped. “You will leave the creature you wear on your ship while you are here. He will excite my spiders.”

Rita hesitated, then gave a slight nod. “As you wish, Madame.” She didn’t like the idea of leaving Darwin behind while on a strange planet. He had proven himself to be invaluable when it came to detecting and dealing with trouble.

Once outside, Lexa giggled nervously. “The Spider Woman is a little. . . strange, is she not, Rita? All those jewel spiders running up the wall and over the ceiling creeped me out. Some of them looked so real. And the ones on her desk looked alive.”

“You did well in there, Lexa,” Rita answered. “It is very important—critically important—not to offend Shia Marie. If you displease her she will not do business with you, and you need her spider silk. A spider silk suit will protect you from any weapon short of a nuclear bomb.”

“Shia Marie isn’t human, is she?” Yani asked as they made their way back to their ship, the Junkyard Dog. “Other than the single eyebrow and round eyes, her face is humanoid, but something is off, and her body is far too large for her head.”

“I don’t know Shia Marie’s race,” Rita admitted. “Her robe hid her entire body so it was impossible to see her true form. Even her feet when she stood were covered. And I’ve never spoken with anyone who has seen her.”

They followed a narrow trail through the jungle to a clearing where Rita had been instructed to land the Junkyard Dog. She decoded the ship’s security system and ushered everyone inside, then recoded the system.

“Why are you setting the security?” Lexa asked. “We haven’t met anyone dangerous here.”

Rita placed a hand on Lexa’s sloping blue shoulder. “From now on we behave as if everyplace we visit is potentially dangerous,” she said, her voice and expression serious. “I thought ZetiTau was safe and I nearly lost both you and Yani. We aren’t taking any more chances. Which reminds me, it’s time for our self-defense exercises.”

2

The morning dawned clear and bright as it always did in the spider region of Kwaku. The planet’s rainfall was limited to the land trapped between the coastal plain and the higher inland mountain range. A plethora of rivers and underground springs provided water to the inland jungle on the mountainsides, home to Shia Marie’s spiders.

All this was told them by the guide Shia Marie had sent to escort Rita’s group to the workroom.

Rita stood with her companions at the base of the incubator wall, a massive honeycomb that housed arachnids instead of honeybees. The nearly three kilometer-wide wall extended far above the treetops, so high that Rita couldn’t see its top from her position standing at the base.

The wall was constructed on top of a series of caves that sat side by side and extended the entire width of the wall.

“It’s a marvel of engineering and yet a little horrid at the same time, isn’t it?” Yani remarked, her head craned back in an effort to take in the massive structure. “How big are the cells?”

Rita looked up at the six-sided cells, neatly interlocked with no wasted space. Shia Marie had obviously copied the hexagonal structure often used in nature because of its structural strength and spatial efficiency.

“Each cell is large enough for an average-sized human to enter,” their guide answered, eyeing Rita’s height.

Rita looked at the cells just over her head and suppressed a shudder. She hoped she never had reason to enter one.

With the rising sun, warm moist air flowed into Rita’s face and up the incubator’s rough surface. Mechanical flatworms—centipedes—slithered over the face of the honeycomb, their many metal legs clacking against the rock, tightly rolled balls of spider silk held over their backs.

Rita became aware of a soft, chittering sound that filled the air over her head, punctuated by the metallic clicks of the centipedes’ legs as they clambered over the incubator.

“What are those flat bugs?” Lexa asked.

The guide, who looked like a smaller version of Shia Marie right down to a robe that covered his feet, looked down at the Weegan. “They are robotic centipedes,” he said. “We tried using natives to collect the silk but the spiders killed them. We switched to robots.”

Natives? Rita wondered if the guide was referring to native centipedes or the natives who made Kwaku their home. Before she could ask the guide to clarify, the overhead chittering grew louder.

It became an angry buzz whenever a centipede slipped into an individual cell and popped back out with a ball of the prized silk.

The ground at the base of the honeycomb felt soft and spongy underfoot from accumulated organic matter. Every few steps Rita’s booted foot slid across the smooth discarded carapace of a dead spider. They were walking on what was essentially a giant pile of refuse—the incubator’s garbage pile. She wondered why Shia Marie didn’t do a better job of keeping the area clean.

The buzz and drone of flying insects filled the jungle around them. Yani stepped on an empty hard shell, crunching it beneath her foot with a sharp crack. The insects immediately silenced. The thunder of a not-too-distant waterfall underscored the quiet.

The sweetish smell of decaying fruit overlaid with the thick, pungent odor of rotting flesh hung heavy on the rising air. The memory of breakfast—sweet-tart blueberries and vanilla-flavored pancakes—was replaced by the sharp sour tang of bile rising in Rita’s throat.

She smelled her own sweat; sweat from the humid, jungle air soured by fear. Although she would never let Lexa see the true extent of her fear, like most creatures Rita feared spiders. She glanced at Lexa and Yani and saw that they were looking slightly ill.

“Please take us to the workroom now,” she said firmly to the guide. “We’d like to do our business and get back to the ship.”

The girls followed Rita across the front of the incubator wall with audible sighs of relief. A sentry, smaller than Shia Marie and their guide, but with the same odd proportions, gestured them inside the wide-mouthed cave at the base of the wall that housed the workshop.

They stopped abruptly just inside the entrance, shocked by the sight and smell. Row upon row of large, round, metal vats set on individual heater units filled the broad cavern. Steam tainted with the stench of dead carrion rose from the vats and filled the air.

“This place smells awful, Rita,” Lexa whispered. “I think I might be sick.”