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October 19, 2011 / whirlingneedles

Silky Wool

The safety of the darkness was disturbed, with a violent jiggling and shaking. The creature that had been sleeping quietly in her silky corner was jerked rudely awake. She rushed out of the shadows, trying desperately to scurry to the safe crack in the wall. Is was too late, though. The last thing the poor creature saw was the dark shadow of impending doom crashing down…
Agent K reared back in disgust.
"Ew. And this is what you called me for?" She rose to her feet, dusting off the knees of her jeans.
The director of the Center for Arachnology sniffed dolefully. "Yes, this was our favorite spider and best producer. Until last night, that is. Someone broke in and mercilessly slaughtered poor Elvira."
"But why did you called the Agency?" Agent K asked, bewildered. "I don’t know who is responsible for spider murders, but surely the local police…? Breaking and entering…?"
"You don’t understand," cried the director. "We have been working on a way to incorporate spider silk into yarn, to make it stronger and lighter."
Agent K gaped at the director. Spider silk yarn? Ick.
"We have been working with our arachnologists and wool scientists to come up with ways to combine spider silk and wool in a way that’s pleasing and functional. Here, this is a skein of 15% spider silk and 85% wool – see low light and soft it is?"
Agent K took the skein reluctantly. She normally tried to avoid touching spider webs, but she was in for a shock. The skein of spider silk and wool was amazingly soft and light. All her previous experience with spider webs had led her to expect a sticky mess of shudder-inducing horror, but this was heavenly. It wasn’t sticky at all, but light and fluffy. She looked up at the director in wonder.
"That is our latest product, our highest achievement!" said the director, pleased at Agent K’s reaction. "But now we may not be able to make any more." He looked down at Elvira’s smushed remains on the floor and shook his head sadly.
"But surely you have other spiders?" asked Agent K.
"We do, but Elvira was a unique crossbreed. All the other spiders produce sticky silk, which you can understand is highly undesirable in this application. Elvira was a triumph of breeding, with exactly the right combination of lightness and unstickiness. We had hoped to breed her to Elvis and have lots of little Elviras running around the center."
Agent K repressed a shudder at the thought.
"Well, can’t you reproduce her breeding? Don’t you have records of what you did?" she asked.
"They were stolen! Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing," he sobbed. "They stomped on just the right spider, and stole all the right files."
"Do you have any enemies? Who would know about your work and want to stop it?" asked Agent K, handing him a tissue.

“Of course we don’t have any enemies! Who would want to hurt poor little Elvira?” the director replied indignantly. Agent K refrained from disclosing the number of spiders that had met their demises at her hands. “And anyway, it’s not like we let just anyone in here. We have a high-tech security system. Somehow someone got around it, let Elvira out of her cage, and …  and … ” He made a squashing motion with his hands, then resumed sobbing.

Agent K patted his back awkwardly. “We’ll do what we can,” she promised. The director nodded, and returned to his office still sniffling. Agent K turned to the Agency forensics team that had accompanied her to the Center for Arachnology, and motioned them to do their thing. She watched for a few minutes as they put up yellow tape around the corpse and began photographing and measuring the crime scene.

It didn’t take long for the forensics team to finish the job. Elvira had been pretty big for a spider, but even the biggest spider didn’t take up much more space than the bottom of a shoe. One of the team members scooped up the remains between two magazine return cards and carried them out of the room in a ziploc baggie, leaving a tiny chalk outline on the concrete floor. Agent K informed the director that they would contact him when the test results came back in, and left.

Several hours later, the forensics team lead, Agent F, reported the test results to Agent K.

“Not surprisingly,” Agent F told her, “cause of death was blunt force trauma to the, well, everything. No drugs found in the vic’s system. We did get a clean shoe print, though. The shoe print pattern was very clearly marked on the victim’s body, uh, the victim’s body WAS the shoe print.” Agent K shuddered. “Sorry. We’ll send you the print pattern. Other than that, no evidence. Well, except for the bit of yarn embedded in the, well, really entangled in the remains of the left legs.” Agent F looked slightly green. “But as far as we can tell, it’s the same yarn the Center uses, so no real help there.”

“Thank you,” Agent K said, hoping he’d stop talking about squished spiders. Agent F handed her the report and left. She took the shoe print image out of the folder. Luckily someone had drawn out the impression so she didn’t have to actually view the body again. She swiveled in her chair and placed the impression on the computer scanner. A few minutes later, the computer had found a match.

“Gotcha,” said Agent K with satisfaction.

Under cover of darkness that evening, Agent K led the Agency strike team and motioned for them to surround the building. The Agency had been waiting months to take down this operation, but had never had the evidence it needed to do so. Now, finally, there was physical evidence from a crime scene.

Sympathetic Synthetics was a large producer of all things synthetic, from plastic flowers to acrylic yarn to rubber dog poop. Sympathetic had been pushing its way into local establishments, trying to convince local shop owners that synthetic was the way to go, the way of the future. Anything natural was anathema to the company. The Sympathetic sales team wasn’t above intimidation to push their wares, either. Knitters and crocheters would go into a local yarn shop and, where there had once been wool as far as the eye could see, there was now only synthetic fibers and scared shop owners refused to carry anything else. But nothing could be pinned on Sympathetic without hard evidence. But that was about to change.

The Agency wanted to bring Sympathetic down, and unprecedented levels of resources were put to the task. Everything and everyone connected to the company was noted and logged. Even the synthetic rubber soles of the shoes distributed free to the company’s workers were noted in the Agency’s database. So, when Agent K ran the shoe print from Elvira’s squashing through the database, Sympathetic came up nearly immediately.

Agent K stood back as a couple of Agents swung a battering ram at the locked Sympathetic door. The door banged open, and Agent K led the swarm of Agents into the building. She headed straight for the Executive Suite, ignoring doors on either side of the corridor. Other Agents would search for Sympathetic employees and question them, but Agent K wanted to be the one to grab the big fish. She pushed the frosted glass door on the Suite open.

“You must be Agent K,” sneered the lime-green alien behind the desk. On the desk were spread the breeding notes and secrets of the Center for Spider Research. He held a class full of jiggling lime jello in one tentacle and waved another at Agent K, inviting her to sit down. “I was wondering when you would arrive.”

“So you don’t deny the charges?” demanded Agent K, ignoring the offered seat.

“Charges?” asked the alien in mock surprise.

“Arachnocide, for one. Breaking and entering, theft of corporate trade secrets, interfering with new yarn development…”

“Oh, yes, I did all that,” the alien said, waving his tentacle in dismissal.

“You know we are going to arrest you,” stated Agent K, watching him narrowly.

“Oh, yes,” he repeated. “Oh, definitely. Please, arrest me.”

Agent K regarded him suspiciously.

He heaved a sigh. “I’m so tired of all this. Do you know that fake dog poop is up 217% in the last six months? I was promised adventure, excitement! I came to Earth in search of my fortune and everlasting glory. Do you know what it’s like to be in charge of fake dog poop? The only thing worse would be in charge of actual dog poop. I’m sorry, I just want my ticket home. You all can have your wool. I’m out of here.”

“So you smashed Elvira just to get us to send you home?” asked Agent K in disbelief. “You know, you could have just turned yourself in.”

“Where’s the challenge in that?” asked the alien. “This was way more fun. Matching wits with the famous Agent K! Besides, does the world need any more spiders?” He shuddered.

She had to admit he had a point.


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