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Generated: Oct 26, 2021 12:24 AM
Post last updated: Oct 26, 2021 12:24 AM
A quest of multiples
The Underground meets Exaltation
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This has been a bogus time to surface so much. Everyone else in The Underground is jonesing for a way out of the mess they're in, and that means it's her job to take them somewhere better. So she does. This place doesn't come with a giant sky eye deleting anything it doesn't like the look of. Rad! Good enough for her.

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-which means, believe or not, that the only one of them with the balls to actually get shit done has to take over.

Crazy Jane surveys the place she landed. It's- well, it's Earth. Streets, sidewalks, and scattered litter. Hands go into pockets as she walks down the road, looking for anything she could call a landmark. If nothing useful turns up in the first couple minutes, they're out of here and onto the next world (would have been nice to know Flit could do that any time before the past couple of hours!).

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A girl with a very decorated backpack and home-tie-dyed shoes is tromping along the sidewalk. Her presumable sister is a little ahead of her, looking at her phone. The nearest landmark-y thing is probably the church over there; it's a weird turquoise-grey stone.

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Great. A couple of kids. Harder to keep a firm grip on the front- she can already feel Baby Doll bouncing with excitement and Hammerhead trying to choose between protectiveness and defensiveness. They're probably heading home from school. It's not like-

The church, over there. How long has it been there? Can they just ignore it? Everyone inside will be talking over themselves, but that's not her business. Fuck that noise. Focus on the kids.

"Hey, kids. Know any adults who can help me save the world?"

She's already trying to argue Flit into popping back out; this looks like a wash.

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"Save the world?" says the littler kid. "From what?"

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"There's an apocalypse. Giant eye in the sky, just showed up and started ending things."

C'mon, Flit. Any day now. Is she sulking again? Jane checks with Driver 8; no, but she's arguing with the Secretary. Waste of goddamn time, but there it is.

"Not your sky, though. Looks fine to me. Don't worry about it."

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"Whose sky?" asks the littler girl. "- Sam do you have your book."

"Yeah, in my bag," says the older sister, frowning.

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"My sky. Earth, in another dimension or universe. Which I really need to fix. Any superheroes or magicians you can point me to?"

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"You've come to the right place," says the little one.

"Okay, okay, I'll check," says Sam, digging in her bag and pulling out a book. "Put your hand on the cover?"

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...She wasn't expecting that to work. She does as she's asked. It's hard enough to keep a lid on this without second-guessing.

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The book - glows. Sam takes a key on a necklace off her neck and offers it to the visitor. "If you unlock the book it'll give you a quest," she says.

Littler one - she must be like eleven - bounces on her toes.

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-There's something like a heat shimmer, but more visible than that, almost like it brings shadows along with it. It travels across the stranger's entire body. There's no obviously visible change to her, but when she speaks, it's in a British rather than American accent.

"Oh, excuse me. Does it matter who unlocks the book, please?"

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"You won't be able to if it's not your quest! But you can all go together," says the little one, "we did."

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"Oh, that's quite lovely, thank you!"

She grabs at the sides of her shirt nervously, as though reluctant to reach for the key.

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There's another shimmer.

Jane takes the key, and unlocks the book.

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The book opens. There is an illustration of a trowel, and some words that start with "ഈ അന്വേഷണത്തിന് രണ്ട് സെറ്റ് ആളുകൾ ആവശ്യമാണ്." and go on like that. Sam turns the book so she can frown at it and puzzle it out. Eventually she says, "It says you need two sets of people, before you can take the trowel and go on your quest, and then you will... destroy the... Unwritten Book... and the world will be saved?"

"Two sets? Are we supposed to go too?"

"Uh, maybe? It's not like I can take Malayalam in school..."

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-huh. The 'Unwritten Book'. That sounds like an actual clue, if it's not just BS wrapped in a convincing package.

"How old did you say you were?"

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"Our body's eleven and Sam is fifteen."

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"Nice to meet you, Sam. I'm Jane. The body's around 64 but I'm 50. What's your name?"

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"Palisade, but we all have to look like Emmy in public."

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"You can control it? Sweet. We got the upgrade when we got our other powers, so it just matches whoever's up front. Sam, are you alright with me taking Palisade and the rest of- them- on a quest?"

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Sam winces. "I probably shouldn't be, but their last one turned out fine? How bad an end of the world are we talking here?"

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"If the eye doesn't look at you, you just have to avoid the rioters. I haven't even heard of this 'Unwritten Book', though, so it could get worse."

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"If the eye doesn't look at you?"

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"Things it looks at disappear. I don't know where they go. Don't think anyone else does, either."

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"...that's bad. How do you avoid it looking at you?"

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"By staying indoors. And having good luck. I spent nine minutes out in the open, and I was fine. It doesn't get rid of buildings. People, animals, cars...nothing bigger than that, yet. We're an hour into this. I can't really promise you this is a good idea."

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"It does sound pretty scary. Maybe the quest will send us places to get things we need? Oh! We could bring umbrellas?"

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"...sure, that sounds great."

Hopefully, the quest involves hopping around to find more resources than an adorable eleven year old.

"Why don't we find some umbrellas?"

Jane offers Palisade her hand.

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"Sam can I have twenty dollars for umbrellas," says Palisade.

Sam locates twenty dollars in fives and singles and a Sacagawea dollar and hands them over and Palisdae trots across the street to a CVS, which does have umbrellas. She doesn't take Jane's hand.

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Smart kid. Jane retracts the hand smoothly. Hammerhead is already getting pre-emptively mad on The Girl's behalf, but she thinks the rest of them should can it if they don't want to take a turn.

"It works on clothes, so coats won't help, but I haven't seen it delete anyone with a hat yet. It might not even work on everyone in here. Some of us have superpowers."

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"What kind of superpowers? When I'm not looking like Emmy I can fly and Clair can breathe underwater and Zix has some weird senses he's still figuring out."

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"Most of them have one- at least the ones who front. Don't know about the ones who stay further down. Flying, throwing fireballs, telekinesis...there are 64 of us in here. You?"

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"Wow, we only have five." Umbrellas. Four of them. Sam is waiting outside the store.

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"Hammerhead, Penny, and Baby Doll are the ones that front most, besides me, but you should watch out for Karen and Dr. Harrison. Karen is the only blonde, and Dr. Harrison has a white streak in her hair and blue eyes. They're bad news."

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"Wow, okay. We're very easy to tell apart when we're not pretending to be Emmy, I'm a griffin and Clair's a mermaid and Zix is a space alien. Dawn doesn't front but she's an angel."

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"They look different inside, but up here, everyone just changes how the body looks. We got the superpowers after we already existed, so everyone was used to making it work with Kay. I don't even look different- I was always the primary, since the last one retired. Hey, Sam," she adds as an afterthought.

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"Hey," says Sam.

"Kay?" says Palisade.

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"-sorry. Kay, the original, the body. She doesn't front, so we usually call her and the body that. Is Emmy yours?"

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"Sorta."

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Shrug.

"Sorry. We're the only people like us we've met. The doctors weren't exactly friendly about all this."

She gestures at herself with both hands, tiredly.

"Ready to save the world?"

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"Think so."

Sam scans the quest description again, sighs, and offers the book. Palisade peels the trowel off the page; it glints in the light.

She trots around to the side of the building, where there is an empty lot full of enthusiastic volunteer plants to hide behind, and she plunges the tip of the trowel into the ground. It opens up a hole, quick and easy as if she's digging into soap bubbles, and when the hole is big enough for them, she jumps in.

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Whee!!!

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Rather than further dirt, the hole Palisade dug leads straight down into a subway car. For a moment, it would seem they might crash to the floor-

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-and then Palisade and Baby Doll are both caught by her telekinesis, depositing them somewhat clumsily on the subway floor.

"Wow...that was scary..."

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Palisade lands like a cat. "Do you know where this is?" she says.

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"This is a scary place...you're not scary, though. You're pretty."

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"Thanks, but, uh, where is it? It looks like a train station?"

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"We're in...the Underground."

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They switch. This one has antennae. "What's the Underground?"

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They switch, as well, with the customary shimmer.

"The Underground, oh, well, it's the place we all live, aren't it? It's only, well, you see...we're not meant to be down here. This is the body, and we're all in here, but we're all down here, too. It's awfully confusing."

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"Oh, like your Cave. That's weird."

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"Quite right. So w-w-we, well it's difficult, y'see. Don't know what to do if we're all here. Most of us hate fronting, but now we're n-n-not up front! And oh, there goes m-m-my stutter again. It's only there when I'm up front, but I spoke to you lot t-t-today without it! Do you s-st-still have your trowel?"

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"Yes, it's in our pocket."

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"How l-l-lovely."

She takes a seat.

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The subway car was standing still when they arrived, but now it begins moving.

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"Do any of you swim, here? If this isn't a world and it's your Cave instead maybe Clair will be able to swim."

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"Oh, d-d-dear. There is one place I know. It's such a long way away from here, but I can take you there."

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"It might be worth a try if we don't know why the quest took us here."

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Nod nod nod.

Penny wrings her hands as the subway car rides along, humming to herself.

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"This is bigger than the Cave. I guess you need the space."

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"Oh...yes. Th-th-they need their space, you know. The oldest ones. Stay deep, they do. The ones from d-d-daddy and the ones from the church and all that nonsense. But I'll take you to the nice water. Won't that be nice. That's the trick. The places here are made from our memories, you know. Except this, the subway itself. That's all our imagination."

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"Yours are from places?"

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"Oh, yes. Nice memories, captured forever down here for when we need them. We might have forever, did you know? I'm sorry, I've been terribly rude. My name is Penny, and yours?"

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"This time I'm Emmy."

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Shimmer.

"-sorry. I wasn't gone too long, was I? Jane again, hopefully here to stay until we find one of the others down here."

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"Not that long. Do you not remember stuff the others do?"

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"Not always. I remember more than the others do- I know you were talking about The Underground, and about the places you can visit, here. I don't know as much about that as some of the others. I don't spend much time down here. I know who we should talk to, though. Driver 8 knows how to go anywhere."

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"Since we don't know what we need to do exactly for the quest we thought we could go somewhere with water and Clair could swim."

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"Sure, we can start there. I still don't know how we're- here, but going deeper makes sense. That's what the trowel is for, right?"

She stands, but there's not much need to try to solve this puzzle. They're coming to a stop again. Which means...

"We can wait. Driver 8 will be here in just a sec."

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The driver of the car joins them shortly, after they've come to a complete stop.

She nods at Emmy.

"Welcome to the Underground. You want a memory with water?"

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"As long as it has a place for Clair to swim. Is a lake fine, Emmy?"

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"A lake is fine!" she confirms. "She can do saltwater or freshwater."

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"The lake? Tell me you're sure, Jane."

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"I'm sure. And it's Crazy Jane."

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"Trip down memory lane, coming right up. Buckle in."

And she heads back up to drive them to their destination.

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"I'm trying not to think about how much time is passing," she admits, after a minute crawls by. "It could still be deleting people right now. How much do you trust this quest book?"

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"We've only been on one quest before but it was a good quest! We had adventures and learned things and got a good prize at the end."

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"Yeah? What did you get?"

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"The necklace that lets us look like ourselves."

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"Sounds like a good deal. Not sure what kind of reward would make up for the apocalypse."

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While the view outside the windows is mostly tunnel, there are sometimes glimpses of spots of color and complexity. There are trees and buildings out there, sometimes. No water yet, though.

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Emmy watches for things that might be fun to paint later.

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A balcony. The plants are vibrant, well-cared for. The view of the surrounding area is less inspiring, perhaps, but a nice copse of trees provides shade and seclusion as two women sit together, drinking coffee quietly together.

Rounded hills, sunset. Her new friend(s), whooping and cheering as several figures, barely visible in the twilight, chase each other up and down the grassy hill.

Murals, and several painters. More mural than untouched wall, with colorful wings and people drawn in varying levels of detail- some are photo-realistic, while others are practically silhouettes. Symbols, arcane in meaning.

That's all that Emmy can see, with how quickly the memories fly past them, by the time the train begins to slow down once more.

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It would be nice if she knew where they were going. Crazy Jane knows that there's a lake down here, somewhere. She remembers a snatch of it, standing there, holding the flower in her hand- but that's it. Just a piece of it. It might not even be her memory. It might be Penny Farthing's. It might be Baby Doll's. Pretty Polly's, Spinning Jenny's, or- well, there's a lot of people whose memory it might be, but there's only one that's likely.

It has to be The Girl's.

Crazy Jane has never asked questions about this part of their life. She knows it's not safe, this deep. She barely even comes Underground, with how desperate the rest of them are for her to keep things working up top. But now, the quest wants her to ask questions. Fine. Time to see what's buried at the lake.

"We're here."

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Emmy disembarks from the train and approaches the lakeshore.

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"It's never this easy to travel down here. Not through memories, not without- help. Some of us guard the worst ones."

The question is, where is everyone? Just Driver 8, who- nope. Driver 8 isn't leaving the train. Maybe it's because everyone is with her, here. She keeps walking.

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The coastline of this lake is dotted with flowers and tall grass. Everything in the memory is sun-dappled, making it hard to see anything besides the lake, glistening with reflected light. She remembers it- better than she usually would, she's sure of that. She bends down to pick a flower.

"Does Clair need any help getting into the water?"

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"No, I'm good." She wades in, and then assumes a diving position -

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- and there she is, wriggling into deeper water.

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The lake feels perfect: a comfortable temperature, just the right salinity, and there's something intrinsically comforting about it.

There is also, Clair realizes quite quickly, someone at the bottom of the lake.

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That seems maybe important! She swims down.

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Whoever it is doesn't look like they're moving. They look like they might be dead.

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Why is there a dead person here.

Clair swims closer. "Hey?"

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The body doesn't respond in any way.

Up above, the beautiful weather of this memory has been marred by clouds. Lightning flashes, thunder crashes. Rain begins to fall.

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The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter mourns. What she's mourning, she isn't sure of. She doesn't have any paintbrush, or an easel. She kneels down, and starts painting in the mud.

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The body doesn't respond; the trowel does. It has started to move.

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Clair pulls the trowel out of her pocket to see what it's doing.

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It has begun to make a digging motion, on its own. While doing so, it moves closer towards the body.

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The comb didn't do this, but okay. She swims down down down, holding the trowel.

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When the trowel reaches the body, it stops. The body waits, unresponsive.

Up above the lake, it's clear that the situation has changed. The weather is more turbulent now.

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Yeah, the lightning makes her kind of nervous. Clair tries to shove the body aside with the trowel to see if there's anything under it.

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It looks like a puzzle. She'll need to clear away more dirt to recognize what it depicts in full.

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Dig dig.

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It depicts the lakeshore, with a storm in progress. There's no one standing on shore, but above the water is a figure who takes up a disproportionate amount of the puzzle.

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Meanwhile, she admires her work. She thinks it's a city, though it's a strange one. Where it is, she doesn't know. Everywhere at once, and inside a marble, and at the center of the world.

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Clair takes the puzzle, and swims back to shore, and rolls up onto the beach. "Jane? - no, not Jane -"

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"We lost her. She's gone, and he has her. What if we never find her again? What if she's worse than missing? Missing girls, all over our country, and no one finds them."

She looks at her.

"The mermaid, Clair. I didn't paint you there. It's a cold place. Stay here, in the lake, far away from the king and queen. With Miranda."

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"I - don't understand." She plops the puzzle on the shore. "I found this... and a dead body..."

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She keens, a tortured wailing sound, and- shimmer-

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"Fuck this."

She grabs the puzzle, and smashes it over her knee.

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The storm rages on, ignoring these dramatics. Lightning strikes in the distance.

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Shimmer.

"You found a body?"

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"Yeah. At the bottom, on top of the puzzle."

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Sharp nod.

"Can you guys get back on land?"

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Up they get. "I'm worried about the lightning," says Zix, lying down on the ground so he won't attract strikes.

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"On it."

Shimmer.

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"Lucy Fugue, at your service. Get behind me."

Her voice is distorted, like she's speaking through electronic interference. Her hands crackle with electricity.

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Zix wriggles behind her.

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Easy enough. Fighting a storm isn't as satisfying as fighting a worthy opponent or deserving target, but it's something. Feels like winning.

Lucy catches the lightning, when it finally starts to strike them. It passes harmlessly through her while she laughs, maniacally.

"Oh! Almost forgot. Crazy Jane got a clue. Does your little prize let you change into me?"

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"No, just ourselves except we can all look like Emmy."

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Shrug.

"Thanks for finding her!"

She keeps drawing lightning until the storm abates, and then- shimmer-

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-they grow to a tall height, about as tall as the figure in the puzzle would be. Instead of a human man with discolored skin, it's a figure with the head of a sun. They turn their head, briefly, to nod at Zix, and throw large fireballs at the lake.

It begins to boil, and then evaporate.

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Shimmer, shrink.

Jane smiles as she watches the steam rise.

"Thanks, Clair. For finding her."

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"You're welcome. Who was it?"

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"Name's Miranda. She was the primary before me. We never met, and I didn't even know her name because these bi- the others in here wouldn't talk about her. There's some stuff for us to figure out, vut- apocalypse, first. I guess we'll need her."

And they needed to work out their trauma using a magical quest into their head, but she's not sure she should get into that with Exaltation. It's not like they're done with that, just...unblocked, now. That can all stay inside the Underground.

"So, uh, what's next? Since you're the quest expert."

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"Well, last time we had a comb, and we just used it to get around when we were ready, but the trowel pointed Clair right at the body. So maybe it'll tell us where next." Emmy pulls the trowel out again and holds it in various directions.

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Indeed, the trowel points. It leads them back to the subway, which looks out of place with its entrance set into the hill itself.

"You'd think it would just dig where there was dirt, but I guess it wants metal. Hungry little thing."

Crazy Jane sits down.

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The trowel isn't pointing down, or at the seat. It's pointing at the door to the next car.

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Shimmer.

"Never mind. Gimme that. This is gonna take forever if we let it lead us up and down this whole train."

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"I think we should follow it!"

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There's a POP sound and she's gone.

She opens the door to the next car shortly.

"My way is faster. We can go car by car, it'll be fun."

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"Okay, but I want to hold the trowel."

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"Sure, kid, we can, like, do whatever."

She takes Emmy's hand and POP!. Next car. Flit gives it about five seconds for a trowel check before POP! to the next car. The trowel continues to point forward until eventually...

"End of the line!"

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They're in the last car, which contains just them and Driver 8.

She looks at them with a neutral expression.

"Can I help you?"

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The trowel is now clearly pointing at Driver 8.

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"Maybe," says Emmy, stepping a little closer. She circles around Driver 8 to see if it's pointing at her or at something near her.

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Circling around Driver 8 reveals that the trowel is indeed pointing even further; past the "end of the line".

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"I guess we need to get off and walk?"

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"...the two of us, yeah."

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She crosses her arms before Crazy Jane finishes speaking.

"That's not a good idea. I drive, you ride, and at the end of the line, you front. There are rules."

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"What will happen if we walk past?"

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"I don't know. It doesn't sound good."

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"Yeah, that doesn't sound like a reason not to try it. This is a quest, right? We're not going to get to the end by being scared."

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"And the trowel seems to know what it's doing."

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She nods, looking simultaneously reluctant and encouraging.

"Right. This is your stop, then. Good luck."

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"Thanks. See you next time."

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And off they go, into the great unknown. It's- a bit of a hike, as the incline grows steeper. Very steep, actually, to the point where it's more like scaling a wall with infinite handholds; it would be difficult to fall off without letting go or losing your grip, but gravity is working against them. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.

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Is this any easier for a griffin?

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It is, in fact, easier for a griffin. Palisade can soar right into the light.

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Below, Flit has the same idea.

"Race you."

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"You're on!" Flap flap flap.

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Flit flits, teleporting from point to point as they approach the blinding light of the end of the tunnel. It's easy not to fall when she's not spending any time standing still. She screams joyfully the whole way up, glancing over at Palisade once in a while.

She could just get there first, if she wanted to, but the thought of that terrifies everyone else in the Underground- enough to make them bubble up toward the surface. Flit isn't ending this race a second before she has to.

Just when Palisade is about to go through the blinding white light- Flit teleports just one step ahead. They cross simultaneously-

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-and land in the empty lot they started in. The hole is still there.

"Duuude. What kind of quest was that?"

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"I don't know!" says Emmy, looking around anxiously to see if anyone saw Palisade there for a moment. "Maybe that's not everything we're supposed to do?"

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"...woah. Tubular," says another Flit, as she appears in front of them.

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Shimmer.

"Shit. I hope this turns out to be useful. Shit, sorry, I shouldn't- shit. Um. Shoot."

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"I've heard swear words before."

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"Are you kidding? This is totally rad! We can use two powers at once, now! I don't have to sit still ever-"

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"-hold on."

She teleports away.

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"...why don't you use the trowel next. I don't think we know what we're doing with it."

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"Okay." Dig dig dig.

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This time, the hole seems to lead...upwards, to a grassy field dotted with tents and people. The trees in the distance look perfectly ordinary, but not all of the people do- there is a mermaid surrounded by water, suspended unnaturally in the air, a woman with a snake body and a human torso and head, a humanoid man with leaves growing on his face and golden eyes...

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The Underground jumps through and starts looking around immediately for clues.

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-and the other Underground teleports in after them.

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Clair dives in, since if the other mermaid can do it so can she.

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She spins in delight, beginning to circle Clair.

Some of the other figures standing and milling about take notice, and approach them.

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"Hey, uh, how's it going?"

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Shimmer.

"Hello. It's a pleasure to meet everyone."

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"You too! Where is this?"

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"We're in the Underground," answers the mermaid, in what Clair immediately recognizes as another language which she can suddenly understand perfectly. "How did you get here through the ground?"

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"Miranda...how..."

She goes in for a hug.

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Hug.

"Thank you. We'll have time to talk about everything later on- right now we should focus on the task at hand. Clair, will you be alright staying here while we meet some of the land-dwelling folks?"

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"Sure, or you could bring one of the others along."

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She thinks.

"Palisade. I haven't seen any griffins yet, but if we do meet one, I would love to have someone who understands them better."

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"Woot," says Palisade, emerging.

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Hammerhead looks for threats.

Everything looks like a threat to Hammerhead, but Miranda wants her to stay calm for diplomacy's sake, so Hammerhead doesn't do anything about the threats, yet.

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"It's nice to meet you properly, Palisade. I know some of you already met some of us, but it's been so long since I've met anyone. It's exciting to be here."

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"Why don't you meet people?"

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"I was in a very dark place for many years. Some of you were there- the storm, at the center of the Underground. I was hurt very badly, and I needed to recover."

Or punish herself. She's still not sure. It's something they need to figure out. After the world is saved. The stakes really have gotten higher since she went away.

"But thanks to this quest, I've- healed sooner than I think I ever could have, without all of them and you coming to support me."

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That one is looking at them funny. That one is a killer, she'd bet their sperm donor's grave on it. That one- she's trying to do something to them, and it's not working. Good.

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"I'm glad you're better now!"

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"Thank you."

They can walk and talk, then; some of Underground want to take advantage of having two bodies to team up in unprecedented ways, but Miranda is keeping a lid on that. Now that she's back, it's- different than it was before, but they still trust her for certain things. She has to prove to everyone that she can handle this.

She's not sure if it means anything that the mermaid referred to this place as 'The Underground', but she'll pull on that thread later. In the meantime, the Underground and Palisade can talk to some of the other people waiting here.

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The people waiting here have apparently died (though not all of them are equally enthusiastic about expanding on the topic) within a period of the past few weeks, and they are waiting to be processed by the afterlife.

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Any afterlife with a backed-up bureaucracy is doing something wrong, but Jane isn't going to say so to all these people who are just waiting their turn. It's not really their business, anyway; they have a world to save. She asks a few questions geared towards finding out if any of them know anything about the giant eye in the sky; none of them do.

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"What's being processed by the afterlife like? Why do they need to process people?"

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"They've been making us wait out here forever. I just want to meet up with my family," says one.

"I've been inside the library. They're so cruel, the way they talk about you like you're just a name on a list," says another."

"What the hell are you supposed to be?"

This last one peers at Palisade with suspicion and disgust.

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"A griffin."

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"What's up with this library? Are there a lot of big readers around here?"

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"The library decides what to do with us. They can't do that, though, I know my rights. That's why I'm still out here. I didn't want to go to their brainwashing session."

"I still haven't seen anyone from the library," confesses one of them, a young woman with a humanoid upper half and goat legs where human ones might be. "I've been waiting for three months now."

"It's not just a bunch of librarians, you know," says someone with a smug grin on their face. "It's all kinds of bureacrats. There are receptionists and ambassadors and on and on. It never ends."

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"Will they talk to us?"

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It sounds to her like they should find a way around these librarians, but a two-pronged approach will give them more information. Miranda keeps quiet, watching.

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"Get in line," shouts a talking bear.

"If you can find one, dear," sighs another. "They're so hard to find when they're not rushing from one place to another. There may be some in the crowd, though."

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"How do you tell who the librarians are?"

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"They dress all prim and proper. At least they don't all wear glasses."

"They usually find people who are causing trouble," one of them stage-whispers.

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-it's stupid how hard Hammerhead is fighting to front right now. They need to protect each other, not just the girl. Jane isn't sure if Hammerhead would protect Miranda (whatever the hell is going on there) if it came down to it. Definitely not Exaltation, who is their only real ally in stopping the end of the world. Why can't anyone in this shithole of a brain do their job?

"Where's the boss. If this is the afterlife, underwold, big kahuna, whatever, someone has to be calling the shots. Where can I find the big man."

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"I could show you," says a man whose fangs suggest the ghost of a threat that his hungry gaze follows through on.

"No one knows for sure. I've heard 'Hades', 'Hel', 'Ereshkigal'...never met one," says a mousy young woman.

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"We could cause some trouble. Attract a librarian that way."

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"That does sound like the plan, doesn't it?"

Jane cracks her knuckles.

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"Jane, maybe we should think about this-"

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Shimmer in the air as Jane disappears and-

The body grows in size, taller and taller as Jane's clothes are replaced by fishnet everything. Where a human might keep a head, this being has what seems to be a glowing, roiling ball of fire, not dissimilar to the sun.

It throws a fireball at an unoccupied spot of grass. Then another.

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"- I don't know if that's a smart kind of trouble!"

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"Let's get people to safety."

Miranda tries her best to get the other people in the meadows to give Sun Daddy a wider berth; convincing them is all the more difficult because she's clearly associated with her- stupid, stupid, they can't protect her- but her voice is authoritative enough that a few people start cooperating.

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Palisade gets into the air to herd people away by strafing if necessary.

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People are herded.

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Sun Daddy's form shimmers, just as they always do before another shift, and-

Shit. Jane sighs, looking at the scorch marks. Sun Daddy doesn't usually come out for stuff like this- they really need to take a break soon. Not her problem, though. Her problem is topside. She looks around for any sign of librarians or other bureaucrats, and- there. Someone with a slick haircut and starched suit is rushing over.

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Sigh.

"Thank you, Palisade."

Miranda steps forward, keeping just behind Jane. She won't take over when Jane clearly wants to take the lead on this one; it's not a good idea to get caught up in this, if they're going to punish her somehow. Multi-pronged approach, she reminds everyone else, who is grumbling that maybe she shouldn't just take over again like nothing has changed. She- will talk to them about this later. They can't afford delays right now.

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Clair takes over - a version of Clair with legs - to meet the starchy person.

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Starchy person stammers as he approaches their assembled group.

"W-w-which of you threw fireb-b-balls at our waiting area?"

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"That would be me. Sorry."

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"We are sorry, sir."

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"It won't happen again."

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Sigh.

"Come with me. I'll escort you inside so that we can sort all of this out."

He turns, glancing back to make sure they're following behind.

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Follow follow like good, law-abiding citizens who didn't mean to let their fireballs get out of hand.

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Emmy switches in after a bit but doesn't break stride.