Error felt no small amount of satisfaction when he returned to the Void and found Glenda Adams Soleil, the so called ‘Dreamer’, well and truly gone. The only sign of her presence was the lingering hole in the fabric in the Void through which she’d escaped, and that was already nearly mended. Error chuckled, knowing full well what lay beyond that hole. That was no escape; it was just a whole different kind of prison, one that made the Void look like a paradise.
Still, he had to give her credit. Glenda had been resourceful, and her abilities were nothing to sneeze at. The thought of more ‘Dreamers’ wandering his multiverse did not sit well with Error. Fortunately, the realities she’d accidentally spawned were easy enough to spot. Now that she was, at least for the moment, out of commission, Error could concentrate on separating these aberrations for later destruction.
His eye-sockets closed as he stretched his will out through the multiverse, a massive and complex web through which a single pure thread could barely be found. It was the true universe, the real timeline, uncorrupted by impure events, beings who should not be there, and possibilities that should never exist. To Error, it was like a golden thread among a mass of old spider-webs that he worked tirelessly to protect.
The Dreamer universes were easy to spot. There was a shine to their threads, an innate light that left them glowing. There weren’t very many of them, but they all grazed the pure timeline briefly before flying off away from the others. Error had seen other threads in that place before, wisps just barely visible in the distance. He tried to reach them, but try as he might, his reach was limited to those universes connected to the Underground.
As he stared at the threads, he realized that he could follow them. He could leave the Underground and go to the multiverse that Glenda originated from, perhaps even find her reality. It was tempting; he’d spent more years than he could count in one version of the Underground or another, following more or less the same order of events. To see something new, to experience something he’d never seen before, something that wasn’t just a variation on the same old tired Underground theme …
He pulled his hand back. No, he had work to do. He had universes to purge, so that the pure timeline could be preserved. Through strength of will, he gathered the threads of the Dreamer universes and swept them away from the others, binding them with the blue threads to prevent them from mixing with the others. He would deal with them in his own due time, but first he needed to make sure there were no more accidents, no more shards.
He took the crystal bearing the imprint of the Inverse Harmonius, the Dreamer rune that let Glenda slip between universes, from his pocket. He still remembered back before the Void, before he was Error, when he’d used a crystal of his own, only for the imprint to vanish. Back then, he’d had no idea how to find it. Now, however, he was the master of the Underground multiverse. Holding aloft the crystal, he focused his thoughts on finding the others.
He heard the clatter of crystals hitting crystals as they appeared beside him in the void, quickly forming a large pile. They continued to appear, surprising Error, who thought that the crystals would only come from those universes connected to the Dreamer universes. Soon, thousands of crystals bearing the imprint were in the void, with more appearing every moment.
“Good.” Error thought grimly. “Get ’em all.”
In the universe where the Underground became UNDR-Ground, Sans slowly walked downstairs to the smell of sizzling bacon. Once the last of the monsters, he now found himself in a world where monsters and humans got on famously, where he had a job, good friends, and a beautiful and fiery fiancee.
She was in the kitchen, a pan resting on one hand and a tablet PC in the other.
He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her mid-section. Resting his head against the small of his back, he murmured, “G’morning, Fu.”
“Good morning, Sleepy-bones.” She said, setting down her tablet so she could rest her hand on his. “Sleep well?”
“Like the dead. You?”
“Eh, I was burning the midnight oil.”
They shared a chuckle as she set the frying pan on the inactive stove top. She spun in Sans’s grasp and wrapped her arms around the skeleton before giving him a kiss on the top of his skull.
“Still,” she continued, “It’s only for a few more days. Once I have my doctorate, I’ll have plenty of time to rest.”
“I’ve been thinkin’ about that.” Sans said, slipping an arm from her to pull a small pamphlet from his pocket. “Y’know, maybe a celebratory trip for Doctor Fuku.”
“Hawaii?” Fuku said, eyes more alight than usual.
“Sure.” He said. “Beautiful beaches, majestic volcanoes, lots of sunlight …”
“Uh-huh … or are you more interested in seeing this?”
Sans leaned his skull over her shoulder. His cheekbones went red as she pointed to a picture of a voluptuous woman in a micro-bikini.
“For the record,” He said, “I was thinking more of the lines of it being on you.”
She gave him a playful slap on the hand before kissing him on the slightly red cheekbone. “We’ll see.”
His day further brightened by the future promise of seeing more of his fiancee in several respects, Sans set the small table he and Fuku used for meals as she finished breakfast. As he poured a glass of orange juice for each of them, Sans said, “You see the postcard we got yesterday?”
“From Dad and Toriel?” Fuku nodded. “Strange to see a bossun standing next to a human dressed as a mouse. Still, Asriel and Frisk are probably having the time of their lives.”
“Well, they deserve it. Probably a bit redundant for Frisk, though.”
“Well, it’s her second magic kingdom, after all.”
Laughing, Fuku said, “Well, here’s hoping she doesn’t have to save that one.”
She set their plates down on the table. Fuku inherited her father’s natural cooking ability, though Sans did his best when it came time to do his share of the kitchen work. There were concessions made, of course; Fuku had to accept that Sans wouldn’t be able to drink the same tall glass of bubbling cooking oil that she found refreshing, and Sans had to accept that cinnamon-butterscotch pie was not a full meal.
“Here you go, sweetie.” Fuku said, kissing Sans’s skull again as she sat a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him. As she took her seat and ate her breakfast, Sans’s gaze fell to his plate. The way Fuku placed the bacon reminded Sans of the strange symbol on the back of Glen’s hand. There had been no word of the Dreamer since they’d been summarily returned to the UNDR-Ground, and Sans wasn’t sure how to feel about it.
Sans glanced up to see Fuku looking at him curiously. “Is it okay?”
He gave her his biggest smile before taking a big bite out of a piece of bacon. “Gotta hold myself back to stop from makin’ a pig of myself.”
She smiled, but her smile faded after a few moments. “I’m sure she’s fine, Sans.”
“I know.” Sans said. “I just … wish I’d had a chance to say goodbye.”
Fuku’s fork made a soft clink as it gently hit the side of her plate. Seeing her worried expression, Sans reached across the table and put his hand on hers.
“Don’t worry; we tried everything we reasonably could, and I’m not about to do something stupid just for the chance. I love you, Fuku, and I’m not going to put our future at risk for a woman who is and will always be just a friend.”
She squeezed his hand, a shy smile on her face. “I know. I love you too, Sans.”
They shared a kiss before finishing their breakfast. Fuku’s eyes widened, her eyes on her watch as she stood from the table.
“I gotta go, or I’m gonna be late.” She gave Sans another kiss before hurrying to the front door.
“Have a good day, hot-stuff!” Sans called with a grin. Her smile flashed between the space between the door and the frame moments before it closed.
With a sigh, Sans stood up and carried the dishes to the sink. As he ran the water to wash the dishes (with hot water AND soap, the mental Fuku in Sans’s mind said firmly), he considered his life. He had his job as a cameraman, his burgeoning career as a stand-up comic in a group with his other selves, and even worked a few shifts as a guard for old time’s sake. In terms of money, he and Fuku were fine … more than fine, actually. In terms of friends, he was as well-liked now as he’d been in his own Underground. In terms of his relationship with Fuku, he loved her more than ever, and did not doubt that she felt the same. They’d started preparing for an October wedding; Halloween seemed appropriate, somehow. He was happy, and the future was bright as the sun.
His cellphone rang as he was drying the last dish. Pulling the battered device from his pocket, he was surprised to see that the caller was Alphys.
“Hey, Al.” Sans said, setting the dish back in the cabinet. “What’s up?”
“I was wondering if you could stop by Delta workshop today. I’ve got something to show you.”
“I dunno, Al,” said Sans, “Last time I stopped by, you singed my favorite jacket.”
“A slight miscalibration of the thrusters. The car flew,didn’t it?”
“Yeah, all the way to the crash site.” Shaking his head, Sans asked, “What didja make this time?”
“Come and see.” With that, Alphys hung up.
Sans looked at his phone for a moment before shrugging and slipping it into his pocket. With nothing else planned for the day, he found himself walking the now-familiar path through the streets of Ebott. Most of the city traffic centered around the UNDR-Ground portion of the city, which was a large part of why Sans and Fuku lived in the suburbs of Ebott. It was a much more laid-back part of town, which suited Sans just fine.
Alphys had workshops all over the city, but of late, she’d confined her efforts to the workshop that happened to be quite close to Sans’s place. It still looked like a junkyard (anyplace Alphys lived tended to go that way after awhile), but with a definite sense of structure. Sans and Ebott stopped by her latest haunt quite often, at first to try and reach Glen, then simply because Alphys was their friend. Much like her other versions from their respective home dimensions, the UNDR-Ground’s Alphys was socially awkward and more than a bit nervous around others, particularly her wife, Undyne.
As Sans passed the scrap metal gates, he became aware of a slight hum deep in his bones that was just a bit jarring. He didn’t give it much thought; with all the machines Alphys built, it was no surprise something was hitting a frequency that made him uncomfortable. Still, as he approached the front door, he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something strangely familiar about the hum.
Sans didn’t bother with the doorbell. He and Alphys were friends, Alphys was probably too far or too busy in the workshop to hear it, and frankly, the bell probably didn’t work anyway. Doubtlessly it was on some ‘to-do’ list. In any case, he pushed the door open and entered Alphys’s Delta workshop.
Before Alphys bought the place, the Delta workshop had been a simple house. A large house, yes, a two-story house with six bedrooms, a sizeable lounge and kitchen, and a reading room. Sans could still bits and pieces of it: a little patch of wallpaper here barely visible beneath schematics and notes tacked onto the wall, the oak banister engulfed by an automatic stair lift that was currently zooming up and down the staircase on its own, a bit of window that was somehow both uncovered by Alphys’s notes and years of accumulated dirt from lack of cleaning.
Of course, Alphys was always one for improving things. As such, her home was now four stories tall. The two new floors were essentially another house, as she’d knocked out most of the walls and ceiling of the first floor to make room for her garage and her workshop.
Sans walked down the remaining hallway and turned to the double-doors that led to the workshop, the hum more intense than ever. Wondering what Alphys was working on (and how he could subtly ask her to shut it and the humming off), Sans reached a hand out of open the door, only for the door to swing open out of his reach.
“Sans!” Before Sans could respond, Alphys grabbed his hand and pulled him into the workshop. He had to jog to keep up with her … either that, or give up his arm. She moved through the clutter of the workshop with a purpose, knocking stacks of tools and old parts aside as she guided Sans to the back of the workshop, where a machine Sans didn’t recognize stood. It looked like a giant version of one of those perpetual motion machines Fuku liked, the sort people kept on their office desks. Sans didn’t know what it was, but he could tell it was the source of the humming; it emanated from the machine at an intensity that was extremely distracting.
Releasing, Sans, Alphys said, “I need you to monitor the energy flux level while I control the transference rate.”
“Alphys, what are you …”
“The energy flux level. I need to know if the harmonic resonance starts destabilizing!”
Realizing he wasn’t going to get any more answers until the experiment was over, Sans sighed and took up position beside the terminal Alphys indicated, a few feet to the right of the strange humming machine. Alphys moved to another console a few feet to the left of the machine and went to work. The rings around the strange device spun, slowly at first but more frantically by the second. The humming increased by the second as well, soon reaching the point where Sans found it hard to even think.
He started to complain, when his eye caught the energy flux wavelength display. Despite how long it had been since the last time he recognized those readings, one look was enough for him to know instantly what it was Alphys was trying to do. Before he could say a word, however, Alphys shouted, “Here we go!”
Rings spinning wildly, the center of the machine erupted into light with a loud whooshing noise. Sans was still blinded by the flash when he heard a familiar voice that was certainly not let out a laugh and say, “It worked! I knew I was awesome, but damn!”
Sans peered at the voice as the spots slowly faded from his vision, eventually revealing a thin young human woman with red hair and a grin of triumph on her face. She was standing next to a heavy bunny-man wearing a pair of glasses and a stern expression just beyond a swirling portal that hung in the air right where the rings of Alphys’s machine had been.
“Claudia?′ He asked, peering through the portal.
“Sans!” Claudia said, “Hey, lookin’ good! Still with Fuku?”
She moved to step through the portal, only for the bunny-man to hold her back.
“Are you crazy?” he asked, “We have no idea if the portal’s even stable.”
“Oh, don’t be such a grumpy-face, Artie.” Without another word, Claudia hopped through the portal and onto the floor of Alphys’s lab. She spun to face the now shocked-looking Artie and spread her arms. “Ta-da!”
“Portal threshold is stable.” Alphys tore her eyes from the console, a victorious smile on her face. “So, what do you think Sans?”
Sans was nothing short of stunned. “But how … their universe … how did you even …”
“Relax, Sans.” Claudia said, putting an arm around the skeleton’s shoulders. “I found her. Must’ve looked through thousand of realities, but when I realized there’s a mental component in finding a specific universe, I found your reality in less than day. Good thing you’re so easy to spot, eh?”
Sans frowned, again reminded of everyone’s strange ability to spot him even among multiple other Sans. “Not that I ain’t glad to see you, Claudia, but why come here?”
“Well, we were looking for Glenda, but the imprint can’t seem to find her. So we figured if anyone might be able to find her, it’d be you.”
“The imprint?” Sans snapped his fingers. “Right! There must’ve been one in your reality too!”
“Actually,” Claudia said, rubbing the back of her head, ” It looks like when we jumped out of the Warehouse last time, it was with ours. We found yours in the back of a shelf. Surprised we didn’t find it sooner; Leena said it was throwing off the vibes of the whole row.”
“Is Glenda here?” Artie asked, feet planted firmly on his side of the portal.
Sans shook his head. “We tried to find her ourselves, but couldn’t break through the barrier between realities without the imprint.”
“Well, we need to find her.” Artie adjusted his glasses before continuing, “Something’s going on, something big, and I get the feeling she’s part of it.”
Sans opened his mouth to say he didn’t know where was when he remembered one of their first conversations. “Glen told me she was from reality J-27. Dunno what that’s about, but maybe it means somethin’ to you?”
“J-27?” Artie repeated, his bushy black eyebrows scrunched into a thoughtful look. “Maybe … I’ll be right back. Claudia!”
“I’m fine.” She said, waving him off. “Get going already.”
As Artie left, Sans slipped his phone out of his pocket and quickly tapped a message to Fuku. With luck, she wouldn’t have reached the busy part of town yet.
“So,” Sans said, pocketing his phone again. “What’s this big thing going on?”
“The shard isn’t the only thing in the Warehouse that reacts to other realities. Oh, yeah, it’s the only thing we’ve found that can break fully through it, but other artifacts are linked to other realities in ways we’re not sure … that is, they were. Sans, we aren’t sure, but we think something’s happening in other realities, something bad.”
Sans couldn’t help but think of Error, his alternate self hell-bent on destroying the realities he claimed were ‘abominations’. They’d lucked out before thanks to Frisk and Aesop’s rope, but if Error found a way to break the promise he’d made …
Sans opened his mouth to reply when a shrill beep from Al’s console made them both turn to the lizard scientist.
“Hang on,” Alphys said, scaled brow furrowing. “Something’s wrong. We’re getting some kind of-”
That was the moment when everything seemed to come undone. Power surged through the workshop, activating and in many cases overloading Alphys’s other inventions. Lights throughout the facility flickered madly, and the annoying hum Sans associated with inter-reality travel intensified to the point where it was almost painful to experience.
“What the hell just happened?” Claudia shouted as alarms around the workshop sounded.
Al stared at her screen for a few moments. “The connection to your reality’s destabilizing. Something must be wrong with the shard.”
Muttering under her breath, Claudia hopped through the portal. She disappeared around the edge for a few moments before returning to view, a shocked look on her face. “The imprint’s gone!”
“Gone?” Alphys asked, clearly stunned. “Whaddya mean it’s gone?”
“It just gone!” Claudia’s eyes widened as the portal twisted in mid-air. “The portal’s collapsing!”
“Working on it!” Alphys said, sparks flying as she worked at the console.
Sans turned to see Fuku standing in the entryway to the labs, the bright spots that were her eyes wide. “What in the name of-”
“Long story short, Claudia managed to do what we’ve been working at for months, but now it’s falling apart.”
“It’s worse than that.” Alphys said as Fuku hurried to Sans’s side. “Without that shard, the portal’s causing damage to the boundary between our realities. If I can’t shut it down, it could cause and Epstein-Malruva lever continuity event.”
“I’m guessing that’s bad.” Sans said, quickly turning his attention to the energy console. The flux was varying wildly. Sans did what he could to stabilize it
“Bad? It could tear our realities apart!”
“Got it.” Sans said, finger-bones dancing across the keys as he manipulated the flux pattern.
Rushing over to Alphys, Fuku asked, “Can’t we shut it down?”
“I’m trying,” Alphys said, “Sans, tighten the flux stream!”
“You got it.” Sans said. After a few moments, he could clearly see the portal slowly shrinking.
“Like pulling a drawstring on a bag.” Sans said with a grin.
It wasn’t until the first screws flew past his skull that Sans realized they had another problem.
“Al,” he said, holding on to the side of his console as the pull strengthened, “I think we’re about to have another problem.”
“I know! We lost the other side!” She said, batting her collar as it popped up from the pull of the gateway. “The portal’s collapsing! Just … just hold on to something!”
Fuku tried to move away from the portal, the image of the Warehouse now replaced with a confusing miasma of swirling colors. Unfortunately, being a fire-elemental, she weighed little enough as is, and was soon sliding against her will toward the closing portal.
“Fuku!” Sans made a grab for his fiancee and caught her hand. He pulled her as close as he could, his other hand holding the edge of the console with enough force to leave scratches on the plastic casing.
“Don’t worry!” He said, “I gotcha!”
She held on, her grip slowly weakening. Sans tried to pull her closer, but his grip was already failing. He tried using his magic, but the blue swirls of energy were quickly swept up into the vortex of dust and parts in front of the rapidly-closing portal.
“Sans!” Fuku said, fear in her eyes as her fingers started to slip through his finger bones.
Sans struggled to hold on with all the strength his bones could muster, but even then he felt his grip slipping. They were too close to the portal, which only grew stronger as it shrank. He met her gaze for a moment, knowing what he had to do.
Alphys slammed a clawed hand on the exposed control panel. The portal closed with a slight popping sound, followed by a strange clattering noise.
Letting out a relieved sigh, Alphys slowly stood up. “Looks like we made it after all, eh?”
When there was no response, Alphys looked around her workshop, only to find herself alone. She slowly approached the gateway generator, her eyes on something lying on the ground just in front of it.
“Oh no.” She whispered, horror in her eyes as she carefully lifted Sans’s arm from the floor, the bone neatly cut mid-humerus.