Prologue - Investigations
The jar sat on the lone clean spot on top of the desk, making it look as though the mess of papers, cola bottles, and wireless game pads were keeping their distance from the jar and its ominous occupant. The black goo had the consistency of hot tar, yet it gave off no heat. If anything, the jar felt strangely cold to everyone who touched it. The metal lid was firmly clamped on the mouth of the jar, and for good reason; the goo had proven strangely adept in escaping containment in the past, somehow managing to pop, unscrew, and in one case melt the lids of its previous containers. Even now, it would occasionally thrash about as though testing the walls of its glass prison.
Glenda Adams Soleil, interdimensional troublemaker and Dreamer , stared at the jar with the intensity known only to artists and certain raincoat-wearing lieutenant detectives. She’d been experimenting with the substance she’d come to call ‘the ichor’ during what little spare time she had during the past few months. Nodding, she tapped the record button on a small tape recorder and lifted a small microphone to her mouth.
“All right.” Glen said, “Through previous tests, we’ve discovered that ichor with a mass greater than one-hundred and forty grams exhibits behavior suggesting life, perhaps even some manner of intelligence. We’ll begin with the basic ichor tests.”
She sifted through the mess on her deck for a few moments before producing a small flashlight. Shining the light at the jar caused the ichor to violently thrash about with enough force to shake the jar. When Glen moved the light to cover only part of the jar, the ichor invariably moved to avoid it.
“Substance is photosensitive.” Glen said before put her hand on the side of the jar. The ichor immediately moved away from her hand as far as the jar allowed, just as it had recoiled from the light. Glen then repeated the test, this time placing a small piece of luminite beside the jar to the same result.
“Substance reacts to people and objects with innate radiance.” Glen said, moving the luminite away from the jar. The ichor inside settled, bubbling softly as though simmering.
Glen glanced up at her companion and nodded. The young white-furred man with short goat-like horns put his hand beside the jar. The ichor threw itself against the side of the jar toward the young man’s hand like a snake leaping at a particularly juicy mouse. Startled, the young man snatched his hand back.
Chuckling, Glen said, “Oh, it likes you, Asriel.”
Asriel made a face at Glen before setting a small ordinary rock beside the jar. The ichor moved toward his hand again, but once he pulled his hand back, the ichor settled once again.
“Right.” Glen said, “Moving on to biological test one. Asriel?”
“Right.” Asriel picked up the three boxes he’d brought with him and set them around the jar of ichor. Glen pushed the boxes up against the jar, only for the ichor to clearly move toward one of the boxes. She opened the box to reveal the occupant, a small brown mouse that stared warily up at her.
They repeated the experiment a few more times, eventually putting the mouse back in the cage above the mantle and replacing it with a lizard, a frog, and finally a small slime who’d volunteered eagerly for the experiment. Each time, the ichor moved toward the box with the creature, despite having no outside evidence of which box contained it.
“Thanks, Jeff.” Asriel said, setting the slime on the ground along with a small plastic card. “There, as promised.”
“Heck, yeah!” Jeff the slime said, bouncing several times as the card remained balanced on his head. “I’ll be at the arcade if you need anymore help!”
“Biological test two.” Glen said into her recorder as Asriel opened the study door for Jeff. Using the same boxes, Glen tried the same test as before with different materials: vials of blood from the various races she’d encountered, soulstones both empty and full, crystallic of all colors, and finally several eggs. The results were varied, but telling; the ichor didn’t respond to the blood (save the vial containing her blood, which repelled the ichor), the empty soulstones, and unfertilized eggs, but did accurately indicate which boxes held full soulstones, all colors of crystallic, and fertilized eggs.
“Substance is flux-sensitive, but not sensitive to biological components without residual flux energy.” Glen tapped her bottom lip with her thumb. “All right. Final test. Asriel, step back.”
“I don’t like it either, but it’s for the record.”
Sighing, Asriel picked up the mouse again and handed it to Glen.
“Sorry, little one.” Glen said, rubbing the mouse’s fuzzy head. “If it’s any consolation, this’ll be quick.”
Glen quickly lifted the lid and dropped the mouse inside the jar. The ichor pounced on the squeaking rodent instantly, swirling madly around for a few moments before forcing itself into the creature’s mouth. Within seconds, the only trace of ichor came from the eyes and mouth of the now-much larger mouse.
“Substance forms a symbiotic link with living creatures, making them stronger and more dangerous. Asriel?”
Asriel put his hand on the side of the jar with only a hint of reluctance. The mouse hissed as it scratched at the sides of the jar with surprisingly large claws, clearly intent on getting at Asriel’s hand. When Glen put her hand between Asriel and the jar, the mouse retreated, as afraid as it had been eager. Glen repeated the test with everything else except Jeff, each time showing similar results.
“Infected creatures show similar behavior to the substance.” Glen noted. “They seek stream sources and retreat from radiance. All right; purging experiment. Asriel?”
“And I’m backing away.” Asriel said, doing just that.
Nodding, Glen opened the jar and quickly grabbed the mouse. The little creature shrieked at his touch, claws scrabbling against Glen’s skin in vain as more and more ichor spewed from the mouse’s eyes and mouth. The liquid hissed as it touched the Dreamer’s skin, evaporating with only the barest wisp of smoke. Glen winced at the stinging sensation this brought, but held the mouse until the flow of ichor stopped.
Glen opened her hand to reveal the mouse. The small creature looked a little shaken, but was otherwise unharmed by the experience.
“There there.” Glen said soothingly, gently rubbing the mouse’s fur. “It’s over now, Officer Squeaks. No more tests, I promise.”
She put the mouse back in its cage, leaving it with a small piece of cheese and a whole cherry as a reward. With Officer Squeaks munching away happily on the treat, Glen turned back to the now empty jar.
“Contact with radiance source purges ichor from possessed beings and destroys ichor, regardless of size or behavior.” Glen said as the scratches on her hand slowly healed, leaving her skin pink but whole. “Future research will focus on identifying sources of ichor.”
“Which are hopefully far away from here.” Asriel said as Glen stopped the recorder. “That was the last bit of ichor from the ruins.”
“Well, if there’s more, there’s always the lumite deposits they’ve been digging up.” Glen said. “But I think the major source in this dimension’s already been dealt with. Speaking of, how is Kidd?”
“As well as can be expected after getting eaten by a giant metal worm. He’s lucky to be alive at all.”
“Hmm.” Glen rubbed her eyes for a few moments before heading for the door out of the study. “C’mon; let’s go get some lunch at Grillby’s new place, my treat.”
Glen and Asriel were met with the sounds of construction as they exited the Cherry House. With most of the planet still reconstruction from the invasion of the Combine, the people of Ebott and the monsters of the Underground were pretty much left to build the city on their own. Glen was there to help of course; she’d already built the Cherry House, a recreation of her old family home back on Earth in her home dimension of J-27. It was nothing fancy, but somehow the sight of it always made her feel more comfortable.
They’d scarcely left the neighborhood when they were met with a loud shout of, “Hey! Glenda!”
“By the Creator.” Glen muttered as she turned toward the speaker, a short skeleton with a blue bandana tied around his neck. “It’s Glen. It’s just Glen. How many times have I asked him not to call me Glenda?”
“Oh, around fifty, I think.” Asriel said with a grin as the skeleton raced to where they stood.
“Glenda!” Said the Magnificent Sans (Magnificent to his friends). “I’ve got a message from her Majesty!”
“Oh?” Glen said, curious. She hadn’t heard much from the Queen of the Underground since she and Asgore had their little remarriage ceremony. Glen was the maid of honor, though she hadn’t been happy about the dress. Still, one doesn’t turn down that kind of honor from the queen of the Underground.
“What’s she want?” Glen asked.
Magnificent shrugged. “Dunno. She just said to bring you to her, poste haste. Hey, does that mean we need to get a mail truck?”
“Er, no, Magnificent.” Glen said as Asriel chuckled. “She just means really quick.”
“Well, come on then!” Sans said, grabbing Glen’s hand and pulling her down the road.
Ever since Alphys finally admitted him as a junior member of the Royal Guard, Magnificent had thrown himself heart and soul into his duties. He could be a bit over-the-top sometimes, but Glen felt the little skeleton’s devotion to duty made him all the more adorable. Word was Alphys was even considering promoting him, seeing as Magnificent had become a favorite of the monster and human communities at large.
The streets of Ebott was a literal maze to navigate, as the monsters of the Underground, while quick builders, also were by nature lovers of puzzles. They couldn’t help it, and it was difficult to complain when they’d taken a relatively undeveloped area and given it paved roads in a matter of weeks. Fortunately, the humans were taking care of power distribution.
Magnificent led Glen and Asriel to the Entrance of the Underground. There was a lot of traffic in that area, especially from human scientists eager to study the Underground, the monsters, and magic. Fortunately, Alphys was currently on duty, her remaining eye glaring sharply at everyone who moved to enter the Underground as though daring them to cause trouble. It was no secret that anyone who obliged would soon feel the bite of her massive axe.
“Hey!” Magnificent called from the back of the line. “Captain Alphys! Captain Alphys, it’s me, The Magnificent Sans!”
For a fraction of a second, Glen thought she saw one corner of Alphys’s mouth twist up in a very slight smile. Letting out a snort, she pointed at Magnificent while motioning for the rest of the crowd to move aside.
Alphys caught Glen’s arm as Magnificent led her toward the Underground. “I’m still waiting for that rematch.”
“You free later today?” Glen asked, raising an eyebrow at the muscular lizard-woman.
“Today’s no good.” Alphys said with a grunt and a shake of her head. “I’m busy.”
“Scientific endeavors?” Asriel said, an innocent look on his face.
Alphys glowered at him as she released her grip on Glen. “Tomorrow.”
“I’ll have to check my schedule.” Glen said as she continued into the Underground.
Once they were well away from Alphys, Asriel said, “You’ve been putting her off for three months.”
“Undyne’s request.” Glen said automatically. “Apparently she sulked for a week last time I beat her.” Glen didn’t add the fact that she’d only narrowly won last time, and that was by pure chance.
The Temmie Knights stood and saluted as Glen, Magnificent, and Asriel entered Castle Dreemmur. Magnificent returned the salute with his usual excessive enthusiasm before marching into the castle. Just a few months ago, the idea of a human walking through the halls of the mighty fortress would’ve seemed ridiculous; now there were humans everywhere documenting the paintings, the tapestries, the carpeting, and any sculptures that remained.
They found King Asgore in the throne room. The massive Bossun worked diligently in the flower garden beside the diminutive form of little Chara.
“Your Majesty!” Magnificent said, snapping another salute.
King Asgore and Chara turned, the latter leaping to her feet with a cry of “Uncle Glen!”
Glen caught the little girl and spun her about much to Chara’s delight. “Well, hello there, little one! What are you two up to?”
“Mister Dad guy was showing me how to plant new flowers.” Chara said as Glen set the little girl on her shoulders. “We’re planning on making a big garden up on the surface.”
“Good. Ebott could use some color.” Glen said, thinking of the lush gardens that were in the Ebott of J-27.
“Tori’s in the chapel.” Asgore said, a worried look on his face. “She wouldn’t tell me why she summoned you. Is everything okay?”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s fine.” Glen said, smiling more for Asgore and Chara’s benefit than out of any feelings of reassurance. She set the little girl back on the flower patch and ruffled her hair until Chara ducked out of her reach.
“We’re about to take some seedlings up to the surface.” Asgore said, motioning toward several boxes full of dirt and little green plants. “You mind giving us a hand, son?”
“Sure thing, dad.” Asriel nodded at Glen and said, “Catch you later?”
“Sure thing.” Glen said, forcing a smile. “See you then.”
Glen stopped just outside of the throne room and looked back at the Dreemurrs as they departed to the surface, Asriel and Asgore each holding a full crate of seedlings while Chara held a pot with a single yellow flower. A twinge of homesickness fell over her, both for the Ebott of her dimension, and her wife in Longshore, still over a thousand years away. Glen clasped the pendant that hung around her neck, seven silver turtles surrounding a small emerald orb.
“I miss you, kitten.” Glen whispered.
Smiling at Magnificent, Glen said, “Sorry, got lost in thought for a moment there. Lead the way, Magnificent!”
The Magnificent Sans marched Glen through the rest of the castle until they reached the chapel. The somber chamber was filled with magical light from the enchanted windows, the closest thing to actual sunlight that existed in the Underground.
Toriel stood beside her royal armor. It was on display now, a remnant of the past and a reminder of the conflict that led the monsters to their underground prison. She looked contemplative as she regarded the plate mail.
“Queen Toriel!” Magnificent said, snapping to salute. “I’ve brought Glenda, as ordered!”
“Very good, Sir Sans.” Toriel said. “Would be so kind as to leave us so that I may speak to our friend in private?”
“Of course, your Majesty! Right away!” Sans gave her another salute before swiveling on his feet and marching out of the room.
Toriel and Glen traded glances before giggling.
“Well, you can’t fault his enthusiasm.”
“Indeed.” Toriel said, smiling. “Still, I am glad our newfound peace won’t see him facing any danger. He is a sweet child.”
“That he is.” Glen shook her head and said, “So, what’s up, Tori?”
“I wanted to say thank you ... thank you for everything.”
“Hey, no problem.” Glen said with a shrug. “Just doin’ what I always do.”
“Still, I wanted to tell you before you left.”
Glen’s smile froze on her face. “Excuse me?”
Toriel gave the Dreamer a knowing look. “You were, I believe, planning on departing this dimension today, correct?”
Glen started to ask how Toriel could’ve known that when she’d been very careful to only mention it to one person, only to stop when that person stepped out from behind one of the pillars of the chapel.
Narrowing her eyes, Glen said, “Way to go, blabbermouth.”
Papyrus shrugged and took another drag from his cigarette. “Are you saying this was a departure from my normal behavior?”
“Cute.” Glen said, “Cute pun.”
“I must confess, I don’t understand why you wished to leave so quietly.” Toriel said, a hint of sadness in her eyes. “Over the past few months, you’ve become a big part of our community. You helped break the barrier, helped us integrate with the humans and their allies, you got the elder of old Ebott to agree to the expansion ... heck, you helped build most of the buildings as well as assisted many monster families in moving their belongings to their new home. If you must depart, I’d sooner see you off with a celebration.”
Glen sighed and rubbed her temples. “I ... appreciate the sentiment, Toriel. Ebott’s always been a place close to my heart, and seeing this reality’s Ebott so close to that from my reality ... it makes me feel at home.”
Sighing again, Glen said, “But this isn’t my Ebott. My friends are waiting for me there, as is the Asriel of my reality, still stuck as a flower. Then there’s the Sans I met, the last surviving monster of his reality; who knows what trouble he’s gotten up to. Then there’s that missing shard of the Inverse Harmonius.”
“Speaking of.” Papyrus said, digging into the pocket of his hoodie coat for a moment before producing the crystal that bore the imprint.
“I must confess,” Toriel said, eyeing the crystal with some trepidation. “I will be glad to see that thing gone. It feels ... wrong.”
“It’s part of a rune that allows passage between realities.” Glen said, taking the stone. “By it’s very nature, it is an aberration.”
“It’s not that. When I look at it, I can’t help but feel ... anxious. It’s like when you forget something important, something dangerous, and you know it deep inside but can’t bring up any specific memory about it.” Sighing, Toriel said, “I know that doesn’t make much sense, but-”
“Eh, it’s probably nothing.” Papyrus said with a carefree shrug of his thin bony shoulders. “Besides, Glen will be taking it with her. Right?”
“Right.” Glen said. “Assuming it survives transit to another reality, I might be able to use it to track the actual fragment. If I can find the actual fragment, I can come back without any trouble. I’ve already set up a dimensional marker here; provided I can find the shard, I should be able to return at will.”
“Then you intend to return at some point?” Toriel asked. Seeing Glen’s nod, she smiled. “I’m glad. I would hate to think this is goodbye.”
“Well, it might be a while.” Glen admitted. “Even if I do track down the shard, I’ve still gotta solve my Asriel’s problem, find LastSans and Jake, and figure out what caused the break in dimensions in the first place. Quite frankly, finding the shard will probably be the easiest thing.”
“I understand.” Toriel said. “And if you find a cure for your Asriel ... do you believe it will work for Temmie Kidd?”
“Can’t see why not.” Glen said. “So there you go; I’ll definitely have to come back at some point, if just to fix him.”
Toriel held out her hand, a warm smile on her face. “In that case, I wish you a safe and swift journey.”
“Thank you, your Majesty.” Glen said, shaking Toriel’s hand for a moment before giving the bossun queen a hug. “Take care of ’em while I’m gone.”
“I will.” Toriel said as Glen stepped back. With a final nod of her head, Toriel walked out of the chapel.
Papyrus approached Glen once they were alone. “This place is gonna feel weird without you.”
“Bah.” Glen said, waving a hand dismissively. “You all got on fine before I got here. As long as you stick together, you’ll be fine.”
Snapping her fingers, Glen said, “Oh, that reminds me. Catch!”
Papyrus lifted his hand in time to catch the keychain Glen tossed his way. He glanced at it a moment, his eye sockets widening. “The keys to the Cherry house?”
“Consider it a wedding present.” Glen said with a grin. “Or did you and Rahnna think I didn’t notice the rings?”
Papyrus held up his right hand, his gaze going to the simple golden band around his ring finger bone. “I guess we didn’t. Thanks, Glen ... and see you later.”
“Later, Paps.” Glen said, waving at the lanky skeleton as he departed. Her gaze immediately fell back to the crystal with the imprint. She focused her thoughts through both the imprint and the fragment of the Inverse Harmonius on the back of her left hand. The barrier between realities parted much more easily with the imprint, giving her enough energy to focus on her friends. The chapel fluctuated around her, changing in appearance as she skimmed the surface of other realities in search of one that had a little skeleton carrying a dimensional analyzer, a device she’d powered with a bit of her own stream energy.
She was still zoning in on her errant flux energy when he felt a bony hand grab her arm. Before she could respond, another bony hand forced a book into her grip.
“Just in case.” Papyrus’s voice said before both hands slipped away.
Glen wasn’t sure what to make of this, but pushed it to the back of her mind. She needed to focus, as the sensation of her flux was very faint due to the miniscule size of the analyzer. After a few minutes, however, she felt its presence. Closing her eyes, she focused all of her mind on that reality and braced her self as the universe shifted around her.