Auditor!Hope teams up with Mina to solve the unup problem.

warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. technobabble. rampant pop culture references. language: pg-13 (primetime tv plus s***).

pairing: none/gen.

timeline: Network Operations 3652 (AD 6188), shortly after Bullet-Time Baby (Jack Frost); local years AD 2011 (FT Bundle), maybe a month after Bequeath (The Collector), and AD 2005 (ES Bundle).

disclaimer: the original Wade, Weasel, and Hope belong to marvel. au and au versions belong to me. Coraline, Neverwhere, and all recognizable characters and terms thereof belong to Neil Gaiman.

notes: 1) Mina probably favors Hamill!Joker over the live action Jokers. 2) Dawn French and Elizabeth Saunders are a female britcom duo. they're amazing and hilarious, and portrayed a pair of creepy old ladies in the Coraline movie. 3) Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are from Neverwhere. 4) rat-speakers, London Below, and London Above are also from Neverwhere. 5) St. Paul's is huge and famous cathedral in London (quite close to Cheapside and Blackfriars, in fact). there are (as far as we know) no actual catacombs beneath it, just the crypt, which houses the remains of several national heroes.

visit The Fateverse Glossary ( art/Fateverse-Glossary-174203180) for terms, concepts, Nodes, and important people.


The Amazon or Summers and Princess Fifi

Mina is trying to have a serious debate about who was the best Joker when a six-foot-tall redhead walks into the bar.

Holy shit, who let Red Sonja in here?

Mina watches the Amazon cross the smoky gloom and confidently take the chair next to Weasel, who chokes on his beer and stares fixedly at the girl's chest (in spite of, or maybe because of, the fact that she looks barely legal).

"Willemina Wilson?" the redhead asks. She's got a prize-winning Serious Face.

Like, Captain America caliber serious. Essence of Serious.

"The multiverse needs your help."

Weasel is still staring his desperate, nerdy little heart out. It's kinda sweet, in a worshipful adolescent 'dur-hur, boobies' way. In his defense, she's got a nametag across her left bazoom that he may be trying to read.

Summers, huh? Does the other one have a name, too? Ba-dum-tish.

"Stop it with the comedic drum-snap," Mina mutters to her yellow boxes.

The redhead sighs and points at her right boob. "And this one's name is Princess Fifi. It's okay, Miss Wilson, I know all about the Little Yellow Boxes, and I can probably guess most of the things they're saying."

Gasp! She can read my mind?

"No, I can't read your mind, it's more like a parlor trick."

Holy crap! Good trick…

"I know." The redhead pulls a glass ball from somewhere and holds it up—looks like there's writing inside. "Miss Wilson, I'm Hope Summers, a Keeper with the Fidelis-473 Network—yes, it spells 'fate' in leet, but I don't think that makes it inherently less trustworthy. What I need from you is to turn on the nifty future-telling crystal ball in your purse and let me ask it some questions."

Purse!

Mina bristles. "For your information, it's a calfskin-lined elephant-hide carryall with adjustable twin straps and Kevlar paneling. I consider it a very practical accessory, regardless of girly gender stereotypes."

The shoes, tell her about the shoes.

"And I only own five pairs of shoes. Two pairs of sneakers, two pairs of boots, and a pair of sensible-all-purpose black pumps. So there."

Hope holds a hand up. "I'm sure you're the farthest thing from a fashion slave. Regardless of gender identity, wanting to look nice and knowing how to cook a five-course meal don't make you June Cleaver. You are a complete and utter badass, or they wouldn't have given you Eight-ball. I need to talk to him. Please."

Feeling properly placated, Mina digs into the main pocket of her carryall, nudges Mr. Bang Bang aside, and grabs a mini flashlight with her other hand to start the boot-up sequence.

~Hello again, Auditor. I've been expecting you.~

"I know," says Hope. "You should've been sent the data on the unup. Can you trace the problem?"

~Yes. And no. From here, I can give you a general branch destination. I'd have to go to the branch myself to identify the originator.~

Hope looks at Mina with raised eyebrows. "Up for a field trip?"

What's in it for us? We might miss Glee.

"The fate of the multiverse is probably hanging in the balance, including all your favorite TV shows."

Gah, mind-reader!

"I told you, I'm not a mind-reader. I just know those little yellow boxes very well."

Mina pouts. "Weas, add Glee to my Tivo. And don't delete any Battlestar or Torchwood to do it."

Weasel gives Mina a dubious glance. "What about Stargate? Or Dr. Who? Those are on Netflix, you could get 'em any time…"

Not the Doc!

"Ditch the SGU if you have to," Mina grudgingly says. "I'll get around to cleaning out my Tivo eventually."

Hope purses her lips. "You realize that our interdimensional travel is really lateral time travel?"

~Actually, your lateral transit is quantum tunneling, so it's not technically time travel at all.~

Mina closes the flap of her carryall and hoists it onto her shoulder. "Let's get going. And explain to me what an 'unup' is."

Hope leads the way back out of the bar, around the corner, into a nice, smelly alley. "You'll need to turn him off," she says, gesturing to the carryall. "We can't leave him here."

"So he'll get left if we don't turn him off?" Mina asks, opening the bag again.

~Yeees. And no.~

"You're a real comedian, sweetheart," Mina snorts. "Tell me all about it later." When her hand touches the warm surface of the sphere, it goes dark and cool.

Hope shakes her head. "Kali, get me the entry on the branch designation Eight-ball sent."

White text flashes through the reddish sphere in Hope's hand.

"Dammit, Wade," she mutters.

"Who?" Mina asks.

"You. Sort of. But not. Um." Hope glances at Mina, makes a funny little thoughtful face. "Well, my dad married my best friend, who happened to be a version of you. A really awesome version of you. I inherited Kali from him. Before he died, this was his job, running around solving multiverse problems by assassinating people and relocating people, and he wrote down a lot of little notes about the places he went, but they're kind of…off-color. Like most things written by Wades."

"So what's it say about this…branch designation-thingy?"

Hope sighs. "It says, 'A little gender-flippy and sci-fantasy-ish. Consider Neil Gaiman books to be user's manual.'"

"Ooh, the Coraline dude?"

That movie was awesome. French 'n Saunders ftw.

Hope shrugs. "I dunno, I've never heard of him. But it's not all that surprising to find a branch that bears similarity to somebody's fiction writing—when something's written down and shared, it starts to resonate, and the more people read it and think about it and believe in it, the more the strength of that resonance increases. I guess that could make imaginary things real somewhere in the timestream. I mean, it's not like we've even charted the whole thing, that'd be ridiculous. We've only poked around the main trunk and anything structurally related, there's probably millions of branches we've never even looked at."

"If a universe is everything, then the multiverse would have to be pretty damn big," Mina reasons. "And somebody said 'every book is a world.' I think I read that somewhere."

"I'm kinda new to this job, okay?" Hope says sourly. "I haven't actually done much traveling, myself…just a few trips here and there, until Wade died. For all I know, there's a whole bundle of Hitchhiker's Guide branches."

"Hm. Think the Improbability Drive could eventually land somebody here?"

"Probably. Or, y'know, improbably. Whatever—god, you're gonna get me so sidetracked the whole time. Kali, open the tunnel."

~Warning: lateral transit destination is marked red and uninitiated. All tuning should be done incognito. Bundle Keeper has been alerted to your operation. Warning: lateral transit destination is rated for potentially hostile natives.~

"Acknowledged."

Groovy.

A pretty ring of flickering light forms in midair.

Dude, it looks like a Stargate.

Then it moves toward them and around them, and Mina feels a ticklish sensation like standing in carbonated water. And then they're standing in a much dirtier alley, and the assorted shouting and city-noise is distinctly British.

Mina watches a rat scurry behind a dumpster at the sight of them. "Okay, scratch the Coraline thing. This place reeks of Neil's seriously creepy stuff. Um. If you see a pair of guys that look like a fox and a wolf in human form, please blast the crap out of them with one of your cool future-guns."

"Uh, right…" says Hope.

Mina really, really, really hopes they won't run into Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. She hurries through waking Eight-ball back up. "Eight-ball, please tell me there's no Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar here."

~We've got bigger things to worry about.~

"Bigger things than a pair of unkillable knife-happy crazies?" Mina hisses.

~Bigger, yes. Besides, nobody's paid them to go after you. Wade's around here somewhere—ask a rat-speaker for directions.~

"Can I just say that I don't like the sound of the phrase 'pair of unkillable knife-happy crazies'?" Hope mutters nervously. "And what's a rat-speaker?"

Mina gives her a Look.

Someone who talks to rats. Duh.

"I mean besides the obvious," Hope sighs.

"Well, there isn't anything besides the obvious," Mina tells her. "Let's get to a Tube station; there's bound to be rat-speakers in a place like that."

"Tube?"

"Subway. And if you ask what a subway is, I may have to scream." Mina carefully pokes her head out of the alley, but it looks like nobody's paying attention.

Awesome, we're a Below denizen by default.

~Hang a left,~ Eight-ball says. ~And then another at the end of the block. Can't miss it.~

"Hey!" Hope gripes when somebody thumps into her. "Whoa. Okay. Um. Is it normal for them to act like they can't see me?"

"Yep," says Mina. "Learn to dodge."

Once they're underground, with all the usual subway stink of garbage, urine, and people, Mina looks around the nooks and corners for someone promising.

Ah.

There, a skinny boy in mismatched rags, face covered in grime, bony hand outstretched for change. A cardboard sign at his side says 'orfan w/ 2 babby sistres.'

Mina prods the kid with the toe of her boot. "Really got two sisters?" she asks.

Two dark eyes focus on her sharply. "Yeah," the kid says in a tone that implies immediate suspicion. "You American?"

"If by 'American' you mean 'from a continent with America in the name,' sure. Need a rat-speaker to help us find somebody."

The kid's eyes widen, and he barks out a harsh laugh. "Rat-speaker, right. Bin listenin' to too many fairy-stories, missie."

"Ha, ha, ha," Mina says flatly. She pulls a knife from her belt and starts flipping it between her fingers. "Does this look like a London Above face? Tell me where I can find a rat-speaker to chat with, or I'll turn you into food for the rat-speakers."

The boy goes pale under his layer of grime and jerks his chin toward the dark maw of the tunnel. "First service door. Dun't take kindly to unexpected guests."

~We can take care of ourselves,~ says Eight-ball.

Mina walks around the corner into darkness, skirting the narrow service walkway with its mournful, flickering light bulb.

I think all subways really were created equal.

"No," says Hope. "There are some in Japan that are actually really nice."

Mind-reader!

"Still not a mind-reader."

There's a rusty chain and padlock on the first service door they come to, and Mina pauses to consider it.

Behind her, a train clatters past.

"This place is seriously damaging my calm, Miss Wilson," Hope squeaks, which makes Mina think she was startled by the train.

"Look, I'm not a kindergarten teacher. Call me Mina." And she kicks the door open. The rusted chain clatters to the ground. "Knock-knock."

Beyond the door is a shadowed stairwell. Something at the top scuttles away.

"Little light, please?"

Eight-ball obediently glows in her hand, sending watery beams of light out into the dark.

After the stairs, there's a long hallway. A few people are hunkered by one wall, warming their hands around the stereotypical barrel of burning rubbish. They eye Mina and Hope, but don't move.

"Hi," says Mina. "Need to ask a rat-speaker where to find somebody."

They scoff to each other and return their attention to the fire.

"Arready found 'somebody,' din'tcha?" says a gruff, bearded man. "Now, if youse twos is after a specific 'somebody,' y'might try a bit o' description, dearie-o."

~We're looking for Wade Wilson,~ Eight-ball says.

Once again, the people around the barrel look at Mina.

The gruff man peels away from the group and wipes his grubby hands on the ends of his coat. "Ol' Wadey? What for?"

~To talk. About saving the world, if you really wanna know.~

"Hrmph," says the man. "Figgers. An' what's in it for me, I asks ye?"

Mina digs around in her carryall. "Uh. I got some gum. And a couple wet-wipes. Ooh! Book of matches."

Suddenly, the man is much closer. "Fire in the hand, indeedy!" he exclaims with his hand out.

Mina hands him the book of matches (from Flo's Diner, don't ask).

He leaves his hand out. "And the gum. Amazing what use a bit of bubble can be."

Scowling, Mina gives him the gum (Stride Mystery Flavor, which she's pretty sure is something mango-ish).

The rat-speaker (if rat-speaker he is) stuffs his spoils into his coat pocket and beckons. "Arright, arright. This way. Bit of a walk, though—Wadey likes them cattercombs, so it's off to St. Paul's."

Past the ring of firelight, he crouches and chitters to the dark, and something scampers off.

"Uh, what was that?" asks Hope.

"Sendin' word ahead, missie," says the rat-speaker. "Doesn't do to show up unexpected-like to Wadey's door."

"Rats, it had to be rats," mutters Hope.

The rat-speaker cackles and leads them along by the winnowing light of the Node in Mina's hand.

.End.