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Reclaimed Optimism

Chapter Text

It seems that more than half the stories at Callahan’s start on some themed night or other. Which makes sense considering how many of them we have. This one thought actually starts out pretty quiet.

Now I don’t mean to say that the mood was down or the place was dead. The Doc was still making puns, Fast Eddie was locked in combat with that old upright piano and of course glasses shattered in the fireplace as folk made toasts. But for once no one seemed to have much need to talk out the toasts. The place was still merry as hell, just a more peaceful merry than the average. To start with of course. I wouldn’t be telling you this if it stayed that way.

It was round about ten or so when things started to get screwy. No one had come into the joint in more than an hour, but this wasn’t all that noteworthy in and of itself. Callahan’s is the kind of place where some nights you just get regulars. No it really got strange when the girl walked in. From the door behind the bar. The one that lead back into Callahan’s… well I suppose I can’t call it Callahan’s Place, but his personal space, his bedroom and the storage rooms.

She was about average height, black hair hanging around her chin, dressed in business attire. But two things caught the attention of everyone in the room. First she was looking mighty confused and second she had one gun in her hands and another on her hip. Can’t say I’ve seen the like of either model before but that was rather secondary at the moment. She kept her back to the wall as she edged out. When no one made a move to rush her she seemed to come to some internal decision. She didn’t lose that sense that she was ready to spring but the gun made a small fizzing noise as she lowered it.

Callahan was closest by virtue of being the only one on the far side of the bar and he made it to her first. The brawny Irishman lifted one hand in a warding gesture as she half-heartedly started to raise the weapon. She calmed down again as he snagged a glass from under the bar.

“Now Lass. I don’t generally object to the way anyone comes into my bar. But I don’t remember seeing you in my room last night. And I don’t care for people waving weapons around in my place. So why don’t you put down that heater and tell me what you’re drinking.” She scanned the room again, looking for a trap or sign of trouble. Obviously there wasn’t one. Sure she had every eye in the place on her but not a one looked to give her any trouble. After another moment she holstered the weapon and circled round the bar, sinking into one of the bar height arm chairs that sat waiting. She sighed and finally spoke.

“I don’t know what kind of drink can make up for the afternoon I’ve had but I’ll try. Whiskey, please.” She pulled out a ten as Callahan slid a double Bushmill’s into her hand.
“Can’t use that sawbuck here I’m afraid.” Long Drink piped up without interrupting his own beer. The girl gave him a look.
“First off Sawbuck? Did I travel back in time again. Or is the whiskey that expensive now?”

“Don’t know about the time travel but for the rest: Naw.” The Drink countered. “Callahan here only takes singles. Easier to work out when you take the option.”
“Option?” the confused look was coming back into her face. I hurried to explain it before it turned back into being armed.

“Pretty simple option here. Every drink costs a buck. When you finish you give back your glass and take some quarters from the cigar box at the end of the bar. Or go up to the chalk line, make a toast and smash that glass into the fireplace.” I hesitated a fraction of a second and added “the second is somewhat more common.”

Fast Eddie piped up from the piano. “And if yous wanna talk about it after, you’ve got an audience. If not, I’ll take care of anyone who bugs ya.”

The change in her was instantaneous. There was still worry in those dark eyes but a smile crept across her face, lighting it up. “Dollar drinks and I get to smash things. Sounds like just the night I need.” she slapped a single on the bar,downed the rest of the whiskey in one gulp and practically flew out of her chair, landing neatly at the chalk line on the floor. Her arm flew up, the light catching on the large watch around her wrist. She paused at the top of the arc, seeming to consider what to say.

“To Mentors” she whispered, and let the glass fly. It sailed neatly into the back of the parabolic arc of the fireplace and shattered, the flames dancing from the disruption and remnants of alcohol. Eddie and I, remembering an old blues player who had taught us more than a little, followed suit. The Doc and a few others joined in and for a moment all was shattering glass and the echo of the toast. When everything had quieted down every eye in the place was on her and Callahan was already pouring another drink.

“My name is Wendy Watson.” She began. “But my roommate, Lacey, she always used to call me Dub Dub. And my Boss usually just called me Dubbie.”

“And which would you prefer we use Miss Watson?” Doc Webster asked. The Doc maintains that the name you get saddled with at birth doesn’t need to have anything to do with the name you call yourself, and we generally agree.

“Wendy works. Anyways I guess I should explain how I got here.” We all made polite noises of inquiry while Callahan made fresh drinks for those as needed them and she started to tell her tale.

Chapter Text

The Illegal Sublet Wendy shares with her equally adorable roommate.
One Hour Thirty Minutes to Total Annihilation

Finally asleep after a marathon night of Gut-Wrencher III Wendy was sprawled over her head, totally oblivious to the world. Half finished paintings were scattered around the loft, mingling with completed pieces commemorating her adventures with The Jolly Fats WeeHawkin Temp Agency, Everything was peaceful for the moment. Until...

*Bwoop bwoop* *bwoop bwoop*

“Dubby. Come in. This is an emergency. Dubby. Please respond.” The Middleman’s voice had an unusual edge to it. Not quite panic, but a sort of frayed worry that only seemed to come out once the adventure had gone several kinds of sideways. And possibly pear shaped. He repeated the emergency message several times before Wendy managed to snag the watch off of her nightstand.

“Yeah. Boss. What’s the trouble?” She managed through a haze of exhaustion. “Is it the werewolves again? I thought we finished that last week.”

“I’m afraid not Dubby. No. This is a real sticky situation. I need you to get to headquarters as fast as you can.” The watch blanked out and Wendy couldn’t help but stare at it for a moment. Sure the life of a Middleman was never dull, and often included late night adventures. But something in the tone troubled her. Still in her PJs she headed for the door. She paused just long enough to leave a note for Lacey.

Surprisingly Noser was still up at this hour, as ever holding his guitar and contemplating some great mystery of the universe. He nodded to Wendy as she passed.

“Hey Wendy Watson.”
“Yes Noser?”
“I’ve got a strange feeling. Kinda like a need to get moving.”
“On a Highway to Hell?”
“Born to be Wild?”
The guitarist considered this before shaking his head “Naw.”
Wendy couldn’t help but smile as she struck on what he was getting at “Like a Bat out of Hell.”
“You always get me Wendy Watson.” They nodded to each other and Wendy let herself out.

Middleman HQ
One Hour and Ten minutes to Total Annihilation

The Middle HQ was in complete disarray, everything from the training room to the lockers to the front desk and even the H.E.Y.D.A.R seemed to have been pulled apart. As Wendy approached, after quickly changing into her uniform, she saw Ida and the Middleman furiously working on something.

“Uh, boss. What exactly is going on here?” She asked, stepping over a rat’s nest of wires and at least one plastic hamster trail tunnel.

“Oh look, she managed to make it here despite the doobage.” Ida called back without looking up. “Get over here and give us a hand junkie.” Wendy studiously ignored the insults and worked her way through the mess. Interredroid had lost it’s head again, and most of it’s limbs this time. They were also wired into the gigantic mess taking up most of the room.

“Seriously, boss. What are you doing?” Wendy repeated as she handed MM a wrench he had been reaching for.

“Well Dubby” he spoke between grunts of exertion, tightening a bolt, “At present I am trying to rig the H.E.Y.D.A.R to act as a central focusing point for a pan dimensional nexus by wiring it through some of the artifacts we had in storage.” He nodded his head at a scythe in one corner, the last remains of Little Vladdie and a dozen other strange objects that had been in the archives.

“Okay. But why? Doesn’t O2STK usually send us whatever we need for the job we do? I mean, what’s with the jury rigging?”

“As if a hop head like you would know how to rig a jury. O2STK is gone dearie, stopped sending updates hours ago. I can’t even open the return shoot or request a new interrodroid.” Ida put in, wrapping sparking wires around a seemingly random length of wood.

Before Wendy could voice another question MM continued. “And at approximately the same time we received this message.” One of the screens on the wall remained uncannibalized and flickered to life. A grim vision of the Middleman glared out, one of his eyes missing. He looked wild and untamed, but a bit less vile than when Wendy had last met him. The long haired doppelganger spoke.

“I’m sending this to all Middlemen everywhere. Don’t know what your verse is like. Or even if this will reach any of you. But something’s gone wrong. Every alternate dimension I can find is flatlining. Get out while you can. I’ll see if I can find somewhere stable to run to. Oh and Prime!Dubby, if your watching this, thanks again. And remember: Find the Pie Maker.” The video ended abruptly, followed by a string of green on black text flowing over the screen.

“So what’s the big deal? I mean, you trust that guy?” Wendy asked, still more confused than anything.

“On his own? No. BUt that code at the end is a top secret comminique known only to true Middelmen. We are only to use it when morality is transcended by extinction. And if that weren’t enough we also recieved this.” He hit the remote again and the tv turned back on. This time it was filled by the visage of a blond man with a gold circlet on his head.

“Greetings people of the worlds. I am Ramses the second. This video is to inform you of your impending demise. The world, nay the universe, indeed all universes sit on the precipice of disaster. Wars between petty city states, or between empires or planets threaten millions. And as more and more powerful weapons are created more is at risk than ever before. So I have decided to start anew. A more perfect universe will be crafted, one of peace and justice and tranquility. Sadly the energy needed to create this universe, and accelerate it to a habitable state, will require the destruction of all known spacetime. But don’t worry. I will mourn for you. You have two hours to contemplate my plan and the sheer elegance in it’s simplicity.”

For a moment MM and Ida worked in silence, Wendy only capable of staring at the now blank screen. It didn’t take her long to recover though, part of what had made her a Middleman in the first place, and she dove into the pile of scrap parts, helping to sort and build as the others directed her.

“So what exactly are we doing? I mean can we fight him?”

“Not with the time we’ve got Dubby. In two hours we’ll be lucky if we get out of this alive. But if we can live we can bring everyone back.”

“Bring them back? How?”

“The Piemaker. A man capable of reversing death itself. On a grand enough scale he could remake the world. All worlds. But to find him we have to survive the next hour.”

“Next hour.” Wendy mused to herself as the creation started to take shape. The room was starting to look slightly more organized, technology and occult artifacts winding together, beginning to resolve themselves into a recognizable shape. There was something tugging at the back of her mind. Something about that idiot blowing up all of creation. Twenty minutes later the pieces clicked into place.

“Holy Percy Shelley! Boss we have to hurry!” She exclaimed, scrambling to finish tightening the last few screws holding a grimoire to the wall.

“Well, yes Dubby but what’s wrong?”

“You never read past the silver age did you?” The Middleman just gave her a confused glance. She sighed and continued. “Of comics. Well this guy took the look, page and plan straight out of Alan Moore. He’s not going to let us stop him. If this Piemaker isn’t already dead he will be soon. And we don’t have an hour. He’s was lying about the time.” On cue the building shook, the floor beginning to crack under their feet. Without a word the pair of crimefighters and the android went back to work, furiously trying to finish the device. Another shockwave sent them clattering to the floor and continued to rumble.

“It seems you were right Dubby. We’re out of time.” Crawling across the bucking ground the Middleman reached for Wendy’s hand, pulling her close for a moment. “We found a safe spot, somewhere that fool can’t touch yet. When you get through just follow the light.”

“Follow the light? What do you mean when I go?” The Middleman looked down at his apprentice with anguish. It was bad enough sacrificing the world to try to save it. This though was going to be harder. He closed his eyes and hurled Wendy bodily at the H.E.Y.D.A.R. before careening the other way towards a fusebox.

“Just follow the light Dubby and find the Piemaker!” He yelled as he threw the switch. Everything went silent as technology, hastily repurposed artifacts and odd bits of Clotharian tech ran together. And then were was darkness. Wendy Watson woke up on a cold concrete floor, bruised but otherwise unharmed. Pushing herself to her feet she tried the MiddleWatch. There was no answer. But there was a light, shining around the gap in a door. Taking her old mentor’s gun, which she had snagged in a futile attempt to hold on when he tossed her, she walked towards it, and into Callahans.

Chapter Text

“And, well, from there you know the rest.” Wendy finished, tossing her final drink into the fire. “The universe blew up. Everyone I know, gone. Lacey, Noser, My Boss, Ida, Tyler. And apparently I’m now in New York.” We were all silent for a long long moment, drinking in the story. She seemed largely nonplussed that we had all taken everything at face value. Guess it comes of her line of work, and of the nature of Callahan’s place. As the realization hit her, the story now out in the open, Wendy started to cry. Now we’ve all seen hysterical crying, the kind that leaves broken shards of glass in your palm or wrecked chairs in the bar. And Callahan is tolerant of such things when they help. But Wendy didn’t take that route. She just slumped in her hair, tears falling freely. And not a damn one of us knew how to help her. Callahan himself handed her a sandwich and she ate it mechanically, clearly in some sort of shock. Eventually she looked up.

“I mean, I guess I’m grateful, he got me here. And this is a nice enough place. But that still leaves me alone.”

In his oddly accented english Mickey Finn spoke up for the first time that night. “I too know what it is to lose a home. And a indeed a world. I am sorry for your loss. But perhaps there is hope. If this Pie Maker exists then it seems we should search for him. I do not know what pies have to do with resurrection but then again until I came here I did not know that humans had love. Do you know anything else that might locate him?”

“No.” Wendy replied softly. “Never even heard the title before this mess started. And really I don’t even know how this place is still here. Am I dead and this is an afterlife?”

“Sure enough yer not dead.” Callahan interjected. “This here place is protected from the likes of that stuff. And as to the Pie Maker I don’t know. But I’m sure we can find them.” The entire bar chorused agreement. Fast Eddie struck up a tune and for a moment Wendy seemed almost to smile. Her pain was not forgotten, nor her problems solved, but things didn’t seem to look quite so bleak now. After all pain shared is pain lessened. And there are precious few things in this universe or any other that can remain morose after exposure to Callahan’s particular brand of alcoholic good cheer.

I suppose the warning should have been obvious. I mean Ramses had apparently threatened every universe ever. And we all know that ANYTHING can happen at Callahan’s Place. But we were still surprised by the next arrival. It was only about twenty minutes later actually. The sawdust near the door started to swirl and rise up. The mini dust devil grew rapidly and a faint purple light started to emanate from it. The apparently self contained wind grew stronger and the purple light turned into a full on sphere, crackling with energy. Sparks grew into lightning that arced off of the lights. There was a flash and it all went dark, the only light that of the fireplace, still burning merrily in the hearth. From the shadows there came a voice. It was high and a little nervous.

“I think we made it girls. Though I’m not sure where it is that we managed to make it to.” There was a brief pause, the speaker clearly waiting for something. In the silence that followed the voice spoke again. “Girls? Did you make it? AJ? Rainbow? Pinkie?” The voice grew more agitated as the responding silence stretched. Then it broke, just sounding lost and afraid. “Spike? ...Anybody?”

The lights came back on as Callahan found the breaker in the dark. And I swear to any god you care to name that there was a god damned unicorn standing in the bar. Or something like one. Purple, with a pink and white mark on her flank. Her horn was glowing. As we took in the sight Fast Eddie voiced the common concern.

“It’s gonna be ona does nights isn’t it?”

It just so happened that he was the first person to make a noise, and those strangely intelligent purple eyes focused on him in an instant. The thing’s mouth went wide, and that horn flaired to life again.

“Augh, Diamond Dog!” apparently the voice had come from, what I could only assume was a her. She snorted and lowered her horn, apparently ready to charge. That is until she caught sight of the rest of us. The unicorn did a double take, staring at everyone in the bar, then apparently checking herself out. “Okay…” she continued. “This is new. Last time I met humans they were more... multicolored. And I got turned into one. What the hay is going on?”

I’m not sure what would have happened on a normal night. I mean sure this is Callahan’s and we would have helped eventually but we were a little bowled over by having a talking pony in our midst. Luckily though Ralph Von Wau Wau had stopped by for a bit of gin and was still with us. So, one talking animal to another he approached her. The big German Shepherd made a slight bow to the unicorn and spoke.

“Good Evening Madam. I am Ralph and this is Callahan’s Place. Suffolk County, Long Island. I suspect that, like our last visitor you are not from around here.”

“The dog talks. Of course he does.” Wendy interjected. “And now we have ponies.” She went back to her second sandwich as Ralph and the mysterious mare got to talking.

“I’m afraid I don’t know where Long Island is relative to Equestria. I must be very far from home. But it’s a pleasure to meet you Ralph I am Twilight Sparkle.” she returned his bow and looked around in confusion again. “And given that no humans exist back home I must be a very far way out. Have any of you heard of a place called Canterlot High?” There was a chorus to the effect of no and she looked even more stricken. The poor thing was shrinking into herself. Of course excepting Ralph himself everything in the place was built to a scale somewhat larger than her. Ralph did his best to placate her.

“I’m afraid I’ve never heard of it. But for now have a drink and tell us what brought you here. It seems to me that the night is only just beginning.”