((2 - Blood on the Motorway))
"Hey, Spider, courier for you," a voice called from the ground below the court.
Flicking the ball off to a teammate, Spider swung along the gridwork hookball court. Her hooks easily caught the metal bars, bringing her quickly to the edge of the play area. Without looking down, the sixteen-year-old used her momentum to flip casually to the ground. The friend who had called to her moments earlier gestured to where the courier stood, at the edge of the platform. Running a hand through her short-cropped jagged black hair, Spider walked over to meet him. ((Hillary Milton))
The boy, who was not so much tall as long, grinned at her. "You're Spider?" He looked maybe a year or two older than her, with brown hair that vanished down his back, and curled around either side of his head to look almost like horns.
Spider nodded. "Yeah. What's the message?"
The boy's eyes darted up, running it over in his mind. "Mayor Bear has requested that you meet in his audience immediately." His voice was cheerful, belying the seriousness of his message.
The teen's eyebrows raised. "The Mayor, huh? Alright, then. Probably shouldn't waste any time." She clipped her twin hooks to her belt.
The courier shook his head. "He also says you should bring supplies to last you up to a week." The boy gestured to the backpack he wore, which was full to bulging.
Spider shrugged. "I'm good with what I've got on me, really."
The boy nodded affably. "Okay! We should go, then!"
Pausing briefly to grab her backpack, Spider and the courier headed towards the ramp up from the hookball court. "I'm Spider."
The boy laughed. "I know! I'm Goat." ((Tom Kelly))
Shaking her head, Spider headed off up the ramp. Goat leapt past her, kicking off the railing to land easily on another one a few feet higher up.
Their journey through Face didn't take long, between Goat's constant leaping and Spider's gymnastics, and they soon arrived at Mayor Bear's office, nestled deep within the crystal itself. Goat pushed the door open to find several people already inside the cramped office, along with Mayor Bear himself.
Mayor Bear was a heavyset man, with a large beard hanging down nearly to his desk. His face was grim as Goat and Spider entered, quietly closing the door behind them. "As I had been saying, we have reason to suspect serious trouble. There are cracks forming in the crystal." Spider's eyes widened. That couldn't be good. "You've each been chosen for various reasons to investigate. We've discovered one particularly large crack, easily big enough for people to enter, several hundred feet below Face. You'll be mounting an expedition into it." He looked around the room. "If you'd each be so kind as to state your name and occupation...?"
There was a brief pause, before Goat leapt forward into the center of the room. "I'm Goat the leaper! I leap and make sandwiches!" He grinned eagerly at his fellows for a moment before stepping back to the edge of the room.
A tall, very pale woman, in early twenties, spoke. "I'm Giraffe. I'm a philosopher and advisor." Her voice was strong and clear. ((Aarin Parker))
She nodded to the shorter woman next to her, who took a somewhat uncertain step forward. "Zebra. I'm a blacksmith..." Her heavily muscled forearms showed this quite clearly. ((Rio Sperling))
Next was a woman with short-cropped black hair and a wicked array of knives at her belt. She looked around the room, hard eyes resting coolly on each of them in turn for a long moment before she spoke curtly. "Skunk. Police officer." ((Katya D'Andrea))
Spider realized with a start that she was the last one on this side of the desk. "Oh, hey, I'm Spider. I'm an architect." She glanced around at the various older folk, brows still furrowed over the idea of cracks in the crystal.
Mayor Bear nodded, and began to speak, gesturing to the teen standing behind him. Before he could form words, though, the door burst open. An older woman, looking to be in her early thirties, came in, breathing hard. Her curly hair was a wild mess, and her tan skin was covered in a slight sheen of sweat. "Oh goodness, sorry I'm so late! I had to pack my clothes, and the four-year-old wouldn't stop crying, and the baby just picked up on it and..." The woman's voice trailed off as she realized everyone was staring at her.
Mayor Bear cleared his throat awkwardly. "Would you please inform the others of your name and occupation? They'll brief you en route as to what you missed." He arched his eyebrows skeptically at the woman.
"Oh! Oh, certainly." She laughed nervously, running a hand through her tangled hair. "I'm Owl, and I'm a rememorist. Seemed like, you know, the only thing to do, what with my perfect recall and such." ((Jenna Brotsky))
"Mm." Mayor Bear picked up where'd been interrupted moments earlier. He pointed again to the boy, who looked about Spider's age. "This is Eagle, a courier. He's seen the cave, and will be your guide."
Tucking a strand of long blonde hair behind his ear, the boy nodded. "Hey."
"Now then," the Mayor continued, "I believe time is of the essence. You've all got your things--you should set out at once."
Giraffe spoke up. "Mayor, I have a question. Why us? There are better-suited people for this than us in Face."
The Mayor let out a long sigh. "Because we have already sent the better-suited people, and none of them have come back. Three teams and not a single report back." He looked up, and stared intensely at their shocked faces. "Put quite simply, ladies and gentlemen... you are Face's last hope."
((3 - Above Stoneship (Telescope Theme) ))
The small metal platform hung from the very bottom of the city, divots screwed straight into the crystal itself. Eagle had lead the sextet down through the city, passing housing layers and hookball courts and food gardens, bringing them down as far as they could physically go.
The fog around them was empty and white, a bleak expanse of nothingness that was the only world they had ever known. Owl looked down over the edge of the wire railing, eyes darting around nervously. "Where do we go from here?"
"Down." Eagle gestured to the edge of the platform, where a wire descended alongside a metal ladder. He reached into a pouch at his belt and distributed carabiners to the assembled. "Hook them onto your belt, and onto the wire. Should stop you from falling." Spider raised a hand, declining the help. Eagle shrugged. "Suit yourself." He went to the side, and headed down the ladder. One by one, the others followed suit.
They spotted the first of the cracks a hundred feet down. Skunk stopped and look into it. It was a narrow split, running perpendicular to the ladder.
Giraffe looked down at her from a few rungs up. "What do you see?"
Skunk narrowed her eyes. "It's... full of some sort of... pulsing darkness. Like a living shadow."
"Weird." Giraffe motioned for Skunk to continue down.
As their descent continued, they passed another few dozen cracks, running in different directions. All were full of the same inky shadows.
After Eagle, Spider was the first one to reach the bottom. The entrance to the cave was more like a widened crevasse than a proper entranceway. A previous team had cut a small ledge into the crystal face, easily big enough to stand on. Spider unclipped herself from the wire and walked over to Eagle. "Do we have any idea at all what's in there?"
Eagle shook his head. "People have explored the inside of Face, but... no one's every found anything other than... more crystal."
Goat leapt eagerly down from the ladder. "Then we're gonna be the first to find new stuff!" Still grinning his fearless smile, the teen ran off into the cave.
As the others filed down beside them, Spider and Eagle shrugged at each other and set off after him.