Rock Bottom
rating: +15+x

October 23rd
10:00 AM

"Okay, on three."

"One…"

"Two…"

"Three!"

Alison Carol sliced through the roots holding up Dr. Claire Hennessy, and Robert Tofflemire grabbed the head of the Department of Multi-Universal affairs, hefting her onto his shoulder. He called down, "We still got smelling salts left?"

"Yeah!" Cassandra Pike confirmed from the bottom of the Pit.

For the last twelve hours, they had slowly been working to retrieve all members of Site-87's staff that were stuck to the walls of the Bottomless Pit. Everyone was accounted for at this point— but not everyone had gotten off the walls. Hennessy was among the last— Reinhertz was managing to rescue one of the Brothers West, and was making his way back down the wall.

"Unbelievable…" Claude Mattings stared skyward— from down here, he could see stars, despite the fact that his watch read it was 10:00 in the morning. "We're at the bottom of a bottomless pit."

Robert sat Hennessy by Pike, who began administering the smelling salts. "Any of you remember how you got down here?"

Montgomery Reynolds raised his hand. "I went to Pike's quarters with her, and we were… ambushed by something. Felt like we were getting dragged underground, and then—"

"We ended up here," Christopher Hastings confirmed. "And if we were dragged underground— " A subject which Christopher Hastings had far too much experience in — "We'd have lacerations all over our bodies, and by now, they'd have started showing signs of infection. So… more like a weird teleportation?"

"How'd you get out, though?" Robert scratched his head. "I mean, I know you're Chris Hastings, Action Botanist, but you were the only one awake when we came down here."

"Funny you should mention that." Hastings walked towards Robert. "I remember you yelling at something, just saying it was a simple sloth or something like that. Then I woke up, slipping through the vines. Managed to grab onto something and climb down."

"Well, everyone seems to be alive." Dr. Keith Partridge, as it turned out, had some rock-climbing experience from his time in Guatemala, and had just finished bringing down the last of the personnel, one Mary Churchill. "Now comes the question of how we get out…"

Alice looked helplessly at the pitons. "Anyone have an extra million meters of rope?"

"Climbing out isn't feasible for you lot." The Goatman made his presence known, chewing on the stem of a corncob pipe as he emerged from the crowd. "I'm immortal and untiring. You'd probably fall to your deaths before you hit your first kilometer."

Alison sighed. "So, either Jackson Sloth shows up and we fall through to China again…"

"Or we start drawing lots for who we're going to eat first."

Robert's joke was met with an unamused silence.

"So, yeah, anyone see a man in a tattered suit carrying a shovel walking around here?"


October 24th
1:00 PM

Most of the researchers had fallen asleep— something that Nina Weiss thought was miraculous, considering they had been knocked out for the last week, at least. The Site director stayed awake, albeit with the help of caffeine patches.

Alice slapped on her third patch and stretched with a yawn. "Okay, so… from what we figured out, the pit is a pataphysical singularity."

"It's a plot hole." Robert was sitting by a makeshift campfire, roasting marshmallows for s'mores. He had brought a disconcertingly large supply of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows, and was sharing his bounty with the Goatman.

"Okay, yeah, it's a plot hole. So…" Alison looked skyward. "I think we need to fill it in. Metaphorically speaking."

"How so?" Director Weiss scanned the pit. This wasn't her first time down here— but last time, she had fallen far less of a distance.

Alice put her hand on her chin. "We need to make a good story to get us out of here. Manipulate the Narrative in such a way that we can get out of here. I'm proposing Technique Beta-03."

"So, how are we going to get out of this?" Nina Weiss asked, before she and Agent Carol turned towards Robert, who was currently stuffing his face with a s'more.

"Why are you looking at me like that—" He blinked, and suddenly remembered what Technique Beta-03 meant. "Coordinated turn-and-look for a solution. Clever."

"Anything coming to you?" Weiss asked.

"Well…" Robert stood and carefully paced, while the Goatman kept soldiering on with his s'more making. "Among Foundation sites, we have the lowest suicide rate in the western hemisphere. That implies that the town tries to keep a sense of levity about it. Hope, even. Why am I talking like this?"

"I don't know." Alison frowned. "It's like someone's putting words in your mouth." To no-one in particular, she said "He's an agent who spends too much time on Reddit, not a researcher."

Robert blinked rapidly. "Okay, yeah. Humor, and hope. Two things that the rest of the Foundation really doesn't have in spades. Everywhere you go, people are sayin' it's the end of the world as we know it, and they don't feel fine at all. Site-87's always been different— I noticed after I transferred from…" He paused, remembering the Old Man, and his friend, still in its lair. "Anyway. We have to do something uniquely Site-87 to get out of this pit."

"If the words 'zany scheme' comes out of your mouth," Alice played with her holster, "I'm going to pistol-whip you."

"Actually, I was just about to ask you." Robert sat down by Alice, and offered her a s'more. "What's Foundation procedure for being trapped in an extradimensional area?"

Agent Carol took the s'more. She failed to not enjoy it, and talked through a mouthful of marshmallow. "Well, for one thing, you're supposed to stay put and activate a locator beacon. Ration your food."

"They don't say anything about attempting to find an exit, do they?"

Alice tilted her head in thought. "They… do not."

"Right!" Robert looked at the walls. "So, that's what were're going to do. We're going to find an exit, down here, at the bottom."

"And walk up a thousand kilometers?" Director Weiss stood, grabbing her cane. "With all due respect, agent, some of us have bad legs."

"Well, overcoming that will make an excellent story, Director." Robert walked towards the walls, feeling along them. "Alice, get me a light?"

The sides of the pit were illuminated by at two different beams— Robert turned in time to catch a flashlight, and started inspecting the sheer walls. "Okay. Hundred and twenty feet in diameter, give or take…" He looked around. "You go left, I go right?"

Alice waved her flashlight around. "How do you do it?"

Robert frowned. "Do what?"

"Stay so… damn upbeat? Even now, you're talking about hope and trying to make a good story…" She sighed, and leaned against the wall. "Last year, you got lucky. You only saw what happened second-hand." She looked down at the ground. "You were in Duluth, and it was pretty quiet there, right?"

"Yeah?" Robert titled his head. "Someone tried TPing the apartments on Mischief Night, but…"

"When I was in Superior… one of the townies, they snapped." She swallowed. "His wife got taken by the scarecrows. When his kids vanished, we thought whatever had gotten the town had escaped. Then we found…" She couldn't finish the sentence.

"Jesus." Robert came closer to her. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Everyone just… wanted to forget about it." Alison rolled her shoulders. "This town… this site. It's seen too much in the last two Halloweens. How do you keep it together?"

"Because I have to." Robert rubbed the back of his head. "After 106 got my buddy, I had nightmares for weeks. That's when I found out I was allergic to amnestics. I have to live with every bad memory, every mistake, every horrible thing I've seen." He leaned against the wall. "That's the main reason I got transferred here. I was getting really nihilistic."

"Nihilistic?" Alice raised an eyebrow. "You?"

"Yeah! I know, it doesn't seem like I'd fit the… Nietzsche."

"I should slap you for that joke."

Robert chuckled. "I mean it, though. Before I got partnered with you, I was a massive fatalist. Then I realized that worrying about the end of the world and your own death and failure is a waste of time. Smile, have fun, make a quip every now and again." He looked side-eyed at Alice. "Even if it means that your partner calls you an idiot."

Alison elbowed him in the side and gave a smirk. "You are a bit of a lunk."

"We're going to get out of here." Robert surveyed the area.

"Knock on wood." Alice tapped the wall, and was met with the tok-tok-tok of a door. "Wait, what the—"

The two agents stared at each other, and started digging away at the dirt. Behind it, they found a dirty door with faded paint and an ornate knocker on it.

"Worth a shot." Alison opened the door. On the other side, clouded sunlight came through, and she found herself next to a familiar sign. She laughed. "Oh my god."

"What?"

"It's the front door." She grinned. "This is the front door of Jackson Sloth's Manor. Your stupid sign is here!" She stepped through, and took it out of the ground, showing him the words 'Bottomless pit and toplessfree dancers'. "Wake everyone up now."

Robert began yelling, rousing the researchers. Outside, it started to rain. To everyone emerging from the doorway, it was the best thing they had felt in weeks.


Half an hour later, it was still raining. Ryan Melbourne and the Goatman were the last two to exit, leaving the door open behind them.

"We're going to have to update the documentation for 4040, it seems." Melbourne stroked his chin. "Fascinating."

"Yeah, really cool, doc." Robert came forward. "One problem: we don't know anything new about the Pit Sloth."

There was a loud ahem from the door. Those closest to it turned to see a somewhat grumpy-looking man in evening clothes, holding a shovel and approaching the door. "Don't you know it's rude to leave someone's door open when you leave?"

"It's Sloth." Alice's eyes widened, and she ran for the door as he started to shut it. "Wait!"

Jackson Sloth stopped his closure of the door. "Ah, you again. Sorry I didn't show up, it was… rather crowded."

Robert came up next to Alice. "We need to figure out a way to defeat the Pit Sloth, or at least contain it."

Sloth smirked at him. "I like your attitude; you propose destroying this abomination before locking it away in a cell." Sloth stepped onto the front doorstep, eliciting a gasp from those assembled. "It needs a suitably appropriate climax to be defeated. A cunning plan, a daring protagonist. Something exciting. Go out with a bang! Or make it go out with a whimper."

"That was the best non-advice I've ever been given." Alison rolled her eyes.

"Young lady, if I just gave you a magic bullet and said 'shoot this to kill the Pit Sloth', would that be a satisfying conclusion?" Sloth rolled his eyes in return. "It would at least take three trials or a good quest, and we don't have time for that nonsense."

"But what can we do?" Alice pressed.

"You tell me." Sloth waved towards the crowd. "You're the center of attention, here."

Alice and Robert turned, and saw the entirety of Site-87 staring at them. Director Weiss gave a nod in blessing towards them.

The two agents looked at each other. They turned back to look, but Sloth had closed the door. As it shut, it fell off of its precarious perch at the edge of the front step, and started tumbling back down into the pit.

"Well, Plastic People?" The Goatman gave them an expectant look, leaning on a birch and lighting his pipe.

Alison Carol and Robert Tofflemire thought long and hard. An idea was starting to form in the back of their minds.

"I think we've got something."

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