This the final mission of Jess's campaign.

We heed O'Connor's request to check on Shine Theater.

It seems quiet outside the theater, and I can sense several minds inside, including Beauregard. I check the minds of those around him, and they seem hostile towards him.

Alright, time to make a mess. Jack McCoy teleports in and unleashes an electrical attack on Beauregard's attackers. Shroud, Michael Schroeder and I follow him in.

Beauregard goes down, but we manage to subdue the attackers, and Michael ties them up.

Interesting, they all have tattoos with a different number from 12 to 19. Shroud puts all but number 12 in his prison, and we decide to see what number 12 knows.

Beauregard recovers quickly, and he's thankful for our appearance. It looks like they had managed to chain him up, but he had broken free.

Apparently the Praetor took in recruiting him rather aggressively. He didn't take kindly to that. Anyway, he managed to get a key off of #12 (which looked to be their most senior member among them), which Shroud examines. The key is archaic looking, and seems to have several distinct layers of magic on it, keyed to something specific.

Just then, an explosion rocks the area. Another EMP, but this one is close. We feel a bit strangely frustrated, and we're not sure why.

Michael's drone zips off, suddenly intent on the rioters outside. Michael goes and retrieves it.

It looks like the explosion was centralized at the Ace of Spades.


We need to get ahead of this. The Praetor promised to go after our allies, so we need to move quickly.

Shroud will go to the diner, and contact Mr. Gray. Jack will find Natalia O'Connor. I'll check out the explosion, and make sure Carlon is doing okay. And Michael will, uh, find out what is wrong with his drone.

The diner itself is deserted when Shroud arrives, except the waitress who is hiding under a table. Shroud asks her to call Mr. Gray, but she fearfully says she can't, not since the rioter's cut the phone line.

So Shroud goes outside, where the rioters are.

Shroud asks them to please behave, but they don't mind him. Or they do, but only because their only interest seems to be in senseless violence.

Shroud looks around, and following the phone lines, manages to find where the rioter's cut it. By this point the rioters are getting quite unruly, so Shroud deals with them.

Silence reigns again. Every rioter within a thousand feet has been knocked out cold.

Freed of the distraction, Shroud constructs a replacement for the telephone wiring junction. High Voltage warnings seem to be customary, or so he thinks, so he makes sure to add one of those too.

Shroud returns to the waitress, and asks her to contact Mr. Gray again. Oh, also what is this Hot Chocolate? It sounds good, one of those too please.

She gets a hold of Mr. Gray, and offers Shroud the phone, which is a little awkward through Shroud's illusion.

Still, good news. Mr. Gray will gather the rest of the Coterie, and meet him at the Lustracio estate.

Jack goes to find Natalia O'Connor, at her brother's apartment.

Just as he arrives, a man is thrown out the window, and the sound of gun fire from within the building.

Jack runs in and sees several thugs, which Jack immediately knocks cold and staggers another.

O'Connor is pointedly not surprised to see Jack.

Jack knocks the other two out, wondering why.

Oh, no reason, she reveals. Other than she can see danger coming. And Jack is Dangerous.

Jack has a confession. He has superpowers. No problem, so does she. Aside from sensing danger, which gives her a headache, she can also sense portals. It turned into a bit of an obsession for a while.

Jack suggests they go to the Lustracio manor. She wonders how they'll get there.

Oh. Portals. Right.

I go to see about the bar, and see if Carlon is doing okay.

It's a mess. A huge hole leads into the interior, and there's a faint red light. I can sense one mind inside, but it's not him.

It's a woman, in a man's suit in a tophat. Her nails are colored bright red, and on her finger is a glowing ruby ring.

I communicate telepathically with her, without revealing where I am. It turns out she is looking for Carlon too, and is really uncertain who or what I am. It also turns out, she has no idea what happened here either.

Finally, I ask her if she wants to speak with Lux. Coincidentally, that was why she was here, but she knows the name Lucifer. Tell her it's Caine.

I tell her I will return, and I do, after telling Lux. Lux was surprised, but agreed she should be invited over.

We've gathering quite a motley crew.

O'Connor and Beauregard are in the infirmary, as is O'Connor's brother.

Caine slaps Lux in the face, and Lux flinches. Lux doesn't respond at all, other than to say, "Hello, Miss Wizard."

To the rest of us, Caine nods.

A few minutes later, Mr. Gray arrives, along with a casually dressed man with sandy colored hair we've never seen. Apparently Diamond and Wolfe aren't coming, as Diamond is dead and Wolfe is missing.

Shroud seems oddly concerned, and a bit paranoid. He constructs a ritual, to get to the truth of things. He turns to each of us, asking if we're sympathetic to the Praetor. No. No. No.

But then he gets to Mr. Gray, and Mr. Gray stares coldly at him, before raising a hand to Warp's head, saying "Well, I guess I do."

Jack is fast, and stuns Mr. Gray, preventing Warp's death. Shroud doesn't smile, and simply opens a portal to put Mr. Gray is prison.

Shroud interrogates Mr. Gray. His mind is clean. He's a true follower. He claims he knows where the Praetor is, but won't tell Shroud. He'll talk to me, but I decline to talk with him.

Shroud tests everyone else, and noone else indicates any sympathy to the Praetor.

Warp is clueless to Mr. Gray's duplicity, and is just as surprised as the rest of us. Miss Caine is here to call in a favor. Protection.

Jack goes and retrieves a few more allies.

Sara Rivers. She's happy to do a little more than simply fight rioters.

Carl Landers. He doesn't want to fight, but he's willing to summon Sir Knight of Wonderland.

Shroud checks on some of his other prisoners. Pentacle, who has been long an inhabitant of Shroud's prison, doesn't know anything useful.

Thug #12 can't talk but he knows what the key he was carrying was for. It was for returning the magician. It goes with a lock, in the Ladies of Grace asylum. The Praetor is gathering those to serve him.

I ask Lux about the asylum, and she mentions that was one of Elias Quinn's projects, who funded. Yes, that is Quinn's father (who we know as the Sandman, but Lux just calls him Quinn).

Mr. Hogarth speaks up. He started working there after it reopened. It was closed because of a massacre.

He pulls me aside. Lux's father funded it too, and the renovations ended the same year he died. And at the same time he died, his butler also went missing. Caleb Morel was his name.

And one other thing. When we confront the Praetor, Lux wants to coming along, as she feels responsible for events that transpired.

I promise to him we will make she is among us. She led us this far.

I wonder she she feels responsible though, and he tells me that she thinks Elias created the Praetor, in response to his dead son. He and Matthew didn't get along, though.

We bring everything.

The magic key, the butterfly pin, the black vial of poison, the space lizard, a ghost lantern, a small black box which Lux gives to Michael. Even Jack's alien toy.

We also bring everyone who is willing.

Warp, Miss Caine, Lux, Ressy, O'Connor, Sara Rivers, Beauregard, Sir Knight. And ourselves, of course.

We go to the basement of the asylum. It's creep as the last time we were here.

Key in hand, Shroud enters the room where we first met the Dutchman.

The wall changes, and the outline of a keyhole appears, with a message saying "Down the Rabbit Hole" written in pink chalk. I swear I can even faintly here the sound of carnival music.

Shroud puts the key into the outline, and the wall dissolves into dust, revealing a corridor leading down. Just inside, is the remains of a corpse in a fine suit.

A corpse? Lux thinks we should check the back pocket.

Shroud carefully turns the body to get at the pocket, and pulls the remains of a rabbit foot out of it.

Lux is satisfied. This is the body of her father's butler. She gave him the rabbit's foot not long before he went missing.

Shroud performs a quick ritual, and restores the body to life, and the flesh of the body swells and fills out. The body twitches, and Caleb Morel's eyes snap open.

He looks at us, and asks us to call him Mr. Dutch. That's what they call him here.

We soon find out that Dr. Elias Quinn killed him because he caught him poisoning Mr. Lustacio's tea.

He'll help us with the Praetor.

He'd like some bunny ears though. Shroud is nothing but willing to provide.

The tunnel is long, and twists gently down for a while, before making a sudden u-turn. A few bends later, and the ground becomes slick, and just a little more, and the tunnel stops at a large wooden door.

We go through it.

The creature we know as the generalganger stands waiting. Two glassy eyed preteens stand at his side.

He snarls, "Die fools," and attacks.

We strike back. Warp is on the defensive, and Sara Rivers and Sir Knight perform especially admirably.

We take him down, and he collapses and reveals a large hole, which leads straight down.

Into darkness.

Shroud makes a platform, and we slowly lower down into the hole.

The hole gets brighter, and warmer, and we can see the dancing glinting of light of fires from below.

Shroud makes a dome to protect everyone, Michael activates his force field. Miss Caine and Beauregard coat the dome with frost, to lessen the heat.

We continue going down, and suddenly we hit a stop.

Michael removes some of the bottom of Shroud's platform to reveal a trapdoor.

We go through it.

The room below the trapdoor is large, and as in the last room, there are several glassy eyed teenagers. Joshua Wolfe, Diamond, and Salem are also here, but something is wrong with them.

Miss Caine curses.

They attack, and Diamond switches minds with Jack, and Jack is now in her dead body. I grapple with Diamond's mind, but I'm not able to help Jack out.

Ressy and Beauregard attempt to deal with Wolfe, but then Jack and Beauregard end up switching as well. Jack, not knowing a single magic spell, uses Beauregard's staff as a bludgeoning weapon against Diamond (who is still in his body) to great effect, by causing the runes in the staff to flair up. Somehow in the fray Miss Caine is knocked unconscious.

In the distance, we hear the faint sound of a merry go round. Mr. Dutch is working something, and Jack and Beauregard return to their original bodies.

Jack and I finish finish Salem and Wolfe off.

Shroud tries to remove the Praetor's control, but before he can make any progress, the floor vanishes, and must instead quickly make a platform to prevent most of the party from falling.

Michael uses his suit's strength to hold the platform up, so Shroud can back to work.

Shroud manages to get Salem and Diamond back up, and Wolfe wakes up on his own. They're free again, it seems.

We go down again, 500 feet, through an enormous ring of fire.

At the bottom, is another door, but this one is outlined in chalk.

There's a handprint in the wall, which Lux recognizes from our description immediately.

Mathew Quinn. The Sandman. He saw this in his visions.

He asked her to stop him. To stop this.

But she failed, she tells us.

Lux puts her hand on the chalk hand, and the door appears in the wall and swings open, revealing a wide cavern. Every corner of the cavern is covered with iron needles. Some are only an inch long, and some are eight feet long.

At the center of the room is Neal Carlon, shackled and hanging in mid-air.

A mocking applause echos.

"Well done, Lu."

There's a flash of darkness and a shape materializes near Neal Carlon, floating in the air.

Matthew Quinn. The Sandman.

He looks at Carlon. "Look at our guests, why don't you." Carlon is only able to respond in screams, and the metal in the room levitates and points at us threateningly.

Lux hands the lantern, with the space lizard to Jack. "Shield yourselves," she says, and she steps into the room.

Jack has other ideas, and takes the butterfly pin from his pocket, and teleports in a lightning bolt next to Carlon. He activates the butterfly pin, and grabs on to him.

All the metal room clatters to the ground. Matthew Quinn blurs and appears outside of the radius around Carlon. He cackles, "Nice try."

Matthew Quinn reaches Lux, and wraps his hands around her neck, to choke her.

Shroud creates a thick wall between us and the room. On the other side, at the center of the room, Jack turns to Carlon and says "This is gonna be bitchin." Carlon nods weakly.

Lux picks a needle up from the floor and stabs herself with it. Her eyes go red and the room fills with unholy fire. Shroud's wall glows hot, and Jack and Carlon although protected from the fire itself by the butterfly pin, are pelted with waves of heat.

Shroud's walls disintegrate just as the fire clears from the room. All the metal in the room has turned to slag, and Lux is on the ground. It isn't clear if she is still alive.

In fact, it isn't clear if the Sandman is alive either. To Shroud, he feels like ash.

Jack tucks the pin in Carlon's sock, and drops the ground, and runs out of the radius of it.

The Sandman counters Michael and Warp's shields, and starts walking towards us.

We do an all out assault on him, without any success. He retaliates, nearly instantaneously wounding several of our number, causing some of them to go down completely.

Shroud blasts the Sandman backward several hundred feet, into the radius of the pin, and the Sandman's body disintegrates into ash. From the ash a white smoke flows out, and heads towards the very back of the room.

Shroud grabs the lantern (with lizard still attached) from Jack, and floats after the smoke with it.

At the very back, the smoke reaches a desiccated corpse. The very bedrock here pulses with phosphorus.

Shroud holds the lantern out to the corpse, and the space lizard steps off of it and licks the body. The magic white smoke emerges from the body, and enters the body.

As if sensing that its purpose is now served, the room shakes, as if threatening to collapse.

We collect everyone, including Carlon and leave. Michael notices a bracelet on the corpse, and grabs it too.

We've returned to Lux's manor, and Lux seems to be doing better. Michael gives her the bracelet, and she feels it. It's Elias Quinn's. The corpses was his.

What the Sandman saw was his father become the very twisted essence of the city of South Haven, after he had sabotaged his own experiment.

Mr. Hogarth speaks to each of us in turn. Lux has several things for us, things that she has recognized that we each need.

He tells Jack to check the hanger. There he will find a wooden boat as well as papers securing his legitimacy to his throne. It's a very high tech boat.

Shroud's galactic record has been wiped. Captain X helped with that.

For Michael, the house, along with all its inventions.

Finally, he turns to me, and tells me there is a book waiting for me on the dining room table. It's for me.

Sure enough, the book is waiting for me. I touch it.

I'm at home. I must have dozed off.

I look outside, and see that my son is home from school already, and is playing.

From the other room my wife must have heard me yawn. She peaks into the room, and asks how my story is coming along.

Ah yes, my editor has been bothering me about it. I should probably go into to town to see her about it tomorrow.

I turn and look. Next to my typewriter is the manuscript, neatly typed, with the title page on top. The title is one word.