A/N: Welcome to NaNoWriMo 2010.
The upper floors of The Underground pulsed with music, motion, and light, but even so, Tara Callahan was aware of the new girl the instant she set foot in the store, eight floors below. She was aware of everyone in the club, which would have driven a lesser woman completely insane, but Tara was well used to it. In fact, normally she wouldn't have even paused at a new arrival. All floors of The Underground were more than adequately staffed. However, this newcomer was different—she was human.
Tara spun her way through the crowd, winding across the dance floor of the massive nightclub which occupied the ninth floor of The Underground. Near the edge, an arm wrapped around her waist, hand resting on her hip. Tara didn't even look up; she simply rested her hand atop her new partner's and continued going until she finally burst out into the lobby. The bouncers simply looked at her and her companion and nodded; they knew her. Her father owned the store, though Tara had been running it for ten years, ever since he had up and disappeared.
"What is it?" Grae asked, releasing Tara by withdrawing his hand.
She looked up at her friend and employee and nodded toward the elevators. "Newbie," she said. "First floor, human."
"Human?" Grae looked incredulous.
"What? I'm human. You're human. You shouldn't be so surprised."
"You can hardly be classified as human, strange as you are, and I was lucky to make it here. You know it's not exactly normal for people to turn up."
Tara sighed. "I know," she said. "But if anyone is going to turn up, you know it would be a human. Come on, let's go."
She summoned one of the elevators and pushed Grae into it, following him into the small chamber and pushing the button for the first floor. They were on the ground floor just moments later, emerging from the dimly lit elevator in the bright fluorescent lights of the music store which occupied The Underground's first two floors.
"You'll have to talk to Tara," she heard Lucy say from the front of the store. Lucy was human as well, but she had been born in Mydnyte, giving her strange abilities like those of Tara's; whereas Tara's abilities were all tied to The Underground, however, Lucy was capable of creating multiple doppelgangers. No doubt the girl herself was actually working the front counter while her duplicates managed the shelves on the second and third floors, along with a handful of other employees.
"I'm here," Tara said, ducking under the swinging part of the corner and coming up on the other side, where she turned to look at the new arrival.
She was of average height, Tara supposed, with hair of such a dull black that it had to be dyed, and raggedly cut. Her face and clothes were grimy and torn, her fingernails ripped, and there were bags under her eyes. She looked completely exhausted, which wasn't unusual. Turning up in Mydnyte wasn't exactly an easy experience, or so Tara heard.
"How can I help you?" Tara asked, leaning against the counter.
"I'm looking for my sister," the girl said. "I followed her here, but then I lost her, and I really need to find her again. Someone told me that you would be able to tell me where she was, as long as I came here? You're Tara Callahan, right?"
"I'm Tara," she agreed. "And of course I can help you find your sister, if she's been here for any significant any length of time."
"She should have been here for about a week," the girl said.
"That should be long enough." Tara looked below the counter and carefully selected one of the large, leather-bound books which lay there. She heaved it up onto the counter and flipped it open. "This is the Mydnyte census, or part of it," she explained. "This volume is for humans. I presume your sister is human, right?"
"Good. See, we don't update this ourselves; it updates itself. You were told to come here because The Underground is the only place that has a complete set of the books, since it's the safest place to keep them. Don't ask how it updates; you're not quite ready for that. Anyway, each species has a volume, and then it's organized by name and location; location up front, and name in the back. So, what's your sister's name?" Tara was already flipping through the book, fingers flying over the pages as she turned to the second half.
Tara's hands froze, and she slowly looked up at the girl. "Did you say Gillian DeMarco?"
"That," said Grae, from where he was leaning against one of the tall shelves full of vinyl records, "might be a problem."