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Young Volcanoes

Chapter Text

"It's a quiet winter evening in Kepler, West Virginia. There is little activity on the streets, save for a single snow plowing truck slowly driving down Main Street. Snow is gently drifting down from the cloudy sky above, the clouds tinted pink by the sunset, and the pine trees excitedly whisper with the wind. An owl hoots quietly, and a distant howl of a pack of coyotes floats through the air. There is silence, and calm. But, like most calm moments in Kepler, it doesn't last long.

"A flurry of dense snowflakes suddenly burst into the air from somewhere deep in the forest. The arch and dance in the air as they plunge towards a general store in the center of town. They stop suddenly, just as the wind picks up and the whisper of the trees turns into a loud conversation. A truck drives wildly through the streets, as chaos waits to strike like a coiled snake.

"The crash is heard across town. Three people in particular look up suddenly at the sound. One woman jumps, then pulls her blanket closer around her, making sure her shotgun is in sight. Another man, used to the strange noises and crazy events, shrugs and turns back to his laptop, trying to push away his fear. And a young woman stares sullenly from behind the front desk of the Kepler Ranger Center, wishing she were anywhere but at work, where the large crash, and the only sign of adventure, was too far away for her to do anything about.

"But there's something... strange in the night air after the event, something altered in the atmosphere while the emercency sirens start wailing towards Main Street. The trees silence when they seem to notice. Everything is in sharper detail, as the very ground beneath the small town seems to let out a sigh. The three sit up straighter as they subconciously notice it, with sudden hardened expressions and determined gazes.

"Even at the Amnesty Lodge, everyone looks outside for a moment. They note the shift with curiosity. The old woman sitting in her office grips her mug a bit tighter. They can all recognize this feeling- they've all felt it at some point, long ago.

"Suddenly, Kepler is fully awake, aware of the little things that usually snuck past its view. It knows the danger it's being faced with. It recognizes the threat approaching.

"Kepler is awake.

"And it's ready to fight like hell."

Chapter Text

Ranger Juno Devine loved mysteries.

As a kid, she had read every (admittedly abridged) Sherlock Holmes book in the public library, all the Hardy Boys and Boxcar Children books she could get her hands in, and every single Nancy Drew book published. (And the A to Z Mystery books, and Encyclopedia Brown, and- well, you get the point.) She was Nancy Drew for Halloween three years straight, and Sherlock Holmes for four years after that. Juno adored any kind of mystery, any unsolved cases, no matter how small. She was proud of how aware she could be- once, she went over to someone’s house to deliver part of a food train with her dad and she listed off all the things she learned about the family just from their house. (She was still pretty proud of that.)

That’s why she became a park ranger, really. Well, a law officer. She became a park ranger because she still liked to talk to people kindly, and she loved the outdoors. Police officers were always yelling at people. Juno didn’t like yelling. But she joined the law for the thrill of finding clues, interrogating suspects, connecting lines, and having the satisfaction of bringing in a criminal.

Which is why it pissed her off when 75 percent of her work time was spent behind a desk.

Juno knew she shouldn’t really be mad about it. This was her dream job! Anything that was helping out other people and moving her closer to the real mysteries was something she should be thankful for.

But it could be so boring, with no real action besides a few passers-by asking where to find the nearest trailhead or trying to find the Pizza Hut. She gave ranger talks, too, sometimes, and awarded Junior Ranger badges. That was fun enough, she supposed. But elementary-age kids who didn’t even know how to say Monongahela (which the Kepler school system would soon change, but still), much less care about it, weren’t very interesting.

So Juno found interest in everything- and anything- she could.

And interest came in the form of Duck Newton.

His name was the first thing that caught her attention. When he first introduced himself to her- what, about ten or twelve years back, when she was 15 and he was 17- she snickered at his name. She could tell he was trying not to smile as he replied, “Oh, it’s- uh, it’s a nickname.” -the now ever-present addition to his common introductions- “Duck Newton- it’s a nickname.” Duck was such a strange nickname for someone, especially someone as seemingly normal as Duck Newton. Then again, Juno was named after a Roman god because her parents were mythology nuts, so who was she to judge? Everyone in this town seemed to have a weird anime protagonist-esque name. It added to the mystique of it all.

His name wasn’t the only weird thing about him. Juno filled notebook pages about Duck very quickly, at least once she started working with him. Most were rules- don’t touch Duck’s copy of the Monongahela Post since he usually had a page marked, never ask what Duck is listening to, but always let him know if he’s subconsciously humming along, ‘cause that’s just plain embarrassing’, if there’s a paper open on the desk that looks anywhere near important, don’t bother it because it’s probably Duck’s water bills or something, and “stop asking so many damn questions, Juno” meant back off before Duck spits a worse compilation of curses out. There were other small nuances to Duck’s character that Juno picked up on, now that she saw him basically every day- he was always a bit worried about her, especially when she was heading home at night, he always looked over his shoulder before walking off the trailhead or into deeper woods, he couldn’t lie for shit, and he closed off quickly and often. Focusing on the latter- Duck never talked about his past. Never talked about when was in high school (even though she kind of knew him back then), never really talked about his family, never explained exactly where he was from (though it was pretty obvious that he was a Kepler native to Juno- no outsider could know the woods like Duck did). And if you addressed anything remotely near that topic around Duck, even in the middle of a lively conversation, he’d start going “uh hunh, yep” and disconnect from the conversation until the topic faded and he could introduce something different.

There was also the time Duck pulled her out of a gondola just before it crashed.

That was a mystery in itself.

One thing was for sure- to Juno, Duck Newton was a curiosity. A glitch, an Easter egg in this never-changing town. He was a case to crack, a collection of clues just waiting to be connected.
And Duck Newton was a case that Juno was determined to solve, no matter what.

Which was part of why she was sitting in the passenger seat of the official Park Ranger pickup truck with Duck at the wheel (another quickly-learned Duck rule- Duck always drives unless he doesn’t want to drive, which was an almost nonexistent occurrence) a few days before Christmas examining a call about a trash can fire.

“Soooo... where exactly are we headed, Duck?” Juno asked in an attempt to break the silence.

“You mean, where am I headed that you decided to tag along to without asking me,” he corrected, giving her a side glance.

“Yeah, that.”

Duck sighed. “Lot 5. Someone’s got a trash can fire started, and I’m pretty sure I know who it is.”

Juno whipped out her notebook. “You do? What have we got so far?”

Duck looked over at her, then did a double take upon seeing she had grabbed the notebook so quickly. “For Pete’s sake, put down the notebook, kid. There isn’t... like, a pop quiz later.”

“Right, right. Sorry,” Juno replied, slowly putting the notebook away. “And I’m not a kid,” she muttered under her breath, crossing her arms.

Duck chuckled. “Nothing to be sorry ‘bout, kid. Just, uh, don’t go all Sherlock on me, ‘kay? It ain’t that big of a deal.”

Juno resisted the urge to take out her notebook and write that last sentence down and nodded. “‘Kay.”

“Glad we had this chat,” he joked dryly, glancing at Juno and clearing his throat when she didn’t respond. “Anyway, uh... we’re here.”

Duck pulled into the trailer park by an RV and, lo and behold, a trash can fire, dying out now, but obviously still blazing. Duck sighed, then got out of the car. Juno followed suit, a little less confidently and avoiding the fire as much as she could, and grabbed her notebook and a pen.

“I knew it...” Duck muttered, crossing his arms as he surveyed the scene.

“Knew what?” Juno probed, pen at the ready. Duck looked at her notebook disapprovingly, but said, “This isn’t the first run-in I’ve had with this particular... resident, I ‘spose. She- well, I should probably mostly handle this one, Juno.”

“M’kay,” Juno replied, trying not to sound too dejected.

“Just, survey the scene, why don’tcha?”

Juno perked up a little bit. “Sure!”

She leaned on the truck as she started jotting notes down in her notebook, recording things as she saw them. “Hm... quickly dropped poker, erratically dragged trash can, broken match and match box on the ground... they were panicked, you can tell.” She raised her voice at the last part, addressing Duck. He nodded absentmindedly.

“Yeah... yeah, that ain’t too surprising, honestly. Pretty- pretty typical...” Duck knocked on the door to the RV.

“Hey, Pigeon?” No answer. Duck sighed. “Pigeon, its Duck. Ranger for the Monongahela National Forest? 'Member that?”

Juno tilted her head. Pigeon... a pet name? How well did Duck know this person?

The door opened. “Shit- h-hi Duck. Sorry about- the, uh-“

”Yeah, you better have a damn good explanation, Wilson.”

Wilson- was that their real name? Juno wasn’t quite following. She slowly pushed herself off the truck and began to walk forward.

“Yeah, so, you remember how I helped you with... the, uh...” Their voice lowered. Juno approached slightly quicker. “The... the thing with the water? And all that?”

“Yeah, thanks for that again.”

“No problem. So... uh, I kinda spooked myself? Thought I saw ‘nother...’nother hell-bear or water spirit or whatever, and-“

Juno could see the woman in full now. She had long auburn hair, pulled back in a low ponytail. She was wearing a white tank top, with a worn, dark blue flannel and yoga pants. She had on white converse and patterned socks, a cartoon owl peeking out over one flap of the shoe. A beanie was haphazardly pulled over her head, maybe just a moment before.

“Oh. Hi, uh, hi there,” she greeted. Juno’s eyes widened. She froze as Duck slowly tuned around to see her.

“Hiii,” she returned meekly.

“Juno, I told you to let me handle this,” Duck chided.

“Yeah, I know, but uh... I-I didn’t. Do that. So... Sorry, don’t think we’ve met, Wilson, was it?” Juno added quickly, desperate to change the subject.

The woman raised an eyebrow at Duck. “Does she...?”

“N-no. Uh, no.”

“Ah.” The woman walked out of the RV, looking around the suite before stepping outside. “I take it you’re Juno?”

“Yep! Ranger Juno Devine, at your service, ma’am,” Juno replied, tipping her wide-brimmed hat and giving her her most charming, people-friendly grin.

“The kid follows me around everywhere. More of a Junior Ranger, if we’re honest.” Duck smiled at her to let her know he was just joking.

“Intermediate,” Juno corrected, grinning back.

The woman chuckled. “A pleasure, I’m sure.” She stuck out her hand.

“I’m Pigeon Wilson. And somethin’ tells me we’ll be seeing each other around soon enough.”

Chapter Text

Pigeon Wilson wasn’t a stranger to the weird.

Her parents adored cryptozoology- they loved nature in general, but they were crazy about Bigfoot and all that shit. They had a blog, when their internet actually worked, about the possible cryptozoological findings. She had to admit, it was pretty solid. Bigfoot was like Santa for the Wilson family. The Goat Man was like the Tooth Fairy, and Mothman was like a winged Rudolph- but like, he could kill you. They were myths, but tangible ones, just out of reach. Which made it all the more crushing when, at the tender age of 12, her parents revealed that it was actually pretty unlikely that any cryptid they’d ever heard of was actually real.

Pigeon cried for a few hours.

Her older twin brother and sister shrugged and told her to get over it, and her little brothers asked why she was crying (then lost interest in ten minutes, but still, it was sweet).
She never took anything at face value anymore. Her upbringing taught her to always look over her shoulder, to never believe what you hear- especially about Bigfoot.

Juno Devine reminded her of the absolute opposite of those lessons. She had a round, childish face, with grey eyes that sparkled when she smiled and freckles dotted across the bridge of her nose. Her jacket was a bit long for her- the sleeves covered her hand up to her thumb. She was optimistic and energetic, with a carelessness to her that Pigeon had once seen in herself. She was sure Juno still believed in Bigfoot and Santa Claus.

“So... the fire?”

“Oh, right, right,” Pigeon looked back at Duck, apologetically almost. “I’ll put it out. Right now. And it won’t happen again, Duck.”

Duck sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Pigeon, I’ve run into you doin’ this two times now-“

“And that’s gonna be it! I’m a changed gal, Duck. From this moment on, you won’t hear or see me anywhere near any trash can fire again!”

Duck gave her a dubious glance. “I don’t wanna, but I can’t just let this go again without writing you up-“

“Duck, please, come on, we’re pals! I-I can’t...” Pigeon ran a hand through her hair. “I... I can’t have anything on my record.”

Duck silently considered this for a second. “A few months ago, you almost shot me, so...”

“That- okay, I’ll admit to that, but-!”

“If I may, actually...” Duck and Pigeon looked over at Juno. She visibly squirmed. “You, uh, you mentioned Pige- er, uh, Ms. Wilson... helped you a bit back, Duck?”

He blinked. “I, uh, I guess? Juno, what are you-“

“Sooo, if you don’t want to write her up, and she doesn’t want to be written up,” Juno pointed her pencil at each person as she mentioned them, “then, in theory, you could let this slide just this once, and call it your ‘pay-back’ for whatever Ms. Wilson helped you with?”

“You-“ Duck started, but then stopped himself. He raised an eyebrow at Pigeon, who shrugged and gave a thumbs up and a hopeful smile, hoping that he’d agree.

Duck sighed, then conceded, “Okay, okay, I’ll let you off this time.” Pigeon pumped her fist. “But this is the LAST TIME, Wilson.”

“Oh, thank you, God. Duck, I can’t stress enough-“

Duck waved his hand. “Don’t start thanking me, that was Juno’s idea. And stop bein’ so melodramatic, this ain’t life or death.”

Pigeon grabbed Juno’s hand and shook it rapidly. “Thank you so, so much, Juno.”

“Oh, it’s, uh, it’s nothing,” Juno replied quietly, blushing a bit and pushing a strand of hair behind her ear.

“You just saved me... maybe my job? Definitely my head. My parents woulda killed me if I had anything on my record.”

“It was a trash can fire-!” Duck exclaimed before being cut off by Pigeon again.

“Just... thank you all, so much.”

“Actually put out the fire, Wilson, and we’ll go from there.”

“Oh, oh yeah. Right, yeah. Sorry.” Pigeon rushed back into her RV and grabbed a fire extinguisher.

As she walked back towards the fire, Juno took up a step beside her.

“So, you know Duck.”

“Obviously,” Pigeon chuckled, slowly approaching the fire.

“For how long?”

“Like, a few months? I don‘t know exact.”

Juno scribbled something down. “What did you help him with a while ago?”

“I- sorry?”

“What you helped him with? The...” Juno flipped back a page and put her pen on a line, “the ‘thing with the water?’”

Pigeon looked over at Duck. He was glaring at her. He gave a small shake of his head, his burning gaze telling her to keep her mouth shut. Juno didn’t know.

“I- what is this, an interrogation? Just help me put this out,” Pigeon shot back, badly aiming the fire extinguisher at the fire. Juno sighed, and fixed her aim as she sprayed the trash can.

“T-thanks,” Pigeon replied sheepishly. She wasn’t exactly known for her aim. Or athletic ability in general, really.

“No worries,” Juno replied airily, handing Pigeon the fire extinguisher when she was done.

Duck looked over at Juno. “Well, we better head out. Didn't know I'd have to take Juno back, since she tagged along unnoticed.”

Juno chuckled awkwardly. “Yeah, let’s.”

“Pleasure seein’ you again, Wilson. No more, uh, no more trash can fires, alright?” Duck reminded as he backtracked towards the truck.

“No more trash can fires,” Pigeon replied with an innocent grin.

“Sure,” Duck sighed, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s like, the second time, and you think I’ll do it again, but-“

Duck wasn’t looking at her. His eyes were focused on something behind her. “Just, uh... Be careful, Pigeon.”

Pigeon blinked. “Uh, y-yeah. Yeah, I’ll try that.”

“You know, standard stuff.” Duck looked over at Juno, who was slowly flipping through her notebook as she walked back to the truck. “Lock your doors, keep a shotgun loaded, close your blinds-“

“Duck, you’re scarin’ me.” Pigeon started fiddling with the hem of her flannel.

“Don’t- just be safe.”

Pigeon blinked then nodded. “O-okay. Okay. Alright, yeah. I’ll do that.”

“‘Night, Pigeon.”

“‘Night,” she replied faintly.

“Juno,” Duck called as he walked towards her. “Wanna head down to the Cryptonomica, since you’ve already tagged along this far?”

“The where?” Juno called back.

“The CRYP-TO-NO-MI-CA.” No response. Duck sighed. “Saturday Night Dead?”

“Oh. OH! Yeah, sure!”

“Great. Later, Wilson.”

“Bye!” Pigeon replied, trying and failing to take the anxiety out of her voice.

As the truck pulled out, she walked into her trailer and locked the door.

“Just another weird-ass day,” she muttered, pulling the blinds down and settling herself on the couch to turn on the TV.

And then someone banged on her door.

Chapter Text

Kirby Dameron just wanted to write his goddamn newspaper.

That was literally it. Give Kirby a computer, RC Cola, reliant wi-fi, and a story people wanted to read, and he was set for the rest of his life.

Nothing kept him in Kepler. Nothing kept him from the rest of the world, either. Kirby had gone to college up in New York, but he came back. For no reason, really, he just wanted to come back. He felt the calling... or something like that.

He had no ties to this nothing of a town, none at all.

Yet, Kirby stayed.

The Cryptonomica gave him a good basecamp. It was easy to operate out of, it had semi-reliable wi-fi, and he could basically cheat the vending machine out of any of the stocked drinks he wanted, thanks to a trick Ned had taught him.

It met everything on Kirby’s four-item-long list of requirements.

Ned was... an interesting coworker. He was aggravating, to say the least. A year of working with him, and nothing had changed, nothing had gotten any more familiar. Well, that wasn’t fully true. There was a loose schedule Kirby had laid out for himself, because that was how Kirby worked. Most days were mostly writing days. First Wednesday of the month, the Lamplighters was printed and Kirby drove to various coffee shops that held the magazine and delivered 50 copies each, 15 extra if they asked (which they never did, but the offer was always there), and picked up any other profit from sales that had been made. Saturday Night Dead preparations started Friday afternoon after lunch. A schedule was made, then a script was written. Saturday morning starting at around nine, Kirby took up the front desk as Ned practiced in the back room, occasionally popping his head out to ask Kirby how he sounded. Then, Saturday night at 4:45, they filmed the program. Live. Kirby’s night until about eleven was taken up by recording, editing, and inserting commercial breaks. And then Sundays were half-dragging himself to church (because his old habits died hard, despite Ned and a few more of his peers insisting that God didn’t exist, the church was corrupt, et cetera, et cetera), half writing.

Ned did whatever the hell he wanted, honestly.

Today was a Saturday, and Kirby’s internal calendar reminded him that Saturday Night Dead was getting broadcast in about 45 minutes. Kirby was perched on the counter, “watching for customers” as Ned unnecessarily practiced for the broadcast. In all honesty, Kirby was just editing his articles, while also occasionally switching tabs to YouTube when he got bored (which, today at least, was a lot).

He only had one earbud in, per Ned’s request. (“you’re a target for robbery if your earbuds are fully in!” Kirby always shot back that Ned wasn't his dad, but did as he said anyway.) When, surprisingly, on a Saturday near Christmas, the all-too-familiar bell on the door rang.

Kirby looked up in surprise, wondering who in their right mind would come to the Cryptonomica today, of all days-

“Uh, evenin’ Kirby,” Duck Newton greeted, nodding good-naturedly at him.

“Oh. Hey, Ranger Newton,” Kirby replied, stopping his Shane Dawson video and taking out his earbud. “How’s everything goin’?”

“Please, just call me Duck. And alright, I guess. Is, uh, is Ned... here?”

“Oh- oh yeah. Yeah, I’ll just,” Kirby let out a sigh as he heaved himself off the counter, “go get him now-“

Kirby stopped as he saw an almost familiar dark-haired, freckle-faced figure standing behind Duck.

“Who, uh, who’s this?” He asked, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

The woman behind Duck narrowed her eyes. “I’m Juno Devine. And you are?”

Kirby snickered (Devine. Christ.) and replied, “Kirby Dameron.”

“A pleasure, I’m sure,” Juno muttered, crossing her arms.

Duck glanced between the two of them, trying to pinpoint what was going on. “Do, uh, do y’all know each other?”

“No,” They responded in union, sending glares at each other.

“...okay. I’ll just go and, uh, talk to Ned real quick. You all just... yeah.” Duck walked back into the back room, looking at Kirby for permission to enter. He nodded, and Duck strode out of the room.

Kirby turned to Juno, whose eyes were trained downward. “What are you doing here?”

“I came with Duck. When he mentioned the Cryp-to-what-the-shit, I couldn’t not come, y’know? We haven’t talked in ages, so I don’t see-“

“I thought I told you to stay out of my way.”

Juno laughed in disbelief. “Unbelievable. I come with all good intentions to talk to you, even though you’re still hung up on your dumb tabloid, since you’re-“

“The Lamplighter isn’t a tabloid! It’s reliable- I get tips every day, some of them found myself! If you could maybe read it once-“

“I have read it! And it’s all just bullshit, Kirby! Yet you insist arguing with me because you broke off from every opportunity you had to write your- your Buzzfeed articles-“

“They’re not-!!”

“And you’re here! Kirb, I thought you were gonna get out, that you’d be long gone, and your stubborn ass is still here, arguing with me.”

“You sound like a mother. I’m older than you, and I’ll do what I want.” He crossed his arms and turned his head upwards. “Kirby Dameron can go where he pleases. Nothin’ ties him anywhere.”

Juno gaped at him. “Not even-“

“Nothing.” Kirby repeated, sending her a glare.

A flash of hurt crossed her face and she glared at the ground. “I- fine. Throw away everything. See if I care.”

Duck and Ned’s voices drew closer.

“Nice seeing you again, Kirbs,” she muttered quietly, turning to Duck as he entered.

Ned saw Juno and boomed, “My, Duck, I didn’t know it was take your kid to work day!”

Juno scoffed. Duck laughed, smiling at Juno, who didn’t respond.

“Yeah, Juno decided to tag along to see the broadcast. remember Juno Devine, from the, uh, funicular incident?”

“Ah, that’s right! Ned Chicane, pleasure to formally meet you,” he replied, grabbing Juno’s hand and shaking it enthusiastically.

“Um.” Juno shot a confused glance at Kirby.

“Anyway, Ned, the broadcast?” Kirby interjected.

“Oh, of course! Duck, Juno, if you’ll follow me...” The two followed Ned into the main hall of the Cryptonomica, where Kirby had been setting up cameras and lights and microphones all day.

Kirby was about to join them when his cell phone rang.

It took him a second to realize- his cell phone rang.

His cell phone never rang. Usually due to Quiet Zone, lack of service, and no one who thought he was worth calling. His parents communicated by email, and he saw the rest of his friends (a term he used lightly) at least twice a week, so why was his cell phone ringing?

He picked it up.

“Hello, is this Kirby?” A high voice said on the other side of the line.

“I, uh- yeah, but how the hell did you-?”

“Not much time, Kirbs~! May I speak to Duck Newton?”

“What the- Yeah, okay?” Kirby started walking upstairs and yelled up, “Duck, there’s a call for you?”

A few seconds later, Duck came flying down the stairs. “Shi- Thanks, Kirby. Indred, what the hell?” He muttered when he took the phone. The voice on the other end- Indred?- said something, and Duck’s eyes widened. “Shit. How much time?” Indred responded. “Thanks, Indred. Juno, stay here , I’ve gotta go-“ He was out the door before he could finish his sentence.

“What,” Kirby muttered, walking upstairs. Juno almost ran into him coming down the stairs.

“Kirby, I need to-“


Juno looked him in the eye. “I gotta go figure out what’s going on.”

“No, Juno! You can’t go throw yourself into-“

“Dammit, I knew you’d do this. Kirby, move-“

“Juno! Are you insane?! You can’t just-“

“Oh, Kirby?” Indred was still on the phone.

Kirby shared an intrigued glance with Juno. “Yeah, that’s me.”

“Good. I wouldn’t let Juno go, if I were you.”

“Wasn’t planning on it.” He replied, giving Juno a pointed look. She groaned.

“Why not, Mr. Weird-Phone-Voice?”

“Call me Indred, darling~.”

Juno rolled her eyes. “Fine, Indred. Why can’t I go help my- well, I guess friend, but-“

“Because you’d definitely die. Now move out of the way, dears, Ned’s coming through.”