Chapter 1: Striders Don’t Cry
Dirk ==> Cry like a fucking baby
No thanks. You’re DIRK STRIDER and you don’t cry like a fucking baby. But you will silently mourn your partner’s loss from afar. They had to have a daytime ceremony in the middle of a blessed holy park, the pricks. You were her best friend, and you thought they’d have a little sensitivity to your condition but apparently not.
And so your best friend and only partner ROXY LALONDE is being laid to rest in a little pixie grave with all the other sad little pixies in some hallowed park beneath the bright shining sun. Probably next to a waterfall and a rainbow or something gaudy as hell like that.
Meanwhile, you’re stuck inside, staring at a picture of your last night out on the town together while you silently mourn her loss on your own. In the picture, Roxy’s wearing her favorite purple and black striped scarf (the one you got her years ago.) She’s grinning like an idiot and she’s got you in a less-than-ironic chokehold in one arm while she takes the picture with the other. She even pulled out her spunky little purple fairy wings for the pic.
That’s right. Roxy was a fairy. You’re really surprised that you didn’t figure it out sooner. Two years you worked together before you finally figured it out. Then again, she was damned good at hiding it. Roxy had learned to change her size at will, a handy skill on more than one occasion.
She was spunky, she was sexy, and you loved her. But now she’s gone, and tonight you’ll have another partner to deal with. You’re not sure you’re ready for that yet, but you’re a Strider. You won’t spout cliché nonsense about how you feel hopeless or like your heart’s been ripped out. You’ll do what you have to do, and nobody will ever know how much her death hurts you inside. You’ll work like a pro and kick those demon’s asses back to Derse where they came from.
But that’s tonight. For now, you’ve got a whole day to cry like a fucking baby.
Dirk ==> Go to work
You arrive at the back-alley bar/lounge a good three hours after sunset. That’s three hours late, but you just can’t bring yourself to care tonight. Of course, one specific motherfucker does care.
That motherfucker happens to be your older brother. He’s standing beneath the black awning with his arms folded across his chest, leaning back on the brick beside the glass door like he owns the place. Well, technically, he does.
“Sup little bro? ‘Bout time you showed up tonight,” he drawls, grabbing you by the arm when you’re close enough and pulling you inside. He’s wearing his favorite orange hat, the collar of his white shirt popped for ultra douchiness.
He quickly ushers you through the bar, steering you around tables where patrons are lounging at high-top tables and shooting pool in the corner. Everywhere you lay your eyes, your co-workers are all giving you pitying looks. Latula’s eyes follow you from behind the bar, looking like she wants to pull you into a tight hug, but she wouldn’t dare get in Bro’s way. Not when he’s on a mission. Porrim actually does reach out and pat your shoulder sympathetically when you walk past a table she’s serving. Kankri looks like he wants to say something to you, but thankfully Bro continues to push you along.
You wonder why your co-workers are acting this way. At first you think it’s because they know it must suck to have Bro as your bro. But then you remember Roxy. You swallow away the lump in your throat.
Bro ushers you through the lounge, where the usual patrons are already gathered in cozy groups of couches, sipping whatever cocktails Latula made for them. You catch one of them making a disgusted looking face after taking a sip. Kankri must have made that one.
Once you’re past the lounge, you make your way past a wooden door labeled “employees only” and hit a nondescript hallway in the back, passing by tiny office rooms where your less social co-workers sit working mostly in silence. Even Karkat’s eyebrows twinge a bit in pity as you pass by his office.
At the end of the hallway is the largest office. Bro pushes you in.
“Have a seat,” he says, letting you go once you’re inside. He shuts the door ominously behind you.
You sit on his worn-in brown suede couch, and you quickly find a cup full of something in your hands. “What is this?”
“Breakfast,” Bro replies, standing right in front of you as he leans back against his desk, which is stacked with papers as usual. Next to him is a gold plated sign with his name in all caps: “BRO STRIDER.” Bro likes to imagine himself as a hard-boiled sleuth from time to time, so you got him this sign a few decades ago for the perfect ironies. You’re sure that he has a real first name, but nobody ever calls him that. To everyone, including you, he will always be Bro. He’s the one who started this shindig long ago, and he’s the one that keeps it going. Hunt the evil demons of Derse and put them back in their graves.
It’s a fine line, of course, since technically most of the people working for Bro could be classified as some sort of demon. Bro is included. So are you and your younger brother Dave. But you all know where to draw the line. Others of your kind either never learned where the line was or never cared. They’re the ones giving you all a bad name, terrorizing humanity and making civilizations rise and fall. They’re the ones that you hunt every night.
Bro tilts his head in a way that tells you he’s getting impatient. Oh right, he gave you “breakfast.” You gaze doubtfully into the dark liquid in the cup he’s given you. Bro has a habit of feeding you things you’d rather not eat. All in the pretense of making you stronger. You suppose that maybe it’s helped? You’re not really sure if it does. What you’re sure of is that he gets a kick out of your misery every time.
You hazard a sip of the dark liquid and sigh in relief. It’s just coffee.
Bro snorts, “what, did you think I was going to feed you Yeti blood or something?”
You level a glare at him through your shades.
He smirks at you and admits, “yeah, it’s in the fridge. But I figured tonight you could use a little pick-me-up.”
His statement knocks the wind out of you more than any strife ever could.
Roxy. He’s talking about Roxy.
The coffee cup trembles in your hands, and Bro is quick to snatch it back before any damage can be done to the rug on the floor. He kneels down, eye level to you and says, “hey, look at me.”
“Look at me,” he insists again, this time a little bit louder. To emphasize his point, Bro slowly removes his shades.
You sigh like the angst-filled teenager you feel like right now and grudgingly draw your gaze up into his bright amber eyes. “What?”
“You know I’d give you a day off if I could. Hell, I’d give you a decade off. But you’re our best man. Dave is getting pretty good, but you’re still our best,” he reasons, which sounds so strange coming from Bro. Usually he’s much more direct and harsh, but today he seems a little—softer. A bit more considerate.
You hate it. “I know. I know but I fucking hate it! I’ll keep working, but nobody can take Roxy’s place. Nobody.”
“Dirk, you need someone with you now more than ever,” Bro continues, completely unfazed by your little outburst. “I’m giving you a partner and that’s final.”
“It’s not fair!” you growl in a very uncharacteristic way. You can’t help it, your Strider mask is strained. Roxy’s dead. Everything you cared about, gone.
“No it’s not. And stop thinking that way, it’s not true,” Bro admonishes, dipping into your thoughts in that annoying way of his. He grasps your hand, squeezing lightly. “You’re a Strider. We look out for each other. I’m giving you a partner because I care about you and don’t want to find you dusted on the sidewalk come morning. Don’t give me that look, you know it’s true.”
You hadn’t realized you were glaring at him, but you were. Stupid Bro with his stupid telepathy and stupid always being right.
“That’s the spirit,” he says, releasing your hand and slipping his shades back on. He hands your coffee back to you and gestures towards the door. “Your new partner’s just outside the building, whenever you’re ready to meet him. He’s got your assignment.”
Dirk ==> Greet your new partner
You hate this guy already. He’s leaning against the brick wall waiting for you to exit the building and whistling—whistling like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He probably doesn’t. He can’t possibly know what you’re feeling right now. You can just tell he’s going to be the shittiest of shitty partners.
When he notices you walk through the door, he pushes off the wall with a black converse shoe and comes to you, a big doofy grin on his face. He has an extra spring in his step and that happy-go-lucky attitude that’s just a mockery of your Roxy.
His dark hair is wild and untamed, sticking up every which direction, and though he wears those poindexter rectangular glasses, you doubt the vivid jungle green eyes behind the thick lenses actually need them. He’s gallivanting up to you in this long green sleuth-like jacket and khaki short-shorts that are just too sinfully short. Beneath the jacket he’s wearing a plain white t-shirt with some green monster skull silk-screened on. Considering what he’s here to do, you would normally give him a point for the ironies, but he’s here to replace Roxy. The most you give him is a jerk of the head and a cold stare that you know he can’t see from behind your sunglasses.
Despite your attempts to ward him away with your frigid demeanor, he seems surprisingly chipper. “Ah! Why hello, old chap! Delightful to meet your acquaintance!”
When you don’t say anything, he sticks out his hand and says proudly, “My name is Jake English! And you are—?”
You don’t bother taking his hand. “You know who I am. Don’t pretend,” you say, sounding a bit more aloof than usual. Though you don’t have Bro’s kick-ass telepathic powers (he’s got a couple centuries on you) this guy must know who you are.
You’re right. His smile only falters a little as he withdraws his hand and instead scratches the back of his head with it awkwardly. “Ah, my apologies, old bean! Your brother did mention that your name was Dirk Strider, but I thought it only polite to introduce myself properly!”
“Forget the manners. Forget all of this, actually,” you tell him. “I don’t know what Bro told you, but he’s full of shit. I don’t need a babysitter tonight. I’m fine on my own.”
“Your ah— Bro didn’t mention much to me, in fact!” Jake says, sounding apologetic. He averts his eyes sheepishly to the ground before reeling them back up to you. “And I assure you, I would make a terrible babysitter, my good fellow!”
“Why do you keep saying those ridiculous phrases?” You ask, beginning to grow annoyed with his manner of speech. God you hate this guy. “What are you? Did you literally just wake up from the 1800s?”
“My apologies again! It seems our vernacular is not quite in synch,” he explains. “Where I’m from, we typically don’t address people by their first names.”
“No? Well, lucky for you, I’ve got two names,” you inform him snottily.
It takes him a moment, but he brightens again when he realizes what you meant. “Oh! Of course, Strider!”
“There you go. And you’re dismissed now, English, I don’t need any help,” you tell him curtly. You know you’re being a little bitch, but you don’t care. You really don’t want to deal with this guy right now.
Jake waves a piece of paper with Bro’s handwriting scrawled all over it. “Have you seen the assignment? I get the feeling you might want a little help on this one.”
You snatch the paper from him, decipher your Bro’s godawful handwriting, and sigh. “Fine. Just this one mission, and then we’re done.”
“Shall I look up the bus schedule? I’m certain I have enough spare change—” he begins, digging into his pocket.
Before he can finish, you’ve already got your keys in your hand, jingling them in front of him. “Hell no. This is my city, I drive.”
Despite the dis, the grin practically splits his face in two when he sees your keys. He winks, points his finger at you like a gun, and pretends to fire. “Shotgun!”
Shotgun was Roxy’s seat, but you bite your tongue as you watch him prance ahead of you. “How do know—” you begin.
This time it’s his turn to cut you off. With a knowing look, he turns back to you and flashes you an award-winning grin. “I’ll find it.”
Dirk ==> Follow Jake to your ride
Oh you follow all right. And your eyes are glued to that round butt in those far too short shorts the entire time. You hate Jake English. Instinctively and intellectually, you hate him.
But he does have a nice ass.
…wait, he does?
From behind your shades, you inconspicuously check out his plush rump as it sways gently back and forth. Every step accentuates those curves. Those tight fitting short shorts leave absolutely nothing to the imagination, other than how nice it would feel to slide your hand beneath them and squeeze that plump bottom.
Why yes, Jake does have a nice ass. You would know because nice asses just happen to be your thing.
You are so fucked.
Somehow he does manage to find your ride where you’d parked it a little ways down the street. He jumps into the passenger seat of your Jeep Wrangler before you even get there. You keep it door-less and roof-less for extra irony. Yeah, you could buy a fucking hummer, BMW, Viper whatever if you wanted it. Better yet, you could build it yourself. But you’ve always thought that people who went for those rides were compensating for something.
You’ve got nothing to compensate for. You’re Dirk Motherfucking Strider. You’ll drive a door-less and roof-less vehicle if you want to just because you can.
You hop in, start your baby up, and zip down the road.
There’s a bit of a hand-slapping war as you both switch between radio stations. Jake insists on some godawful country station while you’d much prefer the deep pounding bass of club music. Eventually, after hearing one too many songs about trailers, pontoons, dogs, cats, and momma’s, you shut the radio off.
“I say, Strider, it’s quite a long ride,” Jake says in a way that you just know he’s laughing at you. God you can’t stand him. “You’re certain you don’t want to listen to anything?”
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Music is your life. Next to your swords and robotics, your sick-nasty beats are all you’ve got. Which reminds you, you do have a CD or two lying around. You don’t ask him if he wants to listen to it. Instead, you reach behind you, feeling the floorboard underneath your seat while you keep your eyes on the road. Eventually, your fingers find what you’re looking for, and you pry out a CD full of mixes you made a month or so ago.
“We’re listening to this,” you tell him. It’s final, and when you hazard a glance over at him, you can tell that he’s willing to give whatever’s on your CD a shot.
A few seconds go by once you pop it in, and for a moment, you hold your breath, hoping that the floor of your Jeep hasn’t scratched your CD up beyond playability.
It hasn’t. Slowly, a deep thrumming bass shakes the framework of your ride. You can only grin as you drive down the deserted city streets, the bass kicking louder and louder until you swear the whole city block must be vibrating with it.
Jake sits in awe as your mixes fill the air. Not once does he reach for the radio.
Dirk ==> Stare at those short shorts
Ok. It’s not like you have a soul or anything. You’ll stare all day if you want to. But as Jake turns around to ask you something, you quickly avert your gaze up. Even though he can’t see where your eyes are looking from behind your sunglasses, you won’t be caught staring. Striders are never caught staring.
“I say, you have quite the driving moves! We made record time, Strider!” He says, walking with you to the abandoned hospital on the South Side of the City.
The walls are lined with graffiti, and the chain linked fence that supposedly separates the building from the public is broken in more places than one. The City never gave a shit about the place, and when it fell into disrepair, rather than put the money into cleaning the hospital up, they shut it down. Even though the asbestos particles shower the air every time a part of the dilapidated building breaks down, they never bothered to level the place.
As a result, it’s become a rife hideout for gangs, addicts, homeless, and your least favorite—demons. It’s a verifiable Candy-land for them. Nobody will miss their victims. Quite honestly, you won’t either, but you know these types of demons. If you don’t stop them now, then once they’re strong enough, they’ll leave the safe confines of the old hospital and move on to wreak havoc on the rest of the City.
Bro claims that he made this mistake once long ago. He has yet to make it again.
You hate this place. Though the scum of society has seen your face around here enough to leave you alone, it’s dangerous. The building contains more than one gateway from Derse, and it seems every time you close one, another three open. To close them all tonight you’ll need Jake. You hope he’s as reliable as Bro seems to think he is.
“English, there’s something else you need to know about this place,” you tell him as you both slip through holes in the fence. “It was built a long time ago. There are some seedy characters living here, but there are innocents too. If you’re not careful with those guns, you could level the place.”
Jake pats his pistols and flashes you the most charming grin. “Who do you think I am, Strider?”
“I don’t know. I just met you,” you reply honestly.
“I’m the best shot in the world,” he assures you, pointing both his fingers at you and pretending to shoot. “I never miss.”
“Good,” you mutter, finally standing next to one of the rusty doors, hanging open just a few inches. “You ready?”
“Born ready,” he says. When you glance back at him, you see that his eyes are full of a passionate energy that tells you, yes, he really meant that. And he probably watches far too many bad action movies. You’ll have to pester him about that later.
Slowly, you creak open the door and slip inside.
Instantly, you’re accosted with webs. More webs than you think you’ve ever seen in this place. You inwardly groan. Serket has outdone herself this time. You’ll have to watch your step carefully.
You and Jake manage to make your way through the webs, locating Derse portals in the broiler room and in a janitorial closet without any incident. With the right incantations you close the portals and move along.
“This isn’t right,” you mutter quietly. “Usually the place is crawling with goons, so where are they?”
Jake glances around, sniffing lightly as you walk down another abandoned hallway. Ok, that was a little weird, but whatever. His ass makes up for it. “I think they’re all in one location. Down there,” he replies, indicating toward a hallway.
“Oh great,” you sigh. “My favorite place.”
A minute later you find yourself in front of your (least) favorite place in the building.
The psych ward.
The doors were once painted with a vibrant blue that is now chipped and rusting through. Several gangs have marked the doors with their graffiti, but you don’t care about that at all right now. The thick mesh of spiderwebs covering the door has you far more concerned.
You turn to Jake before you enter, filling him in on just who is inside. “Vriska Serket is in there. She’s the spider queen with a mean taste for flesh. Hope you’re not easily disgusted, because you’re probably going to see some pretty heavy stuff inside.”
“No sir. It will take far more than a spider to get to this old fellow!” Jake announces happily, pointing to himself with his thumb.
“Good,” you respond. “She’ll have a lot of goons, but they’ll follow her down. When she goes, they go too. Try not to let too many of them stick to you or they’ll slow you down.”
“Strider,” Jake says, his voice sounding a bit impatient. “I’ve done my homework on Miss Serket. Can we get this shamboozle started?”
You grin. You just might be starting to like him. “In three. 3, 2, 1—”
You both kick through the doors at the same time. Inside is a den of nightmares. Spiderwebs fill every part of the room, to the point where you’re nearly choking on them in the air. Mangled forms of Vriska’s victims hang from the ceilings and walls, dripping innards and blood in messy pools all over the floor.
Her spider goons are everywhere, dangling from webs in the air, crawling on the floor. Twisted nightmares with sharp spindly legs and the faces of human babies. They’re all Vriska’s babies, and she adores them.
They disgust you. An instant after you’re inside, you’ve pulled your katana from its sheath, slicing through two of the creatures in one sweep. They shriek horrible high pitched screams, curling in on themselves as they expire.
Jake is firing his pistols loudly beside you, and true to his word, he doesn’t miss once. Each kill is clean through the head, the bullet lodging firmly into the spider’s body where it can do no harm. You would take a moment to be impressed with that, but you don’t have a moment. Every second you are purely alive, flash stepping from one part of the room to the next, swiping the spiders down from their nests and ending them. You count five open Derse rifts in the room before you flash step back to Jake.
“Cover me,” you command lowly. “I’m closing these rifts.”
Before you can move, something huge crashes down from the ceiling in front of you. The spider’s body is mammoth, easily five times your size. The twisted torso of a fully grown female protrudes from where the spider’s head should be, her clawed hands on her hips. Vriska Serket’s mess of dark blue hair covers the bad eye you gave her years ago, the first time you killed her, as she stares creepily down at you. “You’re going to do what now, Diiiiiiiirk Striiiiiiiider?”
“I’m closing these rifts,” you repeat calmly, though you know she heard you the first time. “And I’m sending you back to Derse.”
Vriska cackles in delight, pointing a clawed finger at you. “iiiiiiii’d like to see you try,” she says coyly. Then her eye widens and she screams, “GET THEM!”
Instantly all the horrible spider baby abominations are upon you, accosting both you and Jake faster than you can kill them. Vriska must have hidden here for quite some time to build a nest this large. Though you swipe at them, killing several with every move, they’re all over your arms and legs, crawling down your back and into your hair. Jake seems to be faring no better than you, and Vriska’s cackles fill the air.
Suddenly, there’s an eruption of flames besides you. You turn your head just in time to see Jake posed like Rambo with a large flamethrower-looking gun in his hands. You’re not sure where he got that from, but he’s incinerating all those Derse-spawn with it so you don’t care. “Strider!” he shouts. “I’ve got this! You handle the rifts!”
You nod at him as best you can from beneath all the spiders and flash step away, detaching most of the spiders from you in the flurry of speed. You circle the room quickly and return to where Jake is poised in front of the first rift. It only takes a few seconds for you to close the rift and then you’re moving on. One by one you close the rifts, rushing into abandoned room after abandoned room until only the largest one is left.
Of course, Vriska is guarding that one, her gigantic body hanging menacingly on a well-built web above it. Jake’s flames only seem to incense her fury further, and she swipes at you with long spindly claws, nearly catching you a couple times. There’s no way you can get close enough to close the rift beneath her.
You know what Roxy would do. She would taunt Vriska and infuriate her. She would make the horrible spider bitch spin until she was dizzy and strike when she was least expecting it. She’d find a way to get Vriska to kill herself. If Roxy were here, you’d be halfway home by now.
But Roxy isn’t here. She’s never coming back, and you’re going to have to deal with it. You’ll have to figure out another way to get Vriska and—
The loud sound of a shotgun going off next to your ear draws you away from your angst filled thoughts. Jake has discarded his flamethrower, the spider creatures all dead around you, and he’s chosen a new weapon. It was a good shot, but Vriska has some sort of demonic forcefield around her now. Seems like she learned from the last time. The time you took her eye.
Jake isn’t about to be deterred. In fact, he seems only more energetic as he reloads. He doesn’t even seem to aim before he shoots again.
“I thought you never miss?” You comment, your douchiness coming out despite the fact that you’ve been pretty much worthlessly wallowing in your remorse the last couple minutes while Jake does all the work.
“I don’t,” he says confidently, looking at something above.
You follow his gaze and see that Vriska’s web is quickly coming undone around her. The stringy threads unlock from those attached to the walls, circling around the giant spider in the middle again and again. With every circle, Vriska drops lower and lower. By the time she realizes what is happening, she’s screaming as she tries in vain to claw at her web and pull herself up. Little does she realize that in doing so she’s only dislodging the web faster, and in one final screech, she falls into the rift below.
You’re quick to seal that motherfucker off, cleansing the world of Vriska Serket once again.
“It’s a shame,” Jake comments offhandedly, stashing away his weapons into holsters that you realize had been on him the whole time. “I quite like spiders, and I think Vriska would be swell company if she were just a tad less evil.”
“That makes one of us,” you reply, kicking a dead spider aside as you make your way out of this hellish hospital ward.
Jake follows you out wordlessly. It isn’t until you reach the Jeep that he finally asks, “I say, Strider, do you always take lengthy breaks in the middle of a duel?”
“No,” you respond, not knowing what else to say. In truth, you’re a little embarrassed of your actions, or rather, lack of actions. Roxy’s death shouldn’t have hit you so hard. You told your Bro it hadn’t, and a Strider always keeps his word.
“Right, jolly good,” he says, a hint of mischief in his eyes. “Because I would hate to have to go easy on you.”
“Wha—” is all you can manage to say before Jake tackles you to the ground.
Dirk ==> Strife
The City’s South Side is not really your ideal setting for a strife, but Jake apparently doesn’t seem to care. He’s fighting you with just his fists, and you get the feeling it wouldn’t be sporting if you fought with anything besides yours.
Jake is a lot stronger than he looks, and since you weren’t expecting the attack, it isn’t long before he has you pinned to the ground, grinning wolfishly down at you. “That’s one point for Team English! Maybe next time you can show me some of that legendary Strider skill.” He says, letting you up with a wink.
You want to grumble about how that wasn’t fair, but he did give you some warning, which is more than Bro ever does. Whatever, you just want to get out of this place. You shrug your shoulders, readjusting your plain black t-shirt, and get back in the Jeep.
When you get back to the lounge, Bro shakes his head at you. He places his pen down on the desk where he was working. Even though he’s largely given up fighting the good fight and moved to pencil-pushing for years now, seeing him sitting behind a desk filled with papers still looks strange to you. You really think he belongs on the battlefield with a katana in his hand. No doubt centuries ago he fought in some epic war with his katana alone. You think that if he were with you tonight, like the old times, you wouldn’t have had any trouble.
Bro doesn’t hesitate to flatly say, “good thing Jake was there.” He purposely emphasizes Jake’s name, making it clear to you that he really means to say “you’re fucking lucky I gave you a partner.”
“I’d have been fine,” you insist.
Bro snorts, “yeah, if by fine you mean filleted open by one Vriska Serket.” He shakes his head, bowing his head in thought for a moment before he says, “I’m sending you home for the night.”
“What?!” You exclaim. “Then what was all that bullshit earlier about needing me, huh?”
“You took out Vriska, the toughest mark of the night. Dave and the others can handle the rest,” Bro explains calmly. It takes him another moment before he speaks again. It’s a sort of hesitation that makes you extremely wary of what he’s about to say next. “Jake’s coming home with you.”
“Fuck no!” you exclaim again, on the verge of losing your Strider cool. Bro angles his head at you in a warning sort of way, and you realize what you’re doing, forcing yourself to calm back down. You try again, this time in a much more level tone. “Nah Bro, I can handle myself. I don’t need Jake babysitting me. Besides, he said he’s a terrible babysitter.”
“I am,” Jake agrees.
“Shut it, English,” Bro snaps at him, then looks back at you. “You’ll take Jake back with you because he doesn’t have anywhere else to stay right now. He’s come a long way on short notice. Until we get a more permanent living situation figured out for him, the least you can do is show him some fucking hospitality for saving your life.”
Bro has a point. He always does. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.
You don’t grace him with another word before turning to leave. Bro knows that you’ve resigned yourself to your fate.
Jake English is coming home with you tonight, bringing with him his fine ass and horrible taste in movies.
You get the feeling this is the beginning of something both amazing and terrible.