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Cultstuck!

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You are Karkat Vantas.

The purple moon has long gone past its zenith, and the green moon is only halfway over the horizon; Alternia's craggy plant life and tortured plains are painted in colorful shades, and a rare poetic soul might find the scenery beautiful. Hell, even you sometimes stop to take in the sights, if you’re in a good enough mood.

You are, in fact, in somewhat of a good mood. Sadly you also happen to be weaving your way underground back to your hive through one of the many secret tunnels built by an ancient cult thousands of sweeps ago, making you completely unaware of the beautiful spectacle of colors taking place outside. You're also in a bit of a hurry, so maybe you wouldn't have stopped to watch the moonrise this time anyway.

But today was a good day. You went to your best friend's hive one or two nights ago - it's hard to separate one night from another in this season - and had a good time, or as good a time as it's possible to have with a blithering junkie slipping on and off his sopor high. You napped with him in his 'coon, keeping him company for the short-lived morn when his custodian failed to show up. Then you sat with him for hours on a sandy dune overlooking the beach, grousing about nothing in particular with his head on your lap as you watched the horizon for his lusus and felt the waves push and pull at the blood in your veins.

From a safe distance, of course. From as safe a distance as would allow you to feel the prickly, stingy droplets and smell the salty wind. You're afraid a sea-dweller may have spotted you once, and since then you've done your best to stay the hell out of their sight.

Gamzee has been hells of understanding.

Now, though, you're stalking past the faded frescoes of half-forgotten prophecies, trying to think of a good excuse to give your lusus for taking so long to come back -- "Gamzee had the shakes" has been misused one too many times. He might not believe it again, even though it’s technically true.

You hunch a little more into your own shoulders and sigh. Progress on Gamzee's sopor slime addiction hasn't been all that great lately, and when you left his hive he was snarfing a green pie with just a little bit too much ferociousness. He barely held on for five minutes, staring up at you with eyes too bright, too focused, mumbling that he really, really needed that pie - but the real, non-addled Gamzee was there, closer than ever, as close as the sloshing waves you'd been watching, and you allowed yourself to be a complete mush and hug his lanky and stumbling self all the way back through the heavy sand, patting his hair and telling him how strong and brave he was and how close he was to being okay.

As you climb the uneven steps that lead to the back of your thermal hull, you make plans for the next visit. Gamzee will probably regress a little, he always does, but maybe you'll take Tavros along to give him an extra incentive--

Oh hey, there's a red flag sticking out of the thermal hull's bottom.

If someone were to ask you what the flag was about, you'd say it was a little thing you came up with to train your lusus, which is a lie. You'd also say that it helps him convey the kind of complex ideas most Custodians can't normally express, which is true. Depending on who was asking, you might even add that the colors and shapes of a flag had different meanings, and that the red one was a pretty personal sort of flag.

The flags are mostly ripped curtain strips and the shapes can be kind of hit-and-miss, but you are pretty good at deciphering them by now. This appears to be a "not home" kind of flag, with a little bit of "be safe". You pointedly refuse to acknowledge a surge of affection; after going all pale over Gamzee you simply will not allow yourself any more mushiness for at least a sweep.

You pick the flag to take a closer look and promptly captchalogue it into your stupid Encryption Modus. GodfuckingDAMNIT.

You let your card vault tumble noisily down the rough stairs, and show it a finger for good measure. No wonder you're always running out of curtains; this must be the thousandth flag and the thousandth card you’ve lost to your modus.

With a huge show of huffiness to the faded scripture you're surrounded with, you raise your nose, unlatch the back of your hull, and are immediately greeted by a huff of cold vapor in the face. You crawl onto a shelf and push a box of chilled roe cubes out of your way, awkwardly bolting the hull from the inside before pushing the front door open. After some more maneuvering you manage to turn your butt to the front and get your feet under you, jumping out of the freezing trap without issue.

This arrangement would bother most trolls, but you're okay with it. You're okay with lots of things that happen to keep you alive.

Before closing the hull you pull out a boxed leaf juice, and push the door shut with your hip while you fumble with the straw. You thoughtfully suck the bitter drink and consider introducing Tavros to the tunnels; it'll definitely beat pushing his four-wheel device over miles of desert. You'll probably have to run it through the geezers first, though--

And then you turn around and spot the Threshecutioner standing stock-still in the middle of the overturned mess of your food preparation block, the Threshecutioner who's probably been standing there long enough to watch you crawl butt-first out of your super-secret illegal escape tunnel.

You stand there like an idiot, straw limp in your lips as you take in the sickle and the black uniform and the green sign and the sheer fucking height of this kid who's clearly a couple of sweeps older than you, old enough to have some color in his eyes even -- and your mind goes, welp. This is it.

And then the greenblood sinks to his knees and lowers his torso until his forehead is touching the floor, and your mind goes oh fuck NO.

You hate zealots.