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The Tentacles of Power

Chapter Text

It was the 12th perigee of the 6th dark season’s equinox and the Condesce was standing on the bridge of her flagship, the Condescension, when it suddenly stopped. To keep herself from being flung by the inertia, she grabbed onto the railing. She stood back up but then grabbed her head and started screaming. Everyone turned to look at her, afraid of what mistake they might have made, but her screaming was stopped by a sudden coughing fit. She held her hand to her mouth, as courtesy dictated, and when she pulled it back it was covered in her own blood. Now everyone was afraid there was something wrong with her, but they were more afraid to help her, for no one but appointed purplebloods could dare touch her. Her coughing grew more violent as violet blood poured not only out of her mouth but from her nose and her eyes and even her ears. She looked up at nothing and started screaming to some unknown person.

 

“It’s not fair! IT’S NOT FAIR! YOU PROMISED ME! YOU PROMISED I WOULD ALWAYS...”

 

And with a shriek that rivaled the Vast Glub, she collapsed onto the floor.

 

The nearest bridge member peered over at her body. Without further examination the bridge member knew she was dead. Her Imperious Condescension, the Empress Condesce, the Sole Ruler of the Alternian Empire for millenniums, was dead.

 

Down in the engine room, the Psiioniic spoke the first words he had spoken since becoming Helmsman:

 

“Huh, finally.”

 

***

 

Light years away on Alternia, the meteors stopped. The terrified trolls all over the planet looked up to see twelve young trolls standing on a platform. In the center was a tall female seatroll in magenta robes. In the chatter that followed no one could figure out the identity of the other trolls, but everyone knew her identity.

 

She was the next Empress of the Alternian Empire.

 

***

 

Many sweeps later, but not too many, Eridan Ampora sat in his restingblock. He was smoking his 13th nicosimulant wand and drinking his fourth bottle of wine. It used to be fun, he thought, to smoke a pipe and drink wine like his Ancestor Orphaner Dualscar but now it was just an addiction to feed. Before the moon segment was out he’d be on scrack, he figured.

 

The door flew open and Eridan would have fallen comically to the floor if he wasn’t there already. The Empress stood before him covered in various colors of blood.

 

“I’M SO EEEXCITED!” she squealed, “EVERYTHING WE DO IS SO EEEXCITING!”

 

Chapter Text

Eleven trolls and four kids gathered around the unconscious form of Feferi Peixes. She was the last to awaken and she had been the first to fall asleep. Well, not as much fallen asleep as blasted into a coma by an errant bolt of white science.

 

The sixteen had spent three years on this Skian ship dreaming a shared dream while the ship blasted between universes. It was all part of the esoteric machinations of the Emissary’s charge and the Gods of the Outer Rim created while Feferi was in the dreambubble. Thanks to Aradia the plan spread to the rest of the group. The two sessions combined and after a very short introduction the survivors went to the hold of the commandeered ship, bring the non-survivors with them for a corpse slumber party.

 

Karkat, the last to fall asleep, was the first to wake up. He stared at his hands for five minutes. When he was done with this he slowly got up from his pile of broken recuperacoon shells. He looked around at the now-expanded party. He looked at his hands again. Finally, his usually busy protein chute made its move.

 

“WHAT THE EVERPAILING FUCK WAS THAT DREAM ABOUT?”

 

Though the cry echoed loudly in the metal hold, everyone was in too deep of a slumber to move. Karkat went over to his moirail and started shaking him. This was a mistake. Gamzee’s heavy eyes shot open and his big hands wrapped around Karkat’s throat. He stopped throttling him when he recognized his moirail. He instead wrapped him into a big hug.

 

He shouted, “Aww, motherfuck, it’s Karkat!”

 

Karkat coughed, pushing Gamzee away. He caught his breath and looked up at Gamzee.

 

“God, you murderous asshole!” he yelled, “You could have snapped my head column! I would have thought that getting enough fucking back-rest for ten trolls would make you slightly less of a fucking psycho!”

 

“Could say the same about you, bro. That nap didn’t make you mellow either.”

 

“At least you’ve stopped doing that scary whisper-shout-couplet act and went back to your old goofy voice.”

 

He turned back and studied Gamzee’s face.

 

“Your embarrassingly stupid makeup is gone but those three scars are still there as an outward sign of your think pan fuckups.”

 

Gamzee felt his face. “Think the shit just fell off, I can still feel the grease, man I hate it when that happens, like when I just pass out.” He traced the line of his scars and smile turned unsure. “Still got those indigo stripes, yeah?”

 

“Looks just as fresh when you when you passed out.”

 

“Big miracle keepin’ them fresh.”

 

“It’s not a miracle, if you can call bad shit a miracle, as it was Nepeta’s alchem...”

 

Eridan suddenly woke up and screamed. He then started hyperventilating as he stared at nothing. Karkat and Gamzee watched him.

 

Karkat said to Gamzee, “At least that’s one nooksucker I don’t have to shake. God, I hope Equius can get up on his own.”

 

But Gamzee looked concern. “Funny, I’d have thought fishbro would like that fishy dream.”

 

“He’s just a drama empress.”

 

Slowly, everyone awoke one by one to many surprises about their current state. Everyone was back in their standard pre-game clothes. Everyone had aged the three years. Sollux had his eyes and teeth and Kanaya didn’t glow or have a hole through her stomach, but Tavros was paralyzed and Vriska lacked an arm and an eye. None of the God Tier players had their hoodie outfits anymore and it seemed they didn’t have any God Tier powers anymore.

 

“Fuuuuuuuuck,” moaned Vriska after the situation was assessed, “This just sucks. What was the point of gaming the game if we didn’t get to keep our cool swag and level ups?”

 

“You get to be not dead,” Terezi said in a rare serious voice, “That’s more reward than you deserve.”

 

Vriska shot Terezi a look. “What reward do you deserve for LITERALLY stabbing me in the back?”

 

Karkat threw up his hands. “Everyone!” he yelled, “I declare a moratorium on murder talk! Practically all you unbalanced nooksniffers have either killed someone or tried to kill someone or got killed by someone but that was in past universe, and in this universe there will be no fucking murder if I can help it!”

 

Nepeta took her piercing eyes off of Gamzee to look at Karkat during his declaration. Her angry face still didn’t change and she kept her place grabbing her moirail’s arm tight.

 

Karkat walked to the middle of the room to stand over the only person still asleep.

 

He yelled, “Next order of business: Feferi Peixes, the new Empress-to-Awake! We’ve got to get her on the throne immediately, even if she’s comatose, which she better not be!”

 

“She could be dead,” Kanaya suggested.

 

“Oh fuck, coming from a Deathstalker that’s the worse news ever.”

 

“Actually as a mortal I lack the ability to detect death now though I could check her condition for you.”

 

She knelt down beside Feferi and took the seatroll’s wrist in her hand.

 

“She is ice cold but I am afraid as a magentablood that does not tell us much. She does have a pulse and is breathing though shallowly.” She pulled back Feferi’s goggles and opened an eye. “Eyes are not glassy or walleyed.” Kanaya stood up. “My diagnosis is she is alive.”

 

“So how do we get her more than just alive? Any suggestions?”

 

Tavros, who was now being supported by Aradia and Terezi, spoke up. “Maybe she needs a kiss, from a prince?”

 

Everyone looked at Sollux, then at Eridan, then at Sollux again.

 

“Well, it would be returning the favor...” Sollux said.

 

Eridan said nothing.

 

Suddenly, Feferi’s eyes shot open, and quicker than anyone could ever imagine a coma patient being able to, jumped up to her feet.

 

“EEEVERYONE!” she squealed, “Let’s go on fishy adventures!”

 

“Holy fuck,” Dave deadpanned.

 

“Well princess, now that you’ve returned to us, could you grab the wheel from me and tell us where the hell this wreck is going?” Karkat asked.

 

“We’re where we need to be!” Feferi cried, “Right next to the Condescension!”

 

All the trolls yelled “The Condescension!” at once. The humans were clueless.

 

“What’s a condescension?” John asked.

 

Karkat answered, “One, it’s what I feel towards all you pathetic humans, and two, it’s the prized ship of the all-powerful witch who rules the galaxy we are currently trespassing in!”

 

“Karkat, don’t worry!” Feferi said, “She’s DEEEAD! It’s all part of the plan!”

 

“She’s already dead? That’s pretty anti-climatic. I thought we’d have to do some magical bullshit with a special amulet or something,” Vriska said.

 

“As long as she’s safely out of the way I don’t care if we didn’t get experience for the kill,” Karkat said, “Now how do we get we get out of this tin box and onto the bridge?”

 

Feferi showed them out of the hold and over to the tranportalizer room.

 

“Actually, it’s not that bad, not having my robot lower body, anymore. There were certain problems with it, that might have come up later,” Tavros whispered to Aradia as they carried him out, “I don’t know how I was supposed to poop.”

 

One by one they materialized onto the bridge of the Skian ship. The glass and metal enclosure looked more like something out of a World War II movie than science fiction. Everyone immediately turned to the starboard side to see an enormous red ship ten times bigger than their full-sized battleship.

 

“Is...is that the Betty Crocker sign?” John asked.

 

“No, you ignorant human,” yelled Karkat, “It’s the Grand Imperial Insignia! That means it’s an Alternian Imperial Ship, and that writing down there means it’s the one of only goddamn Condescension, and it being next to us means we are fifty seconds from being blasted away!”

 

“Karkat, I told you, relax!” Feferi said, “We’ve been next to this ship for eight hours and they haven’t fired yet!”

 

“What’s keeping them?”

 

“Well, for one, the Empress is dead, like I said, so everyone’s in shock, and two, look at what’s on our ship!”

 

“What, is there writing on the ship that says ‘don’t kill us, we have baked goods’?”

 

“No, better! All of our signs are on the side of the ship!”

 

Everyone reacted with surprise and pride.

 

“Cool!” cried Terezi, “Can I go smell it?”

 

“No, sorry, we’re in space and I don’t think we have an external camera,” Feferi answered, “It’ll have to wait till later.”

 

Rose asked, “Is there some alien hermetics to our symbols that’s causing this cease-fire?”

 

“Don’t know what the glub hermetics means but our signs are now the signs of HEEEROES!” Feferi pointed to her own symbol before adding smugly, “Plus, I have the same sign as the Condesce.”

 

Aradia explained further, “When we trolls appeared over Alternia to stop the meteors, everyone learned of our signs if not of our identity.”

 

All the trolls looked at her.

 

“Am I the only one who remembers that part of the dream?” Aradia asked.

 

“Yes, that reely did happen!” Feferi said, “We appeared as a fish-on in the sky! We must be viral now! QUICK, SOMEONE, CHECK THE INTERNET!”

 

“Jegus, someone likes her Facebook,” Dave said.

 

But everyone did check the internet on their personal computers. Sollux was the first to find information.

 

“Wow, look at this video of us,” he said, “Some people should not be allowed to trollhandle a camera.”

 

“Who cares about that,” Vriska said, “Look at those outfits! Kind of like God-Tier but with our personal signs! Why don’t we have those anymore?”

 

“Feferi’s robe is much different from our outfits. I find it very fetching, though I like my own non-regal outfit,” Kanaya said.

 

“Here’s a blog dedicated to finding out our identities!” Terezi said.

 

“I found some fanfiction!” Nepeta said.

 

“I found what’s either a political cartoon or some porn or both,” Dave said.

 

Equius looked over Dave’s shoulder.

 

“So, great,” said Karkat, “We’re a meme like Leroy Jenkin and that cat of unusual length! Now let’s stop thinking about how much we rule and actually start ruling! Princess, what’s next on your rise to power?”

 

Feferi answered, “We hail the ship and ask permission to come aboard.”

 

Karkat turned to the humans. “Humans, this came from your session, you got it here, how does it work?”

 

Jade answered, “I just magiked the ship here, I don’t actually know how to drive it for real.”

 

Sollux sighed and walked to the control panel. After a minute of examination he turned to the rest of the crew.

 

“Stupid thing doesn’t have a video uplink, so we’ll just have to use the audio and hope they believe we are who we say.”

 

“Stop complaining and do it!” Karkat yelled.

 

Sollux taped something into a keypad and picked up an old-fashioned-looking transmitter.

 

“Hailing the…” His lisp acted up. “Ae Ii Thh Condethcenthion, Ae Ii Thh Condethcenthion, this is the...the...” He turned to Karkat.

 

“The Ship of Goddamn Fools,” Karkat said.

 

“...the Ship of Heroes,” Sollux continued, “Requesting permission to come aboard, over.”

 

A male voice came over the receiver. “A .I. S. Condescension here, what? Over.”

 

Karkat went over and pushed Sollux out of the way.

 

“Let someone without a debilitating speech defect communicate,” he said.

 

“Remember to push this button first,” Sollux said as he pointed to the transmitter.

 

“I knew that,” Karkat said to Sollux as he picked up the transmitter. “Hello, I’m the captain of the Ship of Heroes, Karkat Vantas. Sorry about lispy here, he’ll be punished later, over.”

 

The voice came back on. “Identify yourself further, Ship of Heroes. Are you troll or alien? Over.”

 

“Both. Our crew consists of twelve trolls and four aliens. Our head leader is the Empress of the Alternian Empire, that’s right, the new one, not the dead one, so you better fucking listen to us, over.”

 

There was a two minute delay from the Condescension. Finally, the flagship responded, this time with a new authoritative-sounding female voice.

 

“Captain Vantas, do you represent the Twelve Heroes of Alternia? Over.”

 

Karkat replied, “I am one of the motherfucking heroes. I’m the goddamn Knight of Blood! My sign is the unlucky number but sideways in the anonymous grey, or whatever color it is on this grey ship. Over.”

 

“Do you truly have the heir of the throne with you? Does her sign match the magenta one on your ship? Over.”

 

“Yes she truly is the heir and she’s standing over here wearing the sign right on her water-proof tank top! She’s the goddamn Witch of Life! She will cull your ass with her underwater pitchfork if you don’t listen to her. Over.”

 

“Please wait while I get someone who can speak with the royal. Over.” Her voice sounded less authoritative.

 

Karkat stepped sideways as Feferi glided over to the transmitter. They all waited five minutes for the new representative of the Condescension to respond. Finally, a male voice with a somewhat-familiar aquatic accent responded.

 

“Your Majesty the Goddamn Wah-itch of Life, this is Wah-ice-Admiral Stifffin Regalarm of the A.I.S. Condescension speaking. Do I have permission to speak to you? Owah-ver.”

 

Feferi shouted into the transmitter, “Hi, pleased to meet you! I’m Feferi Peixes, and it’s just Witch of Life. Yes, you can talk to me. What do you want to glub about?” She took her finger off the button, only to put it back on again. “Oh yeah, and over!”

 

“Wah shall gladly let you board, though,” His voice went tense, “wah shall be forced to take action if you are not who you say you are. Owah-ver.”

 

“I understand, but I reely am the new Empress, so it won’t be a problem!” A pause. “Over.”

 

“Do you have intership transportalizers or will you need a shuttle? Owah-ver.”

 

“Nope, sorry, we don’t. You’ll need to give us a shuttle. Over.”

 

“Your shuttle wahill arriwe in thirty space minutes, owah-ver.”

 

“Thanks! Over.”

 

Feferi turned back to the rest of the crew.

 

“EVEEERYBODY! We need to get ready to board!” she yelled.

 

The next twenty minutes were looking for items around the ship. Feferi knew where everything was and she directed them to it. Tavros’ wheelchair was immediately found. Other things were harder to find. What items people did and didn’t have seemed to be random, but it was mostly just things they started the game with. Nobody had any alchemized weapons. When that was done everyone gathered and talked a little about the dream.

 

“Emissary of the freaky, you’re in the know,” Karkat asked Feferi, “What was the point of that endless dream?”

 

“Yeah,” said Nepeta, “It was fun being cute little sea creatures, but I thought we would do more impurrtant stuff.”

 

Feferi answered, “The Gods were giving us secret knowledge through our subconscious. We won’t realize what it means until the future, and then we can hear what’s going on.”

 

Rose nodded. “I look forward to that discovery.”

 

Jade said, “Now the dream feels like a cartoon you watched as a very little kid. The memory is fuzzy.”

 

“Yeah,” John added, “And even though it’s a goofy children’s cartoon there are weird moments when it suddenly gets serious and deep.”

 

Dave continued, “Like some character gets bumped off in some creative and horrifying way and you wonder how that got past standards and practices.”

 

“And when you grow up you can’t find it so you wonder if the barely seen animation was really the product of television or instead the product of your fevered childhood imagination,” Rose finished.

 

“Troll cartoons must be WAY better than human cartoons if that insipid mess reminds you of your wasted wrigglerhood,” Karkat said.

 

Everyone talked about the vaguely remembered events of the dream. From the dream they went to the future. The future was too distracting for anyone to talk about the past, and Karkat tried to keep it that way. There was a little flirting and snide remarks but the discussion was remarkable civil.

 

The only one who didn’t participate in the conversations was Eridan.

 

The shuttle came right when it was supposed to. After some difficulty hooking the ship up with the shuttle and rolling Tavros in, everyone left. The shuttle was piloted by two trolls of higher blood than expected, tealbloods. They took the situation easily, which showed why they were picked for such a mission. Though the shuttle was fairly large (Sollux bitterly noted it was a little bigger than his hive unit) it seemed smaller with everyone in it. John stood near the cockpit, Terezi and Kanaya stood away from Vriska, Aradia stood behind Tavros’ wheelchair, Karkat stood next to Gamzee, Nepeta hide behind Equius, and Eridan stood all alone.

 

The shuttle ride was short but the landing took forever. The cargo bay was the size of a stadium and filled with all sorts of different spacecrafts. A crowd of trolls, many who weren’t actually supposed to be there judging from their uniforms, waited from a distance of twenty feet away. When the Heroes exited the shuttle they were greeted by an entourage of indigoblood guards. Everyone of her new crew bowed from the waist. A few threw themselves to the ground. Such extreme genuflection wasn’t the protocol of the flagship; it wouldn’t do for all the workers to go prostrate every time the Empress happened to walk by, but this was no ordinary entrance. In such a momentous occasion one would expect the head of the guard to give a speech welcoming the new monarch onto the ship, but the event was too overwhelmingly momentous for any speech. The head guard greeted the new Empress as if she were the old one and lead the way to the bridge.

 

Since for security reasons there was no direct transportalizer to the bridge, the Heroes had a long way to go. None of them had ever been in an Alternian spaceship before so they were greatly interested in everything. The ship felt alive somehow. The constant hum had a beat. The insides of the red ship were dark purple, almost black. The lightning was dim, like the light of dusk on Earth. The walls were soft but the floors were hard and metal. The doors were invisible until someone used them and then they expanded like a sphincter. The hall was wider near the high ceiling, the better to fit all the various horn sizes and shapes. Despite the spaciousness the halls felt narrow due to the darkness and the twisty layout. John’s eyes were aglow at everything and he even touched the walls, bringing up random unwanted screens. Jade was better behaved around the technology but she shared in the enthusiasm. Rose tried to keep a scholarly distance but she overwhelmed by horrifying foreignness. Dave looked something different than cool. Even the trolls felt discombobulated in their own space. Only Feferi didn’t look around. She acted like she had been on the ship a million times.

 

Her new subjects reacted to her. When she came near they pressed themselves into the wall to allow her as much space possible. They kept their heads down when she passed. They only let their temptation to stare slip when the humans went by. The humans were not the first aliens to come unto the Alternian ship. Others had come from their species as honored guests and later, as honored prisoners. Even honored aliens were still aliens, so everyone felt free to gawk at them. The rest of the troll Heroes got covert glances.

 

The Heroes after taking the scenic route finally entered the bridge. The command center was the size of an IMAX theater. It was staggered into four decks facing a huge window into space. Despite all there was to look at their eyes quickly moved to the topmost deck.

 

“OH MY GOD THE BODY’S STILL HERE!” Karkat yelled.

 

Indeed, the now eight hour old corpse of the Condesce was still lying facedown in a puddle of congealed magenta blood on the topmost deck. She looked smaller than expected. Her six foot tall body didn’t carry as much weight now that her block-commanding spirit was gone. Her supernatural hair was limp and shriveled. She was just another dead troll.

 

“Well,” said Feferi, “It’s not allowed to touch the Empress without permission, and she can’t reely give permission if she’s dead.”

 

“They still should have vaporized it by now! Are they having one of those disgusting human corpse parties for the last eight hours? Do we have to do everything around here?”

 

“I think it’s kind of cool actually getting to see the old Empress is actually dead,” Aradia said.

 

“I can investigate the exact cause of death!” Terezi said. She sniffed at the body again and frowned. “After someone gets it on an examining table, that is.”

 

Karkat said, “One of you softspines needs to actually touch the body and...”

 

“I will,” Gamzee said.

 

He pulled Karkat off of his sleeve, strolled up the stairs to the sacred body, and actually captchalogued the whole thing.

 

“All motherfuckin’ clear!” he said, “Carry right on, princess.”

 

Feferi took her cue and walked up to the deck the old Empress used to stand on as she commanded her ship. She looked out over at the bridge crew. There wasn’t a full compartment of people and the ones who were there looked like they had been there for eight hours. They all looked completely shell-shocked. Feferi waved to everyone, the bridge crew, the eleven Heroes, and the Vice-Admiral.

 

“Hi everybody!” she said, “I’m Feferi Peixes, and I’ll be your leader from now on!”

Chapter Text

After rattling off the names of her fifteen companions to a barely comprehending audience, Feferi walked down to the second deck where Vice-Admiral Stiffins Regalarm stood waiting. Regalarm was a seadweller, as one would expect the highest officer in the Alternian Space Navy to be. As a high-ranking official, his uniform was partially customized. His sleeveless tunic had a stylized version of his symbol, a wheel, over his chest. On his right arm he had a tattoo of red tendrils, each tendril ending in a trident. His forearms were covered by two gold bracers. His face showed why he was called stiff fin and looked like a long stone wedge. His stone expression was cracking a little. She waited while he bowed deeply and when he came up, she addressed him.

 

“Sir Vice-Admiral, set a course for the nearest capital planet. We need to command the Empire from there. I will go to the Engine Block to check on the situation. Assemble all personnel for a speech. Bring a camera crew. I want it broadcasted and made into a news reel. Okay?”

 

The Vice-Admiral answered, “Yes, your Imperious…” He paused as he realized there wasn’t a throne noun for her yet. “…Empress.”

 

Karkat was impressed. He never thought she could slip into command like that. He grumbled inwardly at the idea that her skill came from her blood.

 

The Vice-Admiral looked out at his bridge crew.

 

“Set course to Planet Designation Tau-3, and call the Engine Block…”he shouted as he gave out her orders.

 

The bridge crew jumped into these commands. They weren’t expecting they would get a command ever again.

 

Feferi turned around sharply and looked at her fellow Heroes. She scowled at the slip of purple cape she saw in the back of the crowd.

 

“And somefin else…” she said softly before shouting, “Eeeeridan! Come here!”

 

Everyone stepped to the side revealing Eridan in the back of the group. He walked through the space made, head bowed, until he was a foot away from the Empress.

 

“Eridan, look up,” she growled.

 

He did. She gave an angry squeal, raised her hand high and slapped Eridan so hard fell to the floor. He just rubbed his purple cheek and looked up at her through his broken glasses.

 

“Sorry for everythin’,” he mumbled.

 

She scowled at him long but did not answer his apology. She turned sharply to the Vice-Admiral.

 

“Lock Mister Ampora in the brig!” she said pointing at him.

 

“Yes, your Imperious Empress,” he said and gestured to the bridge guard.

 

As the bridge guard lifted Eridan up roughly by the arm, Feferi added, “But don’t hurt

him. He’s a very important prisoner.”

 

The bridge guard was gentler with the completely submissive prisoner as he led him off the bridge. Feferi sighed.

 

After getting the ball rolling, the Vice-Admiral escorted the Heroes to the Engine Block. This took much less than getting to the Bridge since one could go directly to the Engine Block from the Bridge but not visa versa.

 

Unlike the majestic Bridge, the Engine Block was a dismal place. It was humid from the pool of liquid and it smelled of troll odor. A feeling of despair hung in the block like the strange vines that hung from the ceiling. Technicians hunched over the terminals along the walls, not looking at the disturbing sight in the middle of the block: a living troll cocooned in vines.

 

“The legendary Helmsman…” Vriska whispered dramatically.

 

“What’s the legend behind him?” John asked.

 

Vriska looked like she hadn’t expected anyone to ask her that.

 

“He’s the Helmsman of the Condescension and he was some important guy before he got assigned.”

 

“I don’t know, Mindfang had more important things to write about!”

 

The Legendary Helmsman had red and blue eyes under his fogged goggles. This mutation was rare but not unheard of among yellowbloods. It was a sign of strong psionic abilities. Yet on this troll it made him look familiar. Both Feferi and Aradia stepped forward to him. The Helmsman turned his head the best he could in Feferi’s direction and gave a gargled growl.

 

“Go away, I’m not your slave,” he rasped with a lisp.

 

Feferi put down the hand she had stretched out. She was offended he was taking out his well-deserved hate of her Ancestor on her, but she kept away as he told her. The Helmsman turned to Aradia.

 

“I think I know you,” he said.

 

“My name is Aradia Megido,” she answered, “And you must be the Psiioniic.”

 

“I met you…in the Signless’ World…but your name sounds unfamiliar.”

 

“The voices told me your name. We’ve never met.”

 

She looked back at Sollux who was staring at his Ancestor.

 

“Meet your Descendant!” she said gesturing at Sollux.

 

Sollux said nothing. He was disgusted his Ancestor got caught in such a situation. He would never have let that happen to him. He was too damn smart and skilled to get caught by the Empire. No, he thought, he probably would have fucked up at some point. He didn’t want a reminder of what would likely have been his fate in the old world. The Psiioniic in turn did not recognize his Descendant.

 

Aradia said, “You want to rest, don’t you?”

 

“Yes,” the Psiioniic replied.

 

“You will have your rest, I promise you with all my soul, we just need one more thing from you. We need you to take us to the nearest capital planet. With the Witch gone there’s a really dangerous power vacuum! We must start a new era before someone else takes the chance.”

 

“For you, I shall.”

 

Aradia went over to one of the technicians.

 

“How long will it take to get to Tau-3?” she asked.

 

The ghastly-faced technician spun back to his terminal and typed some information in.

 

“Under normal power, one space month,” he answered.

 

The Psiioniic spoke up, “I can do it in one week.”

 

The Heroes gasped but the technicians were unmoved by his sacrifice.

 

“Okay, seven space nights,” the Head Technician called out.

 

The other technicians went to work calibrating. (Helms technicians were already known as the people no one talks to at parties, but these technicians would never be invited to any party.)

 

“Thank you,” Aradia said to the Psiioniic.

 

“I know you will create a truly new world,” the Psiioniic answered.

 

“I will be the BEEEEST empress!” Feferi cheered.

 

Everyone looked at her. It was a bad idea to point out the troll the Psiioniic despised on sight was the one he was helping into power. Feferi thought that Aradia shouldn’t get away with implying she was the leader. Luckily, the Psiioniic’s affection for Aradia overcame his hate for Feferi.

 

Aradia said as she kneeled down next to the pool, “I’m staying here with you.”

 

The technicians looked alarmed at this unwelcomed guest but didn’t raise any objections.

 

She continued, “When your final journey is complete, you can sleep forever.”

 

She turned to nod at Feferi.

 

“Yes, I’m retiring you,” his new boss declared, “Probably even going to dismantle this awful ship! Then you can sleep. We’ll take cull of you.”

 

“It’ll die soon anyway,” the head technician said, “Two months to half a sweep. It’ll be at ¼ or less power the last few nights but it’ll still be usable.”

 

“I’m not going to see the double of my best friend used up like a goddamn battery,” Karkat snapped at the Head Technician, “He will have the most dignified death ever and you glass-eyed assholes will cry like your lusus fell dead on top of your entire quadrant.”

 

“Yeah,” added a shell-shocked Sollux softly.

 

“Can we leave this place?” Terezi asked, “It stinks of despair more than the Veil.”

 

“Yes, I have a speech to make!” said Feferi.

 

The Heroes all left, sans Sollux who stayed behind a moment to talk to Aradia.

 

“You sure you want to stay here all week?” he whispered.

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll send for food here and I’ll leave for load gaper breaks,” she replied.

 

“Not really worried about that,” he said as he left.

 

As the Heroes walked down the hall, Jade asked, “I thought trolls used perigees or something like that instead of months.”

 

“Not in space,” Karkat answered, “When off-Alternia we use a different calendar based off the Alternian calendar called the Space Calendar. Technically all planets are supposed to be on Space Calendar but they often end up using their own planetary calendar.”

 

“That sounds really complicated.”

 

“Yes, it is fucking complicated! Organizations often assign some poor nookscrubber to sort out that shit. God, everything in this empire has to be so complicated.”

 

Sollux, who had just caught up with the group, added, “Aradia’s good at figuring out the calendar.”

 

The group, now minus Aradia, went to the assembly hall to prepare for the highly historic speech. Behind the stage was a dressing block with four mirrors and four makeup artists. The new empress went first, of course. As the second highest, Gamzee was supposed to go first as well, but his moirail scared the makeup artists away before they could come close to the clown’s sacred face. Gamzee took a mirror and some white and grey face paint and did his own transformation in a booth. Blood order was ignored from then on. Equius’ handler marveled at his long mane but despaired at how to draw attention away from the mouth when she couldn’t draw attention to the eyes. Vriska’s hair broke the comb. Kanaya monopolized her jadeblood artist with chatter about how beautiful but lonely days were and how people accused them of lying about their blood color. The troll artists really didn’t know what to do with the tanned human Jade. They let her take the wheel and she ended up looking like a little girl who’d got into her mother’s makeup. Terezi ate the bright red lipstick after Jade used it and after wiping her lips just used plain black. The artists knew what to do with the pale Rose but she wouldn’t let them do that and ordered them around. John let them put makeup on him and convinced Dave it was “just like Hollywood”. Nepeta’s moirail made her sit still and behave. She had to discard the coat for the time being. The troll boys were fine with the makeup. In fact, Karkat made them pound on the powder till his face was a grey mask.

 

On the other side of the wall the audience entered the hall. Almost everyone on the ship was in attendance, except for the skeleton crew on duty, who were either listening in over the intercom or watching on the ship’s broadcast. Vice-Admiral Regalarm went up to the podium as a horn band played the Space Navy anthem. When the song was done, he began to speak. In his nervousness, his accent grew very wavy. Nobody was really listening to his overlong speech, anxious to hear their new leader’s instead.

 

Off-stage, Karkat turned to their leader and asked, “Oh shit, Feferi, do you have a speech prepared? Not everyone can make an inspiring speech off the top of their think pan like me.”

 

“Don’t worry!” she replied, “I’ve had one prepared for me.”

 

“What? Fuck, it doesn’t matter, just be better than that bulgetongue up there.”

 

The Vice-Admiral finally ceded the stage to the Empress. The band played the haunting national anthem as she strolled over to the podium. She smiled and waved at the audience. The audience applauded, but in the intimidated manner they used with her predecessor. Nobody “woo”-ed. Definitely no one whistled. After a minute Feferi raised her hand to tell them they could stop clapping and the grateful audience stopped.

 

And then she spoke. She greeted them warmly and expressed great gratitude that they were all in her presence. She briefly introduced herself before inviting her fellow Heroes to the stage. Some gasps came out of the audience at the sight of the very mixed group, but most people kept their reactions to themselves out of politeness and fear. She explained that they had all come together for a strange game. Before she said more about the game, she gave a long introduction for all of the assembled Heroes. She said the humans were from a planet far, far away and left it at that. When she talked more about the game, the Heroes took note of her cover stories. Her account of the game was obtuse and filled with unnecessary detail. It was enough to make the listener feel they got the real story without telling them the real story. She didn’t tell the audience they were in a recreated universe and the universe she had come from was dead instead declaring the new universe the players set out in the game to create was the universe starting now. From that springboard she spoke of this new universe. This was the most important part of her speech and the most lauded part of her speech, but on recollection it often faded like a poem memorized for school only to be forgotten. At the end of that inspiring part she stopped for the genuine applause. In a belated note she introduced the missing members of the group. She told them Aradia Megido was in the Engine Block and gave a detailed description of the maroonblood so no one would harass her. She said Eridan’s name and reluctantly his title and told them he had attacked her. She proclaimed no sentence on him and warned against anyone placing their own sentence. She changed back to her smile and ended with a fond farewell. The thousands in the audience cheered. Someone did go “woo” this time. (No one whistled.) Billions managed to catch the live broadcast on television. For months after, the thirty minute speech was shown before movies and people actually watched. It was beautiful.

 

Karkat went up to the podium to make a speech but was shooed away.

 

When the audience left and the film crew dismantled, the Vice-Admiral turned to Feferi.

 

“Wahat is your next command, your Imperious Empress?”

 

Feferi answered, “We need equal-level quarters, no color bias, except I’m getting the royal quarter.”

 

“One royal quarter, fourteen indigoblood quarters.”

 

“Thirteen,” said Karkat, stepping forward with his moirail, “I’m shacking up with my moirail and we need a special block with two cocoonbags instead of a big tempting bowl of sopor slime.”

 

Nepeta turned away from staring at Gamzee and yelled, “Twelve! I’m staying with my meowrail too!”

 

“Your quarters will be ready soon,” Regalarm said.

 

Feferi shouted to her group, “Hey, while we wait, let’s check out Condesce’s quarters!”

 

Everyone agreed, so the guards took them there.

 

The antechamber of the royal quarters was impressive enough. The fourteen Heroes and five guards could all hold their arms out and spin in place, though only Nepeta did this. The head guard demonstrated the chamber controls and stepped aside. The guards stepped back and the group tore through the place. The main chamber was a sprawling semi-circle. Shelves were built along the leftward curving wall. High along the wall was a mural of an aquatic hoofbeast race. In the middle of the left wall was a curtain and behind that was a small round alcove with an amorphous black chair as a throne which had a low table placed in front of it. The lounging area was equipped with a wall terminal and several video screens hanging from the ceiling. The messy wiring was kept out of view by small cabinets. The trolls immediately rifled through everything on the shelves.

 

Trolls don’t see the property of the dead as being sacrosanct. They do not have any reservation about taking their stuff. When a troll dies, it’s first-come-first-serve for personal effects and the dead can only hope their loved ones get their first. A troll who suspects they may die often gives their goods their loved ones or hides them where they can find it. The looters might be punished if they take something above their blood color like jewelry, but looting personal effects isn’t illegal. Ghosts don’t even care about the theft. After the personal effects are gone, the state takes back all private property. When a troll dies they have no more control over their lives. Inheritance is for species who know their heirs.

 

Karkat went straight for the DVDs.

 

“She has some really sentimental movies here,” he remarked.

 

“Really?” asked Nepeta.

 

“All sentimental about sealife. She still doesn’t give a shit about people.”

 

Nepeta went over to see what animals her Imperious Condescension liked but when she saw Gamzee hovering near him she stopped.

 

Karkat continued, “She also has a lot of historic epics.”

 

“That must be weird, watching a celebrity play you,” said John.

 

Karkat answered, “Nobody ever plays the Empress. At most you just see her hand or the back of her hair. Sometimes she doesn’t have a voice. You just hear half the conversation. What’s really creepy is when they have her dialogue on an intertitle like she’s permanently stuck in the silent era.”

 

“We do that sometimes with our Earth leader, the President of the United States,” John said.

 

“Technically he’s not my leader,” Jade piped in.

 

John continued, “The President is just the back of a head with a warm Presidential voice.”

 

“It’s because we have a whole lineup of leaders instead of just keeping the same suit century in century out. In the movies we just stick with President Old White Patriarch and it works out because they’ve all been Old White Patriarch, up till the end that is,” Dave elaborated.

 

“But sometimes we do get a real fictional president in movies and they’re played by someone cool like Harrison Ford!”

 

“Harrison Ford,” Sollux murmured, “That sounds familiar.”

 

“Forget Empress Witchy, why isn’t Mindfang in any of these movies?” Vriska asked.

 

“She can’t have a movie for every failed criminal!” Terezi answered. After a moment she muttered, “No law books, what a shame…”

 

She picked up a folio survey of a planet.

 

“But I like these metal pages,” she said, “I can lick all I want! Hey, we should go to this planet! It’s delicious!”

 

Kanaya called out from the block in the middle of the semi-circle, “Her wardrobe is in here.”

 

Rose, Jade, Vriska, and Feferi entered. In the back of the block was a makeup and toiletry table with a mirror curving the wall. Around it was her wardrobe. The selection of clothes was disappointing to the humans who expected much more from an empress. On her rack were just six different cuts of the same basic bodysuit. She had only two pairs of shoes: a gold version of her regular shoes and a pair of sandals. She had one drawer above the rack and in it were two bikinis. Even allowing the fact that she was travelling, it was still a miserable selection. Jewelry was a different matter. On the wall across from the rack were shelves and shelves of glistening gold and colorful precious stones. Necklaces, rings, bracelets, fin rings, toe rings, anklets, zipper charms, and hair decorations: combs, hair pins, and barrettes. Obviously many pieces bore either the Pisces sign or the red trident, but there were many decorated with sealife both familiar and fantastical. The Empress was indiscriminate with her jewelry; there were pieces of stunning beauty mixed in with incredibly tacky junk. She actually had a big diamond-encrusted necklace reading “Empress”, albeit in the formal script. None of it was costume jewelry. It was all the real deal. This is what she brought travelling.

 

“Now that I’m empress,” Feferi announced, “I’m removing the ban on jewelry for landdwellers!”

 

“Already brooooooooke that ban!” shouted Vriska as she put on more necklaces.

 

“I suppose my mother’s ban on getting my ears pierced before my hymen has also been rescinded,” said Rose.

 

Kanaya said, “I have never been one for jewelry except for pins and broaches. It is a shame her choice of clothing material precluded her from wearing them.”

 

“I still find such ornamentation disgustful,” Equius snorted as he looked over from the doorway.

 

Dave strolled in and his shaded eyes turned to the gold.

 

He said, “If you melted all this down you could make a doomsday survivalist almost feel finically secure, cause we all know when the zombies take over the banks everyone’s first thought is going to be, ‘oh shit they’ll eat my green, gotta get some gold!’”

 

He picked up the “Empress” necklace, put it on, and left.

 

Luckily Terezi found a book that interested her, so no small pieces of jewelry were accidentally swallowed.

 

Sollux was over in the lounging alcove playing around with her monitors with Karkat and Equius watching.

 

“You can get every corner of this ship up on the monitors,” Sollux told them.

 

“You mean…” Equius muttered, “She watched over her subjects…observing them in their most intimate moments…everywhere…at all times…”

 

“Her network isn’t that extensive, she didn’t like have cameras in the locker block.” He looked up at Equius and saw him sweating so he added, “But maybe if I could find the right channel…”

 

“I command you not to do that!”

 

“I FIRST that command!” Karkat replied, “I just know when we do everyone on the ugly people shift will be changing.”

 

“Forget the porn,” Sollux said, “I’m wishing she had some games.”

 

“Our former empress had more important things to do than play games,” Equius sniffed.

 

“Why not, that’s how our current empress got the job.”

 

At the end of the C was the antechamber to the underwater quarters. Feferi walked behind Tavros’s wheelchair as he looked longingly at the pool.

 

“I like being in the water,” he said, “Swimming underwater, is kind of liking flying.”

 

“You swim…used to swim?” asked Feferi.

 

“Not really. My horns were too big. But I liked standing, in the water, at the beach near my hive.”

 

“Wish I could swim,” said Gamzee as he wandered in.

 

A landdweller would have problems swimming in this pool. The pool was covered by glass and was only accessible through a small elevator.

 

“I’ve been wonderin’ something, my underwater sister,” Gamzee asked, “How do seatrolls go…”

 

But Feferi had already gone underwater.

 

It felt so good for the seatroll to be underwater. It had been so long since she had been underwater, actually underwater, not in a dream. She didn’t know how Eridan could stand being dry so much. No, she didn’t want to think about him. She didn’t have much time to enjoy it when Karkat came into view and gestured at her to come up.

 

When she did, he said to her, “Our quarters are ready. We’re going to check them out.”

 

Feferi pouted, “You didn’t need to bring me up for that! I was having fun!”

 

“Hey, just thought you didn’t want to feel abandoned in this fucking fortress of quadrant-emptiness.”

 

She went in for a hug but he backed away.

 

“Get a towel first!” he yelled.

 

“For a troll with a water lusus you’re pretty crabby about getting wet.”

 

Feferi dried off and then saw her friends off. When they left the antechamber, she went up to the two guards left behind.

 

“Do I have some sort of maid?” she asked.

 

“The Royal Handmaid killed herself, right?” asked one guard to the other.

 

“Yeah, Goldcomb stabbed herself with a long pin,” the guard replied.

 

“Damn, how many suicides have there been? Last I heard it was 149.”

 

The first guard turned back to the Empress.

 

“A handmaid is not available, but you still have a chambermaid. Do you require her?”

 

“Well….I do have a question about my block,” Feferi replied.

 

The royal chambermaid was found huddling in her moirail’s respiteblock and was brought to her new mistress.

 

Feferi asked her, “Where is the recuperacoon?”

 

The chambermaid replied, “Well, the Empress Condense…she didn’t exactly sleep.”

 

Meanwhile, the rest of the Heroes were lead down two levels to their quarters. On their way through the hall, Gamzee bumped into Nepeta. Her pent-up anger exploded and she pounced on Gamzee. Everyone turned to see a blur of movement. The struggle lasted only fifteen seconds and ended with Gamzee pressing Nepeta up against the wall with one club under her ribs and another against her throat.

 

“Don’t FUCK with me, ANIMAL,” he growled.

 

“Murderer,” gargled Nepeta in return.

 

The guards just stood around not knowing how to protect the Heroes from themselves. Karkat raced up to his moirail and patted him on the back. The highblood turned to snarl at him but his expression turned goofy after a few pats. He loosened his clubs and Nepeta fell into her moirail’s waiting arms. Gamzee’s shirt was in tatters and his face had a few new scratches, light ones. Nepeta had a bruise on her neck and likely one on her chest. Their respective moirails fussed over them. When Gamzee’s breathing slowed to normal, Karkat looked up at the group.

 

“Let’s just skip the damn grand tour of our facilities and just get some sleep!” he yelled.

 

“But we just slept for three years,” John pointed out.

 

“Doesn’t do any harm, having more sleep,” Tavros remarked.

 

“Just go to your blocks and rest or masturbate or whatever,” Karkat said as he pulled Gamzee to a door with both their signs above it, “We’ll meet later when we meet!”

 

Equius watched his moirail’s attacker leave with mixed emotion before shaking out of it and saying, “He shouldn’t be giving orders anymore.”

 

“Bossypants,” muttered Vriska, but she obeyed his order.

 

Rose asked Dave, “Knight of Time, do you have insight into what clock they keep on this vessel?”

 

“It’s 5:35 PM,” Dave answered.

 

“Impressive.”

 

“Not really. It’s just been an hour and thirty-five minutes since they announced it was 1600 hours at the beginning of the ceremony.”

 

“Still impressive.”

 

“Naw, I don’t know if they are using military time. These are alien workaholic night owls, they might have 2,400 hour days.”

 

Everyone settled into their own block. After two hours, Feferi sent out a memo over Trollian ordering everyone to the mess hall. Well, actually, Karkat told Feferi to order everyone to the mess hall. Feferi wanted them to sit with the ordinary people, but Karkat and the dining director convinced her to hold their dinner in a private block up near the officer’s dining club. Attendance was prompt. The Heroes, minus Aradia and Eridan, sat around the equalitarian round table. Karkat still considered him and Feferi to be at the head since they were parallel to the door. He took his role as still-kinda-leader and stood up on his chair banging a spoon against his glass.

 

“Attention everyone!” he yelled.

 

Everyone but Equius stopped. He continued talking as a small act of rebellion before sheepishly backing down after a few seconds. Karkat got down from his chair.

 

He said, “Before we eat ourselves into a stupor on the only non-imaginary food we’ve had in sweeps, let’s try and have some sort of goddamn closure. There are too many knives on the table to let people go around sore. We need to prevent a bloodbath. Time to pass out some apologies.

 

“Since everything is equal in this universe, all grievances will be treated as equal, even though they’re not. Apologies will be handed out by the order dictated…” He held up a green bottle. “…by this bottle of grubsauce.”

 

He put the bottle of grubsauce on its side and spun it hard.

 

“This wigglers’ game?” Vriska whined, “Are we going to have to kiss whoever the bottle…”

 

The bottle stopped at Tavros. Karkat put his hand on the bottle to spin it again.

 

“Let’s try this again,” he said.

 

Tavros interrupted, “I’m sorry.”

 

“What?”

 

“Yes, I’m, uhh, sorry, Vriska, that I said I would try to kill you, and then I tried to kill you.”

 

Karkat looked over at Vriska.

 

“You mean she actually was right and the duel wasn’t some fucking excuse to kill yet another lowblood?” he said.

 

“I told you I didn’t smell any lies,” Terezi groaned.

 

“Why were you trying to kill her?” Karkat asked Tavros, “No, scratch that, why did you think you could kill her? She was God Tier! And how come I didn’t know about this furry-think-pan scheme?” He looked around. “Next time someone decides to kill another player, tell me about it! And then don’t do it!”

 

“I’d like to speak,” said Tavros, “Vriska, I’m sorry I tried to kill you, for doing something I was guilty of, in a very small way, when I made Jade’s dog lusus teleport that bullet into Jade’s human lusus.He turned sheepishly to Jade. Uhh, by the way, sorry Jade.” He turned back to Vriska. “We both tried to make ourselves be the hero. And along with trying to kill you, I’m sorry I didn’t kill you, uhh, when you wanted me to kill you. I’m afraid I’m stubborn, at all the wrong times. Vriska?”

 

Vriska’s eyes were wide open and she was leaning away from the table.

 

“Ummmmmmmm,” she said, “Apology accepted. Ah, Iiiiiiii’ll just wait until the bottle hits me for my apology.”

 

Karkat spun the bottle again only for it to land on Terezi.

 

“Oh great,” he said, “The bitch is getting two apologies in a row.”

 

“My execution of Vriska Serket was completely justified!” declared Terezi.

 

“She thinks everything she does is justified,” muttered Vriska loudly to herself.

 

“But…I don’t feel like it was just. It smelled dirty. So…I’m sorry it came to that.”

 

“Sorry it came to that? That still sounds like you’re putting the blame on me.”

 

“The blame is on you! But okay, I am sorry you had to feel the pain of getting stabbed!”

 

“Well, that’s something. Not that I couldn’t take that pain. It was nothing compared to my God Tier death.”

 

Karkat cried, “Sorta apology sorta accepted! Next!”

 

The bottle landed on Gamzee.

 

“Finally!” declared Karkat, “Someone who is actually guilty!”

 

He turned to his moirail.

 

“Sorry but it’s true,” he said to him.

 

“Understood, bro,” replied Gamzee.

 

The repentant serial killer looked over at the palemates across the table. He gave a plaintive frown.

 

“Nepeta, my motherfuckin’ meowsis,” he began, “Murders my think pan thinking about how I murdered your think pan. You are a beautiful motherfuckin’ little creature. You didn’t deserve to be culled just for being the best palesis ever. It wasn’t funny, nothing hilarious in taking away your smile. You dig?”

 

Nepeta kept her arms crossed and growled. Equius cleared his throat and stared at his disobedient moirail.

 

She finally said, “Okay, apurrlogy accepted.”

 

Gamzee turned to his other murder victim.

 

“Equius, it wasn’t right for me to murder you with your own…” He started giggling until Karkat elbowed him. “Naw, it wasn’t funny. Sorry ponybro.”

 

Equius replied, “Since the Highblood wishes to apologize I will accept his…”

 

“Stop playing your little blood games AND WRIGGLING YOUR WAY INTO MY MIND just chill you motherfucker BEFORE I SHOVE A MOTHERFUCKIN’ CLUB UP YOUR-“

 

Karkat papped Gamzee into submission.

 

Gamzee breathed out, “Okay, bro.”

 

He turned his attention to John.

 

“Friendleader kid, sorry I got my chucklevoodoo into your human think pan.”

 

“What?” John replied.

 

“He made clowns appear in your dreams with his psychic powers,” Karkat explained.

 

“What?” replied John again, “Well, I wish you hadn’t done that, but other than ruining my posters, I don’t think that really did any harm at all.”

 

“Ignorance is motherfuckin’ bliss,” Gamzee mumbled to himself.

 

The bottle next landed on Dave.

 

“I thought the humans didn’t have to apologize,” said the human’s friendleader, “It wasn’t actually our fault Bec Noir…”

 

“Chill the plausible deniability, President Egbert,” interrupted Dave, “I have an apology for the pot.”

 

He looked over at Gamzee, who moved back towards Karkat when he saw how close he was to the hated human.

 

“Gamzee, the clown one, right?” Dave asked, “Yeah. Sorry I showed you that video of one of our species’ embarrassing moments. I should have been more culturally sensitive. I didn’t know it was against your religion to let white dudes rap about…”

 

“Stop it Strider before you commit another ‘motherfuckin’ blasphemy’,” Karkat snapped.

 

“Okay. Sorry, my bad, clown dude.”

 

Gamzee answered darkly, “The human isn’t schoolfed in the ways of the clown religions. He’s an ignorant shit-eating little grub that don’t know the way up til his dead human lusus showed him. He ain’t a sinner. That is ‘long as he never spits out a rhyme about it again. Honk honk.”

 

“Thanks for the fantastic fatwah.”

 

Karkat yelled back, “I don’t know what the fuck a fatwah is but I don’t like the sound of it coming from your insensitive mouth! Don’t say anything to my moirail other than ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘sorry’, and ‘thanks for not subjuggulating me!’”

 

“Fine, I’ll stay away from your friend-boyfriend,” mumbled Dave as he leaned back in his chair.

 

The bottle landed on Vriska.

 

“The best part!” cried Karkat, “Wish we ordered dinner first so I could eat some popcorn for this debacle. Not that I’d ever eat that sacred snack for dinner.”

 

“Do I have to apologize for eveeeeeeeerything?” Vriska asked.

 

“YES.”

 

She sighed. “Okay, Aradia isn’t here and I HAVE apologized to her plus she DID kill me…”

 

“Apologize to her again after dinner.”

 

“Fine, I’ll apologize to her, even though I did give her that robot body. Terezi, sorry I gave you awesome super sight.”

 

Terezi replied, “You also gave me radiation burns.”

 

“Yes and radiation burns because you are such a delicate flower.”

 

“Are you going to apologize for almost leading Bec Noir to the Veil?”

 

“I can’t apologize for something I didn’t do and totally wouldn’t have happened in the first place!”

 

“I saw it happen.”

 

“You’re blind!”

 

“The powers of the Hero of Light can work past any physical deficiency,” Rose explained.

 

“I know that, Book Queen,” Vriska snapped.

 

Terezi said, “You also should apologize for the poor losers you marched to their death.”

 

“That was to feed my lusus! And you were right there cackling beside me!”

 

“I thought they were wrongdoers, because you LIED to me!”

 

“They were wrongdoers! I just didn’t check to see what wrong they did! If you cared so damn much you should have used your clever think pan to find out. You are still just as guuuuuuuuilty as me, sister!”

 

Terezi grumbled but then said, “You hurt my friends.”

 

“That’s why I’m apologizing to them, damnit!”

 

Vriska took a deep breath. She looked at Tavros with true sorrow.

 

“Tavros, I’m sorry I killed you. I’m not saying this because that bossy little asshole over there is telling me to. I’ve wanted to apologize since your body splat. I didn’t need to kill you, I could have just conked you out. You were actually doing something brave for once and I respect you for that. So, sorry.”

 

Tavros replied. “You still haven’t apologized, for, uhh, throwing me off that cliff.”

 

Vriska sighed with defeat.

 

“I knew I eveeeeeeeentually had to apologize for that. Sorry I did that. Again, I could have just conked you.”

 

“With conking out, I don’t like it when you manipulate me, and I wouldn’t like you hitting me. But thanks for saying, uhh, what you said. That meant a lot, I feel better now, about everything.”

 

Terezi said, “Vriska should also apologize for…”

 

Karkat clapped, “Okay, enough…”

 

Vriska spun the bottle.

 

“What?” she said, “Like I could leave anything unspun!”

 

The bottle landed on Kanaya.

 

Kanaya said, “I suppose I should apologize to Vriska for attacking her face.”

 

“I actually liked that,” Vriska whispered.

 

“And I’m not actually sorry. I’m also not sorry about attacking Gamzee’s delicate region but in the interest of burying the chainsaw I want to say my primal rage against him has evaporated.”

 

“You could have done permanent damage to the indigoblood’s love life,” her neighbor Equius scolded.

 

“Thank goodness for the internal genitalia.”

 

The humans looked around at the troll males.

 

Karkat picked up the grubsauce bottle and clanged a spoon against it.

 

“That’s all the apologies from all the murders, except for Eridan, who deserves no apology and will never, ever, EVER be forgiven,” he said, “Now for the second most important question: what will we have for dinner? Egbert, ring the bell.”

 

John went over to the door and pressed the call button.

 

Karkat continued, “I know you humans will fucking whine and complain about even the finest goddamn cuisine, but you’ll just have to find something.”

 

Dave said, “I can always eat orange creamsicles. Wouldn’t be the first time I had them for dinner.”

 

Jade asked, “Does troll food involve any cannibalism?”

 

“What the fuck is cannibalism?” Karkat asked.

 

“It’s when you eat your own species.”

 

“Since your entire species is in this block, you are not going to end up having human for dinner, unless you feel like sticking a fork into each other, which you better fucking not.”

 

“That isn’t what I meant.”

 

“Don’t worry Jade,” Kanaya said, “There is more to sustain us than troll grubs, which I have never gained a taste for.”

 

“You can always have plankton chips,” offered Sollux, “That’s what everyone who’s too scared to order anything interesting eats.”

 

The waiter came with the officer’s menu. It came on a touch pad so the diner could click on the dish to see how it looked like if they couldn’t read the formal script. The human diners also had help from the trolls figuring out what was what. Dave and Terezi ordered orange creamsicles. John and Jade ordered plankton chips. Rose ordered an exotic dish she didn’t eat. Nepeta tried to order her meat raw but wasn’t allowed by the waiter or her moirail, who demanded to receive a vegetarian meal with precise rules. Tavros was too shy to demand anything so he just ordered a meat dish and ate the garnish. Kanaya ordered insect grubs. Karkat and Feferi ordered seafood. Gamzee ordered a meat pie. Sollux and Vriska ordered something boring and not relevant to their personalities or constitution.

 

After ordering, John asked, “Why did we have to order off the menu?”

 

Vriska replied, “They don’t have eveeeeeeeerything here, not even for VIPs like us.”

 

“Don’t you have a machine that can make everything?”

 

Sollux answered, “You mean the alchemizer? We only got that technology in the game, stupid.”

 

“I mean better than an alchemizer. You don’t need grist or codes. You just say ‘Earl Grey, hot’ and the machine makes it.”

 

Dave sighed, “Egbert you nerd.”

 

John said to Dave, “But we’re living in science fiction now!”

 

Karkat yelled, “We are not living in some primitive human vision of what a high-tech world would look like! Tell me, what does this machine use to make this Earl Grey hotshit?”

 

“I…don’t know. I haven’t watched enough Star Trek.”

 

“If our civilization had a fucking magical machine like that, we’d just spend all night fondling our shame globes instead of working our shame globes off sucking all we can from our planets.”

 

“I understand jack shit about Star Trek now.”

 

“I don’t even know what Star Trek is,” whined Jade.

 

The food came and almost everyone ate. As Vriska watched Feferi finish off more whale than one would expect from a girl so slim, she brought up an important point.

 

“What happened to Gl'bgolyb?”

 

“She’s gestating. When the time comes she’ll be culled for,” Feferi answered.

 

“Then all our lusii are alive?”

 

“Nope!” replied Feferi undiplomatically.

 

All the trolls, even Vriska, observed a mournful silence. The humans joined in solidarity.

 

When the silence was over, John asked, “What about our parents?”

 

Feferi answered, “I don’t know where the humans are in this universe.”

 

Even Dave looked worried at this uncertain statement.

 

Feferi added, “We’ll meet them when the time is right.”

 

“I doubt our guardians are alive,” Rose said with an ambiguous bitterness.

 

Karkat made an attempt to distract everyone.

 

“Tomorrow we are going to teach the humans about our greatest cultural achievements!”

 

“Musclebeast paintings?” Equius asked.

 

“No not musclebeast paintings you uncultured idiot. Only perverted bluebloods like that! Cinema is an art with universal appeal.”

 

“I don’t like movies,” volunteered Vriska.

 

“And we have another perverted blueblood that prefers depictions of gross animal genitals to troll emotions.”

 

Vriska blushed angrily.

 

“I don’t like animals! Animals are stupid and gross and I only like them on my plate.”

 

Equius and Tavros looked offended. Karkat continued his announcement.

 

“At 1000 hours, we are all going to meet at the ship’s cineplex – the ship does have a cineplex? It better – we’ll meet there and have a movie marathon.”

 

John cried, “That sounds awesome!”

 

Rose added, “I must admit I am curious about your cinema, though I have never been an enthusiast of the medium.”

 

“Sounds good for a laugh,” said Dave.

 

“I’ve never seen a movie on the big screen!” cried Jade.

 

“Human movies look better,” said Vriska as she turned to John, “but I guess I’ll come along.”

 

“Can I lick the screen?” asked Terezi.

 

“No you may never ever lick the goddamn screen!” Karkat snapped.

 

“Don’t blame me if I can’t follow the movie,” grumbled Terezi.

 

Dinner ended and everyone went their own way. Vriska went to the Engine Block as promised.

 

“Aradia?” she whispered from the doorway.

 

One technician turned around, but Aradia didn’t. Vriska sighed and walked the rest of the way in.

 

“Aradia,” she said, “I sorry I killed you. Doc Scratch…no, fuck it, he didn’t do anything. It was me. Aradia?”

 

She replied without turning around, “It all worked out in the end. I forgive you.”

 

“Guess I’m off the hook now,” Vriska said, a little rattled, as she left.

 

The next day (or night as it were), John, Dave, Rose, Jade, Terezi, Vriska, and Gamzee came to Karkat’s film festival. (Gamzee left after the first movie because he was feeling antsy around so many potential victims, and then Nepeta joined them as if she had some psychic sense her enemy wasn’t present anymore.) The movie theater complex was smaller than expected. Screens at troll movie theaters are not divided by title, but by genre. The viewer goes to the genre of their choice and watches whatever movie is playing. This movie theater had only three genres: tragedy, comedy, and action (“WHAT ABOUT SUBTLE BLENDS OF TRAGEDY AND COMEDY YOU FUCKING PHILISTINES!?!”). Not caring about the genre designation, Karkat commandeered the comedy screen for his medley of essential watching. The audience of off-duty crewmembers would have to deal with his out-of-genre choices. In the presence of the Heroes, the troll audience was respectfully silent. Karkat ordered them to behave like a troll audience to properly create the right atmosphere, and then had to order the audience to be a little less trollish.

 

The humans had expected the movies to be just Hollywood movies with troll actors. They were very wrong. Sure, some of the actors seemed like Hollywood actors in grey face paint. For instance, [troll Will Smith] was definitely troll Will Smith with all his “hell naws”. However, most of the time the human observers had that feeling one get when you think it’s a certain actor or actress playing a character and midway through you realize you’re wrong and suddenly you see all the differences. Troll audiences always know what actor is playing what character, since the characters are called by the actor’s name. The actors all wore a colored dot on their clothes showing their real caste behind the fake face fins and colored contacts. The casting may have been easy to follow but the stories weren’t. Since the entire plot was flashed at the beginning of the movie, the makers assumed that nothing needed to be explained. Reaction came without any apparent plot point being introduced first. A character would start crying out of nowhere and the audience was supposed to know from some motif that another character confessed love or challenge them to a duel or told them they couldn’t be seated right away. Even with Karkat pointing out all the motives it was hard to follow. Sometimes characters would just look into the camera and recite a long unrelated monologue. Since exposition could be skipped, the movies would spend that time just lingering around watching the characters hang out. Except for slapstick, all comedy was lost on the humans. The whole experience was more like watching ritual theater than popular entertainment.

 

By the third night the film festival collapsed. One by one the Heroes left. No one but Karkat was left when he showed “Male criminal kidnaps the near-culling-worthy moirail of a legislacerator but his boss doesn’t trust him to do the job so he send a female criminal…’Gobblebeast time, turkey turkey!’” He spent the rest of the night watching his planned schedule hoping everyone would change their minds, but on the fourth night he didn’t bother going to the theater to the relief of the theatre programmer, who was now free to show more popular selections.

 

Everyone found some way to pass the time on the well-equipped ship. Aradia continued her vigil by Sollux’s Ancestor. When she had to leave for a short break, sometimes she would meet Sollux and they would share a sad look. Sollux never went into the Engine Block. When he wasn’t waiting to see Aradia, he was with Feferi.

 

On the last night before they arrived, Feferi found herself strolling with Vriska on her private royal promenade. She looked at the stars and sighed, and then looked at Vriska.

 

She said, “I don’t know about all this empress stuff. What if I can’t be a good ruler? What if I can’t do good for my people? It’s really got me worried and depressed.”

 

Vriska replied, “Yeah, I think we’re all worried about this situation. No one knows if we can do our job.”

 

Feferi’s frown suddenly turned into a broad smile and she started laughing.

 

“Psych! Got you again! You are so easy to hook! Of course I’ll be good! I’m not evil like Condesce!”

 

Vriska muttered, “You have a weirder sense of humor than a juggalo,” and wandered off.

 

The next night, A.I.S. Condescension arrived at her destination: the palace Potemkin on the planet Ekaterina.

Chapter Text

Landing a vessel the size of a village was a task only to be performed once a decade. As the current capital planet, Ekaterina had a huge airfield equipped for such landings. The A.I.S. Condescension coordinated the landing with small ground crew led by the subordinate of a subordinate. The people planetside were evasive about their situation and the people shipside were too distracted to care. The ship was successfully put on the ground.

When the ship came to a complete stop, the fourteen Heroes went to the Engine Block. They brought the ship’s Chief Mediculler and a medisister with them. Aradia lay in waiting. The technicians and their assistants set out on the hard work of detaching the Helmsman. The pool was drained. The vines were unraveled. The tubes that gave him sustenance and the tubes that took away his waste were removed. Finally, the psychic dampeners that kept him from wrecking havoc were deactivated. Detaching from a ship a troll that was still living was a new experience for the technicians, but they achieved the task without injuring their subject. A blanket was wrapped around his naked bottom half and he was laid in Aradia’s lap. She took off his helmet and stroked his brittle hair. He was much bigger than the adolescent girl and yet it felt like she was his mother, if trolls could have mothers. They formed a troll Piéta.

The former Helmsman thanked her with the name Damara. He whispered she should make sure Meenah doesn’t cause too much mischief. Feferi caught this but didn’t catch the meaning. He addressed Sollux for the first time but called him by his own hatch name Mituna. Sollux still understood what he meant. The Chief Mediculler and his medisister knelt down next to the body. The medisister checked the condition of the patient and quietly conferred with the mediculler. She prepared the hypodermic needle filled with solution Gamzee found fascinating and handed it to the mediculler. The mediculler injected the powerful soporific into the patient’s arm. Then in an uncharacteristic deference to the culled, they stepped back to leave him in the comforting presence of Aradia.

The Psiioniic spent his last living moments in two times: before the Execution and before the Scratch. He babbled strange inside jokes until his speech turned to buzzy grub talk. After two minutes, his eyes fluttered and closed for the last time. The mediculler checked to confirm his status. The Signless’ last follower was dead.

Karkat wept surreptitiously into a black handkerchief. Sollux and Aradia wept openly. A technician wept but that was out of fear of the Hero of Blood.

The Chief Mediculler broke the silence. “If you’re done the medical department would like the body, your Honors.”

“Yeah, I think we’re done,” Feferi answered for everyone.

To the humans’ horror the rest of the trolls nodded in agreement, even the trolls who’d just been mourning him.

John cried out, “You can’t just dissect and dump him like a lab rat! He’s already spent his life trapped in evil technology!”

“Leave off on your alien customs. We aren’t treating him like a lab rat; we’re treating him like a troll,” Karkat snapped back. 

“Maybe it would be nice to have a human funeral,” Aradia said.

“If you don’t mind my asking, what is a human funeral?” asked the medisister, who was afraid to find out.

Aradia answered, “It’s a corpse party! You gather around the corpse and, well…”

John picked it up. “People say prayers and sing sad songs, someone comes up and does a speech about the dead person called a eulogy, and then they take the dead person and put them in a box in the ground or burn them and put the ashes in an urn.”

 Rose finished, “And then all the adults inebriate themselves into a stupor.”

The Chief Mediculler asked, “So, you just keep the body around…?”

Jade replied, “Sometimes we taxidermy it!”

“No, only your weird family does that, Jade,” John said.

The medisister said, “I have heard of little get-togethers where the lovers talk about the dead…but why would you do it in the same block as the dead?”

“Exactly!” Karkat said.

“Who would attend this purrty?” Nepeta asked, “I don’t think this guy had anyone in his quadrants.”

“We could all attend!” John answered.

“But that’s more than the customary five people for that uncustomary event,” said Equius, “None of us are his lover.”

“But we are his friends!”

“Egbert, even this guy’s troll son isn’t going to RSPV,” Dave said, gesturing over to a confused Sollux, “The church will be empty when you deliver your stuttering speech about a guy you don’t know jack shit about. It’s gonna be sadder than Lalonde’s favorite traumatic memory.”

“Am I going to get the body after your rituals are performed?” asked the Chief Mediculler hopefully.

“We’ll put his body in a nice wooden box,” John explained, “after we put some pants on him of course, then we’ll put the box six feet down in the ground, and on the ground above we’ll put a stone block that says his name and, um, guess we don’t really know the years, but we can say he was a good guy?”

“And then my department can dig up the box and take the body?”

“That sounds nice, John,” Aradia remarked, “Like building a little ruin for him. I wish I could have done that with my lusus. But I also think we should explore the body to see how it works.”

She nodded at Sollux and he nodded. It would be useful to learn more about someone who probably had the same brain problems as him.

“Okay!” said Karkat as he threw up his hands, “The medicullers can take the damn body, find out if his think pan is as fucked up as Sollux’, and give the pieces to you spooks. I just want it out right now!”

The medical team, glad the discussion was over, took the body out on a gurney. The late Helmsman was covered with a sheet. No sense scarring the crew who probably didn’t know the engine was dead.

Gamzee asked, “If we’re doing special shit with that body, what are we gonna do with this Condesce bitch I got up in my sylladex?”

Karkat leapt away from his moirail. “Oh my god all this time you’ve been carrying around a corpse?”

“Yeah, is that really a surprise? Cause you didn’t see me lay it out anywheres.”

“That thing was on your person…while we cuddled?”

“Would you been less pissed off if I just stashed it away in our crib where it could pop up like a motherfuckin’ puppet?”

“You could have stashed it in the cold void of outer space!”

Jade spoke up, “I think we should have a funeral for the dead empress lady.”

This time the humans looked at her like she suggested something unheard of, like marrying the dogs to each other so they wouldn’t live in sin.

Jade retreated, “Okay, maybe not a funeral, it would be too hard to find good things to say, but we should do something better than tossing the body into space.”

“What ridiculous human corpse treatment do you suggest?” asked Karkat.

“Hear me out: People aren’t going to believe the empress is dead, because she’s a really powerful witch and powerful witches just don’t die.  They’ll say the witch is somewhere out there plotting revenge. But if we can show them the body, they’ll believe she’s really truly dead!”

“That’s a great idea!” cried Feferi.

“That surprisingly enough wasn’t scatterbrained and stupid,” Karkat said.

“Bitchtits!” Gamzee shouted, “We can laugh in that bitch witch’s frown face all night!”

Rose remarked, “A previously living sorceress statue. Quite the conversation piece.”

“And I can do the job,” Jade said, “I managed to taxidermy a humanoid when I was six and that was with a body that had been in the freezer for two years.”

Gamzee went over to Jade, uncaptchalogued the corpse, and pressed it into Jade’s hands. She dropped it.

“I can’t captchalogue the whole thing!” she screamed.

“I’ll keep it with me!” Feferi said.

She easily picked up the body and captchalogued it. Karkat stared at her.

“I thought it was creepy enough Gamzee keeping it next to his bottle of Faygo, but no, you possessing your own dead genetic double is creepier.”

Gamzee commented, “I think you got some unnatural hang-up about dead bodies.”

“A sort of thanatophobia ,” Rose suggested.

Karkat sighed and said, “Dead bodies! Can’t stand ‘em!”

“Hey!” shouted Jade, “My grandfather was a dead body!”

The Heroes left the place of death for their own living quarters. During their week aboard they’d racked up their meager inventory with necessities and luxuries procured on the ship. Everyone got a supply of black shirts and a sigilizer to apply their symbol with. The human’s favorite symbols had to be simplified and done in a blood color. John was cobalt, Rose was sea troll violet, Dave was maroon, and Jade was a rarely seen green shade. All these new shirts were packed up and ready to go.

The new empress made a short shipwide broadcast thanking the crew for their work. The Vice-Admiral gave a longer speech informing the crew they were on indefinite and restricted planet leave. They were forbidden to leave the planet along with a list of other activities the officer sternly listed. 

With that out of the way, the royal party disembarked the Condescension. Along with the fourteen Heroes the new empress was accompanied by her own honor guard, her personal servants, a whole bunch of people who’d just accumulated, and last and least the former Hero Eridan Ampora with his dishonor guard.

 Ekaterina, as the third planet away from the star Tau was commonly called, was an uninviting land. The sky was a uniform grey and for some reason it hurt to look at it. The only vegetation was sharp short grayish grass. It lacked the familiarity of the human’s home and the exoticism expected from an alien planet. It felt like one of the desolate islands of the Earth’s far north.

There was little sign of any civilization around the airfield.  There was a platform with a kiosk that looked like a train stop. Instead of rails between the two tunneled hillocks was a grooved ditch.  Everyone went over to the platform. Out of the hole came a gigantic worm. It stopped at the kiosk and turned its head towards the platform. The maw of the creature opened like a pupil made of teeth revealing what looked like a squishy train car. The trolls entered the body of what appeared to be a living creature without any fear of digestion. The fearless Rose, already used to monstrosities, walked in the creature. After a moment’s hesitation Jade went in next. Dave, not to be shown up by two girls, hid his fear and strolled in. John stayed on the platform just staring at the creature. Realizing not everyone was on, Karkat left his seat and went to get John.

“What is your fucking problem? How did you get to be leader when you are the biggest cluckbeast of all the humans?!” he yelled.

“The giant worm…it’s like ‘Dune’…” John muttered, “But they just rode on them…and that movie was already confusing enough…”

He turned to Karkat.

“So…” he asked, “Is it really living?”

“Of course it isn’t dead! You just saw it move!”

“But doesn’t it need to digest?”

“They alter its primitive cells so it’s never hungry and then feed it via…oh fuck it, just nobody gets digested.”

“Really?”

Actually, that did sometimes happen, but Karkat wasn’t going to bring that up.  Karkat’s reassurance worked, and John went in and sat next to Dave (Vriska had been giving him disappointed looks). The worm descended into its precut tunnel and travelled along its assigned route. The trip seemed to take half an hour to the humans but to the trolls, used to such transportation, it took the usual five minutes between stops. The worm stopped, and the dim lighting of the car opened to the dim lighting of an underground station. The station wasn’t like the city wormways on Alternia. Instead of steel benches there were couches and no ads or notices cluttered the walls. This was a private station. Instead of any fare collection there was a security office to inspect the passengers. The booth was staffed with more than just the two paper-checkers needed. A dozen soldiers were jumping around the electronic gate. Their tension melted when they saw the new empress. However they didn’t show the fannish devotion most of her subjects had shown so far. They acted like she was an old familiar face returning after too long. They let through the entire royal entourage without any alarm over the lowbloods or the alien humans.

The royal party ascended by elevator back to the surface. There they saw at the end of a peninsula their new home: the palace Potemkin. It had been hidden by the surrounding hilly landscape and a wall that had only been a line on the horizon but now it couldn’t be missed. The Condesce’s last palace looked to be the size of her flagship, but that was just the above-water part. Its red coral steps ascended out of the ocean and onto the land. Its jagged towers mirrored the jagged rocks around the cliff. It was sharp and loud, perfect for her Imperious Condescension. The grandeur was ruined by its bad repair. Some of the towers were broken. Windows had black sheets over them. Scaffolding had been erected around some parts. This all could be explained as just a product of neglect if it weren’t for the scorch marks. The random pits in the lawn were another mystery.

Greeting them was a large male troll with a friendly face marred by a fresh scar on his lip that turned his smile into a half-frown. He wore an all-indigo outfit including an indigo headband. This showed he was a caste leader. Caste leading was an odd semi-official position requiring the candidate to be both likeable and threatening. They were like student presidents, if student presidents went to poorer schools to bully the kids.

He greeted them with the caste-appropriate bow from the waist. “Welcome, our new Empress and her court, to your palace. My name is Levysman and I have represented your indigoblood subjects on Ekaterina for…”

“WHAT THE GLUB HAPPENED HERE?” Feferi interrupted.

He was smart enough to not deny there was a problem. His smile turned into the frown of a television weatherman reporting a rainy weekend.

 “The seadwellers were a little anxious about the change of power, so they took matters into their own hands…”

“A coup?”

“A little one. No, it was more like an unrest.”

“What did they do?”

“They disposed of the Governator – who was of course loyal to you – made some silly declaration about representing the superior sea trolls, and took the palace.”

“Just the palace?” Karkat asked, “Those fishnooks couldn’t have possibly thought they could take over a planet from one building.”

“They also took the Governator’s palace – I think that was implied, sir – and they managed to take a few other targets like the royal airfield, the Capitol City Hall, the central server…”

“The central server?” Sollux asked, “How much control did they have over the entire network?”

“Why, all of it! That’s why we couldn’t get a message out.”

“Not even after the coup was over?”

“They did an awful lot of damage. We haven’t repaired all of it yet.”

“How long ago was this coup?” asked Feferi.

“We completely beat it down two nights ago. Troll nights, not Ekaterina nights.”

“And the network is still down?” Sollux scoffed, “I could have gotten it back up by then. Course I wouldn’t have put everything in the same fucking building.”

“I didn’t create the system,” the caste leader replied testily.

“You’ve totally beaten it?” Feferi asked.

“The leader is safely in our custody and most of the other rebels have been either killed or captured.”

“But not all of them?” John asked.

“The important ones are out of the way and you can easily root out any stray supporters.”

“You can’t say the coup is eliminated if there are still traitors free,” Terezi declared.

“Yeah, what sort of fucking outfit is this?” Karkat yelled.

Everyone chimed in. The caste leader raised his palms but Feferi stopped him.

“Don’t use your chucklevoodoos to make everyone fin with this!”

The caste leader looked at her like he didn’t even know that was an option.

He sighed. “The casualties were in the double digits and the leader is in a cell fifteen kilometers away. That’s all I can say. I’m just the leader of one caste. You can find out more from someone else.”

Aradia asked one more question, “Why all the digging in the lawn?”

He threw up his hands. “Some sea troll thing. I don’t get them.”

“Speaking of traitors,” Feferi said, “We have another one to dispose.”

She scowled over at the impassive Eridan. The caste leader scowled at him with recognition.

“Ampora the violetblood one,” he said not hiding his treasonous contempt for violetbloods.

“Yes,” she said to the caste leader, and then yelled at the traitor, “Eridan! Come here!”

He marched forward. He wasn’t wearing his cape or scarf, just his normal turtleneck. His hands were chained in front of him. His glasses were broken, perhaps not by accident, so it had some tape on them. He wasn’t really looking through them.

The caste leader said, “We still have room in town to imprison him until he reaches execution.

Feferi’s eyes turned from rage to worry. “No, he’s too glubbing important for that! He’s a Hero!”

Eridan woke from his stupor, but didn’t say anything.

Feferi gestured at the palace. “There has to be somewhere to put him in the palace!”

“The palace doesn’t have a dungeon,” the caste leader said patiently.

“I thought every palace had a dungeon,” John said.

“Only palaces in ill-thought-out fantasies have dangerous prisoners in such an exploitable location,” Rose replied.

“Glub, there must be some forgotten flipper in the palace! It’s way glubbing bigger than my hive and I could have shoved him in there!” Feferi added bitterly, “I probably should have.”

“You should have locked him in his pathetic broken ship and let a meteor hit him,” Karkat said, “Are you sure it’s a good idea letting this drooling creep stay where he could come at you naked with a knife while you’re in your recuperacoon?”

“Actually,” said Terezi, “It might be good to keep this tasteless criminal away from the other traitors so he doesn’t plan anything with them.”

“Ha!” laughed Vriska, “This dweeb having a successful plan? All of his plans fail! All of them!”

“You have to have some skills of persuasion to be in cahoots with anyone, especially an equally savy violetblood,” Equius remarked.

“I don’t want his smell around our home,” Nepeta said.

Equius replied, “It’s the Empress’ decision.”

“Yeah, it’s my choice!” Feferi pouted, “Eq-squid-us is right! Glub!”

“Whoever you put in charge of the palace will have to deal with it,” the caste leader said.

Eridan had slipped back into his stupor.      

The caste leader had brought an arachnidan vehicle to take them to the palace, but Heroes decided to walk there. Ironically the traitor Eridan got to sit and ride to the palace.   

While Gamzee was over by Tavros, Nepeta slid over to Karkat.

“There’s something going on here,” she whispered, “I smell romeowtic intrigue.”

“Yeah, my senses tell me the same. That guy was definitely sleeping with a rebel,” Karkat answered.

“Yeah, I smell conciliatory too. He piled with the wrong purrson.”

“You don’t handle your quadrants right and blam – people get killed. This is why romance is serious fucking business.”

“Have to keep your purrsions down.”

Karkat suddenly realized he was having a nice normal conversation about romance with a girl madly flushed with him. He slowly slid away.

When they got to a nice outcropping, they stopped to gaze fondly at the sea. Feferi put out her chest, closed her eyes, and breathed deeply. Gamzee gave a sad, nostalgic smile. Equius stood and stared with amazement.

“I have never seen the ocean,” he said.

“Are you shitting me????????”

He looked over to see Vriska marching towards him.

“We lived five kilometers from the ocean! How come I’ve seen the ocean and you haven’t?” she asked.

“Five kilometers?”

“Yes, and it was on the worm trolley line! Did you never go outside?”

“I had more important tasks to attend to than sightseeing.”

“Sightseeing nothing! Did you ever go shopping?”

“My custodian was able to do such errands.”

“Ha! You didn’t go shopping! I’m surprised you knew I lived next door! What did you think I was doing when I was a seagrifter!  I wasn’t doing it in my bathtub.”

“I never interested myself in your foolish games.”

“You never interested yourself in anything but stupid pictures of outside!” Vriska turned away and mumbled to herself, “Never seen the ocean, hmph.”

After a while they all decided to enter the palace. The coral red edifice was an eye-soothing grey inside. The entrance hall wasn’t very wide or long, but the ceiling expanded into three pointed towers. The floor had a mosaic map of the planet in a projection that placed the Capital City in the center. Unlike Earth maps, the ocean wasn’t just a uniform blue. Instead it showed detail of all the mountains and valleys covered by water (the planet Ekaterina was 85% water). The colors of the mosaic were off in certain places, suggesting quick repair. On the wall that greeted them was a magenta pisces sign on a bright pink banner with a bright green border. The banner was clearly for the new pisces, not the old, and as garish as the colors were, it was better than the mural underneath depicting the conquest of Tau-3. On either side of the banner was an arch. The arches had uninviting staircases that curved inward like the curved lines of the royal sign. The left and right walls had doors leading to other mysterious places. By one door stood a sea troll woman in a black gown.

 If her uniform and her face fins and her jewelry and every other sign of her high rank were taken away, one would guess her position to be head matron of a women’s prison. She didn’t look like she was in charge of making any place comfortable.

“Welcome to your new home, my Empress and Mistress,” she said with a curtsey, “I am the Stewardess of the Palace Potemkin, Harshest Elegancy. I am and shall be your servant.”

 “Hello!” said Feferi, “I am and shall be your mistress!”

The Stewardess nodded. “Where shall I take you?”

Feferi clapped her hands. “I want to see EVEEEERYFIN! Well, everyfin above water for my land friends.” She looked over at her former water friend. “But first, I want him swept away to…somewhere.”

“Somewhere?”

“A block where he can be guarded and monitored. Some place prison-like…but not too prison-like.” She threw up her hands. “I don’t glubbing know! Just keep him out of my kelp!”

Kanaya spoke up. “Not too prison-like? For him??”

Feferi said to Kanaya, “Yes, not too prison-like! Is this ‘argue with the Empress’ choices’ night? If I feel somefin’s right, it’s right!”

She turned back to the Stewardess. “Understood?”

Surprisingly, the Stewardess did understand. She informed Eridan’s guards where she wanted him and drew a vitally important map for them. They went out to carry the two sea trolls demands. Feferi then dismissed the rest of the entourage she’d been saddled with. The Fifteen Heroes left for the grand tour.

Seeing all of the Palace Potemkin was a great undertaking. The entire complex covered the same amount of ground as the National Mall in Washington. The underwater portion covered the size of all the Smithsonian buildings on the Mall, including the ones everyone forgets. The many blocks had been mostly empty since the former empress left to spend a decade conquering someplace new. Even when it was occupied, there were a lot of empty blocks. Trolls are big on having blocks but they’ve never been interested in actually filling them because they have neither families nor decorations. The layout of an adult’s hive was sadly only slightly better than the hives designed by toddlers. One got the feeling the architect worked in pen and occasionally smacked their forehead when they remembered something they should have put in, such as toilets. For instance, the entrance hall did not lead, like a human visitor would assume, to a bigger grand hall that would serve as a central location. All the exits in that block led to twisty passages more like servants’ ways. Eventually these hallways did lead to a great hall, but its location was far from central. There were no transporters in the palace since those were seen as vulgar in grand buildings, though thankfully elevators were seen as elegant. To aid visitors and residents, interactive maps were handed out. Invaders would easily find themselves lost. It could be called a security measure.

Since the narration cannot cover every part of the palace at this time, only a few highlights will be covered.

The aforementioned Great Hall had a wide and elegant staircase leading up to a small block mostly used for card playing and nicostimulant roll smoking. The smaller staircases lead to places of substance.

Up high and facing the sea was a long corridor featuring a long window spanning fifty feet. Despite its size, the stretched-out cross-shaped window had only the traditional twelve panes. The four center panes were each one unbroken strip of light-sensitive glass.  The window miraculously survived the coup, but eventually its miracles will run out. Someone will break the window.

 The Palace Chapel was understated. No banners or murals. It seemed to say the divine truths were so self-evident there was no reason to display them for the ignorant. God created the universe, the universe bestowed the Mother Grub on its chosen species, the Mother Grub performs a miracle when she bares a magentablood, and the Condesce is the Chosen Magentablood. Anyone who visits the Mother Grub’s miracle and still doesn’t know these truths should be kicked out. Those not sufficiently schoolfed in the complete catholicism of the Imperial Faith would call the chapel non-denominational, but there are no denominations, just cults. The cult of this worshiparium focused on a single icon on an altar. The icon bore a green abstract symbol on a field of grey. The altar was raised so high it is hard to see unless the worshipper was on the outcropping balcony in the middle of the block. The Empress worships from that balcony and everyone else stood underneath and looked up at her. An Imperial Service felt like what would have happened if the French kings converted to Quakerism by way of Russia.

There is another chapel below water. No congregant entered it except the Empress. The dogma confessed there was not the dogma confessed everywhere else.

The Throne Block was amphibious. It lay between the above-water and below-water wings. The throne was on a platform in the middle of a pool. A metal grate walkway led up to it. The Empress could swim in from the underwater wing and emerge from the water with her hair still perfect.

The underwater wing of the palace was heavily damaged in the coup. There was a block that looked an awful lot like Ariel’s treasure room from The Little Mermaid®, but it was completely cleared out. The humans didn’t have the chance to notice that, since the tour didn’t go down there.

Feferi was adamant that all the fifteen Heroes stick together as they completely cover the complex. Kanaya was the only other Hero interested and that was because of what the palace could be, not its present state. Equius lost interest when he found out how little musclebeast art there was.  Feferi was interested in her new property. The tour was in its third hour when Feferi found something to distract her.

She asked the Palace Stewardess, “What are those holes outside?”

“The invaders were searching for a certain buried treasure,” she answered.

“Buried treasure!!!!!!!!” Vriska cried, “Where is it????????”

“I do not know. I suspect it was another false idea.”

Feferi closed her eyes, took a deep sniff, and licked her lips. Her eyes shot back open.

“I know where it is,” she spoke reverently.

She pushed past the Stewardess and ran down the hall and down some steps and turned around a corner and out a door leading to a tiny enclosed courtyard. Everyone went to follow her. When they got there she pointed at the ground.

“Get some shovels!” she cried.

There conveniently was a shed in the courtyard and the Stewardess brought out four. Feferi took one and started digging, Aradia and Vriska had to join in, and Equius lent his strength. They soon got down to a large grey mass that smelled like death.

“Is this a human grave…” Aradia asked, “…with a dead troll?”

“Nope!” answered Feferi as she dug up some more, “It’s a dead shark!”

“Hakarl,” the Stewardess murmured, “Such a delicacy.”

“Hakarl?” John asked.

“Yeah, it’s fermented shark!” Feferi explained, “This species of shark is poisonous to eat, so we bury it for a month so the poison drains out and then we dig it up and dry the meat!”

“Humans would never do something that weird.”

Feferi was the only one left digging, but she did such a great job half the shark was soon uncovered. She ripped a fin off and bit into it. The first to lose it was Terezi. She vomited and soon everyone except the sea trolls were vomiting.

 Tavros opened the door to the courtyard.

“Hey guys, sorry I’m late, I got lost and there were all these stairs, but I got…” He stopped and vomited. “I…I really shouldn’t have bothered, with the stairs.”

Strong-stomached servants were summoned to cut up the meat and prepare it for drying. The tour forgotten, the Heroes left to figure out the sleeping situation. Out of reach of the shark smell, they consulted the map. They had to stick together instead of being stuck in disparate and hard-to-reach corners. This ruled out Feferi staying in the underwater quarters, which she couldn’t even if she wanted. It had to be someplace convenient to everywhere, but in the end they settled for convenient to the front door. Unlike the ship, the respiteblocks in the palace weren’t of codified size. Everyone couldn’t have an equal size block. Feferi had first choice and she chose a smallish block with a view of the sea. Karkat chose a large block for him and his moirail. (Equius told Nepeta a man needs some privacy, which Nepeta took to mean he wanted some privacy with the now-free Aradia.) Everyone else had blocks assigned by lot. People were allowed to trade blocks and almost all did with some people ending up with the same block with which they started. Eridan’s resting place had already been decided hours ago.

When the Fifteen Heroes got all their stuff into their blocks, they gathered in a semi-centrally located lounge nicknamed “The Lumpy Lounge” for reasons no one was sure of. Their plan was to have food sent up so they could eat there; however, the Stewardess came in and disrupted this plan.

“My Mistress,” she said, “Some very important people have come to dine with you.”

Feferi asked, “Can they swim up here?”

“My Empress, I think it might be better to receive them in the Grand Dining Hall.”

She sighed. “Okay, we’ll dive down to them.”

Tavros asked, “Do we all have to go?”

“We’re all important so we all have to see the important people!”

So they all went down to the Grand Dining Hall.

The Grand Dining Hall was located above-water and was accessible by elevator. It resembled a strange amphitheater. There were five wide steps in a semi-circle. The steps were each around six inches high with no ramps or stairs because apparently the architect hated servers. On the highest step was a curved table with a central throne. Each subsequent step had two curved tables on both sides of an aisle leading to the throne.

The Heroes had already seen the hall, but it was completely empty then. Now there were tables and chairs and silverware. They came in through a hidden doorway reserved for the Empress so Tavros didn’t have to go up the steps. They sat down at the table with Feferi on the too-wide throne. The rest of the chairs were empty even though the tables were set. The Heroes sat around waiting until Feferi called over the Stewardess. The Stewardess explained the guests could not come in until the Empress summoned them. Feferi gave the order and the porter opened the doors and everyone came in.

The guests all knew where to go. The ceruleans sat at the bottom step, the cobalts after that, then indigo, and at the penultimate level the violets (though their number had been diminished recently). The offices held by the dignitaries had their own unofficial seats, and the dignitaries who didn’t sat at the ends and hoped no one would make an argument. Nobody dared make a fuss in front of the new empress, especially after the argument that tore the palace apart. All the guests stood until Feferi remembered to allow them to sit.

From the middle of the center rose a platform bearing food. Usually, this table would be decorated with a gruesome centerpiece of bone and horn or a lovely ice sculpture, but this time only food was on it. The meal was the type made after an inventory problem, hence there were only three courses. The first course was tiny open-faced sandwiches, none alike. The main course was an ambiguous stew. For dessert were stale cookies. The guests did not complain about the unregal servings. They were busy reporting to the new empress. The Heroes listened into the reports and forgot to complain.

There had been more unrest than thought earlier. Much of it had been kept from the new empress, though she hadn’t inquired much in the first place. There had been riots and panics.  Trolls looking for a culprit to the Condesce’s murder attacked aliens or other trolls. They believed the Empire was over and they looted supplies for the coming collapse. Some were so freaked out by the mysterious death they killed themselves rather than live in a world where even a demigoddess could die. Prophets proclaimed the End Times.  Pretenders popped up but were knocked down quickly. There hadn’t been any full revolts other than the unsuccessful one on the capital planet. Every planet could still be said to be under Feferi’s control. On Alternia there was absolute calm. They had seen the apocalypse averted right in front of their eyes. They trusted their young leader. That things weren’t worse was a testament to unwaveringness of her subjects.

After hearing everything her subjects would tell her, Feferi and her friends went back to the Lumpy Lounge to talk.

“Wow,” John said, “That was a lot of news. Lots of bloody, bloody news.”

“Yes, indeed,” replied Rose, “The Empire is somewhat unraveled by the cutting of the Condesce from its cloth. I can understand why some take the path of self-destruction.  I overheard the Deputy Prime Minister was one of the people who succumbed into fatal self-harm, but what of the Prime Minister?’

“She’s dead!” Feferi said.

 Rose asked, “Did they tell you in one of their whispered confidences?”

“No, not in whispers,” she answered, “We all saw the Prime Minister’s dead body on bridge!”

“Are..are you saying the Empress was also the Prime Minister?”

“Of course she was,” Equius answered for Feferi, “Who else could be the prime of her ministers?”

“That is never done in human government, yet I am afraid you trolls do many other things against human governance.”     

 John said, “It sure is hard to understand trolls.  At least they all speak English.”

“For the last time,” growled Karkat, “You’re speaking Standard Alternian. Our species created it before your damn universe even existed. Then we created your universe and peppered it with people who could speak a poor pidgin of our vastly more expressive language.”

 “I wonder if our seemingly identical languages possess the same entomology?” Rose mused.

Aradia chimed in, “I know something about that subject from studying Gygaxian. Tons of words come from that language! I can show you some good books.”

“Ah, yes,” said Rose, not actually interested in doing such dull scholastic work.

“Sometimes it sounds like the sea trolls aren’t native Alternian speakers, like they have their own language,” Jade remarked.

“We have our own language when we talk underwater,” Feferi explained.

“Yet Standard Alternian is derived from land troll languages,” said Equius, “We can claim cultural dominance there.”

“So that where the weird sea troll accent comes from!” Jade cried.

“Yeah, this one guy sounded like JFK if he’d taken his ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech too seriously. Gets dissonance stuck in my head,” Dave said.

“Dave means it sounds like a Boston accent, this city on Earth,” John clarified, “but in your accent you put all your w’s in the wrong place.”

Rose said, “I always expected a race of uncanny underwater humanoids to speak like they came from the shores of New England.”

 “But you don’t have that accent,” Jade said to Feferi.

“Of course not!” Feferi yelled, “Do you think I would go around acting like some snotty chum-vinist if I’m supposed to be friends with the land dwellers? I worked hard to talk this way!”

“Technically she does have an accent. Everybody has a fucking accent of some kind,” Karkat contradicted, “Fish out of water here just has a ‘Beach’ accent. It’s a made-up accent from announcers and bland actors.”

“Don’t know about accents, you still over-enunciate ‘wh’,” Sollux said to Feferi, “Drives me crazy, half the time.”

“You reely shouldn’t talk,” Feferi snapped back.

 “How do you guys even learn to speak if you’re all raised by animals that can’t speak?” John asked.

“The animals, that you talk of, are special, so they have the special ability to psychically impart the knowledge into our brain,” Tavros answered, “Uhh, isn’t that how Jade learned, from her white dog Bec, who was kind of a lusus?”

“No…” answered Jade, “He wasn’t that magical. I learned to speak from my Grandfather before he died.”

“So I guess the adult, did you some good.”

“You learned to speak as a human grub without psychic help?” Vriska asked, “I can’t believe this girl is super smart! She must be lyiiiiiiiing.”

“I was not acquainted with Harley until much later in her development, but I assure you Harley did achieve such feat. All healthy human babies naturally pick up the language spoken around them,” Rose replied.

“I think you humans do have some sort of psychic power but you don’t know how to unleash your potential!”

“I think you just have no clue and like always you have to make up some hoofbeast-shit answer,” Karkat said to Rose.

Tavros added to the language explanation, “Lusii have different languages to give, depending on where they are breed, and also what blood they have, which is why we have different accents, like Karkat said. But we don’t use the lusii languages much, because we get schoolfed the standard language, which makes learning the first language a bit pointless, but the first language helps us learn the second.”

“Don’t know if I ever got in the schoolfeedin’ of my second,” Gamzee mused.

“Who cares about everyone’s vocal cords, let’s talk about the flesh providing them unneeded support,” Karkat said, “Like Feferi’s ‘supporter’ Levysman. What’s his deal?”

 “Yes,” said Terezi, “He smelled good. Too good! I think he recovered from something.”

“Recovered from what?” Vriska asked.

“I’ll find out!”

Feferi said, “It’s really rude people kelping things from me! Like not telling me about all those people pretending to be me!”

“None of the purrtenders lasted very long,” Nepeta said, “They were all sniffed out!”

“Hung and gutted!” Terezi cackled, “They got what they deserved for saying they had yummy raspberry blood.”

“Terezi…” Karkat gasped.

“Silly, you don’t count! You pretended to have grey blood! It’s only a crime if you pretend to have tastier blood than you have! Like Equius pretending to have chocolate blood.”

“That depravity does sound…delicious,” Equius mumbled.

“How cod anyone else think they looked like me?” Feferi cried, “What about my glubbing horns? This isn’t like Karkat’s silly movies where nobody notices.”

“It’s called poetic licenses, flipper-sitine,” Karkat muttered.

 “Your horns aren’t that rare,” said Kanaya, “and your eyes haven’t filled in.”

“The pretenders, as imperfect as their disguises likely were, provided a measure of reassurance,” Rose said.

“I can be much more clamming than them!” Feferi said, “I’ll make everyone know I’m in charge with a big coral-nation ceremony.”    

After their discussion, they all retired to their quarters. The planet turned and the dim sunlight of “night” turned to the moonless dark of “day”. Applying Alternian time to this planet was very confusing. Tau-3 took fifty hours to rotate, more than twice as long as Alternia (which conveniently took twenty-four hours).

Early in the evening, Jade got an early start on her project to preserve the body of the supposedly immortal Condesce. Even the harsh trolls had to have medical facilities, so the palace had its own medical wing.  The medical wing had its own autopsy block. Jade planned to do the job in privacy but after asking a fellow Hero for the body and asking the medical professionals for the block and supplies, she attracted a lot of attention.

“Come on,” said Feferi to Jade, “This is a ONCE IN A LIFETIME EEEEXPERIENCE!”

So Jade was crowded in the autopsy block with a dozen people along with the old empress.

She said, “Okay, I know it is a good learning experience for these medical professional, perfectly fine with that. And you guys, I can understand Terezi because she wants to be a troll cop and Aradia’s probably dug up some mummies and Feferi, um, wants to be there for her, um, family, but why Gamzee? Why Gamzee?!”

“I know a lot about dead bodies and it ain’t just from recent happenin’s,” Gamzee answered, “When I was up where the sea could get me, lots of bodies washed themselves over to me. I’d just take them in and have a motherfuckin’ party.”

Terezi turned to Gamzee. “How come it took us six sweeps to gather enough evidence to declare you insane?”

“I think we should be respectful of each other’s death fetish,” Aradia scolded.

 “Um, yes,” mumbled Jade.

She turned her attention to the body lying on the slab. Now with an audience she felt a need to narrate her actions.

“First thing we do is cut away the clothes…”

Another dead body was prepared for the afterlife that night. After the medical professional found out everything they could about the Psiioniic, they delivered the body to Feferi and the Heroes. The Heroes planned that after midnight to give him the best burial they could provide. The site for the burial was a patch of slightly less sandy soil close to the airfield where the Psiioniic completed his last tour. The hole was only four feet deep;  any deeper and they’d hit bedrock. The coffin was what the medical professionals thought a corpse box should be: square. The body had been folded up to fit. The also tombstone wasn’t a right shape, though obviously they couldn’t use the cross shape. It was just an unshaped slab laid upon the ground. On it in painted mustard letters was simply “The Ψiioniic”.

 “This is like a game of Oregon Trail. A child’s first education in how to bury a body quick if it dies from syphilis. R.I.P. Fartface, you were a bosom companion for all of recess.”

“I think it’s perfectly fine!” said Jade.

“Yeah, Strider, stop fucking complaining, you ungrateful human. It’s not like it’s your funeral, no matter how desperately I wish it was,” Karkat said.

“So what do we do?” Aradia asked the humans.

John spoke up, “I think I should run the service, since I’m the only one who’s been to a real funeral.”

Dave replied, “I’ve been to a real funeral.”

 “Your brother’s friend’s funeral doesn’t count. That was just some weird orgy of irony.”

“That funeral just knocked your suburban Sunday School mind.”

“They put the ashes in a dildo! That’s just fucked up!”

“Celebration of life, man.”

“Just let me do this! I can do the service.”

“Go ahead,” said Feferi.

John walked up to the head of the grave.

“Dearly beloved,” he began, “We are gathered here today, er, tonight to commend the soul of our dearly beloved brother...” He looked at the gravestone. “…Yionic? That was his name?”

“Psiioniic,” Aradia whispered, somehow managing to pronounce the extra I’s.

“…commend the soul of Psionic to troll Heaven. He shall ascend to the throne of troll God and I guess also troll Jesus and will praise his name with the seraphim and cherubim and other angels.”

“Angels?” cried Sollux, “What the fuck demonic afterlife are you ‘commending’ this guy to?”

“What?”

Rose said to John, “I fear their theological vocabulary is much different from the Judeo-Christian model you insist on presenting.”

“Oh jeez, fuck. Maybe I should let a troll who knows about theology speak. Hey, Gamzee!”

Everyone stiffened and turned to Gamzee.

“What the motherfuck is it?” he answered slowly.

“You’re the religious one, what does your religion say about death?”

“Egbert, you tactless moron,” Karkat muttered as he slide over to Gamzee.

Gamzee replied, “Askin’ me to bring out my religion front of all these blood-pumping motherfuckers?”

“Yeah…?” John replied.

Rose slid over to John. “You do know you are triggering someone who suffered from an episode of extreme religious mania.”

“Oops.”

Gamzee stared blankly in thought. His moirail slowly started to pap him. Gamzee raised his hand and stopped him.

“No cause for alarm, I’m as chill as can be,” he said.

John’s self-preservation again flew out the window. “So, can you give us a prayer or a sermon or…?”

  “But I ain’t bringin’ out any kinda carnival. Me and my religion is complicated and it’s only for me and my moirail.”

 “We could talk about my religion!” Terezi offered.

“Troll Judaism?” Dave asked.

“No, not human troll Judaism. The Cult of the Blind Seers!”

“Oh, that buuuuuuullshit for boring bureaucrats,” Vriska said.

“Sounds cool and not scary!” John replied, “Go ahead, give us a prayer!”

 Terezi covered her blind eyes with her hand. “Oh Blind Seers, when our brother comes to judgment, may he not be strangled or gutted or strangled by his intestines or force-fed his intestines…”

“No, no, stop that!” John cried, “Stop saying sadistic shit like that!”

“I’m not being sadistic. That’s the shit I don’t want to happen to him.”

“Does any troll have a religion that’s nice and not creepy?” John asked the group.

“I have a short prayer,” said Feferi, “It’s really not that bad.”

“Well, you’re nice and not bloodthirsty, so go ahead!”

“John, I’m not certain about her religion…” Rose said.

But Feferi’s deep intonation drowned her out. It made the listeners feel uneasy. Rose was especially affected. Finally, the prayer ended.

“I think I’ve heard that language before,” Jade mumbled.

“It’s an obscure tongue,” Feferi explained, “But I think you have heard it before.”

John cleared his head. “Okay, religious part over. Time to give a eulogy.”

He cleared his throat and began speaking.   

 “I didn’t know the Psiioniic very well. When I met him, he was enslaved to a machine. But at one time he must have been free. He did everything happy living people do. But the Empire was cruel. They didn’t see him as a person, but as a thing. Yet in the end he was a person. He spoke to us of his hopes and dreams and helped us out with our own. Even after, like, a million years the Empire didn’t break him. He isn’t the only person the old Empire has treated like a thing. The new Empire won’t be like that. Everyone will be a free person.”

At the end of the speech, everyone clapped.

“Fintastic!” cried Feferi.

“Not too fucking terrible,” said Karkat as he clapped harder than he wanted to.

“Best eulogy I ever heard,” Aradia said.

Rose said, “You’re rhetoric was politically cutting while still being culturally…”

At that moment, John broke out with “Amazing Grace”.

Rose stopped her compliment. “That song is meaningless to the trolls without the theological knowledge of Christian salvation.”

 “I’m just wondering why he has a baritone voice,” Terezi said.

The song stopped at the second verse because John didn’t know the rest. The coffin was lowered with ropes and the sandy soil piled on top of it. The funeral was over.

The group left quietly for the palace. Sollux was the most somber. His moirail Aradia had her arm around his shoulder and Feferi held his hand.

When they entered the Entrance Hall, Harshest Elegancy was watching and waiting. As she inquired to Feferi on her royal status, she thought about her new mistress. She had never expected to have a new mistress, but now that she did she was going to adjust herself accordingly by learning as much as she could. She had met previous Heiresses (always briefly) but this one wasn’t just a troll who shared the Condesce’s blood color. She was a full-blown Descendant. That wasn’t to say she acted just like her Ancestor. Her rhythm was faster, she spoke in a beach accent instead of the extinct accent Condesce used, and she definitely treated the people around her differently. Yet when she found that dead shark Elegancy saw for a flash something like the Condesce. The Condesce wasn’t often excited; Elegancy supposed when you’ve lived so long you don’t find much to get excited about. Those times when the Condesce was excited she threw her all into it and inside her all was something very strange. She had a sadistic glee that made the Subjuggulators look like mere murderers.

Of course it was really too early for Harshest Elegancy to make a pronouncement on Feferi. She had to take a few centuries first. 

      

 

Chapter Text

Dear Readers:

I’m sorry to say I’m probably not going to continue this story.

I’m not stopping due to any distractions in my life, since I have no life. I’m not suffering from writer’s block since I have ideas up to the final arc of the story. It’s writing fanfiction that is the problem.

I’m getting tired of writing fanfiction.  Homestuck is a hard fandom to write for since the series is still on-going and updates come every day. Ideas constantly get disproven in each update. Look at the prologue: I have a troll drinking alcohol and smoking a tobacco-like substance because a troll from the ancient past had the same habits. Later, we find out Kanaya doesn’t know what booze is and then from beforus!Cronus that he learned about  smoking from the humans. Yes, there is a little wriggle room in these revelations, but it’s still disheartening for even minor story revelations to threaten one’s story.

I want to create a world I have control over. I don’t want to be beholden to someone else’s ideas. I have tons of ideas of my own. World-building has always been a hobby of mine.  Even if I set a story in the real world and not a fantasy world, I will still have control since I’ll know that world better than I could know the Homestuck world.

Besides the artistic freedom, original writing (work that isn’t based on privately owned work) can be published.  I want to have the writing career I’ve always dreamed of since I was 11. I want fame and money, even if it’s a long shot. I can’t do that writing fanfiction for Homestuck.

I can’t keep myself from churning out those little Homestuck smut shorts, but I won’t undertake any big Homestuck fanfiction projects.  Instead of writing a Homestuck novel, I’ll work on the many ideas in my queue.

When I’ve written a novel and when Homestuck is over, I might consider restarting this fanfic from the beginning. I don’t like the idea of this going to waste.

I hope you’ve enjoyed what is here. Thank you for reading.