Chapter 1: Desperation
Once upon a night so cold
La le lo, oh so cold
Came a woman from dark
Turning heads with every lark
With the town’s assimilation
She was known as The Corruption
John stirs, blinking sleep out of his eyes. Apparently everyone had passed out on the couch, although someone had remembered to turn of tv thankfully. As he moves to get up, he notices that his side unbelievably warm. He looks over to see Rose sleeping there, a smile twitching on her face. As he tries to get out withhout disturbing her, she mutters in her sleep and wraps an arm aroudn him, pulling him closer to snuggle with—something that she would never do while awake. Eh… it’s the weekend. He can stay here a while longer.
Rose sighs and awakens. As she bleary opens her eyes, she notices that she’s very… close to John. She quickly gets off the couch and away from him, making sure that no one witnessed her rather blatant display of affection (she didn’t hear John’s quiet chuckle). She heads to the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on, before pulling out her phone to check for any messages. She has a new voicemail, which intrigues her a bit. When she listens to it, her blood turns to ice. She should have known who it was from. A few minutes later John walks in with a large grin on his face, which dissipates the moment he sees her.
“Hey. W-what’s wrong?”
She hesitates for a moment. “I… I got a call from the hospital. They said it’s time for a check-up.”
“Oh! Oh… Ummm… don’t go?”
She laughs; a hollow, pained sound. “That won’t work. They’ll just reschedule it, and keep on going until I have to go. And if I voice my worries…” She doesn’t need to continue.
“Wait… you’re really going?”
“I mean, are you sure? Wait, you’re Rose, of course you’re sure… .”
She laughs again. “Don’t worry, I won’t take anything while I’m there. You know I’m smarter than that.”
“Yeah, but we don’t know how smart Scratch is.”
“Relax John, I’ll be fine.”
“I mean, this just screams bad idea.”
“Yes, but we know that the Felt will probably try to get me somewhere else if I don’t go. And if they do that… at least if I do go to this checkup, they won’t have the element of surprise. So I might as well get this confrontation over with.”
“Okay, just… be careful, will you?”
He quickly walks forward and hugs her. They stay that way for a few minutes before regretfully letting go. They stand across from each other, share a sad smile, then painfully walk out the door and go their separate ways.
Rose arrives at the hospital first. She checks in, but hesitates at the receptionist’s desk. The mousy lady gives her a sad, knowing smile. “You scared of shots too?”
Rose blinks. “Ummm, no. I just wanted to inquire about my attending doctor.”
“Oh, all right. Let me see here.” The lady quickly and efficiently flips through her files. “Ah, you’re in luck. Our best man is with you today.” Rose’s stomach does a little flip. “Doctor Saakaar Risco is with you today. He’s our oldest staff member, been here before I was!”
Ah. The news somewhat placates Rose. She doesn’t know how far down the corruption goes, if there even is any, but if the man has been here for such a long time he might be trustworthy. Or he might be Scratch in disguise.
John strolls up to the Hive yet again. Karkat is outside, pacing furiously. He catches sight of John and proceeds to flip the fuck out. He dashes forward, grabs John by the neck, and slams him into the nearest wall. John’s too surprised to dodge.
“WHERE THE FLIPPING FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN?”
“I-I was gone. I texted you.”
“I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOUR EXCUSES EGBERT, NOBLE DEMON OR NOT! I FUCKING CALLED YOU AND YOU DIDN’T COME, THIS IS FUCKING IMPORTANT—“
“It was my birthday…”
“I DO… oh, that makes sense… anyways, let’s go.”
There’s movement to his right, and John turns to see Karkat’s girlfriend standing there.
“Hey there… uhh, Terezi, right?”
She cackles. It’s slightly unnerving. “Yep. And you’re the big Demon everyone’s heard about.”
“Yeah yeah yeah, John meet Terezi, Terezi meet John, let’s hurry up and go now.”
“Hey Karkles, aren’t you forgetting something?”
John tries not laugh at ‘Karkles’. He almost succeeds.
“Eh? Wh- oh, right. Happy birthday, yada yada, come on!”
With that he grabs John’s arm and drags him back down the maw.
Rose relaxes as soon as she sees Doctor Risco. There’s no way in hell that this could Doctor Scratch in disguise. He’s an entire foot shorter than Scratch, and he’s so gaunt that he looks like he’ll shatter if someone bumps into him too roughly. His dark brown skin is pinched tight, and his wrinkled face breaks into a smile when he sees her. “Ah, you must be Miss Lalonde. It’s a pleasure to meet you, truly.” His voice has a think Indian accent.
Rose subjects herself to he usual, various inspections. Nothing he does seems out of the ordinary. He eventually leaves to check on her blood work. After nearly ten anxiety filled minutes, he returns with a pack of pills and a small glass of water. Her heart stops.
“Can I ask you something?” Terezi asks as John tries to keep up with Karkat’s furious pace.
“Why are you so intent against become the Demons four?”
“I mean, look at all the power you’ve gained. And your girlfriend might become one too? Why are you so against that? Most people would kill to have super powers.”
“Well…” John sighs, scratching his head. No one’s ever asked something like that before. “Nothing good has ever come out of them. Dave went off the rails, I’m getting hunted half the time I leave the house, and I suppose I just want to be normal. Yeah, I can see how it might seem really awesome to have superpowers, but so far I haven’t found a way to help anyone with these powers! They only destroy. They’d kill whomever I tried to help…”
Terezi falls silent, pondering his little speech as Karkat kicks open the Archive doors and leads them in.
“WHERE THE FUCK IS SOLLUX!?”
Kanaya turns impassively towards him. “He’s on a lunch break. He’ll be back soon.”
As Karakt continues yelling at a rather apathetic Kanaya, John breaks away from the group to explore the massive archives. Damn, they were huge. If he went too far he might get lost.
FEAR NOT I SHALL GUIDE THEE AS LONG AS I AM HERE THOU SHALT NEVER BE LED ASTRAY
Comforting. He replies sarcasticly. He’s still somewhat frightened of that entity.
As he walks further into the library, observing a multitude of texts in various languages, he bumps into an unfamiliar troll. He scowls at John.
“Watch where you’re going!”
“Oh… uh… sorry…” John doesn’t even get to finish apologizing before the troll brushes past him and disappears around the corner.
“Mmmm, sorry about him.”
John whirls around to find another stranger staring at him, one hand on her hip. She extends the other to him, which he gratefully accepts.
“I’m Aradia Megido. Prince Charming there was Eridian Ampora. Don’t worry about him, he hates everyone.”
She chuckles. “Unlike Eridian, Karkat cares deep down. Deep down.”
John’s about to respond when a much younger looking troll walks up behind Aradia. She’s wearing an oversized green shirt with a large blue hat that keeps falling down her face. She’s struggling to carry a big load of books.
“Hiya Mr. Devour! I’m Nepeta!” She beams at him.
“Oh, uh… hi there… is there some sort of party going in here, cause there seems to be a lot of people here.”
“Oh no, we’re just bored, so we decided to help Sollux in his search for knowledge. Not that we do much good, since no one else can read them. All we’re really doing is flooding him books.”
Before John can respond, he hears Karkat shout for him some ways away. He grimaces and takes a grateful Nepeta’s load from her as the three of them head for the entrance.
“Ummm, what seems to be the problem sir?”
“Ah, you just seem to be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. I take it you don’t like to get much sun, do you?”
She flushes slightly. It’s true, she prefers to spend her time in doors reading or writing much to John’s chagrin. He claims that soon she’ll be an anti-social shut in (which all four of them already are, actually) so he does everything in his power to involve her in physical activities. Before she can speak, he continues, “Well, not that I can blame you. People of your… condition tend to avoid sunlight, due to the increased dangers and whatnot.” He hands her the pills and cup. “So that there is a supplement, I’ll write you a prescription too.” He pulls out a notepad and starts scribbling on it.
She stashes the pills in her pocket. “Ah, thank you. I’ll take them when I get home.” Like hell. She can order her own pills online.
He cocks his head at her, clearly puzzled, before shrugging on returning to his notepad. He’s probably had stranger patients.
She sips the water, though. All the stress has made her quite thirsty. She hands him the empty cup and accepts the prescription gratefully. “Now if that will be all, I’ll take my leave.”
John arrives at the entrance, flanked by Aradia and Nepeta. Karkat scowls at him for being late, and for the first time John sees all the trolls together, including one he’s never met before who quickly introduces herself as Feferi Peixes. Actually, everyone is there expect Gamzee. When asked for his whereabouts, Karkat merely shrugs and says that he’s probably getting high somewhere. That concerns John, but not anyone else so he assumes that it’s normal. The trolls chatter amongst themselves for a little while before Sollux enters and hushes them with a glare. It’s interesting how he can glare behind those tinted glasses of his. Dave would be so proud.
Sollux glowers at John.“Nice of you to show up.”
Karkat frowns and says “It was his birthday!” as if he’d known all along.
All the trolls briefly offer John their good wishes, some more reluctantly than others.
John nods his thanks. “Ummm…yeah. So what was it that you wanted to show me?”
“So we’ve found info on the Felt.”
“Really!? That’s aw—“
“NOOOOOOOINTERUPTIONS!!” Ai yiyi, he’s already getting into it. “Alright, so the Felt is basically a fanatical cult the worships an immortal demon. And they try to bring about the end of the world, because that’s the only way to summon him. The end is called The Reckoning. Th—“
“Wait, why they want to end it? They’re here too.”
Sollux looks like he wants to cry. “Please. Shut. Up. Look, they’re the type that believes that the world is corrupt and irredeemably evil. After Lord English arrives—that’s the demon, by the way—it’s said that he will eat the universe and then form the world anew, a blank white sphere of possibility. The Felt, being his chosen ones, will follow him there and live in eternal peace and happiness forever and ever yaddayaddaya.”
“So who leads them if this Lord English isn’t around?”
“WOULD YOU FUCKIN…. Aggh…. That would be another immortal demon. He’s called Scratch.They call him the Eternal Demon.”
Damn, Rose was right. “So what does that all have to do with us?”
“You’re a really shitty listener, you know that right? Anyways, you guys are the only ones who can kill Lord English.”
“Wait, we can really do that!?”
“YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSS!!!! NOW SHUT UP AN LISTE—“
“Are you sure? I thought he was immortal.”
“fucking hell…. Yes there’s a prophecy and everything:
‘When the Demons Four align on lonely Deadwinter’s night
Their powers malign shall end our Lord’s might.
Birth the shadows, fear the hour
Lie, Corrupt, Erase, Devour.’ There, are you happy?”
John was still scratching his chin. “But if we’re going to kill his Lord, why is he giving us these powers?”
“Are you even listening anymore?”
“It doesn’t make any sense…”
“I really hate you.”
“Maybe we’re necessary to awaken English? Hey, so there are two immortal demons, you said?”
“Nice of you to listen again.Yes there are. Now Lord English is the only one who can destroy the universe. His General rules in his stead. Scratch has been shaping history to benefit the Felt since the dawn of man. That’s why they're so powerful, he’s had the time and means to fill various governments with his people. He isn’t limited by some petty lifespan, so he’ll just wait till his people get elected, or if a revolution if starting to form he’ll give it a little push.”
“G…. yes. You know, George Washington was in the Felt.”
“That’s… highly disturbing. Please continue.”
“Yeah. Now to answer your previous question, Lord English can’t be summoned until Scratch initiates the Reckoning. Scratch can’t initiate the Reckoning until his powers are unsealed, and his powers can’t be unsealed until the four of you awaken.”
John frowns. “But they keep trying to kill us… I guess it doesn’t matter if we’re alive, as long as they wake us up?”
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
“Hmmmmm….. bluh, this is too much thinking. Rose would a better person to tell all of this to.”
WE WELCOME THE CANNY DEMON CORRUPT TO THE FOLD
He jumps back, falling out of his chair.“WHAT!?”
The trolls, who had all been pretty quiet till now, all exploded in a frenzy of emotion. Nepeta rushes up looking incredibly worried as she helps him to his feet. Equius snaps to attention and looks to see if there is an enemy to beat up.Sollux looks at him in confusion, wondering if he said something wrong. Karkat even walks up to him, looking worried. “John?”
“He got her!”
“Scratch! He got Rose!”
“H-how do you know that?”
He runs out of the room, calling behind him, “The Voice told me!”
Karkat and Sollux look at each other. “You never told me he was crazy.”
“Maybe that’s why he’s a bad listener.”
Rose collapses onto the couch, worn out from all the stress of the day, and it’s only three o’clock. Waiting for some attack that never came really put her out of it. At least it’s a Saturday, so she doesn’t have the added stress of schoolwork. She kicks off her shoes and props her feet on the coffee table, sighing. Peace, finally.
Then John bursts into the room screaming her name.
She raises an eyebrow at him. “Isn’t it a little late for this? Relax, I’m fine.”
“Ah, no you’re not. Dr. Scratch—“
“I didn’t see him today.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
Her boyfriend taps his skull. “He begs to differ.”
Sometimes she wonders if he really has a supernatural voice in his head, or if he’s just crazy. But still, she didn’t take any….
He jumps slightly. “What!?”
“He spiked the water.”
“Ah…. That would be bad, no?”
“Spiking water is usually not done in a benign manner, John.”
“Okay, um, okay. You should probably get some rest. Because Dave and I were incapacitated for a week—well, I was, Dave would have been if it hadn’t been for the pills Scratch gave him—and it was not fun.”
“Yes… I believe I have some sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet. At least they will last me until the morning.”
“Right. Right..." John walks forward to hug her again, and she buries her face in his chest. Neither of them acknowledge the fact that she is shaking pretty badly.
John smooths her hair and whispers that everything's going alright. For this once she decides to take the comfort and not refute his statement. After a few minutes he's calmed her down and they're back to business.
"So where's Jade?"
"Oh, She Dave went are another date-day. I heard they were going to the movies, then try some new Indians restaurant that she's been dying to go to."
“Okay, I guess I’ll wait here then. You know, you’re taking this pretty calmy. Better than I did.” He chuckles slightly.
“I’m not to, as Dave would say, ‘flip the fuck out.’”
“Yeah, that would be me and Jade.”
She sighs and heads to the bathroom. ”Yeah… and John?”
“Thanks for not saying ‘I told you so.’”
Scratch leans back in his leather chair, looking through an endless file of documents before sighing dropping them to his desk. Throughout the eons he has always been patient, willing to do these menial tasks, but now that the end was nigh he found that he couldn’t concentrate. Anticipation. It had been so long since he had felt this burst of eager, giddy energy. As he begins to stand up, a knock on the door brings back his focus. He turns and sees Doctor Risco enter.
“Ah, Saakar. How did the meeting go?”
The other bows slightly. “It went perfectly… Master.”
Scratch laughs with joy. “Haha, that’s my man. You did well, Risco. Very well…” He opens a desk drawer and removes a special dagger. “I do believe you’ve earned this, and much more…”
Risco’s eyes gleam with awe and desire. He quickly drops to one knee. “I-I’m honored.” Is all he can manage.
“Yes…” Scratch hands the good doctor the knife before bidding the man farewell. He stalks over to the window and looks out at the bright sunlight. His crimson eyes gleam with eager ambition.
Three down, one to go. Be patient, my Lord.
Chapter 2: Waiting
John softly stirs awake. As he stretches, a soft green quilt falls off him. He grins slightly and folds it up. Jade was too good. And speak of the devil, here she is walking out of her bedroom all bleary eyed a ruffled. She sits down on the couch and looks at him, blinking repeatedly.
“John?” She asks sleepily. “You better have a good reason for falling asleep here.”
He laughs and ruffles her bed hair. “Ah, that hurts! Can’t I spend the night with my girlfriend?”
She raises an eyebrow and adjusts her glasses. “Not in college you can’t. Everyone makes assumptions. And by assumptions, I mean Dave. Please call him and tell him that you didn’t get laid.”
He just grins. “But I’m not supposed to lie!”
Jade makes the strangest choking noise as the blood drains from her face.
“So yeah, I probably should tell him.”
She growls an punches him in the arm, emphasizing that: “THAT. WAS. NOT. FUNNY!”
He falls of the couch as she tackles him. “Oh yes it was, your face was priceless! No one can beat me in the jests!”
“But really, why are you here?”
His face falls as the good cheer evaporates. “Scratch… got Rose.”
She gaps. “No!”
“Yeah… he got Rose through some cheap trick an—“
“Someone say my name?”
“Hey Ro—Rose, what are you doing up?” John gapes at her incredulously.
“I just woke up.”
“Ho-how? Are you alright?”
She rubs her face. “I have the worst headache, which I have taken ibuprofen for. Other than that, I feel completely fine.”
“But Dave and I…”
Rose takes a few slices of bread and drops them in the toaster. “Yes, I’ve been thinking about that. Maybe it’s a more advanced form of medication. Maybe it’s because I’m a, what did you all it? Ethereal Demon, while you two are Corporeal? And… Jade, what’s the matter?”
John looks to his side and notices that Jade hasn’t spoken a word. In fact, she looks like she might be sick.
“Whoa whoa whoa, what’s wrong?”
“It’s just… I mean, I’ll be next, won’t I?” That stumps everyone into silence.
Rose speaks first. “Well… yes, but according to the pattern you do have a while before they strike. It seems that they wait for the Demon to at least become aquatinted with their powers. Which, judging by John and Dave, is a little over a week.”
Holy crap, John hadn’t realized how in depth Rose had been looking at this. He made a mental note to introduce her to Sollux, they could probably figure out some amazing things together. Come to think of it, he was the only one who really met with the Trolls. Dave and Jade had never seen any reason to go, and Rose really hadn’t felt like going back after her first time.
“Yeah, speaking of powers, have you noticed anything different? Perceived anything strange?”
“Yeah, like Dave sees a glow that he can dim if he wants to, and I see a sort of shimmer that I can displace.”
“Mmmm, no. But like I said, it usually takes about a week for the powers to kick in.”
“Yeah, but Dave and I had a second unconscious week that you obviously aren’t going to have.”
“Hey Rose, so you know how I’m the “Noble” Demon, and Dave is the “Stoic” Demon?”
“Ah yes, what did your mysterious voice call me?”
“Yeah, I was getting there. He called you the “Canny” demon. What does that mean?”
“Smart, astute clever.”
John chuckles before patting Jade on the hand. “Yeah, I guess that makes sense. But don’t worry, Jade. You got and myself to protect you. You know, a Strider and an honorary Strider. How much safer can you be?”
She finally cracks a grin. “Yeah, I guess so… and it’s kinda jealous of me to worry about myself when we should be making sure Rose is alright.”
Rose shakes her head. “No Jade, it’s perfectly alright to be concerned about your own well-being. But John, I do believe you should go make sure Dave hasn’t texted his brother anything that he’ll regret.”
“But what ab… uh, I should go, shouldn’t?”
“Heh, I’m getting quite fluent in Rosespeak. Just… take it easy, please? You have Jade here, and if you need anything I’m right next door. Call me if you need anything.”
Rose smirks and silences him with a kiss. “Yes mother dearest.”
He gives her a forced smile before leaving.
As he enters his apartment, a slow applause emenates from the couch. He heads over to see Dave, shit-eating grin and all, slowly clapping.
“Dang Egbert, didn’t think you’d lose your virginity before me.”
Despite her fears from the previous day, this day passes by uneventfully. Trying to keep her mind off of the past day’s events, Rose tries to keep herself busy. She tries to watch tv but nothing really attracts her. She moves her focus to her favorite books, but they don’t entice her. She attempts to continue on writing her novel, but she couldn’t focus.
Fear. Mind numbing fear consumed her, a bone chilling fear enveloped her, one that she would never admit to John, much less Dave or Jade. She wasn’t so much scared of the coming attempts on her life, or the powers she would soon have to accept. The fear was a primal instinct, one without a name or face. A fear of the unknown, a fear of the future, a fear of what she could not control.
John came by a few hours later to find her curled up on the couch, sleeping fitfully. He grimaces with a knowing sympathy and carries her to her bed, shakily tucking her in. He could deal with the violence coming to him, he’d already somewhat proven that. He could deal with the dark voice lurking in the depths of his mind, but seeing Rose like that killed a part of him deep down, slicing his soul in ways he didn’t think were possible.
If only he knew that the worst was yet to come.
Chapter 3: Nex
Who knew that John’s favorite subject, World History, could be so mind numbing right now? Usually he enjoys every second of it, learning about ancient cultures and epic battles, but all that pales to the excitement and turmoil going on in his life right now. He just wants Karkat to call him, letting him know that the Trolls finally have more info, more answers to shed light on their situation.
The only thing this class had going for him was Jade and Rose sitting on either side of him so that they could wallow in misery together (Dave jokingly refers to World History as John’s pimp class. No one else is amused).
Suddenly, Mrs. Duponte halts her thrilling lecture on Mesopotamia (or something like that) and looks around, an amused glint in her eyes (Which rarely means well when dealing with a teacher). “So,” She begins, “I was thinking that, us being a history class and all, we should discuss some of the major current events that are taking place today. After, some of your life experiences will eventually be taught in future history classes. Imagine—we are living history.” She says it like it’s winning the lottery.
John grimaces slightly, realizing that he hasn’t checked the news in almost a month. Was World War Three breaking out? Remembering the events of the past few months, he decides that the joke’s not actually funny.
Luckily the old woman wasn’t looking for volunteers and prattles on. “Specifically, I want to talk about the Cuban insurrection that’s currently taking place has we speak.” Score one for redundant redundancy. “So for those of you who haven’t checked the news in a while, earlier this week a new political party arose from the shadows to challenge the Castro Regime. They call themselves the Free Egalitarian Legionnaires of Triniad. Now, as their name suggests, they hail from the Cuban town Triniad, and…”
Rose swears under her breath as Mrs. DuPonte rambles on. John looks at her curiously, but she’s already scribbling on a piece of paper, obviously anticipating his lack of understanding. She slides it over to him and he sees:
Ah…. Well, fuck. He passes the note on to Jade, who gaps slightly. At least he wasn’t the only slow one. The trio quickly leans in to converse amongst themselves.
“Are they really trying to take Cuba?”
“It would seem so, John.”
Jade bites her lip. “They don’t seem to be trying to hide it.”
Rose nods. “Maybe they’re mocking us? Maybe they don’t care?”
John decides to tune back into the old crone: “… and they claim to be supporting a democratic government. Now, the UN hasn’t officially supported either side yet, but it looks like the Federation has the upper hand at the moment, and they seem to have a very effective army for a group of rebels. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes, however. History has been known to—“
She’s interrupted by a meek looking student walking in the door. He hands her a note which he scrutinizes angrily as she mutters angrily at the poor student. She never took interruptions well, and doesn’t understand the phrase ‘don’t shoot the messenger.’ After a brief pause, she glances up and simply says, “John, you need to go see the president.”
Of course, being college students, they all turn to him wide eyed as he sheepishly makes his way out of the lecture hall, chasing him out with a loud “OoooooOOOOOooooooOOOoohhh.” This particular room was on the complete opposite side of the campus from the president’s office, so he had a nice walk ahead of him to feed his paranoia over what the president’s calling him in for.
A little ways out he saw Karkat leaning against a guard rail, staring out into Herbology department’s garden. He either didn’t have any classes today, or he was skipping class. John wouldn’t put the latter past him. He decides to take a brief detour and walks up behind Karkat and claps his shoulder. “Hey man!”
“GAAAH!? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE!?”
“I go to school here.”
“Yeah, but I thought you were one of those good kids who go to class.”
John frowns. “Why aren’t you in class?”
“Meh, I don’t care. Our parents set us up here for life, so I go a couple of times a month so the school thinks I care.”
“You have parents?’
Karkat adopts a stony expression. “We aren’t talking about that.” He hisses, voice dripping with venom.
“O-okay. But seriously, you shouldn’t skip out on classes! You need an education if you want to get anywhere in life!”
“I’M FINE THE WAY I AM!”
“Oh really? What’s the square root of 413?”
“Wh- I don’t know!”
John nods. “But see, if you got an education you would know it!”
“So what is the square root of 413?”
“How the hell should I know?”
Karkat stares at him incredulously for a few seconds before bursting out into laughter. It's a strange sound, coming from Karkat, but John laughs with him. Maybe they're becoming friends?
“But anyways,” John continues, “have you heard anything about the Felt attacking Cuba?”
Karkat grins. “Don’t be ridiculous, that’s too conspicous. Not their style.”
At that moment Gamzee ambles up to them, a glazed look in his eyes as usual. “Hey there, mothafuckas. You heard about the Felt attacking Cuba?”
“WAIT, THEY ACTUALLY DID THAT!?”
“Hey, I just told you.”
Gamzee half falls onto John in some semblance of a hug.
“Yeah man, this motherfucker wouldn’t lie.”
At that moment Sollux walks by, flanked by Aradia and Feferi. Equius is trailing a litte ways behind them. Alright, it seems likely that none of the Trolls go to class. He doesn’t know why that surprises him so much. Gamzee extracts himself from John suprisingly quickly and waves Sollux over, dopy grin on his face. As Sollux walks up…
“SOLLUX, WHAT’S THE SQUARE ROOT OF 413!?”
“Uh, 20.322404143… Why?”
Karkat shakes his head. “Err, no reason, carry on.” John raises an eyebrow at him, and Karkat scowls in response.
“Hey mothafucka, you heard about the Felt attacking Cuba?”
“Yeah, I was going to call John after school to warn that idi… oh, hey John.”
“OKAY, AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO DIDN’T KNOW!?”
Equius notices the conversation and decides to join in “Karkat, the Grand Highblood and I had a conversation about it this morning. You were there.”
“WHAT!? NO I WASN’T!”
Aradia pipes in. “Yes you were. I was there too.”
Karkat glares at Feferi, who merely shrugs. “I finned out about it from the news. The revolution's all over TV.”
“GOD DAMN IT.”
“Yeah, I heard that they employed the motherfucking Dersite Legion to aid them.”
John looks curiously at Sollux, replies, “They’re an ancient clan of warriors—mercenaries, now—who date back to Alternian times. High ranking individuals most likely know about Alternia and the Felt.”
John lets out a low whistle and checks his watch. “Alright. As much as I’d love to stay and chat, I have to go see the president. Sollux, you keep an eye out for anything referencing the Dersite Legion. Maybe you’ll find something useful.”
Sollux nods, mysteriously complacent again. “Yeah, I know I’ve read a bit about them already researching you and the Felt. I’ll have Kanaya look through the translations later for any info.”
“Right, see ya.”
“Wait, John, I wanted to ask you ab—“ But he was already gone.
“Have a seat, son.” The president removes his glasses and wipes them absentmindedly, looking away from John. John knew the president very well, and they had a pretty friendly relationship going. The president actually somewhat reminded him of himself. Despite being near 60 years old, he had a youthful vitality and radiated excited energy all of the time. But now he looks tired and worn out. Even worse, there were two cops sitting near the wall. The hell was going on!?
“I’ll, uh, stand, thank you very much.” John wracks his brain for answers. Did they figure out that he’d killed people!? But there was no evidence, certainly no bodies. Was there any blood? He couldn’t be sure.
RELAX NOBLE DEMON TIS NOT THAT KIND OF NEWS
He relaxes slightly; the Voice has yet to lie to him. But what was with the cops?
The president looks like he wants to object, but instead sighs and waves a hand to the cops. The elder one steps forward, he’s probably in charge. His cropped black hair is turning gray at the edges, and his eyes have wrinkles near the edges, and it strikes John that this man looks incredibly old, tired, and just plain sad. His dark eyes say that he’s done this many times before. He clears his throat and looks at John sorrowfully.
“… We… received a call from the boys in Washington this morning. There was a… break in at your house yesterday evening. It looks like it was a failed robbery attempt. Your father came across the robber and was…” He sighs, breaking eye contact. “Stabbed. Multiple times. A neighbor heard the… the screams, and called an ambulance… but your father… he… died en route to the hospital. I’m very sorry.”
His mind goes numb. “Wh- what?”
The poor cop looks distinctly uncomfortable. “I’m sorry for your loss…” He continues talking, but John can’t hear him anymore. His father… died? “You… have to be… joking…”
The cop looks at him worriedly. “John? Are you alright?”
“That’s not funny! Hahaha, who set you up to this? It was Dave wasn’t it!? Hahahaha, that’s not funny. I’m the prank master, god damn it, and I’m the best there is. Who’s he trying to fool? Hahaha…. Oh my god…”
CALM THYSELF YOUNG ONE
But his breaths are coming to fast and tears are streaming down his cheeks. This has to be a joke. And he feels dizzy, the room starts to spin, and the last thing he sees his the cop lunging for him before his face hits the floor.
Rose, Jade, and Dave all meet up outside the administrative building. Dave gives Rose a sly grin. “So? What’d he do this time?”
“I don’t believe that this was his fault.”
Jade bites her lip in thought. “Yeah, I don’t think he did anything this time. It’s not like that time that he put Tobasco in the coffee machine… or the time that he put a cherry bomb in the president’s office… or the time that he set all the frogs in the biology lab free… or the time that he put a cherry bomb in the president’s coffee…. or the time that he-”
“ANYWAYS,” Rose interrupts hastily, “All those times he knew what was coming. This time he seemed really confused, so I doubt that he knows why he was called.”
“You think the president hired him again?”
The president was, to say the least, immensly popular amongst the student body. Once he discovered John’s inate talent for pranking, he quietly reprimended the boy… then sent him out to “add some colour” to the teacher’s lives that he thought were too boring.
“If that were so, he wouldn’t have pulled him out of class.”
Dave’s about to give her a snarky reply when a few nurses rush past them into the building. Dave gives them a curious glance. “Huh…” A few minutes later they rush out again, this time with a rather pale looking John on a stretcher. Rose groans, Jade gasps, and Dave nods. “Huh…”
The president walks out behind them, followed by two cops. As the cops walk away, the president notices the kids and walks over. “Ah, Mr. Strider, was just about to send for you… You’re John’s best friend, correct? And his flatemate?”
Dave nods calmly, while Rose asks, only slightly less calmly, what happened to John.
“Ah, he just passed out…” Dave nods, ever so coolly, “… after receiving the news of his father’s death.”
The president winces. “Language, Mr. Strider…. Anyways, his father was killed the other day. It was apparently a failed robbery attempt, and… I suppose you three will be gone for the funeral… umm…” The president looked incredibly flustered. This was probably the first time that he had ever happened to do this.
Rose glances at Dave worriedly. He’s pacing furiously, his cool façade completely obliderated. He was rather close to John’s father, closer than her or Jade.
“Are you… sure?” She winces as soon as the words leave her mouth.
He just nods wearily. “I think you should head over with the nurses. He’ll probably need you three when he wakes up.”
Dave leans against the wall and stares at John, jaw tight and fists clenched. Rose sits and waits expectantly as Jade paces rapidly around the room. After a few minutes John groans softly. Everyone freezes and looks at him. He gives another groan and his eyes flutter open. Everyone holds their breath.
Dave stares at John in concern, one of the few times that he’d ever show it. His friend looks sadly pathetic. Dave doesn’t think that he’s anyone with eyes so dead. His friend tries to sit up but a nurse rushes over and shoves him back down, telling him to take it easy. He’s had a horrible shock after all.
They eventually prop him up on some pillows and leave him be for the time being. After that, it’s just the four of them and one giant awkward silence turtle. He finally looks up and meets their gaze, looking rather unhealthily pale. “I-Is it true?”
Rose sighs and the two girls look away. Damn, guess it’s up to him. He picks his next words very carefully, and in the gentlest tone possible says: “I… don’t think they’d joke about this, Egbert.”
He simply slumps back; looking like the answer took any remaining strength from him. Dave looks down at his feet. Damn, this is awkward. “You… uhh… need anything?”
“Can I… just be alone right now?”
Everyone gives him a worried look. Jade hugs him tightly, Rose kisses him on the forehead, and Dave clasps him on the shoulder before they quietly leave. Dave waits outside of the room while the two girls head back to class (how the hell are you supposed to go back to class when your best friend’s father died? ) when a sudden thought hits him. He’s gonna have to tell Dirk. Damn it.
Chapter 4: Misery
Well hey everyone, I'm uploading this a day earlier than usual because I will be leaving on vacation for the next week and won't be able to upload for that time. And it's just the greatest cliffhanger ending I could ask for. :D
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dirk Strider sits alone in his study, bottle of scotch in his hand. He sighs and tries to examine all the paperwork lying infront of him, but it’s so hard to read when the letters begin to dance across the page. How many drinks has he had now? He couldn’t remember, didn’t really care. He felt a lot like his sister at the moment.
Right now his best friend, the father of his adopted brother’s best friend, lies dead and he has deal with everything because the only surviving relative is a little kid who can’t even speak at the moment due to the shock. John’s father appointed Dirk to manage his estate in the event that John was unable to, and didn’t seem like John was going to be making any big decisions.
He sighs again and takes finishes of the bottle. He still remembered when they had first met. Dave had brought John home one day, and about five hours later a worried man in a trenchcoat came by and punched Dirk in the face for kidnapping his son. Now the man wasn’t much of a fighter, and Dirk would normaly be able to dodge a punch of that caliber, but he so shocked at the unorthodox introduction that he hadn’t bothered to. And then the SWAT broke into his house and arrested him for kidnapping. After that misunderstanding had been resolved, the man felt terribly guilty and he took them all out for dinner.
After that the kids had hung out so much that it became impossible for the two older men not to befriend each other, a twenty-three year old Dirk and a forty-year old business man. Even after the man had gone home to Washington the two kept in touch, often visiting the other’s house if their business brought them anywhere near.
And now he was gone. Some petty thief just upped and stabbed him to death, thinking he could get away with it. Oh, but there is no escaping Dirk Strider’s wrath.
Fingerprints. The little thief had left fingerprints, and Dirk had money. Money brought investigators, investigators brought evidence, and evidence brought answers. And it all starts with some man called Jack Noir.
After receiving the terrible news, Dirk got the kids tickets to Washington for the very next day. Three days after that, they held the funeral. It was a small, quiet event. The man didn’t have any family outside of John, so only Dirk, Roxy, the four kids, and a few close coworkers attended.
The coworkers and Dirk exchanged stories about the man—the good and the funny—but John simply sits in his seat, still as the grave. He didn’t talk to anyone, just gazed sadly at nothing in particular.
Rose sits next to Jade, both feeling a little awkward. She knew the deceased the least, second to Jade who had only met the man once before. Rose herself had only met him a handful of times, but he had seemed quite pleased that his son had met such an intelligent young girl, and after they had become a couple he seemed to like the idea of her becoming his future daughter-in-law (He commented on that a lot, much to John’s embarresment).
After the funeral had finished, Dirk took them all out to eat at John’s favorite restaurant , an attempt at cheering him up that pretty much ended in faliure. The six of them engaged in forced small talk without making eye contact, and in the end everyone felt even more miserable.
Dirk finished loading the last of his luggage into the suitcase. His buisiness was forcing him to go back to Texas, and Jade and Dave decided they would head back to school. Roxy had left shortly after the funeral, so it would just be John and Rose left in the hotel (Dirk had gotten them a few hotel rooms because still couldn’t stand the thought of going to see his house). He hands the keycards to Rose. “So you guys are booked for the rest of today and tomorrow.” He pauses and glances behind her shoulders at John. Whispering, he adds, “Try to get him to talk, will you?” She nods quietly at him, before hugging Dave and Jade goodbye. As the three head out the door, Dirk turns to the kids. “And keep it PG-13, will you?” he says with a grin, hoping to elicit some reaction from John. He’s rewarded with silence from both of them. Grimacing, he leaves in a hurry.
As the three of them walk through the airport looking for their respective terminals, Jade stops suddenly.
“Uh, I have to go the bathroom, so...”
Dirk nods at her. “Yeah, your flight doesn’t leave for another fifteen minutes. We’ll wait here for you.” He watches as his brother’s girlfriend scurry away and once more silence envelops them. It wouldn’t have been bad if Roxy had been there, she had no qualms about filling the void with incessant chatter. But she was far, far away, so stony silence weighed heavily on the Striders.…
“Dirk?” Dave just barely whispers it, and Dirk wonders for a second if it was just his imagination. But it comes back stronger, “Dirk?”
“I’ve been… thinking.”
“Woah man, don’t hurt yourself!”
“Damn it Dirk, I’m trying to be serious here!”
Dirk scratches the back of his neck. “Yeah… sorry…”
Dave sighs and continues in a thick voice. “Anyways… Just, the sudden death had me thinking… and… you know I love you, right?”
Dirk stares at him, slightly stunned and slightly amused. Dave generally doesn’t get this emotional. So he pats the kid on his shoulder. “I know. Love you too.”
“In a totally non homosexual way.”
“Wish I could say the same.”
“DAMN IT DIRK!”
“John? Uh, do you want to go somewhere and get dinner?” Rose asks hesitantly. John stares moodily out the window, before accepting the fact that he needs to eat something rather than waste away. With great effort he stands up and whispers, “Alright.” He grabs a coat and some shoes and sluggishly puts them on. They go out and grab some fast food, but decide to eat it outside in a park. Well, Rose decides everything, John just tags along. Munching on their food, they sit on a bench wrapped in more joyous silence, although Rose is secretly pleased that he spoke a word. Maybe if she waits long enough he’ll speak again. A few minutes later, that line of thought rewards here with a sigh, followed by:
“Listen, you don’t have to be so quite. I’m not that fragile.”
She hesitates, unsure of how to respond. Picking her words carefully, she replies, “Well, you were unusually quiet and sorrowful.”
“Look, there you go with that tone again. I’m not going to break with a few wrong words, Rose.”
“… I’m sorry. Empathizing just isn’t my strongest point, so I’m never quite sure what to say.”
They sit in silence for a few moments, and then John sighs. “I know how cliché this sounds and everything, but I guess my Dad wouldn’t want me to be all gloomy just because he died.”
“So… you’re going to cheer up?”
He turns his gaze to the setting sun. “No. But I can try.”
She isn’t sure whether to be pleased or depressed by the news.
“I’ll be back, I gotta go pee.”
“Don’t judge me, Strider!”
“Yeesh, you have the bladder of a mouse. A midget mouse.With a bladder infection.”
“Now you need to learn from me. It’s like Fort Knox up here. Once it goes in, it ain’t coming out till I say so.”
“Wha? Eeww, that’s just gross. I’m leaving now.”
He chuckles. “Yeah fine, go. I’m gonna call Rose.” It was almost midnight here, so it was still getting late over in Washington. He hopes that they’re still up.
He calls and, after a few seconds, Rose does indeed pick up. “Hello Dave.” She sounds pretty sleepy.
“Yo. How’s Egbert?”
“He’s… uhhh… getting there. He wants to go see the house tomorrow.”
Dave draws in a sharp breath.“That’s good, right? He’s healing and stuff?”
“I hope so.” There’s a slight pause on the other end. “Look out for Jade, Dave. They could be coming after her any time now.”
“You really need to tell me? But you do the same for my bro. See ya, Lalonde.”
“Bye Dave.” Another pause. “Be safe.”
And there’s a cheerful end to a cheerful conversation.
John stands in the middle of his living room, trying to swallow a lump in his throat. The tears are already flowing not matter how hard he tries to stop them, and Rose is standing in the corner looking very unsure of herself. But he doesn’t notice her; he’s too busy drowning in the flood of memories. He remembers when he was five; he performed his first prank on his dad. He saw the bucket of water over the door on a television show, and seemed like a great idea to a little kid. He got a ladder, filled the bucket with water (man buckets were heavy when filled with liquids) and scaled the wall. In retrospect, he’s surprised that he didn’t kill himself. His dad never saw it coming, and at the look of pure shock on his face as the wataer cascaded down upon him cemented his love of pranks forever.
And then he was twelve, decided for the first time that he loathed cake. Now he can’t even remember what brought it on, probably some stupid argument with his dad, just that he was too stubborn to ever eat another piece. He smiles sadly, remembering the everlasting war between him and his father of that subject.
He wanders up the stairs, and Rose begins to follow. He just shakes his head; he needs to be alone right now. He continues up to his room. Another dizzying tide of memories hits him and he sinks to his bed, overwhelmed. He clutches his head and finally lets loose the torrent of tears that he’s been holding in. After sobbing for what seems like hours, he finally stands up and wipes the tears away. Strengthening his resolve, he heads out to his father’s room.
The immaculate suits are still cleanly pressed and waiting to be worn. His bowler hats stay on the rack to eternally wait for their owner. John lies down on his father’s bed. It still smells like him. Tears come back to his eyes; how could anyone kill that man!?
METHINKS THOU KNOWST
No… that’s impossible
BUT IT IS
No… the… Felt?
His weary mind just collapses. Sorrow and rage erupt within him, piling on more thoughts than his weary brain could handle.
Why would anyone do that? (HE’ll KILL THEM, HE’ll KILL THEM ALL!)
Why!? (DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!)
WHY!? (THEY’RE GOING TO BURN!)
THAT IS WHY
Oh. And then he falls asleep.
He wakes a while later to find Rose silently stroking his hair. He looks up at her and asks how long he’s been out. Only half an hour. She asks him if he’s feeling better, and to his surprise he actually is, somewhat. But now he can’t stay here, there’s too much to think about and he as to be moving, so they decide to leave.
He’s walking in the city with Rose, mulling over his future. Everything his Dad owned was now his. The old man had always been very adamant about not accumulating debt—the only he ever had was the mortgage bill, and even that was paid off. So now the house was his. Both cars were his. Multiple bank accounts, his. It was all too much for him to handle right now, so they walked aimlessly. He knew that Dirk, being the appointed manager of the estate, had rented a few storage units to house all of his new possessions until he went through them, but for now he walks. After a little while, Rose tugs his arm.
“John… is it just me, or is it rather quiet for the middle of the city.”
He looks around, disturbed by the noticeable lack of people for the middle of the day. “Fuck.”
“Well, every time the Felt has attacked me so far, there’s been a distinct lack of people where they should be. I’m sure it happens to Dave to.”
And sure enough, out on the horizon the familiar black cloaked enemies strider towards them. He pushes Rose away and goes out to meet them, a calm vengeance taking over his mind. “John, are you sure you should be going out there?”
“Relax. Dirk trained me, I can make black holes, and I c—holy fuck, is that a tank!?”
Rose frowns. “That can’t be legal.”
Yeah. He grabs her arm and drags her in the other direction. “Change of plan, run like hell.”
“Can you not take on the tank?”
“If it was must me and it, yeah. But we don’t know if they have more out there, and devouring stuff requires intense concentration. If I’m focusing on one that leaves me vulnerable to the others, so now we abscond. Find someplace that we can separate the men from machines and ambush them there.”
Hopefully this place hasn’t changed too much in the few months he’d been here. He takes a few turns and luckily there is still a condemned office building towering over them. It was scheduled for demolition soon, so no one would mind if the tank blew that up. Scratch would probably work his way out of destroying an inhabited building anyways. He drags Rose inside. “This seems like as good a place as any.”
After a moment’s consideration, they head to the basement. It will be dark in there, and Demons shall have the advantage. As Rose starts down the stairs, the building rumbles ominously. John motions for her to stay where she is as he looks out the door (Oh what a fool he was). And at that moment a tank shell flew through the freshly made hole in the building, sailed straight at the open doorway and collided directly with John’s head. He’s consumed by a fiery explosion for a few horrifying seconds before he’s thrown out of the fire and bounces off of the wall and falling down the stairwell. Rose lets out a scream of horror and runs down after him. She reaches the bottom (God, it was long fall) and drags his broken body into a nearby room. She turns him over (she briefly realizes that she can see perfectly in the dark, more proof that she really was becoming the Demon) and looks at him. Blood.So much blood. Bones are sticking out of the skin, flesh is charred beyond recognition, and she even can see some organs. And he wasn’t conscious to heal himself.
That’s when she hears the whispers. She looks around before realizes that they’re coming from John. She stares in confusion before realizing that there others. They come from above her, and she thinks that they must be from the Felt members.
The whispers were maddening, the kind where you can almost make out what they are sayign but can never quite understand them (so Dave and John see light, and she hears whispers?).
Some disconnected part of her brain notices the pattern, that these powers seem to be awaken when faced with a great deal of stress, or maybe they’re tied to the fight or flight reaction. Another part hates herself for thinking so calmly.
She presses her hand down on John’s chest and waits. Could her powers possibly have some sort of healing factor? Who is she kidding? The hell does a name like “Corrupt” have anything to do with healing? But is there a better option? What’s the worst that it could do (besides obliderating her boyfriend)? Wait, wasn’t she an Ethereal demon? So that couldn’t happen (but she could still completely wreck his mind, couldn’t she?).
A voice errupts in her mind, deafening her. She clutches her ears and lets out a scream. The voice leaves her ears ringing even though it came from no earthly presence, and her brain ahces like the worst of migraines.
SPEAK WELL WITH
AT THIS MOMENT I AM
ONLY SPEAK TO DEVOUR
Her nose begins to bleed and she fears that she might pass out. Spots dance across her vision at the weight of the entity’s intrusion.
EFFORT TO SPEAK WITH YOU PAINS ME
AS IT PAINS YOU TOO
Places her hand back on John’s chest.
And feels a shock of power leave her. She stares at John, breath held in anticipation, and waits.
A minute passes. (Was she too late?)
Five more tick by. (She shouldn't have hesitated!)
Well, any questions, comments, concerns, or criticisms will be greatly appreciated, as usual. See you all next week!
Chapter 5: The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Until today, I lived in the shadow world
Now heart is speaking, brain’s defeated
Independent thought deleted…
i came into this life at the bidding of my Mistress. i am mighty, power courses through my veins, and i know that i am a God amongst men. But i pale before my Mistress, She who granted me life. i know my dreams are made of her, and only for her. My life is hers to command; i would storm the gates of Hell at her bidding. Lo! She speaks! She commands this:
“John? Get up.”
i try, but to no avail. It seems my body is broken and scarred. This will not do; no mistress should have such a disgraceful excuse for a servant. My legs are cinders and my lungs are punctured, but Her word is Truth. She has commanded me to rise, and rise i shall. i search my memory, of times before i became truly alive, when i had lived a mere shadow of a life. i look back in shame. i had never known true existence until now (when my Mistress showed me the way, the truth: Her!) . As i remember, i come across the Devour ability. Yes, that will do. i reach out with my mind to sense my surroundings (see how my new life has awakened such dormant powers!) and notice a few generators in the next room that no longer function.i greedily consume them (see how my Mistress has boosted my abilities!) and feel muscle and sinew slowly knit together as my flesh reverts from blackened soot to tanned, smooth skin.
i stand up and feel bones snap back into place. The pain is but a minor inconvenience; i’d walk through fire if my Mistress commanded it. i turn to face Her, my face an impassive mask. A good servant should never bother his Mistress with emotions.i kneel before her, awaiting her command. “How might I serve You, Mistress?”
Rose starts, confused by John’s actions. She looks at him and he seems fake, he’s definitly not the John that she knew and loved. And she was a bright girl, it didn’t take her long to realize what had happened. Enslavement!? THAT’S my power? She looks at him, the false him that currently kneels before her, and she trembles in fear. What if the change is permanent? What if she’s just killed him, the same way that his wounds would have? But she can’t worry about that now, she has to focus on getting the two of them out of there first. So she swallows her fear, and voices a command.
“Just… get us out of here.”
She has spoken, and Her word is Truth. i nod. “Aye. Follow me, Milady.” And i quickly turn around and head for the stairs. We climb up in silence, my Mistress and i, always wary for those who would do Her harm. We reach the main level, but it is blocked by the rubble that caused my death and rebirth, that brought me to my One and only love. i consider Devouring it, but i worry about sending the building toppling down upon my Mistress. With naught else to do, we continue up. We reach the second level when we hear a noise. i push my Mistress down and order Her to be quiet (it hurts to order Her around, as lowly as i am, but i must do so in order to protect Her). i crouch low to the ground and stalk forward, a predator amongst sheep. As i move behind them, i count those who would dare do my Mistress harm. There are three of them.
With a flash i strike! My blade sings through the air, slicing through one’s neck before he even knows i am there. Before the other two can react i grab their heads, crushing them with my superior strength. Three less to hunt for my Mistress. i turn to Her, seeing if she has any more orders. Instead, i see a horrified expression upon her face.
“Mistress, what is wrong?” i inquire.
“You… you… killed them.” She looks greatly disturbed by this fact.
my heart breaks a little. i have failed Her, disappointed Her, scared Her. i am a disgrace, a blight upon all existence. i raise my knife, ready to commit Seppuku in my shame, when She shouts: “STOP!”
i drop the knife, turning to await Her orders. Indecision flashes across her face, and i feel sorry for her, for the burden of Command. i am truly lucky, to be a mere servant to a power greater then me. But enough, rambling, She comes to a decision! Quite reluctantly, she thus states:
“Just… get us out of here.”
i pick up my blade and oblige Her Will, memory of my disgrace already gone. A good servant does not dwell upon the past, he merely stays in the present to better serve his Mistress. We continue forward, silently sliding through the shifting shadows and though we remain cautious, we do not find any other foes to kill.
We reach the western wall and look out, finding five more hostiles milling around the tank. i turn to my Mistress to see what She has to say. She grimaces, then miserably gives me a nod. That was the thing about Her, She was always able to make those hard decisions, whereas my past self would have tried to find a way to avoid them. But now i merely wait upon Her orders. And now She has commanded.
Stealth will be key here. I vault out the window, dropping down two floors to land silently on the ground. She lets out a strangled cry, not knowing that it would take more than a silly fall to end Her servant. Luckily She had the foresight to muffle her yelp, and my foes did not hear a thing.i stalk over to the first one and slit his throat in a fluid movement. Unfortunately a second member happens to round the corner, and he starts to shout for help. i leap forward, running my blade through his eye just before he lets out a sound. i pause a moment to gather myself. They still don’t know that i’m here.
Or not. i hiss in pain as a blade slides through my back. With a growl i twist around punch him back ten feet. i remove his blade from my flesh and stab him in the heart. A death by irony.
Apparently the fourth and fifth are still clueless, as they are still engaged in idle conversation at the moment. Not wanting much more conflict, i reach out and consume them before they have the chance to know what happened. i gasp in ecstasy as I feel my wound close.
i turn to the tank, which by now has been alerted to my presence. It backs up a bit and aims in my general direction. Unfortunately for it, a Demon is faster than a tank and i glide behind it. Raising my hand, i give it my condolences before it is whisked away in my Devour.
i turn to my Mistress, who is watching me with narrowed eyes. Approval or disappointment? i can never tell with her. Instead i beckon Her to jump, and She does so after a moment’s hesitation. i do not blame her for being frightened of me, it is within my nature to do Her dirty work so She may not soil Her fingers. As She leaps, I ready myself and catch Her. After making sure she is okay, we turn and leave, Master and servant.
But something is… wrong. I ffeel myself…. H-h-hurting I c-c-cant bbbbbbbbbbbbreathe and iiiiiiiiiii___Iii-I_ cacacacacantthiiiiiiiiinkk-k-k-k i-i-
I staggggggger and ff-fffalll my mister/sscr/s o-o-o-ut to m--------
c-can’t he-e-ear her Iiiiiiiiiiii&%/m soo----sooo---soooorrr Fmk/s
From the depths of eternity my mind shatters as an insidious liquid black voice emerges to fill my mind with terror and the voice of ultimate dominio—true domination— roars into my being
LEAVE THIS MIND KNAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Chapter title comes from the song "The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet" By the Finnish band Sonata Arctica (Youtube link with lyrics PCHOOWIE===> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqzngCROgIE
Opening lines are from the song "No Dream Can Heal a Broken Heart" by the same band (Youtube link with lyrics PCHOW===> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2MXgKgSuzw)
I am not affiliated with that band or those songs in any way, shape, or form. If I am, this comes as great surprise to me.
Chapter 6: Severed Strings
John groans. His head is pounding and his mouth is filled with coppery taste of blood. He pulls himself to his feet and looks around. He’s been lying unconscious in an alley. Again. Seriously, is this becoming his thing!?
He grits his teeth and takes stock of the situation. He’s coated in dirt, ash, and lots of dried blood. Worst of all, his clothes are in tatters, singed and torn. They can barely be classified as clothes at this point. Burying his face in his hands, he groans again. There can’t be a good explanation to this. What the heck had happened to him? The last thing he remembered was exiting his house with Rose… ah shit, where was she?
YOU HAVE AWAKENED
Oh Voice, what happened to me?
THOU WERET BROKEN AND DYING SO THE CANNY ONE CORRUPTED YOU
… that doesn’t sound good. What… what does that mean?
THE CANNY ONE’S POWER REWRITES ONE’S EXISTENCE TO SERVE HER
SO SHE USED IT TO HELP YOU ESCAPE THE FELT
IT WEARS OFF IN TIME
BUT YOU HAD NONE
SO I BROKE YOUR MIND AND RECONSTRUCTED YOU FROM THE RECENT PAST
Oh God that sounds painful
JUDGING BY YOUR SCREAM IT WAS
He’s not sure how to respond to that.
BUT THE TIME FOR TALK IS DONE
THE CANNY ONE COMES HITHER
Oh good, maybe she’ll have a better story for him. He stumbles out the alley and croaks, “Rose? Rose?” His throat’s to dry to speak well, so he lapses into a coughing fit. Staggering further into the street, he looks out to the horizon and sees the sun setting. Another day lost. He sighs. His life sucks.
“John? You’re awake?” He turns and sees Rose coming down the road. Looking closer, he notices that she has a bundle of clothes under her arms. She looks around quickly before hurrying to him and shoving the clothes in his arms. “Put these on before someone comes along!” She hisses.
A little confused and very self-conscious, he heads to the darkest part of the alley before performing the speediest clothes change in history. It helped that the rags he was wearing disintegrated at the slightest tug.
He hurries back to Rose and rasps out, “Rose, what happ-“
She silences him a shake of her head and simply says, “Later.” Before turning around and heading back to the hotel. With a helpless sigh, a very exasperated John follows her.
“… and soon after we left, you… I’m not sure. Your eyes turned black, your skin went ashen, and you screamed before falling unconscious. I’m not sure if it was my powers, or a side effect of your powers interfering with mine, or…” She falls silent.
“Actually, that was the Voice. It apparently ‘broke’ me, then rebuilt me.”
She frowns. “That sounds painful.”
“Apparently it was. But anyways, that’s when you stashed my body in an alley and left to get clothes?”
“Yes, John, I highly doubt that people would take kindly to me carrying in an unconscious, blood-stained boy into my hotel room. You got strange looks for your relative state of disarray as it is, but at least no one called the cops.”
John leans back in silence. “You know, that’s the third time that I’ve been unconscious in an alley. You think people take notice of that sort of thing.” He frowns. “Society really needs to get their values straight.”
“Ah, sorry. Information overload, I kinda short-circuited.” He clasps his hands, falling back into silence. “So I… killed people? Again?”
Rose frowns. “Yes… I’m sorry.” She looks away.
“Don’t be, it’s not like you ordered me to kill them, right?”
“You… didn’t order me to kill them, did you?”
“Oh god Rose, I’m so sorry.” He exclaims, leaning forward to hug her. She recoils in shock, falling out of her chair.
“What are you apologizing for!?” She splutters.
“If I hadn’t been shot, then you wouldn’t have had to do such a horrible thing!”
“Wh… bu… it’s not your fault!”
He leans back and looks her in the eyes. “It’s alright, Rose. Don’t blame yourself.”
“Wh-I… I’m going to go take a shower!” She huffs, abruptly getting up and running to the bathroom. She seems unusually flustered for Rose Lalonde. John shrugs and decides to get some sleep. Women…
They take a plane back to New York the next morning. The trip transpired mostly in a comfortable silence; Rose reading some large, scary looking book and John playing a hand-held game. When the plane finally touches down, they leave to see Dave and Jade waiting outside for them with a large decorative sign. Dave reaches them first and shoves some consolation stuffed animals in John’s hand (oh, the smirk of victory on his face…) and Jade chatters incessantly, and life was pretty good all things considered.
Since it was noon, they decided to stop and get some lunch. They found a pizzeria that looked pretty good, so they decided why not? As they chow down on the food, they catch up on the last few days. Dave mentions that he decided to go meet with the Trolls in John’s absence, being a fellow Demon and all. He was pretty sure that Karkat loved him (judging by a few incoherent texts that John had received this morning, Karkat begs to differ). Anyways, after he had thoroughly befriended Karkat, they all agreed to hold a summit between the sixteen of them tomorrow to get more info on the Felt.
When he asks if anything interesting had happened to them in their few days alone. John and Rose provide some very vague, noncommittal answers. Judging by Dave’s smirk, he had formed the completely wrong idea and for the time being they were completely fine with that.
After the food they decided to see a movie. Dave recommended some sweet action movie he had seen recently, so they hit up the cinema next.
The Felt didn’t attack them, the Trolls didn’t bother them, and for the first time in a while they could just be normal college students hanging out on the weekend. It was really nice.
John’s life wasn’t great. But he felt alright.
Chapter 7: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
John awakens to a peaceful Sunday morning. The birds are chirping, the golden sunlight is streaming through the windows, and there is a sticky note posted to his head. He pulls it off rather disgruntledly.
Hey there bro! I was going to wake you up, but you looked so peaceful seeping there, just like a baby! That and Rose told us the story about her mind-raping you, so we decided that you could use a little sleep. We went to go see the Trolls already (I bet Karkat’s just counting the hours till my return!), so come by when you get this.
He chuckles a little before crumpling the note and throwing it away. He changes quickly and heads to the kitchen to get some breakfast. While pouring cereal, he sends a thought out to the Voice.
So how’s it going?
I CONTINUE TO EXIST
Ummm. Yeah. Alright. So do you have a name? Because I feel really weird calling you ‘the Voice’.
Will you tell me?
THOU WILT KNOW ALL IN DUE TIME
Ummm… alright. So anything I should know about?
Ummm…. Well, I’m going to head out the Trolls now. Have fun doing… whatever it is you… do. See ya.
A dark chuckle emanates from his mind.
OH NOBLE DEMON I AM ALWAYS AT THY SIDE
He arrives at the mine to find Tavros greeting him of all people. The guy waves him over.
“Hey. Where’s Karkat?”
“Forget about him, there’s something I want to show you.”
Hesitantly, John grabs the wheelchair and heads down to the mine. It occurs to him that he really hasn’t talked to this troll much. Their journey is relatively silent, with Tavros merely interrupting the silence to give a few directions or point out a few key locations: Someone’s room, where they tend to eat together, or Gamzee’s favorite spots to get high. When his ears pop, he realizes that they are going deep in. They don’t see anyone on the way down, everyone’s probably waiting for him in the library.
Eventually they reach a large steel door. John stares at it; every other door he’s seen here has been wooden so far. This one seems important.
Tavros gestures to the door, so John leans forward and pushes it open. He grunts, surprised out how heavy it is—any normal person would have one hell of a time opening it. But what lies beyond the doors startles him.
Food. Endless shelves of food in a room far bigger than the archives. Shelves three times his height stockpiled high with non-perishable goods.
Tavros just smiles wanly. “John? How much do you know about us?”
“I mean us. The trolls.The ones who have been working our butts off to find all your info. Do you even know the first thing about us?”
John looks down guiltily. “Errr… no. Sorry, I me—“
“No, it’s alright. I understand. You’ve had a lot bigger things to think about, that and your dad—my condolences, by the way—you’ve been busy trying to unravel the Felt.”
John grins. “So enlighten me.”
Tavros sighs and runs a hand through his hair. John’s grin fades as he realizes that this won’t be a happy tale.
“We didn’t meet until our parents did. You know what brought them together? The parents of a blind girl, a paraplegic, an introverted bipolar genius, not to mention a few sociopaths? Alternia. Alternia.The great kingdom that no one’s ever heard of. Do you know why? Because the Felt wants it that way. They’ve been hiding that information carefully for who knows how long. Yet these people randomly uncovered it, and a lust for knowledge overcame them. They were obsessed, spending all their money trying to find more info. As the years went on, they slowly drifted together—two or three would band up, then meet up with another group, untill all of our parents were together.
So they bought this depleted mine, dunping loads of cash into it to turn it into a secret base. The archive is filled with everything they’ve uncovered on that society. And let me tell you, they believed every word of it. This place has been renovated to survive The Reckoning in whatever form it may take: it’s been stockpiled with food and it’s located near an underground spring for a nice supply of water, not to mention that it has self sustaining energy from… hyrdoelectricity? I don’t know, Sollux does if you want to know more. Anyways, the poor fuckers were up to their eyeballs in debt. And all the money they were putting into their Alternia project proved to be their downfall. The Felt took notice of them, and they don’t take too kindly to people who violate their secrecy. So one day our parents went out on a plane trip and... didn’t land safely.”
He lets out a chocked laugh. “And the Felt mailed us the money for their funerals, along with a warning to not delve into what our parents had long sought after. And we were more than happy to oblige them. Have you ever wondered why we don’t seem to know anything until you do? It’s because we don’t. We hated parents. We loathed them. They would try to tell us stories about The Demons Four, but we wouldn’t have any of it. We just wanted normal parents who weren’t away for weeks on end. We just ran away from Alternia... Except for Gamzee, that is. He loved the stories our parent’s told us and appointed himself “The Grand Highblood”, a position of power in Alternia, aparently. We just went along with it to placate him. But other than that, we bleached out brains of anything related to that damnable culture. And look where that got us…”
He turns to John. “So what do you think?”
“… you use a lot of rhetorical questions.” He blurts out.
Tavros looks at him in shock. “That’s the only thing you have to say!?”
“Ah, sorry. When I’m overloaded with information I tend to say something stupid. Rose can attest to that…. So why do you guys still have the archives then? And what happened to your parents research?”
“Well, our parents took all of their research wherever they went, so… and as for the archives, who knows? Maybe they don’t realize how extensive it is. Maybe they don’t care. Maybe they’re mocking us.”
John nods at Tavros, lost in thought. As he turns to leave, Tavros suddenly grabs his hand. “Be careful out there, John. Not for yourself, but for my friends. My family. No one admits it, but everyone’s fucked up beyond imagination. We’re all orphans, and everyone’s pretty depressed over it, though no one will admit it. We’ve devolved into a big mass of unresolved romantic tensions, despite mostly being one giant family cluster. The only official relationships we have currently are Karkat/Terezi and Vriska/Me, but Equius has long sought after Aradia, who’s torn between him and Sollux. Sollux himself has also caught the eye of Feferi. Eridan hates every soul, but he especially hates Sollux for stealing away his one crush, and yet Sollux has no clue that those two feel anything at all. Even if he did, he’d probably rather read a book then do anything “silly” like date or such. Kanaya is head over heels for Vriska, but she’s too polite to admit it while Vriska is going out with me. But I see it in her eyes, that no matter how guilty she feels about it, she wants something bad to happen to me and it tears her up inside. Nepeta’s entirely devoted to Karkat, but he’ll never see her as anything more than a good friend. It’s like a gaint, fucking soap opera.
“Oh, and romance is the least of our issues here. Karkat will never admit it, but he feels hurt and betrayed at the fact that his father would chase myths and legends rather than spend time with his only begotten son. He doesn’t know how to deal with the aching pain inside so he merely dons a shell of barbs and thorns to repel others away from him. He hates the fact that he can’t stop yelling at others but he can’t stop himself, and he hates himself all the more. He might share some feelings with Terezi, but I alone hear his sobs as he cries himself to sleep every night.” Here Tavros chuckles a bit. “It’s actually kinda funny, because no one else really cares about all of his yelling. He’s pretty much the de facto father of us all, so they see it as a somewhat gruff but affectionate. Which, in all honesty, is exactly what it is.
“Vriska, well, she simply snapped. She couldn’t handle the feeling of betrayal and abandonment, so she’s tried to destroy every relationship she’s ever had through treachery and anger so that she won’t ever be betrayed again. I’ve slowly been mending that, but I’m not sure we’ll ever fix it.
“And since he was the only one who ever loved our parents, why do you think Gamzee turned to drugs to sooth that everlasting ache? Why do you think Sollux spends his waking hours burying himself into books, seeking refuge in knowledge? Equius dove into body building and engineering. Nepeta…” He stops to laugh again, “She was too young to remember our parents and be screwed up by they’re actions. Yeah, Nepeta’s probably the only sane one here.” He shakes his head sadly. “And she’s the only one who doesn’t understand why everyone is so screwed up.”
Tavros chuckles mournfully to himself, on the verge of tears. “I know them all better than they know themselves. But no one suspects me of that. Why should they? I’m just Tavros the weak, Tavros the cripple, Tavros the pansy.”
He takes a ragged breath. “I might be scared of everything under the sun, but I’m the only one who really knows what’s going on here.”
He lets out another chuckle and mutters bitterly, “There are some benefits to being invisible.”
Chapter 8: Summit
Dave leans back against a bookshelf (Sollux wasn’t there to yell at him this time) and observes the party going on. The Trolls and Demons were mixing pretty well, if he did say so himself. Jade was getting along pretty well with Nepeta, their cheerful personalities meshed perfectly, so in conjunction she was hanging out with Equius too (but he seemed rather nervous around women). Rose was hanging out with Sollux and Kanaya, checking out uncomfortably large, ancient looking tomes. Aradia occasionaly came by to see if they were doing anything interesting, but gave up and sat at a table looking at some charts.
And here Dave was, hanging out with his new best bro. He flings an arm around Karkat and dons a wide grin. “Isn’t it just a great day, Karkles?”
“DON’T TOUCH ME! AND ONLY TEREZI’S ALLOWED TO CALL ME THAT!”
“I mean, I just feel so happy. It’s such a beautiful day, and it makes you glad to be alive, doesn’t it?”
Karkat squirms around, trying to escape Dave’s iron grip.
Dave notices Terezi sitting down nearby trying not to laugh.
“Aight. Hug me bro.”
“W-WHAT THE FUCK!?”
“C’mon, it’s the foundation of friendship, the cementation of bro-hood, the rite of passage to adulthood!”
“GET AWAY FROM MEEEEEE!”
“Dude, we’re thick as thieves right now. Thicker than Zahhak’s biceps. Thicker than Catpor’s skull.”
“I heard that.”
“STOP TOUCHING DAMN IT!”
At that point Rose evidently took pity on Karkat, because she came over and whacked Dave on the head with a book, and uttered the word “Strider” in That Voice that only women can manage, compressing all the hatred, despise, and dissapointment in the world into a single polite word. He simply lets go of Karkat and nods at her. “’Sup sis?”
She sighs and leaves.
He turns to Karkat and shrugs. “Women.” But Karkat’s already fled, so he tries to make it look like he was saying that to Terezi. But she was blind, so he’s not exactly sure who he’s trying to convince.
Luckily he was saved by John entering the room, wheeling in that Tavros guy. And they both look like their favorite puppy just got hit by a truck…. What the hell happened to them?
But John shakes his head and looks like he’s back to normal. Damn kid’s nigh unshakable. He nods at Karkat, gretting him before going around speaking to every Troll there. He seems pretty friendly with them, but he has known them longer than anyone else. After a while he turns to Sollux. “So, uh, what brings us here?”
Sollux rolls across the archive in his favorite rolly-chair and grabs a laptop. Aradia and Kanaya leave, returning a few minutes later with a giant plasma screen TV. Everyone goes to sit at some giant round table nearby as the three of them figure out how to hook up the laptop to the tv. As Dave takes his seat next to Jade, he feels someone nudge him. He turns to see Gamzee offering a huge bowl of popcorn. Dave happily accepts some.
Everyone gives their undivided attention to Sollux except Gamzee, who loudly munches on popcorn.
“Okay, so today we are going to be talking about the Felt. I was searching through the archives and found a book on the Felt that was heavily annotated by our parents—“
They had parents? Holy crap, obviously they had parents! Dave’s about to ask about them when John reaches across Jade and hushes him with a jab to the stomache. He mouths, “I’ll explain later.” Dave grunts. It’s obviously a touchy subject.
At the mention of “parents”, Karkat suddenly turns and practically yells, “Oh crap, sorry about your dad, John!”
All the other Trolls suddenly realize themselves and offer their condolonces, except Eridan, cause he’s an asshole.
After that’s settled, they return to the subject at hand. “Anyways, that might be the only bit of research of our parent’s that’s still available to us. So I was looking over it, and they seemed to think that the Felt owns a few office buildings that they use to send out orders and ship supplies. And we’re going to find one.”
Dave’s hand pops up. Sollux is so surprised that someone actually raised their hand instead of blurting out a question that he forgets to be angry and asks, “Yes Dave?”
“Uh, yeah. How exactly do we do that?”
“Well, I’m… I’m…. I’m working on that…. Uh…”
He turns to John and gives him a strange look. In a deliberatley monotone voice, he calmly asks. “John, will your Voice guide us to it?”
John is a little disconcerted at the odd tone, but nevertheless you attempts to commune with the mysterious entity from beyond. All he gets is silence.
“Ah, he’s not answering. Um… what’s with that look?”
“Well… I haven’t read a single thing that indicates that you should be hearing a mysterious omnicsient voice. Now I know that there’s a lot we still don’t know, but… you hearing disemodied voices is… well… disturbing.”
“I… I… can’t really blame you. But it’s not imaginary, I swear!”
Karkat shakes his head. “That’s what Gamzee says about his voices all the time.”
Dave scoots away from Gamzee.
“Don’t worry.” Rose says. “It spoke to me too.”
Dave and Jade look just as surprised as the Trolls, so apparently she neglected to mention that part of their Washington Adventure.
So now Rose decides that it would be a great time to recount the Washington Adventure to the Trolls, who all listen in relative silence as Gamzee passes around his big bowl of popcorn. Once she finishes everyone turns back to Sollux to see his opinion on this. He is, of course, ignoring everyone else and scribbling down notes and occasionally muttering to himself. Kanaya, who’s been acting as a stenographer for this meeting, leans over and taps him on the shoulder. He looks up in confusion, before finishing his notes and hitting a few keys on his laptop. “Okay, that was an interesting story. I’ll have to look out for this super voice in further texts. Anyways, I was thinking that we should hit a nearby city and check out a few office buildings, and maybe we’ll get lucky and find one.Yes, Dave?”
“So our master plan is based on luck?”
“Yeah, okay.” Solux taps a key on his laptop and a map pops up on the tv screen. “So the plan is, we go and those offices tomorrow night. I think we should gather at one of your apartments around seven and Drive there?”
John nods. “So who’s coming?”
“The four of you, plus me and Kanaya."
“HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?”
“And Karkat. Any objections?”
After seeing none, Sollux nods. “Alright everyone. See you tomorrow.”
Chapter 9: Sparring
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The wind whistled softly over the damp grass of the local park. At an hour before midnight, the park was prefectly empty.Empty, that is, except for two figures brawling in the middle of the place.
Dave and John engage in a duel of epic proportions, using not only their demonic strength, but newly discovered speed and agility to jump, flip, and spin around each other. They hadn’t discovered just how agile they had become because they had never been pushed to their limits before. This duel was designed to not only hone their fighting skills, but to see if they could uncover anythign new.
Rose sits quietly and observes their fight while knitting a scarf for John. She was somewhat dissapointed that she hadn’t gained the same strength that the boys had, but it’s not as if she’d use it. So instead she knits as the boys fight, and as the boys fight she thinks.
So she hadn’t gained any supernatural strength. That was probably because she was an ethereal demon. Come to think of it, the boys had always been physically active. Dave had enjoyed fighting from a young age and always went to great lengths to maintain his physical appearance, so he didn’t change at all physically. John, despite being very physically active, was always incredibly scrawny… but when his Demonhood hit… he developed some…. Very nice abs, and those biceps!!! She coughed slightly before banishing those thoughts from her mind, because she was Rose Lalonde; and did not entertain such girly thoughts. She also didn’t keep a diary. And it certainly wasn’t pink. You know, cause it doesn’t exist.
Anyways, back to her analysis. She did have the night vision, and she presumes that she has their enhanced thoughness, but without Jade having turned, she couldn’t finish her analysis on the Ethereal Demons. And unfortunately for her analysis, they intended to keep Jade mortal.
On the subject of toughness… that definitely had some puzzling issues. John could take a shell from a tank and live (barely), but one of those knives from the Felt could cut him like butter. He actually kept one of the knives (he and Dave call them daggers, but she doesn’t know what the difference is…) and it could cut through anything they threw at it. Which was very worrying, because WHAT IF THERE WERE GUNS LIKE THAT!? Those could be very troublesome indeed. Since so far the Felt has only used knives (or daggers), that could mean one of three things- either they can not, for some reason, make guns like that; the guns are incredibly expensive and rare; or they are being withheld for some unkown reason.
Before she can think any further the boys stop fighting, as if by some unseen agreement. Dave grins, panting. “Damn, Bro sure taught you well.”
John nods, walking towards Rose to collect a bottle of water. “Yeah, I can see why you made me take “lessons” from him. He might not have taught in any conventional methods, but after surviving him I feel prepared to fight anything!”
Rose raises an eyebrow at him. “Lets hope you don’t have to fight much.”
Dave raises and eyebrow back, which clearly states Where the hell have you been the past few months?
She declines to answer, instead saying, “It’s almost midnight. We should head back and get some sleep, we have an important job tomorrow evening.”
Dave shakes his head. “I don’t know about you, but ever since I became a Demon I haven’t had to sleep much. It’s AWESOME.”
John shakes his head sadly. “He spends all night playing video games now. It can’t be good for his health.”
Rose frowns in mock concern. “Oh no, what would your brother think?”
Dave nods cooly. “He’d give me a high five then ask if it was co-op.”
They can’t argue with that. It’s probably happened before.
John shrugs. “Well gonna go ahead and head back with Rose, you staying or coming?”
Dave grins. “I could always try to beat my high scores.”
“Welcome back, Mr. Noir. How was Cuba?”
“Warm.” Comes the curt reply.
“And everythnig went according to plan?”
“Eh, near the of the war there was actually a third uprising from the civilians. Led by some guy named Warren or Wally or Wallace or something. I don’t know, we decimated them. Lost a lot of support for the Felt, but it go you the power.”
Scratch nods, thinking it over. “Yes, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. We should be able to hold onto power long enough to initiate the Reckoning. I’m getting reports that other sections of the Legion are finishing their uprisings. How go the assassinations?”
“Mostly done, I was about to head out after we finish this meeting.”
“Ah ah ah, before you do that, I have something to show you.”
Jack leans forward, clearly interested in this development. Scratch had never asked to stay after before. “Go on.”
Scratch waves at a bookshelf, which slides smoothly across the floor to reveal hidden stairs heading down.
“Oooh, fancy.” Jack remarks sarcastically. “And original!”
Scratch smirks slighty at that. “Follow me.” He says before exiting down the stairs.
The walk goes by, five minutes of silence. The air grows chilly, and Jack wonders just how far down they’re going. When they reach the bottom, Scratch reaches out and opens a stainless metal door, the soft hiss of the door opening. Jack walked and his mind was blown.
He turns and gapes at the the endless row of tubes. It looked, to be honest, like a cliché laboratory from some sience fiction movie. The tubes were filled with bubbling green liquid, and the green liquid was filled with… things.
“What are they?” He asks in wonder, reaching out with a finger to tap the glass. He quickly retracts the digit as the thing snaps at him with razor sharp teeth.
Behind him, Scratch chuckles. “Nasty little things, aren’t they? I call them imps. And, in the war against the Demons, they will be your ground troops.”
“H-how many of the are there?”
Scratch flashs him a chilling grin.
And there ends another segment.