An hour left. Then we’d finally be free. We didn’t know where, exactly, we could go, but it was out of here, and we’d have some new friends to go with.
If I went and talked to the me of twenty hours ago, and told me I’d actually start thinking of the humans as friends, I’d have laughed and said I was full of it. I know, because I did. But past me has always been stupid. Nearly as stupid as future me. But maybe not. I can’t talk to the me after we all move on.
We were cutting it close as it was. The demon was nearly here. But we were pretty sure we’d have enough time. Terezi had been following his movements through the Incipisphere, and he was either still looking for us or just didn’t care. Though really, we all knew that last thought was just wishful thinking. He’d find us eventually. With any luck, we’d already be gone.
And Vriska was happy to tell us that she had all the luck in the world.
Everyone was in pretty high spirits. Nepeta was bouncing around the room. Sollux was on an upswing. I’d seen smiles on people that they really didn’t fit on, and I don’t really want to dwell on that. Even Aradia, though that was less weird since we brought her back to life.
Feferi had finally stopped rubbing in the fact that she went to sleep without going mad or anything. She was off cuddling Sollux or something. Instead, I got to talk to Gamzee. Which I guess isn’t as bad as it used to be. Terezi’s fucking lover boy was good for something after all.
“So man we should totally have a fucking party. Celebrate the fuck out of this bitch.”
“We have an hour. What the hell could we do?”
“I dunno, play some music, get some bites, kick the wicked elixir. You know what I’m gonna go get some now.”
He kind of had a point. Things were finally looking up for us. We could all have done with a celebration, so I decided to pick out some music from things the humans had shown us. Backwards as their culture is, they certainly had a good sense for music.
“Heeeeeeeey, Karkat!” crooned a voice that I didn’t particularly want to hear. Not that there are many people I’m all that happy to talk to.
I tried to ignore her and focus on picking out a really good song.
“Whatcha doing?” Vriska persisted, not dropping the cutesy act.
“Putting on some music, what does it look like?”
“It looks like you have awful taste! Here, play this one.” She wrestled the mouse from me and put on some awful love song that I’m pretty sure John sent me. It was from one of his favourite films. I didn’t really care which one; they were all awful.
“This song sucks,” I told her. “You’re crazy, and stupid, and when we meet John we’re having a film night to prove it.”
“Oh you’re on, Kaaaaaaaarkat!”
“Don’t drawl my name like that,” I protested, though it was really for the sake of complaining. I couldn’t even hate Vriska. Not now, when everything was going so well.
Gamzee transportalised back, took a few steps, and collapsed onto the floor, getting everyone’s attention. This wasn’t really that unusual for him, until I noticed an awful burnt smell.
“He’s here,” he croaked, before slumping back down.
I ran over. “Gamzee? What happened?”
“That... demon motherfucker. He found us.”
“Are you alright? Did he hurt you?”
Gamzee’s eyes seemed to unfocus. He laughed a little. “Seein’ your face, Karkat... fuckin’ miracle...” he had just enough energy to poke my nose with a finger, before slumping back again, eyes glassy. I didn’t need to be told what happened.
“He’s dead,” Aradia announced.
“Can you bring him back?” I asked her. “With your weird spooky ghost powers.”
“We have to get out of here,” she said, ignoring me. “The demon will be coming. Let’s hurry.”
We hurried out of the room, then found ourselves at a loss. Gamzee being Gamzee, he could have come from anywhere. So it could be coming from anywhere, too.
“Seriously, hag,” I said, “bring him back. He can tell us where he was.”
“I’m not ok with that.”
“Why the taintchafing fuck would you not be okay with it?”
“He’s my friend. You don’t know what it’s like.”
“Well, have you got any better ideas?”
“Yes. We will wait until he arrives. Then I will hold him off while you escape.”
“But then he’ll kill you!”
“I’ve already died.”
“I’m thtaying too.”
We all turned to Sollux.
“Why?” Aradia asked.
“I’m not lothing you again.” He looked to his side. “Thorry, Fef.”
“It’s okay,” Feferi said, sounding only a little bit cheerful now. “But only if I can stay and fight with you.”
“Then so will I,” Equius butted in.
“No,” Feferi said firmly. “You need to stay with everyone else and keep them safe.”
“That’s an order.”
Equius stood to attention. “Yes, majesty.”
She didn’t correct him this time. We all knew, then, that we wouldn’t be seeing any of them again. I’d have been more upset about it if I weren’t already so sure we were all going to die.
Aradia walked up to him. “I’m sorry, Equius. I’ll... see you on the other side.”
Equius said nothing, but, as gingerly as he could possibly manage - and he’d been practicing - he held her in his arms and gently kissed her.
She didn’t even bruise.
A green glow was visible at the end of a corridor. Eight of us fled away from it. Three stood firm.
Sollux removed his glasses for the last time. He tightly gripped Feferi’s hand, whose other held the Retiarius & Secutor, the most powerful trident at her disposal.
Aradia, in a living body, didn’t wield the power she once did, and she hadn’t managed to get her old whip back. But she could still command the dead. Straining her will, she brought up the souls of hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of deceased agents and consorts killed by Jack Noir in his short time in the Incipisphere. As the demon came into view, the spirits swarmed him, haunting, tormenting, showing all the evil he had wrought.
But the demon knew no remorse. No pity. Unperturbed, he continued his slow march, relishing every moment. A bicoloured burst of psychic power came at him through the cloud of souls, but it bounced off his impenetrable shell.
Once he was bodily in the room, the demon reached out with a lash of green paradox, and hurled Aradia against the walls, over and over, until she stopped moving. As one, the ghosts vanished. Desperately, Sollux and Feferi tried to distract him with their own attacks, taking him from both sides. Their attempts remained ineffective, but they seemed to give him some pause. His eyes darted between the two of them, locked in indecision - or possibly just amusement - for several minutes. He completely ignored the brutal attacks that couldn’t possibly affect him.
He made up his mind, and sent a dart of power at Feferi. Quick as a flash, Sollux was there in front of her. But the demon could not be stopped. The dart went clean through both of them, and together they collapsed.
Sollux had just enough life left in him to shift over to her, and see her face one last time.
“My hero,” she whispered, painfully.
They died in each other’s arms.
We were pretty sure we’d lost him by the time we’d slowed down to take a breather.
Equius was not remotely worn out. “Karkat, what are your orders? What should we do now?”
“How the fuck should I know?” I snapped. “We’re running from an invincible fucking demon! If you’ve got such a seed in your nook about it, you come up with a plan!”
He wiped the sweat from his brow. “Very well. Nepeta, scout out ahead and make sure we know in plenty of time if we’re going to run into him. If you see him, come back to us immediately, do you understand?”
Terror was writ large on her face, but she nodded anyway.
“Tavros, you have the most powerful legs, so hang behind us so we can know if he’s catching up. Can you do that?”
“Uh, yeah, I think so.”
“Good. Everyone else stay with me and stay alert. We have to find a way out of the facility. Terezi’s room can’t be the only one.”
We walked in a loose formation, Nepeta way out front, Equius leading the group, Eridan trailing with gun at the ready, and Tavros much further behind. Terezi walked by my side. We hadn’t had much of a relationship recently, and I don’t think anyone else even knew we had a thing going.
Without so much as glancing at me, she found my hand and gripped it tightly. I looked at her face, calm, resolute, and just a little scared. I could feel all the frustration and rage that had built up the last two days melt away. I couldn’t hate her. I squeezed her hand back.
“Don’t let go,” she whispered.
“Never,” I whispered back.
“Nepeta, report!” Equius called out.
She turned back round a corner to face the group. “All clear!”
“Good. Tavros? Any trouble?”
There was no reply.
“Tavros? Are you there!?”
“Uhhh...” came a feeble call from some way back. “I, uh, fell over. Now I can’t, get back up.”
Equius scowled and stormed over to his prone form. Some of us followed and crowded round. He grunted.
“Rendered inoperative again. This simply must be the worst time... I knew I should have disabled the pelvic magnetron...”
He began opening several access panels in the legs and adjusting things.
“Uh, I’m not sure if you have time, to be doing that...” Tavros mumbled, pointing to the corner a way down the corridor. It was starting to look distinctly green.
“I’m not going to leave anyone behind.”
“You don’t really, have a choice...”
“I’ll pick you up and carry you if I have to.”
“Then... I’ll just be waiting, a little longer, to die.”
Equius said nothing, hurrying in finding the fault with the legs.
“Equius. Just, kill me now.”
He stopped, and looked at Tavros’ face.
“Kill me before the demon does.”
“Are you sure?” He was starting to sweat.
“No, but... I don’t think there’s a better option.”
Equius sighed. Then, steeling himself, he retrieved a bow and arrow - specially alchemised to withstand his great strength, but it then turned out he was an awful archer anyway. Still, he couldn’t miss pointing straight down at point-blank range.
Vriska, standing to the side, gave a smile. “Guess you did something brave after all.”
Tavros laughed, gently. “Yeah. I guess I did.”
For the second time, the floor was painted with brown blood.
The green at the end of the corridor seemed to dim.
“Looks like he’s backing off,” I said.
“So we could have saved Tavros?” Equius demanded.
“Maybe? I dunno, probably. It’s not your fault.”
He punched the wall, sending his fist clean through. Then a second time, and a third.
“Look, we should keep moving,” I said. “Try and get off this fucking rock while we still can.”
“Is this really the time for that sort of language?”
“Is this really the time to care? Move it, musclebeast.”
We marched on, now without a rear guard since we were pretty sure he wasn’t going to come up from behind. With Nepeta still scouting ahead, Vriska led our tight little group. The whole thing had put a pear up her gas vent and she wasn’t going to stop. Which was just as well, because Equius was badly shaken. I couldn’t tell whether he’d never killed a troll before, or just had bad experiences with it, though I think it’s the latter. I’d never cared enough to ask.
From around the next corner, Nepeta shrieked.
“Run!” I yelled.
All seven of us barrelled back along the corridor, Nepeta struggling to keep up, Equius uncertain whether to flee quickly or go back to help her. After some deliberation, he hung back to help her.
She hadn’t kept up.
There was a pregnant pause. A moment ticked by as he waited, then another. He almost fell out of my sight as I kept running, until we heard the scream. It was a very colourful scream. First it was lively and fearful - a warning to us as she tried to flee. It quickly turned into something more breathless and hurt, as she was caught up to and hit, before croaking into silence.
Equius just stood there, and listened. Vriska and I ran back to grab him and drag him back up with the rest of us, which wasn’t too hard once he’d decided he should run away after all.
We stopped to catch our breath at a crossroad.
“We should split up here,” I said. “At least some of us might get out that way. He can’t chase us all.”
Vriska agreed. Equius nodded.
“Alright,” I said, taking command. “Terezi, you’re with me, we’ll take the right path. Vriska and Eridan, you go straight on. Kanaya and Equius take the left.”
“No,” Equius interrupted. “I’m going back. To fight him.”
“You can’t win!” I shouted. “He’ll kill you in seconds.”
“I know. My matesprit and kismesis is dead. More than she was before. I couldn’t save Nepeta. And I am so. Fucking. Tired.” He took off his sunglasses - his eyes were veined with blue, and his lids heavy. True to my orders, he hadn’t slept a wink since we got here, and by the looks of it, not for days before either.
“Kanaya,” he continued, “are you alright alone?”
“Don’t do it!” she pleaded.
“Don’t bother. I’m going. I have nothing else to live for.” He stepped back to the way we’d come, then turned back to face us. He saluted me smartly. Not really sure what to do, I saluted back.
Never before had Equius been so angry. Not even when Vriska’s lusus had tried to eat him. This time, he could almost feel his rage tearing at the walls around him as he marched to face down his enemy. He didn’t expect to come back alive, but he hoped that he might manage to hurt it before he died.
That sickening green glow grew brighter, more intense, as the demon approached. Equius stood his ground, resolute. There was nothing left to fear.
A vile grin on his face, Jack Noir brought down the ceiling on top of the troll.
The shock knocked him to the ground, but Equius was not to be beaten so easily. He was the strongest troll alive even before the Reckoning consumed his planet; a few tons of concrete and steel was nothing to him. It took only a token effort to rise out of the rubble. With barely a grunt, he lifted a huge slab above his head and hurled it at the enemy. It smashed harmlessly a metre before him.
Enraged further by the futility, he jumped to the hole in the ceiling, into the space between floors. It was easily large enough to squat comfortably in, but it wasn’t his goal to sit still - he crawled over to the space above where the demon stood, and smashed the ceiling above him.
Peering into the hole, there was no sign of his opponent. He jumped in, to find himself face-to-face with the demon. Instinctively, he hurled a punch, which struck some sort of forcefield, firing him back with the force of a thunderbolt. By some miracle, he landed right at the side of Nepeta, who had just life enough to give him a weak smile. With the troll paralysed on the ground, Jack Noir moved in for the kill.
-- grimAuxiliatrix [GA] began trolling tentacleTherapist [TT] --
GA: I Am Going To Have To Contradict What I Said In My Previous Message
GA: Time Is Very Definitely Of The Essence
TT: I’ll hurry as best I can then.
TT: Might I ask what caused the circumstances to change?
GA: The Enemy We Were Fleeing From Has Found Us
GA: Several Of Us Are Already Dead
GA: The Rest Of Us Are Running
GA: We Are Trying To Escape Into The Incipisphere
GA: But I Am Not Hopeful
GA: And If We Do There Will Be Nowhere Else To Go I Think
TT: Why didn’t you tell me sooner?
GA: We Were Too Busy Trying To Escape
GA: I Have Only Now Got The Chance To Talk To You Thanks To A Temporary Respite Due To Having Split Up
TT: So you’re on your own?
TT: I’ll try to get there as soon as I can.
TT: That is to say, we will.
TT: I’ll let the others know to step it up.
TT: Kanaya, please stay safe.
GA: Ill Try
GA: Im Scared
TT: Me too.
GA: I Wish Our First Meeting Could Have Gone Differently
GA: There Is So Much I Wish To Tell You
GA: That There May Never Be A Chance For
TT: I know.
TT: And, assuming my instincts are correct
TT: I’d have something similar to say to you.
TT: As it is, let’s just hope we have the chance to say it.
GA: Yes Lets
TT: I’ll not distract you any longer. Please be careful.
TT: I’ll see you soon.
-- grimAuxiliatrix [GA] ceased trolling tentacleTherapist [TT] --
“I’m pathetic, aren’t I?”
“I let Fef go without ewen sayin’ anythin’. Eweryone’s dyin’ around me and I’m just sittin’ there doin’ nothin’.”
“Ain’t arguing there.”
“Where did I go wrong, Wris? I’m noble blood! I’m a born general! I was gonna wipe out most of the population! And now I’m just runnin’ away from somethin’ with my head down. Didn’t ewen stop the girl I fuckin’ lowed from gettin’ herself killed.”
“Oh, shut uuuuuuuup!” Vriska turned to Eridan. “You wanna know why you suck? Because you don’t!” she jabbed a finger into his chest. “Stop!” Again. “Whining!” This time she pushed him back. “You gotta roll with the bad breaks! You don’t just sit there and feel sorry for yourself, you fix it! Sure, Feferi’s dead. So’s Tavros! I’m not here blubbing about it to anyone who’ll listen just ‘cause I couldn’t save the... only guy I’ve ever...” she trailed off, and slumped to the floor in a corner. “Okay, maybe it is the time to feel sorry for ourselves.”
Eridan sat beside her. “We’re gonna die down here. I know it.”
“Yeah,” Vriska agreed, resigned at last to her fate. She looked at him. “I don’t wanna die alone.”
“We had a pretty good thing going once. Wanna relive our glory days?” She gave him a taunting grin he hadn’t seen in perigees. Death might have been stalking the halls that night, but Eridan was nothing if not a slave to his emotions.
Both found their energy coming back as they squared off to duel, one last time. Running on reflex, Eridan rapidly drew his gun, aimed, and fired, catching Vriska off-guard. Despite this, she managed to jump away, even somersaulting in the air. She was more acrobatic than he remembered. As she landed, her dice flew from her hand, seemed to hit something in the air, and fell to the ground.
All ones. A natural eight.
With a burst of blue fire, both combatants were blown clear.
Vriska, immobilised, helpless, couldn’t help but laugh as much as her winded lungs would allow her. “Gotta... roll with the bad breaks...”
Eridan, just as badly injured, looked over at Vriska with equal parts hate and pity. At least he wouldn’t die alone. He could deal with that. Just this once.
They lost consciousness as the passage started to shine green.
Terezi and I emerged cautiously out onto the bare rock. Our progress was slow, but wariness kept us alive. A tint of green, the slightest whiff of sour apple and lime, and we’d turn back. Somehow, we’d managed to reach the surface. Kanaya was waiting for us.
She smiled at us in relief. “Good to see you again.”
“You too,” I said. “Any sign of Vriska and Eridan?”
She shook her head. “I hope they’re alright.”
“After this long? Probably not. They’re good at this stuff. They’d have been out here straight away.”
“Yeah,” Terezi said, grinning, “unless they got caught up in fighting each other or something.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. They would do that. And Terezi could keep grinning like that through anything. I couldn’t tell if I loved it or hated it.
I didn’t have a plan for when we reached the surface. I didn’t even think we’d make it this far. We’d be safe out here for a while longer, if I knew Jack. Maybe it’d be enough time for the humans to arrive. Maybe we could take him down together.
For maybe an hour we sat there and worried. We couldn’t go anywhere from here. We’d all left our stuff within the base, and I didn’t want to send anyone back in there. Even if we could fly away, there was nowhere else to go, except a little further into the veil, where Noir would just catch up with us again.
There was another reason too. The humans were coming, and they knew to meet us here. If they just ran into him... I didn’t really want to think about it.
I didn’t have to. Green sparks turned into what I can only describe as a tear in the universe. The four of them emerged, and we got to see them in person for the first time.
“Holy shit!” John shouted. “Are you guys alright?”
The first thing that struck me was that his voice sounded weird. Humans have some kind of fleshy harmonic to their voices. But I stopped my train of thought, and composed myself before speaking.
“Do we fucking look like we’re alright!? There’s three of us left! Everyone else is dead and we’re just sitting here waiting to die too! And now you’re fucking here, great news, we have some pointless aliens to die with!”
John’s smile didn’t even flicker. “Good to see you too, Karkat!” His cheerful greeting shifted to a more sombre tone. “Is everyone else really dead? Even Vriska?”
“We split up, to meet back here. We’ve been out here for an hour now. If she was alive she’d have got out here.”
“She always said she was going to kill him herself...”
“Yeah, well, I guess she didn’t. I hope she hurt him, though.”
We really were a pitiful bunch. The three of us, last survivors of our species. Kanaya was already fussing over Rose, and Terezi was chatting up the Dave human. And there, at the back... there was Jade. I could already feel my anger fizzle as she turned from patching up the hole in spacetime to join us.
“Uh, hi,” I said, for once lost for words.
“Hi,” she said back, shyly. It was probably weird for her to meet new people at all, never mind aliens.
Rose spoke up. “We think we have a way to defeat Jack.”
It caught our attention. “What is it?” I asked.
“The First Guardians might be near-omnipotent, but the Gods of the Furthest Ring are even more so. With their power, we could set a trap to kill him, or at least depower him.”
“That’s great!” Kanaya said, more enthusiastically than I was used to hearing from her.
Rose even blushed a little. “It’ll take all seven of us to maintain the trap, but we should be able to do it. Do you think you can tell where he’ll be next?”
The trap was laid, and we were all the bait. The demon could really have come out of anywhere, but he only needed to get close to one of us as long as we stood in just the right place. She’d woven some sort of magic thread around us all, and was keeping it tight. I didn’t really care how it worked. All I cared about was how good it would feel to make him pay, slowly, painfully for what he did to all of us.
There! On top of that structure. The unmistakable green flicker of the first guardian. Of the demon. And that meant he could see us too. He launched himself into the air, and made a dive for the centre of the circle we’d all formed in, just as the plan went. The moment he landed, Rose cast her spell.
The thing I remember most was the pain. It fucking hurt. It hurt all of us, except for Rose herself holding the ends. I looked at the others. Jade looked like she was about to pass out. I wanted to go over to help her, or Terezi, or hell even John. But we had to hold our positions, and that we did. The weave tightened around Jack Noir, and I could feel that familiar, terrible presence washing over him. Oglogoth came to reclaim his Thorns.
Immediately, the pain subsided, and when I’d got my balance back, Jack Noir was crouched on the floor. The green glow was gone; all that was left was a twisted aberration of an agent - black wings, a dog’s head, and a sword sticking through its stomach. No, not in its stomach, in its hand. His back was to me, so I could only imagine the rage on his face as he bore down on a now defenceless Rose. As we scrambled for our weapons, he brought that terrible sword down into her shoulder.
As everyone else ran away, Kanaya took to Rose’s side. The cleave was unrecoverable. She was coughing up blood, which started to mix with green tears.
“Rose,” she sobbed, “I... I never...”
Hazily, Rose raised a hand to Kanaya’s face, and stroked her coarse skin. A genuine smile - not a smirk, nor a grin, but a smile - formed her final expression.
Kanaya buried her face in Rose’s robe, unable to hold despair back any longer.
She accepted death without resisting.
We regrouped on the other side of the asteroid.
“He... he killed her!” John stammered.
“We know!” I snapped. “She’s not the first. Let’s hope she’s the last. Jade, can you get us out of here with your space thing? I don’t think he can follow us now.”
“I can try,” she said, quietly. She was holding back tears. I’d have yelled at her about it too, but I just couldn’t. Not now. Not to her.
We all stood guard while she took out the weird knife thing and started working on a hole in reality. I didn’t know where she planned to take us, and I doubt she knew either - anywhere was better than here.
I don’t know how he slipped past us. All I knew was that there was a scream and then he was [i]there[/i] and he stabbed Jade. Not the playful stabbing, either; this was the internal-organs-bleeding-out kind. The hole was left there, too tiny to be of use to anyone, as she collapsed into Dave’s arms.
Once she realised what had happened, her face contorted in terror. She wasn’t a troll, conditioned from birth to expect death, nor was she like Rose, who meddled in the forces of the darkness in full knowledge of the consequences. She was a little girl, who grew up in a sheltered paradise. I couldn’t imagine how she felt to stare down death from her state. I left Dave reassuring her. I didn’t like to see her in his arms like that but I couldn’t help her now.
She looked at me, pleading with her eyes. I came over and took her hand. She seemed... a little less scared. If I couldn’t heal her, I could at least try to let her die comfortably.
If I couldn’t heal her...
“JOHN!” I screamed. “GET THE FUCK OVER HERE!”
I finally paid attention to what was going on around me. John and Terezi were, together, holding off Jack Noir. Fury red as fire burned in my veins, and without heed I drew my sickle and charged, catching the agent off balance.
“John!” I yelled again. “Go and fucking heal her! You’re a doctor, aren’t you?”
Once it got through his thick skull, he ran back to her under my cover.
Jack was a more competent fighter than I’d realised. Even with the most powerful equipment our specibi could allow, he fended both Terezi and me off with just the sword from his chest. I decided to press him a little harder by attacking from opposite sides, but he sprouted tentacles from his sides and attacked with those.
I risked a glance over at Jade. John had been unsuccessful in healing her, and now cradled her lifeless body. The distraction allowed Jack to disarm me, and on the other side he started to strangle Terezi.
I could only watch as Dave stood before him, sword raised. He normally fought with a businesslike pose, but this was just icy. Then, there were five Daves, all heading in to the fray. One of them ushered me out of the way, and I went over to check on the blind girl.
Jack had let her go, but it was too late. Her windpipe had been cracked, and it’d take equipment far beyond what we had here to fix that. The first girl I’d ever loved was dying in front of me, just like the second.
I couldn’t stop the tears any more. I don’t know why it only started now, but once it did, it kept going. Everyone was dead, or dying. I was the last of my species to survive, and even then, I probably wouldn’t last much longer. Everyone I’d ever loved, or hated, or been friends with, or even just passed by. Dead. Only the two human boys were still alive, out of everyone I’d ever known, and ever would knew.
In the afterlife, I’m going to kill Sollux for writing that virus.
“Told you,” a hoarse voice said, “cherry cough syrup.”
I looked down. I’d been crying right over Terezi’s face, and she was tasting my tears. She laughed. She couldn’t even breathe, and she could still laugh.
She’d never changed. And I’d never been more grateful for it.
“We had a good run,” she croaked.
“Yeah,” I agreed, quietly. “We did.”
She choked. There was no point. No air getting in now.
“See you... on the other side.”
A drop of teal dripped from the end of her tongue, and Terezi Pyrope was gone, just like the others.
John came over. “Is she...?”
I looked at him. He shut up.
We watched Dave fight. He wasn’t managing too badly - there were enough of him to save any copies that got in danger - but he also wasn’t managing to do any damage. And he was getting tired, especially the ones that I guessed were later in his timeline. Jack was getting more openings, and he took the advantage. He forced a couple of them to rewind once they couldn’t dodge his attacks. Soon, only one was left. Too tired to go on.
John cried his name. A strong gust blew across the arena - strange, as the Veil had never had wind before. It intensified until Jack was forced back, but not until he had managed to take Dave’s head clean off.
I could see the tears well up in John’s eyes. But he didn’t stop. He advanced, pushing the wind with him, forcing Jack Noir back before trapping him in a vortex. He got closer, pulling the wind in tighter. It kept the agent in place, but couldn’t hurt him.
Jack was making wild thrusts out from his wind prison, but couldn’t get a mark. John had his hands full keeping the wind up. It was time to put an end to it.
I drew my sickle.
I charged at the whirling maelstrom, and flung my weapon into it. It was flung around in a ring at a speed I couldn’t keep up with. John let the wind drop, sending my blade whirling into the void and giving me a view of Jack, now covered with gouges and cuts and bleeding heavily. To finish, John heaved his gigantic hammer and crushed the agent.
Both fell to the ground. Jack Noir was dead. John was bleeding heavily - he’d got too close to the sickle.
I didn’t even need to see that to guess he wasn’t going to make it.
“Karkat,” he croaked, spitting blood. “Did I do well?”
“Yeah,” I said, resigned. “I’m proud of you, John.”
“I think I’m alright with that.”
I spent the next few days finding the bodies. I’d learned about funeral rites from the humans, and seemed like the only way I could hang onto my friends. They were all dead, all gone. Every last one.
Fifteen makeshift graves stood forlornly on the highest point of the complex. I’d left a space in the middle.
Everyone is dead, and there is nothing left for me. I’ve considered taking my own life, but I can’t do it. Not yet. I’m not ready to fill that sixteenth place.
When I do, though, at least I’ll have my friends around me. In the end, we were together. And now we always will be.
None of us died alone.