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“It seems like a lifetime ago,” He couldn't help a small chuckle that bounced off the cave walls as it left his dry lips, “Though I suppose it was.”

Kankri’s laughter fell into a sigh as he turned his head to the entrance of the cave and stared, unblinkingly, at the Alternian night sky. In another life he would have died today, by the hands of a heiress who just wanted to be herself and a doomed game. Rigged from the start, but not once in their favor. Now he was living a life of paranoia and hiding from other trolls. He wasn't sure what option he would have preferred.

It was odd having his memories back, being the on the mirror planet of his Beforus. The newly constructed planet was never quite what it had been in his former life. Humans now roamed Alternia as slaves to Her Imperial Condescension. If it was possible to hate one troll with all his being she’d be the top name on his list. What she put them all through was nothing short of absolute hell. But the empress was not the misguided, but benevolent, empress of his Beforus. Instead he was dealing with Karkat’s empress. And, oh , how his blood pumper wanted to shrivel into itself with fury at her very name. Nothing was quite the same on Alternia except the way some lowbloods were treated, like pets or accessories, a life just as good as death might have been. 

“Kankri?” A scratchy voice called to him quietly. His head turned back to the interior of the cave to look at his dancestor laying next to him. In the purplish green tint of Alternian moonlight he could make out the specks of candy red in Karkat’s eyes. It wouldn’t be long now until both of them wouldn’t be able to play themselves off as rust bloods. Already Kankri’s eyes were a glowing candy red, a ghostly glimmer in the shadows that his cloak provided. It hurt to send Karkat and Crabdad alone into towns to get the supplies they couldn't make or hunt.

“Yes Karkat?” He asked, much quieter than what his little dancestor could achieve with his own voice. Karkat had a voice for yelling and testifying on behalf of lowbloods, but it was too dangerous for them here, no matter how loud Karkat preached they would take one look at his blood and kill him where he stood. So his voice remained scratchy and almost soft, just so they’d live a little longer. Kankri wanted nothing more than to tear this world a new one for the injustice this planet placed on them. 

“Do you… Do you remember?” Karkat stumbled over his words in a way uncharacteristic of himself. To reassure him, Kankri brushed some of his matted hair out of his face with a smile. Streams were too dangerous to bathe in, but it was rare to come across a puddle with enough water to rinse the grime from their hair. He wore his hair in a short braid, Karkat wasn’t so lucky. His hair was an untamable mess and he was forced to cut it with his sickles whenever it became too long. They’d have to cut it again soon with the way it resembled Mituna’s hair. Frizz and all. 

“Yes, I do. Any chance that our companions might remember as well?” He answered. Gog he hoped they remembered...

“I don’t know but…” Karkat trailed off and bit harshly at his lips, sharp teeth leaving behind pinpricks of red, “The humans in our session… If they’re here on Alternia then we need to find them before they get killed by some idiot highblood.” 

Kankri nodded in understanding. This planet was cruel, a hard place for anyone to live, much less the humans who weren’t built for it. Finding them might help them find the others as well. 

“Then we had better get moving. Knowing our teammates they could very well have gotten themselves into some trouble already.” Kankri smiled to himself wryly. So much had changed since the game, an entire replacement in memory. His companions would no doubt be in shock, he knew how they referred to him as the ‘insufferable’, but the reason they had called him that had left him after he took in Karkat in this life. Now his words were reserved mostly for Karkat and the lowbloods they came across, hardly the long winded speeches they used to be. Briefly he wondered how much his friends had changed, would they be able to recognize each other at all?

Karkat helped him to his feet as he adjusted the hood of his cropped black cape to hide his features from view. When Karkat had been younger he’d nearly drowned in the fabric, now it stopped at the end of his grubscars, near what the humans had referred to as their belly button. They didn’t have the money or resource to get Karkat something more suitable, but Karkat hadn’t seemed to mind. In truth it stayed out of the way of his sickles when he fought others, made it harder for others to know where to hit to kill him. But still… Kankri wished now that he had paid more attention to Porrim’s sewing, he could have at the very least stitched Karkat’s sign into the fabric now that they had their memories back. 

Together they walked in relative silence, Crabdad followed faithfully, carrying both of their bags. Occasionally Crabdad would scree or clack his claws to scare off any unseen threats. But all remained relatively silent on their blind man’s journey. Kankri was oddly grateful for the time to adjust his memories to put them together. Up ahead he could make out the edges of a path, something they’d need to follow if they wanted any luck finding anyone they knew. Grabbing Karkat’s wrist he merely spared a warbling scree to Crabdad to follow before leading them towards it. Karkat, much to his surprise , followed silent and willingly. 

“What if they’re already dead?” Karkat spoke as they began to walk along a worn down dirt path. That explained why he hadn’t started ranting Kankri thought to himself as he squeezed his eyes shut in pursuit of calming words. None came, even after the silence had started to grow tense and uncomfortable. He didn't hold as much hope for the humans that had been stuck playing that game with them as he wished he did. Trolls often treated them like cattle, the conditions they all lived in made Kankri's bile sack churn with disgust. No one should have to live that way...

“Then we will avenge them. But , for now we will search for them.” Kankri finally breathed. The words tasted bitter on his tongue, but he didn't know what else to say. Both of them had made a pact not to lie to each other, after all, their blood made truth hard to come by. So he had to settle for a positive outlook. Though at the moment his words weren't very positive at all...

With the words hanging ominously in the air they continued to walk along the path, careful to pay close attention to every little detail. They didn’t want to get caught by highbloods, both of them were still injured from the last fight with an abnormally hostile blue blood. Kankri traced the handle of his own sickles, he had been lucky to spot any sort of opening. The blue blood had nearly cost Karkat his life. But that near fatal swipe they'd taken at Karkat had filled Kankri with the blinding fury he needed to end the fight.

Crabdad gave a hard scree at them and clacked his claws aggressively as he stared up ahead, taking Kankri away from his thoughts. Looking up ahead he couldn’t make out anyone, or hear them for that matter, but he knew better than to question Crabdad’s judgement. Dropping into a slight crouch Kankri unclipped his sickles from his belt and let the long chains drag softly through the dirt with a clinking hiss. Karkat, for his part, pulled his sickles from the holsters strapped to his legs and fell into a defensive position as they continued to creep forward warily. Neither troll could hear anything over the sound of Crabdad’s angry clacking but they didn’t dare tell him to be quiet. It was too risky now.

Breath hitching they watched a figure come into sight, the only thing they could make out was the vague outline of the person. Not another feature- couldn’t even tell if they were human or troll. Hair standing on edge he continued to creep closer at a snails pace. His throat seizing roughly with the need to let out a warning trill. The figure continued to grow steadily closer. 

Gritting his teeth Kankri tensed up, ready to take them out. Hoping he could do it in one blow so that Karkat could continue to rest his wound and not reopen the stitches. It was a lost hope, but he still clung to it desperately. 

Chapter Text

Kankri swallowed thickly as the person came to a stop not too far away. He could make out the darkness of the other’s skin, marking them as an adult, he could even see the olive on their clothes. With the sheer mass of hair they had it was impossible to see their horns, however. He adjusted the grip on his sickles as the olive blood started scenting the air. Knuckles nearly turning pure white as he clenched up and his body began to instinctively crouch down. 

There was a beat of tense silence as everything stood deathly still.

In a blur the adult troll lunged at them and Kankri barely had enough time to twirl and swipe at them before they were upon him. He sucked in a sharp breath as the adult troll went to claw at him with their sharp nails, just barely giving him enough time to drop to the ground and then launch himself up to head-butt them under the chin. His horns throbbed dully as he wobbled and the older troll grunted in surprise. Taking a chance he swiped out his sickle and tried to graze them across the chest. It barely cut the cloth of the female olive blood’s dress as she contorted her body away and used the awkward position to palm strike him in the jugular. Gasping in pain and wheezing from suddenly having his air flow cut off he tried to swing at her again with his sickles. Expertly she continued to twist out of the way and continue her palm striking against his shoulders and neck. Coughing roughly against the harsh treatment Kankri felt one of his legs buckle under one of her kicks. He knew that there was no winning this fight, she was obviously a skilled fighter and an adult olive blood to boot. One of the most feral and fierce trolls there was. The most he could do was keep her busy while Karkat and Crabdad made their escape. Rage filled tears blurred the edge of his vision with watery red and he let out a snarl that contorted his entire face to match the feral troll’s own. In seconds she had him pinned beneath her with claws poised at his throat and ready to slam into his face from above her head.

Karkat cried out and Kankri spared him a desperate glance to tell him to run. To find the others and set things right. But Karkat stood his ground with tears in the corners of his eyes and his sickles clenched in a death grip at his sides.

 

“Mew will not hurt my beloved! Mew must have been spying on us!” The she-troll hissed out. Kankri’s face went slack in shock. Did she use cat puns?

“Wh-what shape are… are your horns?” He coughed out. The woman’s growling paused as a look of pure confusion mixed with her fury filled expression.

“Why do mew wish to know?” She snarled in his face after she regained her composure.

“I don’t… Don’t mean to tri-trigger you. But… Why not tell me?”

She frowned and her grip loosened slightly as she thought it over.

“My horns are like meow beast ears.” She finally told him as her grip began to tighten.

“Is your title The Disciple?!” Karkat suddenly called out. Kankri winced and struggled anew when her head snapped up to stare Karkat down. She couldn't hurt him, not Karkat, anyone but Karkat. He struggled to pull his sickles from where she'd buried them in the ground.

“Yes…” She rumbled with even more confusion.

“Kankri, shit, look into her eyes! Disciple! What color are his eyes?” Karkat commanded with an edge of desperation. Kankri did as instructed and glared Disciple down with nothing but determined fury. Shoulders shaking as he kept trying to dislodge his blades. 

He gasped in a deep breath as Disciple suddenly released him with a yelp. She scrambled away from him like she’d been burnt as he rose up into a half sitting position. Karkat was by his side in an instant, sickles stashed back into their holders. Karkat helped him pull his sickles from the ground and strap them back into place. 

“Are you alright?” Karkat asked him as he supported Kankri’s battered form. Kankri nodded weakly and placed a hand on Karkat’s abdomen. His hand came away damp with blood and Kankri felt a bit like crying. They were too beat up to last long when Karkat’s stitches kept being ripped open or popped. If Kankri couldn’t even defend them against an adult then how was he going to find their friends?

“Mew are mewtants too? Mew both have the same blood as best beloved… What are mew’re names?!”

“I’m fuckin- Karkat. Karkat Vantas. This is my dancestor, Kankri.” Karkat told her simply. He was a raw line of ridged tension as they both watched to see what The Disciple would do. Much to their surprise she scooted closer on all fours, hesitating at times, as if afraid to scare them off. It was almost hilarious considering how she had tried to kill Kankri not seconds earlier. 

“My poor kittens… How could I have not noticed sooner? Oh, purrlease tell me that I didn’t hurt mew too much Kankitty.” She purred out as her ears flicked downwards. Both of the boys shared a confused and slightly frightened look before Kankri eyed her warily and spoke up.

“You didn’t… hurt me as bad as you certainly could have…” He wheezed, still regaining his lost breath. 

“I will get the Dolorosa so she can tend to mew! Best beloved will be happy to see more mewtants!” She told them before bounding back where she had come from. Kankri shared a bewildered look with Karkat before suddenly turning their attention to the rapid sounds of footsteps. A woman who looked much like Kanaya and Porrim came down the path with her skirt held in one hand so she wouldn’t trip over it. Behind her followed two other trolls and Karkat’s eyes widened with awe. Even Kankri couldn’t help but stare.

“Disciple, give me my bag will you dear?” She spoke primly to the cat like troll that had put them in this state in the first place. Karkat’s ancestor stood wonderingly behind The Dolorosa.

“Please lift your shirt dear- and your cloak as well.” The Dolorosa instructed Kankri. He was shocked at himself when he unthinkingly did as told before one of Porrim’s motherly looks flashed across his mind. It wasn’t a stretch to say that he missed her, he hoped that when they saw each other again he could apologize to her. She had been nothing but good to him and he had time and time again taken it for granted, even if she pushed past his boundaries she always meant the best for him.

Above him, Dolorosa was already cleaning his cuts. Eyes wide she stared in awe at his candy red blood. Technically, he couldn't blame her for her fascination with his blood color. Still, it made his skin want to crawl with the rapt attention it was getting. 

“Are you the fucking Signless or what?” Karkat barked when Signless kept staring between Kankri, him, and Crabdad with shock and fascination. He gave a small jolt before his eyes met Karkat’s.

“Yes I am. And I don’t think Disciple told me your names.”

“I’m Karkat. That’s Kankri. The sorry excuse for a lusii over there is Crabdad.” Karkat pointed between them. Crabdad gave a scree before clacking and advancing on Signless with a gleeful look. Nearly crushing the adult troll under his claw as he rubbed it against Signless’s head.

The Dolorosa smiled to herself as Signless tried to futilely push away Crabdad’s affectionate preening and pats. Finishing bandaging Kankri’s wounds she moved onto Karkat and was even more surprised to see that he shared the same hue of candy red. Though she supposed that it made sense with everything going on. She couldn’t describe the type of motherly pain it brought her to watch Karkat stand completely still and not flinch for a second as she worked to redo his stitches. Poor Disciple looked sick to her stomach when she saw the extent of the wounds on both of the younger trolls.

“Both of you are Thiign’th dethendentth, right?” Psiioniic spoke up after having stood silently watching. The two nodded and Psiioniic scowled. This made things harder for their group, Signless and Dolorosa wouldn’t just leave them to be culled by some passing highblood. But they barely had anything to spare, it was hard enough escaping prosecution and slaughter with just the four of them. Now they most likely had two wigglers and a large lusii to deal with on top of that. To make matters worse the youngest was pretty badly wounded and the elder seemed ready to take someone’s face off with his odd sickles. Was the weapon he was using even classified as a sickle? The chains connected to the worn black handles of the ‘sickles’ gleamed in the moon lights and the blades themselves seemed to change hue. They were odd. Psiioniic didn’t like it one bit.

“What were mew two doing purrancing around so openly? Don’t mew know not to stray too close to the worn paths around here?” Disciple asked curiously, almost sounding like a scolding mother.

“We have shit to do is why. Couldn’t be fucking done without putting ourselves out in the open like this.” Karkat huffed with renewed anger. The Disciple cocked her head to the side and flicked her ears.

“What are mew two kittens up to? It couldn’t pawsibly be impurrtant enough to risk mew’re nine lives like this!”

Kankri and Karkat shared a look. Would it be wise to tell them the truth? It wasn’t like they had anything to lose.

But that didn’t mean the information they held was any less dangerous.

 

Chapter Text

Kankri’s shoulders slumped in defeat. Not telling them would only cause a bigger conflict and they actually needed them to survive. He hated to admit it, his pride was slightly wounded even thinking about it, but Karkat needed the safety. Karkat was still just a child, just barely past six sweeps, Kankri was well past his ninth sweep and fast approaching his half sweep before his tenth sweep. If they had to suck up their pride then Kankri would do it. To him, as he’d come to know humans in this life, Karkat was very much his little brother. So Kankri sighed and allowed the fringe of his too long bangs to cover his eyes as he thought of what to say and how to phrase it.

“It’d be best to get out of the open now, we will explain as soon as we don’t run the risk of being found out.” He spoke evenly, Disciple gave a nod at his words and much to his surprise she helped him onto his feet. Once he was steady the cat like troll immediately rounded on Karkat, herding him closer to all of them but ever wary of his abdomen. Kankri wasn’t sure what he should feel about it all, she had tried to kill them and now she was acting like a worried lusii.

The Dolorosa led them away from the road, ears twitching and swivelling elegantly. Neither boy was sure how she managed to do so, when they did it their ears always seemed jerky and uncoordinated. Signless, however, seemed to have mastered it. When the Dolorosa had finally chosen a place she deemed safe Disciple went around the area sniffing and checking for any animal danger. Naturally there was nothing but Kankri and Karkat still shared a look, both realizing they were seeing an intimate moment of the group’s everyday lives. Disciple rounded on them yet again and herded them both in the center where she deemed it safer for the younger mutants.

“Well?” Signless spoke up, voice crackling smoothly. It made both boys jolt in slight surprise. He sounded more relaxed than before.

“Yes, well,” Kankri cleared his throat and took a seat on the ground with his hands in his lap, “we’re looking for people we know.”

“What kind of people kitten?” Disciple asked when Kankri didn’t continue.

“Some assholes we were acquainted with. It basically boils down to survival in some fucked up situations. Mutual understanding I fuckin guess… But that isn’t important, some of them were human and if we don’t find them then they might get killed.” Karkat piped up. Flushing lightly under Dolorosa’s motherly frown at his language.

“IIf they aren’t already.” Psiioniic muttered darkly. A somber silence fell over them at that before Dolorosa spoke to them.

“If they are alive then we will help you find them. Do you have any clue as to where they could be?” She assured them. Karkat tried to think, what could they offer to highbloods?

“Jade knew how to grow things… Uh, I don’t know much about Rose except that she and K- another person we knew were together. John was a good leader if a bit fucking stupid, his lusus also knew a bit about baking..? What the fuck ever, Dave was a good fighter, he might be used for labor if I had to guess. What about the humans in your group Kankri?”

“Well I didn’t get to interact much with them but I think I remember the others talking about them. Dirk, Dave’s brother? Well, he was good with machines, he could be under the control of a blue blood. Jane was supposedly sweet, could cook as well. So if I had to guess, a kitchen maid. Jake was adventurous and good with weapons, wouldn’t be surprised if they have him as a labor slave. Then there was Roxy, the girl was a brilliant hacker I believe, they might have her assigned to work with psionics.”

The adults stared at them in wonder. Dolorosa seemed to be thinking hard.

“We will try and find your human friends, now what about your troll friends?” She asked them.

“I believe our best bet is to find the humans and hope they know the whereabouts of the others. Until then we’ll keep a look out ourselves for them.” Kankri cut in before Karkat ended up saying too much. If the adults started to think they were crazy then there would be no protection from them. It was a little too much to risk at the moment. Psiioniic looked as if he wanted to say something but closed his mouth at the last second, leaving Karkat to wonder what the older troll wanted to say.

“Well that’s settled! I say we set up camp here Rosa, it seems to be purrty safe to me. Kankitty, Karkitty, mew two can sleep with Beloved and I if mew wish. Or bunk with Psii or Rosa, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.”

The two boys stared at each other uneasily. Would it be wise to take them up on that offer?

 

Chapter Text

"If it isn't too bold of me, I think you both will be more comfortable in my tent than anywhere else. Besides, I want to make sure that both of your injuries are looked after properly." The Dolorosa spoke up. Disciple seemed slightly disappointed but didn't argue with her, but on the flip side Psiioniic looked relieved. Kankri looked both himself and Karkat over, taking in how battered they both looked and no doubt felt. The Dolorosa was no Porrim, or Kanaya for that matter, but she was a mother, someone Kankri knew wouldn't try to harm them in their sleep. So he gave her the benefit of the doubt even though he would have rather they slept alone and away from everyone else. 

"As long as it isn't too much trouble Miss Dolorosa." Kankri told her as he ducked his head, something he'd learned on Beforus that caused a favorable reaction in cullers. How he hated them and the way they treated others... But the Dolorosa wasn't a culler, not really, certainly not in the same sense that the ones on Beforus were. But that did not stop the vague distrust that lingered in the back of his mind even as he helped her set up her tent. She smiled at him as they went about it, Karkat seemed more at ease than he had before as he helped move around smaller things, stopping occasionally due to his wound. 

Once the tent had been pitched and the others were retiring for the day Dolorosa called Kankri and Karkat closer to her, a pair of scissors held loosely in hand. 

"You two look like you could use a hair cut, would you allow me to do that for you?" She had the decency to ask. Karkat was the first to nod and sit down in front of her. Kankri, however, stood warily off to the side. He knew he could trust her but both his instincts from this time and Beforus were warring against it. Dolorosa smoothed down the matted mess of Karkat's hair, running a damp comb through it to help make it easier to cut. Distinctly aware of the way Kankri's eyes tracked her every move, she kept her movements deliberately slow and gentle, hoping she would not scare off the two trolls. Their connections might be what the rebellion needed to succeed, and they were only wigglers after all, she could not with good conscious send them out all alone. So she kept herself as none threating as she could, hoping her openness would win their favor. 

"How do you want me to cut it, dear?" She asked the smaller of the two trolls. Karkat seemed the think it over before sighing. 

"Just out of my face I guess." He told her. She frowned slightly at the slump of his shoulders but listened all the same. With the same deftness she used to sew clothes she snipped at his hair, making it shorter and trying to get as much out of his face as she dared, though she left some of the fringe. It fit him nicely, but she almost couldn't contain her shock when she realized how young Karkat actually was, his eyes were just beginning to fill in! Karkat blinked at her in confusion, wondering why she was staring at him wide eyed. From behind her Kankri spoke up in a soft voice. 

"Now you understand why I did not attempt to run the minute you finished patching us up." 

"Y-yes, I suppose so. How... How old are you both exactly?" She stammered slightly. Shocked jade eyes landing on the obviously older of the two. 

"Karkat is roughly past six sweeps. I, myself, am nearing my tenth." He told her vaguely. Dolorosa nodded her head mutely as she brushed the loose hair off of Karkat. In truth, The Dolorosa had done wonderfully, the hair cut almost looked identical to Karkat's old one but his side bangs were slightly longer. It looked good on the younger troll. 

"Well then, Kankri, I believe it is your turn."

Kankri frown at that but complied with her request. 

"I only wish for my bangs to be cut shorter, I like the way the rest of my hair is currently." He told her decidedly. On Beforus his hair was never allowed to be this long, his previous cullers thought it made him look too adult- too unruly. He remembered many times that he had tried to run from them only to be cornered and forcefully have his hair cut. His self expression was limited and it was always another price to be paid for his mutant blood color, a pretty pet to sit still and look pretty on behalf of the empire. Benevolent they called it, nothing was benevolent about being treated like a pet and second citizen even if he had had a disorder. No one deserved such a fate. 

The Dolorosa's fingers held his hair gently as she brushed it out the same way she had done for Karkat. He could feel where his hair touched a little past his shoulders. Kankri hadn't been aware that it had gotten that long, but he liked it. He liked it quite a bit actually. When she finished brushing his hair out Dolorosa stared at his bangs to decide what should be done with them. They reached just past Kankri's nose and she knew it had to be uncomfortable to see past them. A small smile graced her black lips as she came to an idea that she liked. Taking the bangs into her hand she began to section them and cut the front bangs similarly to how she had cut Karkat's, leaving the side bangs long and framing Kankri's face, making his eyes stand out even more. Giving him a reassuring look she brushed away the excess hair and tied what was left back into a loose braid. Kankri seemed more at ease, even smiling at his reflection in Dolorosa's mirror. It made The Dolorosa's mood lighten to see him appear to loosen up. Looking out the entrance of the tent she could see the beginnings of Alternia's sunrise creep along the horizon. 

"I believe now would be a good time to sleep. Sweet dreams dear ones." She told them as she ushered them to their pallets. Much like the Signless had at their age, they yawned at the reminder of the time, rubbing at their eyes and crawling under the covers. She was grateful they would be able to truly sleep. 

With the wigglers tucked in she pulled the cloak of her dress over her head and activated her weapon. She had a watch to keep after all. 

Chapter Text

Three days, they'd been traveling with the ancestors for three days. But not once did they run into a familiar face. Kankri was losing hope, he was losing sleep, but he didn't dare show it to the others. Especially not Karkat, his dancestor had never been the hopeful type to begin with. If Kankri started to look like what he felt then Karkat's resolve would start to fracture. He just couldn't do that to Karkat. 

So he kept it all to himself and did what it took to find a trail, even a cold one. 

Their third day and Kankri had gotten something. 

Nearby was a psionic labor camp, apparently there had been a boom in productivity. People were murmuring that they might have found a strong psionic or two that was causing the boom. Kankri could only think of two psionics with that power signature. He hoped that his hunch was right. 

Signless was going to perform a sermon nearby the camp, absolutely clueless to the fact that psionic trolls were being held captive on the other side of town. Kankri planned to keep him that way for as long as possible. There was no way that Kankri was going to have his mission derailed by Signless attempting to do good. It was far too much trouble than it was worth. He promised himself that he would find a way to free the others once he found who he was looking for but until then it would have to wait. Derailing and inconveniencing The Empress was more important, she couldn't have any member of the Captor family in her grasp. What she had done with The Psiioniic in Karkat's timeline had been terrifying enough. If she got her hands on two... 

Kankri decided that was a worry for another time. Around him he watched Signless get ready, The Disciple smiled softly at him as she helped Psiioniic set up the little platform they would be using. The Dolorosa had already gone into town to spread the word to lowbloods that Signless was there to speak. Beside him Karkat fidgeted with the hem of his cloak nervously. Allowing his eyes to trail over them for the last time, Kankri nudged Karkat and they left. Losing themselves in the crowds like phantoms, weaving and ducking and twirling through the crowd as if riding a wave. He took a breath and let it out in time to the pulse of the people around him, this was familiar. Not Beforus, not dealing with the ancestors, but something this Kankri knew. With another breath he found himself outside the crowd and walking through mostly empty streets, Karkat not too far ahead of him. 

As they continued to grow closer to the camp they could feel the rise in static, causing their skin to feel prickly and their stomachs to clench uneasily. Some things never changed, Kankri thought to himself bitterly. Even on Beforus you could sense a psionic a mile away just by the static, but healthy psionics only caused a static discharge when too emotional or as a way to say back off when they were injured or scared. Kankri had been called a heretic for pointing it out once, before he'd learned to bite his tongue and word things saccharine and praiseful. He'd only made the mistake once. Ahead of them loomed the metal fencing of the compound. 

Karkat turned back to look at him while worrying his chapped lips. Lightly swatting him to make him stop Kankri eyed the compound up and tried to figure a way in. 

"We're going to have to climb." Karkat finally muttered. With a weary sigh Kankri nodded in agreement. 

He'd no sooner placed his foot on the wall then he felt the foreign feeling of psionics against his skin. Breath catching and throat closing in residual terror, Kankri froze. The last time he had felt psionics against his skin he had been on his way to warn Mituna of his blow out, learning too late that he hadn't been quick enough. Tears pricking the corners of his eyes he forcefully tried to regain his composure. Crying is what makes you cull bait, he hissed mentally. It was enough to hold the sting at bay. The psionics holding him captive pulled him away from the wall and against a chest, Karkat had seemed to suffer the same fate, tucked under the older troll's arm. 

"What do you two think you're doing thneaking around here? Don't you know thith ith a pthionic labor camp? They'll tear you apart for even thetting foot in there!" Came the familiar rasp of The Psiioniic's voice. Kankri felt himself relax slightly. 

"We think two of our friends are being held like gogdamn power plugs in here." Karkat growled out, some of his fire returning. He struggled futilely against The Psiioniic's iron grip but the elder didn't so much as budge.

"Tho?"

"So?" Kankri hissed out in disbelief, something inside him starting to crack. Did this man have the same beliefs as a culler? Were his own people so below him that he couldn't care less what happened to innocent trolls? Those were his descendants whether he knew so or not! "So? We didn't want to say anything for fear you'd remember something but since that is obviously not the case-..." The words strangled themselves on his tongue as he grew even angrier.

"They are your descendants!" He half screeched and half hissed. Sounding for all the world like a tea kettle. In his rage he couldn't register anything beyond the blood pounding in his ears and the red clouding his vision. The red and blue haze of psionics released him suddenly but he found himself being held firmly against The Psiioniic's chest by one steel arm. Kankri was already starting to relearn the hate he'd internalized during his time on Beforus of the strength of adult trolls. 

"Do you think you could jutht waltz right in there and get out jutht ath eathy? You two wigglerth are crazy! I thould get you two back to Thign-,"

"Or help us free them!" Both Kankri and Karkat burst out in unison. 

Psiioniic stared at them both. They had to be shitting him, he was a psionic himself! Going back in there was practically suicide. He looked at the compound and then back at the two wigglers trying in vain to get back to climbing the gogdamn wall. 

What the actual hell was he going to do?

Chapter Text

A low buzzing growl drifted from Psiioniic's pursed lips. Of course something like this would happen, they were Signless' descendants after all. How he expected anything different was fueled by some delusional fantasy where the entirety of the Vantas line wasn't made up of self sacrificing idiots. It just confirmed that Psiioniic was an idiot himself and had poor choice in moirails, among other things. Looking between the two and the determination in both of their eyes he realized they didn't give him much choice. 

"You two are inthane and I hate you both." He told them with a long suffering sigh as his shoulders slumped. Leave it to two brain dead wrigglers who shared his moirail's eyes to drag him into this mess. He was obviously weak. Psiioniic spared a look at the two boys who were staring up at him with furrowed brows and stubborn refusal to back down. He couldn't stop the defeated groan from leaving his lips even if he wanted to. 

"They better be in there, or I thwear to gog." He caved just watching as Kankri's pissed expression turned into a crooked smile and Karkat's turned to just mildly annoyed. It was an odd change from what he was used to from them both, usually they had mistrustful and hesitating expressions on their faces. Psiioniic had to wonder how much his descendants meant to the two boys, were they as close as he was with Signless? He couldn't dwell on it too long, they had a labor camp to break into after all. 

"If we scale the fence we might be able to get in undetected." Kankri told him simply. 

"We have to hurry though, those fuck head guards are about to come this way again." Karkat warned as he made his way back to the fence. Psiioniic nodded along and followed the two's example, hooking his fingers in the chain links. Kankri and Karkat were almost halfway up when their luck finally caught up to them. The guards rounded the corners and immediately spotted them. Psiioniic barely had time to use his powers to rip them off the fence and away from the guards' weapons. The fence sparked dangerously and Psiioniic launched the boys over the fence as he fell into a defensive position. Kankri landed in a crouch, years of being on the run on Alternia and sneaking out on Beforus instilling the instinct to cushion his fall by bending his knees. Karkat landed in a practiced roll claws digging furrows into the dirt to keep him balanced. 

"Get in and get out! I'll be right behind you!" Psiioniic roared over his shoulder as he flipped a guard over his head and blasted another with his psionics. Kankri and Karkat nodded to him even though he wouldn't be able to see it and broke into a dead run, knowing they were more vulnerable in the open than they would be in the building. At the wall of the imposing white washed building Kankri pulled out his sickles and handed one to Karkat both of them swinging them with growing speed before launching them upwards to latch onto one of the many windows. Sure enough they hit their mark and the two quickly checked their stability before scaling the wall as fast as they could. Kankri, being the faster climber of the two, stopped frequently to help pull Karkat higher when his footing would slip. 

At the ledge of the window the two looked back to see how Psiioniic was doing only to find him completely surrounded by blue blood guards and more pouring out to intercept him. The feeling of static started to raise almost painfully as Psiioniic became angrier at his assailants and more worried for the wrigglers on the other side. He would protect them with his life, they gave the resistance hope. And they needed it now more than ever. 

"Kankri we need to fucking hurry." Karkat spoke urgently as he brought his own sickles out to use and smash open the window with the handle. Kankri began wiggling through the broken window as soon as Karkat pulled back his weapon, ever careful of the shards of glass. They couldn't afford to leave behind any of their blood unless the Empress realized the truth. Or worse, the Grand Highblood caught wind of new blood to put on his walls. It was risky enough as was, they didn't need murderous adults on their tails too. 

They landed silently in the upper layer of the building, filled with boxes and crates that meant nothing to the highbloods, it was the basement they'd need to get to. Karkat took stock of what he could make out in the crates for future reference as he followed closely at Kankri's heels looking for the way down. A simple hatch was set into the floor half hidden by a carelessly placed box, Karkat almost sneered at the most likely purposeful placement, another way to avoid caring for the overworked psionics. He'd read plenty of horror stories about such things on his original Alternia, how they would place boxes over the hatches and then spend days 'looking' for the hatches under all the boxes. It disgusted him beyond belief, and dread pooled in his stomach when he realized they had no clue how long the box had been there. What if they were too late? With that thought weighing heavily on their minds the two Vantas boys immediately wrenched the hatch open and began to climb down as fast as they could. They couldn't be too late, that was unthinkable, they had to have made it in time to get to them. 

They had to. 

Above them they could hear the crackling boom of psionics being used in large blasts and the shouting of injured guards. Kankri hoped that Psiioniic could hold his own just a little longer-

Just long enough for them to find Sollux and Mituna. Around them were cells filled with psionics hooked up like sparking batters, only half aware of what was happening around them. Kankri almost felt like vomiting at the way the pink tendrils seemed to be eating away at the flesh of their victims as they drained every bit of life and energy it could. Some things never changed...

Karkat tried to block out the groans of pain and the labored breathing that echoed like a steady heartbeat off the walls. Looking into cells and being faced with nothing but pain and slow decay while looking for the two idiots they had come to rescue in the first place. It hurt to leave them but there was no saving the breathing corpses they had become, he could only pray that Mituna and Sollux weren't in the same condition. Ahead he could make out slightly brighter sparks of red and blue- healthy and young. Kankri was the first to start jogging towards the cell. 

 

His eyes widened at the sight of Mituna and the tendrils trying to inch closer to his eyes, nearly covering over half his body. Mituna's psionics were weak- Kankri had the sinking feeling that Mituna had blown out in a similar fashion that had caused his brain damage. Next to him Sollux seemed to be a live wire, doing double to make up for what Mituna was barely producing. Karkat wheezed with the effort it took not to puke at the thought of how much pain both of them had to be in. Any more of this treatment and it would kill them both. 

An explosion sounded up top and shook the building dangerously, reminding the two boys that they had to hurry. Working quickly the two began trying to find a way past the locked doors. Oblivious to the world around them except for their friends-

Friends they had finally found again. Two crazy psionics that had known the taste of doom like the taste of mind honey. 

A shadow loomed over the two distracted trolls, the fighting above having gone silent after the last explosion. 

Kankri barely had time to twist around with wide doe eyes before the world faded around the two of them. Blue eyes glinting almost like metal under the faint lights of psionics.

Chapter Text

The steady hum of static and the soft slurred groans of pain let Kankri know he wasn't in bed. That he wasn't in the dream bubbles after dying in a game where death was inevitable for everyone.

This was close to being worse than that.

Forcing his eyes open was a trial and error process, his vision too blurred to be of much use and blinking a painful task. He tried again. Forcing his eyes open for the second time since waking he could just make out his surroundings though the blurred eyesight of what was now obviously a concussion. He tried to keep his enraged cussing on the inside. But by the slight burn of his throat he might of snarled at least one 'Gog-fucking-damn-it' out loud. For what felt like hours he laid motionless trying to regain feeling in his limbs, it could have been minutes- or it could have actually been the hours he felt it was, but it was impossible to tell past the pounding and nausea in his skull. Gog, even his horns ached.

His fingers skittered across the grime infested floor of the cell he was in, feeling around for anything familiar. He recoiled when he felt clammy skin against his. It took another effort to turn his head without vomiting from the sudden shift and he didn't even stop himself from gritting out a soft string of 'fuck's that would have made Karkat crack a smile in amusement. But no, Karkat was sprawled carelessly beside him still unconscious. Blood was crusted in his hair and immediately Kankri felt enraged with himself and the situation, he should have at least tried to make Karkat stay behind. He was still very much a wiggler, he didn't deserve this just for trying to save a friend who didn't deserve it either! His blood boiled in silent anger. Kankri forced his legs to bend and not collapse under their own weight. He needed to get on his feet, who ever had knocked them out had seen their blood, it was too dangerous to just lay there. Kankri was just surprised they hadn't culled them when they had the chance. It certainly wouldn't have been hard. His legs shook violently under the weight of gravity and Kankri knew he was worse for wear than he had thought. He at least hoped Psiioniic had been able to get away and tell the others.

Kankri had slowly been able to work his way into a hunched sitting position. Skull pounding even worse than before as he tried to take deep and measured breaths through his mouth, knowing that if he breathed through his nose the smell would make his nausea even worse. Next to him he could hear Karkat shift and let out a sickly groan.

“Don’t…” Kankri had to swallow a few times to work past the burning, “Don’t move too quickly.”

Karkat stilled and he could hear the younger troll breathing heavily.

“What…” Karkat broke into a fit of coughing that made Kankri’s ears quiver in concern. Dolorosa had done a wonderful job for Karkat’s stitches but that didn’t mean they were stable enough to handle all the damage they continued to take.

"What happened?"

"Someone snuck up behind us and knocked us both out. Otherwise, I don't know." 

"Great... Just fucking... Great." 

Kankri let out a dry chuckle. He was well aware of their situation as down hill as it was there was still some hope. With a bit more ease than he had previously Kankri turned to look out of their cell to see where they might have been put. Across from them was Mituna and Sollux, still sparking away. He wasn't sure whether to be relieved or repulsed. No one deserved such a fate. 

"Karkat, how is your... Nausea?" Kankri swallowed past the bile wanting to rise. 

"Like watching Gamzee slurp down one of his disgusting pies." Karkat bit out with a small groan. Kankri took that to mean that it was still overpowering. It wasn't like he could talk, however, since he was still incapable of getting up without the risk of vomiting and falling face first into the grime crusted floor. He loathed how powerless it made him feel. He wasn't some clueless wiggler on Beforus to be kept complacent and weak so his culler could reap the rewards! Kankri was an almost adult troll who wanted to bring down the hemospectrum that had cursed both timelines. Claws digging angrily into the ground Kankri looked around for a possible way out. No obvious routes, the doors were shut and he doubted anyone would be careless enough to not lock them, and the one window in the corner of the cell wasn't even big enough for a squeakbeast to fit through. They'd have to try another way. Damn it! Kankri mentally hissed at himself, this couldn't have gone any worse if the Grand Highblood had shown up himself! Another hiss of repressed rage and Kankri forced himself to move, dragging his own weight until it was all balanced on his violently shaking legs. With a glance at Karkat's still form Kankri forced himself to push the nausea out of his mind and use the wall as a support to get closer to the door. It was slow going and Kankri was biting back curses each time one of his legs buckled and nearly sent him back to the ground but eventually he reached the door and clung to its bars like a lifeline. The hallway between the cells was three feet wide, compared to trolls it was a narrow thing, but two humans could walk side by side through it comfortably. Perhaps they had humans in charge of looking after the psionics? Kankri looked at the condition of them all and dismissed the thought, humans at least listened to the needs of their fellow slaves. He went back to analyzing the hallway, across from him and next to the cell over their weapons sat on a narrow shelf. With the right vibrations they'd fall right off. Even a weak rust blood could give them the nudge they needed. But it was just Kankri and Karkat. 

His fist slammed into the wall next to the bars he was using to support most of his weight. They needed a way out, but how? 

"Do you see Psiioniic?" Karkat asked from his position on the floor. Kankri gave a small jump in surprise causing his legs to give out and for him to crash to the floor with a thud. 

"No, I can only hope that he-,"

"Oh my fucking gog, Kankri, are you theriouthly here to lecture? I mutht be in human hell." A voice piped up from the cell across from them. Kankri could only stare in awe as he watched a weak but undamaged Mituna glaring tiredly at him. 

"Well, first of all, I came to apologize to you for how I treated you and Latula-,"

"Tulip?! Ith thhe here?" 

"No, but I would rather not get hit in the head with a skateboard for not coming after you first." 

Mituna threw back his head as far as the tendrils would allow and laughed. His fangs glinted in the psionic made light, sharper than they had been allowed to grow on Beforus, and Kankri couldn't help but crack a small smile. 

"Thhe totally would!" He gave a snort, "Thhe'd knock you right the fuck out! Bam! There goeth Vantath."

"I think it'd be more along the lines of 'instant coma'." 

"Holy thit! I cuthth and Kankri 'panty-twitht' Vantath doethn't go into inthtant lecture mode?! Thomeone call Kurloz cauthe itth a miracle! He even maketh a joke! What'th next?! Are you gonna thay you aren't thelibate anymore two?"

"I can practically feel the 'two' pun from here. And for your information, celibacy is a lonely and pointless task. So- don't faint- I am no longer holding onto my former vow." 

Mituna let out a screech that made Sollux flinch and snap open his eyes. 

"Wha- theactualfu- KK?!" Sollux slurred his psionics sparking sporadically from surprise. 

"Hey asshole, you still have a brain cell in there?" Karkat quipped before breaking into a fit of coughs. Everyone flinched at the rough sound. 

"Is there anyway you can get our door open? Even something to pick the locks with would be useful right about now. The sooner we get out the better." Kankri spoke back up after a moment of silence. Sollux went boneless as he thought over what to do. 

"We could override-," Mituna offered before being cut off by Sollux. 

"No! That'd kill you in your thtate. There hath to be another way."

"Sollux, if you could steadily decrease your psionics along with Mituna's we might be able to summon a guard down here. At least that way we can steal the keys off of them." Kankri offered, it was a long shot but Mituna dying wasn't an acceptable outcome, he'd already sacrificed himself once before, Kankri wouldn't allow the other to do it a second time. Giving a shaky nod Sollux started to breath deeply, wincing every time he lowered his power a notch. He could feel the machine attempting to suck out the psionics he'd been giving it beforehand. Mituna hissed slightly as it tried to draw out more from him before he forced his psionics to stop. The buildup of psionics caused a headache to form for the Captors, one they knew could turn deadly. The florescent lights in the halls flickered dangerously. Down the hall something banged open and suddenly angry sparks of electric power zinged off the walls. Psiioniic had been captured but he wasn't going to go without a fight. 

"Thuck my bulge bitch!" Came a snarl followed by a yelp of pain from the guard. A sharp grunt left the older troll as another guard slammed his fist into his stomach. 

"Quiet, little rebel." One of them growled. The younger trolls all watched as a mass of guards tried to keep Psiioniic surrounded on all sides while trying to walk down the narrow corridor. They had to narrow themselves to be in front and in back of the yellow blooded troll, a grave mistake. 

In seconds the corridor was filled with shouting and panic as Psiioniic jumped into the air and vaulted over the guard in front of him, only slightly assisted by his own psionics, before landing in front of them. Eyes sparking dangerously he gave all that he could to singe the guards to a nigh unrecognizable crisp. Screams of pain and terror filled the air before they reached a pitch that had Kankri and Karkat cowering away and clutching at their ears. Mituna did his best to block out the noise as Sollux yelped. It was too loud. Just as suddenly as it had come the light show had stopped. The smell of burnt flesh permeated the air in waves and they did their best not to vomit from the stench. 

Psiioniic clutched at the wall and focused on taking one breath at a time past the pounding in his head. A thin stream of yellow blood trailed from his nose and past his lips to drip silently from his chin. He'd overtaxed himself attempting to get to the brain dead wigglers that had gotten themselves into this mess. With wobbly steps he turned himself around to see if he could spot them and nearly had the breath stolen from his lungs at the sight. 

Two sets of bi-colored eyes sparked at him in curiosity framed by the same side bangs that he sported and the badly chapped black lips underneath the same crooked nose. He sparked back at them in surprise. His eyes snapped to the movement in the cell across from them and found Kankri attempting to support a weary Karkat, blood still seemed to trickle brightly from the wound on his head. 

"Fuck. I don't know what'th worthe." Psiioniic groaned, hearing an echo of his own slightly nasally sarcastic laughter from the younger of the two yellow bloods. Both seemed to lack his actual haircut, similar to how Kankri and Karkat didn't have the same style as the Signless though they undoubtedly had his curls. 

"Any way... Can you get us out of here?" Kankri asked breathlessly, still recovering from the noise and brightness of a few seconds ago. Psiioniic gave a curt nod and went to get them out first only to be stopped by the most vicious glare he'd seen on a wigglers face. 

"Sollux and Mituna first." Karkat snipped. Psiioniic could only nod. As he turned he didn't see the way Karkat pressed his arm tightly against his abdomen or the way that Kankri's knees kept attempting to buckle under their weight. 

But Mituna saw it all clearly and began to come to a conclusion he didn't want to. The trolls before him had been through hell, hadn't fared near as well as he used to muse they had, and it brought acidic bile to burn at the back of his throat. They all needed to get out of this facility. 

Psiioniic was gentle as he worked the tendrils from under Sollux's skin, using his claws to wiggle them out as quickly and as little as possible. Letting the blood leave sticky trails from where the wounds continued to grow, a particularly thick tendril snaked along Sollux's ribs and Psiioniic let out a worried trill just looking at it. With careful fingers Psiioniic tried to find where it ended by tracing its path earning a sharp cicada hiss from Sollux as he flinched away from the pain. He could only buzz a reassuring hum at the boy as he worked. As soon as the tendril was removed Sollux slumped to the ground like a ragdoll, whining softly as it aggravated his wounds.

"Don't freak Thol. We'll be out thoon." Mituna called to him as Psiioniic started on his own web of pinkish tendrils. It took considerably less to free him than it had Sollux and Mituna tried not to let his worry at that show on his face or in the spark of his own psionic power. 

 

Karkat had glued himself to Sollux's side the minute Psiioniic had opened their cell door, muttering something vicious about how at least this time Sollux wasn't blind and could pull his own weight, Sollux had smirked deviously as he mentioned something about 'stairs' and 'I tried to warn you' before it was muffled by Karkat slapping a hand over his mouth and nodding towards Psiioniic. He wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean or what they were trying to keep from him but Sollux and Mituna fell silent almost immediately. Together they made their way out of the labor camp and towards the fence with Psiioniic leading. Using the last bit of his strength Psiioniic zapped the keypad that kept the gate closed and nearly fell on his face from the force of the pounding in his head. No one would have been strong enough to scale the fence but he knew that doing this to himself was dangerous, taking away even one line of defense was too much. But it was the quickest way out and in their state they were desperate. 

Karkat and Sollux were by his side in an instant. But that instant was enough for the situation to turn farther south than anyone had expected. They could only watch in dawning horror as guard after guard set up a seemingly brick wall of muscle between them and their escape. Karkat blinked back the tears of frustration in his eyes and hissed at them as best as he could past the pain that his clenching muscles brought. 

They were well and truly fucked at this point. Mituna thought as he stared down the wall of remaining guards from where he was slung over Kankri's shoulder. Sollux was wounded, badly enough that using his own psionics would only hurt him further, and their ancestor wasn't faring as well either. His grip tightened on Kankri, the same troll that used to lecture him about personal space and boundaries and all the other asinine things Mituna hadn't bothered to listen to, the troll that currently had one hand clutching a sickle and the other clinging to Mituna's waist to keep him on his feet. This wasn't the same Kankri he'd gotten to know through the game, it wasn't the troll who never shut up, or the one that seemed so holier than thou. This Kankri was changed, as if life was a curse that he'd bare out of nothing more than spite for all it threw at him. Mituna looked over at Kankri's dancestor, the little spitfire that helped Sollux shoulder Psiioniic without a word, and he came to a conclusion. It was selfish, he knew it was selfish, but it was a sure fire way to get away.

"Tell Tulip I'm thorry I had to do thith to her again." He whispered to Kankri earning a wide eyed horror filled look in return. 

"Mituna don't-," but he was already sparking. 

Tears gathered in his eyes and rolled off his cheeks as he thought of what he was giving up for the second time in his lifetimes, it wasn't fair. His brows furrowed as the pulse from his own psionics brought him off the ground, he'd been a heir of doom. Lips pulling back in a snarl Mituna let his psionics arc through the air like a live wire. 

He'd been a heir of doom and as his last act he'd doom every troll that got in the way of seeing his Tulip once again. Even if it burned the psionics straight from his skull. 

Chapter Text

Kankri rarely left Mituna's side in the passing days, he was weakened but he lived. They wouldn't know the extent of the damage until Mituna's more bodily injuries healed but Kankri feared the worst. There was a time he had been jealous of Mituna for his relationship with Latula, letting it control his interactions with the other, he swore that he would not make the same mistake twice. Occasionally he would check in on Sollux and Karkat, the two were almost always discussing where the others might have been. It was the hope that they would be in pairs like they'd managed so far, especially the humans. Kankri knew Karkat was more worried for the humans than he was the others and Kankri knew it wasn't without good reason. 

He had hope that they would find them. 

Crabdad did most of the work in getting things from town now, Karkat was too preoccupied trying to find where the others might have been with Sollux. On a few rare days Disciple would join Crabdad but mostly she chose to hunt for the group. Today was no different, Disciple had chosen to go with Crabdad into town and the group mostly wandered off to do their own things- except for Psiioniic. The older troll was watching Kankri closely as he worked to make Mituna comfortable.

"Are you two moirailth or thomething?" Psiioniic finally spoke up. Kankri about jumped out of his skin. 

"Of course not, Mituna had a moirail and while I don't know if they're still together I refuse to pry." His voice took on a prim edge to defend itself. Mituna stirred slightly.

"Fuck not another lecture...." He slurred in his sleep. Kankri gave a small smile. 

"I was rather horrible, wasn't I?" Kankri murmured to Mituna, the other didn't answer. Lost to sleep once more. Psiioniic watched this curiously. What the fuck were these two? History was there but like Sollux and Karkat they claimed not to be moirails. Sollux said he had a moirail by the name of Aradia, Karkat had sputtered and asked when he and his ex-matesprite had decided on that. Naturally Sollux only laughed at Karkat's flailing and mentioned something about dream bubbles. All of it was unhelpful to Psiioniic and left him with even more questions. 

"What can you tell me about Mituna?" He finally asked when the silence had dragged on too long. Kankri's ears twitched. 

"He was matesprites with a tealblood named Latula, he misses her dearly and I do not blame him for wanting to find her quickly. He also liked skateboarding and videogames."

"Videogameth? Thkateboarding?"

"An electronic game many younger trolls and humans play. As for skateboarding I couldn't quite explain it to you, just wait until you see him or Latula start doing it." 

"You theem pretty thure we're going to find thith Latula girl."

"She was part of our group and Mituna wants her back. That is good enough for me." 

"You wrigglerth are odd."

Kankri gave a small laugh and shook his head at that. 

"You don't even know the half of it." Psiioniic waited for him to explain more but Kankri just turned back to Mituna using a wet rag to wipe the sweat from his face. Realizing he wasn't going to get much more information out of the younger troll he left the tent to go keep watch. 

 

Hours had passed before Dolorosa had come running towards camp with panic written clearly on her face. Immediately Psiioniic and Signless were on alert. Panting from exertion Dolorosa glanced back over her shoulder. Seeing nothing she whipped around to the small crowd. A sense of urgency hung in the air. 

"We are too close to the water, I thought I saw a... A seadweller!" Karkat froze from where he stood before whipping around to face Sollux. The two immediately raced over to the tent where Kankri and Mituna were. Dolorosa barely had time to straighten up before Kankri was rushing out of the tent with Sollux and Karkat in tow.

"Look after Mituna! We have to check something!" Kankri called back as he rushed towards the direction Dolorosa had just come. Signless gave a shout for them to come back but it was clear they had no intention of it.  

"Either ours or yours." Karkat stated as he kept running. 

"Yes, but we don't know if its going to be Meenah and Feferi or Cronus and Eridan." Kankri reminded the younger. 

"You two are crazy! For all we know it could be neither of them!" Sollux piped up even though he was excited at the possibility of seeing Feferi again, the two had been friends even after they had broken up. Eridan was a different matter but if fishdick helped them then Sollux promised to put their differences behind them for as long as he could. Ahead they could see the glittering of water. Instinctively slowing down the group scanned the stretch of beach for any sign of a troll or human. 

"There!" Sollux pointed towards a retreating shape entering the woods. Breaking out into a run yet again they raced along the woods edge to intercept the figure. 

 

The camp laid in silence, holding its breath for the wrigglers return. None of them knew what it was the wrigglers had gone running after but they hoped they wouldn't run into the seadweller. Psiioniic had the sneaking suspicion that they had planned to do just that. Though, for the sake of his moirail, he didn't voice the thought. Crabdad was clacking nervously but made no move to track the wayward wrigglers down. But as time wore on they began to worry even more, they should have been back by now and yet... Signless was pacing the clearing for lack of something better to do, Disciple hadn't moved from the edge of the clearing since the wrigglers had left, Dolorosa had gone to check on Mituna, and Psiioniic had Crabdad helping him to pack up camp incase they needed to run. 

At the edge of the clearing Disciple tensed. A low warning hiss left her lips and Dolorosa poked her head out of the tent. Even Signless paused his pacing to snap his attention to where Disciple was staring. At the edge of the path Kankri was guiding a limping figure and Sollux was carrying someone else on his back. They couldn't make out the figures they were with clearly from such a distance but they were still tensed.

Who did they bring with them?

Who had they found?

The figure Kankri was helping let out a hiss of pain as they put pressure on one of their legs, would have collapsed fully had Kankri not been supporting them. Dolorosa grabbed the medical kit she always carried. Kankri turned to Karkat, saying something to the younger that set him rushing towards camp. 

"They're our friends. Don't attack them, they can't fucking fight in their condition but they can help Mituna." He told them. His hair, legs, and arms were drenched in water. Dolorosa had a horrible feeling about this. Kankri came into camp with the other and set them on a stump. Their cloak covered everything except for the gently bow curve of their horns. Sollux set the other figure next to them. They could make out nothing on either until the taller of the two unfastened their hood. 

"I can't believe this sharkshit! Me an Feferi been swimmin' everywhere for ya. An when we finally catch up to you buoys we fin you with Tunafish and Sollux to boot! Speakin' a Tunafish, where is the spaz?" 

"Injured, we barely made it out of the labor camp."

"Dam. I knew that beach empress would try somefin."

"Have you ran into any of the others? Sollux and Mituna are all we've found so far." Karkat interjected. He was carefully wrapping the fuchsiablood's ankle in a makeshift splint. They could heal Mituna now, if Feferi had any of her power left she could d it.

"We had a close encounter with Cro and Erifin. They didn't have time to give heads up 'fore Dualscar was tryna harpoon our sorry tails. Don't think they remembered us then either..."

"But they're alive?" Kankri asked hopefully. 

"Yeah, those two pains are still swimmin'. Far as I know anywaves." Meenah turned her attention to Feferi and Sollux as he finished wrapping her torso in bandages, "You two a'ight there?"

"Yeth, FF ith jutht going to have to take it thlowly for a few dayth. What happened before you found uth?" 

"We were swimming from some absolutely awful trolls. They looked like Erifin from behind but even Erifin wouldn't use such horribubble tactics! Luckily, we're the fast swimmers." Feferi piped up after she had removed her cloak entirely. The adults were catatonic with shock. Fuchsiabloods, friendly with mutants fuchsiabloods, obviously being hunted as well? Signless was pretty sure he stopped breathing. How far strung along the hemospectrum were their friends? All his life he had wanted those in the hemospectrum to live as friends and as allies instead of at each others throats. His descendants had found a way but how had it been done? How had they managed something so seemingly impossible the empress laughed at the very attempt? 

"I can try and heal Tuna but it will take a whale. We should fin somewhere safer before I work on Tuna's condition!" Feferi spoke to Karkat who nodded. 

"We had planned to move any-fuckin-way. Too dangerous to stay in one place for long."

"Don't we know it." Meenah huffed rolling her other ankle to check for damage. Other than a few scrapes along her calf it was undamaged. 

"I understand that you are all happy to see each other but I would like answers. Now." Dolorosa spoke up stiffly her face was stony and immediately they clammed up. "If weare going to be dealing with more highbloods I want to know who and how." 

Sharing looks between them their ears flicked about. 

How would they get out of this one? If at all...

Kankri and Karkat swallowed thickly.