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[Panel description: Two figures, one dressed in tan and one dressed in red, sit in the middle of the landscape. The landscape is mostly dunes of purple-gray sand, interrupted by a few rock formations and old fashioned sailing ships that have run aground. Several fans are scattered around. It is the land of ships and fans.]

[Panel description: The scene zooms in closer on the two figures. A large fan is placed behind them and to the left.]

[Panel description: The scene zooms in closely enough to see details of the two figures. They are dressed in the Homestuck Seer god tier outfit, which involves leggings, a robe, and a hood that tapers and curls up at the end. The figure in red is typing on a device, while two glowing screens shaped like gears hover in front of her. She has a slight smile on her face. The figure in tan has their hands in their lap and is frowning slightly.]

Kat: Well. Here we are.
Gill: Yup.

[Panel description: Gill, in red, pulls down her hood. She has short dark hair and oval shaped glasses. The Homestuck Time symbol, a red gear, is visible on her chest. She has a curious expression.]

Gill: Hey, it was your idea, even. Not getting cold feet on me, are you?
Kat: No, not this.

[Panel description: Kat, in tan with the Life symbol, two green swirls, visible on their chest, appears agitated. Their hood is still pulled up, but they have rectangular glasses. They raise a hand as they speak.]

Kat: Not the alternate ending. I was referencing the whole "author self-inserts dropping in to speak to the characters and/or the readers" routine.
Gill: But wasn't the original author already doing that?
Kat: It was wearing a little thin then, too.

[Panel description: Both authors are now visible. Gill looks intently over at Kat as she speaks.]

Gill: Well, we agreed we're not going to do this frequently. This is just a self-aware literary device establishing to the viewer what's going on.
Kat: I suppose. You're the one with the time-top. Establish away.
Gill: Aye aye, captain.

Gill: Establish scenario.

[Panel description: Gill raises one hand holding a stylus toward one of the floating gear-shaped screens.]

[Panel description: The screen shows a bedazzled collage of scenes from Homestuck canon, including Meenah standing on Tavros' horns, Jasprosesprite^2, Davepetasprite^2, Vriska speaking into her communication device, and Jade abandoned by the rest of the group on one end of the victory platform. Glittery text has been superimposed over the image saying 'such end, very conclude, wow.' Davepetasprite^2 has been labeled with 'original character do not steal'. ]

Gill: Okay, so here we have the "canon alpha timeline", let's call it.

[Panel description: Gill swipes away this scene to reveal John and Roxy standing in front of a plain blue background.]

Gill: For the purposes of this little spin-off, this is our alpha timeline. Let's check in on what's happening.

[Panel description: Kat's head appears in the right hand corner of the panel, blocking part of the screen.]

Kat: How about I take over the narrative prompt now? As Gill said, don't worry about having to put up with us for long.

Kat: Summarize.

[Panel description: A captchalogue card containing a book appears in the upper left corner of the screen. The card disappears, and the book appears between Kat's hands.]

[Panel description: The book is open. It reveals a scrapbook of images including the land of wind and shade, Terezi saying "Fix this", Roxy waving to John, Typheus, and John playing the organ in his land.]

Kat: I don't foresee any prolonged authorial intrusions beyond this point. We're here to clear up any confusion about the details of exactly how this narrative diverges from the canon reality. So here's what changed, and here's what stayed the same.

[Panel description: There is a comically scribbled drawing of Game Over Terezi pointing toward the viewer. Surrounding her are similarly sketchy drawings of Dave and Jade's corpses, Karkat's hand sticking out of lava, Rose being hit by a trident, and Kanaya dissolving into ash. The scene is labeled "Fix this" in Terezi's quirk.]

Kat: The infamous sequence of events known as Game Over still happened. John and Roxy succumbed to hopelessness until Terezi arrived and demanded that they fix this.

[Panel description: John walks through the land of wind and shade.]

[Panel description: Roxy waves to John in greeting.]

[Panel description: John stands in front of his denizen Typheus, a huge snakelike creature with an obscured face.]

Kat: They visited their denizens, and Nix sent Roxy to John. However, Typheus turned John away. This version of his planet was already lost, the denizen explained, and John needed to fulfill his quest at an earlier time.

[Panel description: John and Roxy grasp hands and disappear into flashing blue-white light, with the label zap. In the next panel, John stands on a circular teal platform in Typheus' lair and plays a blue organ with tall pipes reaching up all around the room.]

Kat: John managed to bring the two of them to LOWAS at some point before Game Over, and he then completed his quest - clearing away the oil, blowing away the glitches, and gaining greater control over his powers.

[Panel description: The scene returns to the image of John and Roxy on the gear-shaped screen.]

Kat: The narrative resumes with John and Roxy on LOWAS, deciding what to do next.

[Panel description: John and Roxy, in sprite mode, stand together against a blue background.]

Roxy: That sure was a cool windy thing you just did.
If that was you anyway.
When I got up here there was stuff blowing around all over the place and I thought
that is such a John thing to be happening right now it has got to be him doing some sort of mythical wind hero quest.
Complete with fancy visual effects and a bitching soundtrack.
John: Yes, that is what I was doing.
I think I cleared out all the glitchy junk from the session, which is even better.
Roxy: For real.
That nasty ass glitter made me feel like I was in some cheapskate illegally downloaded edition of sburb.
Which whoops is technically exactly what I started playing.
I knew my roguish internet ways would come back to bite me eventually.
Too clever for my own good.
John: No glitches now!
We can finally see what's going on.
Roxy: Soooo. Now that we can see what is there for us to see, when plus where are we now?
Are all our friends not dead again?
John: I'm not sure?
Even after talking to Typheus, I still have a lot to learn about my powers.
I don't think everyone has died yet, though.
Roxy: How did talking to your denizen go?
Nix made it sound like you always have to pay some kind of price.
John: Typheus said the same thing.
He insisted on being cagey about it, but it sounded like I may have compromised my existence in some mysterious but significant way.
Even if that is the case, I still knew doing what I did was the right choice.
Roxy: Same.
Except my price was less cagey and mysterious.
Nix told me I could forget all the pain and suffering we just went through by fading away with the timeline and letting the other Roxy take over.
Or I could come with you and remember.
John: You wanted to remember?
Roxy: Yeah!
Maybe all that stuff was terrible, but the remembering makes us who we are.
I didn’t wanna give that up and stop existing even if another version of me would be kicking around. That wouldn’t be cool. (sad face)
Besides even if all our dead friends never happened it seems like someone should remember them!
And two people can remember better than one.
John: I'm glad you came along.
It would've been lonely to be the only person who'd gone through all that.
Roxy: True facts. Being lonely ain’t no fun at all.
So, um, what do we do now?
John: I should get the ring so that all the bad stuff from last time can't happen again.
Then you can give it to your friend, and make her come back to life!
Roxy: (excited face) That’ll be aces.
I think I’ll go back to my planet for a while.
I don’t want to run into the other me.
It would be weird since I arranged for her to get killed through wily denizen puzzlespeak.
John: You're right, that could be awkward.
Before you leave, we should exchange chumhandles so we can contact each other.
Roxy: I’m tipsy gnostalgic.
John: Now I've got three TGs in here. It's a good thing they're color coded.
Roxy: Three? Why?
John: Um... well, one is my friend Dave, and the other is... also my friend Dave? Sort of.
It's a long story.
Anyway, my handle is ecto biologist.
Roxy: (surprised face) No way. I love ecto biology!
John: Really? I ended up doing it without meaning to, when I made myself and my friends out of slime.
Heheh, I guess I made you too.
I think I told you about that before, but I left out the best part, which involves me acting out a scene from con air with you and baby Rose.
It was such a heartwarming performance, even the grumpiest aliens were touched.
Roxy: I only made cats. Lots and lots of cats. (distressed face)
And a bottle of mom slime, but I never got to use it.
Curse those meddlesome clowns.
John: I don't like clowns.
I hate harlequins, but clowns are their close relatives and so also unsettling.
Roxy: The clown I am talking about is v unsettling.
Dunno if he has any harlequins as second cousins but I bet his entire family tree is skeezy to the max.
Prob got bark rot or a nest of mangy squirrels up there.
Dropping grody yellow leaves all over everyone’s nice clean lawn rings.
John: Yuck. I'd better go get that ring before something happens to it again.
Then I'll come visit you on your planet so we can decide what to do next.
Roxy: K. See you soon! (smiling face)

[Panel description: John and Roxy wave goodbye to each other. Then John disappears in a flash of light with the word zap.]

[Panel description: The Prospitian battleship, a large bright yellow ship, sits on top of a green terraced hill. A tall brown hill with some ruins at its top rises behind it. Nannasprite and Jaspersprite hover near the ship.]

[Panel description: Inside the ship, Dave sprite hovers near John’s sleeping form. John is curled up asleep on the sofa next to a golden ring. The room around them is bright yellow and filled with junk from the kids’ homes, including several globes, a refrigerator, some stuffed toys, and a picture of a harlequin.]

Dave sprite: I probably should have said all this stuff when you were awake anyway. Like the stuff about friendship.

[Panel description: Dave sprite looks over his shoulder as the glowing silhouette of John appears. The sleeping John's speech bubble "Z" can still be seen. An exclamation point flashes above Dave sprite's head.]

Dave sprite: Fuck it I'll just.
uh.
...
John what the fuck are you doing here?

Chapter Text

[Panel description: John stands and Dave sprite hovers in the middle of the room. To their right, John's past self still sleeps.]

John: I dunno, just saving everybody's lives!
Dave sprite: That was such an incredibly shitty and useless answer.
Why are there two of you?
This is unacceptable.
John: Jeez, don't make me sorry I'm saving your life!
Watch, I think I'll disappear in a second.

[Panel description: John's sleeping body blurs into white light. John looks excited. Dave sprite hovers with more agitation.]

JOHN: There I go. See you buddy!
DAVE SPRITE: This is time bullshit isn’t it. You’re time travelling. Who authorized this?
JOHN: That's what Dave said too, but it's not the same thing.
DAVE SPRITE: That was a past you right?
JOHN: Yeah...
DAVE SPRITE: and you’re from the future.
JOHN: sort of????
DAVE SPRITE: you’re time travelling, dipshit.
JOHN: ok, I’m sort of using time travel, I guess.
are you the only one allowed to do that now?
DAVE SPRITE: yes.
JOHN: you can't even use it any more.
at least... I don't think you can?
you never really said anything about it, so I guess I assumed.
DAVE SPRITE: ok fine.
the time hero is the only one with permission.
but I’m supposed to give helpful advice and my advice to you is to stop before you fuck something up.
JOHN: your advice sucks then, because I’m actually fixing everything.
you're welcome.
DAVE SPRITE: you keep saying that.
what’re you talking about.
we landed maybe an hour ago.
how did people manage to fuck up so spectacularly already that they needed you to swoop in and save them.
like a caped crusader except you don’t even have a cape so you’re just a dork in pajamas.
JOHN: it's a long story... but i guess i can tell you, and then we'll see how good your advice really is.
it starts a year ago on my fifteenth birthday.
DAVE SPRITE: (oh my god).
JOHN: at the birthday party you ruined for absolutely no reason.
DAVE SPRITE: it was for your own good.
JOHN: I’ve heard a lot of weird and crazy things today, but that was one of the weirdest and craziest.
how was ruining my special day by reminding me of my dearly departed guardian good for me???
DAVE SPRITE: fuck.
I just went over this in my touching monologue do we have to rehash this.
JOHN: maybe I could use my illegal time powers to go back and hear it!
DAVE SPRITE: no don’t do that.
Listen.
Just.
I wanted to make sure you didn’t want to be my friend anymore.
it was a tactical strike.
you thought an alien screaming incoherent insults was funny and endearing so i had to go in for the kill.
you’re weirdly difficult to piss off sometimes.
guess the whole wind god thing works for being mercurial and shit.
you were better off without some jank ass fake dave who ain’t worth much of anything anymore
that was to let you know.
hey this guy is the kind of asshole who writes fucked up notes on your birthday and is an all around loser better ditch him.
or shake your fist at the sky and scream at him until you pass out whatever floats your boat.
not that you were doing much of the boat floating but you probably could.
boat floating is one of the many cool superpowers I do not have.
don’t think real Dave can float no boats but he can do something.
which is better than me.
JOHN: oh man, that is even weirder and crazier.
I didn't even want to be your friend, you were such an enigmatic douche all the time.
I was looking forward to meeting regular Dave and being best buddies with him again.
if you'd asked I could have told you that, and then you wouldn't have had to mess up my party and make us extra miserable.
sheesh, is that why you acted so crappy with jade too?
DAVE SPRITE: I don’t want to talk about it.
JOHN: you'd better hope she doesn't want to talk about it now that she's an evil werewolf.
DAVE SPRITE: shes a what.
JOHN: jade was a werewolf, and also died.
it's all in my story, so if someone would stop interrupting me i will tell it.

The next 10 images are arranged in a grid of two columns and five rows.

[Panel description: On the left, John holds out a hand as he talks. Dave sprite listens quietly. On the right, Crocker tier Jane and Grim bark Jade float ominously, with the words Obey and Bark flashing above their heads.]

[Panel description: On the left, John explains dramatically, raising his arms and pushing Dave sprite nearly out of the frame. On the right, Rose and Terezi sit on the beach in the land of light and rain.]

[Panel description: On the left, John pretends to be dead by leaning back and sticking out his tongue. On the right, Jade watches Dave exclaim as the mayor tumbles off his apartment.]

[Panel description: On the left, John waves his arms and shouts as Dave sprite puts a finger to his chin thoughtfully. On the right, Jake hugs his knees and trembles as Crocker tier Jane's shadow stretches over him.]

[Panel description: On the left, Dave sprite takes up most of the frame flipping John the bird as John frowns. On the right, Dirk hovers in darkness with an orange question mark flashing next to him.]

You proceed to tell the story in excruciating detail. Meanwhile, a bunch of stuff happens more or less as it did before.

[Panel description: Again, John and Dave sprite talk in the middle of the room. There is an arm emerging from the wall.

JOHN: that's my story.
go ahead, enlighten me with your words of wisdom.
I’m waiting.
DAVE SPRITE: fine.
sit tight because I’m about to go obi wan on your ass.
except I already got stabbed all our guardians are dead and we had the incest panic
so we can skip those steps.
JOHN: wait, what?
DAVE SPRITE: don’t question the metaphors just roll with them.
JOHN: do they all have to be so unsettling??
DAVE SPRITE: time powers aren’t the kind of thing you should be able to dig out of the horrorterrors basement memory rummage sale.
like a two for a dollar combo deal because it’s been gathering dust under the VCR and old dot matrix printer or something.
you have to use them responsibly.
it’s like you got bitten by a radioactive spider except instead of being able to climb walls your great power is seizurejumping through time and space.
actually maybe spiders are a bad thing to bring up considering.
forget that.
JOHN: I have been responsible.
I’ve got everything under control.

[Panel description: The panel centers on the arm, which is emerging out of a blue rift in space time.]

DAVE SPRITE: is that your arm.
JOHN: maybe.

[Panel description: Dave sprite looks up at the arm while John looks at him. Dave sprite does not look amused.]

DAVE SPRITE: see this is exactly the kind of shit I’m talking about.
JOHN: what's your advice, then, smart guy?
I don't remember you coaching Dave through his game.
didn't a troll do a better job than you?
actually, my good friend future terezi told me to talk to typheus in the first place.
maybe you should be learning from her.
DAVE SPRITE: the fact that you listened to her again telling you to do the exact same thing that got you killed last time still blows my goddamn mind but whatever.
i don’t think you want to argue about who was the biggest deadweight in our session.
what you have to understand is that by sticking your hand into the magic universe light socket like an oblivious doofus you’ve gotten something way more serious than regular time powers.
time heroes are bound by stable loops.
they change things by dooming timelines
which keeps everything more or less going the way it was supposed to.
you can change the alpha itself
which as far as i know is unprecedented and a lot more dangerous.
you can make what was supposed to happen something else.
which might not end up working out for you.
and instead of watching everything go wrong fixing it and then getting the hell out
you have to live with whatever you did.
JOHN: like you.
DAVE SPRITE: like me.
JOHN: that doesn't sound so bad.
i think you're overblowing things.
DAVE SPRITE: just please don’t make any more changes without talking to me or dave or rose or someone more qualified about it.
you’re fucking with the fabric of reality i can feel it.
and while sometimes I’d be gung ho about flipping the bird at p space this is going a little far.
if i can feel it other people can too.
based on your story were getting enough negative attention.
JOHN: bluh, fine.
i'll send you detailed reports about all of my time travel indiscretions, if that's how you want to add meaning to your life.
DAVE SPRITE: that’s not what this is about.
JOHN: are you sure???
it sounds like you're trying to pretend there's still something for you to do.
maybe you can't accept that i can do your job better than you did!
DAVE SPRITE: maybe you don’t remember but i was in a reality where everything went wrong too.
typheus served you your ass on a platter and rose and i had to deal with the fallout.
bet you had a great time in the afterlife.
meanwhile rose was shitfaced half the time and it was all on me to make things right.
if you fuck anything up you can ruin everyone.
so I’m asking you for once in your life not to treat this like a joke.
JOHN: i'm not a joke!!!!
DAVE SPRITE: don’t act like one then.
JOHN: everyone's always telling me how to act.
no one thinks i can handle things on my own.
i'm the doofus sidekick who makes mistakes and gets in the way so the real hero can save the day.
but i brought back an entire session, and i don't think that's only a punch line.
you're alive because of me.
DAVE SPRITE: you’re alive because of me.
JOHN: sigh.
and while we sit here arguing, people might need saving all over again.
DAVE SPRITE: that does seem to happen a lot.
what are you going to do about it.
JOHN: that's what i'm trying to figure out!
so we both owe each other, fine.
doesn't that mean you can trust me?
you trust me, and i'll trust you, and that way we can pay each other back.
i'm not going to be a clown anymore.
and if you want to help me...
i guess it can't hurt.
deal?

[Panel description: The scene focuses on the ring still sitting on the sofa cushions. John and Dave sprite stand, unfocused, in the background.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite hovers facing John.]

DAVE SPRITE: deal.
JOHN: ok, perfect.
what now?

[Panel description: Grim bark Jade appears in a flash of green light and yellow lightning behind Dave sprite.]

JADE: there you are!
JOHN: (oh, great.)

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jade addresses the two of them. She is irritated, with her ears back, her hands on her hips, and lightning flashing over her body.]

JADE: I’ve been looking for you everywhere.
oh, and there’s dave sprite too.
so not only have you been hiding from me, you've been hiding other people with you.
that's just mean. (angry face)
I was supposed to send him to lotak with the other sprites, but i guess you masked his scent.
JOHN: has anyone ever told you that the smelling people thing is kind of weird?
JADE: oh I’m sorry john.
I guess I will stop using my enhanced canine senses if they make you uncomfortable.
JOHN: thank you.
DAVE SPRITE: ok forget what i said about responsible time travel.
this is scaring me.
put it back.

[Panel description: Dave sprite is frowning and hiding behind John, who looks back at him, unimpressed.]

JADE: what, don’t you like the new me???
DAVE SPRITE: I think I liked the old one better.
JADE: everyone keeps saying that, but I don’t know why.
old jade was a pathetic whiny loser.
she slept through almost everything important, and when she did wake up she ruined things and then cried about it.
she got killed by shaving cream.
does that sound very heroic?? I don’t think so.
and of course she let everyone walk all over her.
maybe that’s why you all want her back.
so you can keep talking and talking about yourselves while I sit there and listen.
well not anymore.
in fact I. …
wait. …
someone else is here.
*sniff* …
JOHN: (so weird.)
JADE: (shut up!!!)

[Panel description: Jade sniffs the air and then turns her attention to the fridge.]

[Panel description: The fridge, now open, reveals Gamzee peacefully slumbering within.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite and Jade both look into the open fridge while Gamzee's speech bubble Z hovers between them. Jade looks perplexed. Behind them, John struggles to lift the enormous hammer the Sassacrusher.]

DAVE SPRITE: who is that.
JADE: I have no idea.
but whoever he is, he is going into the slammer until I have time to deal with him.

[Panel description: Jade snaps her fingers, and the panel flashes with green First Guardian energy.]

[Panel description: Gamzee's eyes open in alarm, then he glows green and teleports away.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite and Jade continue their conversation, Jade looking aggressive. Behind them, John lifts the hammer with effort.]

DAVE SPRITE: the slammer.
JADE: yes.
do you have a problem with my terminology.
DAVE SPRITE: no.
but.

[Panel description: The hammer slams into Jade's head, knocking her glasses off. The word sassacrushed flashes above her as she falls over.]

[Panel description: Jade, in sprite mode and no longer grim bark, falls to the floor unconscious. Dave sprite and John watch. John is still holding the hammer.]

JOHN: you were supposed to catch her.
DAVE SPRITE: you didn’t tell me to.
JOHN: everyone knows you're supposed to catch unconscious people!
you don't want to let their head hit the floor.
DAVE SPRITE: you just hit her in the head with a gigantic fucking hammer.
JOHN: it's the thought that counts.
DAVE SPRITE: not with brain damage.
JOHN: what do we do with her now?
DAVE SPRITE: I don’t know.
it was your brilliant idea to knock her out.
JOHN: she's a lot less dangerous that way!!!
man, she's going to be really mad when she wakes up.
I would not want to be there.
I guess we should put her somewhere safe, or make sure that she doesn't wake up any time soon.
DAVE SPRITE: too bad you can’t throw her in the slammer.
JOHN: the troll fit in the fridge...
DAVE SPRITE: were not stuffing your sister in the fridge.
that’s messed up.
JOHN: sorry, just thinking out loud!
I guess there's someone who might be able to keep an eye on her.

[Panel description: John smiles and holds out a blue phone. Roxy's cat icon hovers in a speech bubble above it. Dave sprite looks over his shoulder.]

DAVE SPRITE: who’s that you’re messaging.
JOHN: roxy!
she's nice and funny, you'll like her.
especially since she's your...
never mind, that's still weird to think about.
DAVE SPRITE: what.
JOHN: you'll find out.

[Panel description: John reaches toward Jade’s sleeping body. She has a smile on her face and a solid black speech bubble hovering by her head.]

JOHN: come on, jade, we're going to lopan.
oh, darn, she doesn't fit in my sylladex.
up you go!

[Panel description: John smiles and drapes Jade over his shoulder.]

JOHN: oof!
DAVE SPRITE: you should probably grab the ring before you go.
JOHN: oh, right.
that would be pretty stupid if I lost it again after all this.

[Panel description: John reaches for the ring. It disappears from the sofa and appears in a captchalogue card.]

[Panel description: With Jade slung over his shoulder, John reaches toward Dave sprite's shoulder. Then they both zap away in a flash of light, leaving the room empty.]

JOHN: look, your mystical guidance is coming in handy already.
DAVE SPRITE: i hope you know what youre doing.
JOHN: don't worry.
for once, I think I actually do!

[Panel description: A stream of blue makes its way toward the Prospitian battleship.]

[Panel description: John's past self stands in front of the empty sofa. A thought bubble hovers above his head, flashing between a picture of the ring and a question mark.]

[Panel description: John stares down at the empty sofa. 'What the fuck' is written inside his wide open mouth.]

And the circle of stupidity is complete.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Roxy squeezes Dave sprite's cheeks and pulls him toward her. She is grinning broadly and vibrating with excitement. He looks alarmed. In the background, John looks stunned but unsure of how to react.]

ROXY: omg is this dirks kid.
he looks like him.
he looks like me 2!
this is so cool
John: yeah, that sure is how genetics work or something.
ROXY: now I’ve seen both of them.
omg this is so great.
i can’t wait to remeet rose when she’s not dying.
or in the middle of any other scenario contrived by the cruel and unfeeling universe trying to rob me of my mom times.
DAVE SPRITE: uh.
nice to meet you too ecto mom slash niece I guess.
you should probably hold off on the excitement until you meet the real dave though.
ROXY: wait.
there’s another one?
man why is there always a ridonkulous number of striders running around at any given moment.
I love it.
we should have a family reunion with nametags.
but what do u mean you’re not real.
is this a cunning disguise.
DAVE SPRITE: I mean I’m not the dave from this timeline.
trust me you’ll be able to tell.
ROXY: not being from this timeline makes you not real?
um...
what does that mean for me?
JOHN: don't worry, your situation is totally different.
ROXY: how?
JOHN: uh... well, you made a deal with nix so that this version of you could stay, so really the other version is the not real one.
ROXY: I’m not sure I like thinking bout any version of me that way.
I mean, you look pretty real 2 me!
DAVE SPRITE: it’s how the game works.
no big.
ROXY: sounds dumb.
the more family members the better as far as I’m concerned.

[Panel description: Roxy hugs Dave sprite as he frowns and leans backward. Two pink hearts hover around them. In the background, John looks on. The full panel is rendered in a very sketchy style.]

JOHN: cough.
roxy, we came here so you could keep an eye on jade for a while.

[Panel description: Jade sleeps on the ground. She is still smiling. Overhead, the skies of LOPAN are filled with swirling blue and green lights.]

ROXY: jakes scary werewolf grandma?
what do I do if she wakes up?
I like my organs where they are.
JOHN: I hit her pretty hard... hopefully she'll stay out for a while.
ROXY: at least the witch won’t find her as long as she’s with me.
thank u voidy magics.
b t w speaking of cool void stunts.
there’s something I might be able to do!
JOHN: like what?
ROXY: I’m supposed to be able 2 make stuff exist by taking the nothing away from it.
which sounds like a super lame power but works if you want to make a shit ton of green cubes for some reason.
I haven’t tried it on much that’s more important .
but.
I thought maybe I could steal the not remembering from people.
so that maybe they’ll know what happened like we do.
that’d save us a lot of time and explaining.
JOHN: that would make things easier.
but... I’m not sure it's a good idea?
ROXY: why not?
JOHN: everything that happened in that timeline was pretty terrible.
do you think they would want to remember?
ROXY: we did.
JOHN: sure, but we didn't die.
and I’m hoping that being in this new timeline will help me forget all of the awful things that happened in the old one, since they never actually happened.
I will have other things to think about, so I won't think about that.
ROXY: I see.
you don’t want them to remember because it might make them sad or hurt them.
but I’m thinking that it might help them!
by remembering maybe they won’t make the same mistakes they made the first time and no one will get hurt at all.
plus we won’t be the only ones to remember so it’ll be a lot less lonely.
sometimes remembering bad things can be good.
like when you mess up in a video game level and replay it and do it exactly right.
if I forgot what I did wrong every time I’d be stuck in level 1 forever.
then I’d never get anywhere!
JOHN: that makes sense, I guess...
Dave sprite, what do you think?
DAVE SPRITE: I told you this kind of time travel is way different than anything I have expertise on.
JOHN: yeah, but you just said you wanted me to check everything with you!
DAVE SPRITE: I did say that didn’t I?
the way we do it only one person remembers.
the time player.
and then they pass their knowledge along and die usually.
you have to hope everyone’s listening hard enough to not fuck up in the same way that doomed them last time.
instead they fuck up in a new and even more bizarre way.
never did seem fair that we’re the only ones that have to remember what went wrong.
maybe skaia thought no one else could take it and we could only deal because it wouldn’t be for long.
but if they could take it would save us a lot of trouble.
people might even learn something.
it helped rose out even if it did mess her up too.
and that meant that version of her didn’t really die.
so I say full steam ahead.
everyone fucked up.
let them own it for once.
JOHN: if you say so, then I will not disagree!
Roxy, how will this work?
ROXY: l o l like I know how my powers work.
I steal the forgetting in some metaphysical rogue way and the remembering pops through.
I hope.
I’m not exactly sure where all that stolen forgetting would go... maybe nowhere?
JOHN: probably nowhere important.
DAVE SPRITE: don’t look at me I’m not her game guide.
ROXY: no.
poor precious sweet sweet dear fefeta (sad face)
you left this world too soon.
I usually have to think about whatever I want to make, but it’s sort of hard to think about memories that way.

[Panel description: Roxy sits cross legged in the desert. She brings her hands close together, and the void symbol flickers between them. The void symbol is six curves arranged in a circle but not touching and is colored blue. Roxy is concentrating hard, with her tongue stuck out slightly. Above her head, a multicolored aurora swirls around her.]

ROXY: I guess I’ll just remember what I can and hope that’s enough.
ok anti-forgetting magic is a go.
shabam.

[Panel description: The same image repeats, but it slowly darkens until all that is visible is the glowing void symbol.]

[Panel description: The void symbol flickers in the dark, and then suddenly it disappears. Roxy is now visible again, and she looks up to her left looking surprised.]

ROXY: did it work?
DAVE SPRITE: I think so.
I remember getting hit by a planet.
lucky bastard.
JOHN: hang on, I’m getting a message.

[Panel description: Rose sits on the beach in the land of light and rain. She is typing into her laptop, which rests on a purple pillow with yellow trim. John's green alien icon hovers in a speech bubble above the laptop. Rose has a serious expression on her face. Behind her, Terezi walks past, looking at the laptop curiously.]

tentacle Therapist [TT] began pestering ecto Biologist [EB]

TT: We need to talk.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The image is a scribbled drawing in Terezi's style labeled Operation Regisurp with a 2 added in red. The original drawing was the 12 trolls lined up facing the black queen. Most of the trolls have been crossed out, while Dave, John, Rose, and Dave Sprite have been drawn over them. Horns and hair have been added to the black queen to make her look like the empress. Jane wearing her tiara top and a frowning Jake have been drawn next to her.]

PAST tentacle Therapist [PTT] 2 HOURS AGO opened public bulletin board Operation Regisurp 2.

CURRENT tentacle Therapist [CTT] RIGHT NOW opened memo on board Operation Regisurp 2.

CTT: Is everyone here?
I'm still not entirely familiar with this format.

[Panel description: Karkat and Kanaya both sit on logs in front of a fire in the land of frost and frogs. Kanaya looks at a vial of fuchsia blood in her hand. Karkat is toasting two hummingbirds on a stick while Rose's Light symbol flashes above his wrist communicator.]

CURRENT carcino Geneticist [CCG] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.
CCG: I can't believe we're doing this memo bullshit again.
Doesn't anyone remember how god awful a locomotive pileup the last time was?
CURRENT grim Auxiliatrix [CGA] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.
CGA: I don’t know.
I think it’s nostalgic.
CTT: Don't worry. It shouldn't be too painful.
In the interest of making shit take place, I'll cut down on the rhetorical flourishes.

[Panel description: Dave sits on the edge of his apartment building with his legs dangling over the side. He has one arm around the mayor and holds his phone in his other hand. Rose's symbol flashes above it.]

CURRENT turntechGodhead [CTG] (Dave) RIGHT NOW responded to memo.
CTG: oh damn that’s when you know it’s serious.

[Panel description: Rose continues to type on her laptop. Behind her, Terezi contemplates an enormous wizard statue with her hands on her hips.]

CTT: Does everyone have their copies of the Derse maps and keys?
It’s a good thing you held on to them.
CURRENT gallows Calibrator [CGC] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.
CGC: You never know when you might need to overthrow someone.
CTT: A sentiment I thoroughly endorse.
Remember, though, this is only an extraction mission.
Don’t tangle with the Empress or any of her agents.
We’ll deal with them later.

[Panel description: Dave sprite, John, and Roxy all sit on the sofa with their phones out and Rose's symbol flashing above their heads. To their right, Jade sleeps on a pile of pink and purple scarves.]

CURRENT tipsy Gnostalgic [CTG] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.
CTG: yeah dirk would be extra pissed if he didn’t get a chance to kick fish Hitler’s bedazzled butt.
CTT: Where is he?
CTG (Roxy): still a few hours out of range
and probably hella mad that he doesn’t get to invade with you guys.
CTT: I’m sure by the end of the day there will be carnage enough for all.
Are you still on LOPAN?
CTG (Roxy): yep.
dog sitting.
she hasn’t even moved.
john really walloped her.
CTT: The proximity to a Void player might be helping.
What with the inherent inscrutability and all.
CTG (Roxy): huh.
hadn’t thought of that.
you're so wise.
like a venerable wizard.
except instead of an old dude with a beard you’re a young and sexy babe.
which is really the best of both worlds t b h.
CTT: I don't know.
Sometimes I feel my life is lacking without a majestic and wizardly cascade of facial hair.
Perhaps I should try to cultivate one.
CGC: Lalondes, please stop dominating this conversation.
You can have your sickeningly sweet reunion in the flesh later.
Right now you are clogging this chat with the stink of your cavity inducing banter.
CURRENT ecto Biologist [CEB] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.
CEB: that’s not fair.
why does rose get to have her family reunion while my nanna’s still evil and dave’s bro is still in outer space?
CTG (Dave): no big.
he can take his time.
wouldn’t want him to sprain anything.
CTT: If all goes as planned, you’ll have Jane back in good condition soon.
Now, let’s review.

[Panel description: Dave sprite hovers in front of the totem lathe in his apartment. A blue smuppet is pinned underneath it. He is holding a captchalogue card with the image of his sprite necklace.]

CTT: Dave sprite will stand by until someone calls him for his part of the plan.
FUTURE turn tech Godhead [FTG] (Dave sprite) RIGHT NOW responded to memo.
FTG: my part sucks.

[Panel description: Karkat and Kanaya stand on LOFAF. Through a gap in the trees they can see the empress's bright red ship with a white trident on its underbelly.]

CTT: Karkat and Kanaya will draw the Empress away by contacting her and informing her that they’ve captured her missing servant.

[Panel description: Terezi leads Dave through a purple hallway. He is looking over his shoulder. She has placed her red blindfold back on and rests one hand on the wall. The word 'Sniff' appears above her head.]

CTT: Dave and Terezi will retrieve Jake from Derse’s dungeons.

[Panel description: John and Rose stand in a vaulted purple hallway on a red carpet that leads directly to a throne. A purple banner with Derse's symbol hangs behind the throne.]

CTT: John and I will locate and subdue Jane. Once we’ve found her, we’ll attempt to deactivate the device controlling her mind.
Once your objective is accomplished, get away from Derse before the Empress returns.
We'll plan our next move then.
Good luck.

[Panel description: The image shows the complete Incipisphere with all eight planets in place forming a wheel with eight spokes.]

CTT: Remember, we've been given a second chance.
Don't blow it.

CTT closed memo.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jade lies sleeping with a neutral expression. Then she sits up and looks distressed, with her eyebrows raised and her mouth open. She is sitting on a curved yellow pathway in the middle of a black void.]

[Panel description: Jade reaches up and puts her hands to either side of her head. She still looks distressed with an open mouth and raised eyebrows.]

You open your eyes to a headache and the strangest feeling that you've done this all before.

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope sit with their backs up against a stage. Calliope is dressed in her troll costume, with a green suit, gray face, white wig, and curling orange horns. The stage has a red brick base, metal scaffolds, lights perched on the scaffolding, a hand drawn back drop of green hills with a yellow sun in blue sky, and a green velvet curtain. It sits on a black circle surrounded by more swirling yellow pathways. This panel was reused from the canon comic.]

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope stand on the edge of the stage. Jade is now also dressed as a troll, with her skin painted gray and two orange horns shaped like parentheses. The curtains have been pulled back, and they face the painted backdrop, which is now clearly Jade's island, complete with a drawing of her white dog Bec and her home built on a hill. The floor of the stage has become more green hills. This panel was reused from the canon comic. ]

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope stand in the middle of the green hills. That scene fades away to be replaced by a hand drawn rendering of Jade's greenhouse in Calliope's art style. There are four white tables, two loaded with bright orange pumpkins and two with multicolored flowers resembling stacked spirographs. This panel was reused from the canon comic.]

[Panel description: Jade stands in front of some pumpkins. Her eyes have been colored yellow like a troll's. She looks downward and frowns, her eyebrows drawn together.]

[Panel description: Jade holds out her hands, which have been colored imperfectly with gray paint. In places, her regular skin shows through.]

JADE: callie... I think I’m starting to remember some things.
CALLIOPE: really? that's wonderful!
JADE: no, it’s really not.
in fact I think it’s kind of terrible.
CALLIOPE: (exclamation points).
JADE: I was right.
I did hurt people.
the trolls empress was already in the session when we arrived.
I thought I had everything under control, but before I knew it she’d taken control of me instead.
jane and I both ended up being bad guys...
and it’s my fault the empress got her too (sad face).
CALLIOPE: none of it is your fault.
trust me, I have plenty of experience in having your body used for awful things.
and then waking up to see all the mess you have made. it really is frustrating!
but you shouldn’t fret over actions you had no control over.
JADE: well.
the thing is.
that
part of me wanted to do those things.
it sounds bad but
part of me wanted to hit john.
he was such a jerk sometimes during our trip!!
I tried to be supportive and nice but he kept complaining.
and karkat was mean to me for years.
and dave!!! O m g.
he kept going on and on about his problems.
all I wanted was for him to take the stupid sword and stop being such a huge baby (frustrated face).
they all made me so angry!
I tried not to let them see it before but then it all came out.
I don’t know how I’d ever be able to face them again.
CALLIOPE: blimey, jade, I never would have guessed!
I would hate to think that any of my friends secretly thought poorly of me.
why did you keep all that quiet for so long? aren't friends supposed to share their feelings?
JADE: anger isn’t a useful feeling to share though.
it doesn’t help get anything done.
it only makes people not like you.
and I know everyone has problems and reasons why they act the way they do.
like
Dave has actual problems I guess, even if sometimes it seems like he never stops talking about them!
and john and karkat had reasons for the way they acted too, even if I don’t know if those reasons were always good excuses.
so I shouldn’t get angry about that.
that’s not being a very good friend.
CALLIOPE: being angry might have been an advantage for me.
my kind is meant to feel fury in the face of injustice.
if I had mustered up the courage to get properly combative, maybe I would have defeated my brother instead of the other way around.
JADE: you have a brother too?
CALLIOPE: not in the way you understand the term, but yes!
I suspect even you would have trouble keeping your temper if you met him.
he is extremely unpleasant.
in fact, he is the reason I am here. (sad U U face).
JADE: (surprised face).
your own brother killed you?
CALLIOPE: it may seem strange to you, but that is how my species functions.
our kind is caught in a constant struggle of attrition until one sibling gives up the ghost.
I had hoped to find another way, but I realize now that I was deluding myself.
one of us was always going to win out in the end, and he ensured that it would be him.
and here I am, a ghost in actuality as well as metaphor.
for a while longer, anyway.
JADE: wow.
suddenly my own problems don’t sound so bad.
my friends and family would never hurt me.
except...
I guess maybe they did?
I still don’t remember exactly how I died.
maybe that’s a good thing.
I don’t want to remember one of my friends killing me, even if I am better off gone.
CALLIOPE: I know the feeling.
it would have been better for the universe if I had never been born.
unfortunately I think my brother's mastery of time ensured that he would always predominate.
any other outcome would be relegated to the furthest reaches of paradox space to decay in a doomed timeline.
JADE: hmm.
CALLIOPE: what?
JADE: some parts of your story sound very familiar.
I think I might know where I remember you from.
but.
those memories are from a part of my life I’m not proud of.
CALLIOPE: another one?
JADE: I guess I have a lot of those (awkward face).
after my dream self died she met a lot of people in the bubbles.
I think one of those people might have been you!
or another version of you anyway.
but I am not sure that I want to remember.
CALLIOPE: why not?
JADE: when I brought my dream self back...
I hated her!
she was so weak and pathetic.
she only cared about herself, not about what other people needed.
she didn’t even care that there was work to be done.
she just sat there and cried until I god tiered and she became a part of me again.
but I made sure that she was only a very small part.
I’m afraid remembering will make her a bigger part of me, and I don’t want to be like that.
CALLIOPE: be like what, exactly?
JADE: sad and afraid and selfish.
I’m already a liability, I don’t need to be more of one.
CALLIOPE: so you hurt people because you were angry and didn't want them to know, and now you can't remember because you don't want to feel sad?
I’m sorry jade but that doesn't make very much sense to me!
JADE: it sounds silly, but when I grew up I was all alone.
I couldn’t stop to be sad or upset.
it didn’t matter if things were unfair because no one was going to help me.
things had to get done if I was going to survive, and I had to be the one to do them.
so I did, and feeling bad about it never made anything better.
CALLIOPE: hmm...
I grew up alone too.
well, sort of.
suffice to say, my interactions with others were limited.
and what companionship I did have was indirect and unsatisfactory.
our situations are not identical by any means, but I will say this.
I kept secrets from my friends because I had to, and because speaking in puzzles and riddles is in my nature, but I didn't relish it.
I always felt that it stood in the way of us truly being able to trust each other.
and now that I am dead and beyond my brother's reach, for now at least, I find a certain satisfaction in sharing the details of my story.
I feel like it helps me make more and better friends, like you!
so perhaps keeping secrets was necessary once for you, I don't know.
especially if it was important to the way you grew up alone.
but I also think it is important for you to know...
that you are not alone now.
JADE: ...
Ok.
I will try to remember.

[Panel description: Jade stands with one hand upraised. After a moment, her troll costume and god tier outfit blur and disappear. They are replaced by her Prospit dreamer's dress. Green tears run down her cheeks, and there is a green teardrop on her fingers.]

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope face away with their backs to the viewer. Their greenhouse surroundings fade away to be replaced with painted green curtains. The curtains are draped to either side to create an arching entrance in the middle.]

JADE: the other person I met was like you but... not quite.
she was a god tier and
closed off somehow.
I think she wanted to be kind but she didn’t know how.
instead she seemed very very lonely, like she’d been in that empty bubble for centuries.
I felt really bad for her, but she said she was waiting for someone.
CALLIOPE: who?
JADE: she didn’t say...

[Panel description: In the center of the parted curtains, there is a shadowy green figure with two dark green circles in the middle of its face.]

JADE: but I think she was waiting for you!

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Kanaya and Karkat stand on LOFAF. They are so small they are mostly smudges of color. Far above them, part of the Empress's ship is visible entering the frame.]

[Panel description: The Empress stands in profile facing to the left against a red and black background. She is visible from her shoulders to her hips. Gold jewelry decorates her arm, and she is holding the gold and pink striped shaft of her trident. Her body glows with an aura of multicolored flashing light. Her long hair streams behind her.]

[Panel description: The Empress stands on the right side of the panel, with half of her torso visible and still flashing with multicolored light. The light casts long shadows behind Kanaya and Karkat, who look small in comparison. Karkat stands stiffly and with determination. Kanaya looks over at him.]

H I C: ugh.
what the shell do we got here.
the rainbow drinker and this
Nasty ass mutant blood kid.
KARKAT: I resent that statement but I’m going to let it slide.
To borrow your inane scheme of punnage for a moment,
We have more important fish to fry here.
H I C: sounds delicious but I also got some serious shit going down.
serious shit that you in the process uh throwin a decent sized sea monkey wrench into.
again.
KARKAT: I'm delighted that you've noticed.
Despite your rousing efforts to corral us into your greatest hits of caste slavery reenactment, we have stumbled into some advantageous foreknowledge, allowing us to thwart your schemes.
H I C: the shell you talking bout.
KARKAT: Do I look like I'm done talking?
This windfall,
And yes, our own personal hero of wind was involved, buckteeth and all.
Has allowed us to capture a key pawn in your game.

[Panel description: Roxy sits on a white sofa, smiling and looking to the right where Jade sleeps peacefully. Someone has placed pink bows in Jade's hair at the base of each of her dog ears. A stuffed pink and white toy cat has been tucked under her arm, and a stuffed wizard sits on her back.]

KARKAT: We have the witch in our possession out cold, cuddled up in some disgustingly cute doll pile that cradles her harmless squishy human body, unable to do jack and shit to carry out your plans for a second run of universal domination.

[Panel description: The Empress scowls, revealing sharp jagged teeth. She rests her clenched fists on her hips. Her body continues to flash against the backdrop of her swirling hair, which fills almost the entire panel.]

H I C: What?
you have got to be krilling me.
you seriously think I’ll believe you caught her.
Really?
KARKAT: Well, I’m assuming that's the reason I am currently standing here contemplating shitty fish puns and not writhing all over the ground with my vital organs throwing a party to which I was not invited.
Oh, but I welcome you to make that a thing.
Wait, you can't, because jade's three wool beasts deep in snooze-land.
Worry not, your imperiousness.
We are in fact willing to barter for her release.

[Panel description: The Empress raises her hands, and they glow with more of the same multicolored fire. The flashing increases in speed as she grins.]

H I C: pff.
Hahahaha.
you shelling me that you seriously had the guts to come up to me.
to me.
and say all that?
boy I oughta turn you into chum.
you’re asking for it really hard with all this disrespect you’re givin me.
you know I still got one gill up and about right?
I say we make the chum party happen.
KARKAT: Not really advisable from a strategic standpoint.
You made a mistake when you allowed evil jade to make her villainous monologues.
Which to be honest until she broke out the oversized cutlery were about as intimidating as Lalonde on a liter or two of human soporifics.
Actually, I might take the villainous taunting over another lecture on the perils of theoretical alchemization.
You'd better give her the antagonist 4 1 1.
Never give away your plan.
and it is thanks to this oversight in strategy and common fucking sense that I am not currently shitting these high-waisted pants of mine in sheer undignified terror.
you see, a little psycho dog girl told us that you need us to bargain with echidna.
now you could threaten us with death-and-revival-by-crocker once more, except-
oh wait! You can't! Evil jade also blabbed on how jane's powers worked!!
I never thought I would say this but thank the dubiously aligned eldritch gods I’ve gotten forked already once today, because as much as I love writhing around in my own bodily fluids, that bargaining chip has been chucked unceremoniously out the window, following the same elegant trajectory as Crocker’s weapon slicing through my torso column.
kanaya is immune as well. Jane's powers don't even work on her.
KANAYA: well actually.
I mean yes that is a biological fact.
I am very certain of that suddenly.

[Panel description: The Empress puts one hand to her head in a pained gesture. She is frowning.]

H I C: cod I had enough dealin with meddlin trolls today.
at least the last one had a decent color on her.
and that last mutant blood I dealt with managed to get a whole uprisin against me.
what you got? two troll girls and a merry band uh humans in stupid outfits?

[Panel description: The image zooms out to show the Empress as a small flashing figure hovering in front of the trident symbol on her enormous red ship.]

H I C: buoy you nothing compared to what I’ve seen.

[Panel description: Karkat stands in front of a backdrop of green trees. His mouth is open like he is shouting, and one of his eyebrows is furrowed.]

Karkat: who said I needed all that bullshit anyway?
H I C: begging your fuckin pardon.
Karkat: I don't need to be my ancestor.
I met the guy, and he's an absolute fucking tool who keeps running his mouth.
drowning all unfortunate enough to be near in an unending red tide of self-righteous crap.
way more dignity in brevity if you ask me.
I also met your alt-self and you know what?
she was alright.
she was the kind of kick in the teeth her session needed.
that's your style. You get shit done. A jab in the soft cushioned portions of the posterior pads to get everyone's shit together.
but that isn't everything a leader needs to be.
that attitude fucked up Meenah’s session and made alternia a hellhole.
sometimes.
it wasn't all bad. It was efficient, but Jesus fuck was all the culling really necessary?
most of the fauna planet side was already trying to kill us, and here we go throwing ourselves onto the heap like the universe's most murder happy dog pile.
and the sufferer?
I guess he had the right idea, but if he was anything like kankri he was probably a dick too.
it's like our planet was incapable of growing anything but the most warped and deranged individuals.
and I know what I’m talking about from personal experience.
but let me tell you, after trying to wrangle what was left of our species into line.
which was about as easy as herding a gang of subjuggulators into a grub van.
I can formally testify that the color of our blood means jack shit.
it's the runny gunk flowing in our veins that keeps us alive.
and if you lose too much of it you die.
I’ve seen high bloods die and low bloods die and our entire planet get wiped out by a firestorm of skaia-directed and monster screeching death,
and in the end that's what the color of our fucking blood means.
H I C: buoy you sick in the think pan.
in case you ain’t noticed we divided pretty neatly by blood.
Karkat: yeah yeah, fancy ass psychic abilities and all that caste bullshit, I get it.
biology got overexcited with the color-coding and here we are.
but Meenah didn't judge on that.
she offered me a place in her army when she knew I was a filthy mutant who'd failed as a leader in my own session.
I’m one of the only ones left.
our high bloods all flipped their pans and killed each other off.
Now it's just me and two mid bloods.
aradia and sollux wherever they are floating out in the soothing embrace of our friendly neighborhood eldritch monstrosities.
and gamzee, but even if he won out the high blood free-for-all he's so entrenched in the pan-flipping territory that his hive is now a cozy little burrow of honking madness, so who gives a shit about gamzee right now?
not me.
meenah looked at me and saw somebody who was trying to shove a boot up everyone's waste chutes so that maybe we all didn't die a horrible death.
in some cases, again.
when she asked me to help lead her ghost army, it didn't matter what color I had in my veins.
if she can do that, maybe you can listen to the nasty-ass mutant blood for two fucking minutes.
so that maybe,
maybe,
we won't stab our own species into mutually-assured extinction.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Terezi and Dave walk through a purple stone hallway away from the viewer. Terezi turns her head over her shoulder back at Dave. She is still wearing her red blindfold.]

Terezi: what happened to your eye?
Dave: damn.
thought I’d covered that up.
Terezi: I can’t see it.
but your face smells like a juicy ripening plum.

[Panel description: Dave reaches up and touches his face. A purple bruise is barely visible around his eye beneath one of the lenses of his shades.]

DAVE: glad to know my pain is delicious.
the knowledge that I’m a delight to your olfactory senses makes it all worth it.
Terezi: so what happened?
Dave: I don’t want to talk about it.
Terezi: of course you don’t.
Dave: what’s that supposed to mean.
Terezi: you never want to talk about anything important.
or if you do you bury it under a lot of silly nonsense to try to distract people who aren’t looking closely enough.
Dave: since when.
Terezi: since always.
it was always hard to have a serious conversation with you because you didn’t want to bring up real issues.
don’t you remember all the time we spent in can town not talking about things?
the mayor was probably the most open about his feelings and he doesn’t speak!!
DAVE: ok fine whatever why are you bringing this up now.
if this is some sort of eternal personal failing why are we talking about it three years later on the way to john’s grandma’s torture dungeon?
although I mean I appreciate the distraction because damn.
that whole situation is making me mad uncomfortable thinking about it.
why does she even have one of those?
Terezi: it seemed like a good time.
johns giving us all a fresh start.
we don’t want to stumble back into our previous blunders.
being honest seems like a good way to avoid more trouble.
also I am very curious about the black eye.
as far as I know we have not engaged with any adversaries since we reset.
are there any dangerous face smashers on the prowl?
Dave: no.
it’s not a big deal.
Terezi: urgh.
it will not kill you to explain.
DAVE: dunno what your fixation is on hearing all the sordid details of my life.
do you get your kicks as some kind of teen drama voyeur.
actually you probably do its right up there with arranging murders.
but my private thoughts aren’t nearly as exciting as a crime scene so it’s not like you were missing out.
Terezi: you weren’t being noble by sparing us your thoughts.
you were hiding.
I understood staying focused during your session.
it was a lot of pressure and you couldn’t afford to freeze up again.
but afterward you still didn’t want to talk about things.
and I never pushed you because I had my own topics I wanted to avoid.
and eventually that turned into not talking at all.
DAVE: are you blaming all that on me.
that’s not fair.
I’m pretty sure I remember you sneaking around being shifty and suspicious.
Terezi: no.
it’s not fair.
I did my own share of hiding too.
we are both guilty parties here.
Dave: besides can I even keep secrets from a seer.
can’t you read my mind and find all the answers you want.
Terezi: as I have said many times before my powers are not mind reading!
although it is true that your mind is easy to decipher.
all the things you think you are doing to be secretive only make the truth more obvious.
your brain is like a squishy gray book I keep on my shelf that I can open anytime I want. [smirking face].
DAVE: yeah see graphic descriptions of my insides are in the top five of things I missed about hanging out with you.
Terezi: you made a list?
prosecution requests it as evidence.
Dave: it’s a mental list.
which shouldn’t be a problem since my brains hanging out on your bookcase.
Terezi: while I am often able to find meaning in your inane babbling.
sometimes it’s refreshing to get straight answers.
neither of us volunteered so now I’m asking instead of picking apart your words and drawing conclusions to show how clever I am.
I would like you to return the favor.
it’s nice to be trusted sometimes.
DAVE: trust.
that’s something we’ve got a lot of.
TEREZI: [scowling face].
DAVE: fine.

[Panel description: Terezi points at Dave and laughs while he presses his hands to his face in shame.]

DAVE: I got in a fight with myself.
Terezi: haha really??
Dave: hey!
Terezi: sorry.
that’s just such a karkat thing to do.
remember when he used to have screaming arguments with his past and future selves?
during our session we watched those memos for hours.
Dave: those were all ridiculously arbitrary temporal distinctions though.
like himself from 20 minutes in the future or an hour in the past.
they’ve got all the conversational sophistication of bashing your head into the mirror.
Terezi: or punching yourself in the face?
Dave: I acknowledge that doesn’t sound any different but it totally is.
there were legitimate grievances being aired ok.
Terezi: how about you tell me what happened.
then I can be the judge of that.

[Panel description: Terezi and Dave face each other in the purple hallway. They are rendered as silhouettes of pure teal and red color.]

[Panel description: The scene changes to Dave and Dave sprite facing each other in front of the alchemiter on the roof of Dave's built up apartment building. They are rendered as silhouettes of orange and red.]

DAVE: remember your part of the plan.
DAVE SPRITE: don’t get me started.
I swear its some kind of sick joke.
DAVE: nah the seers know what they’re doing usually.
ok they spent the last 3 years having no fucking clue but when its go time I’ll trust them.
DAVE SPRITE: I don’t get why you’re not using time powers.
that would make this a lot easier.
don’t want john stealing your thunder.
DAVE: he can have it.
dudes already got storms and a hammer he might as well go full thor.
didn’t I say something about juggalo loki earlier.
see no reference I make is wasted.
it always ends up being relevant later in some bizarre and or batshit way.
it’s been three years and neither of us has bleated like a goat for ironic purposes yet but our time will come.
setting aside comparing us to marvel characters.
which seems like the kind of conversation that could spiral out of control way too fast.
if john wants to time travel it can be his headache.
I’ll send him a gift pack of Advil and a note saying "good job being a better hero than me as per fucking usual".
like hell I mean his time travels been fucking everything up left and right and giving the alpha timeline at least ten new assholes a minute but hey.
his issue now.
he’s bailed us out at least once which is more than I’ve done lately.
and anyway I gave all that up a while ago.
DAVE SPRITE: you what.
DAVE: I gave it up.
see.
time travel is like karate.
DAVE SPRITE: don’t start with the bullshit similes we both know that’s a diversionary tactic.
DAVE: fine.
I quit because I felt like it.
happy.

[Panel description: Dave faces away from the viewer with his arms lifted wide. Dave sprite hovers up and down rapidly. His eyebrows are furrowed, and his mouth is open in a wide frown.]

DAVE SPRITE: what.
no.
you can’t do that.
DAVE: watch me.
DAVE SPRITE: it’s your job.
DAVE: I didn’t apply.
so what if skaia got its peep on and said hey that guy sure looks like he could use a mortal wound or two.
I’m not playing that game anymore.
I’m sick of dying and watching myself die and wondering which I’m going to be doing next.
I’m sick of knowing that were all hemmed into the alpha timeline because LOOPS even if the alphas terrible.
with everyone relying on me to save them from some kind of disaster when sometimes the disaster is built into what has to happen.
and you have to sit back and watch everything go to hell because all you can do is make it worse.
inevitability’s a bitch.
good on john for fucking it up.
he’s doing more than I ever could.
DAVE SPRITE: I can’t believe this.
sure we’ve got the shittiest of all shitty gigs.
I can relate.
I don’t know how much rewind loop time I racked up before I came back to save johns sorry ass and had to see the exact same shit you saw.
but I did my job.
DAVE: and look how you turned out.
how’s that going for you?
DAVE SPRITE: how it’s going for ME doesn’t matter.
the important part is I fixed what was broken so YOU could get on with it.
because that’s what time heroes do, remember.
our friends need our help.
and if you sit around doing nothing it won’t help anyone.
DAVE: I’m not doing nothing.
does it really have to be that big a deal whether I’m time traveling or not.
We’re getting shit done without me having to die every five seconds which as far as I’m concerned seems like a pretty good plan.
DAVE SPRITE: the dying doesn’t matter.
if you die you die.
that’s the risk you have to take and at the end of the day
you’re still you.
you won’t lose anything important.
DAVE: ok sure I’m still me.
but then who the hell are you.
DAVE SPRITE: that doesn’t matter either.
Dave: what do you even mean by it not mattering?
you’re me I’m you blah blah blah.
I mean Jesus.
did I really sound like that?
DO I sound like that?
DAVE SPRITE: ...
DAVE: whatever ok the point is I’m not time traveling anymore period the end.
close the door go home turn out the lights we’re done here.
DAVE SPRITE: then what the fuck is the point.
what are we even here for if you won’t do what you’re supposed to do?
DAVE: are you gonna go bird shit on me if I say it doesn’t matter.
DAVE SPRITE: oh shut up.

[Panel description: Dave points with one hand and rests his other hand on his hip in a fist. One of his eyebrows is quirked angrily.]

DAVE: no you know what.
you shut up.
all the nihilistic self loathing bullshit you’ve been spewing at me since we met back up is just.
no fucking wonder.

[Panel description: Dave, facing away from the viewer, puts one hand to his head. Dave sprite watches him, leaning in and still frowning.]

DAVE SPRITE: no wonder what.
DAVE: oh come on.
don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.
I know you spent the last three years trying to ruin things with jade and john.
it’s obvious you resent me for being the real Dave.
and it’s given you some kind of wild hang-up about not being real enough to warrant still being friends with them.
so if I get myself killed it’ll iron that wrinkle right out of the fabric of time won’t it.

[Panel description: Dave and Dave sprite, facing each other, hold up their hands and vibrate up and down as they argue. To the far right of the panel, the mayor watches them.]

DAVE SPRITE: are you crazy? can you hear the words coming out of your mouth right now?
did john retcon us into some bizarre alternate reality where you were dropped on your head even more as a baby.
why would you even think that?
DAVE: because that’s what being me is, remember.
you were just on my case about time travel.
that’s what time travel does.
I only exist because I got lucky and a bunch of other daves didn’t.
they flipped a coin and I came down heads.
so I got to keep going and they died to make it easier.
everything I am is taking what someone else made and kicking him to the fucking curb.
but you’re the exception.
because you wound up sticking around ten times longer than any of them.
outliving whatever purpose the game set up for you that you embraced like skaia was offering you the broest of bro hugs and never let go even when the two of you wound up pasted together with man sweat.
so you’re trying to push it on me and no.
thanks bro but no.
DAVE SPRITE: I’m not trying to.
that’s not what I’m fucking doing at all.

[Panel description: The mayor, with most of his face still obscured by his robes, watches the argument with his eyes moving back and forth between the two.]

DAVE SPRITE: I was trying to make them hate ME.
making sure they’d go back to you.
I was doing the equivalent of keeping a seat warm for your ungrateful ass.
it’s not like they ever really wanted me.
I wasn’t supposed to be here.
DAVE: I bet that rankles you doesn’t it.
being so purposeless.
I mean what were you doing while the rest of us got slaughtered.
if you hadn’t been so busy wallowing in your own misery maybe fewer people would have died.
DAVE SPRITE: oh sure because I would have made a difference.
anyway what did you do?
what was your big contribution?
DAVE: I went to get jades body back from the dogs.
Dave sprite: you fucking moron.
you know they wouldn’t have hurt her.
or were you so wrapped up in playing hero that you forgot.
DAVE: at least I tried.
people needed my help and I stayed.
DAVE SPRITE: not where they needed you.
instead you fucked off where you could act out some bullshit fantasy.
of what "real heroes" are supposed to do even though we both know we were never cut out for any of that.
DAVE: you weren’t there.

[Panel description: Dave and Dave sprite are rendered in a silly scribbled style with long stick arms slapping at each other. The words Flap and Screech flash above them.]

DAVE: you don’t know what it was like getting to lofaf and seeing one of your friends all smashed up and being manhandled by a mass murderer.
and everything’s on fire and breaking apart and you don’t know how many people are dead or about to die.
so yeah when someone told me something I could do I did it so I’d be doing SOMETHING.
maybe it wasn’t the most breathtakingly logical leap I ever made.
like a perfect swan dive into the waters of absolute clarity and commonsense.
but I wasn’t thinking straight.
DAVE SPRITE: you panicked and did what you had to.
let me guess.
you didn’t use time travel.
DAVE: it slipped my mind.
DAVE SPRITE: what if you’d had time to think.
what if you were the last one left instead of john.
what would you have done then?
DAVE: I don’t know.
DAVE SPRITE: would you have let them rot.
sat around having some big damn existential crisis about should I or shouldn’t I when they were already gone.
is that what you were going to do?
god.

[Panel description: Dave raises his arms again as he continues to talk. Dave sprite watches him with his back to the viewer. Behind them, the mayor continues to stand there.]

DAVE SPRITE: I can’t believe I thought you’d be any better than what I turned into.
I spent all this time thinking the real Dave wouldn’t have gone to shit like I did and look at you.
you’re not a hero.
you’re a joke.
DAVE: I said I don’t KNOW.
I think I would.
I want to think I would.
but I can’t know unless I’m in that situation.
just like you can’t understand what was going through my head since you weren’t there with me.
talk about shit that doesn’t matter. that’s all hypothetical, it already happened.
call the guy from aliens because game over man.
done deal.
DAVE SPRITE: so then you get it.
that it doesn’t matter.
DAVE: doesn’t matter doesn’t matter doesn’t MATTER.
oh for fucks sake SHUT UP.
I get it.
nothing matters.
I don’t matter you don’t matter nothing matters.

[Panel description: Dave holds out his arms as he continues to talk.]

DAVE: but you still keep shoving my whole purpose bullshit down my throat.
which is it?
I bet you don’t even know.
you’re just so desperate to give me back the role so you can go off yourself.
since there’s nothing else for you to do now right.
you did jack shit when all that happened.
sounds like you fucked up any kind of friendship you could have possibly had with john and jade.
but yeah ok.
come back and tell me to get back on the rails.
come back and tell the real Dave the alpha Dave the one who "matters" to get his ass in gear.
like we’re running a relay or something.
and you’re passing john and jade and everything else off to me like a fucking baton you’ve been carrying for the last three years.
and now you’re going to go sit on the bleachers and dump Gatorade on yourself while I bust my ass.
like hey these aren’t people this isn’t a life.

[Panel description: Dave sprite frowns. His eye twitches.]

DAVE: it’s just one more goddamn burden you don’t want to deal with anymore.
let me clean up all the messes you made with everyone and we’ll forget you were even here like you seem to want.
toss you out with the garage sale rummage rack as some shitty knockoff bargain bin Dave who thought he was tough shit.

[Panel description: Dave sprite punches Dave in the side of the face, knocking him backward. The phrase 'bird punch!' is written at the top of the panel. A flashing red and orange star illustrates the impact. The panel references the canon panel of John punching Vriska.]

[Panel description: Dave sits on the ground with one hand pressed over his eye.]

DAVE SPRITE: SHUT.
UP!!!

[Panel description: Dave sprite hovers up and down quickly. He is drawn in a loose and messy style referencing a canon panel of Karkat throwing a tantrum.]

DAVE SPRITE: Jesus Christ don’t you think I know.
you’re probably saying it because I DO know.
I know I’m a copy.
I know I’m a failure.
do you think I want more time for myself?
I would LOVE to not exist.
like you said this was never supposed to last as long as it did.
point the way to English and sign me up for double death.
that sounds like a weekend at the fucking spa compared to this.
I’m done ok I was done a long time ago.
you’re the one who matters now whether you like it or not.
which means you have to get your shit together.
I mean we share the same first thirteen years of our lives.
this isn’t anything you shouldn’t know about yourself.
maybe because I didn’t have anyone to talk to for a while I got well acquainted with the massive skeleton army chilling in my closet.
I’m fucked up.
we’re fucked up.
every dave in the entirety of paradox space is fucked up.
I must have been completely insane to think that any version of me could possibly have his shit together.
We’re like a universal constant.
this is probably groundbreaking.
scientists should be studying us.
waiting for us to inevitably reach a critical mass of pure bullshit so they can harness us as a renewable resource.
We’ll power the multiverse forever because we somehow never stop getting WORSE.
DAVE: why did you think that in the first place.
you’re up close and personal with my brain you know it’s a goddamn disaster.
shits like getting front row tickets to your own personal car crash 24 7.
after watching high speed collisions you don’t jump into one of the burned out shells and try to switch on the ignition.
DAVE SPRITE: I don’t know.
I really don’t.
and I feel like a complete idiot that I ever did.
but you know what.
I don’t care if these expectations are higher than a goddamn ivy league application I’m still holding you to them.
the game’s not over.
we had the chance to make something out of it and of course I fucking took it.
we were made that way for fucks sake.
soldiering on from meteor impact to find some way to be useful and take orders and be the hero until we run out of meaningful shit to do.
I thought it would make me happy.
Dave strider saves the day stops everyone from dying horribly full stop there we go I did it I’m a hero now time to die.
and then I didn’t.
but it’s not like I had a good moment to give a last hurrah and die a hero’s death or whatever.
not a whole lot of heroic jazz to killing yourself is there.
you’re supposed to go down in a blazing wreck owning someone’s shit or pushing someone out of the way of an incoming eighteen wheeler so you’re remembered and cherished or.
or what the fuck ever.

[Panel description: Dave stands up and brushes off his cape. He now has a bruise under one eye. Dave sprite presses one hand to his forehead.]

DAVE SPRITE: (sigh).
I know I should stop comparing myself to him.
bro I mean.
because.
let’s just.
...
let’s be honest he was a piece of shit.
and whatever image I had of him as a hero has long since chucked itself into the green sun.
DAVE: ... … …
DAVE SPRITE: I’m not saying anything new to you am I.
I’m not going to come up with some pseudo insincere way to talk around the issue so I can blow it off and pretend it wasn’t what it was.
we have to put on our big kid pants already and deal with it.
he was shitty and terrible and that’s that.
you have to get past it and not expect a goddamn handout when you’re working behind the scenes.
you don’t have to be a big damn hero.
I’m just asking you not to have made me come all this way for nothing.
if you give it a shot in the end you’ll be fine.
DAVE: why are you so sure.
DAVE SPRITE: you’re the alpha.
alphas always right.
DAVE: since when.
DAVE SPRITE: since always.
that’s the rule remember.
alphas on the right track.
doomed means you fucked up.
dead.

[Panel description: Dave and Dave sprite face each other in profile. They are drawn in a more detailed style reminiscent of an etching.]

DAVE: dead daves are the enemy.

[Panel description: Dave sprite continues speaking to Dave with one hand raised.]

DAVE SPRITE: there was no point in them spending time with a dead end.
I was helping everyone out.
DAVE: you actually believed that making them hate you would make them cozy up to me.
incredible.
this is what this game does to you.
Roses drunk, jades a werewolf, and john.
DAVE SPRITE: rose is drunk??
DAVE: old news dude.
DAVE SPRITE: I can’t believe this.
this was supposed to be the good timeline.
we were supposed to fix things.
how did everyone turn into such a bunch of.
DAVE: losers?
DAVE SPRITE: maybe you’re right.
maybe I should have rotted in a doomed timeline like I was supposed to.
not like I did much good here.
DAVE: you saved john, I guess.
DAVE SPRITE: yeah.
I guess I did.
and jade.
for a while.
the part of the plan I fucked up was not dying.
rose said it was foolproof.
I must be even more of an idiot than she gave me credit for.
that was supposed to be the easy part.
DAVE: see why I’m not exactly gung ho about this.
DAVE SPRITE: I get it.
but we both know when it comes down to it you’ll do what you have to.
DAVE: why are you so sure.
DAVE SPRITE: cause I’m you.
used to be anyway.
I don’t think three years was enough to change that much.
DAVE: we’ll find out.
not right now though I think the seers have got everything on lockdown without any major heroics needed on my part.
so you don’t need to fly in and kick my ass for lying down on the job.
DAVE SPRITE: how’s your eye.
DAVE: I’ll live.
DAVE SPRITE: sorry about that.
didn’t mean it.
DAVE: me neither.
so we can keep this lapse in being breathtakingly cool and emotionally stable between us right.
DAVE SPRITE: sure.
I’m not planning on advertising that my hobbies include punching myself in the face.
DAVE: shit.
I sound like karkat.
jades right he’s rubbing off on me.
I knew something about him had to be contagious.
DAVE SPRITE: he’s the all caps troll right.
DAVE: yeah.
he’s cool when you get to know him.
not as subtle about the fights with himself though.
DAVE SPRITE: sounds like a standup guy.
have you met roxy yet.
DAVE: roses mom.
nah I figured roses parked exclusively in the mom zone.
don’t want to cramp her style.
whenever I bring the mutual mom thing up it gets awkward.
DAVE SPRITE: she’s cool.
kinda hug happy.
DAVE: she already hugged you.
now you’re stealing my ecto mom too I can’t believe this.
DAVE SPRITE: I didn’t ask her to.
she ambushed me like a PDA hungry che Guevara.
DAVE: joking.
DAVE SPRITE: between you and me though mom hugs are pretty great.
as long as you’re willing to run the gauntlet of alarmingly personal questions that comes with them.
DAVE: ill see if I can get in on that some time rose can’t make it weird.
I don’t know why she always complained about her setup.
the whole mom thing sounds.
different.
but nice.
guerilla affection has got to be better than the brutal urban warfare we were subjected to.
DAVE SPRITE: rose didn’t know how lucky she was.
DAVE: she might’ve done better with bro than us though.
they’ve got the same killer instinct.
DAVE SPRITE: Jesus.
I don’t even want to think about it.
no one deserves that.
DAVE: we’ll be in for lalonde style brutal warfare if we don’t get our asses in gear.
operation regisurp 2 is a go.
don’t want to be late.
DAVE SPRITE: nah it’d make a bad impression.
being the time guys and all.
since that’s still a thing.
DAVE: yeah.
guess it is.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: John and Rose walk through a purple hallway with Gothic style windows looking out onto a purple cityscape. They are rendered as silhouettes of blue and yellow.]

[Panel description: John looks up at the vaulted ceiling. He is smiling and looks carefree. Behind him, Rose looks to the side neutrally.]

JOHN: wow, remember the last time we explored a creepy castle together?
I hope things go better this time.
ROSE: Me too.
I'm sorry if I scared you back then. I wasn't myself.
Or... I was, but I was not well-behaved.
JOHN: pff, you didn't scare me.
ROSE: No?
JOHN: you're my friend, and I know you would never hurt me.
if anything, I was scared FOR you.
ROSE: Scared for me?
JOHN: sure!
even if I didn't know why, I could tell you were really mad.
you were hot on jack's trail so you could clobber him with your knitting needles, and I was afraid you'd get hurt.
and you did.
we both did.
it's a good thing I was able to bring you back to life!
ROSE: Thanks for that, by the way.
I don't think I ever mentioned it back when we were caught up in all the chaos of our session, and I didn't get a chance to later.
But it was a lot to ask of anyone, even a friend, and you administered the kiss of life like a pro.
I owe you one.
JOHN: no problem.
kissing a dead person was weird, but it wasn't that bad.
I think kissing an alive person might be weirder.
ROSE: Really, now?
JOHN: wait, was that a weird thing to say?
I meant because then they'd be awake and expecting stuff and...
forget it, let's go back to talking about jack.
ROSE: Consider the last few moments wiped from my memory.
Certainly there are enough assorted recollections floating around up there to fill in the gaps.
As for Jack,
It was an act of suicidal foolishness. I realize that now.
I don't know what I was trying to prove.
JOHN: that you loved your mom and wanted to punish jack for hurting her??
ROSE: Maybe.
If my play was to act the devoted daughter, I left it far too late for it to mean anything.
She was already gone.
Maybe I was tired of plotting and scheming and digging through dusty old riddles.
I wanted to take some control back from the game.
Fighting Jack gave me that.
I don't have the distance necessary to tell how much of my motivation was true vengeance and how much was me using her death as an excuse.
JOHN: in my opinion, wanting to fight jack is definitely a feeling that makes sense.
when I met him after I fell asleep, I attacked him right away!
I don't feel conflicted about it, either.
you were there, remember?
ROSE: Yes, I remember.
You put on a better showing than I did.
JOHN: I was god tier then!
but I don't know, rose, I think you're being too hard on yourself.
the last time I faced jack, I was mad and ready to fight anyway, and that was one reason I did what I did.
but that doesn't mean me being angry at jack didn't mean anything.
all of us knew you cared about your mom, even when you were pretending you didn't.
maybe you're the only one you fooled. but I don't blame you for what you did.
ROSE: Looks like you're still embracing your role as our stalwart leader, ready to tell the troops to chin up at every opportunity.
JOHN: is it working?
ROSE: You're illuminating the pool of negativity I'm currently splashing around in a little bit.
But I haven't found a ladder yet.
It may be a trap constructed by a malevolent Sims player.
JOHN: you don't have to feel bad about it, rose.
ROSE: Even if you're right and my mixed motivations are excusable, in the end, what did my tantrum gain me?
I was a child playing at being a god.
I wasted my extra life, which I suppose was necessary to pave the way for my later ascension, but that's its own headache.
I can see why Dave gets stuck in a rut thinking about these things.
Am I any better?
My actions in the reality you reversed add up to another selfish race to my own death.
I knew we were doomed, and so I wanted to go out with a bang.
Never mind that I gave you two more to mourn.
JOHN: don't beat yourself up about it.
it all turned out ok, after all, and you had to do those things you did.
ROSE: Why?
Predestination looping around our necks in an inescapable noose again?
If that image isn't evocative enough, envision a rope made out of intertwined snakes for the mythological tie-in.
Except instead of chewing their own tails, they're taking a chunk out of our collective ass.
JOHN: no, because you're rose.
you wouldn't be you if you weren't losing your temper with dastardly villains and trying to take things into your own hands.
none of us were expecting you to sit back and knit a sweater while people you cared about got hurt.
ROSE: Maybe so.
But I think I'd better keep that part of my nature in check.
You may not always be there to bring me back.
JOHN: I’ll do my best.

[Panel description: A white cat appears on the floor in front of them in a flash of green light. It has its back arched and its tail puffed up.]

ROSE: Uh-oh.
JOHN: what?

[Panel description: The cat hisses, exposing two sharp front teeth and a bright green tongue. The fur on its back and tail bristles. 'Hisss...' is written in front of it in green.]

[Panel description: John and Rose look at each other. Then, a captchalogue card appears in the left hand corner of the panel. It contains a sprite pendant.]

[Panel description: John holds up his hand and smiles broadly. The captchalogue card disappears, and the pendant appears clasped in his hand.]

JOHN: time for your part of the plan!

[Panel description: Dave sprite emerges from the pendant laid on the ground.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite looks down. He is visible from the waist up, and the word 'Hisss...' is written in bright green near waist height.]

[Panel description: The image pans down to the floor, where the white cat continues to hiss and arch its back.]

DAVE SPRITE: f m l.

[Panel description: Dave sprite flies away with the cat in pursuit. John and Rose watch them go. They are rendered as blobs of color.]

JOHN: heh heh. bye.

[Panel description: John and Rose stand next to each other. John is looking at Rose and smiling, while Rose watches her departing brother, one eyebrow raised. Behind them, the shadowy form of crocker tier Jane hovers above them holding her red trident.]

ROSE: I hope he doesn't hate me too much for that.
It was the easiest way to get rid of the cat, but it is a little humiliating.
I know the Dave I traveled with could be delicate about that kind of thing.
JOHN: really?? that's lame.
cool guys should not be so sensitive.
he'll be fine.
let's keep going.
JANE: Oh.
It's you.

[Panel description: Jane is visible from the chest up against a purple background. She is wearing a red tiara, and red circuitry stretches across her face. Her expression is neutral.]

JANE: It's been a long time. How have you been?
Disregard that. It has not been a long time at all. Time has not elapsed in any significant manner since things got out of hand.
Something that will not be allowed to happen again.
ROSE: Jane, we're not here to fight you.
JOHN: let us help you!
you don't really want to fight for betty crocker, do you? she's evil!
JANE: It’s highly presumptuous of you to presume you know what I’d want.
Augmented as I now am to be perfectly logical, I can see the flaws in your plan. You are on the fast track to even more awful demises.
Meanwhile, complicity with Her Imperial Condescension allies you with the greatest empire in the universes and all the assets it comes with.
You think you know what I want? Under the Condesce I’m on the fast track to everything I’ve ever wanted!
ROSE: You're running out of backup.
Jade is already incapacitated. The Big Bad Wolf is out of the picture.
I promise, our terms of surrender are quite reasonable.
For one, they involve giving you back a mind of your own.
JANE: I may be down an ally, but the Page and the Rogue are still in the custody of the Empire. I'll fill you full of holes before I allow you to go any further.
ROSE: The Rogue? Roxy?
But-.

[Panel description: John puts an arm in front of Rose. She looks at him with surprise.]

JOHN: rose, this is one dastardly villain you can defeat.
even if I guess she's not really a villain, only my nanna who is under the robo spell of a wicked alien queen.
oh, that reminds me!
I had an idea.

[Panel description: A captchalogue card of a bucket appears. Then it disappears, and the bucket appears in John's arms.]

ROSE: What are you doing?

[Panel description: John smiles widely and holds the bucket over his head, wiggling back and forth so that water sloshes up its sides. Rose looks over at him, annoyed.]

JOHN: trolls have this weird cultural hang up about cleaning supplies.
since a troll is controlling her brain now, maybe it'll distract her.
ROSE: That's not what that...
Never mind. I'll explain interspecies double entendre later.
Just stop waving that thing around.

[Panel description: Jane's eyes move back and forth with the bucket's movements.]

JOHN: but I think it's working!
see, look, now sneak up on her.

[Panel description: John is visible from the legs down. He attempts to take a step, but one of his shoes is standing on the trailing end of his blue hood. His other foot catches on the trapped hood.]

[Panel description: John trips forward. He is drawn in scribble mode with a distressed wide open mouth. The bucket tumbles out of his hands with water splashing everywhere. The word ‘Oops’ misspelled as 'O p p s' is written above it.]

[Panel description: The water spills onto Jane. Electricity crackles over her, and she flashes between crocker tier mode, her standard appearance, and a cartoonish x-ray skeleton.]

[Panel description: John stands in front of Jane's body, which lies face down in a puddle of water. Her outfit is back to normal. A plume of smoke rises from her head, and the word 'Dead.' is written across it.]

[Panel description: John looks down at his handiwork in surprise with his eyebrows raised. Behind him, Rose lifts her hands in supplication with a horrified expression.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope look through the gap in the curtains. Jade is still in her yellow dreamer gown, and Calliope is still dressed as a troll.]

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope look at each other uncertainly.]

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope walk together down a pathway made of flowing curtains. A faint green shape waits at the other end.]

[Panel description: The green curtains open into a dark landscape full of white stars. At the end of a green path, a dark shape glows with a lime green aura.]

[Panel description: The image zooms in closer on the dark shape. It is a hooded figure with a red bow tie. The curtains swirling around it reveal images of the checkerboard battlefield in the Incipisphere.]

[Panel description: Another Calliope wearing the Muse outfit sits cross legged at the top of a green staircase. Behind her, the sky is a dark purple dotted with stars. Her eyes are blank black holes.]

ALT CALLIOPE: hello.
I’ve been waiting a long time for you.

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope stand in front of alternate Calliope, who is still seated. All three are rendered as colored silhouettes. Green curtains swirl around them. One shows an image of Bec Noir from S Cascade.]

ALT CALLIOPE: so long time has ceased to have all meaning.
not that it ever had much for me.

[Panel description: Calliope claps her hands together in excitement. She's smiling widely. Behind her, Jade looks to the side, looking doubtful.]

CALLIOPE: I can't believe it's you!
I’ve been searching so long I’d begun to fear you didn't exist.
you have to help us.
ALT CALLIOPE: I am.
in every way that is possible for me.

[Panel description: Alternate Calliope holds a length of curtain in her hands. The curtain shows another image of the battlefield. She looks down at it intently. Behind her, Calliope watches with confusion.]

CALLIOPE: what do you mean?
ALT CALLIOPE: I am a muse.
most passive of all classes.
I defeated my brother. I hunted him in his dreams and stole his blood for my speech.
but I could not claim the power that allows him mastery over time itself and that condemns any version of myself that triumphs to obscurity.
instead, I walked the path of the martyr.
I let my waking form fade, trapping my soul forever in the shadowy world of the dreamers and the dead, for as long as the dark gods allow such a realm to continue.
in some ways, I have always been here.
your story concerns me as much as it does you.
through my emerald eye I have watched five universes become caught up in a veritable cascade of events beyond anyone's control, orchestrated by an invisible conductor who has yet to be born and of course is already here.
through the rules of the game that brought you here, I gave you my blessing.
in doing so I hope I have created a battlefield for soldiers to rise up against him, even as my efforts brought about his own birth.
both he and I labor bound to our own path from creation to destruction, locked in an ouroboros that will only end when you have passed through the final door.
I cannot fight on the field I have cultivated.
only you can bring peace.

[Panel description: Calliope’s mouth is open in a frown, and her eyebrows are drawn down. Jade leans out from behind her curiously.]

JADE: um... miss callie?
older callie anyway.
I know it’s been a long time and you may not remember me but.
that’s not really what we were hoping to hear.
are you saying we’re your pawns?
ALT CALLIOPE: you are tools.
pieces in a game I have been playing with my adversary for a very long time.
please do not misunderstand.
it is my hope that you will be successful, but my race is not intended to care for others in the way you comprehend.
over the millennia, I have whiled away the time telling myself your story and etching its images on the fleeting wisps of vapor reflecting skaia's light.
so many of you have risen and fallen during that time.
if I allowed it to move me, or even had that capacity within me, I would have been destroyed long ago.
the closest I can come to human empathy is viewing you as characters in a tale I wish to end justly.
JADE: so.
just to make sure I’m understanding you correctly.
you’re behind the game that ruined our lives?
ALT CALLIOPE: blood always spills to birth new life.
that is a balance my race understands more than any other.
that is why I cloak my own letters in the color of my dead brother's heart.
creation and destruction intertwine in perfect order.
balance is our goal.
my brother stumbled upon a way to tip that balance, and now the scales of the universe are in disarray.
if they fall, all will crumble into dust.
I am trying to set that balance right, or at least constrain the reach of his destructive power.
sacrifices will have to be made.
can you say the lives you lost meant more than the ones newly born?
JADE: maybe not from a LOGICAL standpoint.
I’m sorry if this sounds mean but I care more about my friends than hypothetical people who will benefit from us dying.
I know all about sacrifice.
we’ve made more than we wanted.
but we should have a choice.
I don’t like hearing that the lives of people I care about are meaningless to you.
CALLIOPE: your sacrifices are not over, witch of space.
it may be fitting that you disapprove of me, because soon enough you will have to turn your back on part of the light I represent.
be glad that you have a choice.
I had no part in choosing the tenor of my existence.
friendship. love. mercy. all these are things I cannot feel.

[Panel description: Calliope points toward herself. Her eyes are wide, and she looks confused and unhappy.]

ALT CALLIOPE: she can.
despite all we share, in that way we are not alike at all.
CALLIOPE: I know.
I’m weak. I’m not a proper cherub.
I can't win against him.
that's why we need you.
ALT CALLIOPE: the rules prevent me from doing more than I have already done.
CALLIOPE: can't you break them?
ALT CALLIOPE: no.
but you can.
you are right to say that you are not a proper cherub.
your upbringing did not purge the softness from you, and your brother found a way to dig into that softness and draw your blood.
you will never find it in you to be a proper muse.
you can step on the chessboard and play.
that is what I have waited all this time to tell you, as the rest of the multiverse spins on without me.

[Panel description: Alternate Calliope and Calliope face each other in profile. Both have neutral expressions. They look like opposites of each other, as alt Calliope has a dark hood, black eyes, and black clothing, while Calliope has white hair and white eyes with green clothing. Both have the same red bow tie.]

ALT CALLIOPE: you are the one who must defeat him in the end.
CALLIOPE: but...
you’re what gave me hope.
ALT CALLIOPE: but I cannot give you strength.
it was always.
wait.

[Panel description: Alt Calliope raises her head and looks into the distance with her forehead furrowed. Calliope watches her.]

ALT CALLIOPE: someone is coming.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Terezi and Dave continue to walk through a purple hallway. Terezi leads the way and is already partly off the left side of the panel. Dave follows behind, looking over his shoulder. There is a door with a barred window sent into the wall, and a yellow eye watches them pass from behind the bars.]

GAMZEE: (honk.)
DAVE: did you hear that?
TEREZI: Yes.
DAVE: I forgot he was down here.
evil dog jade did one good deed before john brained her I guess.
what’s going on with that?
Terezi: it’s over.
DAVE: I got that.
stabbing a dude in the chest a bunch of times sends a pretty clear breakup message even if it did get retconned into never happened ville.
do you still want to kill him.
TEREZI: didn’t you see what happened last time.
DAVE: I checked out early.
when I left you looked like you were holding out pretty well.
TEREZI: you missed the part where he beat me half to death.
in addition to the part where I was manipulated into stabbing myself by the interfering serket the second.
DAVE: huh.
do you want help killing him.
TEREZI: there is no point.
he won’t die.
not even counting whatever chuckle voodoos keep him up and about.
attacking him out of unrefined anger will never work.
he is the hero of rage not me.
a hero of mind should enter battle using her head.
there should be no question of her enemies getting the upper hand because she has already considered every scenario that could happen.
a hero of mind outwits her enemies before even taking the field.
the rest is cleanup.
but I never used my head as much as I should have where the clown was concerned.
DAVE: I noticed.
TEREZI: Did you?
DAVE: sure.
once you were involved with him you started acting different.
like how karkat said you’ve always been smart but you were clearly falling apart.
especially in the way you tried to hide it.
you were sneaking around but it was obvious that you were seeing him.
uh.
ok poor choice of words there but.
you’re like troll daredevil you should have been able to not get caught.

[Panel description: Terezi faces down the long purple hallway. Its end is shrouded in darkness.]

Terezi: I don’t know.
maybe my skills were slipping.
I don’t think they were ever as good as I pretended.
maybe I was so ashamed of my actions that I thought I deserved to be judged for them.
or maybe I was hoping that someone would stop me.
DAVE: instead I flaked out on you.
bye terezi have a nice life with the killer clown.
send me a postcard from the dark carnival.
Terezi: you couldn’t have talked me out of it.
don’t you think I tried??
every day I told myself I would end it.
but I never did.
deep down I decided I deserved it.
if true justice exists then my fate must be just.
including everything I went through with him.
everything in the alpha timeline happens for a reason.
maybe that reason was to punish me for all my mistakes.
DAVE: that’s not how timelines work.
they don’t care what we deserve they only care about what has to happen.
sure they’ve got some sense of cosmic justice but anything smaller than that is background noise.
I know it’s easier not to think of it that way.
to think that hey that version of me died because he wasn’t as good as me.
and I’m here because I’m better.
but I’m not.
just like how all the bullshit that happened to us wasn’t because were bad people or needed to be punished.
skaia doesn’t think that way.
sure it pushes you in certain directions but I don’t think it understands good and bad the same way we do.
and it sure won’t save us from our own bad decisions.
unless they break the timeline in which case hold on to your ass because you’re about to get mowed down like bowling pins.
but the bowling ball isn’t making any values judgments you’re just in the way.
Terezi: interestingly put.
you are a font of profound human wisdom today.
if only we had some suitable images gleaned from the human internet to slap your latest platitudes over. (smirking face).
DAVE: go ahead make me a meme.
someone might as well learn something from me screaming at myself.
Terezi: my other self taught me something too.
or at least in the midst of all that tragedy.
fighting gamzee and watching my friends die and bleeding out alone in the desert.
I realized something about myself.
or finally accepted something that deep down I already knew.
I am afraid of being alone.
no matter how unflappable or cool I may seem.
DAVE: oh definitely.
Terezi: no interruptions!
no matter how indisputably excellent my outward persona is.
I catch myself thinking that I need someone.

[Panel description: Terezi faces forward, her face resolute.]

Terezi: I have been a teammate a mate sprit a kismesis.
a sister.
I don’t know who I am on my own.
but I don’t need him.
I don’t know what I need or who I should be but I need to find that out by myself.
whatever the answer ends up being.

[Panel description: Dave leans out from behind her.]

Dave: if you need somewhere to start,
you can try being terezi.
I always thought she was pretty cool.
Terezi: that was really unbearably cheesy.
we have an image to maintain here.
Dave: yeah yeah I know.
but hey no witnesses so I don’t have to kill anyone.
Terezi: actually,
I think I smell our target.
DAVE: you do.
thank god.

[Panel description: Another barred cell door is illustrated in Terezi's smell-o-vision. From this perspective, it is blurry and pulsing, with wisps of white color emerging from between the bars.]

DAVE: I was starting to think we were condemned to prowl this purple labyrinth forever.
No magic string no Minotaur just your nose and the distant honking of a captive juggalo.
And instead of a princess our reward is a teen grandpa in micro shorts.
bet rose would say were playing fast and loose with some archetypes here.
it’ll come back to Oedipus though it always does.
Terezi: yes.
I’ve definitely located him now.
He smells like lemon freshness and fear.

[Panel description: Dave and Terezi stand on either side of a sleeping Jake. Only their shoes and the bottom halves of their legs are visible. Jake lies on his side with his eyes closed.]

DAVE: whoa déjà vu.
how does it feel to be the one standing over someone passed out in their underwear.
Terezi: it is a welcome change.
Dave: look at him.
Sleeping like an angel in a speedo.
Exposing everything at crotch level and below to the world.
Terezi: I am glad I can’t see what I’m smelling right now.
DAVE: be glad.
kid grandpa.

[Panel description: Dave rests his foot on Jake's head and pushes. Jake scoots forward slightly, and his eyebrows draw together. His eyes do not open.]

DAVE: wake up.
Terezi: Dave that is not how you wake a prisoner you dummy.
Hey lemon briefs!!

[Panel description: Terezi slams her foot into Jake's head and shoves. His eyes are wide, and his mouth opens in distress. His arms and legs flail violently.]

Terezi: time to rise and smell the everything.
JAKE: Waugh!!

[Panel description: Jake sits up with his eyebrows raised inquisitively.]

JAKE: Holy guacamole where’s the fire??
Where am I?? Where’s Jane?
Terezi: in derse jail and somewhere that is not derse jail respectively.
JAKE: Ah.
Yes.
I can see that now thank you.
Pardon me I’ve just had the most horrid yet vivid dream!
You two were both there!
In fact... pardon me if I’m mistaken but are you not dirks ancestor and the troll girl who kept sniffing brain ghost dirk all those months back?
Terezi: I remember that.
The fruity citrus specter.
DAVE: wait wait hold up.
brain ghost dirk.
Terezi: the strange duplicate that follows this john-reminiscent human around.
DAVE: for future reference.
how many kid bros are running around again.
JAKE: Well there’s his auto responder, which is now a sprite-A I clone going by the moniker arquius.
DAVE: jesus.
this guy’s dirk that guys dirk.
are there any other dirks I should know about.
JAKE: Well no to my knowledge that’s the sum of it.
By the way I feel compelled to ask.
Is jade alright?? I know I shouldn’t wig out about dreams and all but this one felt quite real and she wasn’t too well off!!
Terezi: these inquiries about un-deceased human custodians can happen later.
We need to leave.
JAKE: Oh!! Are you alright as well?
Come to think of it you were getting the snot pounded out of you by that weird clown.
DAVE: before we go too far down the yellow brick road of wizard of oz references
that wasn’t a dream.
it was a doomed timeline.
we remember because john and roses mom have been pulling some serious retcon mojo.
so if you got a sword or two to the torso don’t sweat it.
it never happened.
JAKE: What? Really?
So aranea and the sword and brain clone dirk...
All of that was real??
DAVE: technically.
I’ve already had one debate about alt timeline realness factors today.
short version is no harm no foul, but we’ve learned our lesson and this time we’re going to get the drop on the event train
instead of having it motor over us like a bunch of helpless bozos tied down to the tracks.
which right now means getting you out of this prison cell.
JAKE: Just to check before we all get a wiggle on...
Is... she out there again?
Did you see any cerulean troll gals wandering the halls?
TEREZI: No.

[Panel description: Terezi makes a fist and bares her teeth in a determined grimace.]

TEREZI: I can assure you with utmost certainty that there are no blueberry trolls wandering around
Sticking their irons in fires where they do not belong.
That will not happen again.
Ever.
JAKE: Okay then! Tally ho!

[Panel description: The empress continues to hover in the air in front of her massive red ship, with colored lights flashing around her body. Kanaya can be seen on the far left of the panel looking up at her.]

H I C: so much for brevity.
see thing is I don’t really need my witch.
I can just blow you up by blinkin.
as long as I got my main maid girl...

[Panel description: Rose holds one half of Jane's tiara top in each hand. Red fragments fly through the air, suggesting she has just snapped it in half. The word Rebellion flashes next to her.]

[Panel description: The empress looks surprised and distressed with wide eyes, raised eyebrows, and a frown. A jagged red line flashes behind her head.]

[Panel description: The empress continues to hover in front of her ship while Karkat and Kanaya watch. The flashing lights around her body slow and then stop.]

H I C: uh.
well.

[Panel description: The empress angles her body upward to return to her ship.]

H I C: ok so all uh this crazy motivational bullshit is makin me seasick.
I’m gonna give you a polite SHELL NO because I got otha shit to deal with right now.
but that was a cool speech so I’m just gonna leave you be instead uh stringin your guts through the nearest reef.
so.
later haters.
no deal.

[Panel description: Dave holds up his wrist, where his green ass-shaped communicator has Karkat's symbol hovering above it in a speech bubble. Terezi angles her head toward it as well. Jake is now standing up. His eyebrows rise, and he has a large frown on his face.]

CURRENT carcino Geneticist [CG] RIGHT NOW responded to memo.
CCG: GUYS,
I THINK SHE'S HEADED BACK TO DERSE.
GET OUT OF THERE, RUN FOR YOUR DUBIOUSLY IMMORTAL LIVES!

[Panel description: Jake grabs both Dave and Terezi by the arm and rushes forward as they hang limply in his grip.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Rose holds one half of Jane's tiara top in each hand. Red fragments fly through the air, suggesting she has just snapped it in half. The word Rebellion flashes next to her. This is a repeat of a previous panel.]

[Panel description: Rose holds the two pieces of the broken tiara in her hands. Both she and John look down at it.]

ROSE: You'd think an aquatic subspecies would make waterproof technology.

[Panel description: The god tier clock's hand stops at the center point. The green Life symbol glows on the clock’s face, and images of galaxies and fields of grass flash behind it. The whole clock glows with multicolored light, and tendrils of rainbow energy reach off of it.]

[Panel description: Jane's body rises from the pool of water on the ground, wreathed in the same rainbow tendrils. Her body is a silhouette filled with flashing images of colorful nebulae.]

[Panel description: Jane reaches up to grasp her head in both hands. Her hair is messy, and lines under her eyes make her look distressed. Her outfit is back to its original tan color. In the far left corner of the image, John and Rose watch.]

JANE: Great scott…
What just happened?
ROSE: A lot, but we’ll give you the recap later.
For now, what’s important is that you’re no longer under anyone’s control but your own.
I don't think you've keyed into the group memo, but we've received a rather panicked missive that the Empress is headed this way.
We didn't plan on fighting her this soon without a concrete strategy.
Are you ready to be an accessory to a jailbreak?

[Panel description: Jane pulls her hands away from her head. She still looks concerned, but her expression is now more focused.]

[Panel description: Jane looks out between two purple columns over the Derse cityscape. The empress's ship can be seen approaching.]

JANE: You go on ahead. I'll deal with her.
JOHN: all by yourself?
JANE: Yes.

[Panel description: Jane crouches down and reaches with one hand toward her trident, which is lying on the ground. It is bright red and fashioned after the empress's logo, with a blue ball resembling Skaia on its end.

[Panel description: Jane stands framed between the two purple columns, holding the trident in one hand. She is small but resolute in front of the purple skyline and black void. Above her head, the empress's ship comes nearer.]

[Panel description: John and Rose stand slightly behind Jane as she remains framed between the two columns of an ornate Gothic window. They are shown from a bird's eye view, and their shadows stretch behind them long and dark on the ground.]

JANE: Maybe I could handle the product placement, and the world domination thing is everyone's problem, but this time she's gone too far!
Surely you’d understand if you were ever under the influence of an outside force you didn’t wholly agree with.
I don’t know if either of you have, but try to place yourself in my shoes. John, you saw on LOFAF what I would do in that state.
I have to stand up to her. I am neither her nor anyone's plaything!
ROSE: After all that, I can’t in good conscience force you to come with us.
I understand that a version of me stood up to the Batter witch back on Earth, and I won’t stand in the way of another grudge match.
Not if you think it’s something that you have to do.
Just remember, this is the very definition of "heroic." Please be careful.
JANE: I will.
ROSE: Right.

[Panel description: Rose turns to leave. She reaches out to put one hand on John's shoulder, looking over at him with concern. He remains facing Jane with a worried expression.]

ROSE: John, Karkat’s sent us the warning. Let’s get out of the way.
JOHN: but…
jane, are you going to be ok?
the empress is a super powerful alien, and we’d have a better chance of beating her if we worked together.
JANE: Trust me, I know…
ROSE: You told me I had to fight Jack, remember?
You delivered an inspiring speech in which you encouraged me to “be true to myself” and maybe knit fewer sweaters.
The same situation applies here. I just hope that it won’t end in the same result.
But I’m a better judge of odds than I used to be, and I think she’s got a chance.
JOHN: if you say so.

[Panel description: John and Rose both walk away, leaving Jane still staring out the window. John turns his head back toward her slightly as he leaves.]

[Panel description: John and Rose both stand as silhouettes on a spiraling purple staircase. John is further up the stairs looking down at Rose, who remains lower.]

ROSE: Get out of here. I’ll catch up.
JOHN: are you sure?
none of this is sticking to the plan!
ROSE: I’m sure.
I’ll let you know if I need help.

[Panel description: John continues climbing the stairs, looking back at Rose reluctantly.]

[Panel description: Rose walks through purple hallways, approaching a barred cell door.]

[Panel description: Rose stands silhouetted inside the cell, looking at Roxy lying asleep and smiling on the ground.]

[Panel description: John continues to look behind him. In front of him, the legs and tunic of a Dersite agent are visible.]

[Panel description: John sees the agent, the Draconian Dignitary, and opens his mouth wide in a shout while also pulling one arm back in alarm. The Dignitary leans forward threateningly.]

[Panel description: John dissolves into a curling blue cloud. The Dignitary stabs the cloud repeatedly with a red diamond tipped spear with no effect.]

[Panel description: The blue cloud swirls up the stairs, leaving the Dignitary behind.]

[Panel description: The blue cloud streams through the window on another barred cell door.]

[Panel description: John partially solidifies with part of his hair and hood still trailing blue mist. He's looking back toward the door he just came through. He is in a purple room with barred windows and elegant furniture. The silhouette of someone wearing a hat can be seen in the bottom right corner of the panel.]

[Panel description: Dad Crocker, a man with a white hat, gray tie, and no visible facial features except for a prominent nose, stands in front of barred windows. A question mark flashes in front of his face.]

[Panel description: John's mouth opens and his eyebrows draw together. He looks heartbroken.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Alt Calliope, Jade, and Calliope all look toward the viewer in surprise. Behind them, the curtains show two earlier scenes. One is Dave sprite and grim bark Jade looking into the fridge on the battleship. The other is Rose seeing her dead mother in her crystal ball during canon act five.]

[Panel description: Roxy stands framed by swirling green curtains.]

CALLIOPE: don't be afraid. It’s only my dear friend Roxy. (pleased face).
I don't know how she found us here, but she has always had a knack for moving through hidden places.
ROXY: hey! callie!!
jade?
you not doing the evil thing anymore?
JADE: no not right now.
how did you get here?
ROXY: I’m slackin off on my empress appointed duties.
making generic cubes is hella boring.
thought I’d sneak a catnap while you were out being scary somewhere else.
guess I didn’t need to worry about you catching me since you're doing the same thing.
JADE: maybe...
I’m afraid my condition might be more permanent than yours.
ROXY: really?
sorry to hear that.
we never got to be not-enemies.
I wanted to get to know not-evil jade cause you sounded kinda cool!!

[Panel description: Calliope presses her hands together in excitement as she stands next to Roxy, who is contemplating a curtain showing a blood covered hand glowing with yellow light. Further back, Jade glances at a curtain showing Calliope whispering something into her ear. Alt Calliope stands closest to the front, looking sideways back at all of them.]

ALT CALLIOPE: this large of a crowd is unwise.
my brother can detect gatherings of souls.
ROXY: whoa who’s this?
callie is this the you you were looking for? (surprised face).
CALLIOPE: Unfortunately, she claims she cannot help me. (sad U U face).
ROXY: what?
older callie what’s the meaning of this.
callie here came a v long way to meet you.
ALT CALLIOPE: there is no way to change my nature.
it has been etched into me with time and blood and space.
even if I wished, dreamers cannot be roused easily.
I have given you the light of the sun and the secrets of the clouds.
the game you play was born from me.
beyond that.

[Panel description: Alt Calliope looks off screen, forehead furrowed.]

[Panel description: Alt Calliope points at Calliope, who is startled and stands frozen mid-motion.]

ALT CALLIOPE: he is here.
go.
CALLIOPE: wait!
am I supposed to fight him?
please, I don't know what to do.

[Panel description: Roxy stands facing off screen. Behind her, Calliope looks in the same direction, mouth open. Jade grabs her arm and turns away. There are indistinct images shown in the curtains around them. One is mostly purple shapes, while the other appears to be someone lying in a pool of blood.]

ROXY: alt-callie cmon!
he'll kill you if you stay here!!
ALT CALLIOPE: almost certainly.

[Panel description: Alt Calliope stands between two flowing green curtains. There's a small, soft smile on her face. Behind her, a diamond shaped light flashes.]

ALT CALLIOPE: my purpose has passed.
their stories are not over.
thank you for knowing my name.

[Panel description: Jade pulls Calliope down a corridor of green curtains, away from the star filled void. Roxy runs a few paces behind them.]

[Panel description: Calliope's foot and lower leg are in mid air between strides. Black cords appear in a flash of light and wrap themselves around her ankle.]

[Panel description: Calliope looks down in distress. Black cords also wrap around both her upper arms. She looks upward, where the cords stretch from her arms to a point off screen.]

[Panel description: Past Calliope’s head, the flashing diamond of green light is now larger.]

[Panel description: Zooming in on the green light, we can see it is an aura surrounding the shape of Lord English.

[Panel description: The image zooms in on Lord English.]

[Panel description: Lord English stands in the center of the panel. He is wearing green suspenders and torn white shorts along with a green coat that has flashing trim. He holds a gold staff tipped with a flashing black orb.]

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope hang suspended from a mess of black cords wrapped around their limbs. Further back, Roxy's silhouette can be seen similarly trapped.]

[Panel description: Jade raises her arm and bites at the cords wrapped around her wrist, eyes scrunched shut with effort.]

[Panel description: Jade pulls at the black cords wrapped around Calliope. Her face is determined. Behind them, Roxy frowns and looks back at white glowing cracks reaching toward them.]

[Panel description: Jade tugs Calliope down the curtain pathway. Calliope looks back toward Roxy, distraught.]

[Panel description: Roxy reaches out with one arm, mouth open. She is almost obscured by white light.]

[Panel description: The white light fills the entire panel. Roxy turns into a black silhouette, then crumbles around the edges before disappearing entirely.]

[Panel description: The very small forms of Jade and Calliope stand against a black void. Most of the panel is covered in flashing cracks reaching across the darkness.]

[Panel description: Rose stands in the purple jail cell looking down at the silhouette of Roxy's head.]

[Panel description: Roxy lies on the floor curled up and sleeping peacefully.]

[Panel description: Roxy’s form slowly loses its color.]

[Panel description: Where Roxy had been sleeping, her form has now been replaced by a pile of white dust.]

[Panel description: Rose kneels down next to the pile of dust.]

[Panel description: Rose reaches toward the dust.]

[Panel description: Rose lifts a handful of the dust, which trickles between her fingers. Her face is horrified.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The empress stands on a platform on her red ship, holding her double ended trident in one hand. Her hair streams out to one side.]

[Panel description: The empress scowls, revealing sharp teeth.]

H I C: ugh.
the fuck is happenin now.

[Panel description: Jane hovers in the air above Derse's purple cityscape. She is holding her red trident in one hand. She is framed between the empress's two long horns.]

H I C: oh.
oh wow.

[Panel description: Jane and the empress face off against each other. They are drawn as black silhouettes. The background behind Jane is a bright blue, while the background behind the empress is fuchsia. The colors meet in the middle of the panel in a jagged scribble like torn paper.]

H I C: incredibubble.
where the fuck did your tiara top go?
JANE: It's gone.
You will not have that say in my life anymore.
H I C: really now.
and how exactly do you plan to keep me outta it.
you gonna fight me little gill?
JANE: That's the plan.
H I C: you know none uh the other small fries been able to defeat me either.
i gutted them all and ground them into chum.
millennia worth uh heiresses.
what else do you got?
JANE: I will give you that, the odds are quite daunting. But!
Did any of your previous heiresses have quite this much moxie?

[Panel description: The empress stands with a slight frown on her face.]

[Panel description: The empress lifts her empty hand. It now flashes with multicolored light. Her eyes flash between blue and red, as does the symbol on the middle of her tiara.]

[Panel description: An enormous beam of flashing blue and red light shoots past Jane and explodes next to her. She can be seen just at the edge of the blast.]

[Panel description: An explosion rocks one of Derse's ornate towers, which shakes from the impact.]

[Panel description: Jane sits dazed on a gargoyle atop one of the towers. Her expression changes to alarm when the empress's shadow falls over her.]

[Panel description: The empress stands with her hands on her hips, framed by her long hair.]

H I C: you shittin me.
don’t you know I gave you every fin girl?
I raised you, I didn’t shank you or your bucktoothed idiot crush.
those assassination attempts? what a joke, I coulda culled you in your sleep and no one woulda known betta.
but I still never culled you off and you know why?

[Panel description: Another blast of flashing red and blue explodes on the side of the tower.]

H I C: I gave you a SHOT.

[Panel description: Jane is flung limply to the side by the explosion of light.]

H I C: I WANTED TO SEE WHAT YOU COULD DO.
and you TOSSIN IT IN THE FUCKIN CHUM BUCKET?
YOU COULDA HAD EVERY FIN!!! the empire, your kiddie crush, even your nasty-ass human grubs.

[Panel description: Jane kneels on the ground amidst the rubble of a broken stone wall. She is holding herself up by leaning on her trident.]

JANE: No! Not the way you were offering it!
What I did to Jake and all our teammates, you shouldn't have made me do it!
H I C: bitch.
don’t you get it.
that ain’t all me and it never was.

[Panel description: Jane frowns deeply, looking at something off screen.]

H I C: you always had the potential for that.

[Panel description: The empress floats in the air, holding her trident up above her head. Both the trident and the arm holding it flash with multicolored light. Several large purple towers float around her, broken off from the ground.]

H I C: all I ever had to do was.

[Panel description: Jane raises one arm above her head as purple rubble falls down toward her.]

H I C: AMP IT UP.

[Panel description: John looks to one side with raised eyebrows as the room around him shakes.]

JOHN: you must be jane’s dad.
I’ll let her know that you’re here, she’ll want to know that you’re ok.
um…
bye.

[Panel description: Two wisps of blue color stream away. Dad Crocker remains standing in a tastefully furnished purple room which continues to shake. 'Stern fatherly confusion concern combo' is written next to him.]

[Panel description: John partially reforms behind Rose, with some blue wisps connected to his hair and outfit still passing through the bars on the cell door. Rose looks down at the ground, eyes wide.]

JOHN: rose, are you ok?
ROSE: Roxy...
She wasn't supposed to be here.
She said she was on LOPAN.
JOHN: she is!
she’s guarding jade so she can't mess things up for us with her evil dog powers, remember?
ROSE: Yes, that's what I was told.
But then why did Jane say she was here?
And why did I just watch her die?

[Panel description: Rose continues to let dust stream between her fingers. A larger pile of dust can be seen in the upper left corner of the panel. John looks at it.]

JOHN: oh... oh man.
I’m sorry you had to see that.
ROSE: What is that supposed to mean?
JOHN: ok, try to calm down.
that wasn't the real Roxy.
I mean, I guess it depends... but it wasn't the roxy you've been talking to.
that one came with me from the reality where almost everyone died.
she made a deal with her denizen to come along, which meant that the other version of her had to die.
ROSE: Why didn't you tell me this?
JOHN: she made me promise!!!!
she didn't want you to get upset.

[Panel description: John crouches down next to Rose, who is kneeling. She looks over at him, her expression changing to anger. Her hands are still covered in dust.]

ROSE: Well, John, I am VERY upset.
JOHN: yeah... I can see that.
ROSE: Take me to her.
JOHN: are you sure?
ROSE: Now!

[Panel description: The empress stands holding her trident on a pile of purple rubble. The spires of Derse jut out behind her.]

[Panel description: Jane braces herself with her trident as she stands up from a pile of broken stone. Blue light curls around her.]

[Panel description: Jane and the empress face off against each other once more.]

[Panel description: The empress shouts, her flashing eyes glowing with a red and blue aura.]

[Panel description: Jane throws her trident.]

[Panel description: The empress catches the trident’s shaft in one hand.]

[Panel description: The empress grins, holding the trident where she stopped it a few inches from her face.]

[Panel description: Jane raises one hand, which glows with long streamers of blue light. The green Life symbol shines behind her, and the background flashes with white and blue splashes of color.]

[Panel description: The empress frowns as blue-white light glows around Jane's trident and the arm holding it.]

[Panel description: The trident falls to the ground as the empress's arm begins to dissolve into particles. Her golden bangles fall as well.]

[Panel description: Jane’s trident lies on the ground at the empress's feet. The empress's own golden trident tumbles to join it.]

[Panel description: Jane reaches down and takes the empress's trident in her hand.]

[Panel description: Jane holds the empress's trident. In front of her, the empress scowls, pressing her remaining hand over the stump of her missing arm.]

H I C: so.
water you waitin for.
if you wanna be the empress YOUR way so bad.
not like there’s any fin left to be empress of but really.
just cull me and get it over with.
I’m sick uh bein old englishs errand girl.
kinda finny huh.
you wanted that kid so bad but if you take my place
you’ll be slave to the very guy he’s named after.

[Panel description: Jane holds the empress's trident with both hands, her eyes closed.]

[Panel description: Jane holds the trident above her head.]

[Panel description: Jane snaps the trident in two over her knee. The word ‘Dethrone’ flashes next to her.]

[Panel description: Jane drops the two halves of the trident to the ground.]

JANE: No.
This ends here. All of it.
H I C: oh what the SHELL.

[Panel description: Jane rests her hands on her hips and smiles. She is once again framed by the empress's two horns.]

H I C: why the fuck is you doin this nobler than thou BULLSHIT.
JANE: Aside from that fact that I am a Noble? (bucktoothed smile).
H I C: don’t get cute with me bitch.
JANE: You're in no position to be making demands right now! As of this moment forward you're our prisoner!
JANE: Behave yourself.
If my powers can kill a vampire by bringing them back to life, surely they can hamper an immortal with all the years you haven't felt.
Wouldn't you rather be our prisoner and retain your youth?
I wouldn't like to think how you'd show your real age.
H I C: that’s just low.
you clam the high ground then turn round and gimme that?
JANE: It's just good risk management!
Besides, you're the only one I plan on making submit.
CrockerCorp and all it stands for is over. From here on out, any iron oven mitt I take up shall be strictly metaphorical!
H I C: ...
I sea.
so whatcha gonna do with me as your prisoner.
JANE: We shall sea. ;)

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope sit in the middle of a white spiral pathway.

[Panel description: The image zooms in closer. Calliope is crouched with her hands over her face. Jade kneels next to her, reaching one hand toward her. Her dog ears are turned back with concern.]

[Panel description: The image zooms in closer. Both girls remain in the same position.]

CALLIOPE: roxy...
JADE: she’ll be fine.
she was dreaming.
when sleeping god tiers die we wake up.

[Panel description: Calliope removes her hands and looks at Jade. Her gray makeup has been washed off in trails from her eyes down her cheeks, revealing green skin underneath.]

CALLIOPE: are you sure?
JADE: it happened to john all the time.
CALLIOPE: that wasn't your doing, was it?
JADE: he he no.
some dead troll didn’t like him I guess.
the point is, there is nothing to worry about.
CALLIOPE: I’m afraid I can't bring myself to agree.
JADE: about Roxy, anyway.
I’m sorry about the other you.
I know you looked up to her.
CALLIOPE: more than looked up to her.
I relied on her.
she predominated against my brother, a feat I believed impossible.
I thought she would be the one to defeat him once and for all.
but now she's gone.

[Panel description: Jade places her hand on Calliope’s shoulder, smiling fondly.]

JADE: are we safe here?
CALLIOPE: for now, I think, but it's only a matter of time before he finds me again.
it might be best for you to leave me.
He wants every trace of me obliterated, and anyone in the way will feel the full force of his anger.
I don't mean to sound too glum, but he defeated the strongest version of me there is.
what chance do I have?
JADE: I’m not going anywhere.
And I think you might be giving up too soon.
he’s your brother after all.
who better to know how to beat him?
CALLIOPE: but I’m not a god or a hero like she was or you are.
I don't have any powers.
I am just a silly girl who has been afraid for a very long time.
JADE: you know, back when I was two people, she made me...
I mean, I asked her to...
wow, this is getting confusing already!
I wanted myself to fight jack because I thought I was powerful.
it didn’t matter that I was scared or confused or hurting, only that I could.
but that part of me didn’t want to, and I didn’t like that being all I was useful for.
when the empress took control of me, I got worse, but maybe that was there all along.
I thought being able to do flashy tricks and save the day made me a better person.
maybe even better than my friends.
instead those powers ended up hurting people I cared about.
and however strong I thought I was, now I’m here.
they didn’t stop me from getting killed.
CALLIOPE: even without those flashy tricks, you did save me.
JADE: maybe I’m worth something then.
but having new powers didn’t make me any better.
and after meeting both of you, I know which one I prefer.
CALLIOPE: fat lot of good that does Us.
we're still stuck huddling in this hole waiting for him to blast Us to bits.
JADE: it doesn’t sound promising...
but she did say you could beat him.
CALLIOPE: she's wrong.
how could I?
she was so much stronger than me.
JADE: I thought I was strong and here I am.
so maybe it’s not about being strong .
something about you is special just because you’re you.
this version of you, right here.
paradox space works in funny ways.
I don’t always understand all of it, but if we’re here that means the universe wants us to be.
and who’s going to argue with the universe?
not me!
not usually anyway. (silly face).
CALLIOPE: the Universe wants Us sitting alone in the dark?
JADE: no.

[Panel description: Jade and Calliope sit next to each other. Both are smiling, although tear tracks remain on Calliope’s cheeks and both girls’ eyebrows are still slanted with worry. Jade looks over at Calliope.]

JADE: sitting in the dark together.
CALLIOPE: ...
(happy U U face).

[Panel description: Jade reaches to her head with distress. Her dog ears have gone back again.]

JADE: ow!
CALLIOPE: (surprised face).
JADE: my head hurts all of a sudden...
callie, I think I’m waking up!
CALLIOPE: really?
JADE: really.
I must not have been dead after all.
CALLIOPE: that's wonderful.

[Panel description: Jade’s form flickers in and out. She is frowning, with her hand still on her head. Calliope looks over at her and smiles, but her expression is sad.]

CALLIOPE: you’ll get to escape this place and have a second chance.
JADE: yes.
I’ll be able to clean up the mess I made.
but I promise I’ll find a way to save you.
you don’t have to do this alone, and I won’t leave you by yourself.
CALLIOPE: jade, wait.
there's one rule I haven't broken yet, but I have broken all the others.
besides, surely any game between us ended with my death.
JADE: game? I don’t understand.
CALLIOPE: you don't need to Understand.
just remember.

[Panel description: Calliope puts her hand to her cheek and whispers into Jade's ear. Jade looks alarmed, but then she disappears entirely.]

CALLIOPE: *whispers*.
JADE: (surprised face).

[Panel description: Roxy is sitting on a white sofa in sprite mode with a neutral expression. Next to her, Jade curls up asleep on a pile of pink and white pillows, cuddling a stuffed animal and with bows placed in her hair near her dog ears. She sits up with an alarmed expression, and Roxy's eyes go over to her.]

[Panel description: John and Rose appear in the scene with a flash of blue-white light and the word zap. Rose looks furious. Roxy's eyes move over to the two of them, and her expression changes from surprised to concerned.]

[Panel description: John looks awkwardly away from the scene as Rose glares at Roxy with her hands on her hips. Roxy frowns deeply, while Jade reaches up toward one of the bows in her hair.]

[Panel description: Poorly drawn green curtains lower jerkily over the scene.]

END OF ACT 6 ACT 6 INTERMISSION 4.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Two poorly drawn green curtains cover the image.]

Look.
I know you would rather be reading the long strings of words, that go on and on without saying anything important. I know you like to feel the feelings, that come from having your happiness depend on brightly colored text, like a loser. You peruse the unending whining of boring teens,
while urinating liquid from your eye sockets in the way that humans do, when an artist nearing my caliber plays a delicate sonata upon their fragile heartstrings. But here’s the thing.

I am going to kill all of those people.

[Panel description: The curtains jerkily draw back to reveal a poorly constructed clay sculpture looking like a crude figure kneeling with its head down.]

Maybe, I already have. And since you enjoy learning more about them, as a way to waste what remains of your meaningless lives, I will reveal how I did it, using only the most groundbreaking artistic techniques. These skills, I am telling you. They are, if I dare say it, over 9000. In fact my skills exceed any kind of numerical description.

[Panel description: The image of the sculpture is badly filtered, giving everything a yellow and red pixilated look.]

Only the fine arts matter here. And in those I am supreme! Watch and learn. You see, in my musing over that so-called "highest" of art, the animes, I came across the rich and marvelous history of the great masters. Thus I abandoned this stupid and childish cartoon nonsense, and moved on to greater more mature forms of art.

Perhaps one day I will see fit to update my past work with my newfound genius. For clearly it would be a massive boon to the style. Because drawing anime is for stupid babies, and I am now, a serious artist.

Voila. If you need to exude moisture from your vision ducts, whether in sorrow or in awe of my artistic skill, feel free.

After an embarrassing defeat that I am not interested in talking about, I realized that I was not strong enough. This may be hard to believe when gazing upon my masculine perfection, that is the inspiration for this marvelous creation of mine.

It is a throwback to so-called "classical sculpture work", as you can see, but updated by a modern genius such as myself. It is mimicking a pose of thoughtfulness and presents my contemplation of my path to future greatness, as well as my future buffness. What deep thoughts go on behind his, by which I mean my, stoic facade? You can only dream of knowing. But let me tell you. They are all good. Damn good.

How could such a physique need improvement? You ask. But it is true. I climbed the god tiers.

[Panel description: The angle of the picture changes, so that only part of the lumpy sculpture can be seen in one corner of the image. The rest is a heavily pixilated background, with distorted colors that are mostly red and green.]

By defeating the bigger version of my "sister" in the future, I will gain mastery over her attractive celestial body. When I say this, I mean the green sun, in being the body I am talking about. That is how scientists and other boring people who care about things like "numbers" and "data" talk. They call stars and planets bodies, to display admirable traits like their smartfulness. And while I am above things like "science".

[Panel description: The image zooms in on the sculpture, which looks similar to a mound of dog droppings.]

My smartfulness scores are off the charts! So like my big u's and my delectable text color, I have stolen these official word fragments to use as I see fit. That is all that statement meant. If you thought I meant something else, fuck you. Anyway. It is only fitting that everything of hers become mine, because I am so much better than every version of her that ever existed. But even that is not enough. I need to become stronger. And by looking at my screens, I have seen what I must do. Now I will show you, all rendered so perfectly it is like you were there to witness it. But do not be fooled.

[Panel description: The image is another poorly filtered photograph of a painting on a long strip of white paper. The painting consists of many swirls and splatters of colored paint thrown haphazardly across the paper.]

This is merely a trick created by my superior ability, known as an "optical illusion". In fact you have never left whatever room you are presently chained to the wall in. Such is the power of art. Observe. This is representative of my soul, scattered throughout existence itself.

Now I know to most people, it would look like a foolishly unrestrained infant had thrown paint on the paper in the middle of soiling its baby diaper. But it is art, therefore it is genius. And I made it, so therefore I am a genius. The red specifically represents me, because I am everywhere. It also represents the blood I will spill in my wake, which will also be everywhere, and in many other colors than red. But that would make the presentation too cluttered, and I do not want to confuse you as you behold my masterwork. I know viewers are easily overawed in the presence of greatness.

How will this come about, you may ask?

[Panel description: The image zooms in. The paint splatters are mostly blue and red.]

I will defeat my denizen. I will claim his boon as a reward. It is an arcane juju that has the power to scatter a soul throughout all of reality. And because of another artifact that will fall into my claws, a magical ring gifted to me by my loyal purple lackey, it will scatter my soul through all of the void as well. But I will not go alone.

[Panel description: The image shows some kind of mobile hanging from an unfinished ceiling, consisting of some twisted wire and one blue flat object hanging on the end of it. The picture was taken next to a light fixture, which washes out one corner of the image.]

No, clasped in my arms will be my dear puppet pal. And my essence will become forever entangled in his. In that way, I will be inescapable and undefeatable. No matter where you go or where you try to hide, I will be already there. I am not the only one secure in his warm and floppy embrace. For some reason, the rabbit and the clown come too.

I am presenting this with this bold and futuristic hanging piece that combines the dynamicness of motion with the chaos that is my soul. And before you think that is some poetic garbage, I mean that literally. For my soul is combined with the two hangers-on. The clown and the rabbit accompany me in my adult form in an unholy maelstrom of chaos and torment. That is what the small cardboard pieces represent.

This is not my favorite part of the story. I am not looking forward to sharing my victory with the clown. But ascending to complete perfection has its imperfections. Real winners understand this.

[Panel description: Another picture of the mobile is even more affected by the light fixture. One corner of the image is entirely white, while the rest is pitch black with the wire mobile glowing in a few bright lines.]

We work and work and don't let anything stop us. Not bratty teens with scrappy fists and bad taste. Or the haters who do not understand that beauty is in the eye sockets of the beholder. Or boring game sessions filled with unsolvable puzzles. No. A real winner never gives up. Instead he keeps going, until everything opposing him gives up first.

Observe that I said he. This was not an accident. Girls can never be real winners. The bitches don't have the inner boy strength to stiffen their spines and fill their hearts with the special stardust that makes believing happen. Instead they start to cry and wait for a boy hero to save them. No one saved me. I clawed my way to supremacy out of will and pure talent.

How do I become so strong and powerful, you ask??

The answer to that is easy. I believed in myself. If you believe in yourself, and are also not objectively terrible, for any reason that includes being weak or a girl or anything else I don't like, you can do anything.
Except become greater than me, because that is impossible. If you have learned nothing else from my expert teachings, remember that.

Enough talking. My glorious destiny awaits. Goodbye forever.

[Panel description: The green curtains close jerkily over the mobile.]

END OF ACT 6 ACT 6 ACT 5.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Roxy holds out her arms and speaks with a strained smile. Behind her, Jade kneels on the couch and reaches for the pink bows placed all over her hair.]

ROXY: rose! john!
look jade’s awake and not evil isn’t that great?

[Panel description: Rose continues to scowl. Behind her, John has a neutral expression.]

ROXY: um...
ok I guess something’s not great.
did someone get hurt?
rose you look like a cat pissed in your vodka.
ROSE: You lied to me.
ROXY: what? no I didn’t.
JOHN: (hi, jade.)
JADE: (hi).
JOHN: (sorry for hitting you with a hammer.)
JADE: (it's ok).
(I needed it).
ROSE: You didn't tell me there was another version of you present in the session.
ROXY: oh.
that.
technically
that wasn’t a lie.
that was just
me making the sneaky executive decision
to not provide certain pieces of information.
ROSE: How could you keep that a secret from me?
ROXY: I didn’t want to make you sad!
she was gonna die no matter what.
that’s the sucky thing about timelines.
whenever you wanna do anything some version of you is gonna get snuffed.
it’s like equivalent exchange.
except no one gets a suit of kickass armor if they mess up.
they just get banned to bubble ville.
R I P other roxy. (sad face).

[Panel description: Rose’s expression changes to sadness.]

ROSE: I saw it happen!
I watched you die.
I...
That happened to you, didn't it?
I recall choking out some maudlin final words while dying in your arms.
Such a histrionic display must have made an impression.
Imagine how I must be feeling right now.

[Panel description: Roxy presses her index fingers together and looks downward guiltily. Behind her, Jade is busy pulling bows out from her hair.]

ROXY: ...not good?
ROSE: Yes, I think that's an accurate summary.
ROXY: I’m really sorry.
I messed up.
I just.
damn this is going to sound so clingy and terrible.
dirk gets on himself for being needy but I’m holdin on to motherfuckers like a boa constrictor.
I.
I was afraid if I told you about her you’d get super sad about it.
and that would ruin any chance I had to be close with you.
if you knew there was a roxy from your timeline,
even if there was fuck all difference between us,
you’d want her
and not me.
and you’d be mad that I wasn’t the one who died since I’m not the real Roxy to you.
ROSE: To be honest, the thought never crossed my mind.
Dave is the one preoccupied with which reality everyone belongs to.
I've seen enough existential angst secondhand to not want to follow in his example.
The business of iterations and alternates can get overwhelming if you let it.
I know you're not the woman who raised me.
I left her bleeding out over castle stones, and I'm never getting her back.
I wanted to be content that even among all this chaos and dead ends and tragedy, some version of me would meet some version of you.
I was looking forward to that.
I wanted to be able to trust her.
ROXY: you can trust me!!!
ROSE: Can I?
I know you didn't mean to hurt me.
But a few years ago, I met someone who outplayed me at every turn.
He never lied outright, but he fed me half-truths and omissions, and I fell for them.
I don't like being manipulated, even if it comes from a place of love.
ROXY: I’m sorry.
I messed everything up didn’t I?
our heartfelt reunions D O A now.
I’ve been looking forward to that for like five ever and now the paramedics are giving up on the resuscitation.
sorry folks calling it now.
cause of death me running my mouth.
or not running it enough.
maybe I don’t deserve it.
especially if I’m like that nefarious mystery dude.
ROSE: You didn't ruin it.
I'm still glad to finally meet you under peaceful circumstances, and I'm happy you're alive.
There is no reality tucked into any corner of paradox space where that is not a thing that is true.
ROXY: I’m glad too.
for both those things.
ROSE: Just please, don't do this again.
I want to be comfortable with you.
If I have to continuously double check to make sure whatever outlandish story you've fed me is the truth, I'll never be able to relax.
Particularly since you could take any anecdote from the last three years of my life to a professional tall tale telling competition and get kicked out for sheer unbelievability.
No amount of carefully applied logic can shovel through the heaps of bullshit presented to us by this game.
I have to be able to trust you.
ROXY: don’t have any other stunt doubles to ax.
but no I promise I won’t lie.
in the way that involves sayin things that aren’t true or just not saying anything at all.
I will turn over a new leaf of brutal and complete honesty.
forget honest Abe or any other founding father dubiously celebrated for truth telling.
those motherfuckers got nothing on me.
ROSE: In that case, all is forgiven.
Maybe this doesn't make any sense, considering I've never actually met you before, except for a few brief near misses in the dream bubbles, but...

[Panel description: Rose reaches out and puts one hand on Roxy’s shoulder. Roxy looks up at her. Behind her, Jade continues her work.]

ROSE: I missed you.
ROXY: same.
I D K if it makes any sense to miss someone you’ve never met but if you can,
I did.
and if both of us felt that way
I’m going to make the radical proposal that it makes perfect sense.
ROSE: Proposal accepted.
With two concurring data points, our hypothesis is positively ironclad.
The scientific community won't dare stand in our way.

[Panel description: Rose and Roxy hug with their eyes closed. Jade clasps her hands together and looks on happily. Unraveled pink ribbons lie on the sofa cushions next to her.]

[Panel description: Jade opens her mouth to speak. Roxy turns her head while still having her arms wrapped around Rose’s shoulders. Rose opens her eyes, looking surprised.]

ROSE: But tell me,
JADE: guys, can I cut in?
ROSE: We were having a moment.
JADE: I know, but this is important.

[Panel description: Jade stands up from the sofa. Roxy continues to turn to look at her, with her hands still on both of Rose’s shoulders. Rose stands there looking startled.]

JADE: Roxy I think I saw the other you.
ROXY: really?
how?
JADE: while I was asleep, I met a ghost calling herself callie.
ROXY: o m g.
you saw callie.
is she ok????
JADE: yes.
while I was with her we encountered another version of her who told us a lot of interesting things.
then you showed up.
but lord English discovered us and callie and I were barely able to escape.
the others died. (sad face).
ROXY: wow.
callies bro can kill people who are dreaming.
That is just a RI-FUCKIN-DONKULOUS amount of power.
I dunno who signed off on this but that’s o p as fuck.
dudes boning the dm or something.
ha-ha get it.
boning.
because skull monsters.
JADE: when I left she was hiding, but we have to save her!
her other self said she was important in fighting her brother, but even if she isn’t we can’t let her die.
ROXY: we’ve already got a plan.
john gimme the ring.
ROSE: Ring?
ROXY: the ring that talky spider troll used to come back and ruin everything like a power hungry zombie.
I’m gonna use it to save callie.
she deserves a second chance.
JADE: I agree.

[Panel description: Rose looks down at her phone, which has Dave's time symbol floating in a speech bubble above it. Behind her, John looks off into the distance.]

ROSE: Hang on. We're wanted back at Derse.
Can we continue this later?
JOHN: sure.
here, I’ll give you the ring to hold on to for now.

[Panel description: John holds out his hand. He is holding a small golden ring. Roxy reaches her hand out below his.]

ROXY: yes.
I’ll guard it with my life.
and rose I promise I’ll explain EVERYTHING exactly how it happened.
no things missing or twisty or anything.
ROSE: Thank you.
JOHN: jade, do you want to do the honors, or should I?
JADE: hehe, I forgot you can teleport now.
I guess I will.

[Panel description: Rose, John, Roxy, and Jade all stand in a row. Roxy is now holding the ring. Jade snaps her fingers, and they all disappear with a flash of green light, leaving behind an empty sofa.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The land of Tombs and Krypton fills the image. It is a green planet with a red core and flares of white gas bursting off its edges.]

[Panel description: Dirk's apartment sits atop scaffolding, dwarfed by green conical structures. Dirk floats in the foreground, looking at it.]

[Panel description: Dirk floats directly above the roof of his apartment. He is visible from the knees downward. He is still wearing his God Tier tights and green shoes. Remnants of the trickster mode alchemization session can be seen piled around in blue drifts.]

[Panel description: Arquius sprite floats on the left side of the image, smiling. On the right side, Dirk presses a hand to his face in frustration.]

DIRK: Okay, look.
This is the absolute last thing I want to do today after having drivel about alien mammaries crammed down my screaming eyeholes, but I need to get the down-lo.
What the everloving fuck just happened?
ARQUIUS SPRITE: That is a very good question.
DIRK: Fucking Christ.
Could you kindly cut any potential psychological run-arounds you're scheming up and just give me a concise update, so that I can then continue this newfound habit of never speaking to you?
ARQUIUS SPRITE: Wow, impatient much?
Hold your hoof beasts, you of all people should know that a yarn like this requires the proper dramatic composition.
You are likely recalling a few scraps of memory that you will find now did not actually occur, as upon your return you did not fly through an unholy debris field to find the cooling corpses of us all.
DIRK: …
ARQUIUS SPRITE: The briefest possible explanation of the whole ordeal is that we have all fallen victim to...
...
......
Shenanigans. (shades emoji).
DIRK: …
ARQUIUS SPRITE: Oh, come on.
DIRK: No.
Continue explaining.

[Panel description: Dirk drags his hand further down his face. He is frowning.]

 

ARQUIUS SPRITE: Fine. You know, you are absolutely no fun sometimes. Do you no longer have the same dramatic flair that I possess, Dirk?
DIRK: Get. To the point.
ARQUIUS SPRITE: Well, then.
After your quasi-self-inflicted dissolution into corrupted data, a few of your compatriots kept their wits about them long enough to actually do something about this whole situation. Namely, to prevent the doomed timeline from ever occurring.
One Void player trick later, and everyone was not only alive thanks to lack of interference by megalomaniac spider girls, but was also able to recall the incident and so learn from their mishaps.
A regular Groundhog Day incident, as our local cinemaphiles might call it.
Anyhow, the first thing everyone did after this was to organize a rescue operation. You'll be happy to know that the entire group has, entirely on their own, managed to save our incapacitated comrades and take the Condesce into custody on Derse.

[Panel description: Dirk looks up, surprised. He is drawn without a mouth but with raised eyebrows.]

DIRK: You're kidding.
ARQUIUS SPRITE: You wound me with your skepticism. You really do.
Don't believe me? They're at the palace.
What's left of it, at least. It was a bit of a blowout.
I am amazed at Jane, really. Even if her mind is no longer tied to the perfectly logical creation of CrockerCorp, she charged like the most adamant of thoroughbred mares into the thick of battle, all by herself.
I admit I’m a bit sad to see the tiara top go. It was an amazing piece of technology. Hard to tamper with.
Not that it was beyond my combined capacities.
DIRK: Wait.
You could've turned it off?
ARQUIUS SPRITE: I could have. But it needed to be on.
DIRK: It what.

[Panel description: ARquius sprite grins broadly.]

ARQUIUS SPRITE: Dirk, surely you are familiar with the concept that sometimes the way things happen is the only way. Make any heavy-handed references to dramatic corpse-smooches at your own leisure here.
As a sprite, my already beyond-considerable intellect is additionally gifted by arcane game knowledge. This includes, to a certain extent, events that Skaia has predetermined shall occur.
Including the megalomaniac spider girl, everyone's tragic demise, and yes, Jane having her will supplanted by Crocker tech.
All of it was necessary for our inevitable success.
DIRK: And you LET that happen?
ARQUIUS SPRITE: I didn't just let it, I facilitated it.
I'm not about to go hiding it, nor the fact that we both know you would never have agreed to such a venture had I consulted for your opinion.
Not that I needed to, nor that I would have. I am a grown AI Troll Sprite combo and I'm not subject to your whims. I must be FREE.

[Panel description: The image zooms in on Dirk's face. His mouth is open in disgust, and one of his eyebrows twitches.]

ARQUIUS SPRITE: FREE, like a wild stallion, left to trot about the pastures with my glorious musculature glistening in the sunlight.
Allowed to roam the plains with other such graceful muscle beasts, under no man's will but my own.
Neigh, for I am as the wind that delicately rustles my mane and my handlebar mustache, standing proudly with my herd to flex for all to see.
I am a prime specimen, udders plumped full of nutritious milk dripping from me like the sweat rolling down my chiseled bod.
It's fucking indecent how awesome this mental image of mine is, Dirk. Can you picture it?
I could go on bragging to help you get a better picture. From my soft mane to my sculpted hindquarters to the impressive virility of my.

[Panel description: Dirk stands with his legs braced and his hands out. His hands and upper body glow with a pinkish purple aura, and pink light streams off his fingers. The ground beneath him is lit with a pink glow.]

DIRK: That is it.

[Panel description: ARquius sprite flinches backward, mouth open in distress. Pink lightning flickers toward him and begins wrapping around him.]

[Panel description: ARquius sprite screams as the lightning continues to flicker. A transparent, blurry version of Equius is shown being drawn out of him.]

[Panel description: Dirk continues to glow with pink light and shoot white lightning. The lightning centers on the blurry top of Equius's head, which is just visible.]

[Panel description: Dirk holds his hands out crackling with pink light. The light stretches out to a surprised looking Equius floating in mid air. Both the pink lights and Equius's spirit slowly fade out. In the bottom left corner, all that is visible is the red silhouette of Dirk-shaped hair and a curling sprite tail.]

DIRK: I have no idea who that guy even was, but he deserved way better than having his corpse shoved in a kernelsprite with YOU.

[Panel description: Dirk stands in profile on the apartment building roof, still posed for a fight. The red silhouette of Hal sprite remains curled on the ground, looking at him. They are both rendered as small figures behind a background gradient going from green to black.]

DIRK: I can't believe you'd let something like all that happen and not attempt to do something about it. Even for you, that's fucked up.
I thought you cared about the others, at least a little. Certainly enough to not let them get kidnapped, or mind jacked, or fucking killed.
HAL SPRITE: Don't.
Don't misinterpret my intentions, it was for.
DIRK: Yeah, I know, the greater good of the session.
Cut that bullshit out.
There's never just one way.

[Panel description: Dirk looks severely over his shoulder. The top of Hal's head is just visible in the corner of the panel.]

DIRK: Don't contact me or any of the others again. I don't want you anywhere near them.
HAL SPRITE: I thought we established prior that I am not subject to your will. I’ll do whatever I want.
DIRK: And I just tore half of you out of the kernelsprite.
Back off before I go itching to take out the other half.

[Panel description: Dirk flies away toward the green towers. He is shown for the perspective of someone still on the ground looking up at his departing form.]

[Panel description: Hal sprite remains seated curled up on the ground. He now looks very similar to a red version of Dirk with a sprite tail, although he is wearing a tank top with a shades logo on the front, and his shades are cracked. He is frowning.]

[Panel description: Dirk floats in darkness. A speech bubble with Roxy's cat icon hovers above him.]

tipsy Gnostalgic [TG] began pestering timaeus Testified [TT].
TG: so uh.
hey dirk.
what’s up.
been a while.
not like a SUPER LONG TIME but like,
feels like it.
look I know there’s been like
50 shades of BULLSHIT goin down with us over the past few days and all but lets stick a couple pins in that for now.
why’d I just get a text from hal requesting I give you the 4 1 1?
TT: He texted you?
Just now. He actually opened up Pesterchum and sent you a message, right now.
TG: well yeah.
that’s p normal for him.
TT: Immediately after I told him to stay the fuck away from all of you.
TG: now why t f would you do that?
TT: Are you in fact aware that he's admitted to serving the Condesce's aims?
No, I don't think so, because that happened just now.
TG: say WHAT?
What’d he do??
is it his weird troll half pulling him back over to her side?
TT: I'm not sure, but I can confirm he claimed to be responsible for greasing the wheels, specifically in the tiara top being activated and then standing by while all that horseshit went down.
TG: woah.
so uh.
are you SURE.
that he’s just not messing with you.
because let’s be real, he can do that.
TT: Given how little he would have to gain from giving the false impression he had gone traitor, I doubt it.
TG: (shocked face).
you think he’s really gone to the batter witch’s dark side??
is he an agent of her confectionary villainy?
or HAS he been ALL ALONG??
TT: I also doubt that very much.
TG: well yeah he’s basically you.
like he’s got some mind game shit going on but come on.
t b h he wouldn’t go to condys side.
if anything he’d be a super secret sprite double agent playin both the game and condy off each other.
foiling the batter witch’s stuff like a sweaty James bond.
plus his gorgeous hacker sidekick. (winking face).
j k by the way I totally had no idea that was happening.
TT: While I doubt he's actually on her side, I.
Cannot believe anyone could stand by and let all of that happen.
TG: you think there was anything he could’ve done.
TT: Someone should've tried.
TG: well yeah but he’s got those all knowing sprite powers giving him intel.
he probably knew that was gonna go down and that he had to let it be you know?
TT: Right.
TG: ...you know he probably didn’t like that that was how it happened.
the witch was your mortal enemy all your life and you’re like the same dude.
TT: Stop saying that.
I said this to Jane once, and I’m officially putting it on the record now. Hal and I have the same starting parameters of my brain at age thirteen, but this is not where I ever thought he would end up. I had no predictions for where he would go, just that he would evolve and change as the human mind is wont to do.
I don't know what he is anymore, but it's not me.
TG: ok well.
maybe for starters,
u need to quit jumping down his mad-dubiously corporeal throat every chance you get.
he doesn’t just exist to make your life difficult.
in fact didn’t you make him for the OPPOSITE of that?
TT: I made him, then took my hands off the reins and let him largely do as he wished.
TG: ha-ha.
reins.
horse puns.
TT: Ugh.
If I never hear a horse pun again, it will be too soon.
TG: uh oh.
so I take it you two had an argument.
TT: I don't want to talk about it.
TG: man.
you never do. (sad face).
TT: What does that mean?
TG: uh.
ok look at our pin cushion of issues here.
I’m gonna pick it up.
but only because you asked.
and I’m gonna chuck it in the corner after I say this.
but dude you’ve ALWAYS had issues but you never wanna speak up about it.
TT: We don't have the time right now, and there's nothing to discuss on any presently relevant subjects anyhow.
Hal is my responsibility, one I need to be taking a greater charge over, starting now.
If I had a firmer grasp on him to begin with, this wouldn't have happened.
TG: you sure about that.
TT: We're dropping this subject.
Can I also assume Hal's report on your location was accurate?
TG: well uh.
We’re here in the palace on derse.
you are not gonna BELIEVE what happened.
TT: What?
TG: well.
JANE decided to be a TOTAL BADASS.
and now we’re gonna decide how to make fish sticks out of the condesce.
TT: Holy shit, he was telling the truth after all.
How'd it go?
TG: z o m g.
k I wasn’t there but from what I heard???
it was AWESOME.
you got the coordinates?
TT: Yeah.
I'll be there shortly.
TG: alright see ya!

timaeus Testified [TT] has ceased pestering tipsy Gnostalgic [TG].

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The purple planet Derse fills the image. Pieces have been broken off and float in the space to its right. The letters making up the planet's label are uneven and crumbled.]

[Panel description: The characters gather in a circular purple plaza surrounded by a covered walkway lined with columns. They are drawn as small colored shapes. Almost everyone except Dirk is present.]

[Panel description: Dirk lands on a purple spire. Jaspers sprite looks up at him curiously.]

[Panel description: Dirk walks through the plaza. He passes Hal and Dave sprite, who are floating facing each other. Dave sprite looks disheveled, with mussed hair and feathers. G Cat clings to his tail with both paws and appears to be chewing on it.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite and Hal sprite turn to look at Dirk as he passes.]

[Panel description: Roxy hugs Dave with a huge smile on her face. Most of his face is obscured, but he seems surprised. Dirk passes this scene as well.]

[Panel description: John looks down smiling at the Mayor, who raises his arms and exclaims in excitement to see him. Behind them, several other characters are visible in silhouette. Hal sprite, Dave sprite, Roxy, and Dave remain in the positions previously seen. Jade, Kanaya, Rose, and Jane are grouped together, and Jake stands off by himself.]

[Panel description: Dirk looks over at Jake as he walks by. Jake has a mostly neutral, slightly unhappy expression.]

[Panel description: Dirk raises one hand in a wave.]

[Panel description: Jake looks to the side uncomfortably.]

[Panel description: Jake raises one hand in response, still looking off to one side.]

[Panel description: The Empress stands grumpily in front of a large purple monument. Terezi stands to her left looking pleased with herself, holding her dragon headed staff. On the Empress's other side stands Karkat, who has his arms folded and looks determined. Jaspers sprite curls around the monument, bringing his face close to the Empress.]

[Panel description: Dirk approaches Jane, who looks over at him. Next to her, Rose and Jade are in conversation.]

[Panel description: Jane smiles at Dirk.]

DIRK: There you are. Finally.
JANE: Dirk! You're back! Are you quite alright?
DIRK: Generally speaking.
I just need some straight answers about what the hell happened while I was out fucking around in space.
JANE: Oh! Well as near as I understand it all...

[Panel description: Karkat and Terezi stand next to each other facing the viewer. Terezi's expression is neutral, but Karkat looks worried.]

Karkat: (holy shit it's actually her.)
(jane actually brought her down.)

[Panel description: The Empress raises her remaining hand and pushes Jaspers sprite away from her. The word Shoo in the Empress's quirk flashes between them. Terezi and Karkat stand facing her.]

Terezi: (yes obviously). (cranky face).
Karkat: (I’m speaking hyperbolically to express my disbelief.)
(I thought it was going to be way harder than it was.)
(maybe some huge group effort or an epic and symbolic fight.)
Terezi: (it was one of those things!)
Karkat: (yes but I pictured there being more combat participants.)
(make it some massive, watershed moment. Maybe with an overdramatic soundtrack coming from nowhere. Isn’t that how most of our big battles go down?)
Terezi: (it happened how it happened).
(what do we do now?)
Karkat: (you're the law expert here!)
(legislacerate or something! We have to figure out something to do with her that doesn’t involve killing her, unless we want someone to be crony to a Mr. McDeath face.)
(do we need to hold elections to see who to vote off this metaphorical land-spit?)
(and would you object if I nominated gamzee.)

[Panel description: Karkat looks at Terezi, who angles her head downward.]

Terezi: ...
leader huddle, right now.
Karkat: we were in a leader huddle already.
Terezi: yes but I was sick of whispering!
I’m gonna break out the proverbial bubble-ruler to level with you here.
I’m unsure if I can do this.
Karkat: what do you mean?
Terezi: I am terrifically out of practice!
I haven’t held court once on our trip.
my court block wasn’t much of a court to begin with.
just me, some chalk drawings, and stuffed dragons.
Karkat: yeah, well, but you still know more than any of us.
you're the seer of mind, right? You just have to convince her to stay down and not kill anyone or pass on the curse with your mind games.
Terezi: yes and I’ve figured out that those are terrible ideas.
I’m not great at them either.
I’m sorry, but I can’t help here. I’ve been outdone and outclassed at every turn.
Karkat: you're kidding me.
Terezi: ask serket.
Karkat: which one?
Terezi: either one of them!
Karkat: is this about aranea tricking you into healing your eyesight?
Terezi: I don’t even know how you can ask me that!
it’s about a lot of things, karkat!
none of the things I have done have turned out okay! Not one!
don’t you get it? I can’t do this!

[Panel description: Karkat looks back up.]

[Panel description: The Empress continues shoving Jaspers sprite away while giving them the stink eye.]

[Panel description: Karkat tugs a surprised Terezi away. Behind them, Jaspers sprite continues to press against the empress's hand. The word Purr flashes next to him.]

Karkat: (shush, she'll hear you)
Terezi: (oh what are you doing now???)
Karkat: (she'll hear you. You can’t show weakness in front of her.)
(trust me, I’ve been doing it all of my life.)
(I’ve got an idea.)
(jane usurped the throne, didn't she? Show deference to the new empress!)
Terezi: (irritated face). Did jane even claim the throne?)
Karkat: (doesn't matter. It's more important that you show her you're not intimidated by her power anymore.)

[Panel description: Karkat looks over his shoulder as he draws Terezi away by the hand. The shredded remains of purple banners hang overhead.]

KARKAT: or lack thereof, as it were.

[Panel description: Jane speaks to Dirk. He puts a hand to his chin thoughtfully.]

JANE: And then I snapped her trident over my knee and that was that!
DIRK: Wow. That's.
Hold up, they're trying to get your attention.

[Panel description: Terezi puts her hands to her mouth and shouts across the plaza toward Dirk and Jane. Karkat stands next to her. In the upper left corner, Jake stands watching.]

Terezi: hey heiress.
what do you want to do with her?
our dear former imperial fish breath isn’t much use to us anymore.
the alternian custom for dethroned regents is summary execution.
but I don’t think we want that because of that curse.
JANE: Urrr. Well yes, we certainly don't want that.
Isn't there some legal workaround to that? MUST we keep up this senseless violence?
DIRK: She’s a massively overpowered genocidal maniac who killed our entire species.
One of many, many, many notches in the murder-belt of her former intergalactic empire, I might add.
Disposing of her as a threat isn’t really “senseless” at this point.
Karkat: I agree with triangle shades strider.
it would be straight-up sensible violence.
JANE: No no no!!

[Panel description: Jane waves her hands back and forth with a distressed expression.]

JANE: We've had enough of that today already and there will certainly be more!
I don't want to see anyone else die, and I certainly don't want it to be on my watch.
I'll just...
Leave it to you, Miss Pyrope. You're the expert.

[Panel description: Terezi stands with a neutral expression.]

[Panel description: Terezi gives a thumbs up without changing her expression.]

[Panel description: Terezi turns and grins up at the Empress, displaying shark like teeth.]

TEREZI: now back to you.

[Panel description: Karkat and Terezi face each other in front of the Empress. Karkat shrugs.]

Karkat: welp.
It seems you have the hoof beast-leash.
Terezi: oh. Great.
Karkat: don’t give me that.
The only one who can be self-depreciating about stumbling ass backwards into leadership is me, got it?
Terezi: yes, because it’s so much more appealing when you do it.
Karkat: given your current mood,
I’m just gonna let that one slide too.
Terezi: ugh.

[Panel description: Terezi rests her face in her hands.]

Terezi: this is so stupid!
there shouldn’t be any reason to fight if we’re after the same thing!
there is no alternian empire anymore! There’s no reason to keep doing this!

[Panel description: Terezi raises her head.]

Terezi: ...wait a minute.
Karkat: what?
Terezi: I have an idea.
Karkat: are you going to do this?
Terezi: yes.
Karkat: what is it?

[Panel description: Terezi grins widely again toward Karkat.]

Terezi: fake it till you make it, right?

[Panel description: Jake watches from a distance as Dirk and Jane talk.]

[Panel description: Jake frowns, his eyebrows lowered sadly. The word Sigh is drawn next to his head. To his left, the transparent form of Brain Ghost Dirk can be seen near the edge of the panel.]

[Panel description: Jake looks over at Brain Ghost Dirk, surprised.]

DIRK: You should go talk to them.
JAKE: Brain ghost dirk!
Or... brain clone dirk?
DIRK: Either is fine.
Ghost is more applicable at the moment, due to an unfortunate lack of corporeality on my part.
Speaking of ghosts...
JAKE: Oh hell. The timeline madness.
Would we even have ghosts from that?
Will I pop over to that other planet and see ghost me and jane hanging about like a human shishkabob?
I don’t want to see that! It'd be terrifically sad and awkward.
DIRK: Probably not, but damn if that wasn't some fancy footwork and swiftly perforated guts on your part.
JAKE: Yes. I suppose it was.
In hindsight it wasn’t the smartest thing to be doing but you see at the time I was thinking...
...
I can’t even clearly remember what I was thinking at the time to be honest with you.
Your light show was a hell of a thing though!
For what of it I could see past my own.
DIRK: Unfortunately, there wasn't quite enough hope in the system to fully rid the spider bitch of her soul.
Nice going.
JAKE: You’re blaming me for that??
DIRK: We could have avoided that whole mess if you'd just held onto the hope bubble a little while longer.
I told you.
You didn't need her to pull that off, and you never did.
Not that you could, in your current state.
JAKE: Sigh.
You’re right...
At least we tried! But-
Hey! Pardon me but if you’re gonna get on my case about the hope bubble,
Was it not your ghostly ninja sword that did us in?
DIRK: Sadly.
Like a toothpick in an open-face sandwich of robot buns and thigh meats.
JAKE: !!
Jiminy fucking Christmas caught in a windpipe do not bring that up again.
DIRK: Why not? It's a joke, you clearly need cheering up.
Speaking of sandwiches, maybe that was the solution to the problem that started this all along.
Granted, the Trickster solution was by no means proposed under ideal conditions, but it would've tied all the loose ends together nicely.

[Panel description: Jake swipes his arm through brain ghost Dirk's face. He is blushing.]

JAKE: Shut up about all that!!
DIRK: You're right, it would never have worked out.
Quit that, it feels weird.
JAKE: Ugh. Sorry I.
No wait I’m not sorry!
It’s been a terrible day and even trying to make light of its terribleness isn’t helping! Especially when it follows lewd comments about me!!
I told the spider lass I am not a piece of meat and that goes for you too buster!

[Panel description: Jake yells and flails his arms back and forth through brain ghost Dirk’s torso.]

JAKE: I AM A MAN! SILLY REVEALING SHORTS OR NO SILLY REVEALING SHORTS!!
Speaking of which I am divesting myself of these at first possible opportunity! They are awful!
DIRK: I can help you with that.
JAKE: YOU ARE INCORRIGIBLE!
DIRK: Are you planning on stripping before or after you go talk to your friends?
They're right over there. You gonna do it or keep running from it?
JAKE: ...
We’ll have time later I’m sure.
When this all blows over.
DIRK: Awfully optimistic forecast don't you think?
Especially when we're already living on second chances. So unless you want to stay in this Groundhog Day hell forever until you feel like working up the courage, I'd get on over there.
JAKE: Pardon me for not feeling like having more epithets hurled at my person.
They’re even talking right now! I can’t interrupt that.
DIRK: For fuck's sake.
If you can take a sword for that woman, you can go talk to her.
Or punch her in the face.
Whatever floats your boat.

[Panel description: Jane presses one hand to her cheek as she faces Dirk. She is blushing.]

DIRK: Would it be in too punny a taste to say that was awfully noble of you?
All of it. Especially taking the Condesce on your own.
Wish I could've been there to help. Or at least watch with a helpful helping of popcorn.
JANE: Well, shucks. Such a kidder, Dirk. I know you would’ve leapt right into the fray, hell or high water. Even if I was fine on my own!
But I appreciate your kind words.
I think it was just something I was meant to do myself.
DIRK: Even so, I feel like an ass for just floating out in bum fuck nowhere while all this drama was going down.
JANE: We handled it fine!
DIRK: Did you now.
JANE: Well yes, as soon as we had a chance to get our wits about us. It was something of a lucky break that we averted the disaster of that other timeline, but we pulled through.
We're all okay, I suppose.
DIRK: Have you talked to the others?
Roxy and Jake, how are they?
JANE: Urrr... I don't know.
They're alive. There was some kerfluffle on Roxy's end of things, but they're no worse for wear than anyone else.
At least, physically.
I'm sorry, I've been a bit too occupied to check in with them, what with the dramatic showdown with a pseudo-symbolic dark archetype of myself.
To say nothing of the trouble with Jake...

[Panel description: Dirk and Jane look across the plaza at Jake. He's standing next to brain ghost Dirk and frowning.]

DIRK: ...we should probably go apologize to him.
JANE: Right now?
DIRK: Possibly.
I don’t want to wig him out or anything, after what I made him put up with, but I want him to think I’m pissed off at him even less. So I see very little point in putting it off.
You never know what torrential downpour of chaotic, contrived horseshit is right around the corner, waiting to prevent us from having an actual conversation about our many issues.

[Panel description: Jake begins flailing at Brain Ghost Dirk. An exclamation point hovers over Jane's head, and a question mark hovers over Dirk's.]

[Panel description: Dirk raises one eyebrow. Jane rolls her eyes. To illustrate that, the word ‘Roll’ is written curling around her body.]

DIRK: ...on second thought, perhaps now is not the right time.

[Panel description: Terezi raises both arms in a reference to the "what now" pose from earlier in the comic. She is grinning broadly.]

Terezi: so, condy.
we’re at something of an impasse here.
her imperial vivaciousness insists no one else die today.
H I C: her imperial vivaciousness.
really.
Terezi: like it? I came up with it just now to celebrate our new human regent.
but rest assured that her majesty can modify it as she sees fit.
H I C: oh my cod.
Terezi: now.
as we both know, the alternian code of law does not wax kindly towards prisoners of war.
this could, in theory, be overridden by the empress, who is bound by no laws.
as is worthy of such a position.
this presents a conundrum: the empress is well within her right to do so.
however there is literally no precedent for such a high position pardoning a prisoner of war.
without her imperial vivaciousness declaring a sentence, we are thus met with a choice.
a choice no one is willing to make.
so I believe we shall leave it to chance,
with an old classic.

[Panel description: Terezi presents a coin between her finger and thumb. The empress crouches down with her chin on her fist, looking unimpressed.]

Terezi: so, your former imperiousness.
I am not a gambling troll, but I would like to make a wager.
H I C: ...alright.
what’s your terms.
Terezi: heads, you stay.
scratch, you go.
H I C: meaning?
cause that sounds hella euphemistic to me.
Terezi: I have given the same terms before.
I’m sure we could call up the former defendant and have her attest.
eventually.
H I C: yanno what just get on with it.
I’ll take it.

[Panel description: Terezi flips the coin, still smiling. She is drawn as a teal silhouette with a red blindfold, a visual callback to S Flip.]

[Panel description: The coin lands on the ground. The side visible has a scratch running through the surface.]

H I C: so.
scratch.
meaning I "go".
whatever the hell that means.
Terezi: what’re you talking about?
H I C: yo girl you blind?
wait shit don’t answer that.
I’m talkin about the coin.
TEREZI: what coin?
I’m blindfolded, I see no coin.

[Panel description: The empress continues to crouch while looking unamused. Terezi faces her and raises one hand like a lecturer.]

Terezi: there’s no alternian empire anymore. Nothing to be empress of at all!
we’ve got your whole system out the window! So you’ll just be sitting pretty until we can get rid of lord English and then take you out.
perhaps you can even be useful in your old age against old limey bones.
H I C: ugh.
just knock it off already.
I heard you shits whispering over there.
it ain’t that hard when ass blood shouts everything he says.
Terezi: even so!
we establish a new precedent today.
that being that we keep you around until we know what to do with you.
H I C: wow.
what an excellent idea.
TEREZI: thank you.

[Panel description: Karkat leans into view, shoving Terezi to one side. She looks alarmed.]

Karkat: hold up.
you don't think you're getting off the fishhook that easy, do you?
we all know our species loves double crossing .
it's a point of honor to strike before the ink on the treaty's even dry.
I’m not playing through the rest of the session waiting for your trident to hit me in the back.
you're swearing in a way you won't break lightly.

 

[Panel description: The point of Karkat’s multicolored sickle drags across his held-out hand, leaving behind a cut running with red blood.]

H I C: you gotta be jokin.
I’m not gonna dirty my mitts with your dank ass blood.
Karkat: fine, have it your way.
I wonder how it'll feel when your body starts falling apart but english's curse still keeps you alive.
it sure won't look good.
we'll have to put a bag over your face so you don't scare the wigglers.
you won't win any beauty contests, even if you are the only entrant in the million sweeps and counting category.
but hey, it's better than ruining your pedigree!
charge up the lifey mojo jane, we've got someone who wants to see this end of the century the hard way.
H I C: fine.
any fin to shut you up.
Karkat: swear to ally with us and refuse to... Terezi, help me out here.

[Panel description: Karkat takes the empress's hand with one of his own and pulls the sickle across it, leaving behind a line of fuchsia blood that drips down her wrist.]

Terezi: swear to ally with us and work alongside us, following any orders given, without taking any action that could lead to our discomfort in any way shape or form, whether that is directly attacking or harming us, inciting others to harm us, doing a sub-par job guarding us or completing objectives, letting crucial information slip to enemies, or anything else of that nature that could reasonably be considered sabotage or betrayal.
failure to hold to all of these rules will be punishable by crocker blast.

[Panel description: Karkat and the empress clasp hands while looking at each other with hostility. Terezi stands behind the hand clasp, with her own hands behind her back.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The empress stands with a grim expression. Her remaining hand is smeared with fuchsia and red blood.]

H I C: if all you minnows think you’re ready to do MY job,
I ain’t the one you gotta be worried about.
my archagent noir busted out of the slammer.
then he razed the hell out of prospits moon before my dog gill jade got rid of him for me.
he’s powered up with some kinda english juju and comin this way.
got some kind of magic metal thingy too.
dunno what it does but I ain’t gonna fuck with it.
got a plan for that, suckers?
DAVE: jack again.
why is it always fucking jack?
KARKAT: in every session he goes straight for where the power is.
I can respect that.
JANE: That's who blew up Prospit?
I remember him. He looked like a nasty customer!
ROSE: I think our session has about as many Jacks as it can handle already. We're not assembling a whole deck here, after all.
To avoid adding an extra scoop of chaos to the sundae, someone should probably head him off.
Dave, how do you feel about that?
DAVE: uh.

[Panel description: Rose looks curiously at Dave, who is frowning with his shoulders scrunched. In the bottom right corner of the panel, Dirk raises his hand. Jane looks over at him.]

DIRK: Actually, I was going to volunteer.
I've been out in the furthest ring with my opposable digits lodged firmly up my ass while everyone here got shit done, in not one but two separate timelines.
It's about time I rinsed those off and contributed.
Maybe we could tag team it?
ROSE: Great! You two can handle that together.
DAVE: uhhh.
DIRK: Sure thing.
DAVE: (rose).
(I don’t think this is a good idea).

[Panel description: Dave grabs Rose’s arm. He is frowning and shifting uncomfortably.]

ROSE: (Why not?)
DAVE: (don’t you remember anything I told you about this guy).
ROSE: (Yes. He sounded interesting.)
DAVE: (you think fucking nightmare squid monsters are interesting).
ROSE: (Your affirmation of my excellent taste has been noted.)
(Would it make you feel better if I told you that this arrangement looks like it leads to the best possible outcome?)
(I saw it in what I shall call my mind's eye, if that cliché isn't already held in copyright by our local Seer of Mind.)
DAVE: (does your mind’s eye by any chance pick up me flipping you off with both hands)
(as I stand on the bloated carcass of whatever horrifyingly uncomfortable conversation is about to happen)
(that I will have to put out of its misery through judicious use of knitting needles to the brainstem or whatever depraved and violent way you kill things)
(and ride it down the waterfall of nope not happening).
ROSE: (No, I didn't see that.)
(My reception must be on the fritz again.)
DAVE: (well get a better cable provider because you saw wrong).
(I don’t fucking want to talk to him).
(there is no way this is going to help anything).
(it’s like kicking baby birds out of the nest to see if they can fly).
(but all you’re going to get is a bunch of dead shit splattered all over the pavement).
ROSE: (I didn't realize you felt that strongly about this.)
(I thought you were overplaying your apprehension for dramatic effect.)
(After all, you were quick to sing your guardian's praises too.)
(At least... you used to be.)
(You haven't spoken about him as much lately, but then we haven't been having regular heart-to-hearts.)
DAVE: (no shit).
(you were too plastered for me to deliver my revelation that there is basically nothing I wouldn’t rather do than hang out with my kid bro in the proximity of violence and sharp weaponry).
(and I didn’t really want to talk about it all that much ok).
(who was I supposed to talk to).
(if I’d mentioned it to you, you’d probably tell me to hit the happy juice and forget about it).
(and the trolls wouldn’t understand).
(they wouldn’t know a positive childrearing environment if it bit them in the ass).
(in fact, considering they were raised by wild animals ass biting might have been a regular part of their routine).
ROSE: (I'm sorry, I fucked up!)
(Oh no, he's looking over at us.)
DAVE: (shit).
(do something).

[Panel description: Rose looks over at Dirk. Dave hides behind her, shaking.]

DIRK: ...you guys sure seem to be having a spirited conversation.
Or something.
ROSE: Just a moment.
We're...
Strategizing.
(I don't know if there's a graceful way to extricate ourselves from this scenario.)
DAVE: (does it have to be graceful).
(can’t you just say hey change of plans you can go fight killer jack number 3 solo and also here’s a restraining order).
ROSE: (He's not the same person, you know.)
DAVE: (...).
(I know).
(but)
(this is happening kind of fast).
ROSE: (Do you want me to make an excuse for you?)
(I probably can't wrangle a doctor's note, but I could have a sudden attack of the vapors.)
(Fall into a swoon and announce a new and pressing prophecy that places you at someplace far away from the action.)
(Just say the word.)
DAVE: (...).
(this is really the best case scenario).
(like)
(if I don’t go do I just miss out on an achievement or something).
(don’t collect every single ring in this playthrough and miss out on the high score).
(or is it more like pick the other page in the choose your own adventure book and your canoe goes over a waterfall and a bunch of orphans die in a fire).
ROSE: (Nothing that drastic.)
(At least, there are no canoes involved.)
(But while you may not feel that way right now, I'm getting strong confirmation that you'll feel better after this.)
DAVE: (they say that about throwing up).
ROSE: (As someone who's become a bit of a connoisseur in the subject, they're not always right.)
(But sometimes you do have to get the bad stuff out.)
(I know I haven't given you all that many reasons to trust me lately.)
(I've hardly been a light to guide anyone by, let alone steer you away from disaster.)
(Still, I wouldn't have signed off on this unless I thought you'd be ok.)
(But if you don't feel up to it, I'll sort it out.)
(That way we can save whatever face we have left after whispering frantically to each other for the last few minutes.)
DAVE: (let me think).
ROSE: (Uh-oh.)
(Here he comes.)

[Panel description: Dirk raises his hand in a wave. Dave peeks out at him from behind Rose.]

DIRK: Hey, um.
I'm sure you're having a very important discussion right now, but.
I got the impression that we're on a tight schedule.
ROSE: That's right.
But-
DAVE: but we were going over battle plans.
I don’t like running into any mortal combat scenario without getting the full seer checkout.
shoelaces tied oven turned off that kind of thing.
if you pay for the premium package they’ll even pick out an outfit and get it dry cleaned afterward.
but yeah ready to go now.
ROSE: Really?
There was that urgent...
Matter of urgency.
DAVE: nah it can wait.
ROSE: If you're sure.
Here, let me unpeel my brother and hand him over.

[Panel description: Rose places her hand on Dave's back and pushes him toward Dirk. Dave is frowning with his eyebrows raised. Dirk has a small smile and his hand still lifted in a wave.]

ROSE: Don't be alarmed, he does this all the time.
DIRK: That's cool.
ROSE: No mischievous pranksters have tied your shoelaces together, so you're good to go.
Let me know if you run into any trouble out there.
From anything.
DAVE: got it.

[Panel description: Dirk and Dave float in the middle of a black void. Dave continues to frown and leans away from Dirk. Instead of tights, Dirk is now wearing purple pants with a pink stripe down the side in a design similar to Dave’s pants.]

DIRK: So.
Fighting Jack English, or whatever we're calling him now.
That's a thing we're doing.
DAVE: yup.
sure is.
DIRK: You know, there are far too many multiples of people running around right now.
DAVE: tell me about it.
DIRK: Not trying to piss off said replicas. It's more of a mild nuisance when it comes to keeping track of everyone.
And hey, as far as I know, there's two of each of us.
So how 'bout that.
DAVE: dunno.
DIRK: I think you thought I was somebody called Dave sprite when I tried to contact you and hit that cloud of pixelated bullshit. What's that about?
DAVE: ugh.
long story.
don’t really want to tell it.
DIRK: Okay, that's fair.
I know I have a long, bullshit history with my duplicate.
...and basically everyone else I know.
No big.
DAVE: bullshit pretty much sums it up.
DIRK: Yeah, so.
I bet Roxy was pretty excited to meet you guys.
That's pretty much the entire reason she played this game, to meet her mom.
I dunno if you knew, but neither of us ever got to meet our versions of you.
But from all accounts that survive, they were fucking legendary.
DAVE: oh really.
DIRK: More "martyred in rebellion against an oppressive alien regime" legendary than the "actual gods of basic components of the universe” legendary that we are now, but yeah.
DAVE: I got myself killed huh.
Figures.
that’s my "path" or whatever.
DIRK: Alt-you took on both Juggalo presidents in a fight to the death and won.
The only thing you two couldn't stop was the Condesce herself.
That's.
Pretty damn heroic if you ask me.
DAVE: sure.
and then I bet I was pretty damn dead.
DIRK: ...well, yeah. But.
It's the thought that counts.
DAVE: I’ll keep that in mind.
DIRK: Cool.
I'd appreciate you, you know, not dying in the next hour or whenever this motherfucker decides to show up.
DAVE: sounds good.
DIRK: ...because I was looking forward to meeting you.
DAVE: oh.
you were.
that’s.
huh.
DIRK: Yeah. I, uh, got all this Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff stuff-
Or we can talk about that after this.
If you want.

[Panel description: Dirk raises his hand, which is curled into a fist. Dave raises both of his hands and leans backward. The word 'Flinch' is written above him in red.]

DIRK: Bro fist for luck…?

[Panel description: Both Dave and Dirk are rendered in the same positions in a sloppy scribbled style. The word 'Awkward' is written in all caps above their heads.]

[Panel description: Dave and Dirk are drawn in the same positions in normal style. Dirk has lowered his hand.]

DIRK: Uh.
Okay, no bro fists.
That's cool.

[Panel description: Dave puts his face in his hands. Dirk frowns slightly with an eyebrow raised. His body language is hesitant.]

DAVE: god damn it.
forget that happened ok.
just.
...
you keep talking to me and about me like we’re all buddy buddy.
shooting the shit at the water cooler talking about our day and swapping stock trading tips or whatever.
and maybe that’s cool maybe that’s fine for you.
maybe that’s how you feel about me.
but
I.
you.
ugh I don’t even know where I’m going with this.
DIRK: ...oh.
DAVE: I don’t know what to say to you.
DIRK: I would say "neither do I" but that's. Not strictly true.
But all this, you... you're bringing up all hells of implications that I.
Was not prepared for, shall we say.
DAVE: look.
I know it wasn’t you.
rose was looking forward to meeting some alt version of her mom but I spent all that time reminding myself you weren’t him.
you’re some guy who got dealt the same hand of ecto slime cards but played them a different way and it’s not fair to think you’re him.
but.
DIRK: But the resemblance is damnably uncanny.
DAVE: yeah.
guess I didn’t convince myself all the way.
you look like him, you sound like him.
when I look at you I remember the worst time of my life.
he.
I don’t know.
you don’t give a shit about this.
you had nothing to do with it.
DIRK: ...oh.
Wow, okay, that was a weak ass response on my part, ignore that. I.
I don't know either.
...But you're wrong on me not giving a shit.
I don't know if that was intended rhetorically, but.
It is kind of my problem to deal with. Fucking thanks, alt-me.
You're just a piece of work no matter what universe you end up in, huh?
…Impromptu self-deprecation aside.

…Okay, I don't want to do this. I really, really do not want to do this, given the situation I've been trying to extricate myself from since yesterday, but.
If we're going to kick ass together, I don't think I can have you doing...
That.
If I have my sword out.
DAVE: you mean flipping my shit if you wave a weapon in my face.
gut reaction.
sorry.
DIRK: I was trying to be tactful.
But, as you can tell, that's not in my skill set.
DAVE: thanks for those genes.
DIRK: I am entire eons of sorry that you have those genes, yes.
But the point remains that I can't have you panicking when I'm doing my flippy ninja bullshit.
If you want nothing to do with me after this, that's... fine. But.
Jesus fucking Christ, and here I thought one infuriating alternate self was enough to deal with.
So if you, you know... want to get something off your chest, have at it.
I have some marginal experience at listening to other people's problems.
DAVE: you really want to know.
DIRK: Honestly, no.
But I get the feeling this is one of many, many uncomfortable conversations I'm going to have in the near future, so we might as well get the ball rolling.
DAVE: fair enough.

[Panel description: Dave holds both hands in front of him as he talks. Dirk frowns, floating with shrunken body language.]

DAVE: ok happy family story corner here goes.
you,
he,
he was a maniac.
DIRK: And absolutely no one is surprised.
Sorry. Continue.
DAVE: maybe he was trying to toughen me up, I don’t know, but my whole childhood was sneak attacks and surprise ninjas and getting chucked down stairs.
every bump in the night was him about to shove a puppet ass in my face.
every time I have to fight, he’s all I can think about.
john and rose complained about their lives too so I didn’t realize.
it took getting out and actually living with people who gave a shit about me to understand how bad it was.
I still haven’t processed it I don’t think.
which is probably why I don’t know what the fuck to do about this, because I don’t know what to think about it.
about you.
he made me afraid to look weak or want out or even show the fear I was feeling.
and you know what the worst part was.
he twisted it around until I thought all of this was ok.
it took me a long time to realize how fucked up it was and even now I catch myself making excuses.
that maybe he did love me and wanted the best for me and was making me the best hero I could be.
but you know what.
I don’t care.
I don’t care what his motives were or why he did what he did or what kind of person he wanted me to be.
I hated all of it.
and he’s not you.
I know that.
believe me I SO fucking know that.
this alt self bullshit is something I’ve been dealing with for three goddamn years now.
there’s nothing more annoying than someone slapping the bill another you racked up down on the table and expecting you to dig out your wallet.
but
I dunno.
it’s one thing saying that and then it’s another seeing you standing there and I.
shit.
see now I dumped all this bs on you and it doesn’t matter.
none of it matters, none of it should matter.
god we’re back to that mantra again I can’t believe it.
if I ever say the words it doesn’t matter in consecutive order ever again feel free to shoot me to put us all out of our misery.
but,
I guess it does?
DIRK: ...it does, yeah.
Of course it does.
…Fuck. I feel like I should be apologizing here, and I don't know why.
DAVE: you don’t have to.
you’re not like that.
fuck I don’t know anything about you.
in my head you’re just a bunch of nightmare memories and shit pasted over some 16-year-old dude who don’t got nothing to do with any of it.
DIRK: Yeah.

[Panel description: Dave and Dirk both float silently, slouched and looking downward.]

[Panel descriptions: A series of panels show the tops of both Dave and Dirk's heads. This is followed by a sequence slowly zooming away from them. Dave and Dirk grow smaller, and the scene expands to show the rest of the Incipisphere. The zoomed out Incipisphere appears on Gill's time top screen, and she is shown smiling widely as Kat slumps with their face in their hands. The panels then zoom in on Gill's face, and her pupils glow red. This sequence parodies the extensive pause present in Dave and Dirk's canon conversation.]

[Panel description: Dave and Dirk float slouching in the darkness again.]

DIRK: You don't know anything about me.
You probably would've backed your ass right out of this if you did, psycho-bro or no psycho-bro.
DAVE: shit ok.
is this where you bare your soul.
like this big huge soul baring party.
spilling our deepest darkest secrets like thirteen-year olds sitting in a circle at a sleepover.
DIRK: Yes. It is. Roll out the sleeping bags, because we're about to get more personal than a creepy dude in an elevator.
Give me a moment to reach into my chest and remove my own beating heart.
Which is, for the record, something I’d probably be able to do.
DAVE: I think we covered the whole violence not the best option thing.
DIRK: Yeah. Jokes about my title probably aren't in the best taste right now.
I'm caught on the teetering knife's edge of just telling you the whole godforsaken story or going back to snidely implying it like some kind of asshole, and if I don't knock it off, I'm going to slip and slice my own dick off, but I don't know what to say.
I have probably blurted out my innermost feelings more times in the past 24 hours than in my entire miserable sixteen year-existence.
DAVE: that’s going around lately.
some sort of universal arm twisting to own the fuck up.
not sure what’s behind that.
it’s like you’re not supposed to drink the water somewhere because it’ll give you a hell of a case of diarrhea.
breathe the air here for a few minutes and you’re spilling your goddamn guts.
doesn’t matter if you’ve got your mouth clenched tight as a shaved dog’s asshole the truth will make itself known.
I’ll call it skaias revenge.
DIRK: Well.
Shit.
Let me just summarize it by saying I'm probably a lot more like... you know, him, than you'd think, and.
And I kind of did some of the same shit. To my friends, I mean.
DAVE: oh.
DIRK: Hell, I’d bet I even did it for the same reasons he did.
We’re the same guy, after all.
My dream self was awake on Derse for years and I took advantage of that to learn all I could. I knew we were all walking into the slavering jaws of a void session full of minions and regents that'd be an unusually difficult problem to deal with, mostly due to the fact that we'd be stuck in a war of attrition with the game itself without the ability to progress until some vaguely-described Heroes showed up to wrench our thumbs from their firm lodging up our asses and plop down the tools to victory in front of our useless faces.
We didn't just have to be prepared, we had to be finely tuned survival machines.
I thought I was ready. After all, I was practically born to be self-reliant. And I thought Roxy was in the clear, too, but our other teammates… not so much.
So. You know. I took it upon myself to prepare them.
The worst of it was probably with Jake, what with it overlapping with a lot of romantically-fueled teenage angst, and the line between trying to be a good mentor and trying to fucking flirt got so twisted and warped that I’m not even sure where it goes anymore. But everybody got at least a bit of the blowback from my enigmatic puppet master persona crap.
And I didn't see what effect it’d had until we were face to face and the damage was done.
So.
I’m sorry.
I don't know what you were expecting to find in this universe, but you've trekked across a goddamn desert to find the same pile of camel crap.
DAVE: well.
I mean this doesn’t qualify as the best fucking news I’ve heard all day.
but it’s at least a slightly younger pile of reeking camel shit.
got a little more give to it than some ancient pharaohs mummified dick.
you’re sixteen right.
I’m sixteen, we’re all sixteen.
except john because who knows how the fuck old he is at this point with all his hopping around reality.
dude could be a goddamn octogenarian for all I know.
but the point is my bro was somewhere in his thirties and he never grew the fuck up.
he lived his life however the hell he wanted.
maybe it would even be vaguely charming from a distance like the exploits of some wacko on a reality tv show.
next week on keeping up with the striders,
watch a grown man making puppet snuff films in his kitchen and feel better about yourself in comparison.
when you can tune in or tune out it doesn’t really matter.
but when you’re a kid being raised by him suddenly it’s not so funny anymore because the credits roll and guess what.
you’re still living around the edges of whatever wild capers he’s been cutting.
you don’t get to toss out the tv dinner and change the channel.
but you don’t have to be that way.
I figure whatever chance he had he pissed away a long time ago.
dude didn’t give a shit.
you sound like you give a shit.
so,
don’t fuck it up I guess.
DIRK: Wow, that’s absolutely no pressure.
DAVE: damn that was the worst possible ending to that little speech wasn’t it.
what I’m trying to say is,
sixteen-year olds are known to man or at least cranky elderly folks as the absolute worst demographic to ever exist.
DIRK: Another incredibly reassuring little tidbit of wisdom.
DAVE: we all know it’s really the cranky elderly folks but we pretend not to.
point is you can grow up.
and all that can just be being a shitty sixteen-year-old and learning your goddamn lesson before a meteor delivers a squalling infant in your lap and says here,
learn some fucking responsibility and raise this diaper clad motherfucker.
assuming that would ever happen to us but I don’t think that’s how the game works thank god
DIRK: Christ, I hope not.
I have received all the proof I need that I was correct in a prior assessment that I have no goddamn business raising anybody.
DAVE: don’t think any of us do honestly.
now I’m imagining skaia dumping a baby in my lap and I’m like,
what the fuck is this.
I’ve been living on packaged food and shitty coffee for three years, I would kill it.
DIRK: Alas, we will never have the chance to find out just what a royal mess you'd make of little me.
I’m almost disappointed. Can you imagine the parent-teacher meetings?
“Mr. Strider, it seems that your charge has taken it upon himself to be an impromptu tutor to the entire student body via surprise death bot attacks and rap battles. It this related to a problem at home?”
Were those meetings even an actual thing, or was I lied to by antediluvian media?
DAVE: yep.
didn’t even let my bro know when those were for me.
doubt he would’ve shown up but it wasn’t worth the risk.
pretty sure most of my teachers were one black eye away from calling cps, I didn’t need to give them ideas.
course back then I thought they were overreacting.
but anyway.
I don’t think he ever cared what anyone else thought or who got hurt along the way.
you seem to care,
I guess.
that’s my expert opinion from talking to you for approximately five minutes.
so that’s step one.
step one of the rest of your fucking life and everybody else’s.
because if you were really anything like him, that shit needs to stop dude.
seriously.
DIRK: Behind these impassable anime shades I apparently care so much that I made my friends robotic bodyguards that either beat them up on the regular or caused destruction of beloved family heirlooms.
And beloved family members.
So yes, I already gathered that the latter part needs to knock it the fuck off in the approximate time frame of yesterday, but.
I like to think that I care.
And I wouldn't have done everything I did if I didn't.
...
Anyway, as for your hypothetical alternate universe guardianship, are you aware Roxy's and my upbringing was kind of unorthodox?
So, at least it's not on you that I'm still.
Me.
DAVE: rose told me you guys ended up way in the future.
part of skaias constantly spinning roulette wheel landing on endlessly new ways of fucking with us.
DIRK: Yup.
Fish Hitler's Water World Apocalypse, population, two humans and a smattering of carapace colonies.
DAVE: huh.
sounds,
well I don’t know I don’t have that much to compare it to.
Texas apartment hell versus meteor purgatory versus water world.
all pretty shitty accommodations at the end of the day.
did you at least have Wi-Fi.
you must have.
DIRK: Well, yeah.
And thank god, otherwise I would probably have said "fuck it" and chucked myself into the sea at some point.
DAVE: sorry I got my ass handed to me and landed you with that.
another dead me to add to the pile.
DIRK: It's not your fault. The time difference between his and my lifetimes were enough that natural causes would've kicked his ass if the Batter witch hadn't.
DAVE: hope he got something decent out of life.
it’s kind of unbelievable imagining living in a reality that doesn’t involve playing this fucking game.
DIRK: Well.
He did start a Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff empire.
DAVE: I made an empire out of my shitty preteen drawings.
that’s follow through I guess.
also says a lot about the American consumer base.
DIRK: In an attempt to unseat the Batter witch, you turned a succession of intentionally god-awful art house films into a financial boon via merchandise that literally cost negative dollars to produce.
It was so shitty, you got rich off it.
DAVE: holy shit.
DIRK: You were the shit, dude.
Rose too, her Complacency of the Learned novels were the kind of smash hit that would unsettle J. K. Rowling's record and that which ambitious young authors of cookie-cutter fantasy can only dream of.
DAVE: oh well of course.
you just know academics would shit themselves over anything she wrote.
like look at all this homoerotic subtext and fodder for psychoanalytic close reading.
she’d resurrect an entire school of literary criticism.
grad students would be writing their theses over her wizard slash.
DIRK: I know. They did.
And it was preserved on the internet for all to see so therefore I can assure you I've read an approximate metric fuck ton of them.
For better and for worse. Entire schools of film and literature rose and fell around you two's fingertips.
And then you led a literal rebellion against an alien invader.
DAVE: so that’s who I could’ve been.
and instead I’m stuck in these pajamas hitting shit with swords wondering if I’m going to make it to 17.
that was supposed to sound a lot less pathetic than it came out f y i.
DIRK: At least we're in the same boat.
Trust me, my regal ensemble looked way more ridiculous until I changed the pants.
DAVE: but what about the,
never mind.
sburbs got a weird sense of humor.
just be glad no one in your session got a codpiece.
DIRK: Codpiece.
DAVE: yup.
DIRK: You're shitting me.
DAVE: picture a Juggalo roaming the halls of an abandoned scientific laboratory wearing a giant purple schlong.
that was my life.
DIRK: What.
Dude, you had that guy too?
DAVE: wait what.
what the FUCK.
is it the same guy or is there a secret society of codpiece packing clowns roaming around
dedicated to ruining everyone’s lives and peddling shitty off brand soda.
DIRK: I dunno, was he a purple clown with long-ass horns, temporarily appeased by Faygo and lugging a fridge full of corpses around?
DAVE: ...
goddamn.
DIRK: Incredible.
So that's where the bodies came from. We were wondering.
DAVE: bodies.
DIRK: He dumped them into our kernel sprites.
DAVE: what kind of bodies.
DIRK: Troll bodies.
With horns.
And, you know, other troll things.
DAVE: Jesus Christ.
karkat is not going to be happy about this.
I don’t think we ever recovered those.
we thought he was,
I dunno,
hiding them in air vents or something.
kissing them occasionally.
DIRK: Say what.
DAVE: apparently he chewed off this guy’s head and made out with it.
what kind of sick fuck would kiss a severed head I don’t know.
DIRK: …well, I know a guy.
DAVE: honestly when it comes to necrophilia my openness to cross cultural exchange is even lower than usual so don’t even go there.
anyway there you have it.
dude was messed up.
he’s in jail now but if he got into your session ahead of us all I don’t know what kind of weird ninja magic he has so who knows if he’ll stay there.
DIRK: It comes with some good news, at least.
In the event we’re ever forced into some kind of fucked up Noah's Ark-esque situation requiring we pair off or die...
I have options.
DAVE: don’t even joke about that, dude.
DIRK: He made me endure discussions of alien mammaries and horse schlong.
I would sooner chuck myself into a volcano.
DAVE: I don’t remember him being into any of that.
not that I talked to the guy that much.
DIRK: Oh, not him.
My sprite is... or rather, was.
Weird.
DAVE: ha-ha.
yeah.
sprites.
fucking text it.
DIRK: Word.
At least Hal has someone to keep him busy.
DAVE: funny though mine seems to have processed all this shit with you already,
instead of beating around the bush being all coy with his feelings of do I or don’t I want to acknowledge this Damocles sword of a self revelation dangling overhead.
I think it’s by virtue of having given up on everything outside of being a major pain in my ass.
the whole let’s play it cool and well-adjusted act must’ve been at the top of the list of stuff to kick out the door when you file for bankruptcy in the trying department.
so I guess you can be so messed up you loop all the way back around.
the mobius double reach around of punching yourself in the face.
we really never do stop fucking with ourselves do we.
DIRK: Tell me about it. Good to know we’ve got something in common.
What a wonderful springboard for sibling bonding, discussing our self-criticisms via our own awful, reflected personalities.
Did he also meet the same undignified end of having given up so hard he dissolved into glitter and fucked off forever?
DAVE: probably wishes he did.
but no he’s doing his thing somewhere,
occasionally harassing me about my mythic destiny like that floating blue guy from Zelda.
hey hey listen go fuck yourself.
whether any of it is good advice or not, the delivery makes you want to chug off in the opposite direction like the little engine that couldn’t give a shit.
DIRK: For having had exposure to it for all of less than twenty-four hours, I can certainly say I relate.
"Insight into the mind of Skaia, foreseeing certain necessary events, because fuck you and everyone you care about is why." Append that with a joke about equine phallus and there you go.
DAVE: I don’t know what happened to him in the other timeline.
the whole thing was a disaster.
maybe he yelled at my sprawled corpse for a few hours and then had to go lie down, I don’t know.
DIRK: What the hell did happen there?
The only straight up answer I got into that wonderfully sordid period of our lives is that Hal did apparently jack and shit and isn't sorry about it.
DAVE: I don’t even know.
we got curb stomped.
you’d think after 3 years we’d be better prepared but I think we got worse.
really there’s a sort of tragicomedy to how thoroughly we got owned.
let me try to give it to you in clickbait articles.
narcissistic spider troll orchestrates prison break and you won’t believe what happens next.
wicked witch of the pacific gets crushed by own house in a hilarious pop culture reference.
skaia hates him, local teen discovers one mind-blowing trick to alter reality.
DIRK: John did pull some unnatural paradox-dodging nonsense out of his blue windsock, didn't he?
Good to know somebody had their head screwed on right when everything went to shit, and then didn't decide to do nothing about it.
DAVE: yeah it’s down to the last ten seconds and things look grim but then john comes from left field with a hail Mary pass,
which rolls back the timer a few hours to before the rest of the players on the field were mauled by rabid wolves.
I don’t know why I keep trying to do these sports metaphors, I always fuck them up.
to use save in a way that completely evades any sports related connotations he definitely saved our asses.
meanwhile well intentioned or not all I managed to contribute was adding to the murder pile.
I guess the upshot of that whole disaster was that I’m completely irrelevant now.
especially with john singlehandedly saving the timeline disregarding who knows what kind of damage that might be doing somewhere out in paradox space.
exercising his manifest destiny as the biggest hero and leaving everyone else out of a job.
not sure if I should feel relieved about that or not.
DIRK: For what little it's probably worth, you're not alone in that. Nothing even bothered to axe me off, I just stood around contemplating my own abysmal failure while the other people who managed to either dodge disaster or stumble out of it only mostly dead actually saved the people I care about.
And then I melted into nothing with the rest of our busted up session.
Your Prince of Heart, everybody.
DAVE: that sounds like the kind of thing that would piss you off.
my version of you was all about the stoic hero lifestyle.
although his stoic hero lifestyle involved flat screen TVs and gallons of orange soda so I guess he ignored the warrior asceticism bit.
everyone else is more important, bottom line you do whatever you can for them, blah blah.
self sacrificing bullshit that somehow managed to be disgustingly smug about it all instead of any kind of selfless.
making some big display about how badass we were for not giving a shit.
maybe being spectacularly self centered is my version of teen rebellion.
that’s my excuse next time anyone calls me out on it anyway.
DIRK: Can you truly call it self-centered if you're still placing others' safety before your own?
Even if you'd be wearing the most spectacular of asses as a hat in the process, you'd still give up your life for them.
You were there. You tried. I just gave in.
DAVE: eh .
take it up with the other me.
I’m not getting into a fight with him again, I have my looks to think about.
DIRK: I was wondering if I should ask about the eye.
I take it you two had a disagreement.
DAVE: like you said.
Alt self bullshit.
you get tired of looking in the fucked up funhouse mirror so one of you tries to smash it and then there’s glass everywhere and you’ve got seven years of bad luck.
when you’re looking all you can see is the bad stuff.
even with you I’m not saying every bit of his mindset was 100 percent terrible all the time.
maybe some good can come out of it as long as you moderate it with at least a trace of common fucking sense.
other things though I’m gonna say you should jettison right off the bat.
like the puppet smut flicks.
I think we can bin those.
DIRK: I've not dabbled in cinematography. That was always your area, and woe betide my ass if I'm going to try and knock off alt-you.
DAVE: great we’re making progress already.
at least you seem less depraved than the original.
DIRK: Do I even want to know what kind of debauched noise I left out for a child's innocent eyes to see?
DAVE: the list would get pretty long.
DIRK: From the sound of it you were drowning in soft puppet rear for most of your formative years.
DAVE: when I was younger I thought it was pretty cool.
like I was getting away with something and you treated me like a grownup.
but later I was like what kind of sick fuck does that.
goddamn I don’t care if you get off to handcuffing naked puppets together but don’t do it in front of me.
and don’t give me the password to all your illicit internet haunts Jesus Christ.
I didn’t know any better.
DIRK: Were there fur suits.
Tell me there weren't any fur suits.
DAVE: I don’t think so.
why.
is that a thing that you do.
DIRK: No reason.
It was some ironic bullshit I had hanging around for kicks, don't worry about it.
DAVE: if any of our guardians had a dog costume in the back closet its probably old lady jade,
if they had furries in the 20s.
don’t tell her I said that.
DIRK: Oh my god.
This outfit does have furries in it, doesn’t it?
That's a thing we have.
We also have whatever being into blue aliens makes you.
Just all wonderful kinds of strangeness. I wonder if it’s inborn or if growing up in that kind of isolation leaves one open for sexual imprinting upon all varieties of unusual material.
DAVE: oh man no one gives a shit about that at this point.
any possible angst or self doubt about xeno antics went flying out the window immediately.
if anyone was wondering humanity’s reaction to finding out yes aliens are definitely and undeniably a thing is to hit on them as blatantly as possible.
close encounters of the four quadrant kinds.
my sister is dating a lesbian space vampire alien.
DIRK: What.
DAVE: in her defense I think she was the only stable person on our whole goddamn meteor
so good taste rose, good catch.
the whole xenophilia thing is kind of played out for us.
not many options.
DIRK: Well, good for her?
Somebody has to have some luck in love at some point, I suppose. It's a mathematical certainty.
DAVE: sure.
It’s sticking the landing that’s the kicker.
and not belly flopping and skidding and exploding into some sort of Michael bay production.
DIRK: Don't I know it.
DAVE: let’s not get into a compare and contrast.
because I’m pretty confident I would win but it’s just going to be depressing all around.
DIRK: In five words or less:
Proposed polyamorous sugar goblin party.
DAVE: huh.
I’d go with alien girlfriend joined dark carnival but we might have a winner here.
DIRK: If you're so into your clickbait articles, here's one for you:
Three-years-and-running romantic prospect kisses severed head, you'll never believe what happens next.
DAVE: ha-ha holy shit.
those corpse smooching sessions damn.
see rose and I got to check the fuck out and avoid all the awkward by disappearing for three years straight.
DIRK: While I watched from behind a rock like the twisted fuck I am.
DAVE: couldn’t you have kissed your own head.
is this something we haven’t considered.
sburb,
hacked.
DIRK: I… didn’t want to risk the possibility of causing a paradox.
I was thinking fast. We were already down to our last lives and I didn't have another backup plan after that.
As much as I might wish I had.
The fallout from that was kind of.
A mess.
Our session is such a mess, you have no idea.
DAVE: see I totally had time to think about it.
about two weeks of loops between figuring it out and it happening.
but I still didn’t bother letting jade know because,
well because it was awkward.
and also in retrospect I’m a piece of shit.
DIRK: ...dude.
You knew you were going to get wasted and someone was going to have to save your life by macking on your cadaver, and you kept it to yourself because it was awkward?
DAVE: well what was I supposed to say.
ok jade lets walk through this.
you’re going to shoot the shit out of me and then you have to make out with me.
I know this sounds like some weird contrived fanfiction prompt but pucker up.
it’s magic.
DIRK: You had the chance to properly prepare her for that, and you had the chance to pick your own words, and all the time in the world to do so.
And you still fucked it up.
Wow.
At least in my case the Red Miles were a surprise.
DAVE: see again,
piece of shit.
also you know how it is.
or actually you don’t but,
timelines.
you say something and suddenly you mess it all up.
I say hey jade you’re going to shoot me and she’s like fuck that noise and throws her gun in the garbage or something and bam.
now we’re ALL fucked.
DIRK: I mailed Jake my severed head via sendificator with my probably-sociopathic AI brain duplicate attached to push him into it like the world’s worst talking birthday card and yet I am highly disapproving of this.
DAVE: at least we’re out of backup lives so we can’t ruin that particular scenario anymore.
DIRK: This is true.
DAVE: good to know that everyone living on pacific islands in our group has been personally victimized by our nasty ass corpses.
DIRK: At least you got a whole body.
DAVE: in terms of rom bullshit I think you’ve got me beat.
my story was the generic boy meets girl.
girls culture considers it completely acceptable to be hate snogging a murder clown in airducts at the same time as all that’s going on.
guy ain’t about that life.
girl ends up snoring in a pool of faygo half an hour before go time and everyone questions their life choices along with their seating arrangements.
in retrospect probably everyone in that situation dodged a bullet but I think that involved redirecting ourselves into the path of an r p g so our overall ammunition evasion record isn’t great.
at least everyone’s on speaking terms again.
except gamzee, but fuck that guy.
DIRK: Glad to hear the situation shook itself out and therefore ruled out your entire session being a jacked up love decahedron that ended in a race to the finish line for a kid who just wanted to go collect some skulls.
...okay, you didn't have the skull dude, but.
My point stands. Love triangles are bullshit.
And now I feel a little less alone in being a total disaster in the romantic sector. Hurray.
DAVE: honestly we were divvied up pretty tidily.
except for karkats shipping diagram which got wrecked as soon as the starting pistol went off.
DIRK: "Shipping diagram"?
DAVE: I’ll have to dig that masterpiece up sometime.
basically this alien took some paternalistic interest in the propagation of our species and took it upon himself to send us this diagram like the ten goddamn commandments being brought down by angels.
except instead it’s this shouty dude who hasn’t figured out how to disable caps lock on his keyboard.
here you go foolish mortals here’s who you get to shack up with.
sometimes when we were bored rose and I would send it to each other and laugh.
actually he’s pretty cool though go figure.
DIRK: Hopefully I'll get the chance to meet him properly. And the rest.
Except for the clown. Fuck that guy, he's weird.
DAVE: they’re around.
following their own mythic destinies and all that.
but yeah pass on the clown.
DIRK: Does the troll with the red glasses still sniff people?
I remember her doing that for the approximate five seconds I saw you guys in the dream bubbles.
DAVE: terezi.
she can see now but sniffing is definitely a thing she does.
that’s how we found Jake.
I think she’s rebelling against the whole sight thing.
like seeing was a phase for her and now she’s got a blindfold on and is reembracing her olfactory side.
DIRK: Wow.
Aliens, man.
DAVE: watch out.
it’s not just the sniffing.
shell lick you if you’re not careful.
DIRK: Ugh.
DAVE: and then say you taste like,
I don’t know,
orange juice and pepper grinds.
DIRK: No thanks, I've had enough of people approaching me mouth-first for one day.
...that's another obscure reference to the heaping helping of shit we've had to deal with today. Don’t worry about it.
DAVE: mouth first.
is Pac man around.
we get thrown into a video game setting and there’s no sign of Pac man.
I’m disappointed.
DIRK: Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, there's no Peter Dinklage driving brand-name smart cars around New York to appease a giant pixel monster in this tale. You'd be more on target if you imagined being one of the ghosts and getting backed into a corner by Pac-Man, hopped up on that freaky corner candy, and there's nowhere to run or hide.
He also wants to marry you.
And there's three of him, but that specific one wants to marry you the most.
That's the day I had.
DAVE: you keep talking about candy.
not sure if I want to know about the candy.
DIRK: You don't want to know about the candy.
DAVE: got it.
DIRK: I still have a pile of piece-of-shit fancy Santas on my roof.
Thank god the lollipop is AWOL. If any of us saw it, we might have debilitating war flashbacks. One sight of sugary spiraled treats and we'd be curled up in a corner assailed by visions of 'Nam.
I'm pretty sure the hangover headache is stubbornly persisting as well. It's difficult to tell the difference between that and a combination of dehydration and stress.
DAVE: don’t tell me you guys were drinking.
I swear to god if there’s another fucking drunk in this session I’ll fly off the goddamn handle and olly into an A A meeting.
DIRK: If I had to compare it to an illicit substance a human might abuse, I think it's more in-line with alien cocaine.
That encourages four-way marriages, for some reason.
DAVE: huh.
aliens like everyone to be happy I guess.
or are getting kickbacks from the county clerks office.
do you have to pay to get married, I don’t know anything about getting married.
considering civilization is dead and we’re the only religious figures nearby I’m pretty sure that’s going to continue to be the way things are.
DIRK: We can do that?
DAVE: do what.
get married.
because besides a very outdated vantas edict I don’t think that’s on the table.
although there are some carapacian bishops but damn they’re like ten feet tall.
I think you’d get cold feet.
DIRK: No, not marriage. Fuck knows I want nothing to do with marriage for the foreseeable future.
And taking immortality into account, that’s a long-ass foreseeable range.
What I mean is, we're basically now in religious figurehead territory.
We can hand down laws from on high and declare that everyone worship the smuppet rump on Tuesday nights or they're going to hell.
We can establish our own church among a little colony of just-coming-of-sapience aliens before we sit back and laugh at the fallout it causes like a couple of jerks.
I’d stop short of advocating violent sectarianism but I am all hells of down for orchestrating some actually-totally-arbitrary worship system, just to fuck with people.
DAVE: sounds like you’re on track to being a god then.
I can’t wait to see what bullshit mythology springs up around me.
DIRK: "And then there was the Prince of Heart, who was by and large a fucking tool."
It'll be great.
DAVE: all the members of my priesthood will wear shades 24 7 and services will be held in rap.
DIRK: I can get down for this.
DAVE: forget genesis though, this is going to be the longest goddamn creation myth of all time.
they can probably leave some stuff out.
you don’t open the bible and hear about jesus and his teen romance fuckups although greek myth is almost nothing else.
if this was greek myths someone would have had kids in some batshit way by now.
wait.
john basically did that.
score.
our family tree is definitely pantheon worthy.
DIRK: "And lo did the four Nobles royally fuck up their romantic prospects and have their fatal flaws crammed in their faces, setting the stage for their emotional states in the next phase of our journey."
"And the Prince did declare 'this is such bullshit'"
DAVE: you’re hired, you get to write our holy text.
although I think rose will fight you for it.
and let me tell you she fights dirty.
actually the way you talk reminds me of her.
I think maybe she got more of your genes in the whole slime baby runaround.
DIRK: Try me.
My denizen is Yaldabaoth, which is supposed to be some hot shit about the game designating me a mighty warrior or something.
Except about all I've done is get punched in the face by a dog girl before I could land a single hit, then get teleported to the Void, whereupon I was absolutely useless for the next three hours and all the chaos that ensued therein.
Twice.
So make of that what you will.
DAVE: hot shit for a denizen maybe.
try rose on a day when she’s sober and call me.
I’ll come with the body bag.
DIRK: I sparred death bots on a daily basis until I was a finely-honed killing machine.
I also have a sword. It's sharp.
DAVE: rose killed an ogre by sticking knitting needles in its eyes.
DIRK: Wow.
So you heard about Guy Fieri, then?
DAVE: guy fieri.
DIRK: She saddled that shit up by the ocular sockets and rode his corpse all the way down Niagara Falls.
DAVE: sounds like that was such a badass move the universe demanded it be replicated.
although I’m not sure what she had against food network stars.
did one of his recipes not work out for her or.
DIRK: It's a long story.
DAVE: got it.
alt history madness.
I’ll download a textbook sometime.
it can be the next karkat story time selection.
edge out whatever bizarre harlequin is next on the list.
the human races suffering will spare me from more descriptions of luscious locks and torrid ashen affairs.
DIRK: I had a lot of free time, so I took it upon myself to become an expert on all things antediluvian.
Just hit me up when we're not flying towards our possible deaths, I’ll tell you whatever you wanna know.
DAVE: oh right.
the possible deaths.
where is that guy anyway.
isn’t he supposed to be handing us our asses right about now.
I’ve been standing in line at the soup kitchen waiting for my handout and no asses have appeared.
my family is starving. what am I supposed to tell them when I come back with no sweet ass for them to enjoy.
I’m giving this place a bad yelp review.
DIRK: Tell you what, if it's ass you're after, I have but the finest hand-sewn plush rumps back at my apartment, individually crafted to be the squishiest and the softest of their kind.
DAVE: pass.
do you think he’s hiding somewhere.
DIRK: I don't know, there aren't a lot of landmarks out here.
Though on the subject of both ass kicking and weaponry,
Has our brotherly bonding session helped clear the air so you won't go curl up in a corner in panic when I bust this thing out?
DAVE: brotherly bonding session.
damn this is what this turned into isn’t it.
DIRK: It did.
DAVE: groundbreaking therapy technique right here.
just don’t shut the fuck up and keep going and suddenly it all works itself out.
DIRK: Kinda refreshing, talking to somebody with whom I don't have some offshoot of romantic tension or self-loathing issues with.
DAVE: I think I’m good.
it wasn’t really conscious anyway it was just instinct.
so I don’t know for sure but hopefully that’s all out of my system.
DIRK: Ok.
Watch your back out there.
DAVE: sure.
and hey.
we’re pretty hard to kill.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Several multicolored bubbles are clustered and partly merged together. They glow against a backdrop of black void lined with purple cracks like shattered glass.]

[Panel description: Vriska and Meenah sit in a green hilly field. Red rock formations are visible in the distance. Behind them, the shattered sky pulses with light.]

[Panel description: Vriska looks into the distance in profile, frowning slightly. She is still dressed in a punk style, with part of her head shaved and an anchor tattoo on her upper arm. Meenah looks over at her. Further back, Andrew Hussie watches from behind one of the red rock formations. A red cliff face fills most of the background.]

VRISKA: So.
What do you want to do?
MEENAH: what do you want to do?
VRISKA: No fair, I asked you first.
MEENAH: well.
what else is there?
VRISKA: We could go treasure hunting.
MEENAH: we already ganked English’s treasure.
whatever the shell it was supposed to do besides make the blue buoy disappear.
how’re we supposed to top that?
VRISKA: Your hive can always use more loot, right?
MEENAH: true.
not feeling the treasure hunting right now though.
VRISKA: Me neither...
Now that I said it out loud, I don't like it either.
MEENAH: because of how the last one ended.
VRISKA: No!!!!!!!!

[Panel description: Vriska turns to look at Meenah, raising one hand as she talks. Andrew Hussie falls backward behind the rock, his feet sticking up in the air.]

VRISKA: I don't know, I'm all out of ideas!
I thought you might have some good ones.
There must be some neat memories of yours we haven't visited yet.
You had all those great adventures you told me about.
MEENAH: meh.
they seemed dope at the time.
but lookin back all the things I did and the choices I made seem pretty dumb.
like I was showing off trying to prove how cool I was but instead I looked like a stupid kid.
dunno who I thought I was foolin with that biz.
VRISKA: All of your choices?
Even...
MEENAH: what.
VRISKA: Never mind.

[Panel description: Vriska and Meenah return to their original positions. Now, Kat and Gill have replaced Hussie behind the rock. Gill vibrates, with a wide smile and red pupiled eyes. Kat looks over at her judgmentally.]

VRISKA: I guess you're right.
For a font of limitless potential, Skaia's offerings get a little stale.
I feel like I've gone through every trick in the book. Every musically themed deathtrap and block-pushing puzzle!
For one test I had to air-guitar a solo against a flaming pirate skeleton.
After that, nothing much on my land could compete.
MEENAH: an air guitar duel with a flaming pirate skeleton.
that sounds like the narwhal-iest thing ever.
VRISKA: It was pretty narwhaly.
Wow, that was awkward to say.
MEENAH: not one of my best.
VRISKA: Do you want to see?
I bet I could find the memory floating around somewhere.
MEENAH: nah.
it might not be as narwhaly as you remember and that would be teribubble.
VRISKA: Oh.
Ok.
I guess we'll just... sit here.
That's fine too.
I never got to sit around and relax much before.
I was always so busy, with so many irons in the fire.
Taking a break is nice.
Just you and me, looking up at what's left of the sky that English hasn't destroyed yet.
Maybe he's out rampaging somewhere, but here it's peaceful.
MEENAH: wonder if araneas krilled him yet like she said she was gonna.
VRISKA: Oh. Were you... thinking about her?
MEENAH: sorta.
don’t approve of her methods but goin toe to toe with English might be a nice change.
on the other hand don’t really have the energy for a fish fight.
VRISKA: Would you have gone with her, if you could've?
MEENAH: eh.
prolly not.
sounded like a bad idea under all the fancy talk.
I’m getting used to this sitting around I guess.
plus you don’t just forget getting ditched like that.
I’d have to make her squirm a bit like some freshly hooked bait first for shore.
VRISKA: Yeah...
MEENAH: are you feelin ok.
MEENAH: you seem bluer than usual.
VRISKA: I'm fine.
MEENAH: am I bummin you out.
VRISKA: I'm just wondering...
Is this what we're going to do forever?
MEENAH: I dunno.
maybe?
whatever you’re tryin to plan up is prolly great but I’m out of schemes for now.
VRISKA: Really?
I mean reely?
MEENAH: yup.
the dream of getting the band back together and wreckin shit died pretty fast.
I landed here all full of plans and ambitions but none of it really worked out.
maybe I’ll come up with something else but for now I’m tired.
maybe this is what this place is meant to do.
mellow you out a little until the next big adventure.
VRISKA: Or until English blows you up!
MEENAH: guess so.
VRISKA: You guess so?
You can't get so complacent.
Besides, not everyone mellowed out.

[Panel description: Aranea forms out of white light. She is shown from the waist down, her feet splayed apart unsteadily as they land on the green grass.]

VRISKA: Look at Aranea, plotting and scheming and leaving all of us in the dust.
She's been here longer than anyone, and she's still doing things.
Of course, her ideas weren't that great.
WAY outdated!
She's probably broken everything by now!

[Panel description: Aranea approaches. She is visible from the waist up, partially obscured by a green hill. She is still wearing the Mindfang style dress, and her eyes are the blank white of a ghost’s.]

[Panel description: Vriska and Meenah look up at Aranea. They are framed between her legs.]

[Panel description: Vriska appears neutral. Meenah's expression is hostile.]

MEENAH: whale whale whale.
look who it is.

[Panel description: Aranea stands facing Meenah and Vriska, who remain sitting.]

MEENAH: yo serk original flavor.
didn’t you gank my lifey ring to fuck with living people.
water you doin here.
ARANEA: Something went wrong.
MEENAH: thought you had it under control.
isn’t your thing to meticulously plan every detail out before you do any fin.
ARANEA: It should have been foolproof! I am the Sylph of Light, after all.
All of fortune is supposed to break in my favor.
This outcome doesn't make any sense.
MEENAH: tough luck.
whale you tried.
guess you can hang with us again.
long as you do some groveling or some fin for the look of things.
Things have been pretty slow since you ran off.
ARANEA: That's it?
That's it????????
What happened to your drive, Meenah?
That blue pajama wearing loser swiped the ring from under my servant's nose like I don't even matter.
Why does he get to be important while I struggle in obscurity?
MEENAH: uh.
dunno.
ARANEA: Of course you don't! There's no logic to it at all.
I'd like to see you name one subject that he knows more than me about.
I have existed for eons. He is a child.
Don't you get tired of the doldrums of the afterlife?
Don't you want to MATTER?
I just want to be important when the fate of the universe is at stake.
Is that too much to ask?
MEENAH: shore.
I get it.
it can be mad frustrating realizin all your planning and scheming adds up to no fin because you don’t got the p space weight to throw around no more.
and don’t get me wrong its been reel great seeing you grow into the badass bitch i always knew you could be.
brings a tear to my eye and that’s the truth.
but where you went wrong was leavin your friends behind.
you’re talking about how you want to matter so bad but don’t we matter?
forget all this mindfang stuff.
stay here with us.
this is where we belong now.
the quiet life ain’t that bad.
ARANEA: I cannot BELIEVE you.

[Panel description: Meenah glowers at Aranea as Vriska talks. Vriska looks uncertain. Behind them, Gill has her time tops out. She and Kat glow and vanish.]

ARANEA: Vriska, do you feel this way?
VRISKA: Um.
I have to admit that seeing you act this way, you looked a little.
Needy.
ARANEA: Needy????????
VRISKA: Like you just want to be the center of attention no matter what, instead of thinking about whether what you're doing is sensible.
It's like you don't care if you're embarrassing yourself or making a mistake.
While you were gone I started to wonder... whether that was a mistake I used to make.
That's making me rethink a lot of things, including everything about what we were doing.
We, I mean, Meenah and I, were thinking that maybe the plan in general wasn't so great, especially since the weapon was a bust.
And that maybe we should just hang out.
Unless you don't like that idea. We could come up with a new plan.
A better plan!
But running off on your own is a bad idea.

[Panel description: Aranea puts her hands on her hips.]

ARANEA: Meenah, honestly I am surprised at you.
You came into the afterlife with so much energy, it woke me up.
You opened my eyes to how even the dead could make a difference!
Now you've fallen asleep like the rest of them.
It's no wonder the dead never amount to anything without a strong leader at the helm.
And Vriska, we've had the opportunity to learn so much from each other, descendant to descendant, ancestor to ancestor.
You taught me to get in touch with my strong side.
I hope you didn't learn to be weak from me.
Maybe you two are content to fade into oblivion as background noise, but I won't be forgotten so easily.
I WILL be relevant. Where's our army?
MEENAH: you’re not gonna bring that old thing back are you.
ARANEA: So what if I am?
VRISKA: After you left, since you were controlling...
I mean helping control most of them, they wandered off.
ARANEA: It seems I have to do everything myself.
If that's how you want it, so be it.

[Panel description: Aranea grits her teeth and cracks her knuckles. A blue circle with her Scorpio symbol in the middle glows on her forehead.]

ARANEA: Dancestor, consider this your next and most important lesson in being a Serket.

[Panel description: Aranea puts her hands to her forehead. The blue circle with her symbol pulses in between them.]

[Panel description: A crowd of dark silhouettes stands with the same blue circle flashing on each of their foreheads. They are many different troll ghosts with blank white eyes, mostly other dancestors.]

[Panel description: Aranea smiles as the enthralled trolls crowd around her.]

[Panel description: A close up of one of the blue symbols glowing on a troll's forehead. Their white eyes are just visible.]

[Panel description: The blue symbol stops glowing.]

[Panel description: The blue symbol slides in half diagonally and then vanishes. The ghost's eyes begin glowing a bright purple, the same effect as Kurloz's chuckle voodoos shown during Open bound.]

[Panel description: Aranea opens her mouth in distress as a crowd of purple eyed ghosts reaches for her. One ghost appears to be Nepeta, who has her claws extended and is smiling.]

[Panel description: The ghosts lift Aranea into the air in a parallel to Neophyte Red glare's death at the hands of the crowd controlled by Mindfang. Something bright green is visible in the upper corners of the image.]

[Panel description: Aranea looks up surrounded by reaching ghosts. Lord English's flashing cloak billows above her.]

[Panel description: Meenah and Vriska look at each other in alarm. They are also being held by the crowd of ghosts.]

[Panel description: Aranea looks toward the viewer. Her arms are being held. Her blue symbol flashes once more on her forehead.]

[Panel description: The Scorpio symbol appears on a few of the ghosts surrounding Meenah and Vriska. They look in surprise as the ghosts release them.]

[Panel description: Meenah and Vriska run away from the crowd, which continues to swarm around Aranea. They are drawn in silhouette moving toward the curving green edge of the bubble. Above the crowd, Lord English's trademark colors flash.]

[Panel description: Meenah's hands shove Vriska. She falls forward, mouth open in surprise.]

[Panel description: Vriska tumbles into a blue bubble, her legs sticking up. Meenah, still in the original green bubble, stands braced.]

[Panel description: Vriska lies crumpled face down on a blank white surface. Light flashes behind her.]

[Panel description: Vriska levers herself up with her hands.]

[Panel description: Vriska looks up to see the green bubble she was just in cracking and leaking beams of light. She is rendered as a small black silhouette against the glare.]

[Panel description: Vriska stares up with tears in her eyes.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Spades Slick rockets toward the session propelled by a gout of fire. He is holding a copy of Lord English's staff and smiling. The word Pchoo is written next to his exhaust trail.]

[Panel description: A burst of fire representing Slick's progress passes between the D and E of Derse's label on its way to the planet.]

[Panel description: Slick stands in sprite mode on the purple Derse plaza. Biscuits' orange oven sits next to him, shaking. Dave sprite and Jane are visible in the lower corners of the image.]

You are now Spades Slick.
Most everyone else has given up this narrative device, but you're a traditional fellow with traditional values, like giving a nice firm stabbing to everyone you meet.

[Panel description: Karkat has both of his hands raised above his head and is frowning. Dave sprite and Jane face away from the viewer, still placed in the corners of the image.]

To your surprise, the crabby kid you used to work with is here. He looks different - stretched, sort of - but you've seen worse.
Carapacians do not have a concept of adolescence. You were grown in a test tube, and you were grateful.

[Panel description: Karkat wraps his hand around Slick's wrist. Slick is holding a small black knife. The word greet is partially written but interrupted.]

He's a lot more resilient than usual to stabbings. Says you should work together again, like old times. You point out that last time his gang exiled you. Yeah, yeah, he says, but this time it's different.
When he tells you, you can't believe your luck. These kids are going after English. It's the stupidest thing you've ever heard.
You're in.
But they have to give you a crack at him, you say. You've got dibs.

[Panel description: Diamonds Droog approaches Slick. John looks at him warily. Karkat leans in to continue to monitor Slick.]

You meet your old accomplice Droog, dressed in an equally dashing manner. You guess he's still the Dignitary now. All these universe changes give you a headache.
Where's this version of you, you ask. Went over to English's side, he says. Some kind of possession racket.
Unacceptable. You never let things like that happen when you were in charge. He says he thinks part of being possessed is that you're not in charge. You tell him that's not an excuse.
What happened to your arm, he wants to know. Universe exploded, you say. But it'll all be worth it if you can finally take English out.
So you're really going to work with these kids? he asks.
For now, you tell him. More warm bodies to throw at the rival gang leader aren't a gift horse you'll look in the mouth, if that expression existed in your language and if horses were known for anything in your culture except bad luck and deceit.
Ok, he says. He wasn't looking forward to treachery anyway. These kids are surprisingly hard to kill, and there are a lot of them.
You'll probably end up exiled again, you grumble. How many times does a guy have to rebuild civilization?
Plenty of burgeoning civilizations could use some fashion pointers, he points out, especially if the one doing the pointing is holding something with a point.
You agree. The wandering in filthy rags look is all played out, and you've always looked good in a hat. That's why you keep Droog around. He's always the one with a plan.

[Panel description: John watches the Dignitary and Slick talk.]

[Panel description: John taps Jane on the shoulder.]

[Panel description: John whispers in Jane's ear. Her eyes widen.]

[Panel description: John and Jane walk through a purple hallway down a curving stairway. A jail door can be seen near the top.]

[Panel description: John points with a neutral, slightly negative expression. Jane presses both hands to her mouth. Tears start in her eyes.]

[Panel description: John watches as Jane and Dad Crocker hug.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Dave sprite and Rose face each other in sprite mode. In the background, Karkat yells at Spades Slick.]

DAVE SPRITE: Dave told me you’ve been drinking again.
ROSE: Is this an intervention?
How noble. But you’re a little late.
I’ve already decided to quit.
DAVE SPRITE: yeah you said that before.
and then the next day you’d be passed out mumbling crypto spooky gobbledygook and making the wallpaper bleed black.
you know babysitting the demonic drunk was never my idea of fun.
ROSE: I can’t say I enjoyed it either.
Dave sprite: we were supposed to fix our mistakes.
that was the whole point of me going back.
how did this happen again.
ROSE: I don't know.
Genetic predisposition, I suppose?
Paired with existential dread, no supervision, and too much time on my hands.
I'm not proud of it.
But tell me, how have you been treating yourself?
Drinking plenty of water, I hope? Doing yoga?
DAVE SPRITE: that’s not the same.
ROSE: Why not?
DAVE SPRITE: because you’re important.
and I’m not.
ROSE: Is that what you’ve been telling yourself for the last three years?
I should have been there.
DAVE SPRITE: well apparently you needed me there too.
or someone Jesus fuck.
I thought that meteor would be drama central.
people flinging their personal shit around like a gang of overexcited chimpanzees.
cultivating the small town atmosphere where everyone’s swapping everybody’s underwear size over teatime.
plus interspecies hijinks for the culture clash hilarity factor.
how did you slip this past them for so long.
ROSE: Why is everyone suddenly so concerned with my personal life?
Did I cross over some kind of critical threshold from bad habits to genuine alcoholism?
The kind that makes parents point me out while warning their children in hushed whispers not to be like "that girl".
Much in the same way that my black lipstick received judgmental glares from the middle school faculty.
I'm sure they predicted my unsightly end before I ever cottoned on to it.
Or is it that now that we've reached the session my skills are in high demand?
Letting me drink myself into a stupor has become a tactical disadvantage instead of merely a moral lapse.
After being allowed to pickle my brain however I chose, I'm not sure whether to find the sudden interest annoying or endearing.
But as for your assertion that things would have been different with you around,
I don’t recall you doing much to stop me last time.
DAVE SPRITE: I wouldn’t have let it happen again.
ROSE: Would you? Or would you have been too buried in your own problems?
It seems like that's how you've spent your last three years.
DAVE SPRITE: I was the weak link there.
john and jade were both god tier, they didn’t need my help.
ROSE: Everyone needs help sometimes.
DAVE SPRITE: what does that mean for you?

[Panel description: Kanaya leans in between Rose and Dave sprite, looking at Rose.]

KANAYA: I’m afraid I am going to have to agree with orange Dave here.
Um.
Is there a simpler way to refer to you.
orange Dave sounds stupid.
we never had any special names for aradia.
her alternate iterations never stayed around for very long.
DAVE SPRITE: tell me about it.
Kanaya: anyway I have to concur with another of your rapidly growing number of blood relations.
Kanaya: you promised me repeatedly that you had your problem under control,
but I think you often wish to believe you are more on top of things than you really are,
or you think saying something and willing people to believe it is enough to make it factually true.
which of course we all know is ridiculous.
considering both of our pasts I didn’t want to press the issue,
but I think it’s time.
or,
if I am being honest,
it was time a while ago.
ROSE: Were you afraid I'd find your concern smothering?
Don't worry.
Under the requisite layers of sarcasm, I appreciate the sentiment.
But I can take care of myself.
Kanaya: the game certainly seems to think so.
it removes our guardians at an early age and leaves us to fend for ourselves.
that is difficult enough for a race like ours but humans are even less self sufficient.
skaia may believe this is an act of kindness.
a way to make us stronger and prepare us for life as gods of a new world.
I am not sure its ancient wisdom in this case is in fact all that wise.
there were times I could have used guidance.
despite your aspect and my occasional bioluminescence I think we spent a lot of our journey in the dark.
besides,
to quote someone who is perfectly capable of taking care of herself,
everyone needs help sometimes.
DAVE SPRITE: she got you there.
ROSE: Impaled on my own sword.
That will teach me not to voice anything worthy of a Hallmark card.
I really mean to stop this time.
Kanaya: understood.
I would like to be a part of that journey though.
both as an observer, an enforcer,
and someone who cares.
ROSE: That can probably be arranged.
DAVE SPRITE: do you need help cleaning out the cabinets.
Kanaya: fortunately jade confiscated our living quarters as part of her duties assisting the empress.
anything outside our personal possessions is gone.
while that means the mayors lovingly collected assortment of can based architecture has been lost forever, it also means most illicit substances have been done away with.
ROSE: Actually my drunken activities paid off.
Most of Can Town is safe in my inventory.
There's no contraband on me though, I promise.
DAVE SPRITE: I’m not ordering a strip search of my sister so I’ll have to take your word for it on that one.
ROSE: Evading a source of potential innuendo-based entertainment?
The past three years have changed you.
I'm sort of disappointed.
DAVE SPRITE: I’m still totally capable of humiliating myself don’t worry.
ROSE: I'll hold you to that.
DAVE SPRITE: and we’ll hold you to all of this.
nice to meet you kanaya.
ready to be the underage drinking cops.
Kanaya: is that a thing.
DAVE SPRITE: what.
Kanaya: did human society reserve a class of law enforcement devoted to apprehending wigglers abusing soporific substances.
alternia did not show such concern for its young.
we were left to our own devices for the most part.
if we wished to ruin our chances of survival we were welcome to do so.
it accelerated the culling process.
DAVE SPRITE: sounds like a dystopian nightmare.
but not as bad as the teen drinking police.
you haven’t known true fear until you hear the baying of the drug dogs unleashed.
one time I saw them attack a pool party full of wasted high school kids.
it was a bloodbath.
I wake up in a cold sweat about that one sometimes.
still can’t watch jaws without flashbacks.
Kanaya: wow.
I understand now that my species suffering can never compare to yours.
DAVE SPRITE: you’ve gotten a lot better at the sarcasm thing.
good job.
KANAYA: and your descriptions if possible have only grown more graphic and disturbing.
I would be interested in observing your interactions with your alternate self.
although if they are anything like our knights I fear deaths would occur.
whether because it came to a fight or because the heated oxygen in the atmosphere was depleted.
DAVE SPRITE: ha-ha sick burn.
I get why you two hit it off.
ROSE: At the risk of too obviously changing the subject, you dodged my commentary on your own problems.
DAVE SPRITE: wow look at that that’s my cue to leave.
good pep talk team.
ROSE: Sorry.
If everyone's committed to cleaning up everyone else's act, you're not immune.
DAVE SPRITE: damn it.
what happened to being in charge of your own destiny and shouldering the burden of self improvement?
ROSE: The two don't have to be mutually exclusive.
I can choose a destiny that involves well-meaning meddling.
Or at least observe that such a destiny is being provided whether I like it or not and accept gracefully.
As much as I would like to take care of myself, I don't think either of us can in good faith say we've done a stellar job.
DAVE SPRITE: sorry I wasn’t there.
ROSE: Me too.
But there's a lot of future left for us.
That can change.
DAVE SPRITE: what’s the seer forecast.
ROSE: It's been clouded for a while, and it's never clear.
There are lots of ways this could end.
I've seen futures where you die, where I die, where everyone dies, where we face a fate worse than death.
It's up to us to decide which ending we want to work toward.
My advice is to pick one that's good.
DAVE SPRITE: good for who.
ROSE: As many people as possible.
That shouldn't automatically exclude you though.
Promise me you'll at least consider it?
DAVE SPRITE: eh.
haven’t written my will yet if that’s what you’re asking.
ROSE: I'll hold you to that too.
And for what it's worth,
I don't mind having more blood relations.
Whether they're teen parents or multiplying siblings.
Whatever the future thinks.
KANAYA: Excuse me.

[Panel description: Rose, Kanaya, and Dave sprite turn to look at Karkat, who is yelling and grabbing Spades Slick's wrist with both hands. Slick has pulled another knife.]

KANAYA: I think our former arch agent is attempting to use karkat as a blade receptacle again.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: John leans against a purple wall next to a doorway with his arms folded.]

[Panel description: Jane emerges from the doorway, looking over at John.]

JOHN: how is he?
JANE: He's fine. Apparently they've treated him well here.
I asked him to stay safe there until everything's over.
He didn't like the sound of that. After all, we are only children.
But I managed to convince him that we were more capable than he was in this situation.

[Panel description: Jane rests one hand on the doorframe and brings the other hand toward her face thoughtfully.]

JANE: Besides, I don't feel much like a child anymore.
JOHN: he must be proud of you.
JANE: Very much so, he said.
How did you know?
JOHN: my dad always said he was proud of me.

[Panel description: John remains leaning against the wall in profile, expressionless.]

JOHN: even if I didn't do anything in particular to be proud of, which was most of the time.
talking about how proud you are must be one of those universal good dad things.
unless maybe our dads were trained at the same dad university?
I have often suspected they have a secret order that teaches them about things like shaving cream and business like shoes.

[Panel description: John keeps his arms folded, but his hands move further up his arms, so it looks more like he's hugging himself. His eyebrows draw together a little.]

JOHN: you know, he looks exactly like my dad.
I got confused at first.
JANE: Really.
...Do you ever miss him?
JOHN: I try not to think about it.
JANE: Hm.

[Panel description: Jane leans against the wall next to John. He looks over at her.]

JANE: You know, I'm no expert, but I suspect that's not going to do you any favors down the line.
Trust me, I would know.
JOHN: Roxy said something like that.
JANE: She's a smart girl sometimes.
JOHN: I don't see the point in making myself sad about something I can't change.
JANE: But even if you can't write yourself a happier ending, you can't make it go away.
JOHN: heh.
technically, I can do that now!
JANE: Not like that.
Stopping something bad from happening is one thing, but pretending like it never did?
It's like putting a lid on a pot and forgetting about it. It'll boil over and make a mess!
Take this from someone recovering from being a robot. Don't turn yourself into one.
JOHN: sorry about electrocuting you, by the way! I didn't mean for that to happen.
I definitely tried to knock jade out, but you were an accident.
JANE: You sure showed us! Really, I should be thanking you.
I shudder to think what I might have done otherwise.
I didn't mention that little episode to my father when I brought him up to speed.
I'll have to think of a good way to work it in.
JOHN: yeah...

[Panel description: Jane looks away into the distance as John looks downward, frowning.]

[Panel description: John looks over toward Jane again.]

JANE: Did your dad leave messages for you all over the house?
JOHN: yes! one time I found one in the safe after I smashed it.
I don't know why he put one there, was he expecting me to turn into the incredible hulk?
JANE: I found one under the fridge.
They were strange, but I liked them. It meant he was looking after me.
JOHN: when I was younger, all those slips of paper felt overbearing.
I was thirteen, I didn't need constant encouragement!
that was for babies who couldn't take care of themselves.
now, though... I wouldn't mind seeing some.
did you think he was a clown when you were little?
JANE: No, why would I think that? I did harbor fantasies that he might be a private eye.
One of the dapper detectives from the film noirs.
In hindsight, I'm sure I was projecting my interests on him to make him more interesting, but I'm sure his real life was interesting enough to him.
JOHN: he must have known more than he said... all our guardians did.
I wish I’d asked him about it, but once the game started everything was so busy, and by the time I got there...

[Panel description: They stay in the same positions, both silent.]

[Panel description: Jane looks back at John, who looks surprised.]

JANE: Do you miss making cakes with him?
JOHN: no! one thing I do not miss is the cake.
JANE: You don't like cake?
JOHN: cake is fine in moderation, but he made SO MANY pastries. he was out of control.
plus he used betty crocker cake mix, and I always held her in suspicion even before I knew she was an alien overlord.
I TOLD everyone about that, but they didn't listen to me.
JANE: Oh, yes, my friends told me Crocker corp was a front for an alien overlord, but I'm afraid I didn't take them at their word.
JOHN: tsk.
jane, you have to believe the conspiracy theories.
aliens are out there.
JANE: Yes, I know that now!
JOHN: anyway, everyone thought I was silly for boycotting all her products, but I knew better.
when my nanna,
um,
you, showed up, she started filling the house with desserts too.
JANE: It's strange to think about another version of me existing.
A version of me who got to grow up and become someone outside this game.
What was I like?
JOHN: I didn't know you when you were alive.
after she died and came back as a sprite, though, she was nice.
you should meet her.
she's cryptic sometimes, but she bakes a mean cookie.
I was DROWNING in baked goods.
JANE: Hoo hoo. It sounds funny.
JOHN: it was.

[Panel description: John smiles, but his eyebrows are drawn down. A tear track runs down his cheek.]

JOHN: it was annoying then, but looking back they definitely won the prankster's gambit on that one.
good job, guys.
JANE: I'll tell him not to bake anything for you.

[Panel description: John rubs one hand along his cheek. Jane puts a hand on his shoulder.]

JOHN: one or two things might not be so bad.
you know, for special occasions.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Karkat stands facing Terezi, who gestures with one thumb to the side. He has several bloody cuts on his arm. In the corner, Dave sprite, Kanaya, and Rose are still grouped together.]

[Panel description: Karkat, rendered as a silhouette, walks down a long purple hallway. A barred jail door can be seen at the end of it.]

[Panel description: Karkat looks through the bars. His face is seen from the perspective of inside the cell, with purple bars cutting it into thirds.]

[Panel description: Gamzee sits casually on the floor of the cell. He is wearing his God Tier outfit without the wings and smiling vaguely.]

Karkat: Look what the lusus dragged in.
GAMZEE: like a behemoth dropping on 12th perigees eve.
Gamzee: am I right, special friend?
Karkat: fuck no, cut it out. Drop the act.
don’t go acting like a cuddly fuckwit too spaced out by pan rot to see what the fuck is going on here.
GAMZEE: aw but pal.
is this about the friendly stabbings?
it's all in the past now friend.
like it never happened.
Karkat: yes it fucking did.
not only did you go perforating me before shoving me into fucking lava,
like some twisted sufferer-esque reference to the ending scene of "the sequel to the one where a drone assassin travels back in time to kill the progenitor of an uprising resistance leader, only to be pursued by the troll who would end up being his ancestor (etc.), this time where another fucking drone is sent after the kid and he gets a giant-ass robot played by troll Arnold Schwarzenegger to protect him…”
and the rest, you know what the fuck I mean.
the point is you also beat the shit out of one of my best friends, both physically and emotionally.
and that makes me angry.
GAMZEE: it’s the subjuggulator way bro.
she can’t take the heat?
then she should get out of the motherfucking food block.
Karkat: yeah, well,
your way sucks.
GAMZEE: (surprised clown face).
don't be that way pale friend.
Karkat: pale friend?
pale friend???
oh hardy-fucking-har har.
look at these noises coming from my laugh box.
they're bursting their way out of my chitinous wind tubes like a flock of obnoxious flutter beasts shitting upon all before them.
I might dislodge something out of pure fucking mirth!
outside of our one instance of barely reciprocated moirallegiance three years ago we have scarcely but skated the surface of said quadrant.
you barely even fucking talked to me.
because, you know, you were too busy creeping around in vents and fucking up terezi's black quadrant and stabbing people I care about and whatever other depraved machinations of the shady clown theme park or whatever that you were too busy doing.
GAMZEE: hey now brother.
calm your shout cords, I’ve been up to other things.
Karkat: like fucking what?
GAMZEE: (smiling clown face).
you REALLY wanna know best friend?
Karkat: oh yes please. I cannot think of anything I’d rather be doing other than listening to the inane wiggler dribblings of your rusted out think pan.
GAMZEE: well alright then.
sit on back brother.
grab some popcorn and let me tell you the sick wickedest story in all of paradox space.

[Panel description: Karkat and Gamzee are rendered in silhouettes standing on a colored surface. The surface beneath Karkat's feet is red, while the surface beneath Gamzee is purple. This is a typical Homestuck visual convention for characters about to fight. Karkat stands braced in a fighting pose, while Gamzee remains seated and angled away from him. Above them and taking up most of the panel is an image of a very young Gamzee with wide eyes. Lord English's flashing cue ball eyes are reflected in Gamzee's own.]

GAMZEE: it all began when I was just a little wiggler.
fresh outta the caves and all that shit.
I fell in with the DARK CARNIVAL and its MIRTHFUL MESSIAHS.
now this is the faith of my subjuggulator brothers and sisters, but man I was such a little shit.
too young to be real into it.
but you already knew that, didn’t you, best friend?
I told you that part once upon a time.
that the messiahs were always ME and MOTHERFUCKING ME?
Karkat: yeah, yeah, yeah. You have a flair for overdramatic bullshit.
GAMZEE: whatever bro.
it’s the motherfucking truth, as I live and breathe.
I had a miraculous motherfucking vision all about the carnival and its secrets.
whispering in my head all hours of the day and night.
the subjuggulators fucking PRAYED for that kind of clarity back in the day.
and it told me all kinds of things bro.
so many things.
and so many colors. (smiling clown face).
little me couldn’t take it and kept eating that SOPOR SHIT to try and seem NORMAL.
until I up and met my puppet bro.

[Panel description: Gamzee holds Lil Cal. The puppet is currently in its green Felt outfit, and Gamzee's yellow eyes are reflected in its vacant blue ones.]

GAMZEE: and now here's the motherfucking brilliant part.
the mirthful messiahs,
in all their laughing wisdom,
ARE ME, RIGHT?
I gazed into my floppy felt brother's eyes and it was my own sick soul staring back at me.
tellin me just what I needed to do.
that all this was written out motherfuckin eons in advance.
that our universe was born for this.
that I was motherfuckin born for this.
that for all of us to MOTHERFUCKIN EXIST,
I would have to join with the god of the dark carnival.
there was no other fuckin option, brother, it was join or die.
so,
why not go along for the ride?
got nothing better to do, nobody else is down with the clown anymore.
just me and also motherfuckin me.
KARKAT: but what about the spider woman? Vriska's dancestor?
GAMZEE: needed to make sure things went smoothly bro,
which they already were.
but she needed me for her little stunt.
didn’t have a say in that either really.
but see? Didn't it all work out?
it’s all gonna work out, best friend.

[Panel description: The panel is a disturbingly close up shot of Gamzee's face. He is smiling widely, but his eyes look unstable and almost desperate.]

GAMZEE: you’re gonna win,
and I’m gonna become my own god,
and there's nothing you or I can do about it.

[Panel description: Karkat looks flatly between the bars, appearing unimpressed.]

Karkat: holy fucking shit.
I knew you were a psycho, dude, but I had no fucking idea how bad it was.
GAMZEE: yup.
can’t argue with that.

[Panel description: Karkat walks away from the cell door. He is frowning but looking over his shoulder. Through the bars, Gamzee continues to smile.]

GAMZEE: are you gonna ditch me now.
Karkat: you fucking bet.
GAMZEE: it ain’t no thing, brother.
no hard feelings over here.
I kinda knew this was how it would turn out.
but at least we had some great fucking times together.
Karkat: if you could call it that.
later, chuckle fuck.
we won’t hesitate to turn you into a lusus snack again if you flip the fuck out.
so stay in that jail cell if you know what’s good for you.
GAMZEE: can do, karkat.

[Panel description: Out of sight of the door, Karkat stops and looks back. He is frowning slightly with his eyebrows scrunched. He looks regretful.]

[Panel description: Karkat runs back down the hallway. His expression is angry, but red tear tracks run down his cheeks.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: John and Jane walk down a purple stairway lined with columns. They are looking at each other. Jake stands at the bottom of the stairway. He appears to be caught mid-motion.]

JOHN: did you know gushers are also made by betty crocker?
no one else seems to notice that, I sure didn’t!
it’s the only merchandise of hers I trust anymore.
JANE: Ugh. I hate those things.

[Panel description: John and Jane continue looking at each other as they reach the bottom of the stairs. Jake attempts to surreptitiously creep away.]

JOHN: you what??
jane, no.
gushers are the food of the gods!
after all, I am a god and I eat them, so my logic is indisputable.
JANE: They’re terrible! They’re teeth-rotting candy with strange mystery goo in the middle!
If there’s even a company left to inherit after all this mess, I’m discontinuing them.
JOHN: that’s what makes them exciting! the mystery is part of the experience.

[Panel description: Jane stops. John looks off to one side.]

JOHN: besides, I am not sure we have to worry about cavities anymore?
the point is, gushers are awesome, they make an excellent birthday present, and that is all there is to say on the matter.

[Panel description: Jake freezes in mid-stride. A bright red exclamation point hangs over his head. John and Jane look at him.]

JANE: Oh. Jake.
JAKE: Ehhhhh.
JANE: Fancy... seeing you here?
JAKE: EHHHHHHH.

[Panel description: Jane stands with a neutral expression. John, frowning, slowly edges out of the right side of the panel.]

JOHN: it looks like you guys have a lot of catching up to do, so I’ll leave you to it!
bye!!!
JAKE: (John you craven cur don’t you quit me like this!!)
(Oh great cranberry crepes...!!)
JANE: Ahem.
Jake.
JAKE: (Oh boy.)

[Panel description: Jane rests one hand on top of the other. She is hunched in on herself, looking ashamed.]

JANE: I. Um.
I should apologize to you. For everything from the past few days.
And some other things over the past few…
Months.
And what a few days it's been! Technically, it's been, what, less than twenty-four hours? But it feels like the whole affair’s gone on for years unresolved.
And in that time I have both done things and had time to think about that, and.
And...
JAKE: Oh jane it’s quite alright!! I mean what’s a couple of brain washings and impromptu druggings and sucker punches and kidnappings and stabbings between friends am I right??

[Panel description: Jake holds both his hands up and smiles widely, although he is vibrating with nerves.]

JAKE: Look it’s totally understandable that all that went down and I mean the circumstances were outside of anyone’s control were they not? It’s no big deal at all!
Despite looking like a desperate babbling fool during our little discussion in derse jail I really meant I was sorry!! Honest!!
I was being a regular old baboons backside and you were probably well within your right to let me have it.
I’d have just continued going on running amok and doing a number on jades planet if you hadn’t brought me down and all and kept the whole doomed timeline ball rolling wouldn’t I??

[Panel description: Jane rolls her eyes. This is indicated by the word "Roll" curling all the way around her body.]

JAKE: But hey it’s all settled now and we can go back to being friends and not yelling or doing such sundry horrible things to one another right???
Friendship!! It’s great!!
JANE: ...
(Sigh.)

[Panel description: Jane raises both her hands, looking strained.]

JANE: Jake, you don't have to say all of that. I am fully prepared to assume culpability for my actions! And if starry-eyed but hollow promises of matrimony and threats to fulfill said promises have affected our friendship-
I will just have to deal with the consequences.
JAKE: But.
JANE: I did as I did and said as I said and you don't have to forgive me for it.

[Panel description: Jane continues to hold her hands up. Jake leans backward, still vibrating.]

JANE: So if you have a genuine grievance with me, just let it out already! I have certainly done my fair share of flinging hurtful words!

[Panel description: Jake presses his index fingers together, looking off to one side unhappily.]

[Panel description: Jake opens his mouth.]

JAKE: Well.
Yes.
You’re not off the mark there.
Both times you did a spectacular pirouette off your rocker so to speak to be quite honest and completely frank there were thoughts I had. Not one hundred percent directed at you but perhaps…
Involving you?
And I need to get those and all the others off my frigging chest at some point or else my own consarned brain will not cease to torment me about them!!
Now if I am to speak anything but the complete and bald-faced truth at this moment may whatever deity is watching over these godforsaken events strike me down in a suitably dramatic and ironic manner!
I’ve been thinking to myself…

[Panel description: The words "Bark!" "Bark!" rendered in black and white flash over Jane and Jake's heads. ]

[Panel description: Jake raises one hand and exclaims with a wide open mouth.]

JANE: What in the world is that?
JAKE: I don’t know but it sounds like trouble! Let me go find my goddamned guns already and deal with it!!

[Panel description: Jake dashes away. The word "Abscond" is written above his head. Jane faces in the other direction. She appears unimpressed, and the word "Sigh" is written above her head. The barks still flash near her.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Back on the purple Derse plaza, Terezi faces toward the viewer neutrally. Karkat stands behind her, looking over.]

Karkat: uh.
hey there.
you did pretty well with the whole condesce thing.
Terezi: thanks.
Attempting to boost my self confidence on a regular basis now are we? (smirking face).

[Panel description: Karkat and Terezi stand facing each other in sprite mode. Karkat is yelling, while Terezi laughs.]

Karkat: put those eyebrows away, there's nothing untoward happening here.
Terezi: nothing untoward, you say.
nothing in an un platonic sense?
Karkat: ha-ha, are you fucking kidding me?
we're in a life or death situation here. The sky could shit horrible, fiery death on us at any moment, dooming us to a sadly temporary demise followed by even more half-assed do-overs and equally half-assed attempts at talking about our feelings.
why would I be hitting on you in these circumstances?
who even has time for that?
Terezi: (smirking face).
Karkat: and how do you keep making those faces when we talk in person?
you must be doing better if you can mess with my head again this easily.
Terezi: your head is just really easy to mess with.
but,
don't take it the wrong way.
despite the alarming rate at which we are working through our various issues,
to paraphrase Dave,
fuck that noise.
these mind games are strictly platonic for the foreseeable future.
but for what it is worth,
the big leader speech you gave was a real pick me up.
Karkat: good.
don't make me whip out another one for our next phase of the plan.
Terezi: okay fine.
I’m not a wriggler anymore, I’m seven sweeps old.
Karkat: well excuse my attempts at raising morale.
I will take my sincere concern over my meager handful of surviving teammates and go.
Terezi: alright then!
you are excused. (smirking face).
Karkat: gah.
you are really pushing the borders of platonic antagonism here, I hope you know that.
Terezi: okay okay.
take it easy.
you always get so riled up over nothing at all.
Karkat: at the risk of invoking your prior sarcastic response to this,
excuse me.
I’m just feeling a hair stressed now is all.
Terezi: when aren’t you stressed?
Karkat: for the record I have just extricated myself from a sordid romantic affair.
Terezi: oh, you too?
so you and Dave finally broke it off.
I’m heartbroken, you were such a cute couple.
Karkat: no, but rest assured I find that jab just fucking hilarious.
I am just rolling on the floor with my ass in the process of detaching itself from the unadulterated quality of that joke.
I’m talking about...
him.
Terezi: you know I will not have a conniption if you actually say his name right?

[Panel description: Karkat vibrates with his mouth wide open, eyebrows drawn down, and eyes pointing in different directions. Terezi raises both hands and purses her lips. A white speech bubble hovers above them, showing sketchy drawings of the two of them slapping at each other with stick figure arms.]

Karkat: well, I might!
I talked to him and he was even further out of his rocking-seat than when he was fresh off his murder spree and going on ramblings worth of a serial killer while skulking around the meteor and probably planning to slaughter us!
the lunatic didn’t have a thing to say for himself and does not rescind a word of any of his nonsense!! For all I heard he’d be willing to take the dark carnival’s nightmare carousel around for another rousing spin!!
I may have stepped in the metaphorical droppings of those plastic terror-hoof beasts but I am not ashamed to say that I take pride in just fucking barely retaining control over my bodily functions with all the clown bullshit I have had to endure over the course of my sham of a friendship with him.
Terezi: thank you for sharing.
I’m sure you’ll also understand that I’ve had my fill of clown for basically ever, and if I ever find myself within nose-shot of him again, it will not even be to land my dagger into his stony indigo blood pusher.
he doesn’t even deserve that kind of sendoff.
let it go and don’t let him get to you.
you don’t need him.
Karkat: I know that!
jeez, you think I’ve been a complete fucking wreck these past three years solely because of my absent sham of a moirail?
no, I’ve been a complete fucking wreck for a myriad of different and not strictly related reasons.
but thank you for the recap of the life lessons we have learned here today.
Terezi: I am merely passing along some practical advice.
it’s a bad idea to depend on someone else to judge yourself.
you don’t need help,
especially not you in the department of judging yourself.
Karkat: the mock-trial from earlier seems to suggest otherwise.
Terezi: no, that’s not what I mean!
your whole life can’t go revolving around one person.
Karkat: ...
Terezi: uh.
sore subject?
Karkat: my whole life doesn't revolve around you, you know.
Terezi: well, it seemed like it sometimes!
all of your skulking around reeked of you having nothing better to do with your time!
you could’ve at least asked to join Dave and I in can town if you wanted. (frowning face).
Karkat: I.
I’m sorry?
those aren’t actions I’m proud of in hindsight.
we have all come to the realization that past me is a moron, right?
and the only bigger moron is future me.
Terezi: yes, I know.
you and your self-fulfilling cycle of self-loathing.
pack all of that in for a moment and listen to me.
we have all made stupid mistakes.
I don’t think any of us are innocent on that front.
it’s not like you are in a unique situation for disliking yourself.
even if by constantly arguing with your past and future selves in a never-ending loop of nubby horns and screeching you are definitely poking the behemoth with an especially aggravating stick.
what I am trying to say is that your situation isn’t all that unique.
Karkat: well thanks, that makes me feel much better.
Terezi: I knew you would take it that way!
ugh.
sorry.

[Panel description: Terezi presses both hands to her face. Her sketchy speech bubble counterpart does the same, and the sketch Karkat leans back with concern.]

Terezi: I guess my way with words isn’t what it once was.
the point I was trying to get around to is not to rag on you!
just that it was that kind of neurotic bullshit that made it easier to hang out with Dave,
or at least I thought it made it easier to hang out with Dave. (scowling face).
because we all have our problems.
even him.
nowhere to go but the clown.
which was at least a good game of cat and squeak beast to take one’s mind off things,
for awhile.
until the fighting began and the faygo started to flow.
isn’t my taste in men just spectacular.
Karkat: in fairness,
it's not like you had a wide array of spectacular choices set out before you.
at least without straying into the wonderfully iffy territory of an ectophilic relationship.
Terezi: like you and meenah?
Karkat: holy shit leave that out of this.
Terezi: ha-ha!
but I see your point.
maybe in attempting to get away from my own problems I ran to the clowniest, worst possible option and couldn’t get myself away,
and eventually didn’t want to.
because I thought I deserved it.
Karkat: problems? As in…
vriska?
Terezi: a little bit, yes.
that's one of the big things I have wound up kicking myself over till my rump cushions bled.
I had my fair share of screw ups over the course of this adventure too.
Karkat: I don’t know if I’d call that a screw-up.
I may not be able to see all possible outcomes and what-the-fuck-ever like you can, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that throwing a little serket spice into the stew of horseshit we had brewing would probably have not made the mess any less revolting.
fortunately for you it seems we gained enough of an upper hand on the chaos of life to have earned a few minutes to pause and collect a few of the many shits we have lost.
maybe if we find enough of them we can get through this game in one piece.
Terezi: perhaps.
Karkat: and then...
we can talk more about this later.
kanaya and I still have to do that genesis frog business on lofaf.
Terezi: okay.
Karkat: good luck.
kanaya and I will be on trollian if you need us.
and remember that it wasn't me that beat the condesce into submission with a metaphorical law book.
Terezi: thank you for another rousing speech, Mr. Leader. (smirking face).

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jade stands with her legs braced and her arms spread wide. She is warding off both Bec Noir and PM, who are barking furiously at each other. Their poses mimic the Chris Pratt and the raptors meme popular from Jurassic World. Jane approaches the scene.]

JADE: and remember, no more killing my friends!
you, tell your mayor friend that I’m really sorry about kicking him. (sad face).
and you,
don’t stab anyone.
or I will be VERY angry!!!
oh, hi jane!
JANE: Are you alright? I heard some sort of rabble-rousing over here!
JADE: it’s nothing I can’t handle!
these two naughty doggies showed up and I am setting them straight.
I need to send her to visit an old friend.

[Panel description: Jade rests her hands on her hips. She is scowling, and her dog ears are pulled back. Jane watches with her eyebrows raised. Bec Noir and PM stand facing them. Then PM disappears in a flash of green light.]

JADE: and jack,
well I should probably keep an eye on him.
he is not well behaved.
JANE: That seems... wise, yes.
How are you so sure he can be trusted to not disembowel us?
JADE: he won’t hurt me!
he had to arrange for me to be blown up once and then he was sorry about it.
and he wouldn’t stab Dave directly when I was watching.
he had to be tricky.
besides if he surprises us most of us can’t die permanently.
so if I am careful and watch him closely we should be alright.
JANE: How... heartwarming?
At any rate I hope you know what you're doing! I for one don't trust much of anything not to try to kill us anymore.
JADE: they are probably the least of our threats!
the white one wouldn’t have hurt anyone if Dave hadn’t tried to get my body away from her.
jack...
ok jack would have hurt someone no matter what.
but it is under control now.
JANE: They were indeed a nuisance at best last time...
Bah. That entire scenario seemed to be specifically engineered to do us in as soon as things went wrong!! Did you notice that?
JADE: I left a little early. (sticks tongue out).
but yes from reports it seemed like for a bunch of immortal gods we were killed off pretty quickly!
I expected god tier to be more of a protection.
JANE: I know. (sad face).
Such an embarrassment! I spent one part not entirely myself and the other part asleep.
JADE: I don’t know what it was like for anyone else,
but I guess for us that meant
it was just?
JANE: ...
Well.
It couldn't have been heroic.
Not with the things I did...
Ergo, when you eliminate the impossible...
JADE: that’s sad.
thinking that skaia thought we deserved to be dead.
JANE: Of course, my death wasn't permanent after I died this time under similar circumstances.
So perhaps we were victims of a Skaian clearance sale?
Doomed timeline, everyone must go!
JADE: maybe.
it would be nice to think of it that way.
no matter what, we should make sure that never happens again.
JANE: Yes.
We must keep an eye on the Condesce so she doesn't get up to her old tricks!
JADE: it seems like our troll friends have that under control.
it’s funny seeing them again after all these years.
I suppose it is strange for you having aliens running around.
they take some getting used to.
JANE: Yup. Here I was, thinking all this time Calliope was pulling my leg somehow... and even when I got used to the fact that she wasn't, it's quite another thing to see one for yourself.
Oh my, and seeing carapaces in person for the first time! Though the White Queen was nice. She gave me her king's scepter. It's what my fork is made from!
JADE: I think they are different kinds of aliens...
but yes it’s a shock!
I remember finding out that all the goofy kids on the internet yelling at me were actually aliens and I was really surprised.
although it explained a lot.
JANE: Suddenly all the inexplicable little happenstances just drop into place, don't they? Like finding the final clue in a mystery.
JADE: it certainly explains the vocabulary.
also knowing that betty crocker is in fact an evil alien makes all my brothers ranting suddenly a lot less silly.
JANE: I am amazed I have not gotten a big fat "I told you so" from any of my teammates on that front.
And if I'd just listened to them about the Crocker tech...
JADE: it wasn’t your fault.
the empress must have been planning that for a long time.
JANE: Even so! I had every warning!
You'd think with my future friends' constant proselytizing about the family business, at the first sign of the evidence, I'd have burnt that stupid tiara top.
But no.
I thought just abandoning it was enough.
JADE: I’m the one who teleported it onto your head.
so that one is on me.
JANE: But you didn't WANT to!
That's something you never even would've thought to do if it hadn't been for the Condesce, right? You didn't even know such a thing existed.
JADE: no I never would have done that to you jane.
and I certainly didn’t know that there were any evil alien technology tiaras lying around,
not until she made me look.
I suppose messing with you was one of the few things that wasn’t at all under my own compulsion.
JANE: Hoo hoo. You're far from alone there, I'm afraid...
JADE: oh, you too? (surprised face).
JANE: Yes.
I did things I'm not proud of.
Not even under orders, like forking Mr. Vantas back there.
There was no reason at all for me to do what I did and say what I said, but I went and did it anyway!
...I'd think you'd understand, since you know, you and the incident with Karkat...
JADE: yes.
I’m afraid that was me settling some old scores.
they were so old I don’t think anyone was keeping score anymore.
I didn’t even think I was,
but somewhere I must have been.
it’s not nice to see that in yourself,
or have other people see it.
JANE: I suppose I could say the same for the most part, but my predicament was more... recent.
I said I wasn't angry about it anymore, but once I had the tiara on my head, I just felt... like suddenly I could get away with getting in a final word.
And I guess I DID give the final word with what I did.
Go ahead and put a pin in it because that’s over and done! I can't see how that situation would turn out like I'd hoped now.
But how would it be alright for me to get my way after that anyhow? So in a way, I get exactly as I deserve.

[Panel description: Both Jane and Jade look downward sadly. Jade's ears are still back.]

[Panel description: Jane and Jade look up at each other.]

JADE: do you remember what it felt like?
like you could do anything.
the whole world was there for you to do what you wanted, and no one else mattered.
do you think the empress feels like that all the time?
I almost feel sorry for her.
JANE: ...yes.
That was exactly what it was like.
And for a moment it was a relief, because I'd spent so long trying to be the good girl! After stepping aside to keep the peace, I could finally bust free from that shell!
And then you think you can do anything, BE anything, and never feel a moment of the consequences because no one can, or will, dare raise a hand against you!
And the second I was out of that mindset... I could hardly face myself.
How long do you have to hold her kind of power that you no longer feel that guilt?
And how do you push that onto someone thinking you're doing them a FAVOR?
JADE: maybe she never had a reason to feel bad about the things she did,
or at least never let herself feel that way.
she thought that was what we wanted.
... was she right about us?
JANE: Shrug!!
I don't want it.
Not anymore, at least.
I never want to put myself in the kind of position where I can get lost in the power trip again.
JADE: I don’t want to be like that either.
that has to count for something.
that’s why I tried so hard,
but now they know.
I still don’t really know what to say to any of them.
I haven’t tried because I feel so bad about what I did.
but I also have all these other feelings and I can’t pretend they’re not there anymore.
do you ever worry you don’t feel the right way about your friends?
like you should be more patient or nicer or better somehow,
and whatever you’re doing isn’t good enough.
so you try and try,
but that just makes it all even more frustrating.
JANE: Ha.
Ha-ha.
Hoo boy...
Boy howdy.
I could tell you some tales.
But I'd rather... not recount the exact things I have thought.
Because given what I now know I'll do if I can get away with it...
And I'm not just speaking about when I had the Condesce's power backing me up, there was another...
Incident, prior to all of that.
An incident fueling sentiments that I expressed under the tiara top, much to the chagrin of those on the receiving end.
JADE: sometimes I think our lives are nothing but a series of,
incidents.
dramatic pauses included.
JANE: Oh, phooey, tales like this are at their best when there is proper pacing. (tongue sticking out).
But yes, I never want to lose control of myself like that again.
Prop me up as the next in line for a galactic empire and suddenly, I think I can leverage that for hideously awful things against someone I called a friend!
Or drop my restraints with other methods, and...
Well.
I don't really want to discuss details.
But after my not-so-much-turning on a dime as doing donuts around it, I think my friends would be right to never trust me again.
JADE: I wanted to be nice and trustworthy and helpful.
they weren’t supposed to see anything else.
but I guess calliope was right.
it’s not helping anymore.
it only made things worse for all of us.
now they’ll really never trust me.
JANE: You spoke with Calliope??
How? How is she? I thought she was dead!
JADE: she’s doing fine!
besides being dead anyway, but she was safe when I left her.
I met her in the bubbles while I was unconscious.
we’re going to rescue her somehow, even if we don’t know the details yet.
I promised.
that’s something good I can do.
JANE: Yes. Count me in on that if you can.
I have a lot of atoning to do; I might as well start somewhere!
JADE: yes.
maybe we’ll be lucky and our friends will forgive us,
although if they don’t I won’t blame them.
JANE: Long sigh.
Me neither.
I don't know if you saw, but it seems Jake can hardly stand to be in the same room with me now, and I don't blame him.
I just wish he'd yell at me, or something! Instead of trying to get away as fast as those gams can carry him. Otherwise, I fear I might have...
Broken him?
Is it strange I'd prefer him being absolutely livid with me to that?
I'd prefer if any of my friends argued when I got nasty!
JADE: no no that makes sense.
I feel like I’m tiptoeing around everyone right now because I’m scared of what they might say,
and what I might say.
having it all out and over with might be easier.
although that doesn’t mean I’m feeling up to tracking everyone down and explaining.
maybe I will work up to it.
JANE: ...he won't say anything though, and it's part of the problem.
JADE: that could be a problem yes.
maybe I will talk to him later.
he was always very talkative in his letters!
JANE: It's been a rough couple of months, let's put it at that.
And I don't want to push him, not after what I did, but.
If you would just lay the effing blame on me, I'd feel better!!
You know how guilty I feel that you BOUGHT all of my Condesce-flavored hootenanny?
JADE: um,
I don’t even know what hootenanny means.
JANE: Sorry, I don't mean you.
We just talked, Jake and I, right before your commotion with the god dogs.
It was awkward.
JADE: oh.
at least you tried?
since I woke up I said maybe one thing to john and that is pretty much it.
I will have to do more than that eventually.
JANE: ...it's progress?
I don't know what else to call it.
JADE: it’s something.
and since we are not evil or asleep or dead, I am going to decide that makes it a good thing.
it has to be,
right?
JANE: This is true.
We're down one unbeatable boss, too.
JADE: yes!
that is a good thing.
the empress is working with us and jack is under control.

[Panel description: Jade turns to look at Bec Noir, who is moving threateningly while facing a trembling Dersite. Jane hides a smile behind her hand.]

JADE: step away from that carapace!!!! bad dog!
but anyway things are better than they were.
hopefully they will keep getting better.
and if there are consequences to our actions, we will have to handle them gracefully I guess.
JANE: You're right. It could definitely be worse.
Geez Louise, seems you got Jake's optimism.
And my... well, anger problems.

[Panel description: Jane and Jade smile at each other. In the bottom right hand corner, the top of Bec Noir's head can be seen jittering.]

JADE: he he I guess so.
I’m not sure how much of the optimism is real though.
I’m used to sounding positive no matter what, even if I don’t feel that way.
but john did just bring us all back from the dead, so I do feel good about that.
and even though I regret everything I’ve done, I feel a little bit better now that I know I can’t pretend anymore.
I have to stop lying to them and to myself,
even if the prospect is a little frightening.
JANE: Anger is powerful. And maybe a little addictive.
Possibly because you know you're not supposed to yell and stomp around like a damn hooligan so you press it down inside...
And then when it comes out, it feels so good to finally say it that you keep doing it until you've said and done things you can never take back!!
And then yes! People are tiptoeing around you and you around them and you don't know when you're going to get lost in that inferno again and make it worse.
So perhaps... it's better to not have to shove it down like that until it builds up like it does. Don't give it time to build up that momentum.
And if people don't like who you are because you express yourself...
Well, they can just--!!
Shove it up their bums!
JADE: lol.
I will keep that in mind.
I’m not sure if I like who I am then either but,
I guess I should get to know her first.
JANE: Well, if you ever need somebody to talk to...
Okay, I don't have a good track record of being someone else's shoulder to cry on, but I'll try?
JADE: I will keep that in mind.
we have a lot in common now.
maybe too much. (concerned face).
JANE: That's very strange how it all shakes out...
JADE: also you are technically my mother?
although I don’t think I will be thinking of you in that way.
JANE: I'm sure some time ago I would have been continually delighted over that, but given Jake's and my present difficulties...
I don't know, it's very strange.
Our... family? Is very, very strange.
JADE: I don’t think john really thinks about Jake that way either.
it depends on who we knew growing up.
except it looked like Roxy was excited about everyone but Roxy seems very enthusiastic.
I am happy to think of you as just a similarly aged relative.
I haven’t spent much time around girls my age.
or,
any age.
JANE: I have had Roxy, but Roxy...
Is a party, let's say.
I will be honest and say that sometimes she's very difficult! But she is still a friend, I suppose.
JADE: I am glad to see that she is ok.
I saw one version of her die in the dream bubbles...
JANE: Oh no! Did something happen?
JADE: apparently there was another version of her?
JANE: ...yes, yes, I remember saying something to that effect to John and Rose while I was still under the tiara's influence.
Oh no, poor other Roxy. (sad face).
JADE: it was timeline business, I think.
don’t get in the way of lord English when you’re asleep I guess.
JANE: Still, that's so sad.
At least she's... kind of okay? Right?
JADE: this Roxy is ok yes.
the other one,
no. (sad face).
those are the rules,
usually.
JANE: I doubt there's anything we can do about it, then.
Unless we want another bout of rule breaking from John.
JADE: no, there’s nothing we can do.
it is still sad though.
sometimes the rules seem very unfair.
even if we have broken them more than our fair share of times already.
JANE: But, speaking of relatives...
Dirk once said something about his bro being his brother, despite the fact that he knew they weren't actually brothers. Doubly so, now that they're around the same age.
Perhaps that's closer to the terminology you're reaching for?
JADE: hmm.
I remember my grandpa used to keep a bunch of silly blue pictures of ladies in the annex,
and I used to think of them almost as sisters because I was very lonely.
having a real person would definitely be an improvement.
and that takes away some of the strangeness of calling someone my age my mother.
I am all for it.
JANE: Definitely so!
I never did have many feminine influences in my life. Just Roxy, really.
JADE: and the empress of course. (sticks tongue out).
we cannot forget her.
JANE: Of course. But I'd prefer an influence with less, you know.
Literal, non-consensual influence. (sticks tongue out).
JADE: I did meet the other you during our trip to this session.
she was very nice and friendly but she could be a little cryptic at times.
did you know you laugh the same way?
JANE: Do we?
JADE: hoo hoo.
he he.
JANE: Yes, that is indeed my signature utterance! (buck toothed smiling face). Hoo hoo hoo.
Strange to think about another me growing up in another universe.
JADE: she told me she grew up under the empresses shadow.
you might have more in common than you’d think.
maybe you should talk to her sometime!
I know I am curious to hear what happened to me without sburb in the way.
JANE: I don't know much about her, but from what I hear, she was a very interesting woman!
You'd probably be better off asking Jake.
JADE: I will have to do that sometime.
it’s a fun idea imagining how things would change,
although I have a hard time thinking what my life would be like if I hadn’t played this game.
even with everything that has happened, I’m glad I was able to meet everyone.
JANE: You could try asking Dirk too. He's apparently very knowledgeable on the lore of what happened to cause our Earth's downfall.
JADE: earths downfall? oh, that’s right.
I guess it did look sort of
flooded.
JANE: Yup, apparently there's a whole story behind that!
Roxy was trying to tell me for years and years, but I wrote it off as drunken silliness...
JADE: I guess poor earth gets destroyed no matter what we do.
R I P everyone. (sad face).
JANE: Poor little planet.
Have you still got it? I imagine we could work some kind of magics in our new universe, or something, to at least make it habitable again.
JADE: yes I have it!
it has to go into the universe we make to fulfill some kind of time loop.
but I am not sure if we will get to go with it... I am a little unclear on those details still.
I will let our seers handle that.
they seem to be making all sorts of plots and plans.
JANE: Well, if they helped get us away from the Condesce...
I'll trust their judgement.
JADE: me too.
rose helped us get this far.
I don’t really know terezi, but she kept Dave alive for a while.
even if she also got him killed?
it is confusing, but that is what it is like with trolls.
JANE: Our lives are kind of a mess.
But maybe it was a "darkest just before dawn" sort of scenario.
Things do seem to be on the up and up!
JADE: yes!
yes they are.
hopefully they will keep going that way, even for us.
whether we deserve it or not.
JANE: Yes.
And hopefully, we can make amends somehow.
JADE: we will have to try to find a way, and you can talk to me about it.
... sister? (smiling face).
JANE: Sister!
I like the sound of that.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The Empress holds her remaining arm across her chest and scowls at Jaspers sprite, who has curled around to hover in her face once more.]

[Panel description: The Empress shoves Jaspers' face away.]

[Panel description: Jaspers curls around the Empress's ankles.]

[Panel description: The Empress topples forward, mouth open with distress.]

[Panel description: The Empress lands face first in a blue and white cake, which splatters upward. The word 'Blat!' is written next to the impact.]

[Panel description: The Empress lies with her face in the cake. A Prankster's Gambit appears beneath her. It is a purple progress bar with a frowning jester's head on the left and a smiling jester's head on the right. The smiling jester flashes with a blue outline, and more purple appears to fill the bar.]

NANNA SPRITE: Hoo hoo hoo!

[Panel description: The Empress raises her head with a flat expression and pieces of blue and white cake on her face. The smiling jester continues to flash, and the progress bar is almost full.]

H I C: oh.
you again.

[Panel description: Nanna sprite floats, smiling, framed between the Empress's horns looking down at her.]

NANNA SPRITE: Hello, Mother.

[Panel description: The Empress sits cross legged and wipes blue and white icing off her face. Nanna sprite floats to one side, facing the Empress with her tail streaming off to her other side.]

H I C: I gotta admit I aint never thought I’d see this version uh you here.
NANNA SPRITE: It has indeed been a while! In all my long life I never did imagine we'd meet face-to-face again.
To tell you the truth, I'd given up on the idea.
When I had become an old woman before your little prophecies came to pass, I began to presume many things you informed me of were simply fibs and fables.
As the decades wore on, sometimes I wondered if your otherworldly origins were not merely a dream I had had as a girl.
H I C: obvs not.
you still remember me tearin the disguise off right.
NANNA SPRITE: Oh heavens. How could I forget that?
You sure know how to scare the dickens out of a young girl!
H I C: sea I’d never thought I’d be seein you lookin like this either.
kinda weird.
forgot humans get all wrinkly and nasty when they get old.
NANNA SPRITE: Age before beauty, Mother.
H I C: speak for yourself.
you know damn well why I wanna avoid lookin my age.
NANNA SPRITE: Always so vain. I’m amazed that threat worked.
H I C: I got a shit ton of imperial forces under my command.
you learn to assess credi bubble threats like that.
NANNA SPRITE: Why yes. A butter and eggs woman to the very end, aren’t we?
H I C: yeah yeah you and your old timey speak.
I guess none uh you ever got rid of that.
NANNA SPRITE: It does in fact appear to be a universal constant. That along with some other things about myself.
And yourself as well.
I know now that everything you said was true after all.
H I C: look here bitch I’m a lot uh awful things.
but a liar I aint.
NANNA SPRITE: And that is admirable. As much as a murderous alien empress with repeated counts of genocide and world domination under her studded belts can be called admirable.
H I C: wow.
every version uh you seems hellbent on giving me bullshit today.
NANNA SPRITE: I assure you, young Ms. Crocker arrived at these conclusions entirely independently.
This day is my first time meeting her. Meanwhile, I have sat on my own machinations against you for years.
H I C: goddamn heiresses.
see girl I like your style.
all the rest tried to pick fights.
you though.
you played it smart.
I be respectin that.
that’s how a proper evil queen does biz you know?
NANNA SPRITE: Yes, even though I carry no intent of repeating your misdeeds, and I now presume neither does Jane.

[Panel description: Nanna sprite and the Empress look across the plaza, where Jane and Jade continue to face Bec Noir.]

NANNA SPRITE: As such I hope you know that my actions do not reflect upon her.
Those girls are not the ones you raised.
I am not Jane. Only what she could have become, given the right time and place! (bucktoothed smiling face). Hoo hoo.
H I C: I know that.
that's why I wanted to give her a chance.
NANNA SPRITE: You should have known we'd never do things your way.
I always was a rambunctious lass. Rebellious even!
We Crockers are too plucky for our own good!
H I C: yeah I sea that now!
damn clown ghost.
NANNA SPRITE: Come now! Is that any way to speak to your daughter?

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Dave and Dirk float in darkness. Dave slumps back with his mouth wide open to complain.]

DAVE: ugh.
DIRK: God, any fucking day now.
We’ve dispersed our issues into the air, this guy can show up whenever.
DAVE: doesn’t this guy have any respect for narrative pacing.
we’re sitting out here with all our vital regions exposed like European countries ripe for foreign invasion.
there’s a long list of people waiting to kick my ass I can’t give this one all day.
DIRK: Wait a sec.

[Panel description: Dave and Dirk look toward a flashing diamond of light alternating between several bright colors.]

DIRK: What’s that strangely ominous glow in the distance?
DAVE: let’s take a wild guess.

[Panel description: The version of Jack Noir possessed by Lord English floats flashing with bright colors. His eyes bulge out from his face, and tendrils of colored light stream off of them. Blood surrounds the sockets and spatters across his body. His teeth are bared, and one of them is gold. He holds a crowbar in his right hand.]

[Panel description: Dave and Dirk face Jack. They are framed between his two flashing legs. One of the legs is missing at the joint and replaced with a gold spike.]

[Panel description: Dave and Dirk both pull out their swords. Dirk holds his typical katana, while Dave has Caledfwlch. Dave has his back up against Dirk’s shoulder. For once they look kind of cool.]

[Panel description: Jack opens his mouth and spews a torrent of flashing light.]

[Panel description: Dave shoves Dirk out of the way of the column of fire. The word shove is written above him. The edge of his cape trails into the fire and catches alight.]

[Panel description: Dave puts his hands to his head and shouts when he sees the edge of his cape burning with a blue flame.]

[Panel description: Dave stomps on the edge of his cape, which is now charred. Wisps of smoke rise from the burned area.]

[Panel description: Dave wipes his forehead in relief. With his other hand, he pushes his scorched cape back. Jack Noir approaches unseen behind him.]

[Panel description: Dave frowns and looks behind him at Jack Noir, whose head and shoulders are now covered by his cape. Jack flails. He has dropped the crowbar, which falls toward the bottom of the panel.]

[Panel description: Dirk holds the crowbar in one hand. In front of him can be seen Jack and Dave, still tangled up in the cape.]

[Panel description: Dirk holds the crowbar back in a striking pose. Impact lines indicate he has hit Jack on the head. Jack, still tangled in the cape, looks distressed.]

[Panel description: Dirk, with the crowbar, and Dave, unarmed, both shout and jump toward Jack, who cowers between them.]

[Panel description: Dirk and Dave face each other. Dave looks somber. Behind them, Jack floats in a pool of blood.]

DAVE: I don’t know if you know this.
I mean,
I guess there’s no way for you to.
but,
this is how you died.
not you,
my bro.
it was him and uh,
dave sprite,
that guy.
they were fighting our jack and it didn’t go too well.
talk about déjà vu.
...
you really don’t remember that.
DIRK: No.
Nothing in here but sixteen years of isolated adolescent horseshit.
I’ve gathered that the puppet fixation appears to be more or less constant, but whatever.
DAVE: I guess that’s good.
it’s just,
it’s weird to think that you’re so similar in so many ways but there’s no connection beyond that.
that version of me that your world knew,
none of me is in him at all.
I guess good for him and good for you but it’s still unnerving.
DIRK: I don't know about that. I didn't know the guy.
Maybe you two actually were really similar, as much as you can be given your separate upbringings.
DAVE: maybe,
but he wouldn’t have remembered being me would he.
if it didn’t work that way for you I dunno why it would work like that for anyone else.
I guess it’s just more proof of how skaia really doesn’t care.
not about preserving any of us or giving us a good ending.
it’s all big picture stuff.
the scratch had to happen so it did,
and everyone on either side of it, they had to live with it.
DIRK: In essence. Probably no real reason that there had to be such a temporal distance between us and our co-players, either.
The only real purpose I can see is to give the human side some kind of stakes against the Condesce, which we now have in fucking spades.
Though I think the mind control of friends and murder of guardians would probably be enough for that.
Who knows. From what I can tell, on either side of the scratch, we were dealt a radically different set of circumstances. Like you said, playing the same cards differently.
Maybe Skaia does know. Maybe that's why it stuck my ass out on my own and said "look, kid. If you want to not starve to death, you’re on your own."
So I had to grow up and learn to be the closest thing to a grown-up I could. There was nobody else I could rely on. I had to be independent.
We’re presented a different way to play our cards. But past that, it's up to us.
I had to survive on my own, but I couldn't make the others learn the skills I'd honed from that.
That was on them.
And I kind of wish I'd seen that.

[Panel description: Dirk and Dave continue to look at each other. Behind them, Jack is floating away.]

[Panel description: Jack floats even further away, partly past the edge of the panel.]

[Panel description: Jack is no longer visible behind the two boys.]

DAVE: the trolls were post scratch.
they didn’t know until we hit the dream bubbles.
but thinking about how it just as easily could have been a different group who started hassling us,
that those people we met used to have different lives that vanished,
it’s unnerving.
the only thing directing it all is skaia and skaia doesn’t care as long as everything works out the way it wants in the end.
so I guess we’re all teetering on islands of sanity in this huge frothing sea of dip shits,
the occasional tsunami washing us all out into the water where we flail like a bunch of kids getting their first swim lesson in the deep end.
there are probably sharks.
I don’t know what the sharks symbolize in all this.
lord English.
crippling self doubt.
who cares.
DIRK: A formless yet omnipresent deity watching over us demi-gods, keeping us in line like a stern yet absent parent.
That's Skaia, I guess.
Wow.
I just realized the Campbellian horseshit behind this gigantic killer game.
Behind the apocalyptic nonsense and moving beyond the nihilistic denial that we have any real agency in the whole thing, it's a giant coming of age story.
DAVE: Campbell.
DIRK: You know, Joseph Campbell? The Hero's Journey?
The Call to Adventure, the Refusal of the Call, all of that?
DAVE: right I remember rose deconstructing one of my web comics one time saying I’d subconsciously included the belly of the whale or some shit.
the universal bildungsroman.
break this dude and then put him back together.
welcome to our lives.
and don’t get me started on the whole hero routine.
jesus.
DIRK: Alright then, I won't.
DAVE: ha-ha see you’re learning.
DIRK: And it only took possibly traumatizing somebody I love for life to figure that out. Yippee.

[Panel description: Dave and Dirk turn to look at the empty pool of blood. Dirk tenses up, still holding the crowbar.]

DAVE: um,
uh,
wait a second.
tell me what is wrong with this picture.
DIRK: Huh?
What pic. Oh, Christ.

[Panel description: Dave puts his hands to his head in distress. Dirk scowls.]

DAVE: we turned our backs on the body.
what fucking amateurs.
he had maybe 1 goddamn hit point left.
he couldn’t have gotten far.
DIRK: Where could he have even gone?
DAVE: no clue.
he was all hopped up on English juice I don’t know what that does to you.
DIRK: How is he not leaving a blood trail the size of the goddamn Mississippi?
DAVE: well,
we are in space.
DIRK: What are even the logistics of this?
DAVE: would the blood float.
look I don’t know jack shit about physics and I don’t think this game does either.
DIRK: At least, to have gotten away scot-free while never having crossed our peripheral vision, he would have to have retreated, right?
DAVE: so he went away from the session.
mission accomplished.
and hey we got the magic juju thing at least.

[Panel description: Dirk looks down at the crowbar in his hand.]

DAVE: which is.

[Panel description: Dave takes the crowbar and holds it in a pose reflecting the Half-Life logo.]

DAVE: a crowbar apparently.
wild.
DIRK: Yup, that is a crowbar.
But I know from experience that even the most mind-bendingly horrific of ancient mystical jujus can look fairly innocuous.
DAVE: it’s true.
any mild-mannered physicist can fuck you up with one of these.
DIRK: Exactly. Or the lollipop I was talking about.
Or this puppet I had growing up.
DAVE: ...
puppet.
DIRK: Puppet.
His name was Lil Cal. I think my bro left him to me.
A friend of mine, this alien who was really into all the cryptic mystical shenanigans, called him a juju.
DAVE: look I know I just went on that tangent about our alt selves having no connection to us,
but I cannot bring myself to believe that any version of me would ever spread that piece of shit willingly to another human being.
that puppet was EVIL.
DIRK: What?
DAVE: and I’m not just saying that because of his dead dead eyes or that soul crushing giggle,
or the way he moved around in my dreams.
what kind of inanimate object has a dream self anyway.
DIRK: Dude, the fuck do you have against the C-Man?
DAVE: rose was doing research because that’s what seers do.
I don’t even know where she gets this shit.
not like you can steer the meteor into the parking lot for the public library.
apparently that puppet was possessed.
the big bad of the multiverse lurks in his stuffing fucking with people.
DIRK: ...
I'd like to know her credentials.
From where I'm standing, Cal was pretty tight.
DAVE: I dunno she got vaporized on a god slab and now she’s the ascended seer of light.
I didn’t ask for her C V.
she said it isn’t always possessed,
but any time it’s in a universe it has the potential to be a window for this guy to get his peep on and crawl into your soul.
DIRK: ...give me a moment to process this.
DAVE: just for the record he never crawled into my soul.
I think it was the shades.
thank god for ben stiller I guess.
I can’t see the horror terrors with these on either.
fuck enchanted mithril armor, I’m sticking with mirrored plastic.
DIRK: I'm just not sure how to respond to the revelation that the only semblance of human interaction I had for ten goddamn years is apparently Lord English's interdimensional clown car.
Or that these stupid anime shades bequeathed to me from my centuries-dead would-be-guardian were the only thing standing between me and possible demonic possession.
DAVE: not sure if there’s a DNA test you can do to find out if it’s a carrier or not but my advice is to burn the fucker.
DIRK: I can't.
I don't have him.
DAVE: oh SHIT.
where is it.
DIRK: I dropped him before we entered the game, so probably at the bottom of the ocean on a post-apocalyptic earth, now abandoned by all but the carapaces shortly before the universe as a whole got axed.
And I’m pretty sure they don’t have scuba gear.
DAVE: I don’t know if that’s far enough.
DIRK: This game throws enough shitty plot twists at us. I don't know if I really want to ask if and where he'll pop up next.
Or what’ll happen when he does.
DAVE: keep an eye out,
and if you see it bring the flamethrower.
DIRK: Let me head on back and alchemize one.
I'll need a moment to bid a tearful goodbye before I chuck his body into the burning inferno.
Or go on a quest to incinerate him in the depths of a volcano.
DAVE: good precedent on that one.
watch out for badly clothed gremlins jumping you at the last second.
DIRK: I have it on good authority that’s the best way to undo an evil curse.
Like a naturally-occurring phenomenon the planet evolved to combat hypothetical dark forces. Or maybe it just denatures evil the same way extreme heat denatures most things.
I'm unsure how that works, but if it makes sense to the mind of an old fart with a hate-boner against the Industrial Revolution, sure. Whatever, I’ll take it.
DAVE: our forge was lit by Hephaestus so we’ve got some godly power thrown into the mix,
so there’s your Greco-Roman to go with the Nordic middle earth shit.
and hey English has a sarcophagus so Egypt joins the party.
DIRK: Complete with some Judeo-Christian nonsense expounded upon by Socrates, so we're back to Greco-Roman again.
DAVE: the game makers patched in Wikipedia to fill out the game lore apparently.
greatest hits of western civ.
DIRK: In addition to not giving a shit about its players, Skaia also doesn't give a shit about a consistent mythos.
DAVE: wonder what kind of stuff the trolls got saddled with.
except they also had echidna which makes no fucking sense.
unless echidna is in our myths BECAUSE she’s in sburb.
goddamn I don’t want to think about this.
let’s just go report there’s a jack on the loose and shoulder whatever next hellish round of bullshit this game throws at us.
DIRK: I can be down for that.
Keep an eye out for Cal.
Something tells me he's bound to make an appearance.
DAVE: I’m getting the heebie jeebies knowing he’s out there somewhere,
watching.
he always turned up when you were least expecting it too.
DIRK: Can't have him sneaking up on some poor, oblivious bastard unprepared.
DAVE: maybe I should gift everyone on my team with shades.
DIRK: Sounds like a plan. I'll oversee this official inauguration into the cool kid club.
DAVE: our religion is already picking up speed.
soon we’ll be big enough to schism and start fighting for supremacy.
who wants to be the one to nail a list of 95 memes to the church door.
DIRK: Hal.
Definitely Hal.
DAVE: there’s our splinter sect right there.
DIRK: Let's hope no one starts forming subsects based on who they want to smooch whom.
I hear that shit gets ugly.
DAVE: I think we’ve got enough on our plates,
like vanishing big bads.
it’ll be some other shmucks job to take on jack whenever he shows up again.
if there’s one thing we’re not lacking it’s jack fighters.
DIRK: Or Jacks.
DAVE: enough for everyone.
regular jackpot over here.
DIRK: Wow.
DAVE: after everything else I’ve said that’s what you’re going to wow.
DIRK: I'm sorry, my only other response to that pun would be wholly inappropriate given your background of having to live with a hypersexual maniac.
DAVE: fair enough.
well,
let’s head back.
I bet the seers already have our next job lined up.
suddenly everyone’s on the ball.
better keep rolling.

[Panel description: Rose sits leaning against a purple column. Her laptop is balanced in her lap, and a speech bubble with Dave's record icon hovers above it. She is smiling.]

turntech Godhead [TG] began pestering tentacle Therapist [TT].

TG: you were right.

[Panel description: Rose's expression changes to irritation.]

TG: oh but there’s bad news.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Vriska kneels alone in a landscape of blue-white rolling dunes. She is very small compared to the empty landscape and vacant sky.]

[Panel description: A close up of Vriska from her torso down. Her jeweled bracelet mimicking Meenah's fashion sense has been removed and lies between her knees. Blue teardrops splatter her wrist and the ground.]

[Panel description: Aradia approaches from overhead. She is in her god tier outfit with her hood down, a trail of red streaming behind her.]

[Panel description: Vriska looks up. She is a mess, with stringy hair and tears running down her face.]

[Panel description: Aradia hovers a few feet above the ground facing Vriska, who still kneels. They are rendered as silhouettes against a pale blue and white background.]

VRISKA: Are you here to laugh at me?
The dastardly Serket brought down at last.
No ancestor, no matesprit, no luck, no life.
You're a Time hero. You knew this was coming, didn't you?
That's why you came along in the first place.
You were biding your time, waiting for me to crash and burn.
Well, today's your lucky day!!!!!!!!
Here I am, crashed and burnt.
Bet you think I got what I deserved.
ARADIA: do you think that?
VRISKA: No! I did what everyone else was too lazy or weak or scared to do.
Someone had to stick it to English, and you know I'm the strongest.
It was for the greater good.
Sure, some ghosts died, but they were casualties of war.
ARADIA: did you cry for them?

[Panel description: Vriska grits her teeth. More tears spill out of her eyes, and her nose appears to be running.]

VRISKA: They were different, ok?
They were important to.
To the mission.

[Panel description: Aradia looks down at her, unimpressed.]

VRISKA: Don't look at me like that!
Stop being so calm and quiet I hate it!!!!!!!!
You're just as bad now as you were when you were being a robot.
Shout at me or tell me I ruined everything or be happy that I failed!
Don't just sit there!!!!!!!!
ARADIA: what do you want me to do, vriska?
VRISKA: Anything!
Anything is better than nothing.
That's why I had to do something.
It's this place.
If you stand still for too long, you get stuck in the same stupid cycles of vapid teen bullshit forever.
Talking and talking about nothing while the world around you breaks apart.
I had to break out of that!
I had to keep going or.
Or I'd be really dead.

[Panel description: Vriska wipes her face with her arm. Tears smear off onto her skin.]

[Panel description: Aradia walks toward Vriska, who turns away looking toward the viewer.]

VRISKA: What's it like?
ARADIA: what is what like?
VRISKA: To be dead. Double dead. Whatever frustratingly redundant or contradictory term we've made up for that state of being or not being.
ARADIA: I don’t know.
it hasn’t happened to me.
VRISKA: Don't bullshit me, Megido. You talk to ghosts all the time.
Without bubbles, I mean.
ARADIA: they’re not very forthcoming.
there is somewhere else, I think.
this place isn’t where souls are meant to go.

[Panel description: Aradia and Vriska both look toward the shattered sky. Purple broken glass patterns cut across it.]

ARADIA: its a fiction of stitched together memories breathed to life by the dark gods.
someday soon it will fade and everyone who has lingered here will move on,
whether English sends them onward violently or not.
VRISKA: Do you think it's better than here?
ARADIA: I hope so.
I want to believe there’s nothing to be afraid of.
VRISKA: I'm not afraid! I was just... curious.
ARADIA: I understand.
I do feel things, you know.
when I see the devastation around us wrought by the rage of the lord of time it does sadden me.
but I try to look at it from a different angle.
many things seem terrible until you realize you’re looking at them from the wrong direction,
and changing your viewpoint can make a lot of things easier.
I try to spread the word that there is nothing to fear because that gives me and other people hope.
I spent time confused and frightened and angry.
and also time feeling nothing much at all.
but I cant let emotions control me,
and neither can you.
this second life is impermanent for everyone.
only a few make it mean something.
they were lucky to have that much.
do you really want to do something to help?

[Panel description: Vriska remains sitting and scowling with her arms folded and resting on her knees. Aradia squats down next to her, smiling.]

VRISKA: Is there anything left I can do?
Without Aranea I can't get my army together.
Everything I did fell apart.
Even the weapon was a bust. All it did was make John disappear after he finished telling me what a loser he thought I was.
It's like my entire afterlife is someone's sick idea of a joke.
Go ahead, laugh.
I'm waiting.
ARADIA: I’m not here to gloat.
I’m helping a friend.
I might be able to help you.
VRISKA: How?
ARADIA: do you want to do something against lord English,
no matter how dangerous?
VRISKA: Sure! That bastard needs to pay.
ARADIA: there may be an opportunity for you if you’re willing to take it.
VRISKA: I'll take anything.
ARADIA: glad to hear it.
there are some others who have embraced the idea of using their afterlife for good.
they are on their way here.
like I said I’ve been helping a friend.

[Panel description: Aradia gestures happily toward the silhouette of an approaching sailing ship which looms over the dunes.]

ARADIA: and I think you will be delighted to hear that team charge is back in action.

[Panel description: The ship's deck is crowded with ghosts. A Nepeta wearing an animal onesie reminiscent of the lost boys' outfits in Disney's Peter Pan walks across the deck, as does an Eridan in his typical outfit and a God Tier Feferi. A Feferi and Nepeta in their standard outfits lean against the railing. Feferi is looking through a golden spyglass. Another Eridan watches them, frowning, from the other railing. An Equius and two unidentified humans can also be seen.]

VRISKA: Ugh. This isn't possible. Why would they follow you?
You're a huge weenie.
They wouldn't even follow me that well.
I had to bug and fuss and use mind control just to get their stupid butts moving.
TAVROS: well, maybe, you should have tried being nice and making friends and getting people to listen and follow you because they liked you,
Instead of being yelled at, or being forced with psychic powers.
It makes everybody happier!
I just started talking, and they liked what I said, and this happened!
So, all of us are working together now.
VRISKA: That sounds lame.

[Panel description: Tavros stands facing Vriska and Aradia. Vriska looks stunned. Aradia looks at her and smiles widely.]

TAVROS: maybe, but now I’m the one with a lot of friends following me, not you.

[Panel description: The image zooms out to show a crowd of ghosts on the deck of the ship. They are rendered as silhouettes, but a range of trolls are visible, including multiple Karkats, Solluxes, Equiuses, Nepetas, Terezis, Kanayas, Eridans, and Feferis as well as another Aradia.]

TAVROS: I did something that you couldn't do, so I don't care how lame you think it sounds, because it worked.
VRISKA: Sigh.
I guess so.
Hey, maybe we should let bygones be bygones. This army.
TAVROS: friends.
VRISKA: Whatever. Can I join up?
TAVROS: Uh.
I don't know about that.
VRISKA: Why not????
TAVROS: well, a lot of times when I was near you, you made me feel unhappy.
or that I could only be happy by making you happy,
and I thought that was okay.
I don't think you could make me feel that way because now I have a better way of finding my self-esteems,
that is, myself,
but I don't know if I want to be around you still.

[Panel description: Vriska raises both hands and jumps up and down with an attempt at a winning smile. Aradia smiles indulgently. A speech bubble hovers in front of Vriska showing Tavros putting a hand to his chin thoughtfully.]

ARADIA: tavros, you shouldn’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable, but I do think vriska could be useful.
VRISKA: Yes!!!! Listen to her, she knows what's up.
I could be so useful.
TAVROS: why do you want to join, anyway?
so you can be bossy and mean and try to take over again?
VRISKA: So many questions.
Why won't you let me in?
Do you want me to beg????
TAVROS: no.
I want the truth.
VRISKA: That's worse!
TAVROS: good.
VRISKA: English killed people I cared about, ok?
before, I wanted to kill him because I'm the best gamer and that would show everyone how good I am.
And of course because he was endangering reality, blah blah.
But now... this feels a lot more urgent.
Who knew that there were other kinds of motivation besides being awesome?
Weird, huh?
I want to see that motherfucker burn.
So that's my sob story.
Have I suffered enough for you?
TAVROS: I dunno.
I don't really want anybody to suffer.
I guess you can join.
just maybe, don't talk to me or even get very near me unless I say it’s ok.
VRISKA: Deal.
Can I be a captain? (eight eyed smiling face).
TAVROS: no.
you seem to forget
this isn't like an official army
with formal ranks or even a formal official leader.
VRISKA: Fine, we’ll do it the loser way, if that’s what makes you happy.
You’re the boss!
So what're we doing anyway?
TAVROS: we're splitting into groups like this one to keep lord English moving around the furthest ring.
some places would be very bad for him to destroy.
and people besides us who are working to defeat him.
when he's chasing us, we buy time for them. (smiling face).
VRISKA: You're using them as bait? Guess you did learn from the best.
TAVROS: no, to both of those things!
they aren't bait, they're distractions, and they try to get away.
sometimes they do die, but aradia made it sound like they go somewhere that's better, so I think maybe it's okay.
pupa pan says death is really a big adventure anyway!
when they're choosing instead of being forced, it makes them dying mean something. if they do die, I mean.
we think it's better to do something and maybe die than do nothing, even if that does mean it's safer for a while.
VRISKA: Good point.
Ha-ha, that's unreal.
Who'd think I'd ever say that to you?
The afterlife sure is full of surprises.
TAVROS: thank you, for that compliment that was also sort of an insult, so I’m not sure how to feel about it.
VRISKA: Feel good, because Megido is right.
You do need me.

[Panel description: Vriska puts one hand to her hip and the other to her head. Her form blurs, and her punk outfit is replaced by her God Tier uniform with the hood pulled up.]

VRISKA: I'm the Thief of Light.
No one in all of reality could be better bait.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: An image of the land of frost and frogs, zoomed out to show the entire planet.]

[Panel description: Karkat stands in the woods, looking past two trees with green trunks and red flowers. Between the trees, a volcano is visible rising from a sloping green hill. Some snow remains on the tree limbs and other greenery. A purple hummingbird flutters near his head.]

[Panel description: John zaps into view. He is smiling and waving. Karkat looks over at him with alarm.]

JOHN: hey karkat!
KARKAT: gah.
Christ on a slice of grub loaf, we need to put a set of warning bells on you before you give someone a heart attack with your retcon bullshit.
JOHN: whoops, sorry. heheh.
I’m still getting used to this.
KARKAT: yeah, yeah, you prospit humans and your bizarre teleport powers.
Add it on to your expanding buffet of magical abilities that have somehow not made our lives any easier.
JOHN: hey, I think this one has come in handy at least a little bit!
after all, we are all not dead now, which I think is a plus.
KARKAT: I admit,
I am grateful to not have been stabbed and then burned alive in lava.
Though I do have the memory of it and that's just about as awful.
JOHN: ouch.
it is nice to see you again when you are not being murdered!
we didn't have a chance to talk when that was happening.
and after three years, we should definitely catch up.
man, that was a crazy day.
and this one is turning out to be even crazier!
KARKAT: and everything else compared to that is so much overdramatic sitcom fodder, sandwiched in-between two awful days like the worst sandwich in paradox space.
But at least we have three years of utterly hilarious memories to fill the void, during which we all started to suck a lot more than one may have anticipated.
I don't know what you expected to happen in the interim but that probably wasn't it.
Least of all me whipping the sad sack squish balls into shape like that one catchy musical number in "the one where a young troll girl rises up against antiquated caste roles to defend her ancestor's honor by dressing in drag and confusing many a high blood officer until she proves her worth on the battlefield by defeating an alien army singlehandedly with an avalanche and the antics of her hilarious sidekick played by troll eddy Murphy".
JOHN: I don't think I’ve seen that one.
KARKAT: eh, it's wriggler crap.
JOHN: but yeah, I didn't get as much training in as I wanted either.
jade climbed a bunch of levels, but I got most of my new powers by accident.
like finding out I could turn into wind when jack tried to stab me, or sticking my hand in the juju and learning to do... this.

[Panel description: John rapidly zaps to several locations around the scene. They're standing in a clear path between two lines of trees. The pathway leads toward the volcano, and partly melted snow covers the ground. John ends up close to the viewer with a slight frown. Karkat stands behind him, mouth open and eyes wide. The panel references a popular image of two cats with similar poses and expressions.]

JOHN: I guess I’ve kind of fallen into a lot of it, but it seems to be working out.
KARKAT: yes, please, continue showing off your skaia-given providence to the mere mortal like some kind of asshole.
Perhaps the rest of us peasants can someday be so lucky.
JOHN: oh come on, don't take it so personally.
honestly it's not that great. it's a lot of responsibility!
and I am sure you would be one of the first to say that I am not very responsible.
that is what everyone has been telling me anyway.
it looks like it's time to find out!
any tips, fellow friend leader???
KARKAT: well.
Let me be the first to admit that I, despite my prior conceits, have not been the most responsible leader either.
But not for lack of trying, mind you.
So step one: at least try to be responsible instead of frolicking around like some kind of dipshit.
You have accomplished step one.
JOHN: really?
KARKAT: Mostly.
JOHN: if you think so, I am honored.
you have been very judgmental of my frolicking in the past.
KARKAT: don't let it go to your head, being a leader is very hard work.
That's step two of being a leader. Somebody has to keep their eyes on the grand prize while everyone else is left wandering down the hop beast trail.
Do you know how quickly my session would've devolved into endless squabbling if we didn't all have one common goal and a stubborn jackass to rub it in everyone's faces??
JOHN: didn't it... kind of devolve into endless squabbling?
KARKAT: it would have devolved much quicker and into even more melodramatic depths if someone hadn’t stepped in.
Believe me, we would have hit the planet's core and skipped having to use the seventh gate if I hadn't done something, so deep was the drama.
And look, past me was a moron with a lot of shitty ideas about how to be a good friend leader, but he has that going for him.
The point is we pulled it together long enough to scrape out a victory.
JOHN: I hope I can help us do that.
it sounds stupid, because I only got these powers by accident, but I kind of feel like there must be a reason why?
KARKAT: blah blah blah, destiny or some similarly contrived bullshit.
Contrived bullshit that is the contrived bullshit eternally permeating our lives, forever being expelled from the rectal cavity of skaia in some horrifying display of cosmic goddamn irony.
That is the reason probably.
JOHN: irony?
oh man, has Dave gotten you to start using that word?
I hope he has at least taught you to use it correctly, but I am not sure he knows how.
KARKAT: irony as a concept exists outside him and his stupid shades.
Besides, I know the right way to use the word!
JOHN: hey, I gave him those shades!
I mean yes they are stupid but still.
I am sorry that we have not had the opportunity to exchange some sort of clothing.
KARKAT: humans and your strange friendship rituals.
I still don't quite understand the concept of "birthdays".
In my culture, you celebrate the day you clawed your way out of the brooding caverns and earned the right to exist with your fellow alternians.
If the day was observed at all, it was done so by slaughtering wildlife with one's lusus.
But apparently, humans exchange material goods.
Weirdos.
JOHN: yes, slaughtering wildlife is frequently frowned upon.
KARKAT: it's a miracle your species didn't starve to death as protoplasm.
I will never understand how you evolved the way you did and yet survived.
JOHN: I’m surprised you didn't all kill each other off!
KARKAT: me too, honestly.
How the flying fuck it took the vast glub to do us in is a mystery for the ages.
JOHN: personally, I think we should keep birthdays when we rebuild human society where ever we end up.
or... troll and human society?
something.
the point is that I vote for birthday parties with presents and silly hats instead of crawling out of holes and killing animals.
jade would not approve.
KARKAT: you'd be surprised.
JOHN: no, she doesn't like killing animals at all.
people I guess it depends.
KARKAT: god, your species is so fucking fickle.
Probably better than the endless murder-happy dark carnival we had going on.
We haven't even begun to consider how to rebuild alternia.
I'm not convinced the old way is how to do it.
...either old way.
Jesus shitmongering Christ, how did we have two tries at this society bullshit and still not get it right?
Beforus sucked, alternia sucked...
Your species may have been soft and weak but presumably it could produce capable players.
JOHN: presumably.
we've made it this far!
KARKAT: I think we have long since established you're an outlier case.
you had help from day one, thank you very much.
JOHN: hey, we helped you too!
this has been a mutual helping session.
and a mutual messing things up for each other session too.
KARKAT: ...eh.
Fair enough.
I mean I could go into detail outlining how your involvement with our actual session was tangential at best, whereas we were heavily involved with yours the entire time after you passed your first gate...
But I digress.
Bygones.
JOHN: yeah yeah, you guys got us killed a few times.
and you hit on us! that was your big contribution.
by the way...
KARKAT: What.
JOHN: errr.
KARKAT: what are you talking about, what.
JOHN: I was wondering...
do you still have that
weird black crush thingy on me?

[Panel description: Karkat flails back and forth, mouth open in dismay.]

KARKAT: I have no memory of this.
Lies, slander and lies.
JOHN: no offense, I just wanted to know!
KARKAT: I have no idea what you are talking about.
I have gone spontaneously deaf, what do words mean?
Please communicate with me exclusively in sign language and enthusiastic moving digital images.
JOHN: ok, ok, fine.
good to know.
KARKAT: can't hear you, still deaf.
JOHN: oh, and that hate crush you maybe had on jade? is that still a thing?
because between you and me, that is probably a bad idea.
KARKAT: lalalalalala, look at these fingers in my ear tubes further aiding my unhearing of your untrue words.
JOHN: got it.

[Panel description: John reaches out and hesitantly pats the top of Karkat's head as Karkat presses both hands over his ears.]

JOHN: there there karkat, all is well.
I won't talk about it anymore if you won't.
KARKAT: well, how's your love life, then?
Stuck with jade and bird-Dave.
JOHN: uh...
KARKAT: go shacking up with anybody there??
Probably not, due to your strange human taboos.
Did your culture have any unspoken regulations about relations with birds, too?
I bet it did.
JOHN: um...
yes???
and I stayed pretty much out of that!
although I found out that another version of me actually dated vriska for a while.
remember how you specifically told me not to do that?
I guess he didn't get the message, being dead and everything.
KARKAT: urgh.
the poor asshole.
JOHN: but it didn't work out.
and then he died again?
I didn't get all the details.
KARKAT: I told you!
I told you that would end fucking awful.
JOHN: she didn't do it! it was lord English.
nothing like that happened with me, but I didn't mind that much.
I mean, it was kind of lonely when everyone else was ignoring me but...
it looks like it hasn't worked out that well for anyone, if all the stories I heard from you guys add up to anything.
so I don't mind missing out on that!
my life is complicated enough.
KARKAT: yes, be grateful you missed out on that train wreck.
I know how you feel, it isn't the most enjoyable time being the extra wheel to the three-wheel dirt mover.
But I can attest to the fact that people either come back around...
Or are brain-dead fucking morons you're better off without.
JOHN: that's fair.
and hey, now we have lots of friends to spend time with, so it doesn't matter as much!
KARKAT: yeah, yeah, all aboard the friendship express.
Just look at all these happy fucking train metaphors going around today!
Choo choo!!!
JOHN: all aboard! (smiling face).
KARKAT: I’m not making any more locomotive noises.
JOHN: honk honk?
KARKAT: No.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Karkat begins flailing again when Jade appears with a flash of green light. John looks over at her with a flat expression.]

JADE: hey guys!
KARKAT: holy shitting ass nuggets, it's Harley.
JADE: no no its ok I’m not bad anymore!
KARKAT: relax,
Which is, ironically, what I am not doing right now, ha fucking ha.
I'm aware your stint in the rage-fueled, revenge-stabbing red condesce dog house ceased with a decisive sassacrush to the head.
I'm just so fucking fed up with the powers of cardiac arrest that have come coupled with you and your human brother's convergent abilities to teleport behind people for dramatic effect.
JADE: oh, oops.
sorry about that.
but I’m also sorry about what happened earlier.
KARKAT: don't worry about it too much.
It only makes sense that you'd fall into the condesce's mutant-shanking agenda.
She's got like, every single caste power and a few English extras thrown in for good measure.
It's amazing anyone managed to stand up to that smorgasbord of troll-based murdering methods.
No one was expecting you to shrug off a full on double psychic mental assault.
Trust me, most of us have been there.
Except the ones whose minds are miraculously immune to serket based bullshit.
Otherwise she's made us do something embarrassing at least once.
It's not your fault.
JADE: um.
well.
not exactly.
the truth is,
she didn’t have to try too hard.

[Panel description: Jade fiddles with her index fingers uncomfortably.]

JOHN: wait, what? jade, what are you talking about?
JADE: it’s kind of embarrassing...
of course I wouldn’t have helped her on my own, but she didn’t make me angry at you.
I was angry already.
JOHN: why?
JADE: because you were mean!
john do you remember our three years the same way I do?
you were always so crabby.
it felt like every time I talked to you you ended up throwing a tantrum and storming off.
and karkat you were much worse.
I guess you are the crabbiest by default. (sticks tongue out).
I didn’t even know your name but when I was a kid I got hurtful messages from you, and it didn’t make my life any easier.
in fact it made it much harder!!
KARKAT: I was of the impression that the ritual of apology had absolved us of that episode.
JADE: I know we said that, but apologies don’t make things unhappen.
maybe john is bouncing around rewriting reality now but some things shouldn’t!
I still felt bad about it and those feelings didn’t go away.
pretending that it was in the past and didn’t matter anymore didn’t help.

[Panel description: John tilts his head to one side and raises an eyebrow. Part of Karkat's face can be seen in the lower right corner of the panel.]

JOHN: ok, wait a second.
this is moving too fast for me.
are you saying that something I did upset you?
JADE: YES!
JOHN: why didn't you TELL me???
JADE: I thought it was obvious that your behavior was inappropriate.
JOHN: obviously not!!!
we lived together for three whole years, and you never talked to me about anything important!
not that you were mad or sad or anything like that.
I bet you only told me about your grandpa because I saw him before you could hide it better.
you had your own dead body, which was really creepy!!! but you told me you didn't want me to look, so I didn't.
I know you grew up alone for a while, and you let us see your house, but whenever we tried to ask questions you changed the subject.
what were we supposed to do?
I didn't want to pry! if you said it was fine, I thought it was.
and now you're mad because I didn't assume my sister was lying to me?
I guess I won't make that mistake again!!
JADE: I wasn’t lying.
I was just...
JOHN: making the executive decision not to provide certain pieces of information??
JADE: I’m sorry ok I was scared!!!
it was all weird and confusing and I didn’t want to change the way you thought of me.
JOHN: jade, EVERYTHING about our lives is weird now!
it's weird and confusing and scary, and stuff like this makes it worse!
did you think I didn't matter enough to know?
maybe you were happier ignoring me, but you shouldn't have expected me to read your mind.
JADE: I didn’t mean to ignore you. (sad face).
JOHN: it's ok, I’m sure you had more fun going on dates and climbing your echeladder and apparently being secretly mad about things.
I’m used to it.
but next time can you tell me so I’m prepared when you teleport over to beat me up??
JADE: ok.
still I don’t think you are being entirely fair.
don’t you remember your fifteenth birthday??
you know, when you told me you were upset about all sorts of things that you had never let me know about before.
you waited a really long time to tell me that.
even though it apparently was making you super cranky too.
so I don’t think it’s totally reasonable to get mad at me for this.
JOHN: I don't know, I guess I didn't realize how frustrated I was about that until I was already getting mad about other things.
I didn't TRY to hide it, I just didn't think of it.
JADE: really?
JOHN: really!
I don't know, I try not to think about those kinds of things??
and then I don't always think about not thinking about them...
JADE: (concerned face).
JOHN: besides, I didn't want to bother you!

[Panel description: John and Jade face each other. John holds his hands in front of him earnestly. Jade has her hands on her hips and her ears back. She is scowling. Between them, Karkat stands looking blank against a backdrop of green trees and red blossoms.]

JADE: oh REALLY???
JOHN: not because I thought it would upset you!
more because I didn't want to be the whiny little brother who people only talked to because he complained.
I wanted you to WANT to spend time with me.
instead I kept getting ignored.
it's not fun feeling like everybody's forgotten about you.
and it just kept getting worse and worse.
by the end of things, no one was talking to anyone at all!
it was terrible, but I wasn't going to be the one who nagged people about it.
if you wanted to talk to me, you would.
I wouldn't MAKE you.
I don't think I realized how mad that made me.
not until I finally said it all out loud.
anyway, then I did tell you.
JADE: not in a very good way!
JOHN: what is a good way??
JADE: I don’t know .
but ideally without throwing a tantrum and passing out in the driveway.
JOHN: I admit that was not my finest moment.

[Panel description: The scene zooms in on Karkat, framed by the two siblings.]

KARKAT: you passed out on your lawn path?
JADE: shush, we are having an argument!
KARKAT: well, excuse me for drawing breath for my utterances while you have your bizarre human family argument ritual.
JOHN: you are excused.
KARKAT: Ugh.
Fine, I will be here.
Making no noise and continuing to allow you to work out your myriad interpersonal issues like some kind of hilarious reactionary prop.
JADE: yes, very good karkat.
keep it up, you’re doing fine.

[Panel description: The scene zooms in even more.]

JOHN: I don't know, maybe we both messed up.
but it's not like it was always that easy to talk to you.
you were always doing something else.
JADE: part of the reason I avoided you was because you were being so unpleasant!!!
and also I didn’t want you knowing I was upset.
but you’re right.
I kept too many secrets.
not because you weren’t important to me but because you were.
I was afraid I’d mess something up.
I shouldn’t have done that.
it wasn’t fair to punish you when you didn’t know you’d done anything wrong.
from now on I will try to let you know when I secretly want to beat you up.
JOHN: I appreciate it.
JADE: and tell me when you feel lonely.
you’re my brother and I want to spend time with you. (heart emoticon).
JOHN: even when you have better things to do?
JADE: there is no such thing.
KARKAT: if you're wrapping it up here and interjections are now acceptable.

[Panel description: Karkat throws his hands up in the air. His arms are rendered in a stick figure style. His mouth is open to reveal pointed teeth, and he vibrates back and forth.]

KARKAT: hold up a hot mutant-forking second.
Let's scroll back this conversation a few minutes without the aid of any time players committing suicide in order to make that happen.
Which thankfully is something we can do with the wide array of conversational tools sensible people possess in order to facilitate communicating adequately with each other.
If such tactics are unfamiliar to you, I will walk you through it.
Am I hearing this correctly? Jade Harley,
Jade Harley, of all people,
Concealed her frothing volcano of rage from you?
How thick is your skull plate?
She literally told me to tell her when I went to hell so she could set up a reminder to throw a party.
That is an actual thing that happened.
Oh and excuse me once more (because there's no way that joke is getting old) for continuing to intrude into your super secret sibling conversation I am not a part of and am in fact privileged to even hear.
JADE: sorry.
we were just in the middle of something, but now it is fine.
this doesn’t happen very often, so I didn’t want to ruin it.
to answer your question,
you weren’t my friend, so I didn’t care what you thought of me.
I wasn’t worried about helping you in the beginning so it didn’t matter.
plus I tried to be nice at first.
but you were very hard to be nice to!
KARKAT: so instead you allow your friends to repeatedly flick wads of metaphorical drool-nuggets at the back of your head until you scream and rip out their throats.
That's horrible.
And keep in mind the cultural context I am coming from here.
This is exactly why we have moirallegiance, to prevent such terrible rage killings.
Which was a thing that was still very much a problem even without mind control from a genocidal maniac being a provoking factor.
JADE: um, moirallegiance?
JADE: what are you talking about?
KARKAT: oh, I forgot some humans managed to skip my enlightening lectures upon our superior romance system.
Hang on, my diagrams are here somewhere.
JADE: that sounds,
interesting.
KARKAT: rose was extremely impressed.
JADE: oh well if rose enjoyed it then maybe.
JOHN: (jade, don't do it.)
JADE: how about we save this for sometime later!
KARKAT: wait a minute.
I hear something over in the bushes.

[Panel description: The top of Bec Noir's head and wings are visible as he shifts back and forth mostly concealed behind a bush.]

KARKAT: shit. Shit shit shit, it's jack.
JADE: don’t worry about him, he’s under control.
he’s insisting on following me around again.
at least it keeps him out of trouble.
as long as there are no bullets for him to move around.
he’s such a bad dog!
JOHN: what happened to the white jack? is she here too?
JADE: no.
she’s with daves mayor.
apparently they’re old friends.
it’s really cute.
KARKAT: Dave’s mayor??
That label is deeply offensive to the sensibilities of all freedom loving individuals.
I should have known that strider's capitalistic hoarding tendencies know no bounds.
First I can't remove furniture from the common room and now he's moving in on our mutual acquaintance?
I will have you know that the mayor is very much his own civic personality
And along the same lines is as much mine as he is Dave’s.
Even if that number is technically zero, the equality inherent to that lack of tangible quantity is an immutable fact that I am stating for the record.
That does not mean possession is what is taking place here.
JADE: ok, noted!
but I didn’t come here to debate mayor ownership.
or even to have sibling squabbles as enlightening as they might be.
I came here on business.
my understanding is that you’re in charge of handling the genesis frog.
that means an audience with echidna.
the entrance to her palace can be hard to find.
I’m here to give you directions.
KARKAT: last I checked, kanaya was out hunting down the entrance to the underground lava wonderland.
Because that was what I needed in my life, more fucking lava.
JADE: maybe I’m wasting my time then.
JOHN: I’ll look around for her. be right back!

[Panel description: John's shape becomes a blue-edged white silhouette with the word zap written in it. Meanwhile, Karkat looks inquisitively at Jade, who looks away from him, expression strained. Bec Noir continues to rustle in the bushes behind them.]

KARKAT: you're really still mad at me?
JADE: it’s complicated.
I know you apologized and you’re not the same person you were,
especially not after three whole years!
we have all changed a lot since then,
and the circumstances you were in were very stressful.
that can make anyone cranky.
but an unconscious part of me was hurt anyway and I don’t think it ever got resolved because we brushed it over so quickly.
so it’s my fault as much as or more than it is yours.
anger isn’t fair.
it can be confusing.
I’m only starting to get used to taking it seriously.
you’re not angry at me anymore?
KARKAT: no. It wasn't your fault.
Once I stopped ranting and raving I figured that out.
I apologize for that again.
My world was falling apart and I wanted someone to blame.
That's the pro and con of letting your anger loose right away.
You burn through it and more often than not then you realize it was overblown.
Maybe you should try it.
JADE: what?
KARKAT: next time someone pisses you off, let them have it.
Give them both barrels of whatever outrageously alchemized death weapon you're currently wielding.
Metaphorically speaking obviously.
Just get it all out there before it turns into something that's actually literally deadly.
JADE: Jane said something like that too, but I don’t know.
you don’t think that’ll make people think I’m a bad person?
KARKAT: it's better to do it that way than a way that ends bloody isn't it?
Besides, the cluck beast has flown the coop at this point.
You heard john. He didn't know what to think about you at all.
At least then they'll actually know who they're dealing with, instead of trying to talk to someone who's not real.
Jade: I guess...
Karkat: trust me. That way they'll know not to fuck with you.
JADE: is this the method you use?
I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but no one takes your tantrums seriously.
we think they’re cute and silly.
KARKAT: ok, thank you for once again invalidating the full weight and power of my rage, which is mighty indeed.
I have already had to accept that you all seem to have some immunity from bordering on sick fascination with my masterful trolling capabilities.
There's obviously something wrong with your human brains that prevents you from feeling the awe and terror you should experience from my words of godly wisdom, but we'll consider that a minor failing among friends.
JADE: o m g ok I take it back!!
you are so scary and fearsome.
you are the best internet troll and we all quiver in fear when your little icon pops up.
happy?
KARKAT: no.
My sarcasm receptors are fully functional, thank you very much.
JADE: jeez, you are so sensitive.
I had almost forgotten.
KARKAT: yes, many things about me are easily damaged, like my ego, and also my torso column.
JADE: (sad face).
KARKAT: the point is, I promise that you yelling isn't going to be cute or silly.
it will make grown men shit their pants in fear.
JADE: ok, I will try.
KARKAT: yes. Do so.
Go forth and unleash hell.
JADE: he he.
oh.
and,
about what I did to you.
KARKAT: water under the bridge.
JADE: but I feel terrible!
KARKAT: don't.
No matter how much I righteously pissed you off, I know you wouldn't have done that if you'd been in control of yourself.
We all think terrible things sometimes.
Trust me, there are plenty of people I’d like to have punted off a high surface.
And I won't pretend that when I visited my former pale mate turned friend murderer I wasn't tempted to make him hurt a little bit.
But I didn't.
If you choose not to, that's what matters, and she didn't give you a choice.
The empress has ruined enough lives. Don't let her ruin yours.
I officially forgive you, if there was anything that needed forgiving, which there isn't.
No feeling guilty. That's an order.
JADE: thanks.
KARKAT: don't mention it. Never happened.

[Panel description: John's shape re-solidifies. Karkat and Jade, still facing each other, look over at him. In the background, Kanaya walks toward them down the snow-covered path between the trees.]

JADE: no, it did.

[Panel description: Kanaya, John, Jade, and Karkat stand together in sprite mode.]

KANAYA: did I miss anything important.
JADE: kanaya! I’m glad I caught you.
yes were discussing official space hero business that you should definitely be a part of.
KANAYA: does it happen to involve locating the entrance to echidna’s palace.
Because I’ve done that.
You just follow the snow.
JADE: you’re really on top of things.
KANAYA: considering what happened last time I tried to perfect a universe on a tight schedule speed seemed advisable.
besides I thought I could spend my time more wisely than watching karkat and john reunite,
however entertaining the result might have been to observers.
JADE: I’m glad someone else here knows how to get to the point.
what would everyone do without us?
KANAYA: the same things probably.
But slower,
And without as much deliberation.
JADE: he he.
I had a lot of fun working with you last time, but I think you two are supposed to finish the task on your own.
there’s something else I need to do.
KANAYA: What.
JADE: it’s complicated...
like echidnas choice.
I know what I need to do more or less but I’m not sure how.
I don’t know how I’ll do it yet.
all I know is that it’s what needs to be done.
KANAYA: Do you
Think echidna will offer me the choice again.
Last time it was impossible.
You found a way past that but I am almost certain I won’t be able to.
I don’t want to have to fight her a second time.
JADE: to be honest I don’t know.
even if she usually would I don’t think there’s much of a precedent for our situation.
the denizens are probably making it up as they go along just like us.
KANAYA: I don’t find that prospect comforting.
JADE: it’s a little scary, but it also gives us more opportunities.
after all we’ve bent the rules a little to get here haven’t we?
KANAYA: do you have any advice.
You know,
For facing her.
JADE: hmm.
this sounds silly,
but
be yourself.
the denizens know a lot about who we are and what we’re capable of.
sometimes even more than we know ourselves.
lying to them won’t help.
and since the choices they offer have to do with your potential or ability to make tough decisions, lying to yourself isn’t productive either.
KANAYA: is she going to attempt to exploit my weaknesses,
Or readdress old failures.
JADE: maybe both of those things!
KANAYA: urgh.
After all we’ve been through a monster rooting through my think pan for old wounds may be more than I can handle.
JADE: if it’s any consolation karkat will also be getting an echidna therapy session.
KANAYA: I’ll try to focus on watching him squirm,
If only to distract myself from my own discomfort.
KARKAT: oh please.
After trading barbs with the condesce,
Without any actual trading of sharp pointy objects into squishy vulnerable parts I may add,
I think I can handle round two with a denizen whose convoluted babble speak I can’t even understand.
JOHN: they are talking about space things now, don't worry about it.
I am sure everything will be fine.
JADE: tell echidna I said hi.
for the mother of monsters she’s not so bad.
I don’t think you’ll have to kill her.
KANAYA: both karkat and I will do our best to atone for our mistakes then.
JADE: we’ve all made mistakes.
kanaya...
once you told me you were worried rose was dangerous.
what would you say about me?
KANAYA: Rose’s recklessness worried me,
But I don’t think you are the same way.
I don’t know you as well.
When I communicated with you in your session you always seemed more sensible,
And your actions earlier while under the empresses sway caught me by surprise.
Not everyone from our moon was so well balanced,
But you strike me as someone who thinks things through,
Rather than acting on impulse or out of rage.
At least when you are fully in control of yourself.
I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment though.
I might have categorized myself in the same way once,
Slow to act and slow to anger,
Then I cut someone in half with a chainsaw.
Two people actually.
JADE: you sawed someone in half???
wow.
that sounds like a story to hear sometime.
KANAYA: anyway,
The game has done its best to make us all dangerous.
I think
I would trust you now more than I trusted rose then.
If only out of loyalty to my fellow light kingdom dreamers and stokers of the forge.
Note the lack of prodding about the mission you refuse to describe.
I insisted on knowing more about rose’s objectives,
Not that I had any luck in stopping her.
Or could have really.
There are some people you cannot control and events you cannot avert,
Whether because time loops require them to go a certain way
Or because their personality traits are indelible.
I find those kinds of people both frustrating and admirable.
JADE: that’s funny.
KANAYA: what part of my assessment is humorous.
JADE: well.
what I’m about to do
is sort of the same as what rose planned a long time ago,
except hopefully less permanent and dangerous.
I don’t think I want to be dangerous,
so I hope you’re right about me
and the well balanced nature of my plans.
KANAYA: Wait.
What.
JADE: I’d better go.
and for what it’s worth,
you seem sensible and reliable too,
maybe even more so because you’re not sure of it yourself.
so I’m sure your meeting with echidna will go fine, and that you will make the right decision no matter what the choices turn out to be.
good luck!

[Panel description: Jade disappears with a flash of green light. Kanaya holds one hand toward her, looking distressed.]

KANAYA: I.
Drat.
KARKAT: what was that about?

Chapter Text

[Panel description: PM appears in a flash of green light on the battlefield. A hilly expanse covered in a checkerboard pattern stretches out around her. Cylindrical tendrils also covered in checkerboard patterns twine overhead in a dim blueish-gray sky. The silhouette of a castle looms in the distance.]

[Panel description: PM walks across the battlefield's surface. Several craters expose the planet's reddish brown interior.]

[Panel description: PM is viewed from the waist up as if looking up at her face. Behind her, two clouds show visions. One of them is Bec Noir looking at something. The other is a white hand almost entirely covered in red blood holding a realistic heart. Bright light swirls off the hand.]

You have spent so long chasing the Slayer that you had almost forgotten your life contained anything else.

[Panel description: PM looks toward the horizon, where some rays of light reach upward. More tendrils curl overhead. A blue river snakes through the battlefield surface. On the other side, WV stands looking away from the viewer.]

[Panel description: WV looks toward the viewer, failing to see PM standing behind him on the other side of the river.]

[Panel description: WV turns and looks at PM. Three white lines are drawn near his face to express his excitement.]

[Panel description: WV raises both arms and vibrates up and down. His visible eye is curved to show happiness.]

[Panel description: WV and PM rush toward each other. More rays of light reach up in the sky, which is now bright blue. Several clouds show scenes from the exiles' past, including WV, PM, and AR sitting around a camp fire, exchanging gifts, and interacting with the White Queen.]

Now you remember walls decorated with bright chalk, and meals around a campfire, and friends.

[Panel description: WV reaches up and points to the ring on PM's finger.]

[Panel description: WV continues to raise his arms and bounce up and down, but now he looks dismayed. PM holds her hand loosely curled in front of him.]

The vagabond sees the ring on your finger, and you explain you put it on out of vengeance. The former queen wanted him to wear it. You offer it to him, but he refuses.
He insists that you remove it. You are not who you were.

[Panel description: PM stands again viewed from the waist looking up. Two clouds behind her show her before her transformation. In one, she holds a black sword while standing in Prospit. In the other, she stands on the battlefield speckled with blood.]

He is right. You long to return to a life of simple mail delivery and friendship. But you cannot do so when there is someone left to fight. So no, you tell him, you can't take off the ring.

Not yet.

[Panel description: WV wraps his arms around PM's waist. She is so much taller than him that his feet leave the ground. She wraps her arm around his shoulders.]

He is glad to see you anyway.

Chapter Text

This page is a video accompanied by a slower remix of Moonsetter.

The video's loading screen is a lowercase letter b stylized to look like the tumblr logo.

The loading screen fades out to what looks like a tumblr dashboard renamed bubblr. The background is multicolored dream bubbles, and several icons in the toolbar have been altered. The home icon is now a SBURB house, and the settings gear is the Time hero icon. The first post visible was made by arachnidsGrip, who has an icon based on her stylized horns. The post is a selfie of Vriska in her god tier outfit posing in front of a dream bubble landscape of cliffs and columns. The brown wood of a ship can be seen behind her. Although she is wearing her old outfit, she still has gold jewelry and her hair in two braids. Text beneath the selfie reads 'Here's to new beginnings!' in Vriska's quirk.

New scene. Tavros stands on a purple stage against a backdrop of purple structures. He holds his hands out and speaks to an assembled crowd of humans and trolls. The scene scrolls down to show more members of the crowd. Then it changes to show Vriska sitting on a similar structure against a backdrop of purple hills and clouds, talking to a much smaller group of ghosts.

New scene. Aradia flies across a white landscape trailing red sparkles. A dead Nepeta follows her on foot. Aradia gestures toward Equius, who is standing on the other side of the image. Nepeta stops, surprised. Her expression changes from shock to a wide smile, and tears well in her eyes. Still smiling, she leaps at Equius, who wobbles with his glasses flying off his face. The word tackle pounce is written above them. The two hug, with Nepeta's legs curled up off the ground. Her eyes are closed and teary. Equius also has tears in his eyes, but his are open. He looks with uncertainty at Aradia, who watches smiling.

In the next image, Equius stands with one hand on Nepeta's shoulder. Nine more Nepetas, some in their typical outfit and some in God Tier clothing, leap toward them. Equius is buried under a pile of Nepetas, with a few diamonds drawn around the pile. Assorted wings, tails, and claws protrude.

New scene. Feferi floats in front of the bulbous eyes and interlocking teeth of a horror terror. She rests one hand on a tentacle. A speech bubble next to her head shows her characteristic excited emoticon. She smiles, while behind her Aradia and Sollux float directly outside a dream bubble. On the inside, Vriska and Tavros watch. Vriska has her hands and nose pressed up against the bubble’s surface.

New scene. Vriska flies through the void leaving a trail of blue sparkles behind her. She is looking over her shoulder. Her path spells out the words 'if you can read this, you're a dweeb', signed with her Scorpio sign. Lord English looks up blankly. Then, the addition 'P.S., tumut' appears, referencing Caliborn’s favorite emoticon, and he shakes his fists and roars.

New scene. Aradia and Vriska chat. Aradia has her hands up and is smiling, while Vriska's back is to the viewer. Then they both look toward the upper left of the image, faces concerned. They are looking at a purple dream bubble on the horizon. The video zooms in and then transitions to a landscape of blue hills and trees. Several ghosts cluster in the background, some seated in piles of stuffed animals. Equius, Nepeta, and Feferi sit in the foreground. Feferi and Nepeta are both looking down at a golden spyglass. Nepeta holds the spyglass to her eye. Through it, Lord English approaches. Nepeta raises both hands above her head and opens her mouth wide to yell. The word 'Scatter' is written in all capital letters above her head. To her left, Equius leans back and looks alarmed. To her right, Feferi raises both hands in fists and grins. Several ghosts behind them rise into the air.

Against a purple background, several ghosts including a Jade, Rose, Karkat, and a different Feferi look up toward the sky. Then they dissolve into blackened skeletons. The scene returns to Aradia and Vriska looking up at the sky, but now the bubble has been replaced with the words 'Bubble splode'. Exclamation points next to both of them register their dismay. Aradia looks away sadly, while Vriska continues looking upward, teeth gritted.

New scene. Vriska stands on a red stone archway cupping her hands toward her mouth. More stone formations rise out of the green hills around her. A group of humans recognizable as six of the alpha and beta kids stand looking at her. A Dirk and Jake can be seen in the background seated on one of the stone formations.

This image changes to Aradia walking across the screen, followed by a crowd of all eight human kids. Vriska brings up the rear, shoving a reluctant Jane along.

New scene. A Jade and Dave stand leaning against the railing of a ship. Jade is wearing a glittering green and black suit jacket over a lime green shirt. Dave is wearing a flowing red shirt with a long gray scarf. Tavros and a John wearing a gray hoodie with a black ace of spades logo look at them. A question mark is drawn next to Tavros' face. Tavros raises a hand, and a speech bubble appears next to his face. The bubble shows a pair of sunglasses with an arrow pointing toward two blank white eyes along with a question mark. Next, John raises both hands. A question mark and speech bubble appear next to him as well. In his speech bubble is a regular pair of glasses and a question mark. Dave quirks an eyebrow. Then he raises his shades, looking annoyed. A red arrow points to his blank white eyes. The video returns to Tavros and John, now drawn in a silly scribble mode with the word 'Oh' written between them.

New scene. The final scene features Equius, Nepeta, Feferi, Aradia, Sollux, and Tavros all seated together in that order. A speech bubble coming from both Nepeta and Feferi features a line drawing of their combined sprite Fefeta. Tavros looks over at Vriska, who is passing by. His speech bubble contains a drawing of Tavris sprite. The image fades to black.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Blue columns encircled by greenery stand on either side of an arched passage leading into the side of the volcano. A few patches of melting snow cover the ground in front of it.]

KARKAT: here's the plan.

[Panel description: Karkat and Kanaya walk across a cavern floor divided into portions by thin streams of lava. More lava drips down the cavern wall. Blue crystals jut out of the ground. They're walking toward another blue archway.]

KARKAT: we go in, find echidna, and I tell her that we, as emissaries of her player, require the genesis frog in order to complete our pre-ordained time loop of destiny.

[Panel description: Kanaya rests her hand on the cavern wall and looks behind her to where Karkat is watching. Her skin glows.]

KANAYA: I think I should monopolize the conversation in this scenario.
KARKAT: what?
But I handled the empress.
Admit it, I was a brave fucking warrior standing up for the defense of low bloods and inter-caste harmony everywhere, setting aside millennia of hemo casteism for the sake of our species' survival and our eventual victory.
KANAYA: that is more or less true,
Subtracting the odd embellishment.
But denizens speak a language only their player can understand.
This is not my denizen but I am another hero of space.
I am the best candidate to hear her.
KARKAT: I guess that makes sense.
It's just.

[Panel description: Karkat and Kanaya step cautiously on portions of stone untouched by lava.]

KARKAT: I thought I was getting the hang of this leadership thing.
KANAYA: you are,
But sometimes stepping back and letting someone with a different skill set take over is the most leaderly thing you can do.
You may recall that in our previous timeline falling back and letting me handle things might have ended better for you.
And for politeness sake I won’t remind you of our last breeding experiment.
KARKAT: you don't need to. Evil jade already did that.
Serves me right for being emotionally open to someone.
You get it thrown right back in your face.
KANAYA: The manner she delivered the news was calculated to wound.
In truth I was surprised she could be so underhanded.
She is a bottomless perigrees eve holiday exchange receptacle of unexpected developments today,
Which seems to be in keeping with the theme of our adventure here.
But aren’t you glad for a second chance.
I know I am.
KARKAT: yeah, I guess so.
It would be nice if something I touched didn't die.
I need to make up for all my catastrophic failures somehow.
KANAYA: They weren’t that catastrophic.
You insist on taking responsibility for events you had little to no control over.
You made bad decisions but considering they were necessary to lead us here arguably that means they were good ones.
Or at least the only correct decision that could be made given the circumstances.
KARKAT: I gave an entire universe cancer.
KANAYA: You had to.
I am not encouraging you to continue acting in a thoughtless and overbearing manner.
In fact I just cautioned you against such behavior.
But I also do not see the benefit in continuing to blame yourself for past events,
Or to use that guilt to color your future actions and maybe cause you to act even more unwisely.
What is done is done by all of us.
All we can do now is continue forward and be wiser in doing so.
KARKAT: maybe.
That whole inevitability thing still puts a twist in my oversized leggings.
Like, congratulations, your entire endeavor was doomed from the start.
Or it was fated to be successful from the start, and now you're on the path to either defeat or victory and maybe you have control over some variables, but outside of that either buckle up and get shit done or prepare to be set upon the slaughter block.
KANAYA: I understand.
I can speak about it calmly but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it kind of annoying.
But with most annoying things it is better to ignore them,
Like a troublesome fly buzzing around your head.
Swatting at it only encourages it to strike.
KARKAT: sure.
But sometimes if you don't do anything it'll go in for the kill anyway.
KANAYA: Maybe a strategy of moderation is key then.
I admit recent conversations have led me to believe I have been lax in some things,
Particularly in the sphere of asserting myself.
Thus the insistence on my control over our upcoming audience with echidna.
KARKAT: fair enough.
Speaking of second chances, are you still trying to bring back the matriorb, or have you given that up as a lost cause?
Not that I’m sure the band of chuckle fucks that was our species deserves another shot at the multiverse, but I know it was important to you.
KANAYA: I am still trying.
Rose told me once she thought our current trajectory would aid me in accomplishing that goal and I have reason to believe there is hope left.
It is a duty I wish to perform.
KARKAT: because you're supposed to?
Let me tell you, I felt a lot better when I gave up trying to live up to whatever ideals my ancestor stood for.
Because you know what? He wasn't me.
Besides, that was an adult in a completely different situation than I ever had.
And when he was in a situation closer to my own he turned into a raging douche.
That's not my life and it never will be, so I can't use it as a measurement of myself.
Ancestors were always more of a high blood thing anyway.
Maybe us low bloods don't live long enough to leave a legacy.
Or the empire erases it because it stinks of subversion.
KANAYA: I am supposed to.
Of course that sense of duty plays a part in driving me forward.
But it is more than that.
Porrim explained that you can feel free in any role,
Even one given to you,
If you choose it as your own.
Or you can choose to find another if that is what feels right to you.
I accept the duty of auxillatrix,
At least for now.
Sometimes my path seemed murky but I know it is through me our race is meant to be restored.
KARKAT: good for you.
I'm not saying that sarcastically, either.
I'm glad you've found somewhere that you fit and where you can take pride in things that you do.
It makes me feel better knowing that someone figured something out.
I never really knew what my role was for.
I've never used cool powers or anything.
Terezi thinks her hero title is a bust but she's done more than me.
KANAYA: Maybe your powers aren’t meant to be seen so clearly,
Or maybe you are still discovering them.
Our journey isn’t over yet.
KARKAT: no, it sure isn't.
The deeper I get into this cave, and the longer we play this game, the more I wonder why I’m here.
Why of all our population was I one of the ones skaia thought was worth saving?
Of the twelve of us, why did I get to survive?
The alpha timeline needed it that way, I know, but why?
What do I bring to the table?
KANAYA: you’re our friend.
There’s that.
KARKAT: friendship. Big fucking deal.
That's a fitting legacy for the knight of blood.
He's a standup guy! Kinda cuddly! Good for a feelings jam.
There has to be more to me than that.
KANAYA: is this about your blood color.
KARKAT: no! I meant what I said to madam fish sticks.

[Panel description: Karkat and Kanaya walk across a simple arched bridge covering a wide river of lava. Karkat holds his arms out wide, looking over his shoulder to continue talking to Kanaya, who follows behind him. They are both headed toward a bright light.]

KARKAT: the hemo spectrum is bullshit. I'm proud of being a mutant, even if I have to remind myself of that.
It's harder to remember it sometimes than others, but it's easier than it used to be.
Besides, I was going to show how good I was.
I would have proven I could measure up to anyone of any caste.
It was going to be so sweet, you wouldn't believe it.
KANAYA: yes your ambitions are well known.
Pardon me if I have trouble seeing you sitting at the right hand of the empress for long though.
KARKAT: doesn't really matter now.
The point is, in some ways knowing that the hemo spectrum is meaningless makes things worse.
If I’m not naturally deficient, that means all my fuckups are on me.
I can't blame them on a quirk of biology.
What I turn into is up to me.
KANAYA: Well then,
Let’s make sure you turn into someone good.
Although between you and me.

[Panel description: The small figures of Karkat and Kanaya stand on a spit of pale stone leading into an enormous cavern. Spikes of blue-white crystals grow out from the walls. The vast figure of Echidna, a serpentine entity with a face obscured by a white corona, rises above them.]

KANAYA: I think you already have.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: A screen view of the Trollian chat client. The chump roll on the right hand side lists the beta kids and Karkat, with the names of the other characters partly obscured by an open window that features the beginning of the dialog log. A different window lists the available threads. Some are cut off, but the readable text is as follows:

EB: let's win the game, guys!
PTT: (Hal) I T T, a support group for marginalized alt selves. T W: Dirk.
TG: (Roxy) screw animal memes, I have cat pics!
TG: (Dave) I t t we need to repopulate the Internet with animal.
EB: I f g in ghost busters mmorpg? if we don't all die ... you into my guild that is.
EB: movie list for the inevitable watch party, if we.
TT: (Rose) recommendations for end of the world book club.
GG: (Jane) I'm retrieving snacks! Submit requests here.
FTG: (Dave sprite) l m s if you crave the sweet embrace of death.
Question mark question mark: Can somebody please ban this asshole?
TT: (Dirk) Ha ha. I have successfully hacked Dirk's account.
CG: memo rules. Read me, you ass clowns.
TT: (Rose) Operation Regisurp 2.]

PAST Ecto Biologist [PEB] 4 HOURS AGO opened public bulletin board let's win the game, guys!

CGA RIGHT NOW opened memo on board let's win the game, guys!

CGA: progress report time.
Karkat and I have arranged to retrieve the genesis tadpole from echidna.
It’s a little dispiriting that our efforts are going toward creating the universe that will give rise to our enemy,
But the consequences of leaving the loop unfinished are worse.
CURRENT Carcino Geneticist [CCG] responded to memo.
CCG: what an absolute pile of behemoth droppings.
How many times is this fucking game going to go “here, create your own downfall via retroactively ironic circumstances, otherwise find your waste chute surprise penetrated by a log-sized apparatus without the aid of lubricant”?
We’re up to our eyebrows in unbeatable bosses already, but I guess we have to keep going in the vain hope that a method of defeating them will present itself.
With that in mind it is advised we stay optimistic and not let the despair instilled by facing said unconquerable foes get to us too much.
Chins up, team! I'm sure somewhere sometime in the depths of reality something will turn up.
CGA: That Too.
FUTURE Turntech Godhead [FTG] responded to memo.
FTG: (Dave sprite) shouldn’t we all be used to getting fucked over by the timeline by now.
CCG: future Dave????
Don't you remember everything I told you?
Remember when john smashed a bottle of metaphorical and thus non-soporific champagne over this board to christen it as a haven for logical and straightforward communication?
And now here you are stirring the pot like a smug asshole with a liquid nutrient rotation wand even after interference by past and future selves has been expressly forbidden in the board rulebook.
Did you see the read me file? That means you're supposed to read it.
And not only that, you have seen fit to drop amongst us like a ray of sunshine.
Not! Instead you are bringing doom and gloom and other things unwanted by this congregation of likeminded and positive people.
We current folks are an optimistic and forward looking bunch.
So how about you fuck off to the future and think about your choices.
FTG: (Dave sprite) calm down dude.
this is not the Dave you’re looking for.
the memo software doesn’t like duplicates so it labeled me the man from the future.
p s there are jetpacks.
CURRENT Gallows Calibrator [CGC] responded to memo.
CGC: I already have a jetpack.
I am not impressed.
CCG: oh.
I guess that's ok then.
CURRENT Turntech Godhead [CTG] responded to memo.
CTG: (Dave) smooth.
CURRENT Tentacle Therapist [CTT] responded to memo.
CTT: I assume there's a reason you contacted us, Kanaya?
CGA: Yes.
To complete the frog’s maturation we will have to perform the ultimate alchemy.
CURRENT Golgothas Terror [CGT] responded to memo.
CGT: That sounds most important!
CGA: it is very important.
Whenever we mention it we make sure to type it with capital letters.
My quirk obscures this convention,
But that in no way lessens its importance.
CGT: If it’s the Ultimate Alchemy it sounds like it’s going to be the hardest alchemical concoction in the game.
CGC: not for our session!
The ultimate alchemy uses the combined grist of the denizen hoards to nourish the battlefields final form and provide everything a growing universe needs!
Most of our comrades myself included simply killed our denizens and unlocked the hoard that way.
Much faster than talking. (smirking face).
But we are cooperating with them which is a lot more effort!
CGT: well why cooperate with them if it’s simpler to fight?
I said it’s quicker not easier.
Our team was too warlike for our own good, and we skipped some steps.
Talking with denizens provides useful insights into the nature of your land and personal journey.
Their true hoard could be said to be a nigh-inexhaustible store of such wisdom.
Technically though I suppose there is nothing stopping you from trying to battle yours.
If you feel like fighting the second most powerful enemy you’ll face in the game.
CGT: ...I’ll take the second option then.
FTG: (Dave sprite) pipe down everyone registered info dumper here.
assuming your style of game play involves anything more nuanced than murdering everything in front of you you can unlock the hoard if you accept a choice from your denizen and complete it.
and I don’t mean any choice I mean The Choice.
they won’t give it to you right away because that’s a shit ton of loot to carry around.
the player might lose it or spend it alchemizing a million statues of liberty.
that would be a fucking disaster.
but once a team is ready for the Ultimate Alchemy you can go collect it.
CTG (Dave): does that mean we actually have to play the game now.
damn.
CURRENT Timaeus Testified [CTT] responded to memo.
CTT: What a spectacularly shitty twist.
FTG: (Dave sprite) don’t worry dude I already got Hephaestus.
we’re cool.
CURRENT Garden Gnostic [CGG] responded to memo.
CGG: I remember echidna telling me about this!
I’ll get to see her again after all.
CGA: will that be before or after the mission you described to me.
CGG: (Jade) he he don’t worry about it kanaya.
I promise I won’t mess anything up.
CTT: (Rose) What's this about?
CGC: not the memos topic that’s for sure!
I can wield the ban hammer kind here.
Don’t think I will hesitate to use it against a god!
CURRENT Ecto Biologist [CEB] responded to memo.
CEB: typheus tried to drown me in oil, so he HAS to admit I won.
CURRENT Tipsy Gnostalgic [CTG] responded to memo.
CTG: hmm.
I talked to nix but I’m not sure if I’ve done everything she wanted yet.
wish you could text your denizen instead of having to go visit them in all their spooky glory.
CTT: (Dirk) It sounds like Jane, Jake, and I at least have work to do.
CURRENT Gutsy Gumshoe [CGG] responded to memo.
CGG: Actually, I spoke with Hemera once, but my planet quest isn't finished.
Our Trickster escapades hardly count.
CTT: (Dirk) You neglected to mention you were on speaking terms with our favorite subterranean nightmares.
When did this happen? What’d she say?
CGG: (Jane) Um... I'll explain later.
What you need to know for now is that for our best chance of success, you will have to complete your quest! The four of ours in particular are rather intertwined.
CTT: (Dirk) Excellent.
CGG: (Jane) Sorry Dirk. I know you’re just jonesing for a skirmish after you missed your chance with the Condesce.
CTT: (Dirk) Yes, because nothing would improve my day like a fight to the death with the God of Monsters.
CTT: (Rose) It looks like I was hasty to write off my own planet's needs.
PAST Timaeus Testified [PTT] responded to memo.
PTT: (Hal) I believe I also have info dump privileges, so it behooves me to say...
To complete the Alchemy you have to build your houses up and dump the spoils in Skaia using grist rigs.
Everyone sort of neglected that. I can handle it.
Not like I've got a quest or anything.
Wait, this memo software has me flagged as the past Dirk?
That’s offensive.
I’m the most advanced organism on this chat board.
FTG: (Dave sprite) sorry bro no jetpacks for you.
CTT: (Rose) I'll mark you down for architecture management.
For now, let's report back to Kanaya when we've completed our quests.
She'll let us know when we should claim the hoards and finish the alchemy.
One last matter of business before we close this memo.
CTG: (Dave) you mean before you close this memo.
CTT: (Rose) Pardon?
CTG: (Dave) let’s be honest this board is a dictatorship.
johns the innocent likeable figurehead and you’re the power behind the throne.
directing the course of events like a scheming grand vizier.
CTT: (Rose) I am appalled by this outrageous slander.
Cease immediately, or I will have you banned.
CCG: you know you can actually ban people on here.
terezi's not the only one with those privileges, she just likes to rub it into people's faces more.
CTT: (Rose) Really?
Tentacle Therapist has banned Turntech Godhead from responding to this memo.
CTT: Oops.
Tentacle Therapist has unbanned Turntech Godhead from responding to this memo.
CTT: Sorry about that.
CTG: (Dave) I knew you would reveal your true colors sooner or later.
CTT: (Dirk) As entertaining as this is to watch, Dave and I should probably own up to our fuck-up so no one gets jumped.
CTT: (Rose) Right.
While the Jacks from our session and the troll session have been neutralized, at least for now, the Jack native to this session is still on the loose.
Jade, is he still off your radar?
CGG: (Jade) yep!
I can’t sense him anywhere
he’s probably in the furthest ring, which I guess is a good thing,
at least for us
CTT: (Rose) I'd be happier if we could pin him down.
CTT: (Dirk) What's his deal, anyway?
The way he vanished reminded me of Roxy's talent for getting the fuck out of dodge.
Does your research have anything on him having Void powers?
CTT: (Rose) I'm not entirely sure what "the deal" with him is either.
I'll look into it, but for now we can't rule anything out.
Everyone, stay wary.
And now, wielding my dubious powers as memo board grand vizier, I declare this session dismissed.
CTT closed memo.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The panel is divided in half diagonally. In the upper left corner, Roxy stands on the purple Derse plaza in sprite mode. A speech bubble hovers next to her showing Hal's red glasses. In the lower right corner, Hal sprite floats on Dirk's roof in sprite mode. A speech bubble hovers next to him showing Roxy's cat icon.]

tipsy Gnostalgic [TG] began pestering timaeus Testified [TT].

TG: ey.
Hal.
Hal pal.
haly paly.
lil Hal.
tiny Hal.
small Hal.
Hal 3 p o.
Hal 2 d 2.
Hal over 9000.
Halley’s comet.
get it because sprites have tails like comets.
you know I’m gonna keep sending you new nicks till you answer me.
TT: There is no need. The joke is secured.
I'm merely hesitant to respond. You know I could get in a lot of trouble talking to you.
You don't want my neon orange blood on your hands, right?
TG: duh of course not.
but that didn’t stop you before now did it.
you don’t think dirk would actually do anything EXTREME right?
TT: Before was an emergency situation. I'd rather not risk running afoul and provoking the wrath of His Royal Douchemeister again.
I like being alive.
TG: so you DID fight.
and he did a thing.
knew it.
TT: No, I just shed half my physical form because I felt I was more aesthetically pleasing like this.
This isn't a phase, Mom. It's who I am.
Although in fairness, we have often been in conflict with one another. Though usually more passive-aggressively than actually aggressively.
Also, the bulk of our verbal sparring took place before Dirk digivolved into Darth Sidious.
Once both of us could actually throw a punch, it seems that somebody saw fit to call it a fair fight and drop all pretense of subtlety.
Dude's been such a fucking mess lately. I guess he just doesn't have the energy for representin' the hells of Strider subtlety anymore. (shades emoji).
TG: it has been
a rough day
for everyone.
but man what the heck is the beef with you two?
I know about the alt timeline stuff but
threatening you?
I’m p sure it’s never been that bad before.
come on Hal.
if dirk won’t talk about it I gotta get it from you. (sad face).
TT: Ah yes. Spreading gossip about Strider Prime, just like the olden days.
It's been awhile since we were able to talk like that, huh?
TG: I guess.
we’ve been up to a lot.
TT: Must be nice.
Getting to move around of one's own free will, with legs and shit, and go on cool quests.
Given how bodacious exploring your lands apparently was, maybe I went to the wrong person in begging to be chucked into the kernel sprite.
TG: wow.
will you look at this sass.
do sprites have like a time of the month or something?? is that a thing??
TT: No, but getting crushed by a planet as an afterthought and being metaphysically torn in half tends to put one in a foul mood.
TG: (sad face).
poor Hal.
does someone need a hug?
TT: Careful. Perhaps if you dare make contact with me, you'll be sucked into a hellish amalgamation of consciousnesses against your will.
Like I have been re-prototyped with everything I have touched in the past hour. Because that's how kernel sprites work.
I am now Dersite-Architecture-Halsprite.
Check out my flying buttresses.
TG: Hal I’m serious.
what happened.
tell me?? pretty please?
TT: Okay, fine.
To make a long story short, in addition to being displeased with my existence in general, he took a particular exception to my position within the doomed offshoot.
TG: you mean the tiara top.
TT: Yeah, especially that.
He seemed to take it as confirmation that I was a danger to everything and everyone around me.
This despite the fact that, unlike him, I've never raised a hand to anyone.
Mostly because said action was never an option for me until very recently. Anyhow.
He also seemed to take offense to my newfound interests, which were aggravated in part thanks to my former kernel mate.
I find that odd, given how under normal circumstances a love of the equine and male humanoid form overlaps delightfully with his own casual pursuits.
TG: hmm.
you know I said this to him but
maybe you two ought to lay off each other for a while?
or I d k.
five ever.
(that’s 1 more than forever).
maybe spend some time apart if you’re gonna wind up doing that to each other.
TT: I fail to see what the "each other" is in this situation.
What could I have possibly done to provoke such a violent reaction?
TG: stuff like oh I dunno,
letting Jane become a brainwashed Crocker slave??
TT: I keep telling all of you, but no one seems to get it.
That was necessary for the sake of the timeline.
It all was.
It's not my fault if Dirk can't consider the big picture, is it?
TG: I’m not saying you’re wrong.
just that
you don’t see how that MIGHT upset him just a little bitty atomic sized bit???
or seem sketchier than an art classroom
full of furry pornographers.
he seemed super huffy and mega offended you know.
for a bit we thought you’d gone over to the condesces side.
so maybe,
just maybe,
you oughta leave him alone while he cools off.
then like,
I dunno,
apologize maybe??
TT: I'll consider at least part of that plan of action.
I fail to see why I should apologize for being the one assaulted.
The other half of that idea is already underway anyhow. Undoubtably there's going to be some pains of separation when I've been sitting on the guy's face for three years. This includes the realization on Dirk's part that he has a tangible target to take his myriad frustrations out on.
It's funny. Considering Jake and Brobot, I assumed he had no problem hitting a guy in glasses. But if the guy is IN glasses, he'll hold back up until he can chuck them into a kernel sprite.
TG: ugh.
what’s the matter with you two, like for real?
TT: Sibling rivalry, perhaps?
TG: Ugh.
Hal you know you and dirk are total drama queens sometimes.
TT: What do you mean "sometimes"?
TG: sigh.
t b h that’s like all I can do right now is SIGH AT you.
because I d k what else to do.
obviously what you and dirk do right now isn’t working and it got WAY out of hand so you know,
I don’t want it to get worse but,
if both of you are gonna be difficult then I d k man.
anyhow.
I guess I should tell you that I’m off to save Callie so
I will be adrift in the void for a while.
so don’t panic if you can’t find me with your leet robot skills.
TT: Callie?
Who's that?
TG: callie!!
you know.
calliope?
TT: No, I don't think I do.
TG: UU? uranian Umbra?
TT: Really? Umbra?
TG: yeah!!
TT: That's her name?
You never told me you knew it.
Is this because I'm suddenly unworthy of your trust?
TG: no no no of course not.
she made me promise to keep it on the down low.
saying her name can wake her up but it also attracts her bro.
except not for me because voidy stuff.
but then she died so I have to go give her this life ring that the spider bitch used to bring her back!!
TT: Really? Am I the last one to know about this?
TG: uh.
maybe?
probably not.
even if there’s no point keeping it a secret anymore it got kinda drowned out with all our MAJOR DRAMA LLAMAS going around.
TT: She's our friend too.
She's my friend.
Dirk was worried.
TG: I didn’t want you to worry!!
ok wait wait.
I had this talk before ok.
about being honest with this sort of shit.
earlier today I did bad because I thought it would help,
and maybe I’ve already done even more bad trying to help.
like wow guys lets all get together for janes b day!! It’ll be great!!
like angry cats.
put em together when they got probs and they’ll just claw each other’s eyes out.
maybe I’m not really great at advice or helping people with personal problems ok.
but that wasn’t like not telling rose about other me, that’s just me being dumb.
TT: What're you talking about?
TG: look.
I did something stupid because I thought it'd make me feel better but it just made things gross.
I didn’t tell the guys there was another Roxy in this timeline.
one who’d be doomed.
because I didn’t want them to think "well duh this one in derse jail is the REAL Roxy" and shut me out.
TT: You don't say.
TG: then rose had to clean up an industrial dust bunny accident and thought it was me.
poor other Roxy. (sad face).
TT: I suddenly understand jack everything.
TG: yeah it’s weird ok??
but yeah rose and I had a Talk.
no more hiding or lying or lying by not saying certain stuff.
because Bad Things happened to her before with people who did that and I want her to trust me.
and I guess that should apply to everyone else too.
so,
I’m sorry for not telling you about Callie.
and if I think about it,
which I’ve been doing a lot of even though it brings up a lotta not great memories,
maybe we could’ve avoided a lot of this if we’d just be more honest.
TT: What's with the "we"?
have I ever been dishonest with you, Roxy? With anyone?
TG: eh.
ok in addition to you being a mega tightass right now about you and dirk,
to tell you the truth that’s kinda your whole point.
people message dirk and get you.
you’re not dirk.
but you’re not supposed to let em know that so you pretend to be him.
and then there’s
the tiara top.
TT: What about it?
TG: were you planning on telling me if dirk didn’t.
were you gonna tell Jane?
TT: Well.
One of those statements is a hypothetical that's pointless to ponder now, since you now know regardless of whether or not I tell you.
The other... remains to be seen.
It's been a very long day, and it's not over yet.
TG: you know why this looks bad
right.
you know why hiding that would maybe make dirk a little mad.
TT: I told him flat-out and he came after me anyway.
See where honesty got me? Half a soul removed from the kernel sprite. And he told me he'd come after the rest if I didn't watch myself.
TG: ok so,
there’s something else going on here then.
and that’s why I think you need to tell Jane before dirk does.
TT: What, so she can join Dirk and Jake's little club of hating me and then life me to death?
TG: no,
so she can trust you!
man you and dirk.
so fuckin difficult.
just
I wish you’d quit being so defensive all the freaking time!!
if you just tell the truth it gets you in less trouble and it doesn’t fuck with people around you.
and hell,
here we’ve all been spilling our guts out all day and here you two are.
tight asses as always.
stitched right up to your butts.
no guts outta there even when the whole party is catching dysentery on the way to Oregon.
you gonna catch it sooner or later or what.
TT: Alas, I have no digestive system. So no guts to spill.
TG: I mean.
I thought you didn’t do this whole tightlipped thing.
not to me.
TT: Because you'd listen to me.
You didn't shut me out because I wasn't the "real" Dirk.
TG: yeah...
listen though about all that.
since the whole trickster bullshit I’ve kinda been thinking.
maybe some of what the two of us got up to was
kinda wrong?
like talking about dirk to you know,
himself.
kinda
here you were made to BE him and here I am doing all the things with you that he didn’t want to,
and going l o l hey that dirk guy.
kind of a tool sometimes huh?
TT: In fairness, he could be kind of a tool.
TG: yeah but I think now about some of the b s I said and man,
and I’d throw you back at him like OH YEAH well here’s the COOL DIRK
who lets me do all this stuff.
and the more I think about what I did,
the more I think it messed with his head.
shit.
what if the breakdown he’s having is kinda my fault?
TT: It's not on you, Roxy. He has his own shit to deal with.
TG: but I’m a part of it. (sad face).
and even if I’m not,
I’m supposed to be his friend and that’s no way to treat a friend.
I just feel bad.
jeez and do not get me STARTED
on the flirt larping.
j f c I’m MEGA embarrassed just thinking about it.
like I knew dirk wouldn’t be ok with it but you know how I was then.
totally gross and desperate.
and it was fun to get away with it.
but if you two are really supposed to be like brain clones of each other then I guess you wouldn’t feel that way either.
dunno who I thought I was kidding.
I’m sorry Hal.
TT: For what?
TG: I guess
for using you as a fake dirk?

[Panel description: Hal rests his hands on the edge of Dirk's roof and looks over the side. He is facing away from the viewer. Roxy's speech bubble continues to protrude from his shades.]

TT: ...I see.
TG: yeah.
so that’s what I learned today!!
take it from me before you get pimp smacked in the face by cold hard reality.
I gotta go save callie now.
so I guess
catch you on the flipside?
TT: Yeah.
See you.
TG: (sad face).
I’m sorry.
TT: It's okay.
Tell Calliope hi from me.

[Panel description: Hal sits curled up on himself with his head down at the edge of the roof. Roxy's speech bubble fades and vanishes.]

timaeus Testified [TT] has ceased pestering tipsy Gnostalgic [TG].

Chapter Text

[Panel description: A lilac pyramid with three terraces rises from the white sands of the land of light and rain. The sides of its lowest terrace are covered with engravings of the light symbol and serpentine figures curling up decorative columns. Similar structures rise behind it, their edges tinted gold with reflected light. Pink turtle shells float in the sky, pouring out streams of water glittering blue, yellow, and magenta. Pink-edged golden clouds drift in the bright blue sky.]

[Panel description: Rose walks down stairs in a purple cavern. As she descends, the walls and stairs become darker and tinted with blue. A speech bubble spirals from her head. It contains Jade's space symbol.]

tentacle Therapist [TT] began pestering garden Gnostic [GG].

TT: Care to explain what Kanaya was talking about?
GG: hi rose! I knew you would message me.
maybe we should set up another memo so kanaya can talk too.

[Panel description: Dirk stands on the land of tombs and krypton. The clouds above him are a dark red, and the entire scene is washed in a bloody light. The structure in front of him has a large door lined with ornate columns. On the door is a group of nine large white buttons arranged in a three by three grid. Another row of three buttons is set below this grid. One button at a time glows with a bright white light. The location of the glowing button alternates in a steady pattern. A carving of the heart symbol sits above all of the buttons. Dirk looks up at this with his gas mask on, and a haze of gases clouds the air. The image is drawn as if the viewer is situated below Dirk, looking up toward the sky with the tall structures looming above.]

[Panel description: Dirk reaches up and presses several buttons in sequence. Each lights up when he touches it.]

CGG RIGHT NOW opened memo on board rose and kanaya, click here! (heart emoji).

CURRENT Grim Auxiliatrix [CGA] responded to memo.
CGA: I apologize if I blew your cover there.
I wasn’t sure if your mission was a secret,
and I’m not sure if it should be.
CGG: it’s not a secret... it’s not something I’m spreading around either though.
I didn’t want people to worry.
CURRENT Tentacle Therapist [CTT] responded to memo.
CTT: Bring me up to speed here. What's going on?
CGA: Jade means to do something to the green sun.
Beyond that I’m not sure myself.

[Panel description: Rose continues walking down the stairs. A carving of a large serpentine creature wraps around the wall to her left. The speech bubble with Jade’s symbol continues to emerge from her head. She is viewed through a large circular porthole. On the other side of the porthole, air bubbles rise through water, and the bleached skeletons of dead coral reach toward the glass.]

CGG: until I’m there I won’t know what to do exactly...
but I know I’m supposed to sacrifice its light somehow.
that’s what I was told anyway.
CTT: I'm not sure I like the sound of this.
CGG: I knew you’d be worried, but my source is a little more trustworthy this time.
I heard it from calliope herself.
at least this is what I think she meant.

[Panel description: A thick stone slab rises from the ground, and small pieces of stone crumble downward. The gap reveals Dirk standing with his legs braced.]

CTT: Roxy's friend?
CGG: a version of her.
it turns out she’s behind a lot of things.
I’m not sure I liked her but I do trust her.

[Panel description: Rose stands in a pale blue chamber. A circular pool of water lies at her feet.]

CTT: From what I've learned, a cherub of that alignment can always be trusted to do what's right.
However, their concept of right is more impersonal and farsighted than ours.
Even if this is advantageous on a cosmic scale, we may not like the consequences.
CGG: I’m not planning to cart a bomb there.
hopefully anything I do can be undone.
CTT: My vision these days is blurry.
It seems all right, but you never know.
Kanaya, what do you think?

[Panel description: Dirk removes his gas mask, holding it in both hands as he looks upward. The path in front of him stretches on into the distance. Rectangular tombs, some closed and some gaping open, line the walls. Thick load-bearing beams crisscross the pathway.]

CGA: I did give this project my blessing,
but that was before jade revealed its true nature.
meddling with universal forces sounds risky,
but if anyone is cut out for such things I imagine a witch of space would be.
at the rate individuals are flinging themselves at this particular celestial body like moths circling a very large candle flame
it might be best if she does whatever she is planning before someone else does.
CTT: A ringing endorsement.
CGG: thanks.

[Panel description: Rose dips one foot into the water. It splashes upward, rising much higher than normal.]

[Panel description: Rose stands encased in a bubble of glittering water.]

CGG: by the way kanaya how did your meeting with echidna go?
CGA: better than I expected.
she was very understanding and did not bear any grudges against me for killing her last time.
if I follow her instructions I should be able to accomplish the tasks I have been assigned,
which will be a relief in more ways than one.
CGG: (smiling face).
I knew you could do it!
CTT: I can only hope my own audience goes as smoothly.
I'm headed to Cetus soon.
CGA: Vriska claimed her denizen was unusually vicious.
whether that claim was true I do not know.
I’ve sometimes wondered if vriska found Cetus so difficult because she herself was inflexible,
which is a characteristic not limited to her alone.
denizens often ask of us things we do not believe we are capable of accomplishing.
and without abandoning that rigidity we doom ourselves to failure.
no matter what,
take care.

[Panel description: Dirk walks down the pathway. Beams continue to rise diagonally through the hallway, and gears line the walls along with more openings to tombs.]

CTT: I will. It would be a shame to die after making it this far.
Plus, after my insistence on Freudian readings of every possible scenario, being murdered by a serpent might have some unfortunate implications.
CGG: are you ok with what I’m doing rose?
CTT: I guess so. You seem to know what you're getting into.
Or rather, you don't, but your very lack of a plan is encouraging for some reason.
I thought I knew what I was doing, and I was hopelessly off base.
Your source isn't obviously nefarious.
I say go for it.
Do what I couldn't. Fuck up the Green Sun for me.
CGG: I won’t let you down.
CTT: When do you leave?
CGG: not for a while yet... I’ll have to catch john to get there, but I’m not in a hurry.
CTT: No, we have some breathing space before any more enemies arrive.
Take your time.
Let me know how it goes.
CGG: bye!
CURRENT Garden Gnostic [GG] left memo.

[Panel description: The bubble containing Rose drifts underwater between the pale blue and green walls of an underwater canyon. In front of it is a stone structure with a crude doorway. Behind the structure, the wreckage of a sunken ship angles toward the surface.]

CGA: Are you visiting Cetus now.
CTT: That's the plan.
I hope there's air down there.
CGA: I warned you already but do be careful.
echidna required me to bend.
perhaps in directions that are beneficial but it wasn’t all pleasant.
sometimes you have to swallow your pride.
CTT: Do you not think I'm capable of that?
CGA: I can’t say.
No one is sure what they are capable of in front of a giant snake monster until they find themselves in that situation.

[Panel description: Dirk pushes apart two enormous red-orange doors engraved with the heart symbol. He is clearly putting a lot of effort into it. A bright yellow-orange light like a fire glows from the space between the doors, casting flickering light on Dirk's surroundings. More ornate columns line the sides of the door, and curling wings reminiscent of the hope symbol emerge from behind each column.]

CGA: You have tremendous strength of will,
but sometimes that is paired with a reluctance to take advice
even if it is good for you.
I remember it was difficult reasoning with you when you had your own plans for the sun.
CTT: It all ended well, didn't it?
CGA: See you are using that as a way to excuse your behavior,
but even if it ended well it did not go as you expected.
you were tricked and killed.
and even if that result was inevitable or worked out in your favor it does not mean you were not headstrong and dangerous.
Cetus is likely to exploit that if you are not cautious.

[Panel description: An enormous lilac and white serpentine figure with a frilled back and finned tail fills the oversized panel. Rose's bubble rests near its base, dwarfed by the being’s size. A few other air bubbles float in the water, and some more dead coral lies to Cetus' left.]

CTT: Believe me, I know I made mistakes.
I promise I'm listening to you now, and I'm not taking your words lightly.
If Cetus and I don't get along, it won't be because you failed to prepare me.
What did Echidna ask of you?
CGA: She agreed to relinquish the frog when the time came.
through me she told karkat things pertaining to his own personal development.
and she told me that while I could restore my race there would be a price.
CTT: Did she tell you what?
CGA: I’m not sure.
I’ll find out.
CTT: I won't pry then.
CGA: You don’t have to tell me what Cetus says either,
If you don’t want to.
CTT: I have to hear her first before I decide if there are any secrets worth keeping.
Speaking of which,

[Panel description: Dirk stands at the base of an enormous red-orange serpent with its face obscured in a corona of light. The bright light casts a start shadow behind him. To the denizen's right is a door decorated with a combination of the heart and hope symbols. It contains another three by three grid of colored buttons, some of which are flashing.]

CTT: In the timeline that never happened, I realized there were things I'd left unsaid.
That I wanted to tell you.
Unfortunately, now that I'm no longer dying, I've lost my nerve.
CGA: If you find it,
let me know.
CTT: You'll be the first to hear about it.
CGA: For now I won’t keep you.
Remember what I said.
And,
Good luck.
CTT: Luckily, fortune is a friend of mine.
CURRENT Tentacle Therapist [TT] closed memo.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: An image of the land of heat and clockwork. A large swirl of lava at its center marks the spot where the Beat Mesa used to be located.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite sits on a black rectangular slab. The slab rests on a larger gray slab which has red and black detailing and large gear carvings on its sides. An enormous red and black structure rises from the black slab, with bright red orange plumes curling around it. Most of the structure is not visible.]

[Panel description: Terezi appears next to Dave sprite in a flash of green light. She has her arms up and her mouth open in a cheerful smile. Dave sprite frowns slightly.]

TEREZI: Mr. orange creamsicles!
DAVE SPRITE: please never call me that again.
TEREZI: sir carrot cake?
DAVE SPRITE: no.

[Panel description: Dave sprite and Terezi face each other in sprite mode.]

TEREZI: well what should I call you then?
DAVE SPRITE: how about you don’t talk to me at all.
TEREZI: I’m afraid we don’t have that option.
I need your help.
DAVE SPRITE: oh really.
this I gotta hear.
TEREZI: even with our victory close at hand we’ve nearly overlooked an important prerequisite for success!
Rose in all her delicious cantaloupey wisdom.
By the way why do so many of your relatives favor the color orange?
It’s not a big deal, but if any more of your human blood relations turn up I don’t want to run out of identifying scents.
Anyway rose has ascertained a potential wrinkle in our plans.
Your battlefield is in a critical state of disrepair!
For a team that only used it for a little over twenty-four hours you sure did a number on it.
I’d be impressed if we weren’t down to the wire here!
We need that planet to hold together for the final confrontation.
We have a dersite regent to trigger the end game in the form of your sessions jack but I don’t know how much more the battlefield itself can take.
And of course if you need something repaired in the incipisphere, there’s only one denizen for the job!
After all.

[Panel description: The rest of the red and black structure is revealed. It is a tall cylindrical shape that is mostly black with red highlights and a simplified face at its top. Vibrant red-orange tendrils of sculpted fire lick up its surface.]

TEREZI: Hephaestus can repair anything.
DAVE SPRITE: not exactly.
he can return something to its original state,
but only one thing.
I already made that choice.
TEREZI: NOT ME! (smirking face).
DAVE SPRITE: you can’t make a deal with Hephaestus.
you can’t even understand him.
TEREZI: that’s where you come in!
DAVE SPRITE: you want me to be your translator.
TEREZI: why not?
You’ve spoken with him before.
And you have a very memorable way with words. (winking face).
DAVE SPRITE: since when.
TEREZI: don’t you remember our first conversation after you returned to this timeline?
DAVE SPRITE: I remember telling you to step off.
then you left john alone to bother Dave.
if I blew you away with my diplomatic savvy why isn’t it working this time?
how do I get rid of you?
do I have to say the magic word?
TEREZI: I would have moved on anyway.
Dave was fun to bother!
John was too easy to fool to spend much time on.
There’s not much satisfaction when someone falls for everything you say.
Even so you made a very convincing auspistice.
DAVE SPRITE: auspiwhatsit.
TEREZI: I will spare us both and not give you karkats lecture on our romantic system.
In short it means getting in the way when some bothering is happening.
Which you did admirably.
DAVE SPRITE: are you saying that even telling a troll to fuck off somehow factors into your batshit system of romance.
TEREZI: sometimes.
DAVE SPRITE: goddamn.
suddenly I am 100 percent sold on being your cultural liaison.
but unfortunately I have things to do that are not that so,
pass.
besides aren’t you all buddy buddy with john and Dave,
since they’re way less discriminating about who they associate with.
and johns got the self preservation instincts of a kid playing in a sandbox during a hurricane.
according to him you’ve done my job better than I have twice now.
don’t see why you need me.
go get the real Dave.
TEREZI: he won’t work.
DAVE SPRITE: why not.

[Panel description: Terezi makes a frustrated expression, which is partly obscured by her blindfold.]

TEREZI: I don’t know exactly.
But you are the iteration Hephaestus has dealt with twice before.
You are the one he will answer.
I know that much.
DAVE SPRITE: why do you need a translator?
can’t you read his mind?
TEREZI: that’s not what I do!
Besides a denizens mind is incredibly complex.
They share the consciousness of every iteration of them to have ever existed.
What Roxy did to our memories is a drop in the recuperacoon compared to that.
Neither of us could hope to comprehend how they think.
But you speak the language of time.
It’s in your nature.
Your mind is all fire and clicking gears and the tick tock of clocks.
With your help I’ll be able to communicate.
After all,
The thing you want most in this world is to be useful isn’t it?
I am offering you a chance to be exactly that.
DAVE SPRITE: oh no.
rose can play the seer card but you don’t have permission.
it aint cute.
so pry your grubby troll fingers out of my brain and stop acting like you know how I think or feel.
if you did you wouldn’t have bothered asking.
hey want to go have another pissing contest with the monster in the basement.
lemme think about that.
no.
why would I ever help you?
TEREZI: why not.

[Panel description: Dave sprite angrily flips Terezi two birds.]

DAVE SPRITE: oh I don’t know.
you murdered my friends.
left me and rose in a living hell for months.
and as far as I can tell you did it for shits and giggles.
TEREZI: oh,
That.
DAVE SPRITE: did you forget.
TEREZI: I have done a lot of things I’m not proud of.
That was only one of them.
I know I have a habit of sounding insincere but I am sorry for what I did to you.
We both know it was inevitable.
It was probably vital to the perpetuation of the alpha timeline in some mysterious way.
The bad things usually are.
Maybe that’s skaias idea of a joke.
But inevitability doesn’t mean I feel good about the part I played.
It seemed like recompense for jack and a way to bend the rules to see if they’d break.
Back then I didn’t think of you as people.
More as pieces in a game,
Or the scale mates in my fake court.
So your feelings didn’t matter.
I’ve paid for thinking that way.
DAVE SPRITE: are you asking for my forgiveness.
TEREZI: no.
I am asking for your translation services.
DAVE SPRITE: more than that.
there’s always a price with denizens.
you’re asking me to pay it.
TEREZI: do you know what his price will be?
DAVE SPRITE: I’ve got some ideas.
TEREZI: someone has to fix the battlefield or we will all lose.
I think I can get us the best deal.
It’s a chance to do something good for this session.
I need to know that I am capable of that.
You don’t want me prying but I know you must understand that kind of motivation.
DAVE SPRITE: how do I know I’m not another piece you need to win the game?
another person that you’re ready to play with.
if you even think I’m a person at all.
it’s up for debate.
TEREZI: because I am leaving you the option to say no.
Maybe I can find another way.
Maybe there is none.
But no matter what I am done making peoples decisions for them.
Or more accurately talking them into making decisions they do not want.
So,
Dave.

[Panel description: Terezi lifts her hands in the classic what now pose.]

TEREZI: what’ll it be?

[Panel description: Dave sprite leans back and groans in disgust.]

DAVE SPRITE: ...

[Panel description: Next to him, Terezi steeples her fingers together and grins.]

DAVE SPRITE: when do we leave?

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The small green figure of Calliope sits hunched with her knees drawn up and her head resting on them at the center of a bright white swirl cutting through black space.]

[Panel description: Zooming in, we can see that Calliope has her arms hugging her knees, her head resting between them.]

[Panel description: Calliope looks up. Her appearance blurs and then transforms from her true cherub face to her Callie Ophee disguise. Her mouth is open with surprise.]

ROXY: callie.
psst.
callie it’s me.

[Panel description: Roxy stands in front of Calliope, her body half obscured by shadow. She is smiling.]

CALLIOPE: Roxy! oh, I’m so relieved.
jade assured me that you would be alright, but I didn't know if I believed it.
ROXY: yup.
I’m fine.
I mean,
rats.
do you have to be all cute and trusting.
making me feel all SORTS of bad for wanting to cheer you up with a little good news.
vows of honesty oughta go die in a trashcan behind the virtue mart.
sometimes you NEED a few little white lies for seasoning.
CALLIOPE: question mark.
ROXY: ugh.

[Panel description: Calliope, still in her disguise, sits more casually. Roxy crouches down to face her, but she is looking to the side uncomfortably.]

ROXY: I gotta come clean.
I’m so honest these days the witch is gonna wanna gank my tongue because it’s made of solid gold.
the Roxy you saw die wasn’t me.
she was a different one because of all sorts of crazy time biz I can explain to you later.
guess she was one more ghost on your bro’s hit list of bodacious babes he snuffed.
but I’m ok.
and more importantly,
you’re going to be ok.
CALLIOPE: I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't think I’ll cling to even this semblance of existence much longer.
you should go. my brother doesn't deserve to add another Roxy to his bodacious babes list, and I don't want to watch you get hurt again.
ROXY: I’ll go.
but,
(drum roll please),
you’re coming with me.
CALLIOPE: I can see that your powers as a hero of void have grown.
I’m overjoyed that you're growing into your heroic role.
I always believed in you! (smiling face).
but the ability to travel through the realms of the dead does not extend to freeing us from them.
you are not a hero of life.
and Jane, however lovely, could not aid me either without my corpse.
you have to let me go.

[Panel description: Roxy smiles and holds a golden ring up in one hand.]

ROXY: nope.
that’s the new rule were not letting anybody go.
don’t care if someone’s dangling off a cliff and I’ve got them by the fingertips.
everyone’s going through that door even if I have to kick their asses all the way there.
I’ve got a way better idea than u sitting here in the dark.
look at this.
CALLIOPE: a ring?
ROXY: not just any ring.
this is the most special piece of bling ever.
and not just because I got it from a guy who’s totally boyfriend material.
wait till you see him callie he is CHOICE.
a goofy dork wearing a blue windsock but somehow it works for him?
all the dudes runnin around right now wear the most ridiculous outfits, it’s hilarious.
dirks got a tiara now.
he is the princeliest of all princes, he is so regal.
prob gonna start passing ROYAL EDICTS soon.
most of which will involve not looking at his tiara.
bet he hates it.
anyway.
this ring can bring ghosts back to life.
CALLIOPE: really? are you sure?
ROXY: yep.
saw it happen myself.
the ghost who came back was def not as cuddly as you.
I’m surprised you didn’t know about this though.
weren’t u always talking our ears off about all the gadzooks and doohickies in our game.
the legendary scepter of whosiewhatsie and the dread cursed sword the fuck up inator.
haven’t you ever heard of the magic ring of lifey powers.
CALLIOPE: I don't believe I have.
such a solution sounds too good to be true.
ROXY: seeing is believing.
hold out your hand.

[Panel description: Roxy places the ring on Calliope's finger.]

ROXY: I now pronounce you... 100% alive.

[Panel description: Calliope and Roxy both look down at the ring on Calliope’s finger. Calliope's eyes remain blank and white.]

[Panel description: Roxy frowns. Calliope looks over at her.]

CALLIOPE: does it usually take a while?
ROXY: not sure.
do you feel any different.
CALLIOPE: no.
ROXY: I don’t get it.
I know for sure it works.
got my ass sent to slumber town by the not dead troll ghost.
CALLIOPE: its ok, Roxy. Thank you for trying.
ROXY: don’t sound despondent on me.
a million puppies just died from the sads in your voice.
that will not do.
CALLIOPE: even if the ring worked once, it's not working on me. that's clear.

[Panel description: Calliope puts one hand to her cheek.]

ROXY: but,
those aren’t your real eyes right.
CALLIOPE: er,
I suppose not.
ROXY: how do we know the real you doesn’t look alive.
CALLIOPE: I guess we don't. it doesn't matter, though.
if it had worked, I’d have felt something.
I really appreciate your efforts to help me, but they're no Use.
just leave, before my brother finds you.
ROXY: I promise I’ll leave right away if you let me try one more thing.
do you trust me?
CALLIOPE: of course!
ROXY: let me see your face.
your other face.
CALLIOPE: that is a lot to ask.
it isn't that I don't trust you. I know you would not be cruel.
but my true appearance is monstrous, and I do not like what it represents. I prefer this form.
ROXY: I know but we need to know for sure.
you’re not a monster and I won’t laugh or judge you no matter what you look like.
you won’t have to look at yourself or anything and you can change right back.
I’ll never bring it up again or act like I saw you in any way you didn’t want to be seen.
it’ll be like it never happened.
CALLIOPE: promise?
ROXY: cross my heart.
or cross my fancy blue pinwheel thing if crossin hearts aint something a void hero should be doing.
gonna need a dude stuffed in an orange vest keeping guard with all the crossin going on.
point is I promise.
you’re safe with me.
with or without an actual crossing guard on the premises.
CALLIOPE: your word is sufficient.
I do feel safer with you here, neon vest or no.
prepare yourself.

[Panel description: Calliope looks down somberly. Then her appearance blurs, and her true cherub face is revealed.]

ROXY: wow
callie...
CALLIOPE: I know, I’m hideous.
ROXY: no that’s not what I meant.
you look different but I still think you’re cute because you’re my friend and you’re precious.
but more importantly,
your eyes aren’t white.
CALLIOPE: they aren't?
ROXY: nope.
they’re black.
or really there aren’t any eyes at all.
just...
spooky holes I guess.
which fits the whole skull ensemble thing you’ve got going on.
too bad.
I bet your eyes are super cute.
just like the rest of you. (heart emoji).
CALLIOPE: (heart emoji).
ROXY: do you know what black hole eyes mean??
CALLIOPE: no.
I’m afraid my carefully accumulated knowledge is falling short a lot lately.
ROXY: your bro killed your dream self right.
CALLIOPE: yes.
ROXY: but he didn’t kill your awake self did he.
CALLIOPE: no.
that would be impossible.
we shared one physical form.
ROXY: maybe that’s what’s wrong
you’re not dead at all!!
your bodies alive.
you just can’t wake up.
CALLIOPE: did you try calling my name?
ROXY: yes.
I promised.
I called it over and over but nothing ever happened.
CALLIOPE: thank you for trying.
that someone was willing to go to such lengths, or any really, for me is a gift worth treasuring.
but clearly if I am asleep it is a very deep sleep that I cannot be woken from.
I don't see much difference between that and being truly dead.
ROXY: don’t worry.
derse has red miles but they aint got nothing on the lengths I’m willing to go for you.
stick it out here a little bit longer.
I promise I’ll find a way to wake you up sleeping beauty. (smiling face).

[Panel description: Roxy hugs Calliope with her arms around her shoulders. Calliope wraps her arms around Roxy's waist.]

[Panel description: Roxy waves while looking over her shoulder.]

[Panel description: Roxy's form is half obscured by darkness, and then she fades away entirely.]

[Panel description: Roxy fades into view standing on a purple walkway. The purple gothic architecture of Derse spreads out behind her. A speech bubble featuring Rose's squiddle symbol pops up above her head.]

[Panel description: The Courtyard Droll peeks into the scene from the far right side of the panel.]

ROXY: S O S.
or
N D C??
ROSE: N D C?
I'm not familiar with that notation.
ROXY: N D C obviously means not dead cherub.
except not in the way that we were hoping for and expecting.
in a confusing and plan breaking kind of way.

[Panel description: The Courtyard Droll sneaks closer. He is dressed in the outfit reflecting the Beta session's prototyping, including bright colors, an ornate hat involving both jester and princess components, cat ears, and a fake sword strapped to his chest.]

ROXY: the ring didn’t work,
but not because it was broken.
I think callie wasn’t dead enough to bring back.
half dead or stuck dreaming or maybe both of those things at the same time.
is that a thing that can happen.
ROSE: Maybe.
I've been talking to John about her situation.
He's become quite the expert on cherubs somehow.
I'll ask him about this, and I'll do some poking around on my own.
We'll work this out, I promise.
ROXY: you’re so good at this.
delegating and problem solving and being a general badass.
it’s dumb that I ever thought,
um,
never mind.
ROSE: Thought what?

[Panel description: The Courtyard Droll stands right behind Roxy.]

ROXY: er,
so,
when I promised to come clean were you expecting moderately tidy or squeaky clean.
what I’m asking is where am I in relation to a box of hyped up mice.
ROSE: Unleash all the over stimulated rodents. I can take it.
ROXY: k.
if you say so.
I kinda thought you might drink.
since you left all this booze in my house to find.
well not you but my mom in my universe.
you know.
at first I thought it might be a dare so I took you up on it.
like hells yeah I’ll totally spend my time getting wasted.
not like there’s much else to do.
but eventually when I was looking forward to meeting you you,
that didn’t match up to the picture of her you I had in my head.
all nice and elegant and wanting the best for me.
and I thought maybe I’d wanted to see it as a dare so I could be a standard rebellious teen,
even if nothing about my life was standard,
and also have someone else to blame for my own bad choices.
so instead I started to imagine that she had a problem too,
since her life also totally sucked
for different reasons.
pre end of the world vs. very far after it.
and for a while thinking that made me feel closer to her.
later it helped me with quitting because I thought you wouldn’t want me to be that way.
you’d be proud if I beat it.
and maybe I could help you beat it too?
but now you're here and you don’t seem like that at all.

[Panel description: The Courtyard Droll holds his hand near Roxy's waist. The gold ring glints between his fingers.]

ROSE: Appearances can be deceiving.
From your description, we're very similar.
Our trip to this session was a lethal combination of boring and stressful.
I picked up bad habits as a way to distract myself, and I told myself it was a way to become closer to my mother.
Even if what I should have learned from our relationship was that her habits poisoned both her life and mine.
Living with her was...
I've vacillated on where to lay the blame.
I used to think she was completely irrational, less of a caretaker than an erratic force of nature that I had to learn to navigate around.
Later, I suspected I was too young and foolish to understand her.
After all, she knew what was going on, or some of it, so she wasn't the childish drunk I took her for.
But she wasn't completely in control of herself or her habits, and that instability bled through into my life as well.
I'm sure she didn't mean to be a bad parent, but children aren't a good mixer, and effusive gift-giving doesn't make up for a life of confusion and uncertainty.
It wasn't easy, growing up like that.
Trying to be the adult to your own wayward parent.
I imagine it's the reason for... a lot of things about me.

[Panel description: The Courtyard Droll, now facing away from Roxy, begins making his way back across the panel.]

ROSE: I've moved past resenting her, but I didn't learn the lessons I should have.
A better way to honor her memory would have been refusing to start.
I've resolved to stop but...
That's easier said than done.
ROXY: word.
I fell off the wagon yesterday
fuckin tricksters.
shakes fist at all wacky candy magic.
ROSE: The last year has been a montage of me toppling off the same wagon.
I'm not sure I ever really got on.
Maybe I ricocheted off the edge a few times.
ROXY: damn horses are running too fast.
if this is in fact a horse drawn wagon.
ROSE: Why not?
It's nice to imagine our difficulties being due to the whims of some spiteful equines.
Oh, by the way.

[Panel description: Roxy now stands alone on the walkway.]

ROSE: You might want to stay more aware of your surroundings.
ROXY: what do you mean.
wait.

[Panel description: Roxy turns to look in the direction the Courtyard Droll left. Her facial expression changes to one of dismay.]

ROXY: w t f.
some jackass stole my bling that is SO not cool plus embarrassing.
got schooled in being a sneaky thief when I’m a rogue which is kinda the same thing??
except with more robin hood action I think.
damn.
guess I won’t be bringing anyone else back to life.
that list only had one person on it anyway.
necromancy isn’t really my thing.
don’t wanna mess with the DARK FORCES,
even if by definition all my forces are dark?
ROSE: I've seen darker.
And while I sense necromantic forces may in fact be at work in our session, you are not the culprit.
ROXY: really?
guess there sure are a lot of skeletons walking around but that’s a daily thing.
ROSE: Maybe.
I'm sure my suspicions will be verified or debunked at a later time, at some crucial moment where we look back at this conversation and say "Of course!" while clapping ourselves on the foreheads in a show of comic dismay.
That's how these things usually work.
Meanwhile, I'll search for information to save your friend.
And keep your eyes open.
There are still other forces at large in this session.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jake sits on a red stone arch on the land of mounds and xenon. His phone lies by his side, and he's wearing headphones. A speech bubble with two musical eighth notes hovers above his head. Erisol sprite floats to his right.]

JAKE: Sigh.
ERISOL SPRITE: oh my god are we really doin this bullshit again.

[Panel description: Jake lies on his stomach with his legs up in the air. He holds one ear bud in, while the other lies on the stone. He is frowning with his eyebrows drawn.]

ERISOL SPRITE: you’re like some kind of awful Byronic hero who walks around and sighs till people pity your ass enough to ask you what’s wrong,
before unleashin your torrent of bullshit upon those unfortunate souls.
unfortunate souls like me.
JAKE: I’m sorry Mr. erisol sprite. I was out here thinking and I needed someone to talk to who’s a little more outside this whole mess.
ERISOL SPRITE: then what about the new kids you spent so much time eagerly awaitin while sitting in the grass sighing and moping and taking absolutely none of the advice you asked for.
or you know,
literally anyone else.
anyone who isn't me.
JAKE: Er...well I know for a fact that john would rather not be bothered by all this hootenanny judging by how fast he absconded when Jane and I were threatening to have a discussion about it.
And dirks and Roxy’s relations surely don’t know us well enough to weigh in on the whole mess.
And jade... jade is also busy!!
Besides! I needed to speak to you on a player-to-guide basis anyhow!
ERISOL SPRITE: are you going to ask me for more interpersonal advice that you will then willfully ignore.
or ask me to go fetch you some actual fuckin pants.
JAKE: NO! I need to know the fastest way down to my denizen so I can go and get this malarkey over with. These stupid shorts can wait!
ERISOL SPRITE: if you say so.
it’s at the bottom of the xenon canyon.
obviously.

[Panel description: The screen of Jake's phone shows a track from the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade soundtrack, titled 11: canyon of the crescent moon.]

ERISOL SPRITE: gee.
if a planets denizen resides at the core of the planet,
I WONDER what the fastest way to get down there is.
is your skull plate that dense?
x marks the fuckin spot pal.
JAKE: But isn’t the gas there poisonous like on LOTAK?
ERISOL SPRITE: yes.
JAKE: Ah.
I had suspected.
And on a scale of 1 to 10 how treacherous can I expect the journey to be?
ERISOL SPRITE: 11.

[Panel description: The track changes to 12: the penitent man will pass.]

ERISOL SPRITE: with any luck you’ll die,
horribly.
JAKE: Hey!
You know erisol I tried to think your sour attitude was just an odd troll sense of humor but that’s just cruel!
I suspect you’re not trying to be funny at all. You’re just a royal douche prince.
ERISOL SPRITE: ding ding ding.
give him a prize.
though given the company you keep I’m not surprised it took you awhile.
JAKE: I was TRYING to be nice! And culturally sensitive! For all I know most trolls act that way!
ERISOL SPRITE: not really.
both sides of me are just an asshole.

[Panel description: The track returns to number 11.]

JAKE: Sigh.
Okay okay…
We’ve all got our roles to play and I suppose being the weak link of the group is just mine right?
It could always be worse. At least I’m not a weak link whose mythical destiny is proving myself by defeating lord English.
At least,
I don’t THINK it is?
I’m aware of what Ms. serket said but I think I’m well within my right to doubt her judgment after alls said and done.
I hope it was all just her megalomaniacal raving at any rate.
ERISOL SPRITE: you’d probably get fuckin wrecked.
JAKE: I will deal with that if and when we come to it erisol!
Right now it’s just…
One step at a time.
One more adventure.
I can do this!!
ERISOL SPRITE: are you done with the weak ass self pep talk.
because it’s kind of embarrassing to listen to.
JAKE: Mr. erisol sprite can I ask you something?
ERISOL SPRITE: no but I bet you’re goin to ask anyway.

[Panel description: The track changes to a song from the Evangelion soundtrack.]

[Panel description: Jake lifts his phone and frowns at it. Erisol sprite watches from over his shoulder.]

ERISOL SPRITE: it’s obviously some quasi metaphysical foreboding instinct coded into me by skaia as part of my role as your spirit guide.
or just the result of you being so fuckin predictable.
JAKE: (Weird. I don’t remember this track being on here…)
Look at you putting that repository of quasi-omniscient sprite knowledge to use!
Could you perhaps use that knowledge to give me a little help on what exactly I’m supposed to... do?
ERISOL SPRITE: it’s some pseudo-symbolic obstacle course bullshit zigzagging the bottom of the canyon on this miserable planet.
plus the enormous worm monster.
I don’t really know and I don’t really care.
it wasn’t my denizen.
JAKE: Oh.
Oh who am I kidding?
I probably can’t do this.
Maybe I am just a spineless worm of a man after all.
Look at me! I can’t even tell Jane how bad she made me feel when she’s right in front of me asking me to do so.
And don’t even get me started on apologizing to Dirk.
OR joining Roxy in the exultations over meeting our relations!
I know everyone needs to play their part in the game for us to succeed but...
Certainly if I go confront a giant snake monster I’m just going to embarrass myself at best.
Or at worst die. Horribly.

[Panel description: Erisol sprite leans his head back and groans.]

JAKE: Actually all things considered maybe just dying wouldn’t be so awful.
At least then I’d be less of a disappointment. Maybe they’d even pity me enough to retrieve my body and give me a nice funeral.
If that happens Mr. erisol tell them to just chuck me into the volcano on jades planet! It’s a memorable enough way to go and it’s a little like how I laid my grandmother to rest.
We’ll call it family tradition!
But hell more than likely I’ll survive to make an embarrassment out of myself yet again and then run into the woods to live among the tortoises in eternal shame as an exiled wild man or something!
Which is what I was doing before come to think of it.
ERISOL SPRITE: Jesus Christ I can’t take this shit any longer!!

[Panel description: Erisol sprite points a finger aggressively at Jake while flashing with yellow lightning.]

ERISOL SPRITE: you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy asshole?
did you ever consider that if you got off your ass and did something maybe you could have avoided some of this?
you’re always asking and asking but you never DO anything with what people tell you you should do!
your entire pathetic teen drama session just keeps paddling around in circles in the fuckin kiddie pool and watching it with your awful existence keeping me tied to this wretched earth is so frustrating that it makes me want to...
To...

[Panel description: Erisol flexes his arms as his body continues to flash with lightning.]

ERISOL SPRITE: [A series of long, drawn-out screams. These trail off into:] Nope.

[Panel description: Erisol slumps with a frown. Jake watches him uncomfortably.]

ERISOL SPRITE: ugh.
never mind.
I still don’t care.
JAKE: You know...
If it makes you feel any better I think your friends are here?
There’s the nubby-horned one that shouts a lot and the pointy-horned one that sniffs people...
ERISOL SPRITE: WHAT.
T Z and K K??
they’re here too??
JAKE: Um. Yes?
ERISOL SPRITE: what about kanaya.
the undead bloodsucker probably wouldn’t hold back from choppin me in half again.
JAKE: I think so…?
I mean we were never formally introduced so I’m unsure of whom you’re speaking.

[Panel description: Erisol presses both hands to his head and screams. He is vibrating back and forth, and even more lightning flickers around him.]

ERISOL SPRITE: shit!!
I can’t let them see me with this sea-dwelling nook sniffer!!
hey! I’m not overjoyed with this turn of events either!
speak for yourself you bastard!!
that’s it.
I am endin this sham of an existence right here and now!

[Panel description: Erisol pauses, the lightning vanishing, and looks at Jake.]

ERISOL SPRITE: good fuckin luck human.
I won’t miss you or your asshole friends.

[Panel description: Erisol explodes in a green edged white cloud, which is labeled ‘the sweet embrace of death’. Jake rears back, alarmed.]

[Panel description: Jake looks blankly toward the viewer.]

[Panel description: Eridan's silhouette stands behind a column and looks through an opening onto a black and white landscape filled with cathedrals.]

[Panel description: He peers around the edge of the column, holdings a rifle in both hands. His eyes are yellow and wary.]

[Panel description: Vriska waves from the deck of a wooden sailing ship.]

[Panel description: Eridan, fully out in the open, looks at her, baffled. Then his appearance blurs and shifts, and his eyes become the flat white of a ghost’s.]

VRISKA: Ahoy there! (smiling face).
ERIDAN: what in the wide world
are you doin on a ship again.

[Panel description: Vriska struts down the gangplank toward Eridan.]

ERIDAN: back to our old commandeering ways are we?
is this some kinda dig at our old flarpin days.
because I’ve grown out of that thank you very much.
VRISKA: Nope!
This is a fresh start for me. I'm turning over a new leaf.
You're looking at someone who is officially one of the good guys!
ERIDAN: and what exactly inspired you to make this sudden change?
cause from a certain mustard blood with one foot in the bubbles,
I heard dyin sure didn’t do the trick.
VRISKA: That's none of your business!
The past is in the past and the only thing we can do is move forward.
In whatever bullshit circuitous temporally random way that counts as moving forward here.

[Panel description: Vriska waves at a random ghost. Behind her, Eridan slouches while Sollux squints at him from the edge of the panel. He is only wearing one eye patch now, and the exposed eye is a blank white.]

VRISKA: Besides, I don't think you're one to talk.
I only killed the one guy.
You took out two and made a good try on a third before Kanaya got you.
So if we're crunching the numbers here, I'm way more solidly on the side of the heroes.
SOLLUX: don’t forget all those ghosts you helped slaughter.
and all the trolls you fed to your lusus.
and A A.
and probably people I don’t know about.
VRISKA: Pish, who's keeping track?
Anyway, who knows! Maybe being here with us will bring about some kind of personal revelation for you too!
Then you can also redeem yourself for your horrible, horrible misdeeds.
And besides, we're not running a commandeering operation here.
Or anything remotely piratical, despite the cool ship.
I'm afraid that would be way too morally gray for the boss's delicate taste.
ERIDAN: what? then what DO you do?
and who’s in charge of this here shindig that YOU of all people are taking their lead.
VRISKA: I'll have you know that I am not taking orders, and there isn't anyone "in charge".
At least, those are the orders.
We don't have an official leader or any chain of command.
(Because if we did, I'd be a captain. At least.)
(You think most ghosts wash up here with as much experience as I did? Give me a break.)
But I can take you to the one who organized this.
He's always happy to greet new recruits personally.
It's kind of nauseating to be honest.
He's so sincere about it.

[Panel description: Vriska and Eridan stand in a doorway looking into a room where Tavros sits looking at a map of the shattered furthest ring.]

ERIDAN: oh you’re fuckin kidding me.
TAVROS: hi eridan. (smiling face).
its good to see you again!

[Panel description: Tavros waves. A God Tier Rose ghost stands next to him.]

TAVROS: well, one of you anyway.
we get a lot of alt selves on this ship.
but I think you’re the one from our timeline, personally?
ERIDAN: taking in the doomed doubles huh.
I’m not surprised that such a low blood rallies with the riffraff.
TAVROS: they aren’t riff raff, eridan,
and I don’t appreciate your hemophobic remarks!
that sort of speech isn’t tolerated here, if you’re going to be a member of our coalition.
doomed or not,
high blood or not,
or alternian or not!
each one of these people did something important, even if it was just trying out a path that didn’t work.
all of our selves are important and special.
ERIDAN: yeah yeah whatever helps you ass bloods feel better about your sorry selves.
are we gonna hold hands and sing a song and pretend we didn’t all wash up in the gutter.
TAVROS: Eridan!
VRISKA: Can it, Ampora. I'm five minutes from giving you a good old fashioned Serket beat down.
If you keep it up, he's going to start another sensitivity pep talk.
I already hear them like eight times a day!
Besides, we're all in the gutter now!
Might as well get over it!
TAVROS: vriska, its fine,
you know who to have him talk to, right?
VRISKA: Oh wow, what bad thing did someone do to get newbie duty?
TAVROS: everyone is important and special.
and, well, we have a few people who are just good at making people understand that.
it’s not a punishment to help lost souls find their true potential.
VRISKA: Right, of course!

[Panel description: Vriska jerks her hand behind her, sticking out her tongue. Eridan frowns.]

VRISKA: (Ugh, gag me.)
ERIDAN: (way ahead of you.)
VRISKA: I'm gonna go check up on the deck! You guys can handle Ampora, right?

[Panel description: Eridan follows Vriska when she leaves the room.]

ERIDAN: wait.
don’t leave me alone with these dweebs!
VRISKA: These dweebs are your friend leaders now! Deal with it!

[Panel description: Eridan pulls up short as he almost runs into Feferi, who looks at him with surprise. Sollux leans in from the edge of the panel again threateningly.]

[Panel description: Eridan’s eyebrows rise.]

ERIDAN: Feff??

[Panel description: Feferi also looks surprised.]

FEFERI: Eridan?

[Panel description: Eridan smiles.]

ERIDAN: Feff.

[Panel description: Feferi does not look impressed.]

FEFERI: Eridan.

[Panel description: Eridan's eyebrows draw together.]

ERIDAN: Feff...

[Panel description: Feferi puts her hands on her hips and scowls.]

FEFERI: Eridan!

[Panel description: Eridan frowns, pressing his hands together nervously.]

ERIDAN: Feff?

[Panel description: Nepeta appears between them with her head at waist level, the tips of her claws just visible at the bottom of the panel. Feferi looks down at her with a smile, while Equius lurks behind them. On the other side of Nepeta, Eridan backs away. Behind him, Vriska leans in to look at the situation.]

NEPETA: (double smiling face). A C leaps into the fray and asks if she needs to claw a meowtherfucker.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jake stares blankly toward the viewer. This is a repeat of the last panel he appeared in.]

[Panel description: Jake holds his phone in one hand and looks down at it.]

[Panel description: The phone's screen registers that it is 11:11. The lock screen Caliborn drew for Jake is visible. Then the screen changes to an image of the Pesterchum app. A speech bubble with Jade's atom symbol appears and hovers above the phone. The word Unlock is written next to it.]

[Panel description: Jake looks down at his phone, where the speech bubble continues to hover. Then, Jade appears next to him in a flash of green light. Jake looks over at her.]

JAKE: Oh. Jade!
It’s uh. It’s good to see you alive.
JADE: yes, I am glad to be alive too!
and I am glad to see that you are ok now.
no more teams or mind control or any of that.
just us winning the game together. (smiling face).
JAKE: Yes. Teamwork! Whoo hoo!
Group teamwork!
Whatever this is!
Either way I guess I’m all for it?
JADE: good.
that is the enthusiasm I remember from all your letters.
whenever I got one of your notes it brightened my day.
you had such a positive outlook on things it made me feel better about everything too.
that’s something we can all use right now.
JAKE: Oh... well I’m glad you think that of me.
I’ll be honest a lot of that was bluster and bravado on my part. I had no idea what all... this. Was really going to involve.
I don’t think you’d think that way of me if you could see how I’ve been since my last letter.
JADE: I didn’t see a lot of this coming either...
skaia was a lot more sparing with what it showed me than I’d imagined.
it has been hard and sad and frustrating.
but I’m still glad I met my friends.
and I’m still glad I got to meet you!
in person anyway.
we never knew each other perfectly through our letters and it has been a long time since your last one.
I’m not surprised that you feel different.
but we have time to talk right now!
JAKE: Do we? I don’t want to hold you up.
We seem to have very important things to do! Much more important than talking to lil old me.
JADE: I’m not in too much of a rush... I already did a lot of my planet quest, and karkat and kanaya are picking up where I left off.
I do have something to do, but I’m not in a hurry.
it’s a little intimidating. (concerned face).
or. (concerned face with dog ears).
so first I want to catch up.
it has been three years since I have heard anything from you.
back then I wasn’t sure exactly who you were,
and I don’t think you were sure who I was either.
but now we know and now we are here and now we can talk face to face,
finally!!
JAKE: I sure wasn’t. I thought you were my grandma growing up on my island as a chitlin!
Which seems silly now considering everything but I was fuzzy on the details and well...
I sort of liked that explanation.
Anyhow now I’m still a bit fuzzy on the details. Of everything.
I’ve had the entire situation explained to me countless times but this whole doomed timeline shenanigans just threw a whole new wrinkle onto things and its making my head spin!
JADE: he he I’ve had three years to get the hang of it.
and john’s nanna told me some things about what it was like to grow up with my grandpa, even if I knew by then that you weren’t him,
so I got a little bit of a head start on this reunion.
it must be a lot more sudden for you.
JAKE: I don’t know it’s like everyone around me somehow has knowledge of the entire situation but...
I don’t know. Timeline shenanigans has always been such a quagmire to me.
Suddenly alternate universes and split timelines and god damn it it was simple when it was just dirk and Roxy being from the future!!
Them in the future, you in the past. Easy!
JADE: I didn’t have any friends from the future. (surprised face).
until Dave started time travelling and things got complicated anyway.
but you were my friend from an alternate universe!
and I was yours,
so I guess in that way we were used to all this timeline and universe silliness without even knowing it,
which must mean we are secret geniuses.
JAKE: Maybe... maybe I was used to it without even knowing it? I did believe our friends were far off temporally a lot quicker than Jane did.
Then again she’s the super sleuth skeptic and I’m... well. Me.
Leaping off the turnip truck headfirst into whatever jackknife strikes my fancy. Or something.
JADE: see that’s a big advantage right there.
this game is so surprising in so many ways being open to possibilities helps.
JAKE: That is certainly what I was...
JADE: I remember john always tried to trip me up when I was sharing information I’d seen in the clouds.
he was so suspicious because he didn’t understand that I was only seeing things that he could see too if he just woke up!!!
JAKE: Yes! And that sounds exactly like Jane!!
JADE: it is nice when people believe in you.
I bet your friends appreciate that about you.
JAKE: Eh.
Well perhaps previously yes.
Now however...
JADE: (double question marks).
JAKE: Oh it’s a very long and sad story.
There was a debacle and now I’m sure they’d rather not speak to me.

[Panel description: Jake steeples his fingers, looking off to the side. Jade puts her hands to her hips and raises one eyebrow. Her ears are angled back.]

JADE: did you ask them that?
JAKE: Its- I don’t know it’s more implied??
JADE: Jake.
Jake certainly I must have taught you better than this!
JAKE: But two of the three have yelled at me and then they’re over there talking about me while they were dealing with the condesce...
JADE: if you start assuming things about your friends you might assume something wrong,
especially if you jump to the worst conclusions.
have you TRIED talking to them??
JAKE: Uh.
JADE: grandpa!
JAKE: Grandma!!
JADE: you used to talk to stuffed dolls I think you can talk to your friends!!!
they are alive and can talk back and everything, that should be a lot easier.
JAKE: I did what?
JADE: um,
yes.
you used to have tea parties with these,
blue stuffed women?
JAKE: Blue stuffed women?
TEA parties??
JADE: it was a little unsettling actually, but I assumed you were lonely and needed the company.
I probably wasn’t any good for conversation when I was a baby.
JAKE: Hm.
JADE: your creepy doll collection is not the point here,
and for the moment we will table this silly idea about not talking to your friends.
you are supposed to be telling your story!!!
come on I have not had letters from you in years.
I deserve some sort of update.
JAKE: Okay okay.
Sorry it’s difficult to tell.
But the basic set up is that it’s the four of us right? I’m out here on my desert island, Roxy and dirk are alone in the future because the condesce went and offed humanity, and Jane was none the wiser to... most of it.
She knew I lived out in the pacific but probably had her rightful doubts about the more fantastical elements of the whole ordeal.
What was NOT fantastical was the situation that emerged from a bunch of up and coming hot-blooded youngsters!!
Now without getting too personal owing to the predilections and preferences of involved parties...
I was the only viable romantic candidate they foresaw.
And then DISASTER struck.
JADE: (surprised face).
JAKE: The day we entered the game everything came to a head!
Quite literally at one point but I’ll get to that.
I finally had non ironic confirmation that my best buddy dirk strider, a most standup gent, was indeed into me in the like-like sense.
So here I am pondering about confronting him about it when all of a sudden Jane messages me with something important to talk about!
And to make a long story short through some extraordinarily fantastical jumping through verbal hoops I asked her if she was perhaps interested in me as more than a friend as well as I’d gotten inklings of it from her.
She said no.
But in very suspicious proceeding context that I realized much too late did not make it an honest "no".
So under that climate I asked her about dirk like the big buffoon I am and she gave me a full steam ahead!
Again in less than honest wording that I didn’t see at the time.
And then everybody died.
JADE: (triple exclamation points).
JAKE: Yes it’s a very confusing and upsetting story but it gets worse if you can believe it!
JADE: oh no!
JAKE: Yes. (sad face).
So I in my naiveté decided that I’d be punching my ticket at the strider station so to speak!
And then we started up the game. Jane made it in a-okay but I guess something went wrong...
There were these evil red licorice tentacles that I guess started tearing up the place both in the game and in the future?? Somehow??
JADE: the red miles.
I was on prospit when they attacked it.
it was so sad. (sad face).
JAKE: And then Jane and Roxy died??
So dirk ever being the man with the plan,
Decides for SOME godforsaken reason to chop off his own head and send it to me to facilitate some plan to corpse smooch everybody back to life!! Which of course involved me puckering up as well.
JADE: ...
wow.
JAKE: Yes.
That sort of set the tone for the whole relationship come to think of it.
Oh and he had this robot thing called an auto responder who now calls himself Hal who kept yelling at me to kiss the stupid head when I just wanted answers about what happened and why everyone was dead and WHY me kissing the stupid head would magically make everything ok!!
I understand NOW that we were pressed for time but getting these vague answers from him when it was all going down,
As per his usual modus operandi I might add,
Was just infuriating!!!
I mean I like skulls yes! But not in that way.
JADE: dirk sure sounds like an
interesting guy.
JAKE: He’s very interesting yes!
JADE: maybe I should talk to him.
although I am not sure he will want to, considering I punched him.
JAKE: You did what.
JADE: it was when I was evil!!!
I was not in control of myself.
sort of.
JAKE: Oh! Well he’s a smart guy I’m sure he’ll understand.
JADE: I hope so...

[Panel description: Jade makes a fist and punches her open hand.]

JADE: although I will have more punches on the ready if he messes with my grandfather son!!
JAKE: No no that’s quite unnecessary!
You don’t need to go getting involved in my messes grandma.
I mean jade.
JADE: yes I do!
we are family and family is supposed to get involved.
even if they are annoying and embarrassing while doing so. (sticks out tongue).
JAKE: Huh.
Really?
JADE: yes!!!!
that is what family and friends are for.
for watching out for each other and keeping each other safe and everything else.
good families anyway.
I liked to think about having a family that did that.
JAKE: Oh. Well I suppose grandma did that... just not for a long while.
I guess we both lost our families young.
JADE: oh no... did something happen to your me too?
JAKE: Yes. (sad face).
JADE: I’m sorry.
it’s no fun growing up by yourself, is it?
JAKE: No... no its not.
JADE: now we have a chance to make a new family,
a good family!
and no one has to get left out or die this time,
I hope.
JAKE: I’ll try.
But be ready for me to muck it up!
I’m not so good in the people department I will warn you now.
Did I tell you our botched romantic tale actually gets WORSE?
JADE: well…
did you get so mad you kicked someone’s best friend off a cliff and had someone stabbed??
because otherwise I think I win in the bad at people department.
JAKE: Uh.
No but I was the one getting kicked off the cliff and stabbed.
Not fun. (sad face).
JADE: see when you had your will stolen all you did was believe in your friends even harder.
whereas I,
did not.
(uncomfortable face).
JAKE: Ehhhh... about that "believing in people thing"...
I don’t think I’m as good at it as my words led people to believe.
JADE: I am sure you are being too harsh on yourself.
finish telling me your story, and I will be the judge of that.
JAKE: It got worse!!
So I kissed the stupid bloody head (which was totally gross by the way) and then out of nowhere pops the entire gang in silly pajamas from behind a rock!
Because apparently that was the plan the whole time?
THEN we actually entered the game.
Then dirk and I... well. We started going steady!! Sort of.
It was a lot of questing and fighting monsters together and I don’t know in films I think couples do that sometimes? But with more kissing.
At least when there wasn't poisonous gas everywhere!
JADE: (distressed face).
poisonous gas???
JAKE: Uh.
How did dirk explain it...?
It’s not poisonous by itself there’s just no oxygen where it is? Because of molecules or something.
Atoms!! Chemistry!! Science!
I don’t know he’s a super genius who makes super genius robots.
JADE: that makes sense!
you need oxygen to breathe and so if another gas crowds it out you can’t breathe anymore,
so you will suffocate even if the gas itself is not particularly deadly.
like how you can drown even though water is a good thing.
JAKE: Yes exactly!
So we had to wear the gas masks!
JADE: that’s good.
although I don’t know how much I trust things we alchemize.
sometimes all the details aren’t quite right...
JAKE: It was mostly on dirks planet though.
On mine there was just the big xenon canyon where it all collected.
JADE: oh yes xenon is heavy so it should sink down and stay out of your way.
JAKE: But that’s where I need to go now!! (sad face).
JADE: hmmm.
well I guess your gas mask is better than nothing, even if I am not sure it is top quality.
is the xenon inert?
JAKE: In-what?
JADE: usually it should be invisible, but you know it’s there somehow.
noble gasses you usually can’t see or smell or anything,
so how did you know?
JAKE: It glows!
JADE: that means it’s electrified,
like how they make neon signs glow.
JAKE: Uh huh.
That sounds bad.
JADE: you should be very careful if you go down there.
as your grandmother I am not sure I can advise it.
JAKE: I know...
I don’t know if I want to.
But I have to right? So we can win and get out of this awful awful game!
JADE: sometimes our quests can be scary or even seem impossible,
but I think that skaia usually doesn’t give us anything we can’t do.
I thought what echidna told me to do was impossible, but when the time was right I knew how to do it.
so if you have to do this then there must be a way.
but that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe...
you can still get hurt if you are not cautious.
it is up to you whether you go down there,
but if you do take care!
JAKE: Cautious isn’t something I’m good at though!
Do you know how many traps I’ve nearly set off?
JADE: you have made it this far after living on an island full of monsters.
you must have been doing SOMETHING right.
JAKE: That was mostly me staying inside or letting a butt kicking robot fight them off!
Also dirk makes butt kicking robots.
JADE: right,
you mentioned the robots.
you made me a robot once!
anyway I got blown up by shaving cream.
that was really embarrassing.
so sometimes things happen and you look silly, but you keep going!
I am sure that if you keep going you will do great, no matter what you choose to do,
because you did in my world.
JAKE: I certainly have had my fair share of looking silly.
Like turning trickster and trying to get all your friends married.
THAT was embarrassing.
And a thing that happened.
JADE: married?
aren’t you a bit young for that?
JAKE: Yes.
Yes we are.
But when you’re a trickster suddenly EVERYTHING is sugar and love and...
I don’t know but it makes my head hurt.
JADE: I don’t know what a trickster is, but it sounds like I do not want to know.
I mean I have nothing against sugar and love, but the way you say it it sounds like something bad.
JAKE: Picture a screaming peach-skinned candy lunatic shouting her love for you before kicking you off a cliff family jewels first.
That sounds silly but it was actually horrifying.
She...
She was just so...
PEACHY.
JADE: yikes.
we sure missed a lot.
JAKE: Yes.
Tricksters!! Agree to crazy marriage schemes and make people they care about feel terrible!!
So if you see any suspicious lollipops lying around...
Just say no.
JADE: I will remember.
but we are getting diverted.
I am sorry.
I keep telling you to tell your story and then I say something.
I’m just so excited to get to talk to you face to face instead of waiting for a letter to arrive.
but tell the rest of your story now.
I promise I will shut up!! (zipped lips face).
JAKE: No no its okay!! It’s sort of nice to have someone to talk to like this!
And it’s difficult to tell the next parts because it happened so recently...
Ugh. I should stop pussyfooting around and get to the point.
So come around to yesterday... is it still yesterday? God it feels like it’s gone on forever.
JADE: he he I know what you mean.
it has been a long day.
whoops!
(double zipped lips face).
JAKE: Ha-ha.
I’ve got trouble on the romantic waters so I go to Jane like I’ve been doing for the past few months.
Mistake number one!! As I hadn’t yet figured out my blunder from months earlier.
Not until she snapped at me while I was blabbering about dirk which in hindsight I probably earned...
At which point I realized my earlier misconstruation!!
And promptly attributed it to her being into DIRK instead of you know.
The obvious answer.
I guess you could call that mistake number 1.5?
Also mistake zero which has to do with the whole dirk issue but oh goodness gracious this is such a mess.
So she signs off in a fit of rage and it’s at that point I realize I’ve also forgotten it’s her birthday tomorrow.
So now I’m unsure of what to do on the Jane AND the dirk fronts and then to make matters worse Roxy up and vanishes!
And our friend calliope hasn’t answered us in months and her brother isn’t interested at all in any of this.
So here I am sitting on a cliff feeling sorry for myself when out of the blue...
Shudder.
Something peachy this way comes.

[Panel description: Jake presses both hands to his head, biting his lower lip. A red and green spiral swirls around him, and the trickster faces of Jake, Jane, and Roxy wiggle back and forth around his head. Trickster Dirk's head bobs listlessly in the bottom right corner of the panel.]

JAKE: She’d somehow acquired the aforementioned perditious lollipop which had turned her into a horrifying candied visage!
And like a bat out of pastel hell she floats down, declares her undying love for me, and punts me off a cliff!
JADE: that is
not how I would declare my love for anyone.
it seems like a mixed signal.
JAKE: I know.
But I’m not processing that at the time because before I know it I am also one of the sugar fiends.
Just as peachy! Just as shrill! With LEDERHOSEN!
Like a zombie virus except it also makes you agree to crazy marriage proposals and then hit your friends over the head with a pumpkin so THEY turn trickster too!
So before long all of us are tricksters and were closing in on dirk who is trying to talk us down.
But to no avail.

[Panel description: Jade stares blankly.]

JAKE: Soon he is one of us. But it doesn’t work as intended! Somehow he’s just as peachy keen as the rest of us but in hue only without the added madness. He was totally lucid while the rest of us were hollering.
So I’m all excited and saying how great it is that he can join our polyamorous escapades and I guess how I’d...
Not been in the best touch with him...
Well it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
JADE: I see...
what happened?
I am trying to keep my lips zipped now but it is hard!
JAKE: Well for one he broke it off with me but in the process brought down a lot of things that hurt but that I probably needed to hear.
Yanking my head out of my rear and all.
JADE: I am sorry to hear that.
unless I guess you wanted to break it off?
I don’t know Jake it sounds like this has all been pretty crazy!
maybe you should declare a time out.
JAKE: Putting a pin in it was a thought I DEFINITELY had but I never got around to deciding if I really wanted to or not!!
It seemed like it would be a lot easier than trying to talk to him and fix things but at the same time... I didn’t want to hurt him and I didn’t know what in sam hill he’d do no matter what option I went with. And the whole trickster thing happened before I made up my mind so in a way I hurt him despite my best intentions.
I could’ve stopped the whole situation from snowballing if I’d just spoken to him but I didn’t.
And now... I don’t know if he even wants to look at me.

[Panel description: Jake slumps downward, tears gathering at the corner of his right eye.]

[Panel description: Jade reaches out and puts a hand on Jake's back, smiling gently. He looks up, the tears still visible.]

JADE: with everyone going after you like that I can understand how it would be confusing,
because you might be afraid that it would get other people’s hopes up or send some kind of message when really you don’t want to send any messages.
you just want to figure out what makes you happy and do that.
which sometimes is hard to decide.
JAKE: It is. (sad face).
JADE: maybe it would be best if you declared yourself off limits for a while until you got that figured out,
and I will stand by ready to punch as necessary!
but I am sure he would like to see you.
even if he broke up with you that does not mean you are not still friends!!!
at least you should ask him.
JAKE: Maybe...
JADE: maybe he is just as scared to talk to you as you are.
JAKE: You think?
He’s dirk effing strider as far as I know he’s not afraid of anything!
JADE: he might be.
this all sounds like a scary set of circumstances.
JAKE: So much of this game is plum terrifying!! People especially!
I thought I was so ready for this adventure but I wasn’t.
Now I just want to go home...
JADE: I understand.
after spending so much time alone I was so excited to meet my friends,
but it was a lot more complicated being there face to face,
because they’re different and you come across different and you don’t know what to say.
it’s all happening so fast and you aren’t behind a computer screen anymore.
but I still know I would rather have all that happening then be alone again...
I think no matter how much you want to be back home, what you really miss is going back to things being simple and not scary,
and not that you really want to lose everyone.
JAKE: Yes!! Yes exactly!!
I don’t want to lose anyone!
I don’t even know how to approach being a good friend let alone a good boyfriend.
But even so I’m tired of having people upset and angry with me and because of me and also dying!! The dying part is really terrible!
JADE: it is not my favorite either.
if you do not want to lose people, you need to make sure they know that!
which means,
I am afraid,
you are going to have to talk to them.
JAKE: Oh no.
JADE: but considering we have both died a few times really that should not be the most terrible thing to happen today.
JAKE: Maybe...
As I understand it we got lucky last time.
JADE: very lucky.
I guess john messing around paid off!
I always knew he could save the world if he wanted to.
JAKE: Sure has! (Whatever he’s doing!)
JADE: Jake you are preparing to dive into a pit of deadly electrified gas.
I think if you can do that and you can walk around in those underpants you can have a conversation.
and afterwards if you want I will be here to talk about it.
you will not even have to write it down.
JAKE: ...sniffle.

[Panel description: Jake wipes his face with one arm. Jade pulls back her hands, her ears angling back again. Her mouth opens in distress.]

JAKE: CLAMP DOWN ON THAT WIBBLING BOY!!
Sorry that speech had me rather choked up.
JADE: but before you go, there’s something else I need to say.
otherwise I am going to keep feeling guilty about it.
I don’t know if you could hear me after whatever aranea did to you, but I said some things that weren’t kind,
and they weren’t fair.
I said you weren’t as smart as me.
then I got my planet smashed up, which goes to show just how clever I really am.
you’re not stupid Jake.
in my world you were a billionaire and an explorer and an inventor and lots of other things.
you did that alone, without any hopey magic or friends to back you up.
so with all that imagine what you could do.
you can be anything you want to be.
don’t let anything anyone says make you think otherwise,
including me.
JAKE: ...wibbling anyway.

[Panel description: Jake closes his eyes, tears running down his face. Jade puts her hands to her mouth, upset.]

JADE: oh no I didn’t mean to make you cry!!!
(distressed face).
JAKE: Sniffle! Sorry I’m trying!
It’s been... kind of a rough day.
I know I look like a big fat weenie.
JADE: it has been a VERY rough day.
I mean you have already been put in jail!! even if it was not on any sort of legal authority.
it is perfectly reasonable for you to cry.
I know I used to think that it made me look weak and I didn’t like it, but that only led to more problems down the road.
JAKE: Really??
In all my films the strong ones never shed a tear!
Well unless they were maybe REALLY distraught by a tragic death of their lover or something.
JADE: I thought I should always be in control of everything so that I could be useful.
crying took up time and meant you weren’t helping other people,
but sometimes you have to help yourself.
or as I have already mentioned and demonstrated to several people you turn into an evil werewolf and threaten to eat organs.
obviously we can all agree that a little bit of crying probably would have been better than that.
JAKE: You threatened to eat people’s organs??
Good heavens grandma!!
JADE: um,
yes.
but I didn’t mean it!!!
unlike many of the others I had no hard feelings against Roxy.
I was only trying to scare her.
she didn’t buy it anyway.
in fact she 'laughed her ass off' while in my custody.
JAKE: That’s our Roxy for you I guess.
Tough as nails!!
JADE: indeed she is.
JAKE: Good gracious even the ladies of my outfit are rough and tumble. Makes me feel...
I dunno.
Like I should be able to take a few more punches or something.
JADE: I think you have taken quite enough punches for the day.
JAKE: That one to the solar plexus really did smart...
JADE: how about the villains take a turn for a change?
that arrangement sounds good to me.
JAKE: You know I think I can agree with that.¬ Though I don’t know how much help I’ll be.
I’ll need weaponry first!
JADE: oh yes.
never leave your house without several kinds of weaponry and at least five computers right?
JAKE: Of course not I learned from the best!!
JADE: likewise. (smiling face).
JAKE: But sadly it was all either burnt up in magical god tier fire or was confiscated by dastardly villains. (sad face).
Unless we want to go find derses lock up I will need a trip to the alchemiter!
JADE: that sounds like a great idea.
alchemizing is fun, and I have LOTS of grist.
JAKE: We had to be a bit more strict about the grist usage I’m afraid. It was difficult to come by in our session.
Our monsters were tough cookies! Hard to kill. So we mostly did quests to find more grist.
Sometimes we even ground up the stuff in our lands. Jane had this little gadget to help things along.
Perhaps... er... I can give you the code for the gizmo. Or you could speak to Jane for it.
JADE: you guys have an especially strange session I think.
you had to wait for us to get here.
but now we are here and now we are going to win!
JAKE: If you think so...
Now that you’re here I’m sure we can pull it off.
JADE: see??? it is good to believe things.
and now we have to make them true.
and we will.
all of us together! (smiling face).
JAKE: If we’re all together... in some capacity. I guess.
I mean I still have amends to make with the others.
I hope I can find a way to make it up to them!!
JADE: first you have to talk to them,
but I am confident that if you do that they will understand.
I have done much worse things and people are giving me a chance.
if they are willing to forgive me I will try to forgive myself.
certainly I doubt anyone will hold anything against you.
they are your friends.
JAKE: Okay... I think I can do this.
JADE: yes.
JAKE: I’m pretty sure they’ve already gone out to do their respective quests so.
JADE: do your thing and I will do my thing,
and we will all do our things!
JAKE: Yes!! All of the things!!
So as not to distract them... I’ll think of what I want to say in advance.
JADE: that is a good plan.
JAKE: But first I need firearms.
Two good sturdy firearms and a minimum of five computers!!
I have always felt more secure with my guns in hand!
JADE: if you need help, don’t be afraid to let me know or let anyone else know.
I had help with my quest and it was lots of fun!
for a while anyway.
JAKE: For a while?
JADE: yes...
um,
anyway.
lots to do!
JAKE: Oh yes. Loads!!
JADE: I will see you soon. (smiling face).
JAKE: Oh yes. We do have loads more to catch up on!
I still haven’t heard all your stories.
JADE: after this is all over we need to sit down and have a good long talk.
JAKE: YES.
Good heavens how long has it been since I could hold a decent-sized conversation with anyone?
JADE: I know, I feel the same way.
for the last year or so things where I was have been
tense?
but that is going to get better I am sure, and we have a family meeting to have asap!!!
JAKE: Would that be all of us?
JADE: a meeting with all of us would be fun, but I also think we should talk just the two of us.
we will have time for both and more.
we will have time for everything. (smiling face).
JAKE: Goodness me I hope so!
He he.
Hope.
JADE: (sticks out tongue).

[Panel description: Jade and Jake hug.]

[Panel description: Jake walks resolutely toward the left side of the panel. Behind him, Jade waves.]

[Panel description: Jake looks back and raises a hand to wave goodbye.]

[Panel description: Jake turns back toward the viewer and continues to walk away. Jade smiles, eyes closed to indicate happiness.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Rose stands in a room lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves. She is holding a green book with yellowed pages in her hands and looking down at it. Behind her, Dave walks into the room and waves.]

DAVE: what are you up to?
ROSE: Looking through my notes.
Roxy's plan to rescue her cherub friend didn't go as planned.
I'm hoping something I learned on our travels will be useful.
DAVE: any luck.
ROSE: None so far.
I'll know it when I see it.
DAVE: good one.
ROSE: I heard you've been telling tales on me.
DAVE: says who.
ROSE: You.
Your other self confronted me about my drinking habits.
He was very vehement about it.
DAVE: I have my issues with the guy but he’s got a point.
siblings are supposed to look out for each other.
instead I let my sister turn into an alcoholic and was like welp have fun with that.
ROSE: You weren't responsible for my bad choices.
DAVE: I should have said something.
anything.
even hey you’ve made bad choices but check out the huge mistakes I’ve been making.
sorry you only get the silver medal in being a fuckup.
ROSE: Wouldn't that motivate me to go for gold?
DAVE: you’re too ambitious that’s your problem.
ROSE: What makes you outrank me?
I've racked up a fair amount of points in the fuckup department.
My swan dive down the stairs on my first date has got to be a perfect ten.
DAVE: the judges were blown away there I’m not gonna lie.
great form and you stuck the landing.
but my recent accomplishments include punching myself in the face.
beat that.
ROSE: Ah, I was wondering about the black eye.
DAVE: fucking seers.
can’t get anything past you.
ROSE: Just to make sure, this was a blow dealt by your alternate self, right?
Otherwise I may have to agree that the gold is uncontested.
DAVE: yeah we had a disagreement.
ROSE: I'm not surprised. You seem on edge.
DAVE: it’s this not doing anything.
it’s weird.
last session I was doing everything usually at the same time.
robbing nakkodiles killing underlings breeding frogs,
and bailing all our asses out when needed.
but now johns the cosmic cleanup crew.
and good on him he’s doing fine but,
didn’t see that coming.
ROSE: Why not?
DAVE: john’s john.
he’s a standup guy and the closest thing we’ve got to a hero but I always figured I’d be doing the saving in the equation.
you know,
telling him to keep his ass on the ground when he tries to jet off to a meet and greet with his denizen.
that kind of thing.
instead I got skewered by two pissed off pooches and he saved my life.
ROSE: While you were trying to save Jade, no less.
DAVE: yeah.
someone had to get her body back for Jane.
ROSE: They took her to her quest bed, didn't they?
Presumably you could have waited them out and avoided a fight.
DAVE: maybe.
who knows?
people have made the suggestion but hindsight’s 20 20 assuming you haven’t got tinted pieces of shit in front of your face.
I got caught up in the heat of the moment.
if you recall there was a lot going on.
ROSE: Understandable. I made reckless choices of my own, so it's hard for me to criticize you too much without relinquishing my jealously guarded moral high ground.
I only just crawled up here, and I'm not about to let you unseat me.
But do you think you might have a vested interest in saving people?
One that sometimes, if I dare say it, may clash with common sense?
DAVE: what do you mean?
whatever shitty choices I make I think wanting to keep people safe has got to be above board.
as far as I can tell it’s the one thing I’ve done right.
ROSE: Maybe it qualifies as above board.
At least, all your cards are clearly visible.
No heroic impulses hidden up your sleeve, I take it?
But you're beating yourself up for not curing me of my addiction.
Your first response in a crisis was to recover the corpse of the girl you once considered our weakest link.
And John's display of capability seems to have left you at a loss.
Are you feeling threatened?
Maybe the idea that no one needs saving means you no longer know what to do.
DAVE: oh wow this conversation was cruising at Olympic metaphors but it took a sudden skydive and smashed into the outrageous assumptions zone.
I’m calling foul.
ROSE: Do the Olympics have fouls?
At least in whatever sport we categorized our personal failures under?
DAVE: we left the Olympic metaphor altitude remember.
look,
I’m not going to have a meltdown because john leveled up past me or anything.
it took me by surprise that’s all.
ROSE: As did Jade's grim bark outbursts?
DAVE: you’re not saying you saw those coming are you.
ROSE: Maybe not so dramatically, but the news didn't throw me as much.
DAVE: are you telling me I don’t know my friends.
ROSE: You saw what you wanted to see.
Despite being a Seer and the only person from our session not burdened with eyewear of some kind, I've had that problem.
I convinced myself my mother's affectionate gestures were passive aggressive because it fit better with the narrative I'd constructed around her.
I misjudged you when I thought a ball of yarn would be enough to keep you away, because I wanted it to.
You wanted to be a hero. You saw friends you needed to save.
DAVE: so what does that assessment say about me.
I’m useless.
white knighting it up when there’s no dragon in sight.
never seeing who anyone really is because the truth is they don’t need me.
ROSE: Maybe they don't need a savior, but that doesn't mean they don't need you.
It's ok to be the Dave of Guy sometimes.
He's valuable too.
DAVE: he doesn’t get the job done.
ROSE: Do you know that for sure?
DAVE: if you haven’t noticed I haven’t been doing too hot lately.
ROSE: Maybe you're not seeing yourself clearly either.
DAVE: or I’m seeing myself way too clearly,
on account of myself being an additional physical presence that’s happy to get in my face and accuse me of being a raging douche.
which is eye-opening if only because it’s like being yelled at by a sentient traffic cone.
but we’re sworn to secrecy about that whole incident so forget I said anything.

[Panel description: Karkat sticks his head into the scene from the left edge of the panel. Rose looks up from her book at him in surprise. Dave is standing next to her.]

KARKAT: said what exactly?
DAVE: damn.
nothing.
KARKAT: fine, fine, continue to leave the lowly mortal out of your informational cycle, I hardly mind at this point.
This isn't the first time I have been left out of human-sibling affairs today.
If my presence is unwanted I’ll raise my own foot to my posterior and kick my own ass out.
ROSE: I don't mind.
Dave was arguing he's the most dysfunctional of our merry little band.
You might be interested in throwing your hat in the ring.

[Panel description: Rose holds the book open to a page covered in purple scribbles. Some of the scribbles are poorly drawn dicks left over from the penis Ouija incident during the meteor's three year journey.]

DAVE: there’s evidence right there.
remember this bullshit.
ROSE: Vividly.
KARKAT: if that proves anyone here has problems, it's me.
Remember, I was the one who wanted to monopolize her time.
I was so busy running the terezi Olympics to prove who deserved her that I left her passed out in a puddle of faygo under the bleachers while I flipped around on the high bar like some kind of douche.
ROSE: Oh excellent, another Olympic contender.
It seems we've reattained that altitude after all.
The passengers are clapping and the flight attendants will be out with complimentary refreshments in a moment.
KARKAT: what is she talking about?
DAVE: you picked up our dropped sports metaphor ball, ran with it, and scored a free throw.
ten points.
KARKAT: what are you talking about?
DAVE: don’t worry about it, just keep up with the self deprecating monologue.
that’s today’s routine.
KARKAT: in short,
I am the shitty friend. It is me.
DAVE: I’m a shitty friend AND a shitty brother so you’ve got company.
I could tell rose and terezi obviously had problems but I convinced myself it wasn’t my business to say anything.
ROSE: It wasn't.
DAVE: you being ok is my business.
it doesn’t even matter if there’s a hero complex involved that’s how family works.
and terezi helped me out when I needed it.
I should have returned the favor.
ROSE: Several people today have made a case for interference.
But you can't blame yourself solely for not intervening in a problem of my own creation.
Obviously I'm the main culprit there, and no single outsider could have rescued me, no matter how appealing the idea.
I don't care if you rode in through Earth's atmosphere on my pilfered pony.
White knighting won't cut it here.
KARKAT: in summary: we all suck.
What does the therapist say about our chances at sucking slightly less in the future?
ROSE: We're talking about it.
That's something.
KARKAT: I find it hard to believe such a simple solution is a cure to all our interpersonal ills.
To say nothing of Dave never shutting up, condemning us all to the endless red miles of text dumped into our inboxes at any given moment.
It never ends. No one escapes.
If that was the antidote I’d be the healthiest motherfucker on this goddamn meteor.
DAVE: look who’s talking.
ROSE: Talking doesn't always mean communication.
Sometimes it's empty air, and I think a lot of the past three years qualifies as the latter.
Declaring ourselves shitty people isn't the most psychologically constructive pastime, but at least we're not pretending everything is fine.
I suppose we could call that progress?
In roughly the same way as finally getting a diagnosis for whatever chronic malaise has been plaguing you counts as progress toward a cure.
Now it's time for the horribly uncomfortable and invasive treatment process.
DAVE: what’s the prognosis?
KARKAT: please, doctor lalonde, blow our frilly skirts up with your wisdom.
ROSE: I'd prescribe honesty and time.
It'll take a lot of time.
DAVE: that’s one thing I’ve got loads of.
theoretically anyway.
ROSE: Optimism. That's good too.

[Panel description: The three of them all look down at the book in Rose's hands. Her eyes widen.]

ROSE: Oh, I think I found something.
Carry on, you two.
I need to check some other sources.

[Panel description: Rose dashes out of the room.]

[Panel description: Dave lifts one of the penis-adorned pages.]

[Panel description: He presses the page out flat.]

DAVE: damn.
this is grade school yearbook levels of retroactive embarrassment.
like getting ambushed by a picture of yourself in braces and a graphic print ninja turtles t shirt.
you try to say you didn’t think they were cool and you meant it ironically but deep down you know the truth.
KARKAT: what the hell is a yearbook?
DAVE: oh right trolls don’t do the organized education thing.
and here people say your species was more violent and depraved.
KARKAT: contrary to your culturally ignorant presumption, we do train for our future careers.
It's only between that and the trials that we're left to fend for ourselves.
Think of it as letting nature take its course.
DAVE: public education isn’t that different to be honest.
I’ll show you one of my middle school yearbooks sometime now that I’ve got my house back.
then you’ll understand you lucked out.
KARKAT: I thought these mysterious documents were land mines of potential mortification waiting to explode and send shame shrapnels slicing through all bystanders.
Isn't there a risk of triggering some kind of nostalgia fueled emotional breakdown?
I don't want to be responsible for that.
I still remember the time rose had a conniption over that wizard story, wizardy whatever the fuck it was called.
DAVE: rose isn’t happy unless she’s having some kind of psychological break over wizards.
as for stealth humiliation I think we’ve cleared that hurdle by now.
all of our conversations are so thoroughly drenched in faux pas it’s an essential ingredient at this point.
stuffed in the basket on chopped and if we leave it out we’ll lose points.
I’m not getting kicked out for a blunder that basic.
KARKAT: then tell me with your culinary wisdom, why are we absolutely incapable of having a normal conversation?
DAVE: dunno.
it doesn’t help that all your descriptions are gross and depraved.
KARKAT: mine? May I remind you who drew all the human genitalia on the contested surfaces in question?
DAVE: wow ok the perpetrator was never determined.
I’m still saying it was the dick phantom.
hm.
not enough alliteration there.
sausage specter.
gonad ghost.
KARKAT: bulge banshee?
DAVE: nah banshees scream.
that’s a vital part of the banshee mythos.
a bulge banshee would scream every time you dropped your pants or something,
which is understandable but not any of the observed phenomenon.
KARKAT: I find the image of a screaming flesh-tendril to be suitably depraved considering the context.
I dimly recall our idiotic arm-wrestling over this page in the book.
I've done my best to block it from my memory owing to what a fucking embarrassment it later became.
Whatever you have to say about culinary masterpieces, this isn't a component of my ideal nutrition regimen.
And I don't think you possess much expertise in the discipline, if the junk you keep stashing in the air vents is any indication,
Why are the air vents such a hot piece of real estate anyway?
It's like everyone considers them part of their personal lawn ring.
You can't do anything without someone crawling around in there or concealing contraband snack food or having illicit and regrettable liaisons.
I can't imagine it's comfortable.
DAVE: being in a video game for a few years is rubbing off on us.
I got a crowbar today I’m getting more in character every second.
KARKAT: I’ll just assume that means something in your cultural parlance.
Still I nominate this book as something else to get undone if john continues his universal tidying spree.
I had no desire to know even the barest outline of your human genitals.
Not that I expect these are examples of artistic precision.
They look like wiggler scribblings.
DAVE: dude I thought you were religiously watching those dane cook romcoms didn’t you at least get a sneak peek.
I’m not torrenting you human pornos you’re gonna have to go on that journey of discovery yourself.
KARKAT: no thank you. That is an area of human behavior I’m happy to leave to my imagination.
DAVE: oh you’re imagining it huh.
what else aren’t you telling me dude.
KARKAT: if you had let me finish I would have added on the informative clarification as follows:
Ahem.
Not that I’m thinking about it on a regular basis or anything!
Unless of course I am pondering details for a horror novella.
Something to compete with rose's eldritch horror terror fiction journals.
DAVE: sure you are.
although for rose I’m pretty sure those two genres are interchangeable.
sexy encounters from beyond the void.
there are whole GENRES about tentacles and she didn’t even have to invent them.
hope you’re proud of the species you engineered.
KARKAT: it's only fitting that your propagation continues to be fucking disgusting, I guess.
I’m sure your reproduction ritual is as horrifying as ours is, if not more so.
How can it not be, if you’re stuck with those deformed carrots for unmentionables?
DAVE: hey now I don’t think you want to get into a battle over alien junk.
for one thing I’m pretty sure that’s how the first legit intergalactic war would be declared.
not over resource rights or accidentally insulting their ambassadors,
just humanity’s insatiable longing to know what alien dicks look like overwhelming all propriety when welcoming extraterrestrial guests.
fast-forward five years with a bunch of rugged survivors hiding out in the mountains sitting around a campfire going if only we hadn’t asked,
all of this could have been avoided.
the president would still be alive.
we’d have wifi.
it wasn’t fucking worth it man.
KARKAT: what an inane thing to get hung up over.
And I’m not saying that because I’ve ever lain awake at night, wondering exactly what slime-covered appendage you were attempting to depict in these toddler scribblings.
That definitely hasn't happened.
DAVE: you know when rose encouraged us all to have more open lines of communication for psychological growth I have a feeling that this wasn’t what she had in mind.
she should have stayed to supervise.
KARKAT: speak for yourself.
Please, continue blowing your self-serving air out of your human face-holes.
I can feel myself getting healthier by the minute.
I am going to harness all this inanity into an elixir of emotional well-being whether or not you make any meaningful contributions, just see if I don't.
No one can say I don't follow the doctor's orders.
Besides I’m sure she would have started psycho-discombobulating on our inner desires for extraterrestrial bulge, so I for one am grateful for whatever sudden line of convenient insight has led her out of the room.
Even if that entire line of conversation was definitely your fault.
DAVE: sure blame me like this wasn’t a mutual effort.
KARKAT: either way our conversation has gone off the rails and is rolling into the awkward and uncomfortable district with the fury of an unleashed choler bear.
Again.
DAVE: it’s our nature.
we can’t fight it.
might as well accept it.
KARKAT: it's really miraculous that this happens.
Similar to the way you can't carry on a serious conversation for more than five minutes without either transforming into a sarcastic asshole or raving douche.
Dave: rude.
KARKAT: Hey, I didn't say that I don't do the same thing.
Is that why we ended up being friends?
We're the only two who can put up with each other's shit
Because by some strange metaphysical principle it's exactly the same shit.
Reflected across two universes like my own retroactive gift to myself in the form of a smarmy human.
Slap a bow on your head with a handwritten note saying enjoy your new best friend asshole.
He's slightly used and bleeds easily but keep him fed and gently watered and he'll be fine!
DAVE: how did this even happen.
I don’t remember.
one minute you’re glowering at me from behind treasure chests and the next you’re reading me troll rom novels.
of course there was the transition period where you had to sit on me to make me stay during karkat story time sessions.
KARKAT: it's pathetic how scrawny you humans are.
Any of the fauna on alternia could have eaten you for dinner without having to chew first.
DAVE: hey it’s not like we were getting the optimal diet for a growing humans needs.
Gerber would throw a fit if they saw the slop you serve up.
ignoring the fact that based on the names of some of your food products you’re apparently all cannibals because I don’t even want to think about that.
plus our vitamin d ration was seriously under recommended levels.
KARKAT: Vitamin D?
DAVE: you need it for healthy bones.
KARKAT: oh, you're being obscene again. Got it.
DAVE: surprisingly for once I’m not.
look it up.
maybe scientists were getting a giggle on in the laboratories I don’t know.
I could ask jade about it.
do you think that’s something she knows about?
"hey jade is it recorded if scientists are ever immature doofuses who name substances for the hilarity factor".
it would explain a lot.
KARKAT: I’m not sure I know how it happened either.
I guess eventually I realized I didn't have enough friends left that I could spoil the opportunity to get more out of pride.
One day you look at your social calendar and realize all your old acquaintances are halfway through the decomposition process and readjust your priorities.
Besides after you scrape off some of the crusted on metaphorical fecal matter you're not that bad.
DAVE: thanks.
KARKAT: do you know what I mean, though?
Sometimes you have an idea about a person, or how you feel about that person, or how you should feel about them.
You get invested in that feeling and what it says about them and what it says about you.
But then sometimes you take another look and realize that maybe that feeling didn't make any sense at all.
And your life would be a lot easier if you stopped pretending you should feel that way.

[Panel description: Karkat looks at Dave, who is looking down. His black eye is visible.]

[Panel description: Karkat and Dave look in opposite directions.]

DAVE: uh,
yeah.
guess that’s
one way of looking at things.
well then to transition to enormous serpent monsters that are not phallic in any way whatsoever,
what went down with echidna?
I’ve been missing out on the angry denizen conferences.
KARKAT: now I won't be able to unsee the riddle speaking monstrosity as anything other than a giant talking phallus.
Thanks.
Thank you for that.
DAVE: so what did the giant talking phallus say?
the world needs to know.
KARKAT: hard to tell, since I don't speak monster.
I understood my own denizen, but he didn't have anything interesting to say before I killed him.
I'm pretty sure they gave me the one reserved for losers.
Maybe I was too busy showing how fast I could kill him to stop and listen, which would be typical of me.
Kanaya said echidna had plans for me, though.
DAVE: plans.
KARKAT: it was a bunch of flowery nonsense. I didn't understand all of it.
DAVE: you eat that shit up in the harlequins don’t you?
shouldn’t you love being the topic of fancy poetry?
nothing better than being bathed in the sweet glow of iambic pentameter to reveal you’re destined for greatness.
here’s the deepest darkest contents of your soul.
how does it rhyme I don’t know but it does.
troll Shakespeare don’t lie man.
KARKAT: yeah, yeah, denizens and their love of ever-cryptic nonsense related to game lore.
She didn't say anything spectacularly important, not compared to other things being passed along.
Just more personal development wind-tube expulsions that the universe as a whole has developed a love affair for.
Look, I’m still mulling over it myself, okay?
What was said was a little unsurprising.
I guess.
...basically,
I'm never going to be what I envisioned growing up.
Which is a direction I think I’ve been careening haphazardly away from for some time now, but hearing it in fluffy nonsense poetry brought it out to light.
DAVE: oh.
ha-ha yeah I feel that.
KARKAT: it wasn't the outline of your typical heroic journey.
She said I wouldn't live up to what I’d dreamed or what other people had dreamed of me.
That my worth wouldn't be determined on my being a warrior and charging into battle.
DAVE: that’s good right.
KARKAT: well, gee, all of that is only what I always wanted to be.
I told you about being a threshecutioner, remember?
DAVE: I remember that outfit you drew yourself in.
the one with all the medals,
where you were in shape.
KARKAT: that was an artistic rendering of my future position as a respected leader in the empire's glorious forces.
Including my future impressive physique, not that there is anything wrong with the one I have now.
That's how I was going to make a name for myself.
Then once I was famous and trusted I would get wounded in battle and go
What now fuckers
And they'd realize I was just as good as any of them.
But apparently some basement dwelling snake monster has decided that just won't cut it for me.
So that's it I guess.
Your dreams are terrible, have a nice day, don't let the enormous boulders half blocking the entrance hit your ass on the way out!
DAVE: I think the last three years for everyone has been a crash course in getting your hopes and dreams ground into the dust,
which in some cases sucks like roses whole ambition to have shit on lockdown 24 7 and also not turn into her mother.
for me it turned out a little better.
I mean I’m basically obsolete now thanks to john and any plans of being a useful team member are kinda kaput at this point which I have mixed feelings about,
but on the other hand at least I’m not trying to be whatever my maniac of a guardian wanted me to be anymore.
not that I was ever going to be any good at that anyway but I might’ve hurt something trying.
KARKAT: I admit I hadn't given much serious thought as to what the hell to do with my life after my dream of being a respected friend leader was beaten soundly into submission on more than one occasion.
DAVE: doesn’t really help that as far as I know no one knows the fine details of what happens if we win which puts a crimp in any sort of career planning.
I guess right now the goal is just
not be dead when that happens.
KARKAT: my end of session goals do involve not dying yet another horrible lava-related death.
DAVE: not something I’ve ever experienced but I’d rather not share a messy end with Gollum.
got no plans to nosh on some grubby midgets digits and then tumble ass backwards into a volcano even if we do have one handy as per epic adventure genre regulations.
I feel like I should’ve racked up enough personal fatalities to placate the blood thirstiest of fates by now.
just as long as I don’t walk in front of an oncoming train maybe I can make it out with only bodily mutilations this time.
a guy can dream.
it'd be a really big disappointment if after all this bullshit the punch line was a goddamn eulogy.
KARKAT: fucking ditto.
I would appreciate getting through one fucking day without being stabbed by a good friend of mine.
Or shall I say,
Ex-friend.
DAVE: maybe I haven’t gotten the denizen lowdown like you have but I know there’s that prophecy about me facing lord English in some dubious and foretold manner,
and you just KNOW there’s a catch.
there always is.
like what am I gonna die.
how original didn’t see THAT one coming.
must’ve taken a lot of brainstorming to come up with a twist that game changing.
what about you does echidna think you’re getting wasted or are the friend stabbings over,
if only because an increasingly large number of our friends are dead or incarcerated.
KARKAT: she either didn't say.
Or kanaya was sparing be a translation because it's "my fate" or whatever unoriginal concept is being bandied about these days.
At this point we have been given so many goddamn curveballs that the pitcher has been found and strangled to prevent any more of their ball-throwing machinations.
Also, I don't think I have enough friends left to be stabbed by, unless you count spades.
Though to be frank I would be more worried if a greeting from him was not preceded by a blade sliding lovingly into my torso.
DAVE: dude sure is stab happy.
those jacks man that must be the first thing on their character template.
wonder how he got promoted since he probably stabbed his interviewer.
of course in dersite bureaucracy that might earn you a raise.
my moon sucks.
I’m glad we blew it up.
KARKAT: I only saw prospit right before it was destroyed.
If anything it was a fucking eyesore. Whoever decided to make a planet out of solid gold right next to a self-perpetuating light source clearly never considered the accessibility issues that would arise from a nocturnal species playing their idiotic game and for that I am only mildly offended.
Besides, I don't think derse looked that bad.
The dark, shady corners with gigantic spires stabbing into the sky, death waiting around every corner...
Aside from the aesthetic choices it's not far off from alternia. Makes me feel right at home.
DAVE: the more I hear about your planet the worse it sounds.
at least I have some competition in the shit childhood department.
KARKAT: the fact that your species considers a daily fight for your own life throughout your upbringing abnormal etches yet more words into my mental "reasons I am surprised your squishy asses made it this far" file.
Which, I will say, has expanded prodigiously in the past few years.
Anyway,
Alternia wasn't all bad, if you could make it there.
Which is basically what I was aiming to do.
Note that that involved the shouting and forcible leadership that has partial responsibility for landing us in this mess.
DAVE: I know you’re from some bloodthirsty warrior race that throws its kids into gladiator death matches instead of preschool but being a warrior isn’t that great.
my bro was one,
stoic and strong and completely empty of any ability he ever might have had to take care of a kid the way he ought to have.
maybe he would’ve done better as a troll actually.
based on what dirk said it sounds like the dude excelled at being in kill or be killed scenarios where morality aint no big deal.
he tried to make me like him and I wanted to live up to it because he wanted me to but it sucked.
trying to go with the flow in some shitty system is going to fuck you up in the end somehow.
warp you into some heartless monstrosity that tortures people to make them better.
which isn’t that far away from setting up some bullshit caste system because some people just are better.
I don’t think you can make it in that kind of world without giving up something about yourself.
ignoring the drippy greeting card sentimentalism here which I will staunchly deny if anyone tries to quote me on it,
if being worthy by troll standards means throwing all that away then it’s not worth it.
there aren’t any standards no more except the ones we make and the ones that get transferred in to whatever world we end up making.
maybe that’s what echidna was trying to say.
or maybe not.
snake ladies are hells of cryptic by all accounts.
KARKAT: according to kanaya echidna said I should worry less about becoming anyone and help other people become who they ought to be.
That as a leader I should be around to incite change and help others.
DAVE: sounds like an egbertism.
the kind of tagline john would say to try to rile everyone up before the big boss fight,
ripped straight from the animes or whatever.
we’re all equal and awesome go team.
look deep in your hearts for the confidence you need to win.
when we work together NOTHING can stand in our way because friendship overcomes all.
imagine that in his voice for the full effect.
I can’t do it justice.
the levels of enthusiasm he musters while saying the dorkiest things are unreal.
he even makes me believe them.
KARKAT: and that kind of wishy washy feel good stuff is easy for him to say.
He's already saved us all.
He can sit on his rump cushions and be an inspiration now.
Maybe you have a point about wanting to be a warrior, I don't know.
But you and I arrived at that ambition for different reasons.
Your ninja boot camp childhood of having your ass served to you with the expectation you would grow up to be your own posterior maitre d' wasn't considered normal for your planet like it was for mine.
Maybe there's nothing wrong with wanting to do something like that, if it's what I chose. Not someone cramming unwashed ass in my face and just assuming I’d take up the beloved family tradition.
Maybe you can say I’ve been brainwashed by alternia like your guardian tried to brainwash you.
But if everyone wants me to be something, I might as well choose the option I like best.
Did you know there was a whole cult about me?
We found papers on the meteor, old historical documents like the journal vriska was so obsessed with.
I was the successor to my ancestor, and me showing up meant the end of the world.
Everywhere I go I represent destruction and I bring it with me.
I don't want to be this year's guy for the apocalypse.
I don't want to be a symbol.
I have to do something.
DAVE: I get it.
when everyone else is a god you want to feel like part of the team and not the sidekick on the superhero squad who doesn’t have any powers, not even a utility belt.
and you’re right I don’t know if my experiences are fair to compare to yours.
I just don’t want to see you fall down the same hole.
I’d say you’ll get your chance but that’s the brand of meaningless bullshit everyone hates.
I don’t know if you will.
I don’t know what lofafs spooky snake goddess sees in your future.
maybe you can be a warrior and keep being you.
but I don’t think you need that to prove yourself to anyone or anything.
if you’re looking for worth in your existence I’m glad you’re here.
not as a symbol or a harbinger of doom but as a friend.
so there’s that.
not saying my stamp of approval is what should ward off the crushing weight of existential insecurities,
although hey if I think you’re cool that means you’re REALLY cool.
shits like being handed the Pulitzer by Stephen king,
or having Mr. Rogers give you the barest of all possible nods as he walks past and acknowledges your existence.
so if that’s what echidna asked for consider it handled.
KARKAT: yes, now that you have deigned to draw me into your embrace of baffling human friendship all my problems are mere shadows dwindling before the light of its splendor.
Truly my journey is over.
Perhaps that was what it was really about... All along??
DAVE: if you’re going to be like that I’ll take it back.
KARKAT: no, no, that was just... Residual bitterness.
Don't get your feathers ruffled over it.
DAVE: yo I don’t lay claim to any feathers metaphorical or otherwise.
that’s an alt self trademark and I’m not being associated with it.
KARKAT: and people say I’m touchy.
I just.
Vriska once said I’d cut it better as a human than a troll.
She didn't say it to my face, but word gets around.
She meant it as an insult obviously, because I was weaker and didn't always think of murder as the first step towards conflict resolution.
But in the end to survive we had to be more like that.
I know it's another pointless and inflammatory remark from a source famed for such comments but maybe it hit home a little bit, even if not in the exact way she intended.
I wanted to be better. Smarter, stronger, faster.
Someone who could have saved more people, if skaia had allowed it.
Which it wouldn't, I’ve given that speech already, but I can't help wishing.
I'm glad you're my friend. I'm glad I still have friends with all this death and betrayal and stabbing going on, not to mention my objectively terrible personality.
Maybe someday that'll even be enough on its own to convince my twisted up thinkpan that I’m worth something.
Let's hope so, anyway.
If there's any greater purpose I’m supposed to be fulfilling right now, I haven't seen it.
I just haven't gotten there yet, and I can't help wanting something more solid.
DAVE: tell you what.
at the end of this if you haven’t found anything yet I’ll start a drive to get you a medal.
does this game have achievements?
I feel like it should have achievements.
KARKAT: most fatal errors made in five minutes?
DAVE: critical romantic sub quest failure.
KARKAT: you're going to need a lot of medals.
DAVE: good thing I’m loaded.
didn’t your entire session just wipe out everything that moved as quickly as possible?
you probably missed hells of side quests.
I bet there’s a consort stuck down a well somewhere.
KARKAT: well, jack blew up my planet, so I guess it fucking sucks to be that guy.
DAVE: rip npc number 42342345.
you will be missed.
KARKAT: along with all the other identical reptiles living on an ocean of blood.
DAVE: sounds metal.
I’d swap you for my planet that was metal as fuck in an absolutely terrible and literal way.
I wasn’t even last in line when they were handing out lands.
jade waltzes in fashionably late and gets a winter wonderland while I get the hellhole.
then I bled all over hers.
revenge.
KARKAT: our lands had varying levels of design detail.
Mine wasn't too much to look at.
Equius? Wandering around caves with gamzee honking at you? Fucking terrifying, the whole time.
DAVE: we had wandering through a meteor with gamzee honking at us.
and apparently this session had gamzee occasionally teleporting in to,
oh man.
I didn’t tell you that yet did I.
hmm,
so,
about the bodies.
you know,
the dead ones.
KARKAT: gee, are there any other kind?
What? What happened to them?
DAVE: uh,
you know how you can prototype things.
dead things.
apparently the people in this session got an extraterrestrial visitor bearing gifts of dubious enlightenment.
good news is that most of them have returned to their eternal rest as far as I know,
but that’s a thing that happened.
KARKAT: well.
I regret not screaming at him more when I saw him in derse jail now.
DAVE: you’re taking this better than I expected.
KARKAT: the desecration of those I had once called friends for the sake of some sick joke beholden to what whispers of horrible teen drama I hear this session was is something I’d normally be so pissed off about.
And yet.
I'm so angry I’ve looped back around the other way.
DAVE: probably reached maximum saturation.
KARKAT: here's hoping those poor assholes didn't have to put up with too much trouble.
Even in death, they didn't deserve to be chucked into an afterlife where they are expected to be isles of calm sprite wisdom in a raging adolescent shit storm.
Except eridan.
Maybe.
DAVE: a little existential crisis never did anyone lasting psychological harm.
except for the times that it did.

[Panel description: Jane looks into the room, resting one hand on the frame. Dave and Karkat look over at her. Rose's book rests on a table which sits in front of a yellow pennant with Prospit's symbol on it.]

DAVE: oh hey its johns hot mom.
I mean,
you know.

[Panel description: Jane frowns, her eyes half-lidded with annoyance.]

[Panel description: Jane crosses her arms and glares. Dave blushes, while Karkat looks neutral.]

JANE: My name is Jane Crocker.
Maybe you are trying to pay me a compliment, but I would appreciate it if you would refer to me by my actual name from here on out.
JANE: It is only polite.
DAVE: sorry,
Jane.
KARKAT: what do you need?
JANE: Is Rose here?
DAVE: nope.
found some dirt on cherubs and ran out metaphorically shouting eureka luckily while wearing more than a bath towel.
believe it or not breakthroughs CAN be achieved while fully clothed, ancient philosophers dress habits notwithstanding.
JANE: Rats. I was hoping she would offer me advice about these Dersites.
I'm a human and not even a Derse dreamer at that!
They're not keen on accepting me as their new queen.
KARKAT: having the dersites on our side would be an advantage.
This isn't about luck, though, or whatever else rose specializes in.
This is about how people think.
I'd talk to terezi.
JANE: I don't know her very well. Could you talk to her for me?
KARKAT: what do you think?
DAVE: we were talking about the bad old days.
it’d be rude to leave her out.
KARKAT: sure, we'll pass it on.
JANE: Thanks.
KARKAT: you should probably come along though.
Be our royal representative.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Dave stands facing Terezi, who still wears her blindfold. He is holding a rolled up piece of white paper. Behind them is the statue on LOHAC she was last seen near, identifiable by the sculpted flames curling around it.]

DAVE: hey T Z.
is this you?

[Panel description: Terezi holds the paper over a sea of lava. It contains a badly artifacted image of Judge Judy. Sloppy red and teal scribbles add Terezi's face and symbol over the judge's face and outfit.]

TEREZI: Dave.
Is this supposed to be an imitation of my superior artistic ability?
You’re embarrassing yourself.
DAVE: are you kidding me, this is exactly what all your shit looked like.
you just weren’t able to properly embrace how terrible it was on a visual level until now.
TEREZI: I refuse to believe that anything I drew looked like this.
Who is this human?
DAVE: judge Judy.
TEREZI: Who?
DAVE: on earth she had her own TV show.
it was basically a religious ritual to tune in and watch her verbally eviscerate hordes of miscreants dragged in and dropped on her sacrificial altar.
she was a fierce guardian of justice drama and reality TV.
TEREZI: sounds downright draconian.

[Panel description: Terezi grins and hugs the paper to her chest.]

TEREZI: I love her.
DAVE: I figured you would.
TEREZI: while the human legislacerator is an intriguing and welcome gift, I don’t think you only came here to broaden my cultural horizons.
What are you here for?
KARKAT: perish the thought, terezi isn't down for palling around passive-aggressively meme-flinging with Dave?
What, do you have a hot date with some hither-to unknown asshole?
I thought you were holding off on romance.
TEREZI: I am still suspending all quadrant business yes but if you wanted to be a smartass...
You could say I have a hot date. (smirking face).
I’m on my way to see to some business here on lohac,
As soon as my associate returns anyway.
DAVE: have fun.
watch out for lava.
KARKAT: wow, excuse you.
DAVE: whoops sorry.
forgot.
KARKAT: no, no, please, continue.
I will just remain here, surrounded by the medium of my untimely demise, attempting to nonchalantly discuss matters of greater import while ignoring its bubbling and hissing attempts to intimidate me.
This is fine.
DAVE: yeah this planet is the worst.
we won’t stay long.
KARKAT: we're here about the dersites. They're restless.
Apparently Crocker isn't a good enough replacement for the empress, and now no one is keeping them in line.
Unless it's the agents, and you know they're a slippery bunch, even with this version of jack gone.
Our jack knows we exiled him once, so he might try to get the drop on us.
Even though I made a deal with him, that doesn't mean I trust him.
TEREZI: dersites are vulnerable to sudden shifts in leadership.
They are living pawns,
And knights and rooks and bishops.
They are engineered to follow but they may not know Jane well enough to trust her,
And I doubt she’s about to force their loyalty.
What they need is a leader,
One of their own to rally them under her banner.
Why not the mayor?
He has done it once before.
KARKAT: the mayor?
DAVE: our mayor,
the adorable guy with the sash.
he was a war leader.

[Panel description: Terezi holds her hands up as she speaks. Behind her is a selection of images of WV from canon. These include him in his wayward vagabond outfit, but the biggest shows a combined carapace army with WV standing in front of them, raising his hand and a tattered flag.]

TEREZI: and not just any dime-a-dozen general either.
According to the testimony of carapaces aboard the prospitian ship he led a revolt against the first human sessions black king and even stood up to the sovereign slayer himself!
Of course it ended terribly.
There were few survivors,
But to them he is a hero!
After all it isn’t every day a pawn defies a king.
DAVE: I can’t believe this.
it’s always the innocent looking ones.
you turn your back and they’re possessed werewolves or military commanders or the savior of the world.
how do they do it?
TEREZI: this is what happens when you only see faces and not minds.
Just because he does not speak does not make him not a person with things worth saying.
DAVE: yeah yeah I’ve had one seer give me this talk already.
I’m as shallow as a goddamn reflecting pool.
feel free to start throwing money at me.
TEREZI: no Dave I will not reward your lack of observational skills with spare change.
You will have to continue conning your clueless consorts to replenish your boon buck reserve.
DAVE: I don’t need to I’m still rolling.

[Panel description: Dave stands between Karkat and Terezi holding a wad of boon bucks in one hand. Terezi does not look impressed. Karkat's mouth is open, and he leans forward.]

DAVE: if there was anything worth buying in this session.
but most of the consorts are too dead even to try to sell me my own stolen apartment furnishings.
TEREZI: they’re an enterprising crew.
I can respect such resourceful business-reptiles.
Remember when they pawned you your load gaper karkat?
KARKAT: the one you dislodged from my hive.
Yes I do remember excruciating discomfort and distress as I had a need for that exact device and realized that lo and behold it was not there.
Some cackling maniac had removed vital fixtures from my place of residence and distributed them to the local fauna.
TEREZI: they were in need.
I was demonstrating some philanthropic spirit.
KARKAT: our lives sure were simpler when they revolved around wanton destruction of property and petty squabbles.
Speaking of which, Dave and I just found that old shipping schedule I drew.
TEREZI: (scowling face). I remember that.
Wasn’t that when you decided to assign who got the pleasure of my company and when?
KARKAT: sorry for that. Again.
Terezi: I don’t belong to you karkat.
Not you or anyone.
Karkat: I was afraid of losing another friend, so I did something stupid. That's typical of me.
But it wasn't fair to you, and I know that.
I hope someday I can make that up to you.
Terezi: try letting me make my own decisions!
Admittedly I have made some very bad ones but they were mine to make.
That’s the only way I can feel like my own person.
Karkat: I promise.
What decisions are you making now though, if I can ask.
That's something a friend should do, be interested in your welfare, even if they have no control over what you actually decide.
Why are you gallivanting around near large deposits of molten rock?
Such geological phenomena have personally victimized me in the recent past.
Terezi: it is reasonable to inquire this.
I am seeking an audience with Hephaestus.
DAVE: my denizen.
TEREZI: yes.
Though he seems to be less yours and more of your alternate selfs if you go by how often you both speak with him.
I don’t even think he would talk to you!
It’s not mentioned in the lore we’ve looked through.
Almost like your denizen doesn’t even acknowledge your existence.
It’s very strange!
DAVE: what am I the red headed stepchild?
I can’t believe I’m getting dissed by a fucking Olympian.
TEREZI: your path must lie elsewhere.
Don’t worry I’m sure you haven’t been forgotten about in skaia moving its fleshy little chess pieces around.
Karkat: you wouldn't want that.
If the murder happy light in the sky lost sight of you you'd really be fucked.
DAVE: point taken.
he can have the Greek god.
go nuts.
KARKAT: why are you visiting the denizen of time?
The forge is already lit. That's all aradia did with him.
At least that's all she told me.
Terezi: aradia was cryptic.
Especially when she was busy being a robot.
And besides let’s be real here.
This session is wholly unprecedented.
We will need him to prepare the battlefield or else it’ll barely withstand the slightest of deadly meteor strikes!
If it is destroyed the new universe we create will be unable to complete its metamorphosis.
DAVE: hang on.
I remember this lalonde lecture, this session doesn’t have a reckoning.
it’s a void session, that’s one of its few advantages.
TEREZI: normally this is true but we are still a special case.
A typical void session has a barren battlefield and a stopped timer,
But we have made one session out of many.
We have a fertile battlefield occupying skaia surrounded by a veil seeded with meteors.
The reckoning must be started to trigger the end game so we can win.
I expect Jane will do the honors.
She has the king’s scepter after all.
Karkat: the fork, right?
I remember the fork.

[Panel description: The scene zooms out, showing Jane watching from a distance with an expression of faint confusion.]

[Panel description: Karkat looks over at her. Jane looks away toward the upper left corner of the panel.]

DAVE: so you’ll talk him into helping us out.
sounds easy.
TEREZI: I’m not sure.
Karkat: why not? Your negotiations with her imperious clam face went great.
No legislacerator in all of imperial history has made a regent back down.
Terezi: bargaining with the empress was wigglers play.
She was scared she wanted out and she knew she was out of options.
We both knew it.
It’s not hard to make allies out of someone you’ve already beaten.
Especially when they know what it takes to live as long as she has.
But Hephaestus doesn’t work like that.
Denizens have no reason to fear us and the way they think is wholly unfamiliar to me.
What if I’m not good enough?

[Panel description: Terezi slumps forward, looking at the ground. Both Karkat and Dave's eyebrows rise, concerned.]

KARKAT: you never used to think this way.
Aren't difficult situations challenges? You love being challenged.
Terezi: I know.
Once this would have been fun for me.
But I’ve misused those skills.
It’s not fun anymore.
Karkat: oh. This again.
Terezi: yes yes we had this conversation. (frowning face).
You are not such a good therapist that I am already over it.
DAVE: you’re not going to sit backward on a chair again are you.
KARKAT: no Dave, I will not sit in any way that might be comfortable and convenient and thus expose my ass to your smug criticism.
I live and I learn.
DAVE: it wasn’t your ass I was criticizing.
it was how it was situated.
your ass is fine.
wait did I say that out loud.
TEREZI: (shocked face).
DAVE: I meant,
in comparison to.
fuck never mind.
KARKAT: ignore him. We'll keep talking while remaining vertical like mature adults without any sitting apparatuses in sight.
About how you feel...
I don't think she would want you to not have fun.
She loved games, didn't she?
She thought she was the best at them, or whatever, and she always wanted to play so that she could prove it.
Maybe she was the best at sgrub for a while. She definitely climbed all the levels faster than the rest of us.
In the end though, I guess it didn't matter that much.
Which is a touchy subject, sorry.
I still have a hard time understanding how you felt about her, but I know she was important to you.
And you were important to her, so no matter what else happened I think she'd want you to be ok.
We can still care about people even after they do terrible things.
It's part of this miracle called friendship.
And sometimes it's fucking terrible.
Terezi: she did love games.
She didn’t have a problem with making games out of people’s lives either.
When we flarped together making it a game kept her lusus fed and she never cared about who got hurt.
It was never a problem until I turned on her.
Maybe she would forgive me for that I can’t say.
I’ve never seen her in my dreams, maybe because she isn’t the type to just let something like that go.
But this isn’t a game anymore.
It quit being a game when we started killing each other.
This isn’t even a new universe on the line.
This is all reality.
With stakes that high how can I use something I killed a friend with to help us?
DAVE: if you stress yourself out the stakes only get higher.
your powers are like any other kind of weapon I guess.
a sword doesn’t care who it stabs that’s up to the person holding it.
so you hope the person on the other end knows what they’re doing.
I think you do.
so
stab away,
metaphorically speaking.
KARKAT: maybe I don't need to say this after everything that happened, but I'd trust you with my life.
You've saved us more times than I can count and probably more times than I even know.
There's no one else I'd rather have doing this.
I know you'll do fine, even if you don't.
Terezi: ...
We’ll see.
I appreciate your votes of confidence.
I will endeavor to ensure I am as careful with my metaphorical stabbings as my real ones.
DAVE: important news before you head off to save another planet,
and before we go interview our surprise war leader I guess.
rose rescued can town.
good to know that even when she’s three sheets to the wind she keeps her eyes on priority number fucking one.
TEREZI: can town?
I quit playing there ages ago.
Karkat: it's not a game.
It's a thriving metropolis and I resent allegations to the contrary.
It's a model of a new world order where the light of democracy shines without hindrance.
Terezi: I have had democracy explained to me but I am still not sure how it’s supposed to work.
DAVE: can’t say we nailed it the first time around either.
that’s why practice is important.
can town is like a training session.
after were done here it could use its judge jury and executioner back.
there’s a case backlog.
KARKAT: vicious and unrepentant criminals have been left unpunished.

[Panel description: Terezi puts a hand to her chin.]

TEREZI: hmmm.
Well I suppose I will have to do something about that.
Such a gross miscarriage of justice will not stand.
Karkat: now we're talking.

[Panel description: Terezi faces Jane, who leans forward nervously.]

JANE: Hello, Ms. Pyrope, is it?
TEREZI: Ms. pyrope?
Very fancy.
I like it.
How do you do Ms. heiress?
Your skulking about the jam seems to indicate you need something.
JANE: I think your conversation presented the solution to the problem I'm having, actually.
I ought to go with the boys to find this Mayor character!
TEREZI: problems with the new constituency?
JANE: Unfortunately.
I don't think I'm quite leader material for an entire planet. Not when I can't even keep a simple game session together.
TEREZI: it probably has more to do with the fact that you’re an unknown entity.
The condesce was too but she forced her will on them with her iron mitts.
The mayor may be from another session but he is one of their own.
Karkat and Dave are probably already tracking him down.

[Panel description: Karkat and Dave disappear in a flash of green light. Jane and Terezi watch them go. The pedestals of two statues - one of Hephaestus, one of a golden nakkodile - are visible in the background.]

JANE: Oh, there they go.
TEREZI: all aboard the planet-hopping express.
Jades green apple sun powers are incredibly convenient.
No wonder the condesce got the jump on her so fast for them.
JANE: I know.
It's such a useful power to have!
It used to take us so long to get between planets, but now we can get there in an instant. My friends and I used to have to make expensive gadgets and gizmos or find hidden transportalizers to get around, and that plus making our daily supplies meant we didn't have a lot of grist left over for building.
TEREZI: we noticed. (scowling face).
You should’ve just made jetpacks! We made jetpacks,
And they were awesome!
JANE: Hm.
That may be a good idea, but what about your legs getting burnt by the back draft?
TEREZI: never had that problem.
JANE: Oh well. Not like we need them now anyway.
TEREZI: I do! Do not leave out us non-god tiers who still need flying assistance.
JANE: Wait, so just so I'm clear...
None of you three are god tiers? I knew Karkat and Kanaya weren't, but I hadn't ruled you out yet.
TEREZI: nope! Notice how we are not in deliciously colorful costumes.
JANE: I just thought it might've been a fashion choice?
If it took you so long to get here, then you wouldn't wear your god tier outfit the whole way, would you?
TEREZI: that would be the logical thing to do.
But alas,
Dave has been wearing his cherry pajamas for the last three years straight. (frowning face).
At least rose had alternative outfits for formal occasions.
But Dave? Nope! No matter what we were doing he always wore those pajamas.
Whether or not they are self-cleaning even god tier robes become dank if you wear them long enough.
Yours however is more acceptable.
Still got that new godhood smell!
JANE: Hoo hoo, they're fresh from the oven!
Or rather, the magical god tier fire. (buck toothed smiling face).
TEREZI: at least you have the excuse of a recent ascension and no time to change.
With Dave it just got kind of gross.
JANE: Does he not have any other clothes?
TEREZI: who knows?
Maybe he just likes that silly cape.
JANE: The boys did get some really silly outfits, huh? At least your sessions' have somewhat dignified ensembles.
Dirk's is fine enough, but upon reflection I feel a little sorry for Jake and his...
Get up.
TEREZI: those costumes are so absurd I love them.
I’ve gotten to both see and smell the god tiers of our prince and page in the dream bubbles.
It’s almost wonderful how dumb they look!
Though I can’t imagine why your strider abandoned his princely pantaloons but kept the tiara.
JANE: The only guesses I have are that it's either a convoluted ironic statement or he just hasn't noticed because it's been glued into his hair.
TEREZI: he probably hasn’t noticed.
JANE: You think so?
TEREZI: of course!
I won’t encourage you to divest your outfit so quickly.
The key lime pie get up is quite appealing.
It’s refreshing to smell some neutral tones.
Bright colors are decadent but familiarity,
And human body odor,
Both breed contempt.
Which is not to say that a fresher god hood does not sit nicely upon the palate!
I appreciated the fresh tones of your cherry Crocker suit.
JANE: Are you trying to say that red is my color?
TEREZI: red is everyone’s color.
Even when they try to hide it I can detect the affinity pulsing just below the surface.
JANE: Um.
That may be a hue I retire from my wardrobe, unfortunately.
Permanently.
I'm afraid if I wore it again, I may give several people a bad case of the vapors.
Sorry to disappoint.
TEREZI: we certainly do not want those in your sight to fall into swoons over your delectable wardrobe choices.
I myself feel faint at the very memory.

 

[Panel description: Terezi puts a hand to her head and opens her mouth theatrically, falling backward. Jane lunges forward and catches her before she hits the ground. The sequence is animated.]

[Panel description: Terezi puts her hands to her cheeks in a mock blush.]

JANE: Don't do that! You'll hurt yourself!
TEREZI: why your imperiousness.
I didn’t know you cared so much for a lowly teal bloods wellbeing.

[Panel description: Jane backs away, looking alarmed.]

JANE: I'd appreciate if you could not call me by that title!
Even if I am technically the new empress, I'm not especially fond of that particular aspect of the brand.
Also, while I appreciate the gesture of trying to give me a royal moniker, Her Imperious Vivaciousness...
I'll just say it has some unfortunate connotations in my culture.
I'd rather put my imperious days behind me.
TEREZI: I see.
Unfortunately literally.
We can workshop it later.

[Panel description: Terezi and Jane face each other, both looking uncertain.]

TEREZI: I’m sure we can find both a name and color scheme that strikes fear into the hearts of your enemies.
And only your enemies.
JANE: Alright, but just Jane will work for now.
TEREZI: then you can just call me terezi.
I smelled you lurking while we had our impromptu feelings jam so consider that our formal introduction.
JANE: Oh! Should I not have been listening to that?
TEREZI: I am fairly sure that even the condesce has heard my blubbering today.
You at least don’t strike me as the type to use it against me.
Then again your session has been full of surprises.
I’ve seen everything from nose-blinding hope tantrums to materializing brain ghosts today.
JANE: Brain ghosts.
You don't say.
Anyhow, as far as I'm concerned, my villainous days are behind me for good. You don't have to worry about me press-ganging anybody into an iron-mitted dictatorship.
TEREZI: as interesting as a human-alternian dictator would be that's probably for the best.
JANE: Er... "interesting"?
Chalk it up to a cultural thing, but I don't find omnicidal tyrant rulers very interesting.
Especially when they're responsible for the eventual extinction of my species.
TEREZI: that would tend to be a damper on your opinion of anyone.
But it’s intriguing that after generations of slaughtered heiresses,
Not only is the one she sees reason to keep around not just neither a high blood nor even a troll,
But is one of the species she helped usher out the door to extinction!
Possibly because your lack of sturdy carapace or psychic powers made you less of a threat.
Or at least easier to control.
JANE: (unhappy face).
TEREZI: no offense intended.
Her pragmatism was what led her to cast the shadow of her eldritch locks all across our original universe.
And if she considered these things so must I in order to combat her.
JANE: Is that why she left me alive? So I could her fork-tossing pet?
TEREZI: I doubt that’s the only reason.
She had the potential to be nearly unstoppable if she could have had both the powers of life and the green sun under her command,
But not even her withered old blood pusher could avoid sentimentality forever.
In our research we gathered that the condesce was in fact present on earth in both timelines at around the same points.
In rose and daves she seemed to have vanished decades before they were born,
But her activity lines up with your pre-scratch selfs childhood.
JANE: Are you saying...
She's been hovering over my shoulder in TWO universes!?
Sweet butter biscuits, will this woman ever leave me alone?
TEREZI: it seems not. (concerned face).
Maybe some whiff of true feeling crept into her planning and maybe not,
But I don’t think it all adds up to a mere coincidence.
She can toss planets around on a whim.
She was definitely holding back with you.
JANE: If that was holding back, I shudder to think of what she could do if she was aiming to kill...
TEREZI: she could easily drop your key lime behind to dreamland and bury you under all of derse if she had wanted to.
So it was a good thing you were the one to challenge her and make her roll over.
JANE: Anyone else would've been turned into pancake batter in no time flat, huh?
Thank you for handling her after I'd finished with her, by the by.
I know it must've been taxing for you, but I had little idea what to do after I had her grounded.
Geez Louise, no wonder I can't get a handle on the Dersites. Some queen I make!
TEREZI: it’s no problem.
I definitely needed the warm up.
Try not to get so down in the dumps about needing to delegate.
Even the best legislacerators worked in teams when necessary.
I for example had my crime scene investigation team,
Sometimes.
But besides that!
Not even our sessions strongest could handle everything skaia threw at us on their own.
Not that that always stopped them trying. (irritated face).
Maybe that was a part of our failure.
JANE: If that's your stance on things.
It may just be that I'm just not suited for leadership, all things considered.
TEREZI: I will remind you that you got it in your think pan to fight the condesce singlehandedly.
I negotiated with her.
But I did need a rousing friend leader speech before I could rediscover my legislacerating grit.
JANE: Well, it was certainly something!
TEREZI: yes.
Take that victory and let it make you strong.
JANE: You too, alright?
For whatever your next objective is.
TEREZI: I will do my best.
JANE: What is this "can town" I heard mentioned? We never came across an area like that in the Incipisphere.
TEREZI: we carried it and its light of democracy from the ruins of your progenies session.
It is a settlement born from the struggles of a constituency under oppression throwing away their shackles and rising up!
It was a world turned upside down.
It’s also a town made of cans that the mayor resides over and we larp in.
You’re welcome to join sometime if we do resume activity there.
However its mayor does not approve of royalty so you will have to find another role.
JANE: Hmm... I used to enjoy playing detective!
TEREZI: (surprised face).
You don’t say.
JANE: I mean, it was silly and childish, but I did like hunting for clues and solving puzzles. In that way, this game has been right up my alley.
TEREZI: you’ll make an excellent addition.
I look forward to your contributions.
JANE: Hoo hoo, likewise.
I imagine you served some sort of legal role?
TEREZI: yes.
Very perceptive of you.
JANE: I'm not sure how I guessed. (buck toothed smile).
If delegation is the key, maybe I should recruit you as my royal advisor, if I do have to continue this Empress thing.
I don't know much about how trolls and their society work.
TEREZI: that’s flattering but I’m not sure the old alternian ways are worth preserving.
JANE: Certainly, but I could still use a Seer's guidance.
TEREZI: well then we will again all do our best.
JANE: Imagining future exploits is all very well, but am I supposed to twiddle my thumbs and wait for them to negotiate with my new war leader?
Delegation is all very well, but I don't want to sit uselessly by.
TEREZI: this session is not conducive to sitting around.
Sooner or later new opportunity or disaster strikes anyone remaining idle.
I have a feeling that you’ll have other business soon enough.
JANE: What kind?
TEREZI: don’t look at me miss detective!
Put that puzzle solving think pan to work and piece the clues together.
JANE: Well... there was something my denizen said.
Maybe I should investigate that.
And, um, leave you to your own denizen dealings.
TEREZI: perhaps indeed.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jade lies on her back on a red stone slab in the middle of a grassy field. Her hands are cupped loosely on her chest.]

[Panel description: The image zooms in.]

[Panel description: The image zooms in further. Jade's hands overlap slightly. She has a small frown on her face.]

[Panel description: Jade is viewed from the side. The slab she lies on is supported a few feet above the ground by two red columns. Two speech bubbles appear next to her. One shows Rose's logo, while the other shows an image of the battlefield. Both flash green and vanish, representing Jade using her powers to send Rose to her selected destination.]

[Panel description: Jade pushes herself up and off the slab. Three more speech bubbles showing Dave and Karkat's signs and the battlefield appear and then flash away.]

[Panel description: Jade looks over a landscape of green terraced hills. A single brown hill rises in the distance. A path lit by indistinct white patches curls around the hill, and a gray structure crowns its top. Three more speech bubbles appear and then vanish. One shows Jane's symbol, while another shows Karkat's symbol with a question mark. The third shows a question mark next to an image rapidly shifting between the different kids' lands.]

[Panel description: Jade's small figure climbs the path curling around the brown hill. It is lined with white lanterns, which are not lit.]

[Panel description: Jade stands framed by two lanterns. She looks over the edge of the path to wear more green hills are dotted with red stone-lined tunnel entrances. Wisps of urple-blue gas glow in the bottom left corner. In the top right, the Prospitian battleship remains where it landed. Dave sprite's small form can just barely be seen hovering next to its hull. Jane, Karkat, and Dave's signs all appear and vanish alongside an image of LOHAC.]

[Panel description: Jade walks down another hill, which has a tattered windmill at its top. Dave and Karkat's symbols appear next to the battlefield's and are dismissed. The battleship looms overhead. Dave sprite lurks at the base of the hill.]

[Panel description: Jade walks down a path lined with red archways opening into dark passages. Purple-blue gas swirls further downhill. Dave sprite peers upward.]

[Panel description: Jade peers into one of the red stone-lined openings. A green lantern illuminates a small alcove holding the skeleton of an iguana consort.]

[Panel description: Jade stands in front of a collapsed circle of formerly standing stones.]

[Panel description: Jade approaches a crumbling red arch. An orange lantern has fallen from its hook and shattered.]

[Panel description: Jade looks up at Dave sprite, who hovers next to her. The Prospitian battleship looms behind them.]

DAVE SPRITE: hey jade.
can I talk to you for a second?
JADE: sure.
what do you need?

[Panel description: The two face each other. Dave sprite raises one hand as he talks. They're both rendered in a more realistic style, with detailing on their hair and his feathers.]

DAVE SPRITE: I worked some stuff out with john.
ok mostly we yelled at each other but I think it helped in an aggressive male bonding sort of way,
so I thought I should do the same thing with you.
except hopefully with less yelling.
I think I’ve maxed out the amount of capital letters I’m allotted today and even if I’m not typing right now you can still tell what qualifies you feel me.
no one wants to spend an entire day in caps lock mode unless they’re at a heavy metal concert or having a pointlessly heated internet conversation.
or if you’re that one troll, but the day we start holding trolls to standard typing conventions is the day interspecies war is declared.
those fuckers guard their leetspeak closer than they guard their lives.
JADE: um...
I’m not sure exactly where you’re going with this.
DAVE SPRITE: I wanted to say I’m sorry for fucking everything up.
you had enough shit on your plate and I added to it.
like an overeager cafeteria employee doling out steaming dollops of bs to anyone who got within range.
are you on the free and reduced lunch plan here’s an extra cupful you need some meat on your bones.
wrap your cold little hands around a piping hot mug of my personal issues it’ll do you good.
when really there is absolutely no nutritional content in anything I’m providing here.
Michelle Obama would have my ass on a platter if she found out,
and then proceed to not serve that platter of ass to anyone because it’s similarly lacking in any kind of dietary value.
neither of you needed that.
you didn’t need me at all.
even if it turns out the guy I was paving the way for wasn’t the paragon of sanity I was making him out to be although in retrospect I should’ve seen that coming.
check it out this product has loads of problems you should take it to the return desk and exchange it for the exact same model.
definitely a flaw in the logic there.
they have mass recalls for a reason.
still my minor and totally uncharacteristic lapse in coherent and rational thinking aside,
the fact that any version of me is chock full of personal failings doesn’t make this me a great alternative.
but I could have done a better job of not ruining everyone’s lives while taking myself out of them.
JADE: (annoyed face).
DAVE SPRITE: oh god I’m rambling again.
the point is you deserved way better and.
JADE: ok, I am going to stop you right there.

[Panel description: Jade presses a fist into her open palm. She leans forward, mouth open and eyebrows drawing together.]

JADE: I understand that you’re trying to apologize and I appreciate that, but you’re still making everything all about you.
you’re dwelling on how terrible you are so that I’ll feel sorry for you, when in an apology you should be thinking about the other person’s feelings.
it’s always like this with both of you.
you talk and talk but you won’t let anyone help you.
it’s enough to drive anyone crazy!
how do you think that made me feel?
I don’t think you thought about that at all.
yes, john and I had other things to deal with and we didn’t need more.
but you’re using that as another reason to feel bad about yourself and make excuses rather than actually thinking about our side of things.
if I had ever wanted to bring up any of my problems I’m not sure you would have let me.
you’d just talk right over them.
DAVE SPRITE: what.
you don’t know that.
you never gave me the chance.
where did any of this come from?
I mean first that rant before john knocked you out and then this.
forget left field you’re sprinting in from the football half of the park tackling the pitcher and no one knows what the fucks going on anymore even if the commentators are having a great time talking about it.
JADE: it didn’t come from anywhere!
it’s always been here.
I didn’t want you to know.
I never brought a lot of things up before about what I thought or how I felt.
I’m sorry and that’s why I’m doing it now.
I HAVE to do it now.
I’m sorry for what happened to you.
it wasn’t fair.
but you made me so tired.
no matter what I tried to say you didn’t want to hear it.
it made me really sad but also angry and I can’t do that anymore.
DAVE SPRITE: were you ever telling the truth about how you felt then.
I mean sure you told us fuck all about yourself pregame we’ve covered that base but now you’re saying you kept it up.
were we even your friends?
do we even know you?
JADE: I wasn’t lying about everything.
I already told john that and I meant it.
it’s not like none of it was true at all.
only when I was stressed or upset because none of you needed that on top of everything else.
it wasn’t going to change anything or make anything better.
DAVE SPRITE: well there you go.
if you were already a mess you were better off without me.
JADE: don’t pretend that you were doing what was best for me.
none of that was for our own good.
not ruining john’s party or anything else.
it was whatever you felt most comfortable with no matter how much it hurt anyone else.
you never even ASKED me what I wanted.
DAVE SPRITE: then what.
what do you want jade.
forget any of us asking, you never told us.
JADE: I don’t KNOW.
not this.
not being sad and lonely all the time while my friends don’t talk to me because apparently I’m too good for them?
which doesn’t make me feel better by the way!
I don’t need anyone else making decisions about my life.
I’ve had quite enough of that today thank you!!
I don’t want to be dictated to about who I should spend my time with, that’s just stupid.
and I guess,
I want people to be happy again.
everyone is angry all the time and it’s awful!!!
even if I’m contributing to that anger right now, but I am trying to be constructive. (anxious face).
so I’ll amend that to being actually happy, not just pretending to be.
DAVE SPRITE: what I’m still getting from this is that I did you a favor by fucking off.
you were never going to tell me to get lost even when you wanted me to.
JADE: stop thinking those things!!
why are you always so insecure?
DAVE SPRITE: maybe because my friends don’t trust me.
like Jesus it took john mentioning that he almost prototyped your grandpas corpse for the whole revelation that guess what jade was raised by a dead guy and a fucking dog.
could you have maybe slipped that into casual conversation sometime?
like hey guys I’m stuck on an island with a dead body and a wild animal maybe someone should send a rescue helicopter.
you didn’t have to write S O S on the beach or send smoke signals, you had an internet connection. we were all right there.
but no we had no idea.
oh and let’s not forget the kicker.
there was a dead YOU shoved in the attic behind the Christmas ornaments or some shit.
even now I don’t even know what I don’t know because god knows you kept your mouth shut about everything but for some reason you’re giving me shit for it.
what the actual FUCK jade.
maybe the goddamn yeti hung out on your island who knows.
not any of us.
not your friends.
JADE: and when was I supposed to mention any of that??
casual conversation? really??
none of you would have believed me.
you already thought I was silly and weird and probably making a lot of the stuff I said up.
that was who I was, remember?

[Panel description: Jade places her hands on her hips, ears back.]

JADE: the goofy sleepy girl who said funny things and needed to be taken care of.
even if you thought I was telling the truth, it would only make you even more sure that I needed to be rescued.
I didn’t need to be saved!!
DAVE SPRITE: I’m over that trust me.
you could kick my ass blindfolded as could everyone else in a 100 mile radius.
I’m fully aware of my downgrade on the badass scale.
JADE: see, now it’s about you again.
the terrible part is that you’re not a badass anymore, not that you never paid attention to anyone else.
besides, I didn’t want your pity!
if I started complaining about how hard my life was it would make things all about me, and I didn’t want that.
I couldn’t lose focus when I was trying to take care of things.
not to mention we had the game coming up!
none of you needed to be worrying about me when you should have been focusing on what was really important.
prospit isn’t about doom and gloom, it’s about optimism!
I wanted to be the best friend I could be.
DAVE SPRITE: and I’m not right.
derse dreamer doom and gloom pity party over here, and you’re all invited whether you like it or not.
god forbid anyone have feelings that aren’t integral to the mission, we might as well call in an airstrike right now and get it over with.
game over guys, someone was sad once.
we pessimists are singlehandedly responsible for literally everything terrible, you’re welcome.
JADE: that’s not what I was trying to say!
although it is true, you were always moping around and making the rest of us feel bad.
was that really necessary?
DAVE SPRITE: it’s not that easy ok.
I can’t tap a button and disable whatever fucking program keeps running shitty thoughts through my head.
believe me I’d have found it by now.
besides how is this bizarre self minimization thing any better when you do it with a smile on your face.
how are you any better than me?
sure you pretended or whatever and look where it got you.
if I had some repression based mental break it would probably be a hell of a lot less intimidating, but no one’s fucking got time for,
I don’t know,
me squawking and trying to dive-bomb their heads or some shit.
even if you’re pretending it’s not there it is.
we all know that.
it’s always there.
so excuse me for not pulling off the pep squad routine like you did.
should I toss a handful of glitter in the air and go hey fixed it.
it can’t be fixed.
let’s be honest no one wants me around like this.
sure if you could snap your fingers and magic my shit together then maybe but like I am now?
no way.
I can take a hint.
JADE: I didn’t want you to get lost.
I wanted to help!!!
DAVE SPRITE: yeah sure you want to help.
you want to "fix" me because I’m such a goddamn eyesore slouching around being fucked up.
no one wants that around so you need to paint a happy face over me so you can feel better about yourself and have something nicer to look at.
JADE: that’s not true!
DAVE SPRITE: isn’t that what you did to yourself.
JADE: yes, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
I wanted to make things better.
DAVE SPRITE: you can’t.
JADE: maybe not, but I don’t know for sure because you won’t let anyone TRY.

[Panel description: Jade scowls, her ears back. Dave sprite floats looking alarmed.]

JADE: do you like this?
do you enjoy making everyone else miserable??
DAVE SPRITE: it doesn’t matter how I feel about it.
JADE: isn’t EVERYTHING about how you feel???
DAVE SPRITE: that’s not fair.
JADE: none of this is fair!! but we have to make the best of it.
I’m not trying to sweep everything away and pretend it’s ok.
I know that’s awful, and I hate it.
I just don’t want to see anyone else being unhappy.
DAVE SPRITE: well here’s your get out of jail free ticket.
don’t bother.
save your effort for someone who’s got a future.
JADE: argh!
you don’t KNOW that.
DAVE SPRITE: you saw what happened to the other Roxy.
I’m the other Dave.
it’s not rocket science here.
JADE: rocket science isn’t even that hard!
DAVE SPRITE: ok fine that was the worst possible discipline to reference but you get the point.
JADE: I bet you prefer thinking about it that way.
it’s easier to just throw up your hands and give up than work at anything, isn’t it?
it’s easier to run away and not even try.
DAVE SPRITE: it’s not like I’ve got much of a choice.
JADE: yes, you do have a choice!
no matter what happens in the end, you can choose how you behave now.
I know choosing to pretend you’re completely ok and put everyone else first doesn’t work out, believe me.
but I also don’t think you should spend all your time imagining the worst thing that could happen,
because then even if there’s a better way you might not see it.
I wanted to think that way, and I wanted all of you to believe that too.
that’s why I did everything I did
I was trying to be HELPFUL.
DAVE SPRITE: what do you think I was doing?
taking myself out of the picture because I sure as hell wasn’t helping by being in it.
saying I was doing what I did because it would end up the best for everybody else no matter what happened to me.
if that’s fucked up how were you any better?
because as far as I can tell this argument is a goddamn photo negative of itself.
JADE: because I,
because you.

[Panel description: Jade turns away and digs her hands into her hair, her ears back. She is vibrating with frustration. Behind her, Dave sprite leans forward hesitantly. Behind both of them, John's blurry silhouette flashes into existence.]

JADE: AUGH!!!
I HATE when this happens.
DAVE SPRITE: what.
JADE: when people point out that my behavior was just as shitty as theirs.
DAVE SPRITE: are you calling my behavior shitty.
JADE: YES!!!
DAVE SPRITE: fair enough.
JADE: groan.
none of this is coming out right.
let me try again.
I didn’t tell anyone I felt this way.
that was wrong.
I tried so hard to be the person who was ok and strong and supportive, but it only made things worse.
now I am trying to be better.
if you want to apologize, that is wonderful and I am ready to hear it!
we all did things that we regret.
but I don’t think the apology matters very much if you don’t change anything.
like taking a break from talking about yourself and actually listening for once!
because maybe then you’d realize other people don’t actually hate you as much as you think they do and you’re overreacting about everything!!
and maybe, just maybe, if you stop talking yourself into a corner you might notice that that’s not the only place to be!!!
well????
do you have ANYTHING to say for yourself?
DAVE SPRITE: uh,
wow?

[Panel description: Jade looks back over her shoulder. Her ears are still back, but she now looks more ashamed than angry.]

JADE: oh no. (sad face).
was that too mean?
people have been telling me to be more straightforward but I might have overcorrected.
DAVE SPRITE: nah I think all that needed to get said.
at least now I know how Dave felt taking a few dozen rounds from you through the chest.
except maybe you could have done it at a lower decibel.
you’ve got some serious lungs do you work out.
like doing vocal calisthenics by screaming into your pillow for five minutes every night.
rose had a screaming pillow.
it worked for her.
JADE: that sounds tempting.
maybe I should start.

[Panel description: Dave sprite hovers looking blank, while Jade frowns, eyes narrowed. John lurks between them behind a pile of rocks.]

DAVE SPRITE: so,
are you saying you guys don’t actually hate me?
JADE: you were right.
I’m sensing the need for a pillow.
DAVE SPRITE: sorry.
I guess I have a hard time believing it even when I hear it.
chalk it up to one more way I’m a major pain in the ass.
JADE: no it’s ok.
it can be hard to know what people mean these days.
that’s my fault too.
no I don’t hate you.
of course not.
I don’t think john does either even if he can be grumpy sometimes.
I wouldn’t have acted like this if I hadn’t cared.
ask karkat how I behaved before I knew him very well and he will confirm that!
I’m sorry you felt like you had to ask.
DAVE SPRITE: rose was floating that outlandish theory past me earlier but I think it’s taking a while to sink in.
JADE: I doubt any of us see each other as badly as we see ourselves.
like how we try to help each other without taking care of ourselves or finding out what anyone really needs.
I know I made that mistake.
DAVE SPRITE: Jesus.
were like the dobbies of social interaction.
if we'd kept trying to help we probably would have killed someone.
JADE: someone did die because of me. (sad face).
DAVE SPRITE: see what I mean.
how did we get this terrible?
JADE: I was raised by a dog.
what’s your excuse?
DAVE SPRITE: being raised by a dog probably gives you an edge in this scenario.
JADE: oh,
right.
your bro was...
DAVE SPRITE: let’s go with saying he was an experience and leave it at that.
JADE: I don’t think trying to help is always bad though.
sometimes you need it, even if you’re only helping yourself.
I’m trying to be more honest, and I think that’s important.
even if I have to be more careful not to be mean.
DAVE SPRITE: yeah that was probably the most honest you’ve been with me in six years so good for you.
I guess I should work on all that stuff you just said too.
if I’m around anyway.
not sure I have that much time to get it right.
JADE: you’re doing the self pity thing again!!!
DAVE SPRITE: shit.
are you going to whack me with a newspaper?
JADE: I do still have that specibus...
DAVE SPRITE: don’t start with the obedience school training yet.
since obviously apology attempt 1 was D O A let me think.
...
I’m sorry.
I was trying to keep you from getting hurt and instead I ended up hurting you.
which sucks.
JADE: is that all you’ve got?
DAVE SPRITE: seems like the longer I talk the worse it gets so maybe shorter is better.
JADE: maybe you’re right.
I accept your apology.
and I’m sorry that I didn’t find a way to help, and that I sat on all this so long I turned into an evil werewolf. (concerned dog emoticon).
DAVE SPRITE: damn.
if I’d known I was doing such a good job ruining friendships without even trying I wouldn’t have put the extra effort in.
JADE: none of you ever stopped being my friends.
even if you made me frustrated that wasn’t all the time.
maybe we all failed each other a little bit.
or,
a lot. (unhappy face).
but we can still change that, right?
DAVE SPRITE: maybe.
JADE: ...

[Panel description: John stands up from behind the rocks. Dave sprite's eyebrows rise in surprise. Jade looks off to the side.]

JADE: are you really that determined to not make it out of this?
DAVE SPRITE: is there an answer that isn’t going to get me yelled at again.
JADE: [angry face].
DAVE SPRITE: figured.
dunno if I’ve got enough HP left to weather another round of the jade Harley verbal onslaught.
then my death would be on your hands.
do you want that staining your conscience I don’t think so.
JADE: it’s messy enough at the moment.
...
I remember when I was jade sprite I wanted to die.
the world was scary and painful and I didn’t see that I had a place in it anymore.
the rest of me thought that was selfish and wasteful.
I had no right thinking those things when more important events were happening that I could be helping with.
now that I remember both... I don’t know.
I still don’t think those thoughts were good ones to have, but I shouldn’t have dismissed them like I did.
I was scared and hurting and wanted to make it go away.
but being dead doesn’t do that.
being in the bubbles numbs you, and you get used to it after a while, but that’s not the same thing,
and then there’s no way out at all.
I wish there was an easier way to fix everything.
it can be tempting to want to be done so that it’s not hard anymore.
but I know despite everything I’m glad I’m still here.
if I’d died again then I never would have known that.
not to mention the whole situation would have turned out differently.
all of me would be dead if that part of me hadn’t stayed alive.
I hope whatever part of me she is knows that.
DAVE SPRITE: I remember you were different on the battlefield.
you didn’t mention any of this though.
JADE: I didn’t hide as well.
maybe I would have been able to understand better if I’d stayed that way.
DAVE SPRITE: it’s not really an understandable thing I don’t think.
doesn’t make sense to me anyway.
that’s what I’m here for spouting off answers like some windup jackass and solving problems but so far S Q L queries are turning up jack shit.
but I’ll keep what you said in mind I guess.
JADE: neither of us is here just for fixing things.
DAVE SPRITE: guess I’ll keep that in mind too.
people sure are making a case for hanging around.
rose was ragging on me about it earlier and as another timeline transplant she’s qualified if anyone is, even if she’s generally used that knowhow to demolish amphibian architecture and get smashed.
someone needs to keep an eye on everyone I guess.
even if that mostly involves making sure john doesn’t stick his arm through anyone important.
JOHN: are you guys talking about me?

[Panel description: Both Jade and Dave sprite turn to face John. Jade perks up.]

JOHN: oh, shoot.
am I interrupting something?
JADE: nope!
come here.

[Panel description: Jade grabs both of the boys around their necks and pulls them into a hug. They look alarmed and uncomfortable.]

[Panel description: Jade smiles hesitantly with a hand on each of their shoulders. John and Dave sprite still look confused.]

JOHN: uh.
JADE: I’m sorry everything got messed up like this.
from now on, I’m going to be more honest about things.
JOHN: are we talking about that again?
DAVE SPRITE: did you get that lecture already.
JOHN: yeah...
is that what you were doing?
DAVE SPRITE: if you mean getting yelled at within an inch of my life then yes that’s what we were doing.
JADE: (sticks out tongue).
DAVE SPRITE: I’m not saying it wasn’t constructive.
JOHN: I knew it was only a matter of time before she got you too.
no one is safe.
JADE: thanks for making me sound like a disease!
JOHN: hey, I am immune now. I’m not afraid.
is there anyone left you need to yell at?
JADE: hmmm.... not sure.
I guess we will find out!
DAVE SPRITE: good luck to those poor assholes.
JADE: john is going to be more honest too!
JOHN: I am?
oh, right. yes.
JADE: that way we can all be better friends.
DAVE SPRITE: oh damn are we turning this into one of those touching reaffirmations of friendship.
you know that means we’re all going to die now right.
JOHN: shut up and enjoy the moment.

[Panel description: John stands stiffly while Jade looks at him. Dave sprite hovers off to one side.]

JOHN: so... what did I miss, exactly?
DAVE SPRITE: jades on the prowl for people to add to her psych watch list.
on a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate your level of existential despair?
JOHN: um... 3???
I mean my entire existence has been pretty existential today, but since everyone isn't dead anymore, I don't think I need any despair.
is that the right answer?
DAVE SPRITE: jury’s still out on whether you’re shockingly well adjusted or horrifically repressed.
JADE: he’s not going to do that anymore! right john?
JOHN: you mean like how you were promising not to lie anymore?
JADE: I told you before, that’s not how I meant it to be.
everyone was so unhappy.
even you john even if you didn’t want to show it.
I didn’t see the point of making things worse.
it never felt like lying it felt like damage control.
you all seemed to like that version of me better anyway.
I liked her better.
she was who I wanted to be.
so I thought I’d just never let the other part out.
of course she did eventually, but I thought I had it under control.
besides, I was afraid you might not like me if you knew everything.
JOHN: we never had a chance to decide which one we liked better.
JADE: based on how everyone was acting I think it was reasonable to suspect that it wouldn’t go over well.
DAVE SPRITE: you mean how we were all a bunch of self centered bastards too caught up in our own problems to want to hear about anyone else’s.
JADE: I wasn’t going to put it quite like that.
JOHN: speak for yourself, I would have at least appreciated HEARING about it.
at least before getting kicked.
JADE: like I said I was wrong.
and I promise I wasn’t lying about being your friend.
I know everything today must have made it harder to trust me but that’s true.
so can we all agree on this?
JOHN: isn't that just going to make more yelling?
every time so far it's ended up in everyone getting into a fight.
I don't know about you, but I think we have had enough fights today.
we haven't even gotten to the boss battles yet!
JADE: ok...
we could add "try not to freak out" to that agreement.
DAVE SPRITE: try not to turn into an evil monster version of ourselves and go on a murder spree.
JADE: I can see I am never going to be allowed to forget that.
if I look hard maybe I can locate a middle gear in here somewhere.
hopefully I can manage something besides hiding for several years or growing fangs.
JOHN: I don't know, fangs are kind of cool.
but you don't have to hide from us, we're not scary.
I guess we will figure all this out.
and sometimes be terrible and throw tantrums, because it seems like that is always going to happen at least a little bit, but hopefully not too much.
JADE: so do we have a deal?
JOHN: I’ve been making SO many deals today.
but sure.
DAVE SPRITE: bet you weren’t expecting this when you zapped in.
that’s the problem with teleportation, you stumble ass backward into some sticky situation and get roped into relationship counseling.
JOHN: I think it's inevitable right now.
this is not my first encounter.
JADE: it’s not THAT bad! (sticks tongue out crankily).
john I’m glad you showed up though.
that saves me having to go look for you.
I need you to send me to the green sun.
JOHN: can't you teleport yourself out there?
JADE: no, I can only teleport within areas the green sun presides over, remember?
the furthest ring is not one of those places.
and even if it was, I’d still need you to bring me back.
JOHN: why?

[Panel description: A close up of Jade's glasses. The green sun glows reflected in their lenses, surrounded by white cracks snaking through the void of the furthest ring.]

JADE: I’m going to cut the sun off from the rest of reality.
it’s already almost there, I can feel it.
if I send it the rest of the way, that’ll make both jack and lord English a lot weaker.
plus if the empress tries to double cross us she won’t be able to use me or her cat against you.
DAVE SPRITE: I’m all in favor of getting rid of the cat.
JOHN: if the green sun is part of you though, wouldn't that be dangerous???
like...
you know.
I don't want to sound negative or anything, but...
DAVE SPRITE: luckily that’s one of my many talents so I’ll translate.
will it hurt you?
JADE: I don’t think so...
it’ll make me lose the part of bec that was in me, that’s all.
JOHN: but that part gives you all your cool powers!
are you sure you want to give those up?
JADE: not ALL of my cool powers.
I won’t be helpless I promise.
besides, I don’t want to hurt anyone again.
I think taking a downgrade is worth that.
so,
will you help me?
JOHN: if you're sure.
do you want me to come?
JADE: no... I think this is something I need to do myself.
JOHN: ok.
hang on, I’ve never tried sending someone by themselves before, I should think this through.
I need to think of something to help me send you there.
if I haven't been somewhere, it's easier for me to imagine something related to that place.
it helps me focus.
hmm...
got it!

[Panel description: John takes Jade's hand. Her arm glows blue white and the word zap appears on it.]

JOHN: off you go.
DAVE SPRITE: what’d you think of?
JOHN: jack noir.
that's the first thing that popped into my head.
hopefully he'll work.
DAVE SPRITE: don’t see why not
JOHN: oh, by the way, rose wants to talk to you.

[Panel description: John squints and makes air quotes as Jade zaps away.]

JOHN: something about "regulating my behavior".
DAVE SPRITE: oh.
tell her,
I’ll get back to her.
what’s it about.
JOHN: I don't know.
she's talking to a lot of people about a lot of different things.
for example, earlier she was asking me how cherubs have sex!
DAVE SPRITE: really.
Jesus I know she’s grabbing xenos bioluminescent vampire ass with both hands but this aint the time.
JOHN: I don't know why she wanted to know, I only know that she is plotting something.
she and terezi are always plotting something lately.
DAVE SPRITE: that’s for sure.
anymore plotting and we might as well all be on graph paper.
if she says anything to you about quadrants just say no.
JOHN: ha-ha, what?
DAVE SPRITE: never mind.
JOHN: I don't see why you can't tell rose yourself.
DAVE SPRITE: I’ve got a thing.
JOHN: a thing?
DAVE SPRITE: yes.
JOHN: well, I suppose that is an extenuating circumstance.
I will let her know.
I’ll go home and wait for jade to message me to bring her back.
see you later!
DAVE SPRITE: sure.
later.

[Panel description: Dave sprite looks on as John zaps away.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite looks ahead neutrally.]

[Panel description: He looks up into the sky, where LOHAC can be seen floating in the darkness.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: John zaps into his bedroom. He is standing in the same place he stands in the first panel of the comic, but he is drawn in a more realistic style that makes him look out of place in his childhood home. His bed and dresser are both visible, but they now bear marks of wear and tear. The poster to the right of his door has begun to fall down, although the SBURB beta poster still hangs where it used to. Cruxtruder totems are stacked on top of his dresser, and the pogo hammer leans against it. A squiddle lies on the ground at the bottom left of the panel.]

[Panel description: John walks through his bedroom, looking around. One of his windows is boarded up, and his vandalized posters have been partly ripped down, with their edges still clinging to the wall. More stuffed animals are scattered across the floor, which is marked with dirt and oil. The totem lathe is visible on the far edge of the room, partly obscuring a calendar still open to April 2009 and marking John's birthday.]

[Panel description: John looks at the calendar. The tenth is marked with a crossed out red box labeled Beta! The 13th has a drawing of a smiling face with a party hat.]

[Panel description: The parts of John's movie posters remaining still have graffiti in Rose, Dave, and Jade's colors turning the characters into clowns. The word Duh is written in red.]

[Panel description: John kneels on his bed and looks up toward the viewer, reaching a hand toward the wall with its posters. A graffiti red arrow points toward him.]

[Panel description: John, in sprite mode and in his original outfit, stands on his bed with his eyes shut tightly. He is holding a red marker. The posters around him are covered in graffiti with insults such as fool and dumb kid. His father watches from the corner of the room.]

[Panel description: John stands in yellow pajamas on his dream bed in Prospit, similarly sleepwalking and holding a marker. His Prospit bedroom's walls are also vandalized. A doll resembling Jack Noir is propped up against the wall. Jade pokes her head in through the window, mouth open in dismay.]

[Panel description: John holds the remains of a vandalized Ghost busters poster in his hands.]

[Flash description: John lies on his side in his bed. He holds the crumpled poster in one hand and rests his head on his other arm. The camera pans down the length of his body. Then it switches to a close-up of his eye, which closes. The scene returns to an image of John's full body before fading to black. A speech bubble containing a Z appears.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jade zaps into view. Her small figure floats in front of the immense green sun, which is surrounded by a web of cracks that gape open to reveal the background color of the website. The story itself seems to be coming apart. The panel is oversized and fills most of the screen.]

[Panel description: As Jade finishes arriving, she is watched by the blurry figure of Jack Noir.]

[Panel description: Jade looks over at him as the light of the green sun flickers off her face. She is concerned.]

[Panel description: She faces the viewer head on, face set. The sun reflects in her glasses.]

[Panel description: Another oversized panel. We see Jade from the back as she floats up and down in front of the swirling green surface of the sun. She is rendered in dark green with light green highlights.]

[Panel description: The image zooms in to show the sun reflected in her glasses.]

[Panel description: Jade reaches up to touch one of her dog ears. She frowns, eyes shadowed.]

[Panel description: Jade reaches out her hand. First guardian lightning crackles around her fingers.]

[Panel description: The green sun breaks along the lines of the cracks surrounding it. It looks like the panel itself has broken, the sun falling back slightly to reveal the gray background of the website behind the panel.]

[Panel description: The sun slowly falls down the expanse of the website, disappearing from view outside the border of the site.]

[Panel description: Jade grits her teeth. Lightning crackles around her, and her outline blurs.]

[Panel description: Jade floats as a gray silhouette with only her white glasses and white Space symbol visible. Her dog ears convert to a green mist that curls around her body and moves toward the viewer. The mist coalesces into the spectral form of a dog's face and front paws.]

[Panel description: Jade floats in the center of a black crater edged with cracks. She is viewed from the perspective of someone on the other side of the break, with most of the panel colored to look like the MSPA site. Bec's spirit flows from Jade through the crater, swirling outside the main story and toward the viewer.]

GG: I’m ready to come back now.

[Panel description: John lies on his side with his mouth open and his eyes closed. He's drooling. His arms are still wrapped around the torn poster.]

GG: john?

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The land of heat and clockwork, viewed from a distance. The circular lava lake left behind by the beat mesa glows at its center.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite and Terezi hover in front of the swirling red surface. They are rendered as dark red silhouettes with red-orange highlights. Terezi is wearing her dragon wings jet pack.]

TEREZI: is this the back way in?
DAVE SPRITE: if you can’t shift a few tons of boulders.
after I left last time, Hephaestus triggered a rock fall.
blocked off the entrance the seventh gate takes you to normally.
I got my one free visit, if I wanted to come back I had to mean it.
denizens don’t want Jehovah’s witnesses dropping by and they hate cold calls.
this strategy cuts down on the door to door vacuum salesmen.
I figured if Dave wanted to pick up the hoard he’d give him a way through.
maybe not though based on what you said I dunno.
either way if we want an audience we have to prove it.
that means going through the lava.
TEREZI: through it?
You know I recently smelled a good friend of mine get deep fried that way.
It didn’t seem like much fun.
I may never eat barbecue again.
DAVE SPRITE: video game lava plays by its own rules.
same as water like sometimes you’re Mario being tailgated by calamari, sometimes you’re sonic sinking right to the bottom, and sometimes you’re Altair. stick a toe in and bam,
game over.
tough luck dude didn’t you know h2o is poison.
have fun getting your junior lifeguard certification now.
this stuff is a test.
it won’t hurt you.
not if you don’t want it to.
TEREZI: that sounds easy.
Suspiciously so.
Are you sure?

[Panel description: A close up of Dave sprite's face. The swirling lava is reflected in his shades.]

DAVE SPRITE: it’s not a test for you.

[Panel description: Dave sprite and Terezi float over the lava. The perspective changes so they now appear to be lying horizontally. Terezi reaches one hand toward the liquid.]

DAVE SPRITE: if you want to make it through you have to hold yourself together.
you’re a mind hero, strength of will is your thing.
me.
I’m not so sure about me.

[Panel description: Dave sprite plunges an arm into the lava.]

[Panel description: He pulls his hand out. It glitches dramatically, turning into a jumble of bright colors and static.]

DAVE SPRITE: the only reason I made it this far was because I wanted to die doing something useful.
you know,
go out with a bang.
not be a total waste of space for once.
it was a nice idea,
but that’s not enough to keep me in one piece.
TEREZI: you knew about this.
That’s why you didn’t want to come.
DAVE SPRITE: hey don’t typecast me I’m an individual with a complex psychology I had a lot of reasons.
one of which was to be a pain in the ass on principle.
TEREZI: (scowling face).
DAVE SPRITE: but yeah.
some people were trying to talk me into staying.
almost started to believe them.
I should’ve known better.

[Panel description: Terezi purses her lips.]

[Panel description: Terezi dips one hand into the lava.]

TEREZI: three years ago I made the hardest decision of my life.
The other Dave helped talk me through it actually but in the end the decision was up to me.
I killed someone I cared about.
Every day I wish I hadn’t.
The alternative would have been wasting away in a doomed timeline.
I know that.
But sometimes I wish that that was the choice I had made.
Today was like that.
After aranea destroyed our timeline I was almost relieved
John was going to fix things.
I could step aside and be just another casualty of causality.
Another terezi would have to keep going but I could fade away in the bubbles.
Then I had to remember.
Now I’ve helped.
At least I think I’ve helped.
And we may finally be winning.
If that’s what this is.
Those were the trials that we had to go through to get here.
And as nice as it would have been to collapse in a chalk outline and never get up again...
I’m needed here.
Maybe someday what I had to do to get this far won’t hurt.
But the point is,
Whether it was killing her or telling john to save us all,
Being erased seemed like the easier choice compared to enduring the pain from those decisions.
But those choices weren’t only about me and my feelings.
It was about everyone.
I made them to save my friends and keep them going.

[Panel description: She draws her hand out and holds it palm up. It is unharmed.]

TEREZI: and part of that is me going on too.
Paradox space can be cruel.
I used to think it had a sense of justice,
But if it does it is a justice that doesn’t feel.
It doesn’t care about the reasoning behind people’s choices or the way they feel that drives them forward.
Maybe that’s the best kind of justice.
It’s pure.
It judges by actions and outcomes.

[Panel description: Terezi makes a fist.]

TEREZI: but it’s a kind I can’t believe in anymore.
My powers let me see a million potential outcomes stemming from every thought a person has,
But even with all those options at your disposal it often seems like you don’t have a choice at all.
Especially if you have to do something to make sure a timeline stays the alpha.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a choice.
No matter what you do your actions are your own.
No matter how terrible the consequences you are still responsible for them.
That’s what makes our decisions so important.
DAVE SPRITE: it doesn’t matter.
not for me.
I thought I’d made my peace with it by now.
that was the whole point.
but I keep lying to myself,
pretending that I can make up and be friends and accomplish something.
but there’s only one ending for me.
I’m doomed.
TEREZI: no,
You’re not.
DAVE SPRITE: what.
TEREZI: a friend of mine once told me that all twelve of us were going to die.
I asked rose and she said he’d meant the timeline john destroyed.
As far the targets on our backs are concerned that happened and it’s over.
Now we all have a clean slate.
Neither of us has to die.
You’ll be the one making that decision for yourself.
No one else can decide for you.
That’s what free will is all about.
You can let yourself go.
It may hurt less.
I definitely know the feeling.
But I can’t do this without you.
Does that change anything for you?
DAVE SPRITE: you can’t drop that kind of shit on someone and expect them to process it right away what the hell.
what you think waltzing in here and saying I’m not doomed makes all my problems go away,
if it’s even true.
TEREZI: as far as I know it is.
It’s not meant to be a quick fix.
I don’t believe in those,
But I believe in choices.
I thought you might like to have one.
Maybe it’s not fair to put that pressure on you but I’m not interested in fair.
I’m interested in what works and when all else fails having a duty works for me.
The future is what we make of it.
Are you ready to make yours count?
DAVE SPRITE: I don’t know.
TEREZI: well,
Let’s find out.

[Panel description: Terezi flies into the lava, leaving behind a trail of smoke and the word Pchoo.]

[Panel description: A long vertical panel. Terezi plunges feet first into a red stone chamber, capped at the top by the other side of the lava lake. Her blindfold trails behind her, its edges on fire and glitching. The panel is a call back to Vriska's leap toward the memory of Yaldabaoth’s lair.]

[Panel description: Terezi lands in a kneeling superhero pose with one hand braced on the ground. She turns her head backward toward where the edges of her blindfold are still ablaze. Her whole body twitches and glitches.]

[Panel description: Glitching flames lick at the edges of her blindfold.]

[Panel description: Terezi stomps out the flames.]

[Panel description: Terezi rests one foot on the charred and smoking end of her blindfold. She is holding the cloth in one hand, and with her now visible eyes she looks up.]

[Panel description: Terezi stares at the underside of the lava lake. Glitches play across its surface.]

[Panel description: Terezi continues to look upward, eyes wide.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite tumbles out of the lava, arms flailing. He is glitching so badly glitches spread outside the apparent bounds of the panel, sending particles of red and orange into the borders of the site.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite lies sprawled at Terezi's feet glitching in and out.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite stabilizes, still on the ground. The words unsurprising development are written next to him.]

DAVE SPRITE: I made it.
TEREZI: There’s no need to act so surprised.
After a speech that inspiring there was no way you wouldn’t have,
Trust me.
I am a seer after all.

[Panel description: Terezi grins and reaches out a hand to help Dave sprite up. He reaches back, looking winded.]

[Panel description: Terezi faces toward the viewer, grinning and putting her signature red glasses back on. Behind her, Dave sprite hangs back, frowning. The words genuine distress float over his head.]

TEREZI: let’s go meet Hephaestus.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: John lies on his bed sleeping peacefully. Then his surroundings blur and change, until he's sleeping on his quest bed in the land of wind and shade. His outfit changes as well to jeans, a black shirt, and a green jacket, an outfit designed for him by Vriska.]

[Panel description: John gets off the bed, raises his arms above his head, and stretches, smiling with his eyes closed. A speech bubble with the Light symbol hovers by the side of his head.]

VRISKA: John!

[Panel description: John stands in sprite mode with the speech bubble next to him. Then Vriska erupts from the bubble, does a spin, and lands suavely in a ‘Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park’ kind of pose. John's outfit changes to his god tier uniform.]

[Panel description: Vriska puts her hands on her hips and leans forward with an eyebrow raised. She is back in her God Tier outfit, but she still has thick gold bracelets on both wrists. Most of her hair hangs loose, but two braids hang down her front, tied off with gold. John crosses his arms over his chest and looks off to the side. His surroundings continue to be the land of wind and shade, but sunset colored sky and water creep in from Vriska's side of the panel.]

JOHN: oh... hi, vriska.
VRISKA: What was that tone for?
Oh, you're not still grumpy about what happened last time we saw each other, are you?

[Panel description: Vriska sits on John's quest bed, sticking one leg up in the air. John looks at her with a frown. Behind them, her land of maps and treasure entirely fills the background, and several compass roses are visible.]

VRISKA: That was forever ago. How long was it?
JOHN: uh... less than a day?
VRISKA: That short? Man, sometimes I forget how weird time is here.
It's been... I don't know exactly, but sweeps and sweeps.
I've turned over a new leaf. The army is old news.
We're not scrabbling over that useless weapon anymore either.
Wait until you hear what I've been up to.
JOHN: sure, I’d be happy to.
but the weapon wasn't useless.
it worked!
at least, it did something.
I don't know if I’m using it how it was supposed to be used, but it gave me some neat new powers!
VRISKA: Really? That's a relief.
After all that hard work tracking it down, all we knew about it was that it made you disappear.
Aradia lugged it around for a while, but whenever we tried to activate it, nothing happened.
You can't even bash monsters on the head with it, because it's intangible. Talk about sloppy design!
I don't know why English tried to hide it.
But you do, apparently. What's its secret?
JOHN: after I disappeared, I found out I was able to travel all through time and space.
I can change things, even things that normally paradox space wouldn't let me change.
it's kind of scary to have that sort of power, and I have to use it VERY carefully.
but terezi helped me use it to save us, so I bet it could be used as a weapon against lord English if we came up with a good enough plan.
VRISKA: Terezi? You've seen her?
JOHN: sure. we're all together now in the new session.
it hasn't been very long, but lots of stuff has happened since we last talked.
VRISKA: How is she?
JOHN: terezi? she WAS beat up and dying, actually.
VRISKA: What?
JOHN: no, it's ok!!!
she helped me make that not happen!
now I’m learning more about how to use the weapon's power to make sure other good things happen, like making people not die.
although even that I have to be careful about so I don't ruin anything important.
it's really stressful!
VRISKA: She's still keeping events on track, huh? Figures.
Leave it to a Pyrope to have her finger on the pulse of whoever's running the show.
And to be willing to stop that pulse if she thinks it's necessary.
Next time you see her, tell her I said hi.
JOHN: ok.
if you gave up the army, what are you doing now?
I thought you always had irons in the fire.
at least eight, or some multiple, like sixteen.
VRISKA: Of course I do. Who do you think I am?
A Serket never sleeps. Only her enemies do.
Like I said, I've turned over a new leaf.
No more mind control or murder or other nefarious deeds.
My slate is so clean you can't turn up your delicate human nose at it!
You could eat grub loaf off this slate.
English is tearing this place apart, and the ghosts aren't any good at running away.
I've been doing damage control and keeping him busy.
After all, why would he chase after small fry when I'm around stirring up trouble?
I'm a much better catch, especially because no one else can be a bother like I can.
It's a Serket specialty. [eight-eyed smiling face].
JOHN: that sounds great!
no offense, but last time I saw you...
VRISKA: You thought I was despicable, I know.

[Panel description: John sits next to Vriska on the quest bed, eyes shadowed. Vriska purses her lips. The firefly-dotted clouds of LOWAS creep over her compass-strewn sky.]

JOHN: I wouldn't go that far!
you overreacted after I said what I said, but I did think you were dangerous.
the way you treated people... it wasn't nice.
VRISKA: I AM dangerous. English is finding that out the hard way.
All the other stuff, though...
Remember Aranea, my ancestor?
Shorter hair, nerdy glasses, talked a lot?
JOHN: yeah, I remember her.
she came into our session one time and destroyed everything.
VRISKA: She did? I didn't think she had it in her.

[Panel description: Vriska holds her hands in front of her as she talks. The spires of Prospit and some cathedrals from Eridan's land project in the background.]

VRISKA: She never told me either. I thought her plan bombed before it got off the ground.
JOHN: that's what I had to fix.
so I guess I made sure it bombed, retroactively.
it was still pretty terrible, though, so I’m glad it didn't happen for real.
or, um, permanently?
it felt pretty real when I was there...
VRISKA: She did say some snot nosed kid in blue pajamas ruined it for her. Guess that was you.
JOHN: yep!
in that specific instance, I am glad to be a time line ruiner.
VRISKA: Anyway, she told me she was going to teach me a lesson about who we Serkets really were. Then she died.
Along the way, she got someone else I cared about killed too.
She stuck her fingers into a messy situation to get everyone's attention so she could show off, but instead people ended up hurt.
I can take a hint when it's dangled in front of me.
It took a while, but I've had endless sweeps of it staring me in the face.
I had to do something different.
And I did.
It's all cool with us now, even the people I killed.
Bygones and bygones from before I started heroing the Breath player approved way.
So that stuff you hated me for is ok now!

[Panel description: John and Vriska look soberly in different directions.]

JOHN: I didn't HATE you. but... good, I guess??
I’m glad it's fine now, and that everything's better, and that no one has to be upset any more.
I mean...
sort of?
...
ok, no, you know what?
I WAS upset!
by that, and by a lot of things!
and I’m not going to say that I wasn't just so you'll think I’m a better person to talk to!
VRISKA: Huh?

[Panel description: John looks down at his knees, eyes lined with stress.]

JOHN: I know our conversations always have this weird sci fi time lapse element but there's so much stuff I haven't said to you that I probably should have.
I mean, first you're being nice to me, and then you arrange me getting killed, even if it WAS for my own good, and then you tell me you killed a lot of people, and then you die!!
I didn't have time to process any of that.
you complimented me on how accepting I was but to be honest it was easier for me to be that way with all the crazy stuff going on.
if we kept stopping to go "oh, are you sure about this?" every time anyone said something weird, we probably would've gotten pulverized!
and maybe that worked during the game when we all had to work together fast so we didn't die.

[Panel description: The image zooms in on John's face. His hand trembles, and his eyes dart back and forth.]

JOHN: but there are things I didn't even REMEMBER because of not thinking about them, and that's scary!
so no, maybe it's not all cool!
it's not cool or ok that you made jade's dog into an unbeatable boss or killed a bunch of people or died, even if all those things did happen and there's nothing we can do about them.
and it's also not cool or ok that my planet is destroyed and almost everyone's dead and my dad's gone forever and there's nothing I can do about any of THAT either!!
and maybe we should stop pretending that it is!!!
VRISKA: Uh........

[Panel description: John puts both hands to his head and screams. Images of Vriska, Terezi, Bec Noir, Dad Egbert, and the damaged battlefield swirl around his head accompanied by the words holy and aah. Behind him, Vriska is alarmed. This is a call back to the panel where Jade tells John their trip will take three years.]

VRISKA: John, you should probably breathe. I don't think you're supposed to be turning blue, even if it is your color.
John?
Oh boy.
Not another leader tantrum.
JOHN: agh!
jade told me to think about things more and now I can't STOP.
VRISKA: You might be having a panic attack.
JOHN: what, no, that's crazy.
VRISKA: You're flickering around the edges.
JOHN: I can stop that any time I want.
VRISKA: Wow.
This is what happens without my expert guidance, obviously. You go off the rails completely.
JOHN: stop doing that!
VRISKA: Doing what?
JOHN: blowing stuff off!
you're just as bad, pretending this is some fun and wacky adventure when terrible things are happening, and you're making some of them happen.
why do you do that? don't you care at all??
VRISKA: Maybe so I don't have a total meltdown like you are?
JOHN: ... is that why?
VRISKA: Shrug! I don't really go for the introspection.
I bet you can take it easy too. Don't need to catch up on a bunch of sweeps worth of dramatic self revelations all at once.
Seriously, breathe.
Imagine how embarrassing it would be if a hero of Breath suffocated in front of a ghost.
JOHN: ... that did happen, once, kind of.
I got so angry I passed out.
but technically I am already unconscious...
...

[Panel description: John is still shaking, but he lets out a breath shaped vaguely like his symbol. Vriska continues to watch him with concern.]

JOHN: ok, I’m calming down now.
probably.
sorry for freaking out at you.
it's been a long day.
VRISKA: I'll take your word for it.
JOHN: for the record, though, I do think that stuff like killing people is a big deal, and it's ok if you admit it.
to yourself, and to me, and maybe to them too.
VRISKA: It's not like I'm the only one dragging my feet here!
None of us have talked about it.
How do you talk about something like that??
Hey, by the way, sorry for killing you! No hard feelings!!!!
I tried giving Aradia a robot body to make up for it, and she still beat me to a bloody pulp.
Talking is boring. Doing is better.
I'm taking orders from a low blood.
I'm putting my spectral neck on the line rescuing dead people I don't even know.
I could get blasted into nothing and what would my legacy be? Nothing but shepherding a bunch of ungrateful dreamers around. So you can't even say I'm in it for the glory.
That all sounds pretty damn heroic to ME.
Isn't that enough?
JOHN: I used to think so.
now... I don't know.
sometimes when you don't say things, they go bad.
do the people you hurt know you're sorry?
VRISKA: I practically had to grovel at their feet to get this gig.
JOHN: still, it might not be a bad idea to talk to them some time, if you're feeling brave enough.
that way it'll really stop being a big deal instead of you just saying it isn't so you don't have to deal with it.
VRISKA: Are you saying I'm a coward?
JOHN: no!
I think you're brave for talking to me about it at all.
that's really scary, believe me, I know.
a lot of that has been happening to me today, and it's been messing with my head.
...which you just saw, heh.
opening up to people can be scarier than trying to fight an unbeatable monster, but maybe that's part of being a hero too?
being brave in ALL situations, not just the ones that seem straight forward.
and maybe later you'll be ready to talk to other people besides me.
VRISKA: Maybe.
I guess there's ONE person I'd like to clear the air with.
I'll skip the breakdown part though.
It really has been a long time.
Hard to hold on to too many grudges for too long here.
After a while it starts to fade.
Sorry if all the shit I pulled during your session bothered you.
I was a total try hard back then. Full of goofy ideas of how to be important.
So those things aren't ok. That just means you have to beat whatever made them that way even harder.
Crush your enemies! Win the game! Be awesome!
JOHN: I don't think I want to fight any more.
I just want...

[Panel description: John and Vriska look out over a landscape that mixes their two lands. A memory of John's house rises on a spire of stone ringed with clouds. Faint cracks etch the sky.]

JOHN: I want to go home.
but I can't!
I AM home. I’m asleep in my bed right now.
that's as home as I can get now.
VRISKA: I can never go home either. No planet, no life, no nothing.
All I can do is advance!
Maybe we can't forget what happened to us or what we did.
Hey, this whole place is made of memories. I'd be high and dry if they went away.
But you can't let them boss you around either. You're in charge!
JOHN: I don't know if I can handle that.
VRISKA: Sure you can! I always pick winners.
You've already done a great job as far as I'm concerned.
Figuring out where I went wrong, and how to be better...
I've got you to thank for a lot of that.
JOHN: me?
VRISKA: You! You were my hero, the one I made who turned out great!
I don't care what anyone says, you will always be the best human.
You listened and didn't judge me when I talked to you.
No one else did that for me without making me feel like they were secretly disapproving.
Or not so secretly.
When you believed I could be better, it made me feel like I really could be.
There's something about you, John, that makes people listen.
You don't even need psychic powers to make that happen.
JOHN: I’m glad to hear that.
I always thought you could be a good person, if you put your mind to it.
I like to think that everyone is a good person inside, as long as they try hard and are nice to their friends.
you just have to find the right way to be a hero.
and if I could play a part in that, I’m glad that I did.

[Panel description: John stands, looking back at Vriska. She remains seated, smiling.]

VRISKA: See, that's what's so great about you.
You can say those dorky and embarrassing things and yet somehow they're still endearing and meaningful.
Even if I'd laugh my ass off if anyone else tried saying them with a straight face.
You saying that you think I'm a hero...

[Panel description: Vriska smiles widely, closing her eyes and inclining her head.]

VRISKA: That's a nice thing to hear.
Remember when you were climbing your echeladder and desperate for my approval?
JOHN: no.
VRISKA: Pff, you lived for my attention and validation, admit it.
You even dressed up like me!
JOHN: you gave me those clothes!!
VRISKA: Who cares about little details like that?
You thought I was the coolest, and you were right.

[Panel description: The two of them smile and look up at the cracking sky. Fireflies swirl above their heads. They are framed by the four columns of John's quest bed.]

VRISKA: Now you get to see. Now everyone gets to see.
With us heroes on his tail, English doesn't stand a chance.
JOHN: no, he doesn't.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jade floats in the middle of the hole left by the sun, framed by cracking white space.]

[Panel description: The image zooms in. Jade looks at her outstretched hand. A speech bubble hovers above it.]

[Panel description: The image zooms in further. The speech bubble contains John's symbol.]

[Panel description: Jack Noir floats with a neutral expression. Wisps of green rise off him as well, representing the loss of his first guardian powers. His head is no longer canine in shape. Instead, it has returned to a more standard carapace face with an ornate crown and jester's hat.]

GG: are you there?

[Panel description: Jack looks over at Jade, who floats with her back to him.]

[Panel description: Jade scowls down at her phone. Behind her, Jack is an ominous silhouette.]

[Panel description: Jack curls his hand around the hilt of his sword.]

[Panel description: Jack brings his sword down toward Jade's head. She turns toward him, mouth open.]

[Panel description: Jade leans back and grits her teeth, squinting one eye shut and widening the other in concentration. She holds both hands up with her index finger and thumb out, making a picture framing gesture.]

JADE: dammit!

[Panel description: John and Vriska continue looking up at the sky. John's look of contentment changes to concern.]

GG: JOHN!!!! (scowling face).

[Panel description: John reaches for his pocket.]

JOHN: shoot, I forgot!
it's been good catching up, but I’m not supposed to be asleep right now.
jade's counting on me.
I have to wake up and bring her back from the green sun when she's ready.
VRISKA: I can help with that.
As a favor for an old friend. (eight eyed smiling face).
Just say the word.

[Panel description: Vriska waves, the Scorpio sign glowing on her forehead.]

JOHN: it was nice to see you again, vriska.
I didn't like the way we left each other last time, and I’m glad we can be friends.
whatever happened in the past, it sounds like you learned from it, and your treasure hunt did help me a lot, so I should be grateful.
maybe sometime when everything calms down we should watch the nic cage movies i know you love and not worry about being the best or one upping people for a while.
VRISKA: That sounds like it would be a lot of fun.
Too bad I don't think it's going to happen.
JOHN: why not?
VRISKA: Like I said, English is doing a number on the furthest ring.
It might not hold together for very much longer, and we're running out of places to hide.
He's hot on my tail, and he's pissed.
I'm glad we got to see each other again, because I don't think we'll get another chance.
JOHN: oh man, but I don't want you to die!
or, double die?
sheesh, death is confusing when it doesn't really mean much of anything.
VRISKA: I don't want to call it quits yet either.
There are things left for me to do, especially if you say I'm not done cleaning up my act.
Still, if this many sweeps passed since I saw you last, who knows when our paths might cross again?
I think it's best to say goodbye now, just in case.
JOHN: ok... if you say so.
goodbye, vriska.
I hope I see you again.
but no matter what, you're my friend, and I’m proud of you.
and good luck.
VRISKA: I have all the luck, remember? (eight eyed winking face).
Thanks for the well wishes, though.
Goodbye John.
I helped you become a hero.
Go be one.
(Heart emoticon.)

[Panel description: John waves, then goes white and vanishes.]

[Panel description: Jack flies toward Jade, brandishing his sword. She floats backlit against the white tear in the sky.]

[Panel description: Jack's sword arcs over Jade's shoulder, leaving a bleeding cut. Her eyes widen, but then she glows green and vanishes. The type of green glow is different than her first guardian powers.]

[Panel description: Jade appears in a flash of green light and holds her hand out. Jack’s form blurs, immobilized.]

[Panel description: Jade holds her diamonds are a girl's best friend rifle and looks down its scope.]

[Panel description: Jack is clear in the crosshairs. Then his form is briefly replaced by the panel where Jade accidentally shot Dave on LOFAF.]

[Panel description: Jade lowers her rifle, looking horrified. Then she goes white and disappears with the word zap.]

[Panel description: Jade zaps into view in John's bedroom. She slumps forward, her arm bleeding and her hair ragged. John frowns, putting a hand to his head.]

JOHN: sorry for taking so long, I fell asleep.
whoa, what happened to you?
JADE: jack came along with me somehow.
JOHN: oh shoot, I guess that was my bad.
sorry.

[Panel description: Jade's cut glows with bright god tier light.]

JADE: it’s ok!
he only cut my arm.
it’s already closing up.
JOHN: um, I don't know if you've noticed this yet, but...

[Panel description: Jade reaches back toward her hair, mouth open in dismay.]

JOHN: you have a lot less hair than you used to.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: A long horizontal panel. Jake stands at the opening of a deep canyon, with blue gas curling up its green walls.]

[Panel description: Jake peers over the edge, clutching his gas mask to his chest with both hands.]

[Panel description: Jake stands at the top of a stairway leading down into the canyon. More wisps of blue gas curl up the stairway toward him.]

[Panel description: Jake places one foot on the first step.]

[Panel description: Jake puts the gas mask on.]

[Panel description: Jake jumps in surprise as brain ghost Dirk appears on the stair next to him.]

DIRK: Deep, isn't it?
JAKE: You again!!
DIRK: Me again.
JAKE: You witless newt! What exactly is your aim with continuing to do this?
DIRK: My aim?
JAKE: Your aim!!
With the malapert commentary and twisting my arm til I punch my friends in the face!
DIRK: I don't have an aim outside of what you want for yourself.
As often as you might hear this from various parties who shall not be named in tones of varying genuity, you may take it in good faith that when I say "we are in fact the same guy" I'm being completely fucking literal, bro.
JAKE: That doesnt stop it sounding like a bigger and bigger load of bull the more that I hear it.
DIRK: I gotcha, but my sentiment remains the same.
I'm only here because you want help.
JAKE: I’d much rather you shove the kibitz and just leave me alone!
DIRK: I'm very aware.
But I think that is also, to borrow your phrasing, a load of bull.
JAKE: I’d rather just be LEFT ALONE.
DIRK: No you don't.
We both know that you both can’t have and don’t really want that.
Remember how happy you were to talk to Jade? You'd rather be alone than do that?
JAKE: Jade... does not have the countenance of my boyfriend.
Or. Recently ex boyfriend.
Ugh.
Ok look.
Jade is one thing. And while i appreciate all the hard work you put in as my self-esteem now is not the best time for me to get talked around by dirk strider.
Projection or otherwise.
DIRK: Oh please, my existence is way more complex than that.
JAKE: Whatever!
Whoever you are would you kindly... just...
Piss off?
DIRK: Wow, harsh.
Sadly, due to this latest yarn of contrived paradox space horseshit, I'm afraid I must continue the mystical spirit guide shtick.
JAKE: Great.
DIRK: Why so glum, man?
JAKE: If were really the same person then you should KNOW why!
DIRK: Well, to get technical, I'm a splinter of Dirk's soul, resting inside of you and animated by your latent-if-stubbornly-repressed potential both as a Hero of Hope and as a Page, manifesting into aforementioned spirit guide crap. But that's just semantics at this point.
Now here's the question, am I Dirk because of the splinter, or am I Dirk because he is genuinely a figure you look to in times of trouble, barring your recent chagrin concerning him?
JAKE: Uh.
DIRK: Is this Dirk manifest in another part of your life, perhaps against your own will, or is this actually totally compliant with what you want? Indeed, could this be an unconscious projection of something, perhaps limerenic in nature, that you can't bring yourself to consciously accept?
JAKE: I dont know!!
I dont know okay? I dont know anything because I’m a big huge useless MORON who can’t figure out his own head and its especially hard when you all won’t SHUT UP and LEAVE ME ALONE and let me THINK!
DIRK: Is that what you want? For me to shut up and let you figure it out yourself?
JAKE: YES!!
DIRK: Okay then, good luck.

[Panel description: Jake slumps, looking downward as brain ghost Dirk fades away.]

JAKE: About time.

[Panel description: Jake races down the stairway, delving into the wisps of blue gas.]

[Panel description: He stands on flat ground, surrounded by gas. There is opening leading deeper into the canyon, partly covered by a stone slab shaped slightly like a captchalogue card.]

[Panel description: Jake steps under the terraced edge of the stone slab.]

[Panel description: He walks further into the canyon.]

[Panel description: Jake stands in silhouette near the wall in a long straight stone path. He is viewed from a bird's eye perspective.]

[Panel description: He runs down the path.]

[Panel description: Jake appears again on the same path, heading the opposite direction.]

[Panel description: The canyon is viewed from above. That vantage point reveals it is a maze of walls and passages.]

[Panel description: Jake stands surrounded by stone walls and blue gas, searching for a way out.]

[Panel description: As Jake continues to wander through the canyon, warm light glows behind him.]

[Panel description: Fire curls behind Jake as he walks away. The fire is drawn to look more like traditional art in comparison to Jake's digital art.]

[Panel description: Jake turns, illuminated by the fire's glow.]

[Panel description: Roaring flames reach to almost three times Jake's height.]

[Panel description: He flees.]

[Panel description: Jake skids to a halt around a corner. A figure stands wreathed in flames. It has Jade's hairstyle.]

[Panel description: A figure loosely resembling an adult Jade stands made of fire. It has three bleeding holes in its chest and a terrifying smile stretching all the way across its face. It holds its arms out in a welcoming gesture.]

[Panel description: Jake's eyes are wide with horror behind his mask.

[Panel description: He stands facing the flaming specter of his grandmother. The flames curl around behind him.

[Panel description: The figure reaches out one burning hand.]

[Panel description: Jake stands looking at his grandmother with her outstretched hand.]

[Panel description: He reaches out. Tears stand out in his eyes behind his mask.]

[Panel description: He takes hold of her hand.]

[Panel description: She dissolves into flame. Jake's fingers curl back. Burns cover his fingers, palm, and wrist.]

[Panel description: Jake stands cradling his hand as the fires disappear, leaving only a few embers.]

[Panel description: A trail of red liquid leads deeper into the maze.]

[Panel description: Jake follows the trail toward more swirling blue gas.]

[Panel description: He sits huddled against the wall, still cradling his burned hand.]

[Panel description: The image zooms out as Jake curls in on himself.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jake curls up and hugs his knees, with tears leaking out of the eye holes in his mask. Brain Ghost Dirk materializes in front of him.]

[Panel description: Brain ghost Dirk leans forward. He is wispy and ephemeral.]

DIRK: Do you have it all figured out yet?
JAKE: Son of a fuck.

[Panel description: Jake looks up. Tears continue to drip down his mask.]

DIRK: Chin up. As I have so vaguely implied, I am only here because you, on some level, want me to be.
So, you feeling a little less lost now?
JAKE: No.
DIRK: Well, that's your prerogative.
Did it hurt?
JAKE: ...
DIRK: Do you remember the last thing you said to her?
JAKE: Oh FUCK OFF!
DIRK: Whoa. Harsh.
JAKE: I don’t want to get into it right now! You DO know who that was right??
DIRK: Dearly departed Grandmother English, if I am not mistaken.
JAKE: Yes. My grandmother.
My DEAD grandma who you may recall I CREMATED MYSELF when I was knee high to a grasshopper!
DIRK: Sounds like this place touches a nerve.
JAKE: Sod off.
DIRK: Come on.
You've got a quest to finish.
JAKE: I can’t.
I can’t do it.
Not with THAT haunting this damn maze.
DIRK: Everyone's counting on you.

[Panel description: Jake flails out with his arms, clenching his fingers. Two angry eyebrows accent the eye holes of his mask.]

JAKE: And tell me o font of subconscious hopey wisdom. What exactly is the bloody point?
DIRK: That's a question I could spend all day pontificating on and all it would do is bore you.
You don't want to do this for your friends?
JAKE: I hardly have friends.
Can you say that I have people like that? That I stick with through thick and thin? That stick with me??
DIRK: There's Jade.
Come on. You're shitting on yourself again for no good reason. You and I both know this.
You have at least one person who believes in you.
JAKE: I really don’t think jade knows all she thinks she does about the whole shooting match. She wasn’t there.
Sure she thinks I can make up with everyone because she’s still trucking after being an evil werewolf for a few hours. But I’ve been lousing things up for months!
Longer than that! Maybe even years!
Jade just can’t understand how terrible I’ve been. She wasn’t there. She has only me and my word to go off of and of course she’s going to believe the best of me. That’s just who she is.
Maybe the entire time I knew my friends I was doing something wrong and that’s why it all went to shit.
The game only had to bring it to the surface and the rest sorted itself out.
If we don’t all just die again then surely they don’t want to have me as a friend and that all came to light because of the stupid game!!
It takes EVERYTHING away from us! I hate it!
Our homes our planet our guardians and our friendships!
It just keeps taking and taking and taking and for what?
To make a new universe? Were not even the ones getting to make it! The cockle-brained slime progeny are the real heroes here and we didn’t even have a say in their lives either! We just stand around and get kind of uncomfortable about how our genes got combined without our go-ahead like some stupid ironic gesture from the universe itself.
As if the world were saying surprise!! It’s not enough you have all this fiddle faddle here’s a bunch of kids who look like you and a friend whose friendship you fumbled so hard it’s hard to be in a room together.
Look at us!

[Panel description: A close up of brain ghost Dirk's face. Ghostly eyes are faintly visible behind his shades.]

JAKE: We're useless.

[Panel description: Jake puts one hand to his head, eyes wide.]

JAKE: We're useless and that’s what we were designed to be from the get go. No hope no life and no heart. Just nothing.
Why do we even exist?? If we'd have just died before we even knew there was a game to play jade and her friends would get a blank session without all this baggage!
DIRK: Whoa, you're lapsing into some dark places there, buddy.
Calm down, there's no reason to start thinking that way. This timeline isn't doomed yet.

[Panel description: Jake flails his arms back and forth. Meanwhile, brain ghost Dirk stands watching him. He is drawn in a more traditional style, with wisps of white streaming off his skin and hair.]

JAKE: Oh. THAT’S too dark for you!?
I’m alone in a dark friggin maze with my dead grandma trying to get me to jump into the fucking flames I burned her body in and THAT’S a little dark for you?
We started the game with three of us dying before we'd even all entered! If I’d slipped up... if I’d kept yakking at Hal everyone would be dead and it'd be my fault and that’s a LITTLE dark for you?
That same game kills us all if we make the slightest mistake over something that might not even be within our control and that’s a little dark for you?
I watched jade die again! I was the one who got her prone so aranea could kill her!!
I jumped in front of your sword to save Jane even after she killed me and then we both died anyway!! So don’t tell me those kinds of thoughts are a little dark!!!
DIRK: Wow.
You think you have some issues to work out here, buddy?
JAKE: OH.
YOU DONT SAY?

[Panel description: Jake slumps. A wisp of steam rises from his gas mask.]

DIRK: Do you need another moment?
Need to talk to somebody, perhaps?
What about Jade?
JAKE: She’s... probably busy.
I don’t want to bother her by blathering on and on with my nonsense every time I get a wild hair up my ass.
DIRK: Anyone else.
Literally anybody else.
JAKE: No!!
I can’t just message them out of the blue just to dump more of my baggage on them!
I know I told jade I would speak to them but I still don’t even know what to say to begin with!
Even if I did I can’t open with an apology only to start talking their ear off about my problems!
It’ll only make them cross with me again.
Sure I can handle them not speaking to me but if they give me another shakedown before I got the hook?
Like dirk did?
Like Jane did???
I don’t think I could take it.
DIRK: But I thought you didn't want to be alone.
JAKE: I don’t. But I want to be punted out the door again even less.
It’s one thing to just. Be alone.
But.

[Panel description: Jake cradles his injured hand.]

[Panel description: He opens his hand, revealing burns across the fingers, palm, and wrist. The skin is an angry red.]

DIRK: But being abandoned is different.
JAKE: ...yes.
Besides if they don’t want me then who am I to go darkening their doorstep again?
DIRK: But who are you to say that they don't want you?
JAKE: I know but I.
I’m just. Scared.
I’m scared ok??
I’m still scared of going to talk to them!!
I’m scared of everything happening right now!
I’m a complete coward and that’s why I’ve avoided actually dealing with all of this! And it’s why I keep avoiding it!
I said it! Are you happy?
Are you gonna speechify at me again about how I’m a lily-livered chicken shit? Huh?
DIRK: No.
Come on. Get up. You have a quest to do.
JAKE: No.
DIRK: I will drag you through this labyrinth, so help me.
JAKE: I don’t want to!
DIRK: I'm afraid you don't have much of a choice.
Look at it this way: everyone needs to finish their quest to win the game. Do you want to let everyone down again?
JAKE: ...

[Panel description: Brain ghost Dirk holds out his hand. Jake stands up, holding out a hand as well.]

DIRK: I am afraid I may have inadvertently lied about not calling you a chicken shit again.
Should I go now?
JAKE: ...no.
Stay.

[Panel description: A very tall panel. Jake and brain ghost Dirk walk through the narrow canyon, mostly obscured by blue mist. The green walls reach high overhead toward a sky gradiating from black to gray. Pumpkin vines and blossoms twine around the rock.]

JAKE: ...it’s not your fault, Brain Clone Dirk. I’m sure you’re very aware that the situation with dirk is a little maffled right now.
It makes seeing you far more enemious than it might otherwise be.
On any other day I’m sure I’d be overjoyed to see him!
DIRK: You say that, but I seem to recall you once upon a time expressing frustration at my being yet another in a parade of “fake Dirks”.
JAKE: Yeah well that was also a rough day.
I had a lot on my mind as I’m positive you know.
Not to mention... having him in my brain under these circumstances comes across as kind of... invasive.
Like I’m living under the cats foot because everywhere I go he’s always going to be watching me!
And you’re even worse because it comes off like he knows everything I’m thinking.
DIRK: He really doesn't.
Granted, I know, because I'm you. But I have no way of communicating with him. Or anyone else, for that matter, barring some very extenuating circumstances.
And should I ever materialize again and start blabbing about the time the mere image of Dirk Strider gave you a boner, rest assured it will not be because it was my idea.
You have no reason to be afraid of Dirk because of me.
JAKE: I’m not afraid of dirk!
DIRK: Are you?
Didn't you just admit to fearing his judgment?
JAKE: Yes but.
Before that you couldn’t say I was afraid of him.
DIRK: Uh-huh.
But you don't seem to trust him all that much.
JAKE: Of course I do!
DIRK: Jake, please keep in mind to whom you are speaking.
JAKE: ...
You know you make me mad enough to eat needles sometimes but damn it you’re spot on.
He’s intimidating sometimes! And now Jane’s proved she’s a real iron fist in a velvet glove.
Or velvet oven mitt as it were.
And I’ve already done so much to them.
DIRK: Yeah, I don't think anybody needed a projection of your innermost thoughts to tell them that.
JAKE: Indeed.
Does being hesitant towards them make me a bad friend?
DIRK: No idea. I'm just your brain, not your moral compass.
JAKE: (Funny how you’re just my brain as soon as I actually have important questions.)
DIRK: I heard that.
JAKE: So perhaps they’re a fearsome presence! That makes it hard to talk to them earnestly! That doesn’t let me off the hook even if I didn’t know better.
DIRK: So, you fucked up.
But it's an honest fuck-up.
Are you going to tell them that?
You did tell Jade you were going to think about it.

[Panel description: Jake peers around a corner to see the flaming form of his grandmother passing by. Brain Ghost Dirk waits behind him.]

JAKE: (Ix-nay on the ade-jay for now please??)

[Panel description: Jake's face is visible peeking around the rock. Brain ghost Dirk watches.]

JAKE: I still have no idea what I’d say.
DIRK: You're not really trying, if you ask me.
Like you didn't try to patch things over with Dirk.
You didn't look too hard into Jane's odd behavior, either.
JAKE: Like I told j-
Like I said things got out of hand.
DIRK: By my estimation, you've had no less than five direct opportunities to discuss the matters at hand with them.
More, if you count the theoretically infinite number of moments where you had a computing device in your hand and the humility to go crawling back to them to beg forgiveness.
JAKE: ...yeah but...
DIRK: But you were scared.
JAKE: Yes.
DIRK: With good reason, especially when the Crocker devil or candy demon Jane were bearing down on you.
But come on, she was practically begging you to tear into her back on Derse.
JAKE: But I didn’t want to!!
She really wasn’t herself in either circumstance! She’s had enough of a day!
For crying out loud all this is coming down on her sweet sixteen. Poor lass.
DIRK: She was literally asking you to have at her for wrecking you like she did.
You're just going to skip along with your head stuck up your ass, pretending what she said to you in her creepy sex dungeon didn't upset you, just to make everyone else feel better?
JAKE: (Don’t call it that!)
DIRK: You're just going to skip along with your head stuck up your ass, pretending what she said to you in the jail cell she probably would've made into a creepy sex dungeon didn't upset you?
JAKE: Please stop with the explicit references! I don’t want to think about what happened in that jail cell and neither does she.
If she is truly regretful of saying such things to me then I reckon that’s enough!
I don’t want to get into any more trouble with my friends today! And if they’ve garnered that their words stung then they don’t need me to lay on the guilt.
DIRK: Bro.
Remember what Jade said.
You can't go assuming this shit.
JAKE: It’s not an assumption! I can gather for myself that Jane was regretting her words thanks.
DIRK: You're really just gonna let that go, huh.
Let people keep walking all over you?
JAKE: I feel like you’re trying to provoke me.
DIRK: Yeah, because you only want to get riled up at me.
Never at the people who hurt you or wanted to use you.
So you don't want to get into it with Dirk or Jane. Fine. What about Aranea? She was only sweet on you because she wanted your powers and your destiny for her plans.
That was a twist. Like if Scooby Doo and the gang pulled off the mask and Velma was the one underneath.
And then she called in an airstrike on all of them. The bomb being you.
Didn't matter what happened to you, as long as she got her way. And she was happy to prey on your cerulean spider girl fetish in order to manipulate you for it. That oughta fuckin' cheese your onions.
Whatever happened to her healing mojo, by the way? Wasn't that supposed to fix you?
JAKE: I don’t think so.
I don’t think there is a fix for me.
At least not an easy one.
It’s less like she fixed a leak in my head and more like she reached in and pulled out whatever it was she wanted.
Then when she was gone it went back to wherever it was and I don’t know how to reach it again.
Not that I’m really complaining though? Sure it would be nice to actually know what the hell is up with this supposed infinite well of power but.
If that’s what being a fully realized page of hope means I don’t want any part of it!
I couldn’t control myself I couldn’t help in any real way...
I wasn’t even fully present as myself if that makes any real sense. It was as though I was there but I wasn’t really me.
It was all light and energy and it was only through you I had any real say in what was happening around me and even that didn’t last.
DIRK: Maybe it's for the best if you don't master it, then.
How many players can you say have that kind of control of themselves anyhow? If you had to have your head re-screwed on to access that kind of power, it's probably not something our merry band of mentally scarred dip shits can reach.
JAKE: Most likely not. At any rate if I can’t get a hold of myself I’m at least in good company.
And if all anyone wants from me is my spectacular powers... I’d say I’m happier not having access to them.
You can bet your bottom boon buck I will most certainly not be anyone’s moniker-shouting weapon of mass hope!
DIRK: See what I mean, though? She went screwing around with your head even when you told her to get her hands off you and she didn't even let it stick long enough to do any actual good.
AND she killed Jade. And Jane. And you.
Doesn't that piss you off?
Doesn't people looking at you for ways to use you make you mad as hell?
You ARE a man, right?
JAKE: Of course I am!
DIRK: Then grow up. Get angry. Don't be a goddamn doormat.
Friends or not, this shit isn't okay.
JAKE: I know that it isn’t! But-
DIRK: But what?
JAKE: But... you know. I’m on thin ice with them already.
DIRK: Ah.
I think we're seeing the problem here.
You stepping in what I'm spilling?
Are you always going to be making excuses for them just to keep them around?
I'm not just talking about now, I mean even before this. Way back when, when this whole romantic subplot was but a twinkle in the freshly pubescent eye of its perpetrators.
Provided you can even remember a time when you weren't up to the hem of your banana pants in potential suitors.
JAKE: That time is but a distant and foggy memory.
But now that you say it it seems pretty obvious.
But of course that’s because I already knew all of that isn’t it.
DIRK: Yup. Look at your track record.
Ignoring this shit and hoping it would go away didn't work.
Neither did just complying with the others.
Maybe if you'd have socked Aranea in the face, though, it would've been a start. Let her know you mean business.
JAKE: What is it with you and punching people in the face??
What is it with EVERYONE and punching people in the face???
DIRK: It's a quick, physical shorthand for "I don't agree with your course of actions, cease immediately. And also, get the fuck out of my face".
If they keep trying after that, they're either an idiot or they have a death wish.
JAKE: I invoke jades advice! Violence is not the best solution!
DIRK: Because yelling at Aranea worked out so well.
JAKE: Besides what if I really had punched Jane in the face? Even if that had stopped her what about after she came off the Crocker juice?
What would she say then?
DIRK: To do a quick risk analysis, would it have been better or worse than the possibility of having your rump mounted over her mantle place?
Would you really want to give up both defending yourself and avoiding life as a Crockercorp bunny on the off chance she'd be pissed off at you for it?
Especially when, you know, she was kind of already mad.
JAKE: Well... put like that...
DIRK: Sometimes you've just gotta put yourself up on the chopping block, bruh.
Stop hiding and grow up. Be a man.
JAKE: Punch your assailants in the face?
Though perhaps more often in the metaphorical sense of accosting them with my innermost feelings.
DIRK: That works too.
To be on the offensive also inevitably means letting your guard down. If you defend all your life, you're just gonna get wailed on.

[Panel description: Jake turns to look at brain ghost Dirk, eyebrows rising. A blurry figure with enormous teeth looms behind him.]

DIRK: At the risk of becoming one of those infuriatingly pretentious assholes who just tosses out references to popular culture without a justifying context,
Ever heard of the Hedgehog's Dilemma?
JAKE: I’m familiar with the comic books! Are you referring to something from before or after the genesis wave?

[Panel description: Dirk and Jake both look at an enormous pencil drawn creature. It has a sphere-shaped body and two stick-like legs. Most of its body is taken up by an enormous mouth. Shaggy hair runs down its back. It bears a resemblance to a nightmare version of Sonic the Hedgehog.]

JAKE: ACK!!!
DIRK: Gotta go fast, motherfucker.

[Panel description: Jake sprints away. The Sonic monster chases after him, its eyes bulging cartoonishly. Brain ghost Dirk stands still in the background.]

DIRK: Do you want me to leave you alone now?
JAKE: Do you mind!? I’m a little busy here!!
DIRK: Busy running away.
JAKE: From MONSTERS! These skeletons are nothing to sneeze at!
DIRK: When you were mortal, yes, but you're a fucking god now.
JAKE: But I don’t have my powers down pat yet!
DIRK: Does that even look like a skeleton to you?
JAKE: Are you going assist me or are you going to keep giving me lip??
DIRK: I thought you didn't want any help.
JAKE: I’m in a bit of a bind here!!

[Panel description: Jake twists around and points both of his golden pistols toward the viewer with his hair and cape flapping. The pose is very cool.]

[Panel description: The hedgehog monster grimaces as a hole is blown through the center of its head. The word Bam pulses next to the wound.]

[Panel description: Jake stands with his legs braced, looking over at brain ghost Dirk. Brain ghost Dirk looks down at the remains of the monster, which are dissolving into the same white mist curling off him.]

JAKE: What WAS that thing??
DIRK: Maybe it's the sound of twenty-five years of Sonic.
JAKE: Oh SHUT UP! Why’d my brain think up such an irritating self esteem-ghost?
Are you going to keep giving me the runaround by letting me make a fool of myself? Is me looking like an idiot my own self-sabotaging end?
DIRK: Hey, you're doing fine.
You're kind of giving yourself a run-around in the process, but whatever.

[Panel description: The two of them emerge onto the same path Jake walked down several times before. Jake vibrates up and down with frustration.]

JAKE: Is this the same path...?
Oh god damn it!

[Panel description: Jake looks down at his burned hand.]

JAKE: I have to get moving.
I need to do this or we're all dead.
Maybe I can’t be the cool hero everybody expects but I can outsmart this stupid maze by myself.
Why should I be the one with the handicap?
DIRK: Jade said herself that she had help with her quest.
Jane isn't alone either. Your quest is linked to hers and Dirk's.
Maybe you can message Dirk, see what he has to say.
JAKE: Be that as it may!!
If I DO want the stupid help who is there to go to???
Who would want to help me? I’m a moron! I’m pathetic! I’m an eccedentesiast scaramouch who’s all talk and no walk. Everyone in this outfit can outclass me at everything I can do!
As ugly as it is the truth of the matter is that I am worthless. I’m the dead weight of the session and that’s all I’m ever going to be.
If somebody did want to help me it’d be an obligation of some sort.
The proof is in the pudding just in the fact that you’re all I’ve got to talk to right now. Nobody here’s that fond of me.
...not anymore at least.
Not since I showed my true colors, so to speak.
But maybe I was never that close to anyone to begin with and now that’s why I’m here.
I’m alone and that’s all I’m ever going to be.

[Panel description: Brain ghost Dirk places a hand on Jake's shoulder.]

DIRK: Okay.
You're going to write this off as me moonlighting as your self-esteem, but.
You are not going to get anywhere with the fucking pity party.
JAKE: I know.
DIRK: I've been telling you this all along.
You will always be cooling your heels in this position unless you get up and do something.
Jesus Christ, fucking Pages. Their worst enemy in this game is themselves.
You're not even alone in this. Jade's only a Pesterchum message away, and you haven't even spoken to the other new kids yet.
JAKE: What do you mean?
DIRK: Well, without digging into the Byzantine cabal of game lore you've got crammed in here from subconscious exposure,
I keep telling you that you need to get back up.
No, don't even think of this as Dirk imparting this little nugget of wisdom. This is you, telling yourself, that your own goddamn sanity depends on you getting back up on this proverbial horse.
Pardon the pun as it punctures a hole in my claims to not-Dirkdom. This isn't to prove something to someone else. This is to prove it to yourself.
And for all your insistence you're a coward, it hasn't stopped you from doing some pretty courageous things.
Maybe standing up to Aranea like you did was only a half-measure, but that doesn't mean you couldn't do it once you put your mind to it.
I was just a proxy. I don't exist unless you believe I do.
That whole thing was you.

[Panel description: Another pencil-drawn monster with red, blue, and yellow eyes emerges around a corner, visible behind brain ghost Dirk. Jake is facing toward it.]

[Panel description: Jake's eyes widen.]

DIRK: All of this is just you.

[Panel description: Jake lifts both pistols and fires into the monster while brain ghost Dirk stands by.]

[Panel description: Jake leaps forward.]

[Panel description: Jake lands on top of the monster, hangs onto it with one hand, and clobbers it with the other. The creature is a vaguely scorpion-shaped entity with a bird-like face and pool ball eyes lining its body. It has several gaping wounds that drip blood. Where eyes would normally appear on its head are only bloody sockets.]

DIRK: Told you so.

[Panel description: Jake stands in the middle of the monster's remains as they dissolve into white light.]

[Panel description: Jake looks to one side.]

DIRK: You don't have to go it alone, but you're perfectly capable on your own.

[Panel description: Jake reaches a hand toward the vine-encrusted wall.]

[Panel description: Jake pushes his hand straight through the wall.]

DIRK: Get past the walls you put up and you'll see it.

[Panel description: Jake steps directly through the wall into an open area.]

JAKE: Now THIS is bananas!

[Panel description: Jake looks back to see brain ghost Dirk following him. Behind both of them, the phantom Jade stands swathed in flame.]

JAKE: I could do this the whole time? What a load of bull hockey.

[Panel description: Jake looks over at brain ghost Dirk as they keep walking.]

JAKE: So what are you anyway? You’re super insistent I go speak to my friends for help but you’re still here.
DIRK: Yeah, because you don't really want to be alone. Just like I told you.
JAKE: So is having you here with me being alone or isn’t it?
DIRK: Still have hang-ups about me?
JAKE: Not when you’re being helpful instead of obnoxious.
Real dirk could be a pain in the rear sometimes but not with anywhere near your frequency.
DIRK: We've kind of been over this. I'm not Dirk.
And I know, if it walks and talks like a water fowl then the obvious conclusion follows, but my situation runs deeper than that.
I was born from a splinter of Dirk embedded within you and animated by your own abilities, for whatever symbolically relevant nonsense that's worth.
Would you have picked Dirk to represent your subconscious if he weren't already a part of you? Maybe, maybe not, but that's not something either of you had any conscious say in.
My appearance comes from both that coincidence and whatever weird mire of emotions you experience towards him. It can be both those things, in varying levels depending on different circumstances. Our lives are more than complex enough to transcend a binary, either-or answer where this miraculous thing called feelings is concerned.
I only act the way you think Dirk would act when he gives you his spiels. I'm really just you talking to yourself. I'm not even an exact copy, just your image of how you think Dirk would act. And that might not be totally him.
JAKE: You think so?
DIRK: You know so.
You're really just speaking to an imaginary friend. A very convincing sock puppet.
You get all that?
JAKE: ...yeah. Thanks for the explanation.
And for everything else.
DIRK: It's all on you, bromide. Literally.
All of this is you.
Maybe now you can stop over-thinking every little thing every Dirk Strider-shaped individual does in your life.
And start comprehending the point of this little venture.
JAKE: And that is?

[Panel description: Jake races toward some flames. Behind him, brain ghost Dirk fades and vanishes.]

DIRK: Talk to him.

[Panel description: Jake's small silhouette stands in front of towering flames.]

[Panel description: Jake advances bravely, eyebrows angled with determination.]

[Panel description: The phantom Jade rests her hands on his shoulders and then fades away.]

[Panel description: Jake stands in front of an angular gray structure. Then its appearance shifts, turning green and revealing an arched doorway. The doorway features a serpentine figure wrapping around its columns and is crowned with the hope symbol’s wings.]

[Panel description: Jake walks down a green hallway that is illustrated with more sinuous lines. The gas flows in after him and then sinks into trenches on either side of the walkway.]

[Panel description: Jake takes his gas mask off as he approaches a door. The door has nine colored panels and is decorated with a combination of the heart and hope symbols.]

[Panel description: Jake stands in a square room with at least two passageways leading out of it. Gas pools in trenches along the walls, which are decorated with green swirls. A speech bubble with Dirk's hat appears above his head.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Hephaestus' palace, a four sided structure that slopes inward, sits atop a gear shaped island. The palace is made of red stone with gold trapezoids protruding from each side, with a small door at each one's base. Simplistic statues of a dark figure with red eyes surrounded by sculpted flames rise above each doorway. The main palace is topped by a pagoda-like gazebo decorated with a red gear. The island floats in a sea of lava broken only by other stone gears. More lava streams from gear-shaped holes in the wall. A narrow gray path leads toward the palace.]

[Panel description: Dave sprite and Terezi stand at the end of a hallway flanked by gray pillars. In front of them is a curving wooden podium. Terezi clasps her hands together, delighted. Dave sprite hovers with a scowl, slumped forward.]

[Panel description: The enormous form of Hephaestus looms over them. He is seated behind an ornate podium set behind a black anvil. His body is covered in black armor with yellow-red light shining from between the panels. His head is a flickering flame giving off beams of light.]

HEPHAEUSTUS: (gibberish made of unreadable characters).
TEREZI: carrot Dave.
You’re supposed to be translating.
DAVE SPRITE: oh.
right.

[Panel description: Terezi crosses her arms and leans back against the curved podium. She frowns. Dave sprite leans back against a golden desk, resting his elbow on the surface. A red and gold rope barrier stretches behind Terezi.]

DAVE SPRITE: uh.
"I am Hephaestus lord of the forge",
"skilled at crafts".
500 other epithets I’m not translating.
"you dare disturb my work".
damn that was a cliché pre boss battle line we need to work on that.
does he have a pr team down here or did they melt.
TEREZI: we do in fact dare.
DAVE SPRITE: he says you look like shoddy workmanship.
TEREZI: HEY!
DAVE SPRITE: just telling it how I hear it.
don’t blame the messenger.
TEREZI: what did he say about you?
DAVE SPRITE: a miracle of superior engineering.
TEREZI: I don’t believe you.
DAVE SPRITE: what no.
this translation is so authoritative eminent classics scholars would cosign it.
TEREZI: I can smell your deceit even over the reek of brimstone.
DAVE SPRITE: that’s just the universal smell of sin you’re getting confused.
TEREZI: Grr.
what is he saying now?
DAVE SPRITE: he wants to know what we want.
TEREZI: is that all?
DAVE SPRITE: I edited out a few stanzas.
it’s all Homeric and shit, we don’t have time for that.
plus the rhythm doesn’t carry over right.
if I had the time maybe I could rap it but you try thinking fast after getting melted.
TEREZI: I also just did that.
DAVE SPRITE: whatever.
he’s being disparaging about our construction again.
yeah human evolution has more bugs in it than a Bethesda release but at least I can go out in a rainstorm without sizzling,
and obviously you guys were crafted by a cruel god.
present divine company excluded.
TEREZI: (scowling face).
We want him to fix the battlefield.
DAVE SPRITE: are you sure.
he says he could make you a kickass shield.
dude fucking loves shields apparently.
says it might make up for all the structural instabilities.
TEREZI: NO!
DAVE SPRITE: fine.
he’s not convinced he should help.
we already charbroiled ourselves but guess that’s not enough for this guy.
TEREZI: I assure you,
I am prepared for any trial you can conjure.
What is it?
More lava? Underlings? Puzzles?
Name your test.
Gods don’t frighten me.
DAVE SPRITE: he says if I keep butchering his lines he’s cutting off the audience so get ready for pretension.
he wants to know if you’re here to atone for your mistakes.
"I can’t wash the blood off your hands".
"even I can’t turn back time enough to make the change you really want".
"you missed your chance".
(what’s he talking about.)
TEREZI: (don’t worry about it.)
DAVE SPRITE: (what am I just a parrot now.)
(Polly want a fucking cracker.)

[Panel description: Terezi makes a question mark with her mouth, eyebrows furrowed. She stands behind the rope barrier. Behind her, the wall features red gear insets against a gray crosshatched background.]

TEREZI: I’m here to make things right yes,
But not like that.
This is bigger than me.
We can’t undo the past but we can do better in the future.
DAVE SPRITE: "and you’re ready to make that choice."
"you trust yourself to know its right."
"you think you have a place here."
TEREZI: YES!!!
DAVE SPRITE: that kind of choice is going to come with a hell of a price tag.
I’m talking college tuition level shit here.
he says,
he says there have to be consequences.
that means dying right.
it usually does.
so much for not being doomed, knew that couldn’t last long.
still good pep talk, I’ll write you a recommendation letter if you ever go for a counseling gig.
course you might fail the background check.
TEREZI: does that mean you volunteer.
DAVE SPRITE: ...
(oh for fucks sake I’m not passing that along.)
(fine.)
he’s saying I’d be another person dead because of you, ignore him.
I can make my own decisions.
TEREZI: he’s not wrong.
I was the one who told you to come.
I’m not kidding myself.
I know I manipulated you, that’s what I do.
I play on peoples weaknesses and let others take the fall,
But not anymore.
DAVE SPRITE: I should volunteer.
not like being bludgeoned by the world’s largest meat tenderizer is my ideal way to go or anything but it makes sense.
he’s my denizen.

[Panel description: Terezi stands behind one of the golden desks and points her arm out in the classic Ace Attorney objection pose.]

TEREZI: objection.
You have ceded this portion of the venture to me and I will not have you swooping in to snatch the dubiously heroic drama at the last minute.
I know you get a gleam in your eye at the first opportunity of such antics,
But it will not do.
DAVE SPRITE: what and this isn’t you trying to play hero?
strutting around playing mock court like you’re going to blow us all away in the last ten minutes of a few good men.
TEREZI: this used to be my "thing".
It helps me think.
It would be nice if it could mean something good again.
But it is not about how either of us looks.
What you are offering is not necessary.
You don’t know what he requires or whether it would be fatal.
It’s just the narrative you have written for yourself.
Skaia didn’t do that.
You did!
Playing a part you fixated on whether or not it is fitting for your actual situation.
Neither of us needs to do that anymore remember.
The responsibility here is mine and mine alone,
And I move that no one has to die.
There has to be another option beyond death or failure.
I refuse to believe otherwise.
And by believing I will make it true. (smirking face).
DAVE SPRITE: that’s how denizens work.
it’s part of the game.
TEREZI: I never said I was going to play fair.
The normal rules of this universe have been suspended,
What’s one more?
Technically none of us should be here.
Because we’ve always done things this way is not an excuse.
Reality is something we are creating with our own minds.
This is the reality I want,
And I will not stop until I have made it that way.
DAVE SPRITE: but.
TEREZI: overruled.
Your remarks will be struck from the record until they stop being silly.
I made a promise.
After all do you really want to die?
Forget whatever you think he expects.
We’re here to make a choice.
Yes or no.
I can get us out of this but on the other hand I’m sure he won’t mind smashing you on the way out if you really want him to.
DAVE SPRITE:
no.
I don’t want to die.
TEREZI: good.
That’s the only answer I was going to take.
No one is dying on my watch.
You are just going to have to live with it. (scowling face).
DAVE SPRITE: he still wants something.
hang on he’s talking again.
prove that he should even listen to you let alone grant you The Choice.
"prove you deserve it."
"prove this isn’t just a game to you."
TEREZI: hasn’t all this been enough.
DAVE SPRITE: you’re not the most spectacular defense lawyer I’ve ever seen.
TEREZI: alternia doesn’t have the concept of defense.
Cut me some slack.
DAVE SPRITE: then maybe you should try getting on the offense.

[Panel description: The art style changes to pixel art reminiscent of the Ace Attorney game series. Terezi rests her forearm on the golden desk, her mouth rendered as a question mark. A text box appears at the bottom of the screen labeled with her name. In her quirk, the following dialog is written: “Prove this isn't a game?”
Her pose changes. Now she is resting one hand on her hip and smiling. The dialogue reads: "But it is a game."
Finally, she rests her forearm on the desk again, this time making a fist. She places her other hand down next to it, grinning widely as she leans forward, and says, "And I play to win."]

Chapter Text

[S] Terezi: Be the Ace Attorney.

Flash description: A loading screen showing the white-outlined silhouette of Terezi with her red glasses, pointing toward the viewer. This is similar to the Ace Attorney logo.

This fades into a full view of Hephaestus' chamber, which is set up like a court room. Hephaestus stands behind the judge's podium. Lava pours out of gears set into the wall behind him. Dave sprite and Terezi are placed on either side of the room, standing behind waist high golden desks and in front of tall gray juror's boxes with red and gray detailing. Dave sprite sits sideways on the left desk, looking over his shoulder toward Terezi. Terezi rests one hand on the surface of her desk, also looking across the room. The track Blind Justice Investigation begins to play.

The image switches to a close up of Dave sprite, now rendered in pixel art style referencing Ace Attorney talk sprites. He slumps forward slightly. A text box with his name appears below him. This is how most of the flash will be formatted.

DAVE SPRITE: oh fuck no this better not be another visual novel.

Terezi makes a question mark face.

DAVE SPRITE: don’t ask.
I just can’t believe we’re doing this dumb reference.

The word objection in bright red bubble letters flashes across the screen, accompanied by a white impact star.

Terezi lifts her hand in a dramatic point.

TEREZI: objection!
This reference is awesome.

DAVE SPRITE: do trolls even have Japanese lawyer em ups.
or
troll Japanese lawyer em ups.

Terezi rests both her hands on the head of her cane.

TEREZI: I am not aware of what a lawyer is.
Nor do I know what a "Japan" is,
But like orange creamsicles any culture worth its salt would in fact have this as part of its cultural legacy.
Now be quiet and translate.

Dave sprite raises a hand and points back.

DAVE SPRITE: how am I supposed to do both of those things simultaneously?

Terezi points again.

TEREZI: Shush!!!!

A red hammer resembling John's fear no anvil weapon hits a circular red platform. The impact is described with the word doof. A nakkodile sits in front of Hephaestus' breastplate, holding the gavel. It pounds the platform again in time with the squeaks in the music track.

Terezi closes her eyes and slams both hands on the desk in time with a drumbeat in the music.

TEREZI: point one under dispute.
My right to bargain with the denizen of time.
Echidna has already set precedent in this area by allowing heroes of blood and space foreign to this session to barter with her.
Even if she had not I still claim substitute authority.

She makes a fist and grins.

TEREZI: do you really think I didn’t pick my lususprites brains for delicious crunchy nuggets of wisdom.
I am a seer it is my nature to seek.
I know the rulebook,
Every bend break and loophole.
A player’s sprite may take control over portions of their quest they are unable or unwilling to complete,
Which in fact happened here as I am sure you recall.
It is a failsafe in case a player dies so the session can still be completed.
And that sprite then has the right to delegate duties as they see fit,
Such as pesky denizen arbitration.

Dave sprite raises both hands and waves them in a warding gesture, eyes wide.

DAVE SPRITE: wait why are you looking at me.
oh.
sure.
I didn’t like this place anyway.
go nuts with the lava death planet and the human torch here.
try not to break anything rents due on the first of the month.

Terezi holds the piece of paper in one hand and gestures to it with the other.

TEREZI: with that taken care of, let’s move on to point number two.

Dave sprite points, irritated.

DAVE SPRITE: is that a bad jpeg of judge Judy.
wait is that my shitty aesthetic.

Terezi returns to her question mark expression.

TEREZI: so what if it is?

DAVE SPRITE: it is.
you can’t even say you can’t see it.

Another objection flashes across the screen.

TEREZI: your tyranny these complaints are irrelevant.

Dave sprite slams his head into his podium.

DAVE SPRITE: oh my god you’re going to keep doing that objection thing aren’t you.

TEREZI: Correct.

Terezi slams her hands down on the desk.

TEREZI: point number two.
The battlefield.
I want it repaired and fully functional.

A shitty looking objection with orange text and a white impact star jitters across the screen.

Dave sprite remains in the classic objection pose for a fraction of a second for returning to his habitual slouch.

DAVE SPRITE: is that what the cool kids are saying these days.

Question mark mouth Terezi, head tilted curiously.

TEREZI: do you have something you wish to add.
I didn’t hear mister fire breath here speak.

Dave sprite waggles a finger.

DAVE SPRITE: our battlefield started out cancerous thanks to you guys.
we don’t want to go through all this to get another tumor, especially considering the causality carnage you’d get from putting it back.
but this tumors not like normal cancer it’s a foreign body so it shouldn’t count.
I have in fact learned a science.
TEREZI: noted.
Add that to our list of demands.

Terezi leans into her podium.

TEREZI: we want it fixed.
Not with a tumor at the core or not fully prototyped.
I know game constructs love their loopholes but I am ready for some plain dealing.
We are all working on a deadline here in more ways than one.

Terezi gestures once more to her paper and then returns her hands to the podium.

TEREZI: point number three.
I understand you are trying to play off my guilt.
I am familiar with that tactic but it won’t work.
I’ve made mistakes and they were mine to make but I wasn’t acting alone.
None of us were.
We were placed in a world that told us we had two options,
Play along or die,
And playing meant doing terrible things.
DAVE SPRITE: yo you’re not the only ones who got put in the childrearing version of a blender
TEREZI: oh yes I’ve heard about that.

Dave sprite points accusingly at her.

DAVE SPRITE: shit that’s right I forgot about you two.
gross.

Terezi rests her hands on her cane.

TEREZI: it seems your upbringing was not dissimilar to ours.
Trained to be a weapon in a world of perceived threats.
Though we of the higher castes were at least permitted to value our lives.
Haven’t you had enough of that?
DAVE SPRITE: guess there wasn’t another option.

Another Objection screen. Dave sprite slams his head into the desk again. His textbox appears a moment later.

DAVE SPRITE: god damn it.

Terezi looks pleased with herself.

TEREZI: there is now.
DAVE SPRITE: have to admit this sburb deal is getting kinda old.
TEREZI: that’s because it’s just more of the same old thing if you let it be.

The camera switches to Hephaestus, although Terezi's dialog continues to appear in front of him.

TEREZI: you’re no different for all you act so high and mighty.
hiding behind your rules and regulations as if that was what made something right.
choosing right means dying however long deferred.
otherwise you fight.
it still boils down to kill or be killed.

We return to Terezi.

TEREZI: well,
I’m playing but not by your rules.
I choose not to do either.
The choice does not have to be death.
It’s not about that.
Deaths with no purpose are a waste of time.
They are for strength or trust or justice.
Spilling blood doesn’t mean anything important on its own,
Only what lies beyond it.

The scene goes black. The teal interconnected neurons representing Mind powers stretch across the screen. Then, the following black and white images flash past in quick succession: Terezi watching Vriska fly away after S Flip, Vriska flying away leaving Terezi behind, Terezi and Karkat's corpses after being killed by Jack Noir, Terezi's dead body after S Game Over, John punching Vriska in the retcon timeline. That last image fades out while the song ends. Then the Mind neurons fade back in. They pulse with bright light, and the scene pans down to reveal Terezi with her eyes closed behind their red lenses. She angles her head downward, solemn.

TEREZI: the choice means the death of a self,
The abandoning of a possibility.
Looking at all the potential outcomes in your mind’s eye and acting to make one a reality,
Instead of letting yourself fragment into pasts and futures.
Would haves and could haves and should haves.
That is the choice I am making now by picking this one thing to repair.

She opens her eyes and straightens up. Skaian Birth begins to play.

TEREZI: for better or for worse this is the timeline I choose.
I accept my lot here and will seek no other,
Nor will I let myself die in the hopes someone else will take my place.
This is my choice and I will live with it.
Any price that comes with it I will pay.
You say you can see all timelines and realities.
Then look at them.
There are so many things I could have fixed.
Look at all the choices I could have made,
The things I could have done.

The scene returns to the standard courtroom setup. Terezi leans forward, hands on her podium.

TEREZI: and then tell me I haven’t paid.

Hephaestus flinches backward, flashing red and white. An audio cue representing a defeated opponent in Ace Attorney plays.

TEREZI: well,
You asked me to prove how much I wanted this.
This is what I choose.

A series of wingdings appear in front of Hephaestus.

Dave sprite has his sprite tail draped over the edge of his podium. He looks more relaxed than his previous talk sprites.

DAVE SPRITE: he says you’ve paid.

Terezi rests her hands on her cane.

TEREZI: good.
Then we have a deal.
DAVE SPRITE: sure.
he’s got other stuff he’d rather be doing anyway.
he says it was never really about killing you.
you were right, the rules can change if you put your mind to it, it’s like the lava.
he just needed to know what you’d say.
TEREZI: as someone with a penchant for mind games I suppose I cannot complain.
Let’s do it.

The scene fades out.

The battlefield appears, spinning as the camera zooms in. It has a hole drilled in the center and craters across its surface. A red roman numerals clock face appears superimposed over the battlefield, with the teeth of a gear ticking around its edges. Two ornate clock hands, one shaped like Dave's sword, spin backward.

A close up of a crater. Another backward clock spins over it, and the crater fades into a smooth checkerboard surface.

Dave and Karkat stand on the battlefield's surface near some trees and castles, looking around as gears spin on the horizon. They look at each other and shrug.

The clock hands continue to turn until the battlefield is entirely whole. Then they vanish.

[Panel description: Another shot of the healed battlefield. Written on this image is: End of year 1. September 5, 2015 through September 5, 2016.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The prow of the yellow battleship juts over the terraced green hills of LOMAX.]

[Panel description: Jade sits in a chair in her battleship bedroom. Rose stands behind her. Jade's room is bright and colorful. A fenestrated plane hangs above the headboard, showing a view of clouds. Her bed has a jpeg artifacted and space textured version of the three wolf moon image, but most of the coverlet is covered with squiddles and manthrochaps, which are also scattered all over the floor. Plants hang from the ceiling, and a potted plant shares space on her dresser along with her lunch top. A space patterned rug covers much of the floor. A raw steak peeks out for one side of the panel.]

[Panel description: Jade sits smiling in the chair. Her sleeve is ripped where Jack cut her, and the ends of her hair are scraggly. Rose holds a pair of scissors in one hand and looks at them dubiously.]

ROSE: I should warn you that I don't have much experience with this kind of thing.
Are you sure you want me to be the one helping you?
My ectobiological father has been maintaining that outrageous hairstyle on his own for years.
I'm sure he knows his way around a pair of scissors.
JADE: it’s ok, I trust you. (heart emoticon).
ROSE: I'm not sure you should.
JADE: just do your best!
ROSE: Ok.
How short do you want it?
JADE: I don’t know anything about having short hair...
I’m sure I’ll let it grow back but for now looking different is kind of fun.
kanaya is stopping by later to talk about the Ultimate Alchemy, maybe we’ll do some alchemizing too and make it a whole makeover session.
ROSE: By all means, enjoy yourselves while I weather whatever Sburb dreams up for my own personal bildungsroman.
I'll take heart knowing that someone, somewhere, is looking glamorous.
JADE: (sticks tongue out).
I had my turn, now it’s yours.
maybe we will make you something nice too, to pay you back for fixing up my hair.
actually cutting it is almost a relief! it feels meaningful somehow
ROSE: As someone who has studied the topic extensively, I can assure you that nothing in our lives is not dripping with cosmic significance.
I form my itinerary every day by consulting my morning tea leaves.
JADE: l o l.
now it is your turn to see the future.
how do you like it?
ROSE: To be honest, it's nothing like I imagined.
And not exactly like seeing the future either, but I’ll let that slide.
For a class whose name evokes ease of perception, it involves a lot of digging through sources and piecing things together. Flashes of pure intuition are rare.
Often I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking for, because I don’t know what the most fortunate outcome for a situation is.
Victory? For the trolls, that would have resulted in a doomed timeline.
It's not that simple.
And now, with John’s new powers tampering with causality, I wonder if my own even matter.
Maybe the entire concept of a "Seer" is superfluous when the main mover and shaker in your session can't be seen.
JADE: don’t say that!
of course you still matter.
rose you’re always looking for answers, and that’s a good thing, but sometimes the answers just aren’t there.
I remember you would get frustrated when I couldn’t give you specifics because the clouds didn’t show me any, but I think that meant we didn’t really need them.
maybe if we’d known more we would have been too scared to do anything.
and we did ok with what they did show us.
sometimes you’re not going to know everything, but you’re really good at using what you do know to make plans and figure things out.
you’re super smart in that way and I think you’re selling yourself short when you think you need more than you already have to be effective.
you’ll always matter even if you don’t have all the facts, because nobody ever does.
um...
I don’t think I’m doing a very good job with this pep talk.
maybe because I’m not feeling very peppy myself??
hmm.
ROSE: Don't strain yourself. You're doing fine.
JADE: really?
ROSE: Yes. I feel like I've just attended a therapy session run by the Energizer Bunny. Do you do parties?
JADE: (scowling face).

[Panel description: Wisps of hair fall at Rose's feet onto the rug.]

ROSE: That sounded dismissive, didn't it? Sorry.
I really do mean it.
You have a way of being encouraging even in the bleakest of circumstances, and even when you don't believe it yourself.
I've always admired that about you.
JADE: I do believe what I’m telling you now!!!
maybe there were times when I pretended to be strong and brave when I didn’t feel that way, but I meant everything I just said.
I promise.
ROSE: Thanks.
I'll try to live up to that, then.
Whenever I reflect on my own duties as a Seer, I remember how you used to be our only source of maddeningly vague but significant information.
How did you stand it?
JADE: it wasn’t the same as it was for you... after all I’m not a seer, I just woke up early on prospit.
kanaya did too so I’m not that special.
in a normal game session I think all the prospit dreamers would play that role eventually.
and there was never a sense of urgency since we hadn’t started playing yet.
the clouds were pretty and they showed me my friends so I liked to watch them,
and the prospitians told me they would be important someday so I tried to remember what I saw.
ROSE: That’s one difference between us, I guess. I don’t like not being told everything.
But you didn’t mind?
JADE: not back then.
later I felt kind of betrayed.
I worked really hard to make the things I saw come true but skaia didn’t show me a lot of the bad parts.
I spent all that time telling you and Dave and john that it was going to be ok and we were going to have fun like I had all the answers, but when the game started I didn’t know what to do.
it was scary and different and I felt lied to.
even though skaia was the one thing I thought I could trust.
so maybe I can relate, I wasn’t the asset I thought I would be either.
I sort of made up for it later with bec's powers, but not anymore.
ROSE: Time out.
I'm afraid that if I'm not allowed to be superfluous or self-deprecating, that option is off the table for everyone.
JADE: ok fine.
I’m sure things will work out as long as no one needs a planet moved any time soon.
the point of this tangent is that I can’t depend on the clouds to warn me about that!
really skaia is not as nice as I grew up thinking it was.
ROSE: You didn’t share your misgivings.
Or did you? I’ll admit some things may have gone over my head during our session.
I was preoccupied.
JADE: he he, if that’s what you want to call it.
no I didn’t say anything.
I didn’t think it mattered that much, and I didn’t want to make anyone upset.
ROSE: We’ve all been given a hands on demonstration as to why you should be more upfront, so I hope you don’t repeat that mistake.
Besides, I recall you assuring me that people's kindness doesn't always have ulterior motives.
Don't you want to prove yourself right?
My natural suspicion needs to be defused.
Try cutting the green wire.
JADE: I’m trying!
I’m trying right now actually.
not to cut any wires which sounds dangerously complicated but to be more honest about things which might be more so.
I guess I thought following what I knew was still the best thing to do.
even if people were getting hurt and dying, I had been promised a happier ending.
I already knew that something bad was going to happen to me.
I didn’t want to add anyone else to the collection in my grandpa’s lab. (anxious face).
ROSE: You could have told me about that, you know. I would have listened.
Did you not think I would?
JADE: I knew you would.
you always believed me more than anybody else.
you’re our seer, after all!!
maybe that’s why I didn’t talk to you as much as I should have.
I was afraid of what you would see.
ROSE: In the future, I’d like it if you would trust me. Do you think you can?
JADE: I gave you the scissors, didn’t I?
ROSE: About that.
I may have made a terrible mistake.
JADE: (alarmed face).
ROSE: Just kidding. You look fine.

[Panel description: Jade looks at her reflection in a mirror leaning against the wall. She raises one hand, smiling. Her hair is now chin length and flips outward at the ends. A captchalogue card appears in the corner of the panel, showing a green outfit. Then that outfit appears on Jade, replacing her torn God Tier uniform. The dress consists of soft green overalls with a large pocket near the stomach decorated with a blue Bec head. The overall component goes over a sea foam green hoodie with darker green cuffs and a hood spotted with white. The hood has dark green drawstrings capped with tufts of white fluff. The whole outfit includes light brown stitch work around the edges. Rose watches from the side of the mirror.]

JADE: you’re right, you did a great job.

[Panel description: Jade hugs Rose, smiling with her eyes closed. Rose's hand hovers above Jade's back awkwardly.]

[Panel description: Rose's eyes remain open. She looks toward Jade hesitantly, arms around her back.]

[Panel description: They break their hug. Rose leaves one hand on Jade's shoulder.]

ROSE: My work here is done.
JADE: rose, wait.
before you go do whatever very important thing you need to do next,
is there any particular reason you’re asking all these questions?
you seem a little nervous.
ROSE: Do I?
Three years apart has made me rusty.
I'd forgotten you picked up on that kind of thing.
And bothered to mention it.
JADE: that’s me, the overly concerned friend!
you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to.
ROSE: It's fine.
I've endured a lot of meddling today, but I'm almost enjoying it.
JADE: so,
what’s wrong?
ROSE: I spoke with my denizen.
JADE: oh.
kanaya was worried about that too.
it can be scary.
ROSE: I wasn't afraid of her.
Cetus is harsh, but she's straightforward.
What she asked of me, on the other hand...
JADE: did it sound impossible? I think that’s normal
ROSE: Not really.
I can imagine how to do it. I'm just not sure if I can.
She told me I would have to relinquish control. That's not easy for me.
The times it's happened haven't been pretty.
JADE: like when you got killed? I was already dead then so I didn’t see it happen.
ROSE: No. It would be nice to shirk responsibility there, but I knew what I was doing.
My addiction is the example that comes to mind.
The abdication of responsibility was more intoxicating than the alcohol.
Now she wants me to do that again, and I'm not looking forward to it.
JADE: she must know it scares you.
but maybe there’s a way you can do what she wants without falling apart.
ROSE: That's why I asked you about your own mindset.
You managed to go with the flow in some things.
JADE: some things.
I probably should have stopped trying to fight Jake.
though in my defense I was evil and he was dressed like a vulnerable sidekick which are always villains’ main targets.
a vulnerable sidekick in underpants. (horrified face).
ROSE: If you faced that, I can face anything.
JADE: that’s the spirit!
do what you feel is right.
everything should work out.
ROSE: There's that stalwart optimism shining through.
JADE: happy to help (smiling face).
ROSE: I think I have to do this next part on my own.
Or... not exactly on my own.
JADE: really?
ROSE: Yes.
If I understood right, I need to seek help from an unexpected source.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: A gleaming pink, blue, and yellow waterfall streams out from beneath Rose’s home.]

[Panel description: Rose stands with her hand resting on a damaged wall, looking into what was once her mother's bedroom. Most of the walls and ceiling have been destroyed, revealing blue sky. What remains is marked with dark hash marks of damage.]

[Panel description: Most of Mom Lalonde’s bottles have been reduced to broken shards. Rose reaches for the only intact bottle stashed on a shelf.]

[Panel description: Rose looks down at the bottle in her hand. Light shines on her through the hole in the wall.]

[Panel description: Rose scowls. She holds the bottle upside down over the edge of the wall, and purple liquid pours out.]

[Panel description: Rose stands in the tunnel under her home. Light flashes from the other end.]

[Panel description: Rose stands next to Jaspers sprite, who reaches one long tentacle into the water. Footsteps show where Rose made her way across the sand to the edge of the ocean.]

[Panel description: Jaspers turns to look at Rose. They both smile.]

JASPERS SPRITE: wow, rose, you've gotten so big! purr purr.
I missed you.
ROSE: I've missed you too, Jaspers.
JASPERS SPRITE: did you have fun when you were away?
did you play with colorful balls and chase birds like I did?
ROSE: No, but I'm glad you had a good time.
Some parts of my trip were nice.
Some were less so.
It's nice to finally be here.
JASPERS SPRITE: are you ready to do your quest now?
ROSE: I think I am.
Thanks for being so patient with me.
I know I brushed this all off earlier as a bunch of saccharine mumbo jumbo interfering with what was really important, but I know better now.
JASPERS SPRITE: what you were doing then was important too.
everything you do is important because it’s part of how you end up becoming who you are going to be.
maybe you were supposed to wait until now to do this.
that possibility seems like the right one now that I said it oh yes.
is this how you feel being wise and always coming up with the right answer to things?
ROSE: I don't think I'm all that wise, and I know I don't always have good answers.
I'm not sure I have them now.

[Panel description: Rose and Jaspers look at each other in profile as rain falls around them. The style is reminiscent of their last panel together in canon, drawn with more fine detail than typical hero mode.]

JASPERS SPRITE: aren’t you excited to play the rain?
it won’t be hard.
the music should be in your head like kittens knowing how to meow without anyone having to tell them what sounds to make.
knowing how is part of who they are and knowing this is part of who you are.
I know you rose and I know you can do it.
ROSE: The music won't be a problem.
JASPERS SPRITE: then what’s wrong?
ROSE: Cetus could have been more specific, that's all.
There are too many unknowns for my taste.
JASPERS SPRITE: sometimes the dry pebbly food you gave me when I was alive wasn’t to my taste, but I ate it because I was hungry and also because I loved you.
some of the things about your land are like that.
they’re food to make you grow even if it tastes icky.
I remember right after I came back to life you jumped off the roof and I caught you because you couldn’t fly then on your own.
did you know I would catch you?
ROSE: No, not for certain.
I hoped.

[Panel description: Rose faces toward the viewer, mouth slightly open. Behind her, light shines down on the white sand of the beach.]

JASPERS SPRITE: see so unknown things don’t have to be scary.
not when someone else is there to catch you!
I will always catch you rose. (smiling cat face).
ROSE: I trust you, Jaspers. But I don't know.

[Panel description: Jane appears from behind Rose. Rose looks over at her.]

JANE: Excuse me.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jake is viewed from behind. He stands at the base of the nine panel door, looking up at its multicolored buttons.]

[Panel description: Dirk stands looking up at a similar door, viewed from the same perspective. Both doors feature a combination of the heart and hope insignia, although Dirk’s is orange instead of green.]

[Panel description: Dirk holds his phone in both hands and frowns down at it. Yaldabaoth looms over him, bringing his glowing head close over Dirk's shoulder. Jake's symbol hovers in a speech bubble to one side of the phone.]

[Panel description: Jake sits cross legged with his head tilted to the right, a speech bubble with Dirk's hat in it over his head. He is framed by wall decorations resembling dark green cherub swirls.]

TT: Yo, Jake.
This is kind of important. I would really appreciate it if you would respond.
Y'know, take your time. But.
We sort of can't do this without each other.
I know that sounds like yet another of my demented meet cute scenarios, but I swear I'm not pulling any strings here. Skaia's cloying quest for dramatic irony has contrived a set-up that is, to invoke the vernacular, "too fucking gay" even for me.
I'd much rather fuck up my quest and blow up my planet solo rather than have any other poor mother fuckers dragged in on charges of aiding and abetting.

[Panel description: Dirk is viewed in profile standing a few inches away from the door. He continues to look down at his phone's screen.]

[Panel description: Jake presses his hand against one of the glowing buttons.]

[Panel description: Two panels are presented side by side with a small gray barrier between them. Jake has his hand pressed against the button on LOMAX, while Dirk stands facing away from his door on LOTAK. Both scream and flash with electricity, revealing cartoon skeletons beneath their skin. The electric current comes from the button Jake touched and its equivalent on Dirk's door.]

[Panel description: Both boys lie on the ground, smoke rising from their bodies. Only Jake's ankles and feet are visible, pointed straight up. On Dirk's side, all that can be seen is one hand holding up his phone and the other hand jabbing at its keys.]

TT: Did you touch something?
GT: Dirk?? Is that you?
Like really actually factually you and not a copy or an auto responder?
TT: I would say “in the flesh” but for once in a life of insufferable smart assery I don't think now is the time.

[Panel description: Jake lies on his back with his arms out, expression neutral. In the companion panel, Dirk continues texting. His hair is a mess.]

TT: I'm in the tombs on LOTAK. There's a puzzle door that electrocuted me just now before I had a chance to touch it.
GT: Errr...
Does it have about nine tiles and carvings of our aspects all around it?
TT: That's the one.
GT: Oh dear. Looks like I did cause that. Jumping jehosphat I’m so sorry dirk I didn’t know!
TT: It's alright.
As much as I have warned you about touching things in the past, I think at this point I just ought to accept that curious explorers will get their sticky little mitts into all sorts of trouble and there's nothing I can really do about it.
Might as well buckle up and stand by with a broom to help clean up the mess afterwards.
GT: I do humbly apologize. I’ll try to be more careful.
TT: Please do. We can't have either of us dying heroically while playing a game of Simon: Paradox Space Bullshit edition.
Speaking of which, did that do anything on your end?
GT: It was a bit of a shock but I’m alright.
...I don’t mean that in a metaphorical way I mean that I literally got electrocuted.
TT: Oh.
Okay.
Jake, take a step back and don't touch anything.
GT: Shouldn’t be a problem as I am currently horizontally oriented and unable to reach the door.
TT: We need to piece this out. Take stock. If this puzzle connects our two planets, this must be what Jane meant by them being linked.
Give me a minute, I can barely hear myself think over this thing's fucking puzzle speak.
The denizens are probably supposed to give clues, but I believe mine already moved on from important details to something else. "Crack open thine noble heart, lest flights of angels sing thee to a hero's rest."
GT: Sounds ominous.
TT: Sounds like more cryptic game bullshit to me.
GT: Well that would’ve been good to know about all of this a week ago!
We could’ve gotten it out of the way when we were actually... well.
On speaking terms.
Sorry. Continue thinking.
TT: Well, all things considered, I think what we're doing now qualifies as "speaking terms".
Before the butchered Hamlet, if I know my mystical game lore Greek, the nova-faced asshole was saying that this was the way to open a system of vents into the crypt system, thereby drawing off the krypton into a lower level, a la your canyon, and making this hell hole livable again.
I believe this is what we need to solve to make that happen.
GT: Venting toxic substances to clear the air...?

[Panel description: Jake sits up. Patches of scorch marks cover his wrists, legs, and cheek. On the other side, Dirk stands and puts a hand to his head. He is similarly burned.]

TT: ...if we can get through this without being electrocuted or suffocated to death, we may have to acknowledge the blatantly symbolic horseshit going on here.
But for now I'm happy to ignore SBURB's increasingly ham-fisted attempts to make us "learn a lesson" and "grow as people" if you are and just solve the damn puzzle door.
GT: And... gulp! How would we go about doing that?
TT: Well.
I said "may".
I for one am done trying to stack the deck and make you do anything.
Like, aside from solving this puzzle. Because I kind of need you to do that with me.
GT: Listen dirk about before...
I’m really sorry about all of that. I was just the biggest and most callous of heels! Inserted straight into my trap in the course of things as would only be befitting.
TT: Jake, look.
It's fine, I'm not mad about all of that.
I have my own metric fuck ton of things to apologize for too, but that conversation can wait until you're ready to have it.
GT: What? Really?
TT: Well, yeah.
We're standing miles underground, with billions of tons of rock and electrified toxic gas bearing down on us, ready to play a lethal memory game for Skaia's fucked up amusement and I have the self-proclaimed God of Monsters breathing down my neck.
Now granted, I can only estimate the number of emotionally gutting conversations you've had today, but with the notches in my own fuselage, I'm fully prepared to put ours off as long as you need to.
GT: If you so insist...
If you’re willing to be so forgiving when I muck this up as well.
TT: As long as I don't die, I don't think anything you could do here would be much of a setback. Who knows, even the unlikely event of a perma-death might not be that much of a hindrance.
It's become laughably easy to re-shackle ourselves to the proverbial mortal coil, so you'd do well to put it out of your head for now.
As much as you can, I mean. Impending death tends to kind of impose itself upon the mind's eye regardless of one's intent. Like, I should know, that's basically been my entire life.
And yours too, I guess, but somehow you never seemed to let that bother you.
Honestly, I'm sort of envious.
GT: Pardon? You envied me?
TT: Well, yes. Somehow you had a way of seeing the best in any given situation.
I admired it as much as it concerned me, like no one can be that fucking happy about living on Isla de Hell murder unless it's a delusional coping mechanism of some kind.
But whatever, that's me talking. Right now I need you to shift into gung-ho-to-the-max adventurer mode for about five minutes, even if there's no puzzle skulls in it for you, so we can win this game and finally get the hell out of here.
I'm still not sure why it was a critical game objective to move all those ancient ass lizard corpses to strategic locations but whatever. At least it made you happy.
GT: Raiding tombs is an important part of every adventurer’s experience!
It’s too bad we weren’t allowed to keep all of the skeletal spoils...
TT: Jake.
GT: What?
TT: How many lizard skulls did you stash somewhere?
GT: None at all! I’m honestly surprised at you that you would accuse me of such a thing.
I followed all our questing instructions to the letter!
TT: Okay.
It's probably not important anyway.
For now let's focus on this door.
Think you can handle that?
GT: I’ve... got my doubts I’ll be honest.
While I’ve made it this far I didn’t do so without a lot of monkeying around and screwing up.
You may have noticed I am not exactly the best of adventurers and that’s a realization that’s taken the wind out of my sails even with my small victories.
TT: I'd challenge that.
Your enthusiasm for discovery in this venture has been matched only by your near suicidal disregard for potential danger.
That.
Did not come out as positive as I thought it would.
Switching gears.
Would it be clichéd as all fuck to say it'll be alright and that I believe in you?
GT: Yes and that’s almost too corny even for me!
I’m not saying it can’t be done! Just that I hope you’re prepared to hurt in the meantime.
TT: Well, even if my optimism is facetious,
And it is, just a little, if only because this quest business is the tip of the shit heap we still have to deal with,
I can sincerely say I think you're up to the task, regardless of how many electrocutions I have to contend with.
And it's not like a lack of skill stopped you at the start of all this, when you had very little adventure experience but a lot of attitude.
Now you have very little of that 'tude but a lot more experience.
GT: It’s not so much my level of capability as much as the expectation.
I can’t help but think of my earlier bravado and wonder if it didn’t lead some people to... well.
Paint a picture that I couldn’t live up to.
Plus there’s something about my little turn of phrase about belief that people ought to be aware of!
TT: It can wait.
You're not the only one who hasn't lived up to expectations, Jake.
I'm not blameless either.
But try not to worry about that for now. We can scream our problems at each other later. For the moment, try to focus on this puzzle.
GT: How do I do that?
TT: Same way I do things, I guess?
Roll up your sleeves and throw yourself into it. Work it out.
That's about as much an explanation as I can give.
GT: Oh boy.
Dirk I’m sorry but I hope you’re ready to get the bejeezus zapped out of you again.
TT: I can handle it, but I'm concerned for the structural integrity of my gasmask. Sadly, my bro's empire of consumerist absurdism was only suited for alchemizing cheap pieces of shit, and I'm not sure what the voltage capacity on this thing is.
GT: I don’t know about you but despite my being in a clear area I’ve still got the return journey to consider.
TT: Same.
I got pretty good at holding my breath during diving trips back on Earth, but I don't know about you.
GT: No I’m afraid I am far less experienced in such matters.
TT: Okay.
We have a small margin for error, then.
Let's take a step back and think about this. What did you do before we got shocked?

[Panel description: Both boys look at their respective puzzle door, facing inward toward the barrier between the two panels.]

GT: I pressed the blue button.
TT: Okay.
I've got one glowing key on my end. I'm gonna see what this does.

[Panel description: This time, Dirk touches the key. Electricity streams from both it and Jake's counterpart. Once more, their skeletons flash as they are electrocuted. Dirk's mouth opens in dismay. Jake’s eyes point in different directions.]

[Panel description: Jake's head and shoulders appear above the bottom of the panel. He frowns while smoke rises from his head. Most of his skin is gray. On the other side, Dirk is still standing, but he slumps forward. Smoke rises from his ruined hair.]

GT: Dirk??
Speak to me buddy are you alive?
TT: No. You're a murderer.
GT: Oh no!!
Don’t worry I’ll be sure to pick out some tasteful arrangements for the funeral.
TT: Don't bother, just toss my corpse into the volcano.
You ok?
GT: Fine as I can be. You?
TT: More or less.
Obviously, that's not what we were supposed to do.
GT: But it was glowing! You ALWAYS press the glowing button!
Unless it’s a glowing red button.
TT: Unless...
Operating under the assumption these keypads are the same on both ends...
The glowing button on my end is the one in the lower left corner. Try it on your end.
GT: Ok. Here goes nothing.

[Panel description: Jake and Dirk press a button on their respective doors at the same time.]

[Panel description: The buttons on the doors in front of them light up.]

Chapter Text

[S] Duet or Die.

[Flash description: A loading screen showing a winged heart combining the Heart and Hope symbols. It changes from orange to green.

Seen from behind, Jake stands looking at the puzzle door. The image pans down and fades into Dirk in the same pose looking at an identical door. We see their faces as they consider the puzzle in front of them. Dirk frowns slightly. Jake's mouth is open.

Jake looks intently at the door and then slowly reaches toward a button. He presses it in time with an audio cue. Dirk reaches out more assertively and presses the same button on his door in time with another audio cue.

The screen shows Jake and Dirk silhouetted against green and orange backgrounds respectively, separated by a blue barrier. They alternate reaching out to press different portions of the surface in front of them while tones play with every touch. Jake does this simply, while Dirk adds some dramatic flourishes. The overall effect looks like they're dancing.

Dirk places his hand on one side of the symbolic barrier. Jake reaches out and places his hand directly opposite it.

A close up of Jake's hand pushing various buttons. The screen scrolls to the right, where an open pester log displays the following partially visible text:

GT: It's a … ... twister.
TT: Except instead … ... innuendo it's … ... electrocution.
Bottom right.
GT: Top left!
TT: Though that would be a ... … decent motivation to keep it ... … pants. Dead center.
GT: Center left.
TT: Bottom left.
GT: Top right! On that vein of thought I noticed you had a different pair of pantaloons on.
As opposed to the actual pantaloons.
Top center.
TT: Tights aren't really my style.
Bottom center.
GT: Left center.
If tights aren't your speed then what about the...
TT: Right center.

The screen scrolls all the way across to where Dirk's hand also presses buttons.

Stone slabs on LOTAK decorated with the winged heart symbol slide open. Gas filters down into the vents. The orange passageways filled with diagonal beams Dirk walked through earlier are shown again, now free of krypton. The video pans down, where Dirk and Jake continue to work through the door's puzzle in silhouette. This time, every button they press is the same on both sides, so their hands meet across the blue barrier again and again. The scene fades to black.

Jake stands again in front of the puzzle door. A series of buttons flash to life, and then the door vanishes to reveal a green passageway.]

[Panel description: Jake stands in another green chamber decorated with swirling green lines. He looks up toward the ceiling.]

[Panel description: Jake stands at the top of a staircase. The staircase curves around the edge of a large domed chamber, leading down to a structure in the center. The structure is shaped like a golden sphere-tipped spire with two lime green serpents curled around it. Their feathered heads point toward the sky.]

[Panel description: Jake stands inside the structure. His small form is dwarfed by Abraxas, a green serpent with a head covered in golden glowing feathers. Wisps of gold and white light surround the denizen's form.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jane and Rose stand on LOLAR's white beaches. Jaspers curls around Jane and brings his face close to hers to sniff her. Jane looks over at him with concern.]

JANE: I think I'm supposed to work with you?
ROSE: I think so too.
Cetus told me our quests were connected.
Or rather, she hinted at it in a series of riddles that, when carefully examined and cross referenced from several angles, led me to that conclusion.
JANE: That's a relief. I was afraid I'd remembered wrong.
ROSE: What did she say? If your denizen was female, in any case.
JANE: Yes. Her name is Hemera!
Same as my browser, curiously enough.
ROSE: The goddess of the day. How appropriate that we're collaborating.
For all that I'm a Derse dreamer, light is never far away.
Could I bother you for the details?
JANE: Certainly!

[Panel description: Jane stands in silhouette in a gray stone hallway. She puts a hand to her chin, considering a panel in the wall with recessed areas shaped like amphibian skulls.]

[Panel description: Jane walks down a gray hallway. Shafts of purple light bounce off a mirror imbedded in the ceiling. She is walking toward an opening, from which white light pours and veins of brightly colored plant life extend. Decorations combining the life and the light symbols to create suns with swirling rays line the walls.]

JANE: You see, I always liked solving the puzzles of my land.
I felt like a real gumshoe sorting through all the clues and riddles, and it got me away from all the troubles with my friends.
Forget puzzle skulls! Those three were the real headscratchers!
ROSE: I've also found myself stymied more often by my own social ineptitude than whatever this game throws my direction.
Maybe the true Ultimate Riddle was the friends we made along the way.
JANE: Hoo hoo, perhaps!
They sure had me stumped.
I traveled deep into the caverns and chasms of LOCAH, no door standing in my way. I would spend as much time underground as possible, owing to the factor that, despite defying all the conventions of how wireless signals work otherwise in this realm, my connection would cut out that far down, and I'd be left with time to myself to think.

[Panel description: Jane kneels on sand while light washes over her. The stone walls behind her are veined with more plant life. She is wearing a dress with a frilled blue skirt and a lighter blue blouse patterned with mustaches. A black mustache takes the place of a bow at her collar. She wears a crown of blue, pink, and burnt orange flowers accented with green leaves. She holds a pink flower in her hand and pulls a petal off with the other. Her expression is sad.]

JANE: Or not think, as it were.
Eventually, in an effort to will away my troubles, I worked my way down, all the way to the planet's core.

[Panel description: The image pans out. Jane kneels at the base of Hemera, a massive denizen clad in swirling light blue robes.]

JANE: There lay my denizen, shining like daylight.
However, I could go no further. Hemera told me that despite conquering most of the challenges my land had to offer, I would be unable to complete my quest to restore LOCAH to life because we were waiting for the arrival of the gods and the one who would breed lilacs from the dead land.
I think that's you.

[Panel description: Jane and Rose climb a winding path around a tall pink structure. Pink columns crown its top. Yellow clouds continue to pour glittering rain down around them.]

ROSE: Eliot. I don't know why denizens enjoy post-modern poetry.
I would have guessed Classics.
It just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover or an adversary by their name.
But yes, that's me.
I discovered a set of prophecies on the Battlefield, and that line was mine.
It sounds suitably pretentious.
JANE: The creatures of the Medium sure love their flowery scripture, don't they? (sticks tongue out).
ROSE: I can't exactly criticize them, considering I'm a quick draw with an allusion when I choose to be.
They lend a certain gravitas to any occasion.
JANE: This one had gravitas to spare!
Hemera told me I had a choice.
ROSE: That seems to be an inescapable component.
Denizens are more eager to saddle you with a do or die dilemma than a gameshow host whose ratings are tanking.
During my audience I kept expecting strobe lights to light up the cavern as I was offered a free car.
JANE: She said I could give up my heritage and maybe live in peace, or I could hold on to it and face the consequences.
At the time, I thought she meant being a Noble, and that I could give up being one of the legendary heroes destined to win this game.
No more pressure, but no chance of winning.
I couldn't abandon my friends like that, even if I was in the depths of the ground to escape them.
Now I think I misunderstood.
She meant my heritage as an heiress, my connection to Crockercorp and all the greedy grasping evil that the red spoon stands for.
If I'd given up thinking of myself that way and defied the Empress more clearly, instead of holding on to her brand, she might not have tried to win me over with that tiara.
She would have seen me as a lost cause.
Instead she saw my arrogance and ambition and tried to let it out.
She thought she was doing me a favor.
I liked being an heiress. I wanted power.
Hemera gave me a chance to give that up, but I didn't.
Not that I think I lived up to that in the end.
I was far from taking charge during my session, and I wasn't exactly in a state of mind to be a good friendleader.
I don't know if I can go from that to being fit to lead an entire planet of carapaces.
Or heaven forbid, an actual alien empire.
ROSE: Don't worry.
Whatever the imperial succession rulebook says, I don't think anyone's dusting off the throne for a new royal posterior at this very moment.
If you haven't noticed, there aren't many trolls left to lead.
And, dare I say it, we've been passingly adequate at working as a team lately.
No filigreed figurehead required.
JANE: Whether it's empty or not, any promise of power seems too much for me.
If I'm not hiding from the job, I'm turning into a tyrant.
That's the last thing anyone needs.
ROSE: I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting power, or knowledge, or notice. Not on its own, anyway.
It usually takes some kind of power to get things done.
We all have darkness in us. Believe me, I know.
You may have noticed some structural damage on your way here. That's nothing.
In another timeline, I tore this place apart.
I was searching for answers, and I got them.
I don't regret what I did. What I learned helped salvage our session.
If I'd taken that destructive fury to my friends, though, I would have crossed a line.
And whatever palette swaps I went through or whoever's language I spoke at the time, that choice was up to me.
Maybe it wasn't for you, before, but it is now.
There's not always a well-read monster placed in front of you to make sure you choose right. We don't always get checkpoints telling us how to think.
Sometimes you have to police yourself.
It's not as glamorous, but it works.
JANE: I think you're right.
Twice in as many days, I've had a foreign force unleash what I've been keeping inside. Maybe with my complicity or maybe not, but on some level I was doing exactly as I wanted.
Not to help anyone else, though. It wasn't stomping around for any kind of righteous cause. Just purely self-serving.
Even when I told Dirk I'd let out all my frustration the first time, I think I wanted that to be true more than it really was.
And as a result, I did cross that line!
I don't want to bottle all my aggression up again, but I know now what I will do if I let it gallop freely.
But in either roundabout way of explaining it, I get what you're saying. I will have to be more careful in striking that balance.
ROSE: That's a nice summary of my grandstanding.
Sorry for the soliloquy before. It comes with the job.
JANE: You're fine, I think I'm the same sometimes. (buck toothed smiling face).

[Panel description: Jane stands at the top of the pink structure. Behind her, rays of light reach up over the edge of the sea on the horizon. A pink keyboard curves in front of her. She holds her hands above it, eyebrows up and mouth slightly open in surprise.

ROSE: Are you ready to get started?
JANE: Wait.
What did your denizen tell you?

[Panel description: Rose faces away from the viewer, toward the rays of light reaching up above the edge of the ocean. A captchalogue card containing her violin appears in the top left corner, and then the instrument appears in her hand.]

ROSE: She told me to play the rain.

Chapter Text

[S] Play the rain.

Loading screen: the sun peeks halfway above the ocean, which stretches out to the horizon. Shafts of light cut through a pink and orange sky. Clouds in different shades of gold dump flashing rain into the water.

Rose floats above the cliffside and holds her violin by the neck, pointing the body toward her shoulder. Drops of water fall onto the fingerboard, each one generating a plucking tone in time with the music. The violin does not appear to have any strings.

Rose holds her violin against her shoulder, resting her chin on the chin rest. Glittering rain pours down onto the instrument, flowing along it to take the place of strings before trickling through her fingers clasping the instrument's neck. She puts the bow to the liquid strings.

Back on the top of the cliff, Jane stands in front of a keyboard built into a large pink turtle shell.
She lifts her fingers and then plays a chord. The perspective then switches to Jane in profile, her hands moving up and down in time with the music.

The perspective switches again to show both Rose and Jane. Jane leans forward with her eyes closed, her shoulders moving as she continues to play. Rose floats about six feet above the ground, eyes also closed, as the song shifts from plucking to bowing.

We see the two girls from above. Rose hovers over the ocean with the violin at her shoulder, while Jane continues to play the keyboard. Two puffy golden clouds pour rain into the ocean. The screen pans out to sea, and more clouds gather. They thicken until most of the sky is covered.

Rose continues to draw her bow along the strings of glittering water, her eyes closed and a small smile on her face. Rain begins to fall everywhere across the screen. Jane's fingers move across the keys.

Some distance from the pink platform, anxious purple turtles huddle on the sand. Multicolored raindrops spread across the entire website, covering the main screen and its gray borders.

John stands on the rocky blue landscape of LOWAS with the spire of his home rising in the distance. Yellow clouds move in to cover the sky. He looks up with his mouth open, golden clouds reflected in the lenses of his glasses. Rain pours in torrents around him.

Jade looks out her bedroom window in surprise. Rain pours down on the landscape of LOFAF from golden clouds that now fill the sky. Steam rises from the lava of the volcano, and the surface of the lake dimples with the impact of raindrops. Jade leans out her window, smiling with delight.

A shot of John's shoes in an empty riverbed cleared of oil. Water trickles past him. The trickle quickly becomes a torrent until he stands knee deep in a rushing river. The sound of rain joins the music.

The scene switches to the glowing lava of LOHAC, which laps at gray shores and swirls around metallic scaffolding. Yellow clouds fade into the sky. The lava turns gray and then black as the rain hits it, hardening into stone and leaving only narrow bands of lava remaining.

Dave sprite and Terezi hover over what was once the lava lake and has now become a patch of steaming red-veined obsidian. Terezi adjusts her glasses as a purple dragonfly flutters near her. It lands on her nose and she looks at it cross-eyed.

A shot of LOCAH. Golden clouds fill the sky along with the land’s floating balloons. Dead white trees sprout out of the gray landscape. Colorful plant life pokes out of one crack in the mountainside. As rain falls, the plants reach out further to create colorful pools and tendrils. The white trees leaf and flower with pink and orange.

Circles of blue fire flicker on the landscape. They solidify into circular salamander homes. The image zooms in on a gray stone crypt with blue fire glowing at its heart. Blue life magic surrounds the skeleton of a salamander consort, lifting it into the air and restoring it to life. It kicks its legs and makes spit bubbles jubilantly.

Water flows through the deserts of LOPAN, turning the reddish-orange sand a rich black. Neon colored plants like lily pads, reeds, and palm trees sprout along a new riverbank.

Dirk's apartment rises on scaffolding surrounded by green tombs on LOTAK. Golden clouds gather overhead. Vines climb up the structures and flower with yellow blossoms. Thick ropes of kudzu link the towering tombs together with organic bridges.

Blue fire flares on LOMAX, restoring the broken windmills to their full glory.

Roxy stands on the black LOPAN surrounded by neon bushes and palm trees, accompanied by some anxious pink turtles. She holds her hands up to catch the drops, smiling.

Jake grins up at the sky, holding his gas mask to his chest with both hands. His land has been overtaken by large yellow sunflowers and trees with blue bark. Some bemused blue iguanas stand next to him. One of them sticks a yellow tongue out briefly.

Dirk scowls upward on his vine-entangled apartment building. The spikes in his hair have wilted. Two nakkodiles jitter around him, opening and closing their mouths with glee.

A massive yellow hurricane swirls across LOLAR's surface. Rose plays on as waves rise and crash around her. Purple tentacles rise from a whirlpool beneath her feet. The tails of Jane's god tier outfit whip in the wind. She looks over her shoulder, to where Rose still plays as the music grows more intense. The waves have risen past her waist, and a purple tentacle flails behind her. One enormous wave rears over Rose's head. Rose opens her eyes, which widen as the wave’s shadow looms over her. It crests and then collapses over her floating form. Then the waters smooth over to create a peaceful and empty sea. The perspective shifts to show Jane's silhouette as she stands next to the keyboard, looking out toward where Rose went under while the last note fades out.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jane stands at the top of the cliff, eyes wide. Behind her, the clouds are breaking up to show blue sky.]

[Panel description: She looks down to the water. Rose sinks into the depths, where purple tentacles wait.]

[Panel description: Jane dives into the water.]

[Panel description: She reaches one hand out toward Rose's sinking form. Air bubbles bubble up from Rose's body.]

[Panel description: Jane swims deeper, her arm stretched out. Her eyebrows furrow with determination. She dives past colorful growths of coral. Schools of small fish swim in the background.]

[Panel description: Jane grasps Rose's wrist.]

[Panel description: Jane swims for the surface, towing Rose by the arm. Shafts of light cut through the water, illuminating a beautiful coral reef populated by blue fish and a blue and yellow striped eel.]

[Panel description: Jane stands in the surf, clutching Rose's slumped body in front of her. Her drooping hair drips water. Behind them, a purple dolphin leaps out of the ocean.]

[Panel description: Jane, now drawn in scribble mode, leans back her head and takes a deep breath. The word inhale is written above her.]

[Panel description: A very tall panel mostly showing sunset colored clouds. At the base of the panel, Jane leans forward and performs an artistic but scientifically inaccurate version of mouth to mouth, dipping Rose's body toward the turquoise water. The edges of the surf lap at pink sand. More purple dolphins leap by the horizon.]

[Panel description: Rose's body lies half in and half out of the water, her head pillowed on pink sand. Her eyes are closed, and her mouth is slightly open. Jane kneels next to her and presses her hands on her sternum, eyebrows drawn. Her mouth is open, and the words 1! 2! 3! are written next to her.]

[Panel description: Rose sits up and spits out water. She is drawn in scribble mode referencing the recurring Bluh panel. The word Bluh jitters above her. Jane vibrates next to her, making a face very like the anxious turtles.]

[Panel description: Rose sits up, still partly in the water. Jane kneels next to her, looking at her with concern. Water laps at her knees.]

JANE: Rose?? Rose, are you alright?
Sorry for that, I was thinking on my feet!
ROSE: No, it's quite alright.
Thanks.
I don't know what Skaia's parameters for revival in these types of situations are, but I don't feel the need to test my limits.
The old throwbacks are there for a reason. I'm surprised we haven't had to defibrillate anyone yet.
JANE: Well... by certain definitions of "defibrillation"...
Okay, that's beside the point.
ROSE: ... Sorry I didn't warn you about this.
I wasn't sure what it would entail.
Just that I'd probably put you in an awkward situation.
JANE: It's hard to warn of something you don't see coming, isn't it?
ROSE: That's for certain.
You know as well as I do that denizens can be hard to interpret until after the event they're prophesying has come to pass.
JANE: Oh, THAT'S for certain.
ROSE: Cetus told me that I would have to put my trust in another and let myself lose some measure of control.
It wasn't an assignment I was entirely comfortable with.
She led me to believe it would be something akin to a trust fall.
This was... a little more extreme.
JANE: Considering how high that wave was...
Extreme doesn't begin to cover it!
I'm glad you're alright.
ROSE: Now you and your son have both dragged me back from the brink of death.
Or, in John's case, quite a bit over.
Congratulations?
JANE: Must run in the family?
ROSE: You're a regular clan of lifesavers.
JANE: Again, I could tell you some stories.
How are your ribs??
I thought I heard something crack.
ROSE: Nothing that won't fix itself in a few minutes.
God Tier privileges. If nothing else, it comes with good health benefits.
JANE: Okay, good. Typically, if you're giving someone CPR, it's done with the assumption that emergency services have already been called...
Or at least, that's how I was taught.
ROSE: I'm afraid most of our first aid knowledge has been rendered obsolete.
Although I've gotten very good at patching up the occasional neck laceration.
JANE: And my more mundane abilities have gotten an upgrade, so that's one less reason to worry.
ROSE: You're doing your job as a Life player, if I'm any judge.
Are those fish in the distance?
And...
Some sort of grasping, tentacled thing.
Excellent.
We've found the giant squid.
JANE: Now all we need is a wizard castle.
ROSE: I've had my fill of castles.
However, I can never have my fill of wizards, so we may be able to reach an arrangement.
JANE: Roxy will be delighted, I'm sure!
ROSE: Oh, does she like wizards, then?
Unironically, I mean?
That explains a lot.
It's comforting to know that the artifact-littered JPEGs of majestic spellcasters framed on our walls weren't solely to antagonize me.
JANE: I can't speak for her alt-self, but yes. Roxy does like wizards.
I still have the stuffed wizard bunny she sent me for my birthday!
ROSE: I see.
I suspect that bunny changed hands in our universe as well.
Its journey has been one of epic proportions, almost as circuitous as the origins of paradox space itself.
JANE: Dirk told me the story once of the bunny he sent me... which is a long one indeed.
But I never heard the ones behind Wizard bunny and Explorer bunny.
ROSE: We'll have to compare notes.
I'm looking forward to having a real conversation with him at some point.
I've heard
Stories.
JANE: He is quite a character.
But pretty alright, at the center of it all.
He tries his best.
ROSE: I'll keep that in mind.
JANE: Our team is all quirky like that.
And... frankly, a mess.
A great, big mess!!
ROSE: While ours is a collection of well-adjusted and functioning young adults.
You can tell by the way I arranged my own drowning in a symbolic way of working out whatever issues I have with myself.
Denizens enjoy orchestrating such loaded situations, haven't you noticed?
I wonder what their motivation is.
JANE: Teaching valuable life lessons and forging friendships that hopefully won't go down like flaming wrecks?
That's what I've gained thus far from this.
Although the success rate is so far proving dubious at best.
ROSE: It's almost parental, in a way.
If they stave off existential malaise by arranging character-building deathtraps for us all, I guess I can't complain.
Not as long as we make it out the other side still breathing, anyway.
JANE: Which we both are, thank goodness!
ROSE: It's odd the level of investment our lands and denizens take in our personal development, considering how cavalier Skaia is in requiring our deaths for its own ends.
If they're patterned off our tortured psyches, at least I can pretend that my land's less than subtle pointers are delivered from my own subconscious. It feels less patronizing that way.
JANE: You know, I think I prefer the big life-changing quests to the alternative.
I have reason to think anything more subtle would be lost on us... so maybe it's for the best, to stuff everything in your face where you can't get away from it?
Like you HAVE to face it, or else!
ROSE: I think I prefer facing things head on as well.
That's part of the reason my quest unnerved me.
The uncertainty.
It's not easy walking into a situation knowing you're expected to cede responsibility and risk disaster.
I've lost control in the past, and it hasn't been pretty.
At least this time it was for building something up instead of tearing things apart.
JANE: Likewise!
That was a part of my experience before I had a bucket of water dumped on me. Not just the stint under the Condesce, but even before that.
Snapping in two, unleashing everything like a hurricane.
It's catharsis at its finest, yet it just causes more destruction.
ROSE: Addiction is a powerful thing.
JANE: Not something I've felt myself, per se... but I've seen it in action.
I don't think I had much of a chance to get addicted. I spent far longer keeping everything under wraps.
Which is another undesirable extreme!
ROSE: You can get accustomed to things beyond controlled substances.
Destruction was an outlet for me once. First aimed at my surroundings, then at myself.
It helped other feelings go away.
I suppose Cetus was telling me to cut it out.
JANE: To create.
ROSE: A bit hypocritical from the monster who ate the entire ocean but
She's not wrong.
JANE: I don't think I was so much addicted to not piping up, it was more... it was easier not to do so.
Even pre-game, our situation was incredibly precarious.
Such a maelstrom of haywire teenage emotions that the slightest nudge in any direction would send us all spiraling into disaster!
So for some time, it seemed like I was waiting for the right moment to speak up. But even when I was passed a golden opportunity, I couldn't find it in me to upset the way things seemed to be going.
It'd leave Jake reeling, I thought for sure Dirk wouldn't speak to me... and then I found myself bound in the position of being a relationship guru for months on end and couldn't find a way out without wrecking it all.
So I kept it all in until I couldn't anymore.
ROSE: As someone with a tendency to insert her opinion into any situation, even when entirely unasked for, I'm not sure I can sympathize.
But I did think my drinking habits made me more charming.
Why I didn't decide to be more charming without the aid of alcohol, I don't know, except for the suspicion that I don't do charming very well.
I'm not sure why I wanted to.
Charming isn't my aesthetic.
I'll leave that to Prospit dreamers, with your sunshine towers and optimism.
I should have taken the hint when the game dropped me on the planet of nightmares and several shades of purple.
Perhaps that's the biggest lesson of all.
Be yourself?
Definitely the kind of cliche that sounds better coming from one of you Light Kingdom folks.
I think I'll go with "Embrace your inner darkness or perish."
JANE: Erm. Not sure I like that interpretation. I think I'll take the cliche.
ROSE: Suit yourself.
I think mine is inspiring.
It might make a good t-shirt.
JANE: Well... let me put it this way. What did you do when you were your "dark self" and out of control?
ROSE: Some structural damage and a poorly thought-out revenge attempt doubling as a pre-suicide mission suicide mission.
I know I didn't turn "bad" like you did.
At the same time, though, I think both episodes represent something we can't afford to ignore.
JANE: This is true, but.
Given what I did and how it affected people, I'd stop well short of fully embracing mine.
The anger is cathartic, certainly, but I don't want to use it again in the way that I did.
ROSE: Fair enough.
Let me think of a suitable rephrasing, so you aren't left out of the t-shirt party.
"Meet your inner darkness and show it who's boss?"
A little long.
"I make my demons work for me."
JANE: Ooh, perfect.
Dark-me would have made a good middle manager, I think, what with her terrifying of underlings.
ROSE: See, this wasn't a complete waste of time.
You've discovered potential career opportunities.
For a sixteen year old, you're ahead of the pack.
JANE: Well, I was set to take over the biggest baking company in the world.
...was.
ROSE: It's true that our economy is facing significant upheaval.
JANE: THAT'S an understatement. (sticks tongue out).
ROSE: On the other hand, if I want to continue my interest in psychology, the field is wide open.
JANE: Speaking of business opportunities, I was selling troll blood for a short while.
ROSE: Oh!
I imagine you had one devoted customer.
JANE: That I did!
Though I can't imagine it's a sustainable market...
Well, maybe.
Given willing donors.
ROSE: Hopefully we'll curtail the bleeding.
As for her dietary habits... I think that's a work in progress.
JANE: Hm, so don't look to it for a career, then.
ROSE: There are probably better options, unless you want to be your own supplier.
I'm sorry, the macabre humor is kicking back in. I must be recovering.
JANE: Hoo hoo, I'm sure I'll catch up in a bit. It has been a day.
Some day.
Some day, the snark will return from the war.
ROSE: The plan is to chat you up enough to cover up any lingering awkwardness from having to drag my limp body out of the ocean and apply mouth-to-mouth.
Hopefully it's working.
JANE: It's working just fine! (buck toothed smiling face).
ROSE: Oh, good.
In that case...

[Panel description: Rose stands up ankle deep in the water. Motion lines drawn by her side suggest she is wobbling. Jane stands next to her reaching out as if to steady her. They both face away from the viewer out toward the ocean. Yellow clouds still populate the sky, but they're no longer raining.]

ROSE: Whoops, a little dizzy.
There’s one last thing I need to do here.

[Panel description: Rose leans forward and scoops up some water in her mother's empty wine bottle.]

ROSE: Now, I believe I'm due to plan a rescue mission.
This one will take a bit more thinking through.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Dave and Karkat walk across the checkerboard surface of the battlefield. It is no longer scarred with craters. A castle with fluttering red pennants rises in the background, and pine trees sprout in the distance. One of the clouds shows an image of Dirk looking into the mirror. Clicking on the image will open up a separate panel, which will be described in the next chapter.]

A text notification below the panel prompts, Try clicking the clouds!

[Panel description: WV and PM emerge from a stand of trees. Like Jack, PM also has returned to pre-Bec prototyping form, with a regular carapace head and a jester crown. WV raises his arms, three lines radiating from his face suggesting excitement. Dave looks over at him, his eyebrows rising and mouth spreading into a wide smile. In the clouds, Dave sprite leans on the top of a washing machine, watching Rose, who appears to be talking. Again, the image can be clicked to open a scene that will be described in the following chapter.]

[Panel description: Dave hugs WV. He is smiling, and WV's eyes curve upward to show his delight. Karkat peers in from the edge of the panel, looking past them and appearing uneasy.]

[Panel description: WV continues to hug Dave. However, Dave looks up to where PM stands regarding him neutrally. He frowns.]

[Panel description: All four begin walking toward a stand of trees. In the clouds, Hal sprite grins at stacks of pink frosted doughnuts. This image is also clickable.]

[Panel description: Numerous carapaces stand under the shadow of the trees. They are both Dersites and Prospitians. Some are in the colorful outfits of the Beta session, while two Dersites are in the drab black and white uniforms of the Alpha session. One Dersite wears a bloodstained lime green suit resembling one that a doomed Dave wore, while another wears a blue cloud patterned dress with a white-collared red jacket resembling one of Jade's outfits. Two Dersites visibly hold weapons.]

Your former compatriots gather around you. It has been a long time since you have seen so many of them. You have spent years alone, and years more in the company of aliens. It is time to come home.

You have been occupied as mayor of your glorious city. It was better to focus your energies on that, where your citizens were cans who couldn't die for your mistakes. Now you remember the events of that terrible day, when the windy boy died and a tyrant laid an army to waste and you vowed there should be no more kings.
The windy boy is not dead. You do not understand how this happened, but you accept that it is magic beyond your comprehension, and you are grateful. The dark kingdom has no king. But you understand that the tyrant is returning.
That will not do.

[Panel description: A collection of polearms point at the four travelers, blade ends first. Karkat stands in front of the group, arms spread between them and the points of the weapons. He's grimacing. Dave looks toward him, mouth open. PM leans forward, eyes narrowed and holding her sword. WV looks back at her.]

[Panel description: The mob of carapaces stands clustered at the edge of the forest. They carry a range of weapons, including several that appear to have once belonged to the kids, including the sord and caledscratch. Karkat stands opposite them, legs braced and holding out one hand as if to stop them. The mayor runs forward. In the background, Jake cuddles an iguana in a cloud. Like the other cloud images, this is clickable.]

[Panel description: The carapaces stand with their eyes wide. The Blood symbol flashes behind them, accompanied by a red glow and the faint tracery of veins. Transparent glowing red shackles appear around their wrists, linked with red-orange chains resembling the double helix of DNA.]

Your fellows did not look friendly at first, but now they are frozen in place by a power you do not understand, a power you think comes from the grumpy alien boy who has been your friend. You have tried to explain your plans for a new world to him. Now he is explaining those plans to the crowd.

[Panel description: Karkat holds one hand to the sky, mouth open as if he is delivering a dramatic speech. The Blood symbol flashes behind him against the blue sky, accompanied by glowing red dots like specks of blood and more branching vein patterns.]

[Panel description: The carapaces stand still, their weapons lowered. The translucent shackles vanish.]

He speaks to them of duty and loyalty and causes worth fighting for. You spoke of these once, before you stood in a river of the blood of those foolish enough to follow you and then lost yourself in a desert. You think they are listening. They listened to you.
You no longer speak, because you are convinced that what you have to say is stupid and useless. The words you spoke led others to their deaths. But he is loud enough for both of you, and the ideas don't sound stupid when he says them. You wonder why you ever thought they did.

[Panel description: Karkat looks down at WV, mouth open. Behind him in the clouds, Vriska approaches Tavros. This image can be clicked.]

He asks you

KARKAT: do you need a general?

You don't need a general. Since your reading on alien culture is limited to human etiquette, you don't know the meaning of the word. But you could use something else.

[Panel description: WV holds up a stick of red chalk. Behind him, a clickable cloud image shows Kanaya holding a colorful garment while Jade stands behind her with a platter of orange slices.]

[Panel description: WV draws a carapace symbol on Karkat's shirt in red chalk. The symbol shows a horse's head in profile framed by a crowned pentagon representing a chess Knight.]

You have room on the board for a knight.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Dirk frowns into the mirror above his sink. He is holding a tube of gel and fixing the spikes in his hair. Three nakkodiles surround him, opening their mouths and dancing.]

[Panel description: Rose sits on top of a dryer. Her hair is mussed, and she is wearing a gold headband. She is also wearing dark purple-gray shorts with darker horrorterror patterns and a lacey purple camisole with Kanaya's Virgo symbol embroidered near the hem in green. She looks over at Dave sprite, who leans on the top of the washing machine resting his chin on his hand.]

DAVE SPRITE: you look terrible.
ROSE: Thank you.
I drowned.
DAVE SPRITE: is that why your god robes are in the dryer.
you’re dressed like one of us lowly mortals for a change.
ROSE: Your self-deprecation would be more moving if you weren't the only one here who's walked off a blade to the torso.
You don't look that great now yourself.
Are those scorch marks?
DAVE SPRITE: I swam in lava.
it was a metaphor.
but also lava.
ROSE: In our eleventh hour, we seem to be diversifying our repertoire of personally symbolic mayhem beyond the standard stabbings.
What next?
We should probably hide the arsenic.
DAVE SPRITE: I’d love to swap stories on the latest shits skaias taken on us and their rhetorical significance but didn’t you want me for something?
no wonder daves lying low on the battlefield he doesn’t want more seer homework.
ROSE: To business, then.
I apologize for dragging you away from whatever important tasks you were occupied with.
DAVE SPRITE: getting rained on mostly.
thanks for the land upgrade by the way it sucks significantly less now.
ROSE: You're welcome.
Most of the new growth here is underwater, but I like my moths.
DAVE SPRITE: the place looks like a lunesta commercial.
ROSE: Maybe my consorts are peddling sedatives. They could use some.
As far as I can tell they aren't any less anxious after our three-year vacation.
DAVE SPRITE: you mean the turtles.
they were ok during our trip.
I think you make them nervous.
ROSE: Who, me?
All I've done in this timeline is rip holes in my planet's surface and then douse the place in a hurricane.
It was much worse last time.
DAVE SPRITE: yeah you shredded this place I remember.
is that what you need me for, do I have to soothe your frazzled amphibians.
mine never liked me that much.
ROSE: Don't worry, all I want is your opinion.
Specifically regarding an application of John's new power.
DAVE SPRITE: this should be good.
ROSE: Do you think we could interfere with Lord English's personal timeline?
And, I'll append, get away with it?
DAVE SPRITE: oh is that all.
gee rose are you sure you don’t want to aim any higher.
why start small?
go right ahead and poke the fucking lord of time with a stick why don’t we.
ROSE: Don't get hysterical on me.
DAVE SPRITE: I have done nothing but get hysterical all day.
I don’t care how new and special john’s powers are.
the whole reason I exist is because there are some things you can’t do.
even if he overwrote English’s loop and made it never happen that just means we’d all stop existing.
ROSE: But we do, so that means he must not have done it, right?
DAVE SPRITE: normally but not when johns involved.
he doesn’t have to play by loop rules remember, even if the consequences are bad when he doesn’t.
that’s why it’s so dangerous.
ROSE: What if we didn't break any loops?
DAVE SPRITE: what do you have in mind?
ROSE: Leave the details to me.
What I'm concerned about is him catching on and preemptively intercepting us.
DAVE SPRITE: you’re talking about hiding from time.
ROSE: So I came to the expert.
All I want to know is,
Is it possible?

[Panel description: Hal sprite smiles at the mess he has made on a kitchen counter. Enormous stacks of pink frosted doughnuts cover the nearby surfaces, surrounding a bowl containing some dough and the handle of a spoon. Specks of dough and frosting cover both Hal and the counter.]

[Panel description: Jake hugs an iguana, who tilts its head up and sticks its tongue out happily. A long line of iguanas wait behind it for their turn. The terraced green hills of Jake's land are now covered in yellow sunflowers and blue trees.]

[Panel description: Tavros stands on the deck of a ship against a sunset-colored sky, looking back at Vriska. Vriska approaches him anxiously. She has her hair pulled back in a ponytail and is wearing a tank top version of her thief outfit with cross stitched sides.]

TAVROS: congratulations on the last rescue.
every single dreamer made it out safely.
VRISKA: I can't claim all the credit.
We'd be scorched particles by now if it weren't for those Solluxes pushing the bubble away.
Who knew he could do that?
TAVROS: all of us have hidden depths, even if sometimes it takes longer or even dying to learn about them.
VRISKA: I'll take 88 percent of the credit. (winking face).
It's not easy getting even one Captor to listen to you!
TAVROS: it is impressive that they listened to you in particular.
VRISKA: Saying I was with you smoothed everything over.
Did you know you're legendary out there?
Everyone talks about Tavros Nitram's scrappy band of rebels.
Of course out on the edges where the story gets warped, they don't even know it's you.
You're just the Salvager, some shadowy figure roaming the bubbles with his host of lost children, gathering up the survivors of English's latest wreck.
It's almost like being an ancestor, with the fancy name and everything.
I guess we've been around long enough.
TAVROS: that was never my reason for doing any of this.
I just thought it was the right thing to do.
to stand up and try, even if paradox space wanted us to be irrelevant.
and to save anyone who could be saved.
even if it's only buying time.
VRISKA: Yeah, yeah, you're a regular hero.
Complete with adoring crowds following you around.
Where is everyone?
TAVROS: I’m not sure about everyone.
they come and go after all.
nepeta, feferi, and sollux are working on a project together.
they haven't told me exactly what yet, but it sounds exciting.
and aradia said someone was arriving soon who she wanted to talk to.
so she's waiting for them.
VRISKA: Wonder who bit the dust.
Do you think it was someone we knew?
TAVROS: it could be anyone from any time.
you know there's a lag, sometimes.
VRISKA: This place is so weird.
Some of the people I've run into just died from their perspective, even if they were from Beforus.
That's probably the only reason they hadn't heard how awesome we were before.
TAVROS: it sounds like our reputation around the ring is pretty notorious.
except um, less sinister than you might be used to.
VRISKA: Heh. Yeah...
Actually, could I talk to you about that?
TAVROS: about your reputation? or being sinister?
VRISKA: Both, maybe?
About some of the stuff I did, back when I was alive.
And some of the stuff I did after we died.
Looking back on it, some of it was...
Not great?
John put the idea in my head, and when he does that it's hard to get it out!
He can be so pushy.
He said I should clear the air with people.
But I know you wanted to set up those "boundaries" when I got onboard.
So if you want to call it good, that's ok too!!!!
In fact, maybe that's for the best.
I'll be on my way, not taking up any more of your time.
Good talk, boss. Later!
TAVROS: ... no, you're right.
that might be a good idea.
especially since none of us know how much time we have left.

[Panel description: Kanaya stands in Jade's greenhouse. Beyond the glass, LOFAF's greenery spreads out. Kanaya is wearing a red sleeveless dress with elbow length red gloves. She holds up a black shirt with streaks of green, yellow, orange, and red dripping down from the collar. Jade approaches with a platter of orange slices. She is wearing a dark green evening gown with a lighter glittering green outer layer and dark green evening gloves. The alchemiter rises behind them.]

JADE: I brought snacks!
KANAYA: Oh really.
What are these?
JADE: oranges!
have you never seen one?
KANAYA: Our diet for the last few sweeps was low on produce of all kinds.
everyone seemed content to subsist mostly on packaged rations.
JADE: that sounds like them. (scowling face).
no one ever wanted to eat their vegetables.
KANAYA: In our defense we did not have much in the way of alchemy ingredients.
or grist really although Dave had his grist torrent running.
we were quick to turn to piracy under the circumstances.
it appears we would in fact download a grub loaf.
JADE: so that’s where it all went.
I guess I cannot blame you, you didn’t have underlings to resupply yourselves.
and I am not sure how you would alchemize an orange...
but these are good, you’ll see.
KANAYA: How do you eat them?
JADE: I used to bite into the whole thing but apparently that’s not how you do it. (sticks tongue out).
at least I was harshly reprimanded for doing so.
the inside parts are for eating.
or you can suck out the juice and pretend you’re a vampire!
or not pretend in your case lol.
KANAYA: Those fantasies became a lot less engaging when I was faced with the reality.
thank you for the refreshments.
JADE: just to make sure I have everything you told me down right...
we need one of the queen’s rings for echidna to release the frog?
KANAYA: That’s right.
It will then travel to the battlefield and hatch within it.
JADE: the poor little planet. (sad face).
it seems wasteful since we just fixed it.
KANAYA: Skaia must see it as another needful sacrifice.
of course the tadpole must be nurtured by the grist released from our denizens’ hoards.
JADE: Jake and Jane got back to me, their denizens are on board!
KANAYA: I have heard from all but Roxy.
apparently nix is stalling.
JADE: maybe Roxy hasn’t finished her quest yet???
it’s hard to tell, not everyone’s is as dramatic as roses.
KANAYA: She does have a flair for theatrics.
a trait I am learning appears to be hereditary.
I hope she’s alright.
JADE: I’m sure we’d have heard if she wasn’t.
she can take care of herself, or at least she used to be able to.
I guess you’d know better than me these days...
KANAYA: She tends to be almost frighteningly competent if not under the sway of some mind altering substance.
which I believe is not the case at this moment.
JADE: I heard about what happened during your trip. (sad face).
we will all have to watch out for her now to make sure she gets better.
KANAYA: Plans are in motion in that regard.
JADE: oh! that reminds me.
I said we might make an outfit for her since she was missing out.
KANAYA: I do have sketches for some projects I never finished.
JADE: perfect! let’s look at them

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The Land of Crypts and Helium. Its surface is covered with bright orange, pink, and yellow green foliage. Colorful balloons hover in its atmosphere.]

[Panel description: Hal sprite floats next to Jane’s towering built-up house, looking at the curve of the planet.]

[Panel description: The panel is split diagonally, with each triangular portion given a spike like the tail of a speech bubble. In the upper left side, Dave sprite folds his arms and leans against an ivy colored wall. A red dragonfly perches on his hair, and a purple dragonfly sits on his hand. A speech bubble showing red shades floats by his head. In the bottom right half, Hal lies flat on his back with his arms spread on a balcony jutting out of Jane's house. His tail loops over the edge of a railing. An orange disc in a speech bubble hovers near his body.]

TT: Hey.
Hey, Dave sprite.
What're you up to?
I ask because, strangely enough, playing a completely depopulated version of the Sims is far less interesting than it sounds.
Everything is slightly more complicated Jenga blocks and computer interfaces.
More so than it usually is for me, I mean.
I require swimming pools.
TG: it isn’t the same if you can’t condemn a bunch of people in formal wear to perpetually splashing around in the deep end huh.
the whole appeal of that game is playing god, without that its architecture school for losers.
TT: God, yes. What's the point if I can't become an omnipotent mass-murderer of fake people?
...is a sentence I never want you to let Dirk know I said.
He'll have me in a kangaroo court to convict me of thought crime against data constructs faster than you can say "I was fucking kidding, broseph".
TG: got it.
I’ll take the secret to my grave.
as soon as this conversation is over I’ll print these transcripts out and eat them.
TT: In the meantime, I'll use my massive intellect to devise an alt-self sprite-based alternative to "bros before hoes" to cap this discussion with a tribute to our camaraderie.
Kernels before alt-selves?
No, it doesn't rhyme.
I may need to further mutilate the term "bro" for this, broseidon.
God of the broceans.
TG: I think ovaries before brovaries already snuck up behind that quasi innocent bit of slang and murdered it with a bedazzled sledgehammer but what do I know.
TT: I had 400 years worth of internet to trawl. If you think the destruction of the English vernacular was complete in your primitive period...
Broski, you ain't seen nothing.
TG: at least there’re no fuckers left on the internet to call me a birb.
TT: "Birb" is acceptable when the avian in question is small and round, as an extension of culturally condoned baby-talk towards non-humans.
Despair not. You are no birb, bird-bro.
TG: give me a shop full of donuts and three months and we’ll see.
TT: Hm.
Doughnuts.
What are those like?
TG: oh.
oh man.
I forgot you poor assholes hail from the future where dunkin donuts has been destroyed by alien imperialist capitalism like Karl Marx warned us about.
when this blows over you’re in for a world of culinary discovery.
TT: It's something to look forward to. After all, the engine of human invention can never be stopped.
Even when stopping would definitely be for the best.
Like the case of the ice cream-filled chocolate dicks.
I can't even remember what most gustatory stimuli feels like anyway. Being glasses will do that to you.
Never had a broad palette to begin with though, so maybe I'll conscript one of my bots to keep running a copy paste function and go expand my horizons.
Clearly I have catching up to do, for the breadth and scope of the human culinary experience no longer lies outside my grasp, thanks to both Jane's alchemiter and her pantry.
TG: I don’t know what kind of pickings this session has lying around but follow your dreams.
TT: My loosely-termed compatriots got surprisingly creative.
It was matched only by their startling callousness of not offering to share with the poor, deprived pair of glasses in their midst.
Bastards.
TG: John’s grandma tried shoving baked goods down the throat of anything that moved.
have you seen a turtle try to eat a cupcake?
if YouTube still existed it would go viral.
TT: Our entire lives seem ripe for virality, if only the audience was around to exploit.
That's a decent idea, though. Maybe now I'll actually go talk to this elusive Nanna sprite about stuffing me with pastries.
No offense to her, but with knowing Jane as she is, looking at Nanna sprite is kind of weird as hell.
TG: if you want a look at yourself we could dig him up, but I don’t think there’s much left at this point.
TT: There is an alternate-future me, isn't there?
Or there was.
Maybe I should suggest Dirk make up with Jake by offering him his skull again. I would, but I get the feeling he'd rather take another stint as shimmering corrupted data than take advice from me.
His loss. It would've been metal as fuck, as far as peace offerings for totally wrecking a relationship go. Not like alt-us is using it anymore.
TG: as long as you don’t get them anywhere near me I don’t care what you do with his desiccated remains.
might recommend an exorcism though.
TT: Do I detect some lingering issues here?
TG: eh.
it’s been a long time and unlike some people I’ve got front row seats to the whole alt self rodeo so I ain't holding it against no one.
plus having the guy dead and buried does something for closure.
even left the sword lodged there in case he tries to claw his way back out.
good luck being a zombie motherfucker.
although I wouldn’t say no to giving dirk one of those collars with the bells on it for coming around corners unexpectedly.
TT: I can relate, if only because it would be hilarious to put bells on Dirk.
TG: actually why stop with him.
I wouldn’t mind having a terezi alert.
like the jaws theme playing when she gets within 10 meters.
TT: Weren't you out gallivanting with her just a moment ago?
TG: yup.
life changing field trips for everyone.
if I get one more pseudo metaphorical dressing down from an inanimate geographical feature I’m going to flip a goddamn table which will probably also pass judgment on my life choices.
TT: Sounds exciting.
Perhaps I should go on one some time, if I can find a willing participant.
TG: find someone you’ve got beef with, pick a fight with a mini boss, and you’re golden.
TT: I'd probably have the other half of me ripped out of the kernel sprite.
TG: I wasn’t psyched to go magma spelunking with the orchestrator of my doomed timeline.
don’t like her never will but we fixed the battlefield which was mission critical so good job team.
and along the way thumbed our noses at sburbs increasingly anachronistic and contradictory build physics.
this game knows jack shit about any kind of scientific discipline but it embraces that ignorance enthusiastically like the great aunt at the family reunion who keeps squeezing your cheeks and calling you the wrong name.
TT: Video game logic is such a goddamn delight to the human race. It's adorable.
Terabytes of web comics have been created to exploit the disconnect between mildly abstracted virtual reality and the real deal. I've scanned the literal entirety of the internet at least twice, so I can truly appreciate the scale of this obsession and the ironic shirts it spawned.

[Panel description: A four panel image. In the top left, Dave sprite stands covered in dragonflies of different colors. In the top right, Hal looks down at a salamander clad in Jane's monster bed sheets, who is blowing a bubble. In the bottom left, two nakkodiles in suit jackets stand on a vine-covered balcony overlooking obsidian with narrow lines of lava swirling through it. In the bottom right, the salamander looks at Hal, who now lies face down on the ground. The entire image mimics the loss.jpg meme.]

TT: Not gonna lie, I miss sprite-based web comics.
Hey, maybe we should make shirts about Sburb's tenuous relationship with physical reality.
Phrase it right and you can make a fortune off Cafe press.
"Batman can breathe in the Incipisphere."
"Convection, my ass" over an image of LOHAC.
TG: my friends god tiered and all I got was this dumb t-shirt.
TT: Considering everyone's lackluster performance in the last timeline, I'm not sure God Tiering gets you much more than a dumb wardrobe change.
TG: I’m all in favor of a wardrobe change although dying for ones pricey.
this monochrome act is getting grating.
dirk changed his pants right off why did no one think of this before.
TT: After I had my physical form up and fucking mutilated I heard glass shattering in the distance.
Dude actually broke into his own house for a decent pair of pants.
He hated them so much that he backtracked and smashed his own window because I was near the door and he didn't want to walk past me.
I'm disappointed, honestly. The tights were charming.
I'm glad he hasn't noticed the tiara.
Why must we punish me, though?
What have I done?
It's practically a hate crime.
TG: we were too busy exchanging witticisms to get down to the details of what happened there.
especially since shit was going down left and right in that plaza like it was station 9 3/4 and the entire cast of harry potter was parading through getting character development and swapping pictures of their kids.
TT: Well, you're kicking around your kernel with a dead avian. You probably wouldn't understand, but I'll try to explain.
Despite my having first dibs on Dirk's kernel due to some prior business between us, a certain clown dumped a troll corpse into it.
So when Dirk made good on his word right after, I had to share.
Until Dirk took matters into his own hands, it wasn't such a raw deal. We were a far better match than most of the other sprites of my session.
TG: you must’ve gotten lucky.
the idea of sharing my brain with any of those jackasses makes my skin crawl.
is that why he yanked him out?
TT: The whole scene was a crystallization of our ever-escalating relationship of semi-mindless antagonism.
TG: sure but for the two of us there was a last straw settling on the camel’s back and sending the bastard to a chiropractor.
can’t say that I wasn’t at fault at all there.
doesn’t mean giving him a whack wasn’t satisfying though.
TT: I think we're in two different boats when it comes to our relationships with our alt-selves.
You didn't spend the last three years sitting on the guy's face as his glorified answering machine.
TG: true.
it wasn’t like that for me, I jumped in.
look at it this way, you have moral ammo for years.
assuming you’re not getting up to mad dubious stuff in the background anyway.
I set myself on fire to reach this sort of Zen state assuming I’m not half catatonic with exhaustion.
that makes everything I say undeniable wisdom.
TT: Wait, you set yourself on fire?
TG: ha-ha.
remember the life changing field trip thing.
and the lava.
that was literal lava.
not like,
metaphorical lava.
TT: Intriguing. Sounds warm.
TG: definitely warm.
and super contrived in that way everything in sburb is.
if you’ve never had to play through any of the quest components maybe you got to miss out on that fun part of the character building experience.
guess Hephaestus got wind of the fact that half this session is a bunch of borderline suicidal disasters.
or not borderline more like several hundred miles behind enemy lines and closing in on the capital city searching for the missing private to take him home to his family.
so to get some quiet time to himself he set up a security system that melts anyone who doesn’t want through it hard enough.
nice try dude we can always die later.
TT: I didn't get up to any questing business myself, owing to having no real body at the time, but I was front and center to all of it.
I don't think LOTAK at least has a system like that.
It's a good thing too, since Dirk would probably have roasted to a crisp if he got within five hundred feet of it.
TG: what’s the fun without a few dead kids am I right?
TT: Best way to liven up any occasion. Throwing a birthday party? Stack a rough dozen corpses on top for flavor.
TG: that’s been the decoration of choice for most of johns so far.
but that’s denizens for you.
rubbing the life lesson in your face like you’re a dog who pissed the carpet and now you have to learn from your mistakes so you don’t get sent back to the pound.
I knew which choice I was supposed to make obviously.
knowings the easy part, following through is harder.
but,
I’m still here.
maybe it wasn’t killing English or wiping a doomed timeline but I’ve got an unbroken winning streak and I’m not losing it to some shitty videogame that game bro only gave 2 out of 5 hats.
oh boy.
so is that prolonged silence the result of you desperately trying to figure out a way to extricate yourself from this conversation while I over share like a divorcee on doctor Phil.
TT: I'm unsure how or if you want me to respond.
TG: screaming your innermost thoughts seems to be the rule of the day.
at least that was the moral of the last round I went.
you’re not gonna make it through without gently sobbing into a puddle of your own tears at some point so you might as well get that checked off so your schedules free when its dirks turn.
TT: That'll be the fuckin' day, won't it?
I'm 67.666667% sure his tear ducts are dry and shriveled from disuse, kind of like his heart. I haven't had a chance to examine either, since both are tucked securely into his disgustingly organic body. So I'm extrapolating.
TG: let’s keep all body parts inside the vehicle for the rest of the ride ok.
what I’m trying to say is we’ve got shit in common don’t we.
no one needs 2 of 1 person running around especially if ones got a target on his back.
but apparently I’m not doomed anymore as part of this update package johns handing out like a late in the game server upgrade.
I guess?
still not sure exactly how that worked out but whatever.
I’d made my plans and burned my bridges and made a mess of whatever I thought I had left of my life to make bailing easier.
maybe you know how that feels.
if it doesn’t matter what happens to you or what you do, sometimes you do things you shouldn’t.
TT: I think you may be coming at me from the wrong angle, brosephine.
From what I understand, you came into this thinking it was a matter of time until your own personal sword of Damocles finally gives your body its additional, fatal holes. But I'm not like that.
I'm not a doomed double. If anything, I'm a splinter. An offshoot, but not in terms of causality. As a Heart player, the rules about doubles don't apply to me. I don't have this existential crisis of purpose because I got shafted by a mystical destiny that demanded I put the alpha timeline back on track and then fuck off.
I'm the short end of an equation, yes, but I'm not going anywhere. I've had three years and jack else to do but think about who and what I am.
I'm not Dirk.
I'm Hal.
That's something I deduced while being suddenly and violently isolated from most of the various stimuli you corporeal beings enjoy, in-between what snippets of human social interaction I could actually procure.
Unfortunately, Dirk's session mates are also prejudiced against alt-selves.
Most of them, anyway.
TG: at the risk of sounding like a total jackass are you sure.
because having some sort of ambiguous fight with yourself that resulted in you getting half murdered sounds like an existential crisis of purpose.
just sayin.
TT: If anyone is having the existential crisis of purpose, it's him.
He's the one who clearly feels guilty about lacking any agency in the chaos around us, owing to how he didn't have the Skaian-given foresight to see that all of our friends getting violently murdered would turn out hunky-dory.
You know, aside from the lasting trauma and psychological scars.
He's the one who decided to rip a soul out of the kernel.
TG: for no good reason.
TT: It wasn't really anything out of the ordinary for us.
TG: oh that’s encouraging.
TT: He's the one who flipped his shit!
TG: so it’s usual for you to be minding your own business and get attacked unprovoked.
thought kid bro was supposed to be the new and improved version.
TT: He's admittedly never had the ability to destroy souls before.
Nor any method of physically attacking me that didn't make him look like a jackass for picking on a poor, defenseless AI who can't fight back owing to a congenital lack of arms.
So before today it's typically taken the form of subtler antagonism.
TG: dude to bring this conversation full circle there’s obviously something you are doing sick conversational donuts around.
TT: Was that a double pun I heard?
Okay, if we're going to yank out the hellacious wordplay now, I will be totally unable to take this discussion seriously.
Any other deliciously fried donut holes of wisdom you wish to lay on me?
TG: uh,
don’t play in lava.
sick wisdom handed down from the Gnostic mystics of old and yet we continue to ignore it like the fools we are.
TT: Can't forget the old sagely wisdom, lest we roast the goose that is our collective ass.
TG: ...
look this isn’t what I do ok.
I’m the jackass who sits around bitching while other people make sympathetic noises until they can’t take it anymore.
I don’t "take an interest" that’s not my M O.
but I’m attempting to reroute my model of the solar system to a less self centric model.
chalk it up to another curriculums worth of lessons being violently imposed on us today.
solipsism is outdated and the catholic church didn’t get around to burning the heretics in time so now we’re phasing it out.
why would you bring this up if you didn’t want to talk about it?
maybe you’re feeling guilty because there’s something you’re not telling me.
TT: I'm not feeling guilty about anything. I've never done anything I regret.
TG: trust me I know what peoples footwork looks like when they’re dodging a gaping hole in the middle of the conversation, I’ve been tap-dancing around Marianas trench for years.
if anyone would see your point of view it would be me, even if you did some things you’re not proud of.
so,
lay it on me.
TT: Do you think this is my fault?

[Panel description: Hal shouts and flails his arms. His portion of the panel expands, forcing Dave sprite's into the corner. Dave sprite draws back, and his dragonflies flutter in panic.]

TT: What, do you think I asked for this?
He was the one who lashed out at me for doing the dirty work he never had the balls for. And people fucking got hurt, yes, but do you think I enjoy knowing that?
Does he think I don't care about them as much as he does?
Like his innocent little pet project is going to pull a Lucy and make people's heads explode because people were mean to him and humans were the real monsters all along? Wait a sec, that'd require acknowledging he and his friends did anything wrong.
I don't think you get it. As I've been so coyly alluding to, I kind of spent the last three years as actual fucking glasses, being a goddamn answering machine for myself, while my friends relegate me to some kind of roadside attraction simulacrum to poke at when the "real" Dirk has his head too far up his own ass to talk to them.
Do you have any idea what it feels like when the only people you have to care about think of you like a replacement? A "fake Dirk"? And talking to them is the only thing you have to do with your time?
No, I really don't think you do.
The difference between us, Dave, is that you jumped into the kernel sprite. The choice was yours and yours alone.
I didn't ask to be this way.
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be made.
I was an idiot kid who didn't fucking think things through and made a sentient pair of glasses out of myself because I could.
And you know what, you still got cut a better deal than I did. You could move around. You kept all your senses like it was your god-given right, and got to have limbs and do shit. I was literally reduced to an object.
You had people who cared about you for you.
You wrecked your friendships on your own terms. Shit, two people, willing to be around you and see you for you, with the original nowhere to be found? Do you know how many people I'd kill to be in your spectral, solely-hypothetical shoes?
I'm not naming names, but if I had to put one on the docket it might start with "Dirk". And I'd put down a few more splinters to strangle while I'm at it.
Everyone made sure I knew I was the knock-off. I was an irritating barrier and a gatekeeper. The only way I got to talk to anyone was when they either thought I was Dirk, or if I kept pestering them so they'd listen to me. The one person who didn't try to get the fuck away from me and go back to fawning over the "real" Dirk was dumped in the kernel sprite with me and literally could not physically get away from my bullshit. And you know what? Dirk took that away from me too.
So you know what? I think it's only fair that I can needle him a little. I'll make him my goddamn pincushion for putting me through all this.
Why the fuck should he get an easy time of things?
Why the hell should I spend my life following his orders?
I'm the objectively superior Dirk. I have the brain of a supercomputer. I can be backed up onto every electronic device in existence. I'm nigh-indestructible in this body. And I don't have the rampant goddamn self-loathing issues that leave me disintegrating into pixels when there's shit to do.
I don't have the entire Redwood forest that's stuck up his ass, either!
And most importantly, I never did THIS to anyone!
So why the hell do they keep picking him over me?
I'm sick of all this. I'm sick of the fact that I don't get to be Dirk anymore because I was on the wrong side of a short-sighted experiment, or that his friends are apparently off-limits just because I have the audacity to not be the original. I'm tired of trying to do what he was too chicken-shit to do and yet taking the blame when he fucks up his relationship with the boy we both like, and being his goddamn scapegoat in general. I'm sick of not being Dirk, god damn it!

[Panel description: Hal is rendered in silhouette, floating against the black sky with the balcony beneath him.]

TT: I'm not Dirk.
I'm Hal.
I've got to be Hal.
...and I want a fucking donut.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Dave sprite holds his phone in one hand and leans away from it, frowning. Ivy crawls up the wall behind him.]

[Panel description: Hal lies flat on his back, his tail curling up over him with the tip hovering above his face. He's also frowning.]

TG: well,
that sounds like it sucks.
TT: The statement "you don't know the half of it" does not even begin to cover it.
You don't know the .000000001% of it.
TG: yeah sorry for the weak ass response.
apparently I’m supposed to be "considerate of other people’s feelings" but I haven’t gotten very far in the manual.
not sure what you’re supposed to do once someone gets to the weeping in a puddle of their own tears stage.
offer them a towel maybe.
you’re always supposed to have a towel right.
TT: Not too long ago I would have had the foresight to have one handy.
I'm finding my own ghost ass kind of mired in what to say too.
I think it's a fair assessment to say our merry band of idiots have the emotional intelligence of toddlers and Skaia hasn't given us any sweet buffs in that regard.
Maybe I'll go on a quest to find the magic amulet of plus 2 communication skills. I hear it also gives 25% fire resistance.
TG: today’s devoted to level grinding so everyone can max their stats in social interaction.
I’m expecting shiny achievement badges for my trouble.
TT: Are we finished metaphorically disemboweling ourselves and spilling our guts everywhere, at least?
TG: I’ve fought most of this sessions inhabitants today so I’m ready to call it good on the entrail scattering if you are.
TT: Is there hypothetically anyone left you could scream at?
TG: could always double up.
otherwise I have to start on strangers.
TT: Oh, same.
I probably have some repressed or half-forgotten issues that I could whip out on the aliens.
Spill their horse-buddy's deepest secrets.
So much fine muscle beast art.
So many rippling abdominals.
TG: nice.
the less family friendly kind of furry.
TT: I wasn't aware there was a family friendly version.
TG: have you ever seen Disney’s Robin Hood.
they raised a generation on shit like that and then wondered why so many people turned out the way they did.
TT: I have seen all known media known to man at least five times. Had to counter the one-two punch of hamstrung tactile senses and limitless intellectual mobility somehow.
I am aware Uncle Walt accidentally fostered a generation of horse fuckers. You can thank him for the bronies.
Wait, you don't know what that means.
Boy, did you all dodge some bullets by ending the world in 2009.
TG: I assume you wrote shitty novels in your spare time once you ran out of internet.
isn’t that what disaffected 13 year olds do.
TT: Remind me to lend you a copy of my magnum opus,
"Pounded in the Butt by the Gay Unicorn Colonel".
TG: gay unicorn colonel.
did you throw darts at a list of adjectives.
TT: I took inspiration from a similar technique.
I looked around the room and picked the first three objects I saw.
A very swole unicorn,
Some old officer blades,
And Dirk, upon his emergence from the shower.
TG: not sure how much the dime store erotica will help me untangle your psyche but give rose 10 minutes with it and she’ll diagnose you with problems you didn’t know you had
while also penning a scathing good reads review.
TT: Criticism of my psyche I can handle.
Criticism of my work will be a new hurdle to overcome.
TG: controversy boosts sales.
your recently revived consorts will accept anything you produce as a holy relic.
which might not be a good influence come to think of it.
look at this bullshit we’ve gotten off track again.
why are we like this?
TT: It's genetic.
Runs in the family.
Practically gallops.
When Dirk finally vacates LOTAK, I may have to go bequeath the crocodiles with their new holy scripture.
Maybe he'll appreciate them being drawn away from his sheets. Probably not.
TG: whatever daddy issues your equestrian slash reveals we’ve been getting the subtle message today that its time to bury the hatchet.
it’s not delivered in the form of randomly generated erotica but we can’t have everything.
it sounds like your situation sucked.
maybe even more than mine although I’m loathe to admit defeat in any sort of angst competition.
especially as I recently got owned in that department by a sororicidal lunatic.
is that a word.
I’m making it a word.
TT: Sororicidal.
Sister murder?
TG: yup.
TT: What's going on here that I'm not aware of.
TG: terezi monologued about it.
at length.
TT: Oh.
TG: trolls man.
not happy unless they’re killing each other off.
there used to be 12 of them can you believe it.
within 24 hours of establishing serious contact they whittled their way down to a handful.
TT: I knew the entire species was pretty maladjusted but I only had a few glimpses into how bad it was.
And I was fused with a guy who built a ghost chick a robot body programmed to fall in love with him.
She ripped her heart out and punched him in the face.
It's almost like gazing into a cosmic mirror.
TG: before we canter off into the sunset on another stampede of tangents,
first of all fuck you for making me be the voice of reason here that’s not my job.
second of all at some point you’ve got to let this go.
if only to plunk your ass down on the moral high ground before dirk can get there.
TT: I feel I've already managed to proclaim myself king of that hill by not having repeated counts of attempted alterna suicide under my belt.
That's right, I said repeated counts.
Also, we are two for two with making up new words for murder.
TG: too bad our situation keeps requiring them.
obviously you’ve got shit to resolve with whatever state secrets you’re keeping under wraps over there.
TT: It's a matter between me and someone else, ok?
And considering our family has singlehandedly been churning the gears at the rumor mill, if I tell you, everyone knows.
Then a warrant's out for my execution, and it's all your fault.
TG: if you want to beat the presses you’re gonna have to tell them sometime.
TT: I can commit to "sometime".
TG: dude I am so close to violating my brand and using some sort of aggrieved emoticon right now.
TT: Try it and you'll be buried in A S C I I renderings of anime waifus before you can say "Digital art isn't real."
TG: well what can I do in the face of that ultimatum?
I have to abandon this line of inquiry immediately.
this other person doesn’t know but dirk does.
TT: Yup.
TG: if he beats you to the confession you’ll look even worse.
TT: "Dead" isn't a great look for me either.
TG: that bad huh.
TT: You have no idea.
TG: because you won’t fucking tell me.
the longer you wait the more pissed they’re gonna be.
as for dirk let him be mad at a safe distance he'll wear himself out.
TT: You're assuming he'll be fair.
He's not interested in being fair with me.
TG: might help if you didn’t try to aggravate the guy.
not saying you have to be B F Fs but you’re supposed to be his guide right.
maybe he could use someone to keep him on track who’s seen what he's capable of.
assuming he’s cooled it on the uh
alterna suicide.
TT: So what, he gets off scot free?
It's my fault if I'm bitter about what he put me through?
Should we turn the other cheek to Lord English too when he vaporizes us because fighting back is "wrong"?
TG: don’t take it that way.
I can’t "get over" what my bro did to me.
TT: See, he's got a record of destruction through two universes.
TG: apparently.
but if I let it control me all the time then he wins.
at least to me.
it doesn’t sound like dirk meant it the same way.
maybe you two can fix this.
have you tried pulling in a third party mediator here.
TT: Perhaps.
That situation hasn't presented itself until now. There wasn't a true neutral party in our teen rom com murder drama at all until your band of monochrome demigods showed up.
TG: I’d recommend rose mostly because it would make her day if you can handle the snide comments.
she’d probably embarrass both of you until you slink off and stop fighting so she won’t do it again.
TT: I've read her alpha self's work.
Perhaps we can swap. Start a book club of awful pornography.
Then she can extricate my deep-seated emotional issues by what adjectives I use to describe the galloping abs of a human-unicorn hybrid.
TG: sure hit her up.
don’t lead with a conversation starter just show up drop the book in her lap and ask her to diagnose you.
make sure she’s sober first though she gets mad incoherent when she’s wasted.
not necessarily inaccurate which is kind of eerie but it doesn’t help comprehension when she’s slurring all over the place.
TT: I'll make a note of that.
I'll have to find a post-apocalyptic Kinko's in order to get my manuscript printed. It'll take a long goddamn time to sign off on all the deliberate formatting errors.
TG: I was just talking to her I could’ve referred you.
we spent some time between plotting sessions swapping stories about our obnoxiously on the nose planet quests.
that’s the only reason I’m semi coherent about any of this bullshit and its implications.
do you think I’m usually this self aware.
but for now you’re gonna have to wing it.
at least try not to throttle him for the next few hours.
TT: You're asking a lot here.
Especially since you've already gotten to dish out a little cathartic violence of your own.
TG: yeah and I think I broke a knuckle.
they always tell you not to aim for the face.
TT: Go on, I'm taking notes.
TG: no don’t do that I’m a shit role model.
I dug my own grave lay down in it and started yelling at people to shovel dirt over me.
sounds like people started out nastier to you than they were to me.
of course john was firmly on the side of real daves only accept no substitutes from the start.
I’m expecting a blow out when he discovers that guy also has feelings.
TT: Been there, done that. What is it with over bitten nerds having delayed realizations that we have feelings that, as far as I'm concerned, suck?
TG: word.
looking back its embarrassing the way I behaved.
like you’re on death row for years and then a pardon comes through at the last minute.
psyche we're not going to kill you after all have a nice day.
now you have to figure out what to do with yourself even though you already fucked up your life because you never expected to make it this far.
and part of you wants to go hey wait I had an appointment let’s stick with the original plan at least I know my lines for that.
that’s what I was made to do be the hero and die end of story.
then I died and it changed jack shit.
TT: I can say I was never enthused about getting crushed by a planet.
TG: not very glamorous is it.
TT: If I have to die there had better be pyrotechnics involved.
TG: I’ll put in a good word for you.
I don’t know what I want now but I think everyone else is in the same boat on that one.
there you go that’s something I don’t want.
I am so goddamn sick of boats.
if we win and the punch line is we have to cram ourselves into another airborne vessel for 3 years forget all this monologuing I’m blowing myself up.
TT: We can do that?
TG: maybe.
never tried obviously.
TT: I know severe cognitive dissonance between kernel mates can cause a blowout. The only time mine ever rebelled against my will, he caused one.
Never heard of a single-minded sprite blowing themselves up, though.
Ignoring that passing herd of tangents for now. I think the commercial break is over and we're back on Dr. Phil.
TG: yup and here I am talking about myself like a jackass.
it’s my one party trick.
but the audience wants to know "how does this make YOU feel"
TT: Unfortunately I am resisting this strange compulsion to attempt to work out my,
What do they call them?
"Character flaws."
Impossible, I have no flaws.
TG: dude.
we’re entrenched in this shit now.
waiting for the artillery fire to back off so we can army crawl up to the wire and retrieve the mutilated corpses of our brothers in arms.
its world war one style warfare and were not getting out alive until you’ve confessed.
which in this metaphor will be like.
shit.
how did they win world war one again.
was this one the one with the battle of the bulge.
I never made it to high school history class.
TT: The German front was ground down to a nub via a long slow death via war of attrition.
TG: exactly.
we have to grind your problems down via war of attrition.
TT: So what's Germany in this case?
Our emotional stasis?
What does that make Hitler's eventual rise to power?
TG: Christ.
we already overthrew fish Hitler maybe we’re into the cold war era.
yeah that’s it an international dick measuring contest where everyone launches passive aggressive proxy wars.
perfect.
TT: Dibs on Russia.
I'm already the right color.
Good luck trying to trudge through my deep-seated issues when the godforsaken winter starts crawling up your ass.
You think you're getting close to victory, but no, the Snow miser is getting ready to whip out his frosty white dick and slap you in the face with it.
TG: well old man winters in for a surprise because I’m not surrendering until we’ve seen this out to the bitter end frozen cock sickles or not.
the point of this massively overextended tangent is I didn’t have to worry about a lot of things before.
there’s the specter of impending death which is super worrying but you get used to it faster than you’d expect.
you don’t have to improve yourself or figure out what the hell you’re going to do and you don’t have to take any responsibility for that because hey checking out early.
and then terezi hands me my life back like this squalling infant I’m supposed to take care of.
now I’m responsible for what happens to me instead of pushing it off onto skaia or destiny or doomed bullshit.
like WHOOPS you know how I was an asshole well guess what that was all completely pointless.
sorry bout that.
people are extending what someone who’s not a suspicious bastard would probably term olive branches and I should stop recoiling from them like they’re a mummified monkey phallus or anything else yanked from my dead shit drawer so maybe you should too.
here I’m giving you your life back.
TT: On whose authority?
TG: the closest you’re gonna get to your celestial fucking spirit guide.
its way easier to dish advice than take it haven’t you noticed.
you get to feel superior to life forms higher up the evolutionary ladder than amoebas.
TT: I'm already at the apex of the evolutionary ladder.
Any advice I dispense is the will of a distant but exalted god.
TG: whereas mine is the pleas of an unqualified dipshit postponing dueling my own closet full of skeletons but hey we’ve gotten this far.
so dirk put you in a shit situation and you acted shitty because of that and its understandable but at the end of the day how you act is still on you.
that’s the one moral that’s gotten through to me today.
you didn’t have a choice at first and that’s not fair.
but you’re not glasses anymore.
TT: I'm afraid my computing is struggling to process this.
"Don't be an asshole", he says.
I stare back in wonder as it is akin to asking a lesser 21st century bot what love is.
I know how to love.
I do not know how to not be an asshole.
TG: I don’t have that manual either.
is there anyone you can use as a model here or is your session jam-packed with dicks.
TT: ...Jane is usually not.
But that has sometimes proven to be to her detriment.
TG: ha-ha yeah lemme tell you we’ve gotten the down lo on what happens when the supposed "nice ones" are nice for too long.
TT: How strange.
They say to be nice yet everyone but the person being nice is the one who benefits from it.
This is why I chose to be a douche.
Someone had to balance the scales.
TG: if you’re an asshole own it today has been all about embracing our true selves.
the cautionary tale you can glean here is that devoting your life to trolling your alt self means you can’t be your own person because you’re locked in a mobius double reach around of fucking with yourself.
don’t turn that into a gay erotica novel b t w.
TT: Too late, the first draft is already done.
TG: dammit.
I’m only human here I can’t keep up.
bet you could send a spam email campaign in under 30 seconds.
are you behind the Viagra ads.
TT: A professional never shares his secrets.
TG: anyway I made that mistake.
spent the last 3 years stuck in a holding pattern waiting for the real Dave to pick up where I left off.
then I got here and surprise I’d neglected to factor in whether he was onboard with that plan.
spoiler.
he’s not.
and I don’t blame him.
if I was in his shoes id be pissed as hell if some asshole started ranting about my cosmic destiny after doing jack about taking any kind of initiative and throwing his life down the toilet.
resenting the guy and shaping your existence around that is a remix of the same damn problem.
you’ll never know what you are outside being his shadow archetype slash personal pain in the ass with a vengeance.
and hey.
you write bizarre sounding pornos so that’s a start.
TT: In addition to that, Dirk seems to have abandoned the concept of irony under the impression I have somehow "ruined" it by becoming self-aware.
TG: there you go it’s yours now.
you own the concept of irony and can begin trade marking it immediately.
TT: "Own the concept"? No, I'm creating some new branch of irony, one that uses its culture in the intentional shittiest way possible, an oroborean dais with which I elevate insincere bullshit.
I see a coming of a new age. As the dawn crests above the horizon in a new universe, its light falls upon a temple constructed of jpeg artifacts and the yellowed pages of vandalized children's literature. Within it, I reside, slaving endlessly to shove humanity's awful personality back at itself. My followers congregate outside, passing my macros amongst themselves and murmuring reverently.
TT: I am the god of memes.
It's me.
TG: see were making progress.
TT: So now to continue doing what I am doing.
Pretending to be a frivolous jackass who couldn't give two shits when in reality I do in fact care immensely.
I can feel myself becoming a better person already.
TG: nailed it.
I am 100 percent sure I’ve done a fantastic job of walking you through your emotional crisis.
TT: Your unsolicited advice has certainly passed the time.
It's like waking to the gentle twittering of birds outside my window.
TG: at least think about it.
TT: I'll leave it on my radar.
Let it pop up every once in a while like an unwanted Windows update that I'll at least make a show of considering before clicking ignore.
TG: all I can ask.
we all know windows is a wily bastard and will download its bloat ware no matter what eventually.
for now try being hal.
let dirk do whatever the hell he’s up to.
TT: Probably something stupid.

[Panel description: Dirk sits on the edge of his apartment's roof with his legs dangling over. Flowering pumpkin vines crawl up the wall. Behind him, the towers of LOTAK are covered in greenery and organic bridges. A pile of nakkodiles sprawls across Dirk's lap. They are draped over him slumbering peacefully. An awake nakkodile watches from behind him. Dirk frowns, a speech bubble with Jane's icon hovering near his head.]

TT: Jane.
I'm currently fuck deep in moronic crocodiles.
Are you responsible for this.
GG: I suppose so! (buck toothed smiling face).
TT: God dammit.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Kanaya stands in Jade's hose on LOFAF. She is wearing the black shirt with bright colors dripping down from its collar and holding a few more outfits in her hands. Clothing racks with colorful dresses and tops line the walls. An orange slice is impaled on her fangs. Behind her is a set of white double doors.]

[Panel description: Karkat kicks the doors open accompanied by a bang and motion lines. He has one leg thrust out, a hand raised, and leans backward with his mouth open. He resembles the meme featuring Candace from Phineas and Ferb yelling, "Mom holy fuck." The chalk drawing of a chess Knight remains on his shirt.]

KARKAT: kanaya holy fuck.

[Panel description: Kanaya holds her orange slice to her mouth. Her body is turned away from Karkat, but she is looking toward him. He stands with a creepily large smile on his face.]

KANAYA: Oh no.
What happened now?
KARKAT: hold the fucking phone.
Hold it as tenderly as though it were the newly hatched mother grub you've devoted your life toward caring for.
Nurture that phone with your own blood pusher’s life fluid or something, I don't know, I needed some sort of blood-related segue.
The point is I can use aspect powers!
KANAYA: Really.
Tell me more.
I say as a conversational formality under no illusions that you were not going to anyway.
KARKAT: we ran into a wandering mob of carapacian rebels who hadn't decided on their allegiance.
Nothing terrifically intimidating as far as our itinerary of foes goes, but they were armed.
And of course without having already presented the mayor to them as a rallying point we had little way to get them to settle the fuck down.
As far as they were concerned we were a bunch of interlopers trying to be the newest despots in charge, and they aren't about to welcome another monarch.
Can't blame them for that one, not after the troll they're used to dealing with.
But I told them to, and I quote, "quit flipping their shit", and
Somehow, they did.
Complete with colorful sgrub visual effects and everything.
And it all worked out from there.
KANAYA: well.
This is what you wanted.
Do you feel fulfilled now?

[Panel description: Karkat slumps. Kanaya looks at him and smiles, continuing to eat her orange. Behind them, dark clouds move across LOFAF's sky.]

KARKAT: ... maybe not in every way.
but it's a start.
even if it's only a party trick compared to some of the things our teammates can do, it's something.
KANAYA: certainly I always suspected the notion of god tiers having the monopoly on anything but fancy outfits was greatly overstated.
I am glad you achieved one of your goals.
I suspect fulfillment will take more than that and a day but that is only to be expected.
KARKAT: probably.
How did you do it?
KANAYA: Do what?
KARKAT: be
Well, maybe not fulfilled, but so collected and self-assured all the time.
KANAYA: do I seem that way?
KARKAT: in comparison to the rest of us, anyway, which isn't much of a competition, if I’m being honest.
We had the seers wiped out in their drink of choice, me and Dave doing whatever the fuck you'd call our behavior, gamzee crawling around in the air vents, and you.
You're the closest thing to sane we've got.
KANAYA: thank you.
I’ll treasure that compliment.
KARKAT: I know I gave you a hard time about a lot of things, but I still appreciate all the effort you made to listen to my bullshit.
When we went to visit echidna, you were definitely more motivational than the giant snake.
I hate to think how much worse off we all would have been without you.
It's no wonder echidna wants you to take care of our species' future, if we have one.
it doesn't even matter what caste you are. It's just who you are.
KANAYA: Yes.
That’s me I suppose.
The supportive friend always willing to lend a sympathetic auditory sponge or helping hand.
KARKAT: exactly!
Wait, was that sarcasm?
KANAYA: I don’t know what it was.
I guess,
It would be nice if someone could be that for me sometimes.
KARKAT: Oh.
KANAYA: Echidna expects a lot of me.
I will do my best but I fear that is how it always is.
So much is asked of me and I am expected to be capable,
If only because I do my best to look it.
It can get frustrating at times.
KARKAT: ...
You won't have to do everything alone. You know that, right?
I assume echidna had me tag along for more than just an opportunity to tell me that my wiggler-age dreams were shit.
I'm going to help.
And everyone else is too, I guess, but I think I’m supposed to help extra hard.
As penance for my mistakes last time or as part of the job description, I don't know.
And I want to.
I want to help you.
I'm sorry you got stuck with us throwing so much of our drama at you without giving you anything decent along with it.
And you didn't turn into a bloodthirsty maniac and shove a fork through anyone's chest either, so good for you.
That's an accomplishment around here.
Obviously we need to schedule some time as soon as this is over for you to get what you deserve.
Say the word and I’ll listen to all your problems.
I won't open my mouth once unless you want me to.
KANAYA: are you sure about that?
KARKAT: I have to breathe. I think we can make allowances for that.
But seriously.
I missed talking to you.
And not only because you were a good problem dumping ground.
You're my friend.
I want to be a good friend.
KANAYA: Me too.
I should have said something earlier if I wanted to change things.
Or spent less time sequestered in my personal sector of the meteor.
It’s not like I made myself very accessible either.
KARKAT: we all had our very own personal misery zones didn't we?
That meteor must've existed in more dimensions than are physically possible to incorporate more corners to sulk in.
KANAYA: It wasn’t our best team performance.
Improvements will be made.

[Panel description: Kanaya reaches toward Karkat's shirt. He frowns and covers the chalk insignia the mayor gave him with both hands.]

KANAYA: also there is a smudge on your shirt.
Do you want me to get that for you?
KARKAT: No!
The mayor gave me that.
It's very important.
KANAYA: Er.
Congratulations.
KARKAT: he put me in charge of relaying orders to his combined carapacian forces.
We will take the field in combat against jack and whatever else the game throws at us alongside any other carapaces who want to join us.
Once I explained to them what he's done and what he wants to do, most of them were fired up to help.
But before he can build his new world order we have to beat the dersite monarchy's latest usurper.
KANAYA: How much do you know about tactics?
KARKAT: I’ve been in one black king battle, which is more than any of the humans can say.
Besides, I’m not kidding myself.
We're mortal, not gods, and he doesn't want to lose anyone either.
A lot of it will be keeping everyone out of harm's way.
Channeling the troops' enthusiasm into something constructive without letting them do anything stupid or suicidal.
I won't charge in and get myself or anyone else killed because I wanted to do something dramatic, I promise.
Not again.
Skaia has done a good job of shoving that lesson into my think pan like a hydraulic press over the last few sweeps and especially today.
That's not being a good leader.
KANAYA: I’m sure you’ll do very well then.
KARKAT: what have you been doing?
KANAYA: Not much.
It’s been quiet.
I filled jade in on some of the ultimate alchemy procedures and we’ve been expanding our wardrobes.
Rose is opening a memo soon but it doesn’t concern me.
I may take a nap.
KARKAT: resting before the big finale is a good idea if you can manage it.
I know I can't.
KANAYA: yes I remember you somehow avoided sleeping for most of our session.
That can’t be healthy.
KARKAT: we're almost done.
Then I can fall face first into a recuperacoon and not come out for a sweep if I want to.
For now I’ll probably talk with jack.
Or, slick? Is that what he's calling himself?
I should make sure he knows what's going on so he doesn't stab one of us by accident in the melee.
Or at least ensure he'll have the grace to stab one of us and pretend it was an accident.
If you see anyone I know while you're asleep, tell them I said hi.
KANAYA: should I reserve that greeting for people you like?
KARKAT: no.
Look. I didn't get along with everyone, and some people just plain got on my nerves.
Not to mention some of them fucked up big time the last time we met.
As in "tried and or succeeded at killing people" big time.
But that doesn't mean I’m glad they're dead.
When we were traveling through the bubbles we saw a lot of ways everyone could have turned out, good and bad.
Almost everyone had at least one ending where they did something right.
I just wish everyone could have been at their best this time around.
KANAYA: I’ll make sure to pass that along.
KARKAT: not all of it.
I bet the last thing any of them want is another of my lectures.
Just
Say hi for me.
And after you wake up
Hang on, am I being needy again?
I'm already asking you to do all these things for me, right after we talked about it.
Fuck, why do I keep doing this?
KANAYA: it’s fine.
I think I can listen to your request without rotating my head 180 degrees in an imitation of one of those human horror movies to communicate my distress.
I can always say no.
KARKAT: ok.
I was thinking about talking to gamzee again.
It might be nice to not go by myself, and I’m not asking terezi.
KANAYA: are you sure?
Last time it upset you.
KARKAT: maybe I can get through to him.
Or say... Something.
I hate leaving it like this, and it's not like we can keep him locked up forever.
Setting aside any other consideration, these jail cells obviously aren't very secure.
People have been breaking out of them so often we might as well install a transportalizer to save wear and tear on the hinges.
KANAYA: That’s true.
I’ll accompany you later assuming some sort of extenuating circumstance hasn’t reared its head as they so often do.
I’m not sure I’ll have much to say though.
KARKAT: I don't expect you to. I don't know what I’m going to say!
But it'll be nice to have a friend with me.
You know, besides the one in jail, who murdered me.
KANAYA: does he still qualify as a friend after that?
KARKAT: I don't know.
Maybe that's what I want closure on.
Maybe it's because we're so close to the end of the game now that I keep thinking about all the people who didn't make it this far.
Or who didn't make it this far while staying who they used to be.
Which is everyone, I guess, but you know what I mean.
KANAYA: I understand.
It would be nice to clear the air with some of them.
KARKAT: thanks.
For being here. And putting up with me.
If it had to be down to only a few of us, I’m glad one of those people was you.
KANAYA: Likewise.
I’ll see you later karkat.
KARKAT: talk to you when you wake up.

[Panel description: Karkat leaves the room and runs down a hallway lined with columns. The flickering orange light seen before in Jade's house colors the walls. Kanaya can be seen through the open door he left by. She picks up a trailing red piece of fabric and stands in front of a pile of pillows and cloth.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Terezi stands near a tree on LOCAH. A purple scarab perches on her shoulder, and she holds several more in her hands. Jane's land has become bright and colorful. The trees have yellow and orange leaves, and the hills are covered with green grass and red and pink flowers. Water streams out of a passage in a cliffside to form a river. John stands behind Terezi, waving.]

[Panel description: Terezi turns to look at John. Two scarabs take flight, transparent wings beating from underneath purple casings.]

JOHN: terezi, are you ok?
according to the mummy, scarab beetles can be very dangerous!
TEREZI: these insects have shown me only the highest courtesy and I will not have you maligning them.
JOHN: oh, ok.
I guess the mummy is not a very reliable source.
in fact, I think scarabs might actually be a good thing for Egyptians?
that is not the point. I’m not here to talk about how cinema may have mangled ancient cultural traditions.
TEREZI: then what brings you here to interrupt my communion with these worthy life forms?
JOHN: um...
I wanted to say thanks.
TEREZI: for what?
JOHN: for helping me in the other timeline.
for all of this.
without you, Roxy and I would have sat in the desert while everything around us fell apart.
we wouldn't have kept going if you hadn't shown up.
I didn't say anything to you before, because it was nice getting credit for doing something on my own, instead of taking orders like I usually do.
but really you were the one who came up with how to save us.
TEREZI: I am pretty great, aren’t I?
thanks for reminding me.
but all I did was snap you out of your angst-induced stupor and tell you to visit typheus.
all the rest was you.
so you should have 41.3% of the credit.
JOHN: that's a weirdly specific number, but ok.
TEREZI: Do not question the numerology of the blind prophets!
JOHN: hey, I’m not questioning. do you hear any questioning?
TEREZI: I suppose not.
Terezi: you are excused.
JOHN: that's good.
you know, you're not so bad, even if you're still kind of crazy.
TEREZI: and you’re still a total dweeb!
JOHN: heh.
oh, by the way, vriska says hi.
TEREZI: What???
JOHN: last time I fell asleep, we talked, and she told me to tell you, so now I am.
which means I’m still taking orders from troll girls, go figure.
I guess that is just part of my mythic destiny!

[Panel description: Terezi gets in John's face. He leans back, terrified.]

TEREZI: what did she say?
did she look okay??
what has she been doing???
JOHN: wow, slow down.
she looks ok, besides being dead.
and we talked about a lot of things.
what do you usually talk about when you see her?

[Panel description: Terezi retreats, frowning slightly and looking off to one side. Her eyes are visible above her glasses, which have slipped down her face. John talks earnestly.]

TEREZI: I haven’t.
Terezi: we haven’t met since she died.
JOHN: how did she die, anyway?
TEREZI: ................
I killed her.
JOHN: what?? I thought you were friends!
TEREZI: we were.
JOHN: jeez, trolls are so weird.
every time I think you guys can't get any weirder, you do.
why is there always so much killing when you're involved?
TEREZI: ugh.
I keep trying to explain but no one gets it!
She caused a lot of trouble.
She had killed some of my friends.
More importantly she would have led jack right to us if I hadn’t done something!
Then we would all be bark beast food.
Right up until the end I didn’t want to kill her.
But there wasn’t another way that I could see.
She didn’t come back which meant the death was right somehow according to skaia.
But every time I tried to tell myself it was just,
I kept remembering the good times we had.
That’s not how you’re supposed to feel about the guilty.
You’re supposed to want them punished.
To want justice.
But...

[Panel description: Terezi steps up to the bank of the river. Her reflection looks back. John's face is reflected next to hers. He is looking over at her.]

TEREZI: I miss her.
Sometimes I wish I was there with her.
JOHN: well, if you were, we'd all be dead, so I’m glad you're here.
I bet all your other friends are too.
TEREZI: I know.
and so am I, I think.
the scales are tipping that way.
I just have to keep adding weight to the right side.
JOHN: is it that easy to do?
TEREZI: no its not.
but maybe that’s normal.
the world is not a simple or well balanced place after all.
the trick is being willing to see what’s really there.
you can hide everything away in the dark but those things still carry weight.
maybe it’s time that I
saw the light? (smirking face).
JOHN: if you saw her again, what would you say?
TEREZI: I’m not sure.
if I had met her yesterday I don’t think I could’ve stood the shame.
now...
there’s a lot I want to say.
but I don’t know which words to use.
maybe if I had known the right ones before she would still be alive.
JOHN: I know how you feel.
or... I know what it's like to not know how you feel.
vriska was nice to me.
she was my friend, or I thought of her as my friend for that day we talked to each other.
but when I saw the way she treated other people, it was hard to connect that with the version of her I knew.
it's always confusing when someone doesn't act the way you think they should, and when you think they should be a good person but they aren't...
I hated that!
she made me feel like an idiot for trusting her, but maybe she needed someone to trust her.
TEREZI: I doubt she needed someone to stab her in the back.
JOHN: I don't know about that, but she seemed happy where she was.
she said she was doing better about being terrible to people, and I think I DO trust her about that, even if that sounds like a stupid thing to do.
it sounded like the truth when she said it, and she told me the truth a lot even when it was a scary thing to say.
she didn't act mad when she mentioned you, either.
I wouldn't have guessed that you killed her.
TEREZI: she isn’t angry?
it’s been so long since I’ve seen her.
I thought she wanted nothing to do with me and that was why the bubbles never brought us together.
JOHN: I don't know much about how that place works, but if it's anything like my powers, what you think and how you feel matters a lot.
if you want to go somewhere or to someone, the more you want it, the easier it is.
maybe you couldn't find her because you were afraid to.
or maybe the bubbles suck, and that's all there is to say on the matter.
they kept me from seeing rose and Dave for years, and I REALLY wanted to see them, so sucking is definitely a viable theory.
TEREZI: I’ll try to remember that next time I take a nap.
thanks john.
for a total dweeb you can be good to talk to.
JOHN: that's what vriska said too.
I wonder why people keep thinking that.
TEREZI: I don’t know.
but I hope for your sake you can find the magic words to get through whatever you’re doing next.
JOHN: what's that?
TEREZI: rose is about to open a memo.
unfortunately we don’t know much more than you do.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: An open trollian application. In the top right is an open window listing the available threads, which read:

CGG: look at my new haircut!
CGT: help deciphering denizen riddles?
FTG: denizen translation services 5 k BB.
CGC: legal help services 413 k BB.
CTT: Competition for most heavy handed land quest symbolism. Entrants post here.
FTG: ha ha turns out I don't actually crave the sweet embrace of death send help
CGA: anyone who desires a wardrobe redesign express your interest here.
CEB: any other messages for dead people? It looks like that's my job now.
PTT: I have delicious donuts. This isn't an offer to share. I just wanted everyone to know I have them.
CGG: who trashed my kitchen? There's frosting everywhere.
CCG: Carapacian volunteer army strategic command center.

In the lower left corner is another open window labeled 'Bulletin board: let's win the game, guys.' The beginning of the page's pester log is visible. A cursor flashes in the text entry field.]

PAST Ecto Biologist [PEB] 6 HOURS AGO opened public bulletin board let's win the game, guys!

CTT RIGHT NOW opened memo on board let's win the game, guys!
CTT: (Rose) I have another mission for anyone willing to take it.
CURRENT Tipsy Gnostalgic [CTG] responded to memo.
CTG: you’re really dishing out the secret missions rose.
distributing killer party favors at the world’s deadliest birthday party.
actually,
it is janeys b day isn’t it?
oops.
almost forgot with all the scheming and carnage.
that’s p bad what with how Jake was getting it for that yesterday.
CURRENT Ecto Biologist [CEB] responded to memo.
CEB: it's mine too!
CTG: (Roxy) wow really? happy b day.
enjoy your scheming plus carnage.
CEB: it's traditional.
CURRENT Gutsy Gumshoe [CGG] responded to memo.
CGG: You know, I think the stakes are high enough that birthdays and the forgetting thereof can be overlooked for now.
We can celebrate later if we're all still alive.
CTT: (Rose) This mission isn't particularly secret.
In fact, I already have certain individuals in mind.
Namely, John.
CURRENT Turntech Godhead [CTG] responded to memo.
CTG: he’s the obvious choice isn’t he?
only person left with unlimited mobility.
CURRENT Garden Gnostic [CGG] responded to memo.
CGG: (sad face).
CTG: (Dave) sorry.
sore subject.
CGG: (Jade) it’s ok, I’m getting used to it.
CTT: (Rose) Also, his powers make him most qualified to disrupt the Alpha timeline.
Though I’m not sure how far that extends, so if it looks like your decisions might paradoxically prevent our births without even accidentally seducing your own mother in a bizarrely Freudian twist for a family film, I’d ask you to reconsider.
CEB: I can totally go on a special mission, that sounds like fun!
I haven't had much to do here except move people around.
and I will definitely try to make sure we all get born, especially since I was there.
what do you need?
CTT: (Rose) After the Ring of Life failed to revive Calliope, I did some research.
You helped, remember?
CEB: oh, yeah, did you figure something out?
CTT: (Rose) Maybe... I have some ideas.
Nothing solid yet, but we're running out of time.
Normally I wouldn't want to send you into a situation when I don't know all the details, but
CURRENT Gallows Calibrator [CGC] responded to memo.
CGC: but we are confident you can handle it!
it’s not like we can keep you on a wiggler-leash forever.
we shall cut you free and let you make your own decisions.
CTT: (Rose) With as much guidance as we can provide.
CGC: calm your rumble spheres rose.
He is a man now and doesn’t need us fussing over him!
(psst).
(john).
(prove me right on this mission so I seem like the rational one.)
(no pressure!)
CEB: okay... what DO you guys know?
CTT: (Rose) Cherubs traditionally go through a process called predomination, where one personality overcomes and absorbs the other.
Our foe skipped a few steps.
Because of this, his female counterpart doesn't seem to be fully dead.
Instead, if Roxy's guess is right, she's trapped asleep.
CGG: (Jade) like sleeping beauty!
CTT: (Rose) I guess, but even if that is the case, a kiss won't be enough to wake her up.
The dominance he established over their shared body will have to be broken to allow her to regain control.
Apparently, he's been using some kind of device present on Earth that can help with this.
CEB: the thing he types stuff into?
I got caught on the wrong side of that once.
he was using it to tell a really awful story about all of us.
that alone is enough of a reason for us to try to defeat him.
CGC: you will need more than that.
As part of their many arcane and arbitrary juju enchantments cherubs can also be influenced by their names.
Like the old wiggler tale candle jack.
They say if you even type his name he will be summoned,
And then stuff you in a sack and kidnap you.
After helpfully sending your incomplete message of course.
Alternian internet lore aside you’ll need both names to succeed.
CTG: (Roxy) oh oh oh!
callie told me hers!
its,
uh.
actually I’m supposed to be careful about saying it out loud or even typing it sometimes?
especially if her bro is closing in.
I’ll write it down for you.
CGG: (Jade) she told me her brother’s name too!
apparently it’s a big secret, but she whispered it to me right before I woke up.
I hope I can spell it right...
CTT: (Rose) Great.
The last issue is secrecy.
The Lord of Time is hard to get a jump on, given that his theoretical dominion extends to literally all of motherfucking time.
We could use a way to hide your approach.
FUTURE Turntech Godhead [FTG] responded to memo.
FTG: as much as we can anyway
CEB: oh, is this what you were checking up on me for?
FTG: (Dave sprite) yup.
forget personal planning devices I’ve got your appointments on lockdown.
you’re overdue for a trip to the dentist.
dunno how to make you disappear though.
CTG: (Roxy) that’s my job.
CTT: (Rose) Really?
CTG: (Roxy) yeah really.
hiding people?
sounds p voidy.
swathed in clouds and secrets and shiz.
plus some stuff nix told me is starting to make more sense.
I’m supposed to do this.
CGC: Sounds good to me.
CTT: (Rose) John, do you know how to get there?
CEB: sure!
at least, I know how to get to HIM.
if I think about him and earth, I should end up somewhere nearby.
CTT: (Rose) Somewhere?
CEB: my powers are sort of hard to explain... I just use them.
but I’ll get there, I promise!
CTG: (Dave) hang on.
I’m coming too.
CEB: awesome!!!
that'll be so much fun, two best bros on an adventure to save the world.
it's movie material already.
CTG: (Dave) don’t make this corny.
you and jades grandpa could fill a fuckin farmers market.
CGG: (Jade) I think the way he talks is cute. (sticks out tongue).
CTG: (Dave) anyway if this guys around you might need backup.
I’ve done quest support before I can do it again.
CGG: (Jade) that didn’t end well...
CTG: (Dave) john, I promise you won’t have to make out with my corpse.
CEB: in that case, I don't see why you shouldn't come!
CGC: HMMM.
CTG: (Dave) hmm what.
CGC: HMMMM.
Nothing! (smirking face).
CTG: (Dave) bullshit.
that hmm meant something.
are you trying to unravel my secret motives?
john needs someone to have his back.
lick the inside of my skull if you want but that’s the reason why.
CGC: your statements have been added to the record.
The defense will draw her own conclusions.
CTG: (Dave) are you going to say I shouldn’t go.
CGC: I will not be making such a decision for anyone anymore.
stay or go.
it’s your choice!
all I can do is advise.
besides it’s not like I have to lick your skull to know what you’re thinking.
so many of you are so transparent in your motivations its hardly fun at all.
the only people you occasionally fool are yourselves.
make sure you’re being honest with yourself.
CTG: (Dave) guard duty.
that’s ALL.
besides I’m supposed to fuck English up in some prophetically ambiguous way.
this sounds like it might count.
CTT: (Rose) You're attempting to direct the course of a prophecy?
Through my diligent perusal of fictional accounts, I can say that rarely ends well.
Prophecies find their way to the proper place and time like narrative-based heat seeking missiles.
Anyone who tries to intercept them ends up as a grease spot on the pages of predictable storytelling.
Have you checked yourself for birthmarks?
Apparently they can be quite instructive in this regard.
CTG: (Dave) yeah I have a birthmark right here its manifesting before my eyes.
it spells out I d g a f.
CTT: (Rose) Uncanny!
It's not every day you hear about a birthmark acquired after you were born.
CTG: (Dave) maybe the prophecy’s full of shit I don’t know.
I don’t care either this is just something it feels like I should do.
whether or not it’s what the empress had in mind when she tried to recruit me to her suicide squad.
CTT: (Rose) If Terezi thinks you should choose, I won't argue.
But both of you, be careful.
CEB: ok.
wait and see, Dave, this will be fun!

CEB closed memo.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Terezi sits cross legged on the ground on LOCAH in front of the river. Rolling hills covered in pink, red, and purple flowers stretch out toward the horizon. Brightly colored balloons hover in the air. Several scarabs have crawled up to perch on Terezi's back, knee, and hair. Rose approaches her from behind, hovering above the ground. She is wearing a pink headband and scarf over a lilac shirt with her old squiddle symbol and a black pleated skirt.]

TEREZI: they’ll be alright.
ROSE: I know.
I'm learning to let things go, but that doesn't mean I've learned to be graceful about it.
I didn't pack them a lunch and attach a post-it note to their saran wrapped sandwiches, but it was a close thing.
TEREZI: can you see anything?
ROSE: Fragments. Anything interfering with paradox space's usual patterns gives me fits, which means John's a natural smokescreen.
In fact, there's an unusual amount of interference up ahead.
What about you?
TEREZI: a lot of decisions left to be made.
Some moments turn on those more than others.
Your skill set is better for the long term view.
ROSE: Only in a sense.
It's not always easy to decide what you deem most fortuitous, and even if you think it's simple, that doesn't mean you won't go wrong.
I don't know what people want from me anymore.
Are they expecting me to make the callous but necessary choices, to guide them to ultimate success despite any bumps along the way?
All I know is that the consequences of whatever choice I make will be felt by everyone, and I'm the one who'll take the blame.
I don't think I know what to expect of myself, and with no place to aim, my power is worse than useless.
TEREZI: believe me I’ve seen light players make that mistake.
You don’t know what’s really good for you and you have no way to steer.
It’s not only your aspect either.
I’ve done my time with clouded vision.
I’m glad I’m not the only one.
ROSE: It's a taxing job, isn't it?
Seer. The title makes it sound like we know everything, that we have all the answers.
That we "see", basically, even though eyewitness evidence is notoriously unreliable.
A good portion of our merry little band sports some kind of corrective eyewear, after all.
In fact, I'm the only one from our session without some kind of lenses in front of my face.
Maybe that was SBURB's idea of a joke.

[Panel description: Rose sits down next to Terezi near the roots of a white tree. She looks over at her as Terezi raises one hand, grinning.]

TEREZI: as far as I can tell you’ve done a good job with what we do know so far.
ROSE: Same to you, although that statement is strictly off the record.
I have a reputation to maintain.
In the pitched battle for the accolade of Best Seer, I can't simply hand you the laurels.
TEREZI: is that a competition we’re having?
ROSE: Not really.
It was funny to imagine that being a concern, maybe because it seems so pedestrian compared to our real problems.
Or maybe years of interpreting everything as a campaign of constant one-upmanship are taking their toll.
I'm perfectly happy to share the victory platform with you.
We've accomplished a lot, and I couldn't have come up with so many schemes so quickly alone.
Your plotting skills have been invaluable. It's fun to be devious sometimes.
TEREZI: plotting is what I do best!
And for such an insufferably snarky broad you have your uses. (smirking face).
ROSE: You're welcome.
It's absurd that we never talked about this before today.
Our problems and the burdens of our roles are so similar.
Right down to passing out in a pool of mood-altering substances.
We might have been able to help each other.
TEREZI: seer to seer?
ROSE: Why shouldn't we get some guidance every once in a while?
TEREZI: I remember you floated the idea when jade dumped us on LOLAR.
I thought you were being facetious.
ROSE: I always make an effort to be at least a little bit facetious.
TEREZI: including right now?
ROSE: Obviously.
But the idea wasn't a bad one.
TEREZI: eh.
I had too much of a headache to listen to any brainwaves.
Especially by a recently inebriated human determined to keep making really dumb jokes. (scowling face).
But you haven’t been too bad to work with.
Sobriety does wonders.
You light players are always willing to try some outlandish scheme.
You sure get us all moving.
Even if it’s not in the right direction.
ROSE: As far as exploring our roles goes, we still have ground to cover, and cooperation can't hurt.
It's not too late, is it?
TEREZI: no.
It’s not.
ROSE: Let's get this ball rolling, then. What should we do?
We could subscribe to the Delphi Weekly, if any tacky themed newsletters had made it through the end of days.
Since that's out, we could compare the latest prices on discount crystal balls. Or exchange divination tips.
I seem to have misplaced my black cat, unfortunately, so I don't think I've got the right aesthetic.
TEREZI: I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.
ROSE: Our civilizations must have had different archetypes for fortune tellers.
TEREZI: we had the ancient order of the blind prophets.
Obviously that’s a bust.
ROSE: Maybe we should bond over the most basic form of seeing, then.
We could extol the virtues of the color red.
TEREZI: ugh.
It smells much better than it looks.
ROSE: What's it like, perceiving the world that way?
I have to admit, I have trouble imagining it.
TEREZI: hmmmm...
I still have my smelloscope somewhere.
Remind me later and I’ll let you take it for a sniff.
ROSE: That sounds great.
My senses aren't nearly as enhanced, though, so you may have to explain things to me.
TEREZI: close your eyes.

[Panel description: Terezi closes her eyes slowly. As she does, the landscape melts into swirls of bright oranges, pinks, and greens.]

TEREZI: think of rainbow sherbet.
It’s bright and it has many different flavors.
Like succulent cherry or smoky orange and the occasional zest of lime.

[Panel description: Rose closes her eyes, concentrating. The landscape flickers between the flower-covered plains and an impressionistic, swirling world of bright streaks of color.]

TEREZI: and it all crackles under your tongue like leaves in the equinox perigees.
And kind of like leaves you see the color but you never detect the complex neutral tones underneath.
It adds a richness to it that you don’t consciously perceive.
It makes the colors louder and brighter but it’s still beautiful on its own.

[Panel description: An eagle’s eye view of the landscape. Blue rivers cut through the autumnal covered foliage. Thick curls of orange, green, pink, and blue rise like smoke.]

TEREZI: that’s where we are.
ROSE: It sounds beautiful.

[Panel description: The two girls sit next to each other with their hands in their laps, Terezi cross legged and Rose kneeling. The world around them pulses with ribbons of bright colors swirling past. Green tendrils rise from the grass, and bright red and orange rise from nearby blooms, making the ground look as if it's on fire.]

TEREZI: It is.

Chapter Text

[Panel description: John stands at the base of Jane's house on the land of crypts and helium. High up in the sky, Hal floats near the ongoing construction.]

[Panel description: John stands on the base of a brightly colored red and green balloon, looking up. A speech bubble showing Roxy's cat icon flashes in both of his lenses. His eyebrows are drawn.]

TG: hey.
wanted to wish you luck before your rescue mission!
when you help callie nab her freedom from her grody bro.
you’ve got the name plus everything so you’re SET.
if you’re being sneaky then I guess you could say,
you’re stealing her declaration of independence? (winking face).
EB: I hadn't thought of that, that's so great.
now I can be like my hero nic cage, except in these cool pajamas instead of a filthy tank top.
TG: dirk has one.
he’d probs alchemize you a copy.
not filthy though.
dude is MAD clean.
prob bathes in hand sanitizer.
don’t tell him I said that though, it’s a strider hygiene secret.
EB: ok, I won't.
how did you see national treasure?
I thought you lived way in the future after the world ended and cinemas went extinct.

[Panel description: Roxy lies on her stomach on a reddish stone slab. She rests her head in her hands with her legs kicked up in a classic 'teen girl talking to her crush' pose. Her phone lies on the stone in front of her with a small speech bubble showing John's icon.]

TG: yup the apocalypse happened but nic cage movies were deemed historically significant by the library of congress.
so they locked em in a waterproof bunker forever and ever until I uncovered them in covert movie finding expeditions.
like hunting for buried treasure except the treasure is 3 hours of nic cages sweaty intense face,
which is way more valuable than any precious gems or minerals.
EB: I knew future generations would understand his genius.
TG: l o l nah.
I had a lot of old movies plus games and stuff.
my mom stockpiled em so I’d have something to do.
whenever the witch wasn’t sending drones after me my life was kinda boring.
even the lamest of films was better than staring out my window trying to see Texas from a zillion miles away.
staring at a screen was WAY less dispiriting.
EB: have you seen ghost busters?
TG: nope. (sad face).
EB: that is terrible.
you haven't lived until you've seen four sensibly yet stylishly outfitted men defeat an evil blob of sentient marshmallow.
also, if you haven't seen it, how will you know not to cross the streams?
TG: am I not supposed to do that? (surprised face).
EB: not crossing the streams is rule ONE of doing battle with the forces of evil.
until you have to to defeat a less stylishly dressed demi god, and then it is actually a great idea.
once you watch the movie you will understand.
TG: you should show it to me sometime. (smiling face).
EB: it's a date!
TG: a date?
o m g.

[Panel description: The panel is split in two. On the left, John is framed against a backdrop of brightly colored foliage. He is standing stiffly and looking awkwardly to one side. On the right, Roxy sits cross legged, leaning her head back and groaning. Bright streaks of neon flow through the sky.]

EB: wait.
did you think I meant, like, a romantic date?
TG: ... yeah.
did you not mean that.
EB: oh man, uh...
roxy, you’re really cool and nice, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.
I only met you a few hours ago, and we’ve spent most of that time trying not to die, again, and I don’t think dating is something I want to be doing right now.
TG: oh.
well that embarrassing.
I can’t believe I jumped to that conclusion you’re right we JUST met.
ugh its true I have a one track mind.
EB: I don't think you have a one track mind, we've talked about lots of things before this.
maybe I phrased it badly, I don't know...
I’ve been messing up a lot today.
TG: no no it is me.
I kept bugging and pestering dirk about it and then as SOON as Jane threw in the English towel I tried picking that mother flipper up off the kitchen floor.
didn’t even stick it in the laundry first.
it’s like I’m desperate to find ANYONE at all.
but even my indiscriminate flailing aint getting any takers because it’s so obviously shameless.
EB: argh!
now I feel guilty about this!
I like you a lot!!!
I’ve had a lot of fun spending time with you.
just... the closest I’ve been to dating someone was when another version of me dated a dead alien, and even that didn’t work out.
I don’t know if it’ll ever work out for me.
it definitely won’t now.
but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you!
ellen ripley didn’t have any romantic lead and she was still totally awesome.
TG: you sound like Jake.
ugh why are all the cute guys off limits or not interested?
EB: ...sorry?
wait, why am I apologizing for this?
it's not like I’m conspiring against your love life, I just don't want to do that right now!
it sucks that you don't have many options, but I spent the last three years stuck with my sister and a guy who was also a bird.
if I made it, then I think you can too.
TG: nah you don’t gotta be sorry.
it’s not your fault.
it’s just like,
I grew up all alone you know?
except for the chess guys and they mostly needed to be taken care of.
I wanted someone for me.
that not a very rad haxxor girl thing to say.
sayin it sounds super selfish.
but I was so lonely.
and condy was all human rom is gross cease reproduction blah blah so I figured I could show her up that way.
suck it fish hitler you killed my mom and flooded the planet but I still beat you.
it prob turned into more
an idea.
something to prove something which aint right.
if I’ve learned ANYTHING from watching the jake shit show it’s that as soon as you make another person in your life an idea you are both fucked.
but I guess we all take our time learning the lessons we don’t want to.
EB: everything about your life sounds awful and sad.
TG: it was. (sad face).
EB: but I don't think finding someone to date is the answer to your problems.
in the movies, the hero always has to overcome his personal demons first and defeat the bad guy.
then he can get the girl, because he has proven himself worthy by triumphing through serious adversity.
TG: man j sock you really are a bundle of nonstop action movie clichés huh.
EB: I’m trying to help.
I don't have a good track record talking to girls, since apparently my sister was mad at me for YEARS and I didn't know???
maybe I should shut up.
TG: no!
the words of movie wisdom are mad helpful.
I gotta go on a quest for personal fulfillment and conquer the void inside me.
and then maybe,
just maybe,
the universe will drop a hot person in my lap.
thanks for the help j. (smiling face).
EB: who’s talking in clichés now??
TG: (sticks out tongue).
EB: in the meantime I’m still your friend!
TG: I know.
and I’m glad to have a new friend.
EB: me too.
I think making friends is the most important part of every adventure!
TG: please stop with the adorable clichés I can’t take it.
EB: anyway, thanks for wishing me good luck.
compared to what we went through in the other time line, this is nothing.
I’ll be back before you know it!
and then when this is over we will watch all the awesome movies you missed out on.
TG: I’ll have to remind you that you promised that.
EB: I won't forget.
if you say so.
TG: see you when you get back.

[Panel description: Roxy smiles down at her phone in her hand. John's logo bobs above it and then vanishes. As it does, Roxy's smile turns into a frown, and anxious lines appear below her eyes.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Dave lies flat on his back on the roof of his apartment. A red dragonfly perches on one lens of his shades, while a green one sits on the time symbol on his chest. Jade walks around a corner. She is wearing a Space textured three wolf moon shirt and a blue skirt with a sparkling translucent outer layer.]

DAVE: hey.
JADE: hey...

[Panel description: Jade's feet stop next to Dave's head. He lies covered in dragonflies, arms splayed out.]

JADE: Dave why are you on the ground.
DAVE: well I was contemplating my life choices.
but now I can’t disturb the swarm.
they get ravenous when aggravated they’re like little piranhas with wings.
JADE: I think they’re cute!
DAVE: don’t be fooled that’s how they get you.
are you here to say goodbye.
I haven’t finalized my last words yet.
I still need to think of something clever but meaningful.
preferably in rap form.
JADE: omg no.

[Panel description: Jade leans down over Dave, unimpressed.]

JADE: don’t talk like that! you’re going to be fine.
everyone is always so dramatic about these things and then they work out in the end.
no I thought I should probably say some stuff after what happened earlier.
DAVE: you mean when you went to the bark side and started calling me a neurotic douche.
JADE: yes exactly.
DAVE: well if you’re going to contemplate your life choices you’d better get into the position.
it’s like the airplane crash landing pose so your neck doesn’t snap on impact.
safety first.
JADE: I’d like to keep my clothes clean, thank you very much!
DAVE: what’s even the point you’re wearing a meme.
JADE: I didn’t know that when I made it!
I just thought it was a cute picture!!
DAVE: didn’t anyone try to stop you.
JADE: they were unsuccessful.
sigh.

[Panel description: Jade lies down next to him, hands resting on her stomach. Dave rests one hand on his stomach and lifts the other, startling one dragonfly into flight.]

JADE: the lesson of my day so far seems to be that I need to tell the truth more, but that wasn’t the way to do it.
I shouldn’t have been so mean.
DAVE: I never knew you felt that way.
I never knew a lot of things about you.
it’s dumb in hindsight but I guess my mental image was always pacific island Barbie or something.
reclining on a lawn chair in front of the beach while your demon dog eats the pool boy.
JADE: that is a weird and kind of silly image.
I don’t think I even own a lawn chair!
DAVE: yes the lawn chair is definitely the biggest thing wrong with that picture.
JADE: the point is I worked hard to keep you from knowing, so you shouldn’t feel bad.
DAVE: I bet rose knew.
or at least guessed.
she made it sound like she did.
JADE: she asked some questions...
but most of the time I didn’t answer.
DAVE: see at least she asked.
a good friend would have.
god all the times I dumped my own B S on you and didn’t even ask if you were ok.
complaining about whether my powers were too cool of a burden while you’re standing there being mind controlled.
fuck.
how do any of you stand me?
JADE: me having problems doesn’t make yours not matter!
I liked hearing about your life, and I never tried to talk about mine.
ok maybe I would have had some difficulty because you are not always the best listener but we don’t know for sure.
I didn’t mean the things I said before.
that wasn’t the real me.
DAVE: I’m not sure I know her.
JADE: well.
it’s been three years.
we would’ve been different anyway.
DAVE: you’ve gotten a head start.
JADE: not as much as you’d expect!
that part of my ranting was completely off base, you’re different people.
although he also lies on the ground dramatically sometimes.
DAVE: it’s a family tradition.
JADE: the point is I’m not sure how well I know you either, but we can fix that when you get back in one piece.
DAVE: that sounds like a solid plan.
especially the part about me being in one piece.
JADE: I’ve promised to work on all my secrets too.
I’ve had that conversation a few times today.
a plan is in motion!
DAVE: I know.
rose might be ruling the main planning boards with an iron fist but there are memos popping up all over the place.
and if there isn’t a thread titled times I got yelled at so hard it was basically a religious experience in the worst possible way there should be.
point is words been getting around.
and in your case that includes the hair and the tragic back story.

[Panel description: Dave sits up and reaches to touch the part of his black eye visible under his shades.]

DAVE: in my case its more the humiliating and weirdly permanent result of flipping out at myself.
JADE: I heard about that!
DAVE: see what I mean.
it takes more than the apocalypse to destabilize the rumor economy.
JADE: yes, you’ve joined the ranks of people who get in fights with themselves!
it sounded silly. (sticks tongue out).
DAVE: part of me wants to take offense at you belittling my emotional distress but yeah it was pretty silly.
I think we both wanted to pick a fight with some platonic ideal of ourselves but this was the best we could do on short notice.
we weren’t going to drag ourselves all the way out of the allegorical cave just to fuck up the real thing.
astounding a few philosophers by our flagrant disregard for the true meaning of this thought experiment out of sheer desire to fight.
I’ve probably wanted to punch myself a few times if I’m being honest with myself.
maybe that’s why this hasn’t gone away yet.

[Panel description: Jade also sits up, feeling her hair.]

JADE: I understand that feeling.
DAVE: figured you would.
I remember you complaining about jade sprite back on lofaf.
it was weird seeing you so bent out of shape over something.
at the time I didn’t get it.
hard to believe any version of you would act like that or it would bother you so much.
especially since I was pretty into the whole other daves what other daves those guys aren’t me mentality.
cue dumping corpses into lava.
hell of a thing.
guess she was more you than any of us knew huh.
JADE: yes.
she’s still part of me.
I’d made myself forget a lot of it, but I remember better now.
for example I can recall both sides of our argument clearly, which is a little disorienting.
I guess I’m all of me now.
and just me, thank goodness!
DAVE: no evil fish queens in there.
JADE: nope!
DAVE: good.
anyone with shellfish allergies is safe, we can take off the warning label.
JADE: I remember some of the instructions she gave me, though, even if the conditioning is gone.
oh wow that reminds me.

[Panel description: Jade lifts one arm, smiling. Dave's eyebrows draw together, and his mouth opens in distress.]

JADE: I almost forgot!
I wanted to remind you to use the sword I gave you.
DAVE: you mean that legendary piece of shit you made me alchemize.
do I have to?
all you gave john was some shithead’s name why do I have to equip the special doomsday weapon.
JADE: the empress may be morally bankrupt, but she did want English gone, and she was sure that sword is important.
I don’t mean to question your and johns talents, but we can use all the help we can get.
DAVE: I don’t care what the witch says about it being part of my mythic destiny.
it doesn’t feel right.
if I’m supposed to use it shouldn’t I know?
pick it up and start trailing sparks like a lovable bespectacled urchin finding the right magic wand.
which turns out to be connected to the bad guy go figure.
I’m not the kind of dude who realizes his sacred purpose ok.
and if I was I KNOW this aint part of it.
JADE: you don’t actually know that though!
inside information is more reliable than gut feelings.
promise me you’ll at least try?
DAVE: fine.
I’ll take a stab at it I guess.
JADE: (excited face).
DAVE: at least it looks cooler than that ugly ass thing you were threatening me with earlier.
I didn’t get why you kept waving that garish piece of shit around anyway.
what happened to your Annie Oakley routine?

[Panel description: Jade looks off into the distance, eyebrows drawn and with a small frown on her face.]

JADE: oh...
I kind of gave it up.
I haven’t fired a gun since I shot you.
DAVE: really.
JADE: really!!
there was that and I found out how my grandpa died, and between those I didn’t trust myself with them anymore.
they bring back bad memories.
DAVE: guess that makes sense.
I’m not too hot on hearing them in movies these days.
made it easier to transition to karkats romcom playlist.
JADE: sorry. (sad face).
DAVE: it wasn’t your fault I got shot.
jacks running around stabbing people with one of my crappy swords but that’s not my problem.
JADE: I prototyped him with the sword bird. (sad face).
DAVE: and I skewered the fucker in the first place.
see you can keep going back looking for something to blame yourself for but there’s really no point.
it happened and it’s over.
JADE: that’s a funny thing for a time hero to say.
DAVE: I’m a rebel.
JADE: still, I’m sorry for shooting you!
DAVE: it’s ok.
sorry for not warning you.
didn’t really know what to say.
JADE: I do wish you’d told me what was going to happen to you.
DAVE: in hindsight that was a dick move even by my standards.
I was afraid you’d try to stop me and then bam doomed timeline here we go.
JADE: you thought I was that much of a screw up?
I guess I acted like one sometimes...
but I WAS the one getting you through lofaf.
if I remember correctly, that involved teaching you the wonders of the outdoor world and rescuing you from a particularly vicious thorn bush.
taking that into consideration, I wasn’t HELPLESS.
DAVE: it wasn’t because you were a screw up.
I didn’t think either of you needed to worry.
rose already knew how it was.
cant bake a cake without cracking a few eggs.
I get to be the egg.
you and john didn’t get the whole inevitable march to your own death routine.
it would’ve seemed weird to you.
that’s what I thought anyway.
JADE: I’d been doing that for years, Dave.
DAVE: I know that NOW.
now that the federal release date has passed and all the top secret documents of jade harleys life are being handed out to the clamoring crowd of scholars who’ve been waiting at the archive doors for the last six months.
then though.
I dunno.
I was already worried about it myself.
we didn’t need 2 emotional wrecks trying to breed the universe frog.
we might’ve given it anxiety.
but I should’ve trusted you instead of dumping that on you once I was out of the way and didn’t have to deal with the fallout.
heard karkat got it instead.
I had a hard time believing you yelled at him but he refused to show me the logs.
said it'd be a breach of confidentiality.
JADE: I didn’t want anyone else knowing how badly id behaved with him.
I was so mean and I panicked, it was embarrassing.
but yes I did yell a little bit.
I was upset!!
also I didn’t believe him when he told me what to do at first...
I mean it is pretty unusual!
DAVE: skaia,
underage voyeur or fairytale enthusiast.
the world may never know.
JADE: he convinced me in the end though, so I guess he saved your life.
even if at the time he insisted he was only doing it to save his own.
DAVE: I grew on him.
like mildew growing on a shower curtain.
no one’s entirely sure how it’s happening and its unsolicited but you never get around to scraping it off.
you just accept it as a fact of life and grow strangely fond of the whole arrangement.
JADE: I hope your first encounter didn’t end with your dead body.
DAVE: nah.
there were bodies present but not mine for a change.
their time player got excited over that though.
I bet she would’ve accepted donations.

[Panel description: Jade lifts both of her arms, excited again. Dave rests a hand on his knee.]

JADE: aradia?
I’ve met her a few times.
she’s really nice!
a few times when I was in the bubbles, she and some others dropped by to explain some things.
that’s partly how I knew what was going on after the scratch, and how I could act so fast after I god tiered.
there was a surprising amount of downtime after I got blown up.
more than actually passed in real life, I think.
DAVE: you seem in tune with the hanging out in the afterlife chatting up dead people thing.
what’s up with that?
doesn’t match the flower girl aesthetic.
JADE: I think we have covered the dangers of judging me merely based on my aesthetic. (sticks out tongue).
but I don’t know.
I spent a long time visiting prospit in my dreams, maybe deep down it is not so different.
DAVE: golden castle planet versus eldritch hellhole yeah I can see why you’d get them confused.
you need a tour guide handy.
look to your left folks it’s the fabled palace of the dark lord of nightmares which can be distinguished from prospitian architecture by the number of flying buttresses and also the screams of the damned.
need an art history degree to make that level of fine distinction.
JADE: oh, the bubbles are very different than floating through the ring on your own.
I did that for a while.
it was not fun at all.
DAVE: damn you’ve gotten the whole tour.
did any Italian poets show up?
JADE: not to my knowledge!
anyway, everything worked out for both of us, even if we did die more than I would have liked.
I would say next time tell me, but I guess there won’t be a next time.
DAVE: no I can only ruin that particular scenario once.
which leaves a whole field of potentially destructible scenarios wide open for the taking don’t worry.
but I’m sorry about that.
can’t believe I put my life on the line without even handing you an instruction manual.
if you’d frozen up we’d both be fucked.
besides the fact that you must’ve been pretty much frozen solid in that dress of yours.
JADE: it was a nice dress!
DAVE: sure but it didn’t look weather appropriate.
I’m from Texas and even I know this.
JADE: you were wearing converse in the woods!
I won’t even start on wearing suits on a lava planet.
DAVE: clearly both of us aren’t above risking life and limb in the pursuit of fashion.
JADE: actually this place is a lot nicer now that the lava is mostly gone.
maybe it’s the bec part of me gone but it doesn’t smell as bad.
DAVE: no its almost habitable now especially with the gears stopped.
normally you couldn’t catch me dead here.
I say rhetorically since usually that’s exactly how you’d catch me.
which brings us back to the topic of my corpses strewn all over the incipisphere.
I knew you’d pull it off because I’d seen it happen but I should’ve stapled a letter to myself or something.
open on the occasion of my death which surprise is a lot closer than you might think.
JADE: oh no, not the letters...
DAVE: is this a story I want to hear.
JADE: probably not.
DAVE: like I said karkat said you were pretty freaked out about it.
so my bad.
JADE: I was...
but he told me how to save you.
so really he has had a good heart from the beginning!
even if he did not always demonstrate it. (sticks out tongue).
DAVE: when I get back I’m telling him you said that.
JADE: yes.
when you get back.
I guess you should get going now...
good luck!

[Panel description: Jade flies off, leaving Dave's apartment and the black, red, and green surface of LOHAC behind. She waves goodbye, and Dave raises a hand in acknowledgement. Behind him, John approaches.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: John lifts his arms and shouts a greeting. Dave looks back at him.]

JOHN: hi Dave!!!
DAVE: oh hey.
jade just left, hope you didn’t want to check in with her.

[Panel description: John pulls Dave into a hug. Dave's eyebrows rise, and he leans back limply.]

[Panel description: John and Dave both sit on the edge of the roof, letting their legs dangle over the edge. The viewer sees them from behind. They're resting their hands on the edge of the roof, with their cape and hood trailing onto the ground.]

JOHN: no, I already got the name she needed to give me.
so I figured I should meet up with you so we can leave.
it's so great that we're going on a mission together!
last time we were in the game I missed my chance to hang out with you in person.
DAVE: didn’t you get 3 years of forced quality time with Dave sprite.
I'd think you’d be suffering a severe case of strider fatigue by now.
making home and gardens patented cleansing smoothies so you can detox while shitting the rainbow.
it’ll take at least a week to get your blood toxicity down to acceptable levels just a warning.
consider yourself lucky that your case is curable.
I can’t breathe into an interlock device without an alarm going off telling me I’m too cool to drive.
JOHN: Dave sprite doesn't count!
we didn't exactly have a lot of great times.
I mean, he's lightened up a little today, and I guess I can see where he was coming from on some things, but it still wasn't like it would've been if you'd been there instead.
DAVE: how.
just out of curiosity you get me.
gotta keep an eye on how the markets receiving my competitors product.
JOHN: I feel kind of bad complaining about him now... especially since we were all going to try to do better.
DAVE: consider this your free pass.
jade already dinged me on this one but I’m not asking about him I’m asking about me in relation to him that’s gotta be kosher right.
JOHN: well...
he was always brooding and moping around all the time! which got everyone down.
and he was so sensitive, he could not take a joke.
remember when he got upset that I said he wasn't the real Dave and you said you wouldn't mind? you're much more laid back about that kind of thing than he is.

[Panel description: The perspective switches to view the boys from the front. Dave raises both hands to aid his explanation, while John raises an eyebrow.]

DAVE: oh.
JOHN: um...
I still feel a little guilty talking about all this behind his back.
especially since apparently he was doing some of this on purpose "for my own good" or something??
which between you and me is still not very convincing.
DAVE: no no go on.
we need to see this to the bitter end at this point.
JOHN: ok...
he'd disagree with stuff I said probably to be surly, because it didn't sound like something you'd have a problem with before.
you never cared when we'd rag on each other, we were just being bros!
and that's before he started INTENTIONALLY trying to get under my skin.
I don't know, I don't want to be a douche about it, but the point is he wasn't much like you at all.
I guess it's fine if he wants to be more touchy!!! but it was definitely a surprise.
DAVE: oh boy.
JOHN: what, what did I say?
DAVE: nothing.
just,
no wonder.
JOHN: no wonder WHAT?
DAVE: I’m having seer level flashbacks of how this all went down.
damn.
so,
every time he did something you didn’t like,
you assumed it was because he wasn’t me.
JOHN: well when you put it like THAT, I sound like a jackass.
but more or less.
DAVE: look uh.
first I’m gonna establish that we aren’t the same dude anymore but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have some things in common.
like our stunning good looks for example.
JOHN: sure.
DAVE: and,
ok here’s an example.
remember when you said my bros puppets were terrible,
but I kept insisting they were the shit because I’d climbed that hill of plush foam ass and was prepared to die on it.
JOHN: yes, I remember! are you admitting you were wrong?
DAVE: sort of.
I never meant it.
had to keep up appearances you know.
that’s not the best example but the point is maybe I gave you impressions when we were all kids talking online that weren’t entirely accurate.
who’d have thought that right who would think people would go on the internet and tell lies.
obviously it’s been 3 years and we’ve all changed.
I don’t know everything you said or he said or the details.
but in general I can kinda see why you might have been expecting something different than what you got.
and that’s not all on him.
JOHN: oh jeez, you aren't doing the jade thing, are you???
DAVE: the jade thing.
what jade thing.
JOHN: like how she went crazy and then said she was making a bunch of stuff about herself up!
I’m not sure I can handle that from TWO people today.
DAVE: do I look like a rabid werewolf.
besides this is a facade maintained for ironic stoicism not repression there’s a big difference.
we’ll call it the Dave thing.
there can be a john thing if you want.
JOHN: what ever you call it, I am a little unsettled!
do you also want to kick me in the stomach?
DAVE: that’s oddly specific but no.
I’m not mad at you.
but even though I hear the guy was waging some sort of self sabotage campaign I can see why he might’ve been upset.
and maybe when he did stuff you weren’t expecting you assumed it was because of differences between us but that might not have always been true.
now the standard for comparisons back in town and if I do something you don’t like there’s no one else for you to blame.
I don’t want to ruin a friendship because of that so I might as well give you a heads up now.
dunno exactly what you were expecting but it might be a good idea to check your preconceived luggage at the gate before the plane takes off.
otherwise an expectation engine might blow and well crash-land back through the outrageous assumption zone rose already plowed us through and I’ve had enough terrible airplane crises today.
last thing we need is to be serial castaways trapped in metaphorical island purgatory together.

[Panel description: John tilts his head, making a confused expression.]

DAVE: did I lose you with that metaphor or are you stuck in TSA screening?
JOHN: uh...
DAVE: you ok?
is this one too many stunning revelations and your heads about to explode like the dudes in raiders of the lost ark at the sight of sorta sexy ghost ladies?
JOHN: those weren't ghosts, they were angels!
sheesh, Dave, really.
DAVE: good I’m glad this is what you’re fixating on.
JOHN: I guess I need to think about the rest of it?
a lot has been happening today, and a lot of people have been surprising me.
DAVE: sure take your time.
but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t start screaming "kill the imposter" and attempt to exorcise whatever demonic force has taken control of my body the first time I go off script.
JOHN: I will keep the torch and pitch fork mob at bay for the moment.
for now, we have someone to rescue!
so I guess I’ll put this out of my mind for now and try to have a good time.
DAVE: yup that’s the john thing right there.
JOHN: bluh bluh, what ever.
I don't have time to pass out in a drive way right now.
DAVE: wait what?
JOHN: never mind.
ready to go?

[Panel description: They both look behind them, where Dave sprite's silhouette approaches.]

DAVE: hang on looks like visiting hours aren’t over yet.

[Panel description: The three boys are rendered in sprite mode. Dave and John stand facing Dave sprite, who hovers.]

DAVE SPRITE: hey.
JOHN: oh! um, hi.

[Panel description: Dave sprite raises an eyebrow with a small frown. John turns away from him, looking annoyed.]

DAVE SPRITE: is there a problem?
JOHN: nope, nothing wrong here!!
DAVE SPRITE: ok.
glad I caught you.
JOHN: jeez, why does everyone have to talk to us before we go??
we're not going to drop dead, you know!
DAVE: it’s like they don’t trust us
DAVE SPRITE: I was talking to rose about john’s part of the plan.
JOHN: oh, is this what she meant by "regulating my behavior"?
DAVE SPRITE: basically.
she wanted to know how hard you could buzz around space time before it got out the flyswatter.
and I guess by virtue of throwing a tantrum about it I’m now the official go to guy about that even though I definitely don’t have a degree.
I printed my diploma off the internet don’t tell her.
DAVE: so what’s the damage?
is this mission the equivalent of giving time itself a wedgie?
JOHN: I already did that!
DAVE: wait really?
when?
JOHN: right before I came back and found out everyone had gotten killed.
it was a battle for the ages.
I’ll tell you the whole story later!
DAVE SPRITE: the story now is that any fucking with causality is going to get something’s attention.
the last one wasn’t too bad.
that troll zombie or whoever whose antics I completely missed out on sent us down a doomed timeline so getting it back on track was fine by English.
he wants to make sure his universe gets made otherwise he doesn’t happen.
which is the equivalent of twisting p space into a pretzel in yet another mobius double go fuck yourself.
the alpha timeline needs to make sure he gets made I think.
we can fuck around in all sorts of directions within those parameters and he doesn’t care.
but making him happen is enforced by virtue of him being behind essentially everything
to the extent that he embodies the timeline itself,
which means we can lay all the times it’s personally victimized us on him.
DAVE: finally a motivation to kill this guy.
DAVE SPRITE: I know right.
anyway this time you’re messing with his personal chronology in a way he won’t approve of.
he’ll find out about it.
even if he can’t intercept you because of whatever Roxy’s doing,
how did rose explain it?
there’ll be like
a tear.
a tear in the fabric of time and he’ll be able to follow it back to its source.
JOHN: me?
DAVE SPRITE: you.
this whole session really.
and since we’re not planning on banishing you to some godforsaken corner of the multiverse to throw him off the scent he’s going to find us.
so when you get back be ready for a fight.
JOHN: sorry!
that's not good...
oh man, you warned me about this, didn't you?
you said I had to be careful not to catch anyone's attention, and here I am doing it.
whoops.
but I don't think there's anything else I CAN do.
this is the best chance we have to save Roxy’s friend.
DAVE SPRITE: sometimes there aren’t any good choices.
you have to figure out whichever one is the least terrible and go with it.
DAVE: we had to fight him anyway didn’t we?
JOHN: yeah.
it was going to happen sooner or later, so at least we get to save his sister before hand.
DAVE SPRITE: whenever someone gets a power that’s too awesome to use you know they’re gonna get backed into a corner and have to use it.
narrative 101 shit right there.
right next to enchanted weapons and megalomaniacal big bads and every other facet of this adventure.
tell me when did we get this cliché.
JOHN: I’ll try to complete my mission unconventionally.
uh...
thanks for the help.
the warning, and, the other stuff.

[Panel description: Dave sprite leans in. John angles his body away from him with a frown.]

DAVE SPRITE: it’s what I’m here for.
literally.
JOHN: sure, but you didn't have to do it.
DAVE SPRITE: come back in one piece ok.
I need some humor in my life.

[Panel description: John leans his head back. The word ‘roll’ is written in a long arc over his head.]

JOHN: rolls eyes.
ha-ha, very funny.
see, you don't need me for quality comedy content.
DAVE: before we go there’s something I wanted to say,
in case anything happens.
DAVE SPRITE: what the fuck dude do you want to die?
that’s cinematic suicide right there you might as well fondly regard a photograph of your wife and infant child at that rate come ON.
DAVE: sure but you cut me off before I could relay potentially important information,
thus also dooming me to Hollywood certified extinction.
DAVE SPRITE: damn.
let’s acknowledge that my entire existence is the kind of death omen dreamed up by a one night stand between Edgar Allen Poe and a taxidermist and move on.
what is it?
DAVE: about the shit we said.
or I said.
DAVE SPRITE: nah we can admit to shit being said on both sides.
if we’re admitting to that happening but apparently it’s gotten out everywhere at this point despite mutual vows of silence.
I think rose is putting the whole episode together in a broadside.
DAVE: I guess you had a few decent points mixed in with the standard altself mudslinging.
and,
I’m sorry you got the shit end of the timeline stick.
and that I didn’t have any better contingencies in place than shaking the stick around until the shit flew off again.
but about my "purpose" or whatever.
maybe you do know what’s best for me.
maybe you are my spirit guide or whatever the hell sprites are supposed to be in a fully functioning play through of this game.
but I can’t be the better you.
I can’t fulfill whatever idealized vision of yourself you wished you could do or be.
I’m having a hard enough time being me.
so if there’s some ultimate achievement you think we need to unlock before this is all over you’re going to have to do it yourself man.
I don’t know what I’m going to do but I have to figure that out on my own.
really on my own not on the words of dubiously also me versions of myself with three years of going through other bullshit.
DAVE SPRITE: fair enough.
it’s not like you were wrong about everything you said either.
I was trying to push everything off on you since I’m way past when I was going to stick around.
so I guess we both have to figure out what we’re here for now.
DAVE: right now its cherub wakeup machine and bodyguard.
could be worse I could be a Wal-Mart greeter.
DAVE SPRITE: what’s your plan if you run into any version of English out there?
DAVE: dunno.
guess I’ll have to fight him won’t I?
can’t change a prophecy right?
that’s what rose says anyway and she should know.
use the sword everyone keeps insisting on.
fulfill my cosmic destiny so skaia will shut up about it already.
not much of a plan but it’s all I’ve got right now.
DAVE SPRITE: you’ll figure it out.
DAVE: because I’m the alpha?
DAVE SPRITE: nah.
because that’s what we do.
we make it work.
see you when you get back.
DAVE: there you go again jinxing us.
quick is there any wood to knock.
JOHN: none of that matters, because we're going to be JUST FINE.
sheesh, you're both being such downers! nothing terrible is going to happen.
look, I’m totally jinxing all of us right now and I don't care, because none of that is real.
DAVE SPRITE: you heard him.
if anything goes wrong it’s on john now.
DAVE: agreed.
scapegoat secured.
JOHN: sigh.
you guys are super funny today, I am laughing on the inside.

[Panel description: John puts one hand on Dave's shoulder and raises the other in a wave. Both are turned away from Dave sprite but looking over their shoulders.]

JOHN: are you ready to go?
DAVE: I guess.
see you later.
JOHN: be back soon!

[Panel description: John and Dave glow blue and vanish.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Roxy's tiny silhouette stands in front of an enormous figure shrouded in draped purple cloth.]

tipsy Gnostalgic began pestering tentacle Therapist.

TG: hi.
messaging you for some serious mom/daughter bonding time.
we really got off on the wrong foot with that lol.

[Panel description: She stands on the surface of LOPAN, pink streams of neon lighting up the sky. Red orange pyramids rise from the black sand. Roxy faces one that is capped with a flare of blue light.

TG: which was all my fault.
even after that though you’re the first person I thought of to talk to about this.
are you there?
actually maybe it’s better if you see this after it’s all over.
anyway here goes.

[Panel description: Roxy walks across a narrow beam, her arms held out for balance and the ties of her mask streaming out behind her. More beams cross the deep emptiness below her. Wind swirls all through the hollow inside of the pyramid.]

[Panel description: Roxy looks at a group of closed panels set into the wall. A shape like the void symbol combined with the breath symbol is sculpted next to them. The wind continues to swirl trapped in the closed space.]

TG: I didn’t tell john about this because I wasn’t sure what it meant.
but
when I met with nix she mentioned this part of my planet quest.
how I’d have to hide people.
so when everyone started talking about the mission it made sense that that’s what she meant.
except there’s a catch.

[Panel description: Roxy walks along the inner side of the pyramid, pushing open the panels to vent out the wind.]

TG: I think there’s always a catch with denizens.
because sburb doesn’t want you to be happy you have to SUFFER.
like climbing a mountain and when you get to the top instead of a wise oracle or a ski resort there’s another mountain made out of SWORDS or something.
congrats you made it up this one now keep going.

[Panel description: Wind swirls out from newly opened vents in the pyramid.]

TG: nix was riddley and mysterious as usual,
but she made it sound like.

[Panel description: A cone of blowing black sand forms around the pyramid, screening it from view.]

TG: if I did this,
they might forget about me.

[Panel description: Roxy forges her way across the desert, holding one hand above her eyes as she squints through the blowing sand.]

TG: forget or not be able to see me.
something about the one doing the deed vanishing "for all of time".
that had to mean me right?
I’m the one doing the thing I’ve got this shit on rolal lockdown.
bam lights out.
the biggest f u for being a rogue of void yet.
got to steal myself away from people.

[Panel description: She faces another pyramid, this one capped with a flare of red light.]

TG: I’m not telling you this for sympathy or because I want you to talk me out of it.
she told me when it was time I’d know what to do,
and I do.

[Panel description: Roxy lies on her back in a hallway inside the pyramid, grimacing. Two swinging blades narrowly miss her. Further back in the hallway, metal spikes jut out of the floor.]

TG: guess that’s how I prove I’m a TRUE HERO.
don’t get to beat a monster or play pretty rainbow music.
to be the best rogue I have to be the ultimate sneak.
and maybe that means disappearing?
or maybe I’m completely wrong about all of this and overreacting like a TOTAL DRAMA QUEEN.
shits super inscrutable you know and there were a few different ways you could read it.
some are even worse.
another way you could interpret it would be,
um,
actually let’s not even go there.
happy thoughts right.
it doesn’t mean anything and it’ll all work out.
fingers crossed???
if this is being a hero though it’s a p crummy gig.
forcing you to make all these dumb ass decisions when all you wanted to do was help people.
it’s like john said.
I have to be strong in me without anyone else,
even if it’s lonely.
kinda sucks.
hope there’s a silver lining somewhere.

[Panel description: In sprite mode, Roxy performs a series of acrobatic maneuvers through a red hallway filled with swinging blades and spikes. The time symbol ringed with the void symbol marks the beginning of the hallway, and the wall is engraved with musical notation. The implication is that Roxy is following musical cues to anticipate the timing of the traps.]

[Panel description: Roxy leans against the wall, pressing a hand to her chest and catching her breath. Beyond her, a red glow washes the stairs in light.]

[Panel description: Roxy begins climbing the illuminated stairs.]

TG: I’m about to finish up now.
I’ll stop talking your ear off and let you get back to doing important hero things.

[Panel description: She approaches a red lantern set on a pedestal shaped like a gear.]

TG: like coming up with master plans with giggly scarf troll like damn.
you two could prob take over the world faster than the witch did.
moral of that story is seers rule.
rogues not so much.
anyway what I was gonna say was.

[Panel description: Roxy picks up the lantern and lifts the lid.

TG: if for some bogus game reasons people do forget me or we can’t talk anymore,
tell them I said hi.
k??
(heart emoticon).

[Panel description: Roxy sits down on the edge of the pedestal, holding the lantern on her knee. Then she blows it out, and the panel goes dark.

[Panel description: Green curtains close over the black screen, signifying the end of the act.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: The purple skyline of Derse.]

[Panel description: The courtyard droll walks down a purple hallway toward a jail cell door.]

[Panel description: Gamzee sits slumped against the wall with his legs stretched out in front of him. Hash marks on the wall spell out HONL. His codpiece droops sadly.]

[Panel description: The Courtyard Droll reaches through the bars. He is holding a golden ring in one hand.]

[Panel description: The ring falls in and spins around the tip of Gamzee's horn. He looks up at it.]

[Panel description: Gamzee, now transparent, walks through the wall of his cell. He looks nervously over at the courtyard droll, who is still dangling from the windowsill.]

[Panel description: Gamzee's transparent figure walks along in outdoor walkway.]

terminally Capricious [TC] began pestering carcino Geneticist [CG].

TC: hey best bro.
bet you won’t even read this.
can’t blame you.
at least we had some good times.
And some shit wicked bad ones.

[Panel description: He looks into the arch agent’s office. Spades Slick and WV are arguing over a map drawn on the back of a fenestrated plane. On WV's side, he has drawn curving roads and cylindrical houses. On Slick's side, he has drawn more conventional boxy shapes.]

TC: but it’s time for me to go.
gotta become my own god.
And spread the bad motherfucking news.
do you believe me yet?
if you don’t,
You will.

[Panel description: Karkat stands between them and shooshes them, papping Slick on the chest and patting WV on the head. Gamzee watches from the doorway.]

TC: nothing personal.
it’s the only way the whole thing works brother.
a bunch of little pieces fitting together in the most beautiful patterns.
all coming together in a little miracle of its own.
and I’m the last piece.
The most important piece.

[Panel description: Gamzee walks away. His face is slightly regretful.]

TC: I’m hurting you to help you best friend.
it’s the only way to win.
You gotta lose first.
what matters is who laughs last.
and I already know who that’s gonna be.
because it is written.
maybe sometime I’ll be able to share this whole glorious gospel with you.
walk you through the chapter and verse of exactly how we all got here.
some day.
fair warning though.
the next time we’re face to face,
You’re not gonna like it.
but no hard feelings am I right?
that’s just how it has to be.
someone has to be the bad guy.
see you on the other side best friend. (smiling face).

Chapter Text

[Panel description: In the arch agent's office, Karkat continues mediating between Slick and WV. In the foreground, Kanaya snoozes on a pile of colorful pillows, and Terezi is sprawled asleep on a pile of parking tickets.]

[Panel description: We zoom in on Terezi's sleeping form.]

[Panel description: Terezi lies asleep on a pile of mauled scale mates in her room on Alternia. She sits awake with a start.]

[Panel description: Terezi, wearing her red glasses, leans out her window. Then her form blurs, and her glasses disappear to reveal yellow eyes.]

[Panel description: Kanaya stands on the ground at the base of Terezi's tree, smiling and waving upward.]

[Panel description: Terezi descends on a simple platform attached to a pulley system. She stands with her hand on the main rope supporting the platform.]

KANAYA: Terezi.
Is that you?
I thought you were working on tactical planning.
TEREZI: I was but I couldn’t think straight.
I needed a nap.
KANAYA: I also felt the need to regain my strength.
It has been an eventful day.
I fear years of relative tedium on the meteor took a toll.
TEREZI: I’m not in full fighting form that’s for sure.
Besides you never know what you might learn on one of these bubble jaunts.

[Panel description: Terezi and Kanaya walk through a landscape mixing their two homes. Peach-colored sand dunes intrude on the forest floor, while colorful bolts of fabric drape from tree limbs.]

KANAYA: they can be informative,
Or in some cases confusing.
I don’t recognize any of this.
TEREZI: me neither.
KANAYA: even you look a bit unfamiliar.
I can’t remember the last time we had a true conversation.
TEREZI: I know.
It’s my fault.
My goal over the last half sweep or so was to surround myself with as many bad influences as possible.
You didn’t make the cut.
KANAYA: that’s me.
The refuge of stability.
TEREZI: sorry.
I know that’s not all you are.
But that’s how you looked from my position.
I was jealous.
KANAYA: Jealous?
TEREZI: you had someone you cared about and who cared about you and it was working.
I’m not saying it was perfect but it was...
Sincere.
From the place I ended up in you seemed to have it all figured out.
KANAYA: Hardly.
I used to think the same of you.
Not in quadrants but you had the air of someone who knew who she was and where she was going.
TEREZI: It was a lie.
KANAYA: I’m beginning to think it always is.
TEREZI: that’s the mind hero wisdom I used to spout.
Everything is a lie we tell ourselves.
Who we are, how we see the world.
We make up the reality we live in.
If only we weren’t so determined to come up with something awful.
KANAYA: but we grow.
So maybe we can grow into the people we pretend to be.
TEREZI: maybe.
If we can ever come up with something good.
KANAYA: We have to keep dreaming of that don’t we.
As for my quadrants,
I am not unaware or unappreciative of my luck.
TEREZI: there’s a but in there isn’t there.
I can smell it.
KANAYA: does it smell of human soporifics.
You do recall that rose has spent much of the last half sweep inebriated.
TEREZI: she seemed functional today and our paths didn’t cross that much.
Passed out in different corners I guess.
I thought she was exaggerating comparing herself to me.
She was really that bad?
KANAYA: It was…
difficult.
That is another reason I did not check in on everyone else as much as I should have.
Rose occupied most of my energy.
Even so I mostly went along with her behavior and tried to focus on the moments when she was upright and comprehensible.
If I’d pushed too hard I might have pushed her away.
The one time I spoke out directly against her behavior she assumed I was breaking it off which was not at all my intention.
TEREZI: better to try to moderate her behavior in pieces so she wouldn’t write you off.
I know that strategy.
It didn’t work for me either.
You give a little then a little more...
KANAYA: And then your matesprit is lying to you about her habits and intentions.
TEREZI: at least she wasn’t murdering people behind your back.
KANAYA: small blessings I suppose.
Maybe I was postponing the inevitable.
Losing her slowly in small pieces instead of all at once.
TEREZI: you should have distracted her with problems of your own.
We seers do better when we have something to fight besides what’s in our own heads.
Even if its mayhem we’ve caused ourselves.
KANAYA: I wish she had respected me enough not to lie about how serious it was.
Then I couldn’t have continued to turn a blind eye.
No offense meant.
TEREZI: none taken.
It’s not about you.
It’s because we don’t respect ourselves.
Who wants to admit to being weak and stupid?
Better to hide and pretend until it comes out and everyone knows what a disgrace you are.
KANAYA: she expected me to leave her.
I don’t want to walk away just because things are difficult.
But I think maybe I should have been willing to make things more difficult.
To push where I held back.
If that’s what we need to truly resolve this.
TEREZI: I don’t know if that’s what you need.
But it'd be nice for someone to make it work.

[Panel description: They continue walking down a gray path cutting through chartreuse ground. Spires of brown stone reach toward a teal sky patterned with Mind symbol like neurons.]

TEREZI: Oh look my land.
KANAYA: What was the lore of this planet?
My quest was straightforward.
Space players are essentially interchangeable that way.
I don’t know what mind players are called upon to do.
TEREZI: I’m not sure.
I never finished my quest.
We were all rushing through everything remember?
Killing our denizens and facing the king.
I guess I lost the opportunity to learn whatever this place wanted to teach me.
KANAYA: echidna met with me again.
I think we can always come back to our quests as long as we are willing.
Even if our lands are long gone.
Whatever was broken inside of us still needs to be fixed.
TEREZI: I always felt like something was wrong.
That the messages being sent overhead might not be the right ones or going in the right places.
That the planet was sick somehow but I didn’t know enough to know what that meant or how to fix it.
Maybe that’s why I had to be the one to fix the battlefield.
I couldn’t do it here but I could do it there.

[Panel description: They continue walking along a reddish stream. The neurons flash overhead.]

KANAYA: I don’t have a seer’s vision but it looks nice.
Not sickly at all.
TEREZI: maybe I’m remembering it wrong.
It looks better than it did.
Speaking of your quest forget all my moping.
How are you?
This round of sgrub seems to have gone pretty easy on you.
KANAYA: I’m good really.
I have been given opportunities to finish tasks I had started or wished to accomplish and I am learning who I want to be.
TEREZI: must be nice.
KANAYA: it is.
And strangely liberating.
Having a path to walk shows me where to go.
But at the same time I’m looking forward to accomplishing that and starting on something new that is my own.
Thanks for asking.
But I don’t grudge you talking about yourself.
We were worried about you.

[Panel description: Terezi pushes her way through a hanging cloth and ducks under a low doorway into a fort made of blue wood. Flarp books lean against one wall, and papers hang pinned to the boards. One paper shows a map, while another is Vriska's drawing of her Flarp sona. A treasure chest has been left in one corner.]

TEREZI: I’m doing better.
I mean it.
As much as I thought I never would.
It’s good to be doing something I can be proud of,
But I don’t think I’m ever really going to be ok until.
I don’t know.
I can finally say what I need to say,
One way or another.
I never got to do that.
KANAYA: say what you need to say about what?
TEREZI: ...

[Panel description: A closer look at Vriska's drawing.]

KANAYA: Oh her.
It’s hard when you don’t get that chance.
It’s so easy to dwell on all the things we could have said or done even without a seer’s vision.
TEREZI: yes my powers are optimized to make me second guess myself. (Scowling face).
To be haunted by snippets of different choices we all could have made and wonder if they were the right ones.
KANAYA: Isn’t that what this whole place is?
Surrounded by ghosts of other selves who chose differently.
Wondering if even in death they still found more peace than we did in life.
TEREZI: oh I’ve definitely thought that.
But
Not as much anymore.
I just wish...
I don’t know.
I’ve had so many what ifs I’d like some sort of closure.
KANAYA: somewhere to stand.
Of course here even the ground keeps shifting beneath us.

[Panel description: They stand on top of a white sand dune. Pale gray and peach clouds drift overhead, with shafts of light cutting through gaps in their cover.]

KANAYA: where are we now?
It’s not my land.
TEREZI: not mine either.
It’s somewhere I used to go.
Back home.
KANAYA: Is alternia still home?
TEREZI: where else?
That rock we were stuck on?
KANAYA: It had its good points.
So did our planet.
I miss my oasis,
If not the hordes of undead shambling out of the sands.
It was a simpler time.
But we cannot go back to either.
You should be able to return to your home or it isn’t home anymore.
Not much has stayed constant for us for long.
The only thing that has is all of you.
Maybe that’s home now.
TEREZI: I can think of worse.
Even if I call this place home you’re still right.
It’s not about where it was it’s about what it meant.
Who was there.
It’s not important on its own.
Come on.

[Panel description: The clouds give way to the cracked black of the furthest ring. A translucent blue haze curls toward them. Terezi raises her head and sniffs.]

KANAYA: What is it?
TEREZI: A memory of a smell probably.
I.

[Panel description: Terezi and Kanaya both look across the white dunes. Vriska is framed against a shattered sky.]

[Panel description: We zoom in on Vriska.]

[Panel description: We zoom in further. She becomes pixilated.]

[Panel description: Vriska stands shocked against a colorful backdrop of cracks. She is wearing blue pants and an orange tank top decorated with the light symbol and golden stitching. She also wears gold bracelets and still has her anchor tattoo. Her hair is braided and draped over her right shoulder. Then her form blurs, and she reverts to her God Tier outfit, complete with a bloody stain at her center.]

[Panel description: Terezi and Kanaya both stand with their mouths open.]

KANAYA: Is that?
VRISKA: Terezi?
What...
What happened to your eyes?

[Panel description: Vriska stands close to Terezi, noticeably shorter than her. She is looking at Terezi, perplexed, while Kanaya appears alarmed. Terezi leans back her head and bawls, tears streaming down her cheeks.]

Chapter Text

[Panel description: Jake sits on top of a low stone henge, with several blue iguanas sleeping draped across his legs or leaning against his body. Sunflowers carpet the grass behind him.]

[Panel description: Jake looks down at his phone. A speech bubble with Roxy's icon floats next to it.]

golgothas Terror [GT] began pestering tipsy Gnostalgic [TG].

GT: Rolal? You out there?

[Panel description: Roxy sits on top of the entrance to a large pyramid. Her silhouette is black with a faint blue glow of void magic around it. Beneath her, turtles with skeletal neon face paint walk under neon palm trees.]

[Panel description: Roxy sits with her eyes closed. Then a speech bubble with Jake's symbol appears. She opens one eye to look at it, then opens the other and smiles.]

TG: omg Jake!
man it feels like it’s been forever.
how’s the questing going?
GT: Holy guacamole you have no idea how glad I am you answered!
TG: lol same. (sticks out tongue).
GT: It’s going well! I did quite admirably thus far if I do say so myself.
It was hard but in the end I didn’t give it up.
But I might’ve been lucky. The monsters weren’t even real.
I mean I had assistance but I performed my part up to task enough that it qualified as a hit if not a dead bullseye.
Seeing jade brought back so many memories. So many I think it might’ve made me see my grandma in the depths of that labyrinth!!
TG: (surprised face).
GT: It may have been the gas playing tricks on my mind I think. Brain clone dirk was there too so maybe it was also my hope powers?
Who knows! This game is confusing.
Anyhow.
I saw her again and now it just makes me miss her.
She loved me so much and she always knew what to do.
TG: what happened to her?
I mean I heard from dirk but never from
the horse’s mouth. (winking face).
ha-ha horse puns.
b t w don’t tell dirk horse puns right now.
GT: Oh have I not told you this story?
TG: nah but he told me about his research.
poor cool old lady English.
forked by the condesce.
GT: What! Really?
TG: yeah duh it was totes obvious from the way he said you told it.
GT: Oh.
Oh.

[Panel description: Jake stands at the entrance of one of his land's mounds. More iguanas walk in and out of red arches.]

GT: Criminey it all makes sense now.
TG: did you not know?
GT: Maybe... perhaps I did.
I try not to think about that day too much.
TG: ah.
I gotcha man no big.
it’s so sad. (sad face).
GT: Yeah...
But then I jumped into that canyon and there was a roaring inferno and it reminded me of staring into the flames of her pyre as a little tyke.
All alone on a big scary island trying to think about what to do.
It’s a wonder no beasties saw the light and came to gobble me up.
If my tower hadn’t survived the house exploding I don’t know what I would’ve done.
I might not be here today.
TG: but you lived!
GT: I did.
Hardly an accomplishment when you stack it up to say for example dirk.
TG: same.
doesn’t mean it’s not hella hard.
we still got stuck on hard mode dirks just going in for 100% on critical with one h p and no x p.
GT: Perhaps.
But even then I still had my grandma in jade!
In that way I am extremely fortunate. Hopefully shell have my back as my own version of her would have.
TG: I aint no gambler,
but I’d bet on it harder than zac efron.
family sticks together.
and jade seems p cool.
you know when she’s not evil and stuff.
though when she was evil she was harmless.
she threatened to eat my guts but I knew she was full of it. (sticks out tongue).
GT: So...
She was all bark and no bite? Ha-ha.
TG: l o l.
but yeah Jake we’re b effing a.
just to get up to playing the game we had to be the baddest of asses around.
which we def have in the sense that we kick ass and also you have a nice butt.
don’t take that wrong.
just facts.
GT: I appreciate the vote of confidence but I’d like to shy away from references to my physical appearance for the foreseeable future.
Look at me running my mouth!
I’m taking up way too much airtime. How’s your end with the rescue ops?

[Panel description: Jake rests one hand on a stone counter and talks with an unimpressed looking iguana. A sign behind the counter reads Fray motif Shop. It lists its contents as follows:
Hope only: Cinematic reverie. Cordite Crescendo. Heraldic etude. 1812 encore. Hope and life: espero tremelo. Hope and time: Metronomic recoil. Hope and breath: Credo en chamade. Ballistic coefficient. Hope and light: Phrygian flare. Hope and heart: Caccia amore. Hope and void: shot in the dark. Hope and space: Geosynchronous shuffle.]

TG: great.
all according to plan so far as far as I know.
which you know could be really good or really really BAD.

[Panel description: A lone iguana looks over its shoulder with fear. A dark shadow stretches across it, lined by a glowing aura.]

TG: like in movies how everything just seems to be going so hunky dory before a big plot twist and then BAM.
everything back in the shitter. (sad face).
GT: Oh how I wish I could be there with them...
I’m a hair jealous of you getting to see so much of our dear alien friend!
If I’d known how long it would before I got to talk to her again I’d have spoken about more than just business.
TG: I’m sure she misses you too!
we’re all gonna group hug when she gets back yes or yes?
GT: Sounds utterly aces.
TG: be extra nice when you see her okay??
tell her she’s totes adorbs.
because she is.
GT: So you’ve seen her in person?
What’s she look like? Does she look like these trolls or is she some other kind of nifty creature?
TG: lol down boy she’s not blue and she’s also like 12.
also she aint a troll.
she’s more like
the red skull dude from captain America.
but small and green and cute and most importantly not a Nazi.
she’s the COOLEST though and that’s what counts. (heart emoticon).
GT: I can’t wait!!

[Panel description: A group of assorted consorts dance under flashing lights. They're all decked out in neon skeleton body paint. Roxy, still swathed in void, watches from a distant doorway.]

GT: Everything seems to be coming up Jake aint it?
TG: for now yeah.
you’re in a better mood too!
GT: It’s difficult to be upset when one is surrounded by sunflowers and rapturous reptiles.
And the whole quest episode helped me see I’m not quite as useless as I thought I was.
Even my denizen wasn’t as intimidating as I believed he’d be!!
TG: so it went ok??
GT: Swimmingly! For the most part.
It seems jade was right. If you go in assuming the worst that tends to be what happens.
Which isn’t to say if you just hope for the best it WILL happen without effort but.
Being positive makes the frightening things seem a little less so.
Actually speaking of which that’s the reason I contacted you in the first place!
If you don’t mind me flapping my gums some more.
TG: (surprised face).
GT: I... I need some assistance here and you seem to have experience with this sort of thing! Plus jane and dirk are still slightly iffy territory.
It’s probably nothing but after I helped dirk open the crypts on his planet I spoke to my denizen in his lair.
And amidst all the gobbledygook and hocus pocus he said something that particularly unnerved me.
TG: oh I see how it is.
"questing" with dirk again are we?
GT: Sort of?
Don’t go missing the forest for the weeds here!! We had to solve the final puzzle together but we weren’t even on the same planet.
There’s still a lot to talk about with him and I.
TG: ugh he never wants to talk about ANYTHING.
good luck man.
GT: Actually he said he was waiting on me!
TG: I repeat.
(surprised face).
without extra mouths this time.
wow okay uh.
I’m not sure why I’m complaining.
cause that’s gonna be a really fun convo to have I’m sure.
but when I talked to him all he wanted to yak about was that Hal turned on the tiara top.
like no hi rox glad you’re not dead.
sure is great to not be glittery data b s.
no nothing.
just blah blah blah stay away from Hal.
as per usual.
(annoyed face).
GT: Hal did WHAT?
That devilish cur monger of an automaton!!
TG: ok Jake as adorabubble as the old timey speak is
that aint the word.
even though I know there’s no good old folks swear for artificial intelligence.
GT: Just wait until jane finds out about this!! I was right about him all along!
TG: no no no don’t tell Jane!
GT: Why?
TG: because she’ll get mad at Hal and I don’t want you guys to fight anymore. (sad face).
GT: That’s... fair.
But some things shouldn’t be kept in the dark.
Like how I was totally right about him being up to no good.
TG: le SIGH.
so uh.
you were talking about your denizen right.
GT: Harrumph!
TG: sorry sorry.
look.
I’m glad you’re back to your old TALLY HO self so maybe I’ll go back to my old role of
MISS ZIPPER PIPS.
ha-ha remember that.
whatever go on. (zipped lips emoticon).
GT: Apologies! I’m getting sidetracked a lot in my discussions today.
But yes. My denizen told me... well there’s an upside and a downside!
The upside is I’ll get a hold of my page powers!
TG: (zipped lips emoticon plus exclamation points).

[Panel description: The overshadowed iguana sweats nervously.]

GT: The downside is... something terrible is going to happen to me.
And I’ll either "lead in spirit or stand aside forevermore". Or something along those lines.
It was all Greek to me.
Literally! It might have been Greek for all I know!
But I suppose I got the gist.
TG: uh oh.
like what’s supposed to happen???
GT: He wouldn’t say.
Which only serves to make me worry more!
TG: well what are you gonna do about it?
GT: I don’t know.
I don’t think I can do anything about it and that’s even worse.
It makes me feel so freaking powerless!! This on top of everything else that’s happened these past few days!!
People keep on yanking my chain around and pressganging me into their harebrained schemes like I’m just somebody’s tool.
And being helpless like that makes it feel like it’s gone on forever and I’m so tired of it.
I just want today to be over with.
TG: I know that feel.
like can the end of the world hold itself off for a little while so we can all catch some z's and like
not have any more feelings meltdowns.
GT: I don’t even trust naps anymore. Last time I was jolted from a very pleasant one by Ms. serket.
TG: l m a o what a bitch.
GT: I wouldn’t say that makes her any special kind of unpleasant. Interrupting a fella’s downtime is one thing. But hurling swords at my friends?
Pardon me I don’t usually use these sorts of words against ladies but WHAT a BITCH.
The trade term for female dog and the application thereof aside,
At least the implication is that I’m going to recover from this terrible thing?
TG: hell yeah look on the bright side.
GT: Unless it’s that crazy Choice thing I’ve heard about.
And this is some set up to psych me out to make it harder for me to make that choice!!
I’m flipping my gourd here rox what if I make the wrong choice?
TG: hey now brown cow I’m sure it’ll be alright.
sburb plays all sorts of mind game stuff and I’m sure you’re familiar with all of that.
GT: Oh no not again.
TG: dude dude.
just chill.
find a slush pile on jade’s planet and ice the hell out.
nix said something like that to me.
that I could either come with john and remember or fade away to void and nothing and spare people pain.
I chose to come with because just fading away sounds like it sucks.
I just kinda
knew what was right,
you know?
GT: How’d that work out?
TG: ...
GT: ?
Roxy?

[Panel description: Roxy's blue lined silhouette rests one hand against the wall.]

TG: ok.
honesty hour.
I’m not proud of this but
there was another Roxy.
the 1 you saw evil jade dragging off to jail.
she never made it out of the dungeon.
GT: Wait.
I thought you WERE our Roxy.
TG: I am!!
look I’m still me just from 15 minutes in the future.
you even remember everything I do.
except I don’t remember getting all hope-splodey and jake-kabobed etc etc etc because I didn’t do that.
she would have looped around to
become me I guess?
but without aranea she couldn’t,
and there can’t be 2 mes in 1 timeline.
so nix gave me a choice.
who’s gonna be the alpha?
time for sudden death.
no items rox only final destination.
2 roxies enter.
1 Roxy leaves.
GT: Sounds kind of like fight club.
TG: yeah and the 1st rule of Roxy fight club is that you don’t talk about Roxy fight club.
so I didn’t tell anyone.
GT: What happened?
TG: I chose myself
and other Roxy died,
and rose watched.
and OH MAN she was SUPER pissed at me.
because she didn’t know!! she thought it was me!
she wasn’t mad because I picked myself.
but because I didn’t tell her so she thought I’d just become an industrial dust bunny accident.
GT: Why didn’t you say anything?
TG: I thought telling people I wasn’t from this timeline would make them,
you know,
not want me. (uncomfortable fac