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The Alternate Game

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Karkat couldn’t believe it. They won the game.

They did it. Everyone was alive (well, everyone that fought during the final fight), and the enemies were defeated. All that waited for them now was the new universe. Karkat looked around at everyone, at all the players that finally made this happen. There were tears shared and joyous cheers that cut through the noiseless blank space the platform hovered in. There was an overwhelming sense of happiness and Karkat couldn’t help but smile. He was never that good at managing his expression, anyway.

Unlike a certain Strider. Karkat glanced over at his matesprit- no, boyfriend, and saw the barely-contained grin on Dave’s face. Good. He deserved to be happy after all the bullshit that got thrown his way. Dave met his gaze and Karkat quickly looked somewhere else to try to hide the fact that he was staring at him. However, the feeling of a hand around his brought his gaze back to his boyfriend, and they shared a smile. Both of them knew that would have all the time in the universe to learn and grow with each other, and neither could wait.

Suddenly John called out to the rest of the group. Karkat’s attention turned to the proper leader (since he knew no one else considered him to be a leader), and the noise grew quiet. John was standing in the middle of the group, his hands on his hips and his usual goofy grin on his face. Once he knew he had everyone’s attention, he pumped his fist and told them that he was going to open the door. The cheers came back as John turned and approached it. Karkat was tempted to join in, but he glanced over at Dave first.

The sight that greeted him was a far cry from the smile they shared a second ago. Dave’s face was pale, his eyes wide under his shades, and his mouth was agape. Karkat frowned and tugged on his sleeve only to shout in surprise as his boyfriend suddenly launched himself at him. They stumbled backwards, human and troll clutching each other, one frantic and one shocked. Before Karkat could ask what the hell was going on, a loud crack split the air. The following silence was near deafening.

Ever so slowly, Dave peeled himself away. The two locked eyes and Karkat slowly reached out to pap Dave’s cheek. He was still pale but now slightly clammy with sweat, and the only response he gave to the troll’s questions was to mumble something about time being wrong. Around them, the group murmured to each other and pulled out weapons. John was quickly putting distance between himself and the door, if it could even still be called that.

The area where it used to be was now a pitch black hole in the shape of the door. It looked out of place, like it was something drawn, but it felt like much more. It felt endless and far more empty than the void. Of course, Karkat couldn’t know this for sure considering he wasn’t a void player, but he learned to trust his instincts over the course of his life. He stared at it until his head started to spin. It was barely a few seconds, but he knew enough to look away and focus on something else for the time being. Beside him, Dave mentioned that the hole had some weird effect on time. Jade added by saying that it was the same with space. However, she elaborated. She said that beyond any door, there’s space behind it. She could sense it with the door that was there before, albeit the space there was condensed and stretched so the group could travel to the new universe. The hole was different. There was no space beyond it, and Dave added to say that there wasn’t time either.

However, Karkat didn’t focus on what they were saying. Instead, he focused on the large white letters that floated in the void above the platform. They appeared before to congratulate the group, back when everyone stumbled onto the platform beaten and bloody but alive. Now they said something different. One by one, everyone on the platform noticed his gaze and looked up to see the message too. The words were no longer comforting. Now they sent a chill down Karkat’s spine.

 

ADD-ON ACCEPTED!
BOOTING POST-SBURB GAME

PLEASE WAIT...

 

Karkat stood perfectly still as he stared at it in disbelief. Around him he could hear gasps and angry shouts, but he was surprisingly calm. He should’ve known this was going to happen. He was stupid for finally letting his guard down and believing he could be done with the game. Nothing good was ever going to happen to him, not as long as paradox space had some way of making his life worse. Dave squeezed his hand, but Karkat didn’t respond. He only watched the letters type themselves and felt the pit in his stomach deepen with each line.

 

RETRIEVING SBURB DATA
RETRIEVING SGRUB DATA
RETRIEVING ADDITIONAL PLAYERS
RETRIEVING LEVELS FROM PLAYER MINDSCAPES
CONSTRUCTING LEVELS
CONSTRUCTING NPCS
CONSTRUCTING TIERED SYSTEM
CONSTRUCTING ENEMIES
TESTING COMBAT AND SUPPORT SYSTEMS
TESTING NPC AND PLAYER RELATIONSHIPS
TESTING NPC AWARENESS AND COOPERATION
TESTING TIER MOVEMENT AND COMMUNICATION
INITIALIZING CORRUPTION SEQUENCE 38

 

Hah. A corruption sequence. It wasn’t surprising, not after all the hiccups during SGRUB. Something always had to go wrong.

 

START UP COMPLETE!

 

Karkat felt Dave step backwards, so he absentmindedly rested his hand on his boyfriend’s back to stabilize him. Except he didn’t feel anything. Karkat glanced over, worried that Dave already fell, only to find that Dave wasn’t there anymore. The rest of the group wasn’t there either, and the platform was also gone. Instead it seemed to be replaced by the same noiseless blank space the platform used to be in. Except, as Karkat looked around, he quickly realized that the space around him was something else entirely. If Jade was right, it couldn’t even be called space. It was that same spaceless and timeless not-void in the hole that replaced the door. Was he inside of it, or did the hole take over everything? Karkat found that he couldn’t care; he was already resigned to whatever fate this new game had in store for him. He only stared numbly ahead as the same white letters appeared again.

 

WELCOME [KARKAT VANTAS] , [KNIGHT OF BLOOD] !

YOUR STARTING TIER IS:

[ETERNUS]

YOUR SUPPORTING TIER IS:

[ERROR 403: ACCESS DENIED]

GOOD LUCK!

 

He didn’t know what else he expected.