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The Alternate Game

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Karkat can't believe it. They won the game.

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

Unlike a certain Strider. Karkat glances over at his matesprit- no, boyfriend, and sees the barely-contained grin on Dave’s face. Good. He deserves to be happy after all the bullshit that got thrown his way. Dave meets his gaze and Karkat quickly looks somewhere else to try to hide the fact that he was just staring at him. However, the feeling of a hand around his brings his gaze back to his boyfriend, and they share a smile. Both of them know they would have all the time in the universe to learn and grow with each other, and neither can wait.

Suddenly John calls out to the rest of the group. Karkat’s attention turns to the proper leader (since he knows no one else considers him to be a leader), and the noise grows quiet. John stands in the middle of the group, his hands on his hips and his usual goofy grin on his face. Once he knows he has everyone’s attention, he pumps his fist and tells them that he's going to open the door. The cheers come back as John turns and approaches it. Karkat is tempted to join in, but he glances back over at Dave first.

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

Ever so slowly, Dave peels himself away. The two lock eyes and Karkat slowly reaches out to pap Dave’s cheek. He's still pale but now slightly clammy with sweat, and the only response he gives to the troll’s questions is to mumble something about time being wrong. Around them, the group murmurs to each other and pulls out weapons. John quickly puts distance between himself and the door, if it can even be called that now.

The area where it used to be is now a pitch black hole in the shape of the door. It looks out of place, like it's something drawn, but it feels like so much more. It feels endless and far more empty than the void. Of course, Karkat can’t know that for sure considering he isn’t a void player, but he's learned to trust his instincts over the course of his life. He stares at it until his head starts to spin. It's barely been a few seconds, but he knows enough to look away and focus on something else for the time being. Beside him, Dave mentions that the hole has some weird effect on time. Jade adds by saying it's the same with space. However, she elaborates. She says 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. This new hole is different. There's no space beyond it, and Dave mumbles to say that there isn’t time either.

However, Karkat doesn’t focus on what they're saying. Instead, he focuses on the large white letters that are now floating in the void above the platform. They first appeared to congratulate the group, back when everyone stumbled onto the platform beaten and bloody but alive. Now they say something different. One by one, everyone on the platform notices his gaze and looks up to see the message too. The words are no longer comforting. Now they send a chill down Karkat’s spine.

 

ADD-ON ACCEPTED!
BOOTING POST-SBURB GAME

PLEASE WAIT...

 

Karkat stands perfectly still as he stares at it in disbelief. Around him he can hear gasps and angry shouts, but he's surprisingly calm. He really should’ve known this would happen. He's stupid for finally letting his guard down and believing he could be done with the game. Nothing good is ever going to happen to him, not as long as paradox space has some way of making his life worse. Dave squeezes his hand but Karkat doesn’t respond. He only watches the letters type themselves and feels 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 isn’t surprising, not after all the hiccups during Sgrub. Something always has to go wrong.

 

START UP COMPLETE!

Karkat feels Dave step backwards, so he absentmindedly rests his hand on his boyfriend’s back to stabilize him. Except he doesn’t feel anything. Karkat glances over with worry that Dave already fell, only to find that Dave isn’t there anymore. The rest of the group isn’t there either, and the platform is also gone. Instead it seems to be replaced by the same noiseless blank space the platform used to be in. Except, as Karkat looks around, he quickly realizes that the space around him is something else entirely. If Jade was right, he can't even call it space. It's that same spaceless and timeless not-void in the hole that replaced the door. Is he inside of it, or did the hole take over everything? Karkat finds that he can’t really care; he's already resigned to whatever fate this new game has in store for him. He only stares numbly ahead as the same white letters appear again.

 

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

YOUR STARTING TIER IS:

[ETERNUS]

YOUR SUPPORTING TIER IS:

[ERROR 403: ACCESS DENIED]

GOOD LUCK!

 

He doesn’t know what else he expected.

Chapter Text

The thing about life after death is that it's simple. Frustrating, but simple. The dream bubbles never do what people want them to but at least it's easy enough just to wander. There's almost always new things to see or new people to meet. Though no one is exactly new , they're just one version of someone in a sea of the same person. Depending the point of view, that can be irritating or extremely comforting. On one hand, someone may spend an infinitely long time searching for a specific version of someone else. On the other, it's easy to find yourself, and other versions of you can be surprisingly helpful. Especially to the recently deceased. It's always startling to find out that there's no more need for sleep or food.

Which is why Eridan is so surprised when he wakes up. When did he go to sleep? Why? Actually, can he even sleep anymore? He hasn’t tried since he died. Either way, he figures that he should get up before someone sees him and thinks he's a recently dead version of himself. He doesn’t need to go through introductions again.

Eridan blinks his eyes open only to immediately shut them again when the light pierces them. “Fucking dammit,” he mumbles. His last memory is of him walking in a dark bubble, somewhere on Alternia. Either the bubbles shifted again or someone already saw him sleeping and moved him. Both of those options are terrible. He groans quietly and shifts his arm to rest it over his eyes. He can feel fabric around him shift and move, and he knows enough to know that he's in a human bed. Someone definitely moved him. Why did he have to fall asleep?

Bu there's no dwelling on it now. Eridan just has to get up, face whoever saw him, and get the fuck out of there. He can do that. He lifts his arm up slightly and opens his eyes again. Thankfully the shade his limb provides keeps the light from his eyes. He stays like that for a moment and half wishes that someone would see his struggle and get rid of the light already. Sadly, he's left to slowly sit up and let his eyes adjust instead. Maybe he’ll lecture whoever took him. That sounds wonderful.

When Eridan doesn't have to squint against the light anymore, he looks around the room he woke up in. Its spacious layout and the violet-colored walls immediately makes him think that some version of himself or Cronus lives here. Or lived here, since that's how the dream bubbles work. Then he remembers that he's sitting on a bed and comes to the conclusion that it must be some weird version of Rose’s room. There's no yarn in sight, but there's plenty of books. Carefully hung on the walls are posters featuring some play. He doesn’t feel like reading the words, but he knows just from the pictures that they're all about some revolution. He-

Oh, wait. He can see. Eridan reaches up to touch his face and sure enough, he slept in his glasses. How did that not hurt? Whatever, it's dream bubble stuff. He puts his hand back down without looking at it and resumes his examination of the room. The furniture includes a fancy desk, some fancy bookshelves, a fancy bed, more exceedingly fancy furniture, and also the bane of Eridan’s existence right now. Covering almost the entirely of one wall is a giant set of windows. The curtains are neatly drawn to the sides in a way that would normally be elegant but is instead incredibly frustrating. Eridan gets up and marches across the room to tug them closed. Now that his room is bathed in darkness he takes a moment to blink his eyes and let them adjust to the sudden loss of light. However, that process takes far longer than he's used to. Eridan grumbles to himself and rubs his eyes as he stumbles through the shadowed room. He's going to flip his shit if his eyes fail him now. First he wakes up in a different place, and now his eyes are weird? What's going to happen next?

That question quickly gets an answer. Once Eridan’s eyes fully adjust, he looks around and finds a mirror. He's at least going to fix himself up before he faces whoever brought him here. He approaches it, finding himself squinting slightly despite the fact that trolls should be able to see in the dark, and stares into the reflective glass. The person staring back at him makes him shriek and stumble back in surprise. In front of him is a young human wearing his same shocked expression. The skinny body, soft pale skin, and brightly colored pajamas practically mocks him. Eridan quickly glances towards the door to make sure no one heard him before he leans towards the mirror to examine himself. A light dusting of freckles coveres his cheeks and nose, and blond curly hair frames his face. Thankfully he still has his violet streak, but he can’t help but notice the most glaring discrepancy. He doesn’t have his horns. He stares at himself with wide eyes as he realizes that his head is feeling lighter than normal. Fuck, why didn’t he notice that something was wrong sooner?

The dull thud of footsteps outside his door almost makes Eridan jump. He whips his head around to look for a weapon and eventually grabs a bottle of hair gel sitting in front of the mirror. He turns, his hand clutching the bottle tightly, and tries to make himself sound confident. He is not going to seem scared. “Fuck off!”

The footsteps stop and Eridan waits impatiently for a response. Then the handle to his door turns and he silently curses. Why didn’t he think to lock it? Eridan feels a pit form in his stomach as the door silently opens. He holds the bottle at arm’s length as the light from the hallway cut through the dark of his bedroom. Then a human steps out to look at him, pale like Eridan. His dyed black hair is slicked back and he has on a leather jacket, but most startlingly of all, he looks just like Cronus. Eridan slowly lowers his arm, too surprised by the identity of the guest to worry about defending himself.

Cronus raises an eyebrow at his brother’s defensive position. “What’s got you so worked up?” he asks.

Eridan finds himself too stunned to answer properly. To his utter shame, he only mumbles “I. Uh. Cronus?”

The other teen glances over his shoulder as if someone else is in the room before he replies. “That’s me. Did something happen?”

Eridan’s brows furrow in confusion. What didn’t happen? “Can you really not tell?”

“I got nothing.”

“What about our horns? What about our fins? We’re humans."

Cronus stares blankly at Eridan for a moment. Then he bursts into laughter and almost doubles over from the force of it. Eridan’s crossed arms and unamused glower only makes him laugh harder, and it's a long time before he can speak again. “Are you shitting me,” he snickers. “Seriously? I came running up here ‘cause I heard your scream and all I get is some weird dream you had?”

If he were still a troll, Eridan would be growling with irritation. It feels weird to talk without his usual subvocals. “It wasn’t a dream! Do you seriously not remember Sgrub?”

Cronus is still laughing slightly. “The hell was that word that just came out of your mouth? No, I don’t remember it. ‘Humans’ don’t share dreams, chief.”

“Oh, fuck off. I know you’re just playing a trick on me.”

“Funny, ‘cause I don’t even know that.”

“Then how do you explain me waking up here?”

Cronus gives him an incredulous look. “Are you serious?”

“Deathly.”

“That dream really fucked you up, didn’t it?” muses Cronus. “This is your bedroom.”

“My respiteblock.”

“Your what now?”

Eridan groans and runs a hand over his face. “Don’t try to play dumb with me.”

His brother shrugs and glances towards the door. “I’m not trying to. Just,” he hesitates for a moment. “Just come downstairs whenever you’re over this, okay? Dad’s got breakfast going.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Cronus looks at Eridan like he's expecting something else. Eventually it becomes clear that there's no other response, so he shrugs again and leaves the room. Eridan waits for a moment before dashing forward to close the door. What the fuck was that about? Cronus seemed genuinely confused about the questions, but he has to know. He has to, right? Eridan turns to look at himself in the mirror, now taking note of the pupils in his eyes. He isn't dead. But what if it's true and Cronus doesn’t even remember? No, it can’t be, there would be memories of something before the game. Eridan reaches up to feel where his horns would be but only gets a handful of hair. Whatever's happening, he's going to find out. For now he’ll play cool.

He takes a deep breath and straightens himself up. He looks around and, finding a light switch, reaches over to flip the lights on. He hisses as the light cuts into his vision again and he sets the bottle of hair gel down while he waits for his eyes to adjust. Then he looks for some sort of place a human version of him would put his clothes. Once he finds the closet he put on only the best outfit he can find and leaves his pajamas in a pile. From there, Eridan retrieves the hair gel and goes over to the mirror to shape his hair into its usual style. When he's satisfied he switches the light off, opens his door, and steps out into the hallway.

He only spares a glance at some of the lavish paintings hung on the walls as he strides down the corridor. He keeps his posture straight and his gait purposeful to try to hide the fact that he has no idea where he's going. Eridan eventually comes across a large staircase and, remembering what Cronus said about going downstairs, he lifts his chin in mock confidence to walk down them. He hasn't forgotten Cronus’ mention of a father. Either seahorse dad is here or someone far worse is, and given that he's currently a human, Eridan guesses that it's the latter. He just has to hope that this version of Dualscar also doesn’t remember Alternia.

Once he's at the bottom of the stairs, it's easy to smell what he assumes to be the usual scent of breakfast. Eridan wishes he doesn’t have a human’s lackluster nose, but he supposes it isn't too much of a disadvantage if the other two have it as well. He can also hear the soft sounds of plates being set on a table, and as he ventures closer to the source, he also hears some sort of meat sizzling and a quiet conversation.

Eridan walks into the kitchen to find Dualscar lifting a pan with small strips of meat off the stove. He's a tall broad-shouldered man, blond hair slicked back much like Eridan’s now is. Cronus talks quietly from where he's putting the last plate down on the table and the adult hums something in response. However, as soon as the other teen sees Eridan, the words stop flowing. Dualscar turns, looks at his younger son, and strolls towards the table. The twin scars on his face are now visible. Silence fills the room; only the sounds of the meat strips hitting the plates disrupts it. They're called bacon, right?

“I heard you had a bad dream,” ventured D- Eridan’s father. Fuck, he’ll have to call him that if he wants to play cool. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Suffice to say, Eridan has no idea what to say. It isn’t just the question that catches him off guard but his ‘dad’ too. Dualscar is a supposedly epic orphaner and pirate. He's known for his brutality and merciless ways, and that’s what makes him such a good orphaner. But this adult is no killer. That still doesn’t stop the instinctive fear of adults that Eridan feels, but maybe it's good to be afraid. There might be some part of human culture he has yet to know about.

“Are you okay?” Oh fuck, Dualscar is staring at him. Apparently Eridan thought for too long.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he answers. “It was just a dream.”

Cronus gives him a look, but doesn’t say anything as he moves to retrieve a different pan. Inside it is some sort of yellow mush that Eridan has heard people call eggs before. That doesn’t look like any egg to him, but who knows? The species on Earth might be vastly different from those on Alternia. He watches his dancestor- brother (that should be the right word for him) set the eggs down on each plate. Dualscar sets the bacon pan in the sink and sits down at the head of the table. There's two plates left, one on each side of the table, and Eridan hesitates for only a moment before sitting down at one of them. Cronus sets his pan back on the unheated side of the stove and sits down across from his brother.

Normally there might be some sort of conversation, or at least Eridan guesses there might be, but there's none today. Maybe that's his fault, but what else is he supposed to do? He sighs, but quickly stops when he sees his father glance at him. Careful not to draw any more attention, Eridan picks up his fork and tries to remember the sensation of eating. He's been dead so long he almost forgot it, but now that he’s probably alive he’s going to have to get used to it again. Luckily, a tentative bite of egg is all it takes for him to remember. As he starts eating at a more proper pace, he can’t help but notice Cronus on his phone in front of him. Maybe that's a normal thing during human mealtimes? However, given the look Dualscar is now directing towards his other son, that's probably not the case.

At least he isn’t looking at Eridan. In fact, now that he's eating again, he finds that he grows more comfortable with the people at the table. Not that comfortable considering that there's an adult right next to him, but it's still something. Dualscar clears his throat, still staring at Cronus, but the other ignores him in favor texting. Eventually the man sighs and reaches over to pull the Cronus’ phone from his grasp. Cronus gasps and tries to reach for his phone, but Dualscar places it in his pocket where he can’t reach.

“Hey, I wasn’t done!” he exclaims. His father rolls his eyes.

“You know better than to text at the table,” chastises Dualscar. “This is a family breakfast.”

“It was important!”

“Oh really? What’s more important than me?”

Cronus crosses his arms and lookes away. “I was telling someone about Eridan’s dream”, he says. That asshole. “He said he had something similar and I was asking him about it.”

Wait, what? Eridan perks up, interested in hearing who it is, but Dualscar speaks before he can.

“You could’ve saved that until afterwards.”, he says. “I’m tempted to make you do the dishes with me.”

“At least there aren’t that many,” Cronus grumbles, but his father hears.

“For the week.”

“What!? No!”

“I’ll make you do it for the next month.”

Eridan almost laughs at his brother’s mutinous expression, but he manages to reign it in. He's determined to look serious. “Hey, Cro?”

Cronus glances over at him. “Yeah?”

“It seems kind of weird that someone else had the same, uh, dream as me. What’s his name?”

His brother stares at him for a long moment before getting a knowing look on his face. “Mituna. I’d send you his pesterchum handle, but Dad has my phone.”

Pesterchum, not Trollian? Interesting. “You could just tell me. I have a good memory.”

Cronus barks out a laugh. “You have a shit memory, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to try. He’s technophilicAnnulment. If you have trouble remembering, you can always ask one of his brothers for it. I know you have their handles already.”

Eridan nods and repeats the handle in his head. If his brother is right, he doesn’t want to risk forgetting it due to inherited bad memory. Human bodies suck enough already. He watches the two others at the table resume eating and does the same, all the while thinking about what he's going to say. Is he just going to march into Mituna’s pesterchum demanding answers? No, what if Mituna is just pretending? But why would he pretend to Cronus? Actually, has Eridan met him before? Would that lead to some clue as to how to go about broaching the question? He doesn’t know, but ultimately all of these questions pale in comparison to the sudden overwhelming need to speak to Mituna. This is his chance to try to get answers. Eridan doesn’t even know where his phone is, but he thinks he saw a husktop back in his room. Or is it a computer? Considering he's currently human, it's probably a computer.

Eridan can’t finish his meal soon enough. The other two aren’t done yet but since they're probably doing the dishes, he assumes that it's okay to quietly excuse himself. He leaves without hassle and, once he's out of sight, he practically runs back to his room. It's no trouble to get back rush straight to his computer. He frantically searches for some sort of power button, finds it, and falls into his seat. Then he realizes that he needs a password.

What the fuck kind of password would a human version of him even have? He sits in front of the screen, hands hovering over the keyboard, and waits for any sort of idea to come to him. It's possible it might have something to do with Feferi, but Eridan doesn’t even know if she exists here. What if it was created a while ago, back when he was obsessed with obviously fake magic? Did this human version of him even have a magic faze? He doesn’t know for sure and he doesn’t have any idea how many tries he has before something happens to his computer. He ponders for another moment and an idea quickly appears. He pushes away from the desk and looks at it as a whole. It has four drawers. Eridan opens one of them and, low and behold, inside he finds a password book. From there it 's easy to find the password (it does have something to do with magic), enter it, and open up pesterchum. He types Mituna’s handle in, hopes he remembered it correctly, and sends a message.

-- caligulasAquarium [CA] began pestering technophilicAnnulment [TA] at 09:28 --

CA: hey
TA: 4ND WH0 7H3 FUCK 15 7H15
CA: eridan
TA: 0H 5H17 Y0U’R3 CR0NU55 D4NC3570R
CA: so you knoww him
TA: WH47 K1ND 0F 1D107H D0 Y0U 74K3 M3 F0R 0F C0UR53 1 KN0KW H1M
CA: cool
CA: also
CA: you said dancestor
CA: not brother

TA: UH Y34H
TA: 1 D1D 7H47 F0R 4 FUCK1NG R3450N

CA: and wwhat reason is that
TA: W3 W3R3 7H4LK1NG 480U7 4 DR34M Y0U H4D
CA: yeah
CA: if you can call it that

TA: D0 Y0U R3M3M83R 50M37H1NG C4LL3D 5GRU8
CA: yeah
TA: D0 Y0U R3M3M83R H4V1NG H0RN5
CA: fuck yeah i do
TA: 4ND D035 17 F33L 50 R34L 7H47 Y0U 5DW34R 17H 15N’7 4 DR34M?
CA: that isnt evven a question its a fact
CA: is it the same wwith you

TA: YUP
CA: wwell shit then
CA: cro mentioned you havve brothers

TA: M4L3 H47CHM47H3S R1GH7
CA: yeah i guess so
CA: but that also includes your dancestor

TA: 1 D0 H4V3 MY D4NC3570R 8U7 1 4L50 H4V3 7HW0 07H3R W31RD05 7H47 MY D4NC3570R C4LL5 MY 8R07H3R5
CA: wwait seriously
CA: i think i only havve my dancestor an my
CA: uh

TA: Y0UR WH47
CA: my ancestor is here too
TA: 0H FUCCK
CA: yeah
TA: BU7 7H47’5 W0R53 F0R 4L73RN14N 7R0LL5 R1GH7?
CA: it is
CA: theyre vvery likely to kill you

TA: FUCK
TA: 47 L3457 7H3R3 15N’7 4N 4NC357H0R 4T MY H1V3

CA: yeah
CA: anywway
CA: do any a your so called brothers remember the game or is it just us

TA: 1 H4V3 N0 1D34. 1’V3 0NLY 74LK3D 70 MY D4NC357H0R 4ND H3 D037HN’7 R3M3M83R
CA: you knoww its okay to call him sollux
TA: 0H 5H17 1 F0RG07 H15 N4M3
CA: wwoww
TA: D0N’7 73LL H1M
CA: i probably wwont
TA: G00D
TA: 4NYW4Y 1 D0N’7 KN0W 1F MY 51573R5 KN0W 317H3R 8U7 1M N07 L34V1NG MY R35P1738L0VCK 4NY 71M3 500N

CA: wwait wwhat
CA: sisters

TA: Y34H 4PP4R3N7LY 7H15 H1V3 15 JU5T 4 CLU5TH3RFUCK 0F 7R0LL5 7H47 4R3N7H 7R0LL5 4NYM0R3
TA: 1 7HINK 7H3R35 51X 0F U5 H3R3

CA: holy shit
CA: do you knoww wwho any a them are

TA: N0
TA: 4ND 1 D0N’7 PL4N 7H0 KN0W

CA: but wwhat if you havve to
TA: I D0N’T
CA: howw else are you gonna see if they remember the game
TA: 1’LL JU5T M3554GE 7H3M
CA: wwithout evven knowwin wwho they are
TA: FYCK1NHG D4MN17
CA: yeah
TA: I D0M’7 W4N7H 70 L34V3
CA: but think about it
CA: the sooner wwe knoww the sooner wwe can find a wway out of wwhatever mess wwevve gotten ourselvves into
CA: because the more people wwe havve in on this the better plans wwe can make

TA: Y0U’R3 M4K1NFG T00 MUCH 53N53. 570P U17
CA: nah
TA: H0LD Y0UR 7H17H5
CA: my wwhat
CA: uh
CA: mituna
CA: wwhat are you doin
CA: are you leavvin your respiteblock
CA: i hope so
CA: its been a wwhile
CA: ...
CA: mituna
CA: can i call you mit
CA: quick question
CA: wwhy does your handle havve the same abbrevviation as sols
CA: thats gonna get confusin real fast
CA: ...
CA: also i think i remember talkin to you in the dream bubbles noww that i think about it
CA: didnt realize it before but im pretty sure i talked to sols dancestor
CA: wwhich is you
CA: but then again youre
CA: calmer
CA: than wwhen i last talked to you
CA: i dunno
CA: i dont knoww if thats a human thin or a bad sign
CA: maybe both
CA: ...
CA: okay wwhere the fuck are you

-- technophilicAnnulment [TA] ceased pestering caligulasAquarium [CA] at 09:52 --

CA: wwhat the fuck

technophilicAnnulment [TA] opened a private memo on board F0UMND 0N3
TA: SUP N3RD5
caligulasAquarium [CA] responded to memo
CA: okay wwhat the fuck is this
carcinoGeneticist [CG] responded to memo
CG: OH YOU’VE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME.
CA: kar
CG: HI, ASSHOLE.
CA: holy shit
TA: W3LC0M3 70 7H3 804RD F0R 7H3 0NLY NJ07 7HR0LL5 0N 7H15 PL4N37 7H47 KN0W 480U7 7H3 G4M3
CG: WE CAN NOT BE THE ONLY ONES.
CA: wwe actually might be
TA: D4MN 7H475 4 L07 0F 7HYP1NG
TA: D035 7H15 U5U4LLY H4PP3N

CA: yeah
CA: this is gonna be somethin

CG: NO, I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THIS BULLSHIT. I **REFUSE**. I DID NOT FIGHT THROUGH AN ENTIRE DEATH GAUNTLET JUST TO LAND IN A WORLD WHERE ONLY THREE OF US REMEMBER JACK SHIT. I DID NOT ASK FOR SOME SORT OF SHITTY ““POST-SBURB GAME”” TO COME IN AND WRECK MY SHIT. I WORKED SO HARD TO BUILT IT UP BUT THEN THIS WRIGGLER OF A PRIZE CAME AND KNOCKED DOWN ALL MY HARD WORK. THE VERY LEAST IT COULD DO IS HAVE US ALL REMEMBER??? BUT NOPE! STUPID DUMBFUCKING DOUCHEBAGGERY ““““CORRUPTION SEQUENCE””””. WHO IN THEIR ABSOLUTE RIGHT THINK PAN MADE THIS FOOLISHNESS? ACTUALLY I DON’T EVEN KNOW IF I CAN CALL IT A THINK PAN ANYMORE BECAUSE I’M ***HUMAN***! I’D LIKE TO MAKE A FUCKING COMPLAINT.
CA: i think you just did
CG: OH, I HAVE A LOT MORE TO SAY. I HAVE AN ENTIRE TEN PAGES WORTH OF SCREAMING TO DO. THAT WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF MY RAGE.
CA: please no
CA: i like your rants as much as the next guy
CA: but wwe need to figure out a plan

CG: I DISLIKE THE FACT THAT YOU’RE CUTTING ME OFF BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, FINALLY, SOME COMMON SENSE.
TA: 8Y 7H3 W4Y 1 F0UND 0U7 WH0 MY 8R07H3R5 4ND 5157H3R5 4R3
CA: oh nice
CG: YEAH, IT’S QUITE THE CLUSTERFUCK.
CG: BUT LET’S MAKE THIS EASY AND NOT LIST ALL OF THE NAMES.

TA: W3 G07 7H3 C4P7H0R5 (L1K3 M3 H3H) 7H3 V4N7455 4ND 7H3 L31J0N5
CA: are you serious
CG: HE’S SERIOUS.
TA: 4L50 1 F0UND 0U7 7H47 1 W45 WR0NG 480U7 7H3 4NC3570R 7H1NG
CA: wwait
CA: you mean that theres an ancestor there

CG: MORE THAN ONE. WE HAVE THE SIGNLESS, DISCIPLE, AND THE PSIONIC ALL IN THIS HIVE TOO.
CA: howw are you twwo evven still alivve
CG: I HAVE NO IDEA. I’VE BEEN AVOIDING THEM LIKE THE PLAGUE.
TA: 1 G07 57H0PP3D 8Y 7H3M 1N 7H3 H4LLW4Y
CA: an youre still alivve
TA: 17 W45 UNC0MFY0R748L3 8U7H M057LY 83C4U53 1 H4V3N'7 R34LLY 533N 4N 4DUL7 83F0R3 4ND 4L50 7H3Y W3R3 831NG R334LLY P4L3
CA: like
CA: towwards you

CG: YES, TOWARDS HIM.
CA: thats fucked up
CG: IT IS. BUT AS THE RESIDENT HUMAN EXPERT, I KNOW IT’S JUST THEIR WAY OF DOING SHIT. THEY’RE ACTING AS OUR LUSI AND THAT’S JUST HOW HUMAN LUSI TAKE CARE OF THEIR CHARGES.
CA: actually speakin of humans
CA: i forgot to ask if you twwo are humans

CG: SADLY, YES.
TA: Y34H
TA: 8U7 1 4L50 541D 7H47 47 7H3 7H0P 0F 7H15 M3M0, FUCK3R

CG: I ALSO MENTIONED IT IN MY RANT, FUCKER.
CA: oh shit youre right
TA: 5UCK MY FUCK1NG BULG3 D4MN R1GH7 W3R3 R1GHTH
CA: theres really no need for that
CG: ANYWAY SO WHAT’S OUR FUCKING PLAN?
CA: wwait hold on i forgot one other thin
CG: GOGDAMNIT.
CA: so
CA: human dualscar is in my hivve

CG: OH SHIT, DUALSCAR. MINE, SOLLUX’S, AND NEPETA’S ANCESTORS WERE AT LEAST PROBABLY NICE BACK ON ALTERNIA.
CA: yeah
CG: I FORGOT THAT THE HIGHER ANCESTORS WOULD BE MORE LIKELY TO DO SOME BAD SHIT.
CA: mhm
CG: DID HE HURT YOU AT ALL? DO I NEED TO GO KICK SOME ASS?
CA: oh
TA: 4WW
CA: wwould you actually go up against a full growwn former violetblood for me
CG: SHUT UP. DID HE? DO I?
CA: nah im good
CA: i wwouldnt havve forgotten if he hurt me

CG: THAT DOES MAKE SENSE.
CG: BUT DID HE INTIMIDATE YOU?

CA: his vvery presence did but did he actually do anythin
CA: nope
CA: he evven asked if i wwas okay
CA: since i wwas spacin out for a second there

CG: HUH.
TA: 7H475 4C7HU4LLY 4D0R48L3
CA: shut up
CG: THAT’S ACTUALLY GOOD NEWS.
CA: wwhat is
CG: THE FACT THAT HE IS ALSO UNDER THE SPELL OF HUMAN PALENESS.
CA: howw is that good
CG: WE ALREADY HAVE CONFIRMATION OF FOUR ANCESTORS LIVING ON THIS PLANET, AND ALL OF THEM ARE HUMAN. WHAT’S TO SAY THAT THERE AREN’T MORE ANCESTORS TURNED HUMAN?
CA: wwhere are you gonna go wwith this
CG: THERE’S A VERY GOOD CHANCE THAT THE CONDESCE IS HERE AS A HUMAN, AND THAT HER HUMANITY IS KEEPING HER PLACID.
CA: but that means theres still a condesce here
CG: BUT THAT ALSO MEANS SHE ISN’T ANYWHERE ELSE.
CA: oh
CA: an her bein here as a human means that theres no troll empress wwith some alternia somewwhere else

CG: EXACTLY. AT THE VERY LEAST, IF WE CAN’T ESCAPE THIS BULLSHIT OF A GAME AFTER A GAME, WE CAN AT LEAST TRY TO FIND THIS GAME’S VERSION OF ALTERNIA. HOPEFULLY WE’D HAVE NO EMPRESS TO ATTACK US AND A WHOLE PLANET TO RECOUP AND FIGURE THINGS OUT.
CA: thats actually a good idea
CG: YOU SAY THAT LIKE YOU’RE SURPRISED. I’LL HAVE YOU KNOW I AM FULL OF GOOD IDEAS.
CA: i dont doubt it
CG: HEY.
CA: hey
CG: IT’S BEEN THREE MINUTES SINCE YOU SAID “I DON’T DOUBT IT”.
CA: yeah
CA: wwheres mit
CA: he should a said somethin by noww

CG: MIT?
CA: mituna
CG: OF COURSE. YOU AND YOUR NICKNAMES.
CA: i like to call them abbrevviations
CG: CALL THEM WHATEVER YOU WANT, MITUNA STILL ISN’T HERE.
CA: is somethin happenin ovver there
CG: NOTHING. MITUNA HASN’T LEFT HIS RESPITEBLOCK.
CA: can you go an check
CG: I’M OUTSIDE HIS DOOR RIGHT NOW. I HEAR HIM TALKING TO SOLLUX.
CA: wwell fuckin knock
CA: uh
CA: kar
CA: its been a feww minutes
CA: are you okay
CA: fuck
CA: wwhere evven are you twwo
CA: guys

TA: 50RRY A80U7 7H47H 1 H4D 4 7H1NG 70 D0
CA: wwheres kar
TA: D1D H3 L34V3
CA: he wwas gonna to knock to see if you wwere okay but then he stopped respondin
TA: JU57 C4UGH7H UP 4ND 1 533 7H47
TA: H0LD 0N

CA: fuck okay
TA: N0P3 1M N07 G01NG 0U7 7H3R3
CA: wwhy not wwhats happenin
TA: 7H3 4DUL7H5 4R3 74LK1NG T0 H1M
CA: fuck
TA: H3LL 83 4LR1GH7
CA: hopefully
CA: anywway

TA: 4NYW4Y
CA: oh
TA: 5H17
CA: do you wwant to go first
TA: N0
CA: okay
CA: wwell
CA: i cant help but notice that youvve been
CA: calmer
CA: i dont really knoww wwhat other wword to use for it

TA: 1V3 N071C3D 7H47 700
CA: you havve
TA: 7H475 P4R7H 0F WHY 1 L3F7
CA: because you wwere too calm
TA: Y34H 1 W4N73D 70 45K 50LLUX 480U7 17 4ND 17 7URN3D 1N70 4 WH0L3 7H1NG
CA: do you think you bein calmer is a human thin
TA: B453D 0N 7H3 C0NV3R510N 1M PR377Y 5UR3 B31NG C4LM L1K3 7H47H 15N7 4 HUM4N 7H1NG
CA: convversion
TA: 5H17
TA: C0NV3R547H10N

CA: oh
CA: so wwhat do you mean

CG: I’M BACK, WHAT DID I MISS?
TA: H1
TA: 1LL 3XPL41N 17 L473R

CG: EXPLAIN WHAT?
CA: he wwas talkin to me
CG: YEAH, I JUST READ WHAT I MISSED AND NOTICED THAT.
TA: 4C7U4LLY Y34H 1 7H1NK C4LM 15N7 7H3 R1GH7 W0RD
TA: M4YB3 84L4NC3D?

CG: I HAVEN’T REALLY TALKED MUCH TO YOU SO I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M MISSING IF ANYTHING, BUT WHATEVER’S HAPPENING
CG: GOG FUCKING DAMNIT.

CA: that wwas gettin pretty close to pale there kar
CG: YEAH I KNOW, THAT’S WHY I STOPPED MYSELF!
TA: H3H
TA: 1 G37 17 7H0UGH

CG: GOOD.
TA: 4NYW4Y 1 H4V3 50M3 3XC171NG N3W5 7H47 15 7H3 07H3R H4LF 0F WHY 1 L3F7
CA: oh really
CG: WHAT IS IT?
TA: 1 W45 74LK1NG 70 50M30N3
CG: AND?
causticCondescension [CC] responded to memo
CC: sup beaches
CG: WHO THE FUCK IS THAT?
CA: wwait that handle abbrevviation is fefs but that handle isnt
CA: is that meenah

CC: shore is
CA: shit does evvery dancestor havve the same abbrevviation as their dancestor
CA: that wwas wworded wweirdly but still

CG: WELL SHIT.
CA: thats wweird
TA: 5H3 541D 7H47H CR0NU5 W4N73D 70 FL1R7 W17H H3R 50 H3 8R0K3 7H3 1C3 8Y 7H4LK1NG 480U7 3R1D4N5 DR34M
CG: “DREAM”.
CA: i
CA: oh come on is he gonna tell evverybody he knowws

CC: probubbley
CA: cod damnit
CG: AND THERE GO THE PUNS AGAIN.
CC: buoy you shoald know i LIV-E for puns
CG: I WAS TALKING ABOUT ERIDAN. HE NEVER USES THEM UNLESS HE’S IN THE SAME CHAT AS FEFERI. AND APPARENTLY YOU.
CA: kar wwhat the fuck
CA: i dont do that

CC: isnt that sweet
TA: H4H4H H0LY 5H17H
CA: fuck off i dont do it
CC: as fun as it is talkin aboat when eridan does and doesnt pun i want to make sure i have names right
CC: grey shouty is karcrab

CG: FUCK YOU, WHY DOES EVERYONE KNOW ME AS THE SHOUTING TROLL?
CA: because you are the shoutin troll
CC: purple fucker is eridan
CA: yup
CC: and i already know mituna
TA: W3LL 1 KN0W Y0U 700
CC: yeah thats how it works
CG: ANYWAY, I’M GUESSING YOU KNOW ABOUT SGRUB AND OUR HUMAN SITUATION TOO?
CC: too well
CC: by the wave eridan fuck you

CA: excuse me
CC: i tried messagin to you as soon as cronus told me about that dream of yours but you didnt respond
CA: i
CA: wwhat
CA: i didnt evven notice

CC: yeah i bet you didnt
CC: luckily cronus was happy to tell me who you went to talk to
CC: aka tuna

CG: ERIDAN, I EXPECTED BETTER FROM YOU.
CA: wwhat
TA: 0H SN4P
CG: “OH SNAP” IS RIGHT. HOW LONG HAVE I KNOWN YOU? AND NEVER HAVE YOU MISSED A MESSAGE.
CG: FOR FUCKING SHAME.

CA: uh kar
CG: WHAT IS IT?
CA: i dont havve any messages from meenah
CC: are you shore you want to be accusin M-E of lyin
CA: im not tryin to accuse you a anythin
CA: but theres nothin here
CA: did you make a mistake

CC: i know for a fact i messaged caligulasAquarium
CC: which is you

CA: look im not sayin that you didnt but
CA: i literally havve nothin here

Eridan clicks away from the memo board he's spent the last few minutes on. Actually, hold on, that's a lot more than a few minutes. He glances at the clock on his computer screen and sees that it's already more than an hour later. That's… actually not that bad, considering the lengthy conversations he used to have before and during the game. But anyway, he has a point to prove. He searches Meenah’s username and messages her. Sure enough, there's no messages above his. Either pesterchum is glitched or he's right. A second later the memo goes off and he clicks back to it.

CG: YOU BETTER NOT BE LYING.
CC: he isnt
CG: WHAT?
TA: WH47
CA: damn right im not
CG: HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?
CC: he just messaged me and its a completely different window than when i first messaged him
CC: and im looking at both of them and they both have the same handle

TA: P3573RCHUM 15N7 5UPP053D 7H0 83 48L3 70 D0 7H47
CC: no shit
CG: CAN YOU GIVE US A SCREENSHOT?
CC: yeah hold on
CA: wwait
CA: is this somethin like wwhen wwe used to havve convversations wwith our past and future selvves
CA: but wwithout the past and present selvves
CA: and wwith somethin to do wwith this alternate game thin

CG: WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
CA: i dont knoww about any a you guys but cro and dualscar havve been treatin me like i wwas alwways here evven tho i havvent been
CA: so i think that implies that i took some vversion of mes place

CG: YOU THINK MEENAH MESSAGED THE YOU THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HERE INSTEAD OF THE YOU THAT IS?
CA: i dont knoww but its a theory
CC: im back and heres a link
CG: THANK YOU.
CC: you know eridan that might actually be plausible
CA: im glad i can livve up to your standards
CC: buoy
CA: that wwas supposed to be sarcastic
CC: im not talkin to you im talkin to the buoy thats hackin my shit
CG: MITUNA?
TA: 7H15 5H17 15 W31RD
CC: why the fuck you hackin
TA: 1M 7RY1NG 70 F1ND 0U7 WH3R3 7H3 F4L53 3R1D4N Y0U M3554G3D 15 4ND 7H3 R35UL7H5 4R3
TA: W31RD

CA: howw so
CG: PLEASE EXPLAIN.
TA: 50 0N3 0F 7H3 3R1D4N5 H45 4 N0RM4L 1P 4DR355 4ND 1 JU57 C0NF1RM3D 7H47 175 0UR 3R1D4N5
CA: wwoww thanks for hackin into my husk
CA: uh
CA: computer

TA: 1M N07 3V3N H4CK1NG 1N70 Y0UR C0MPU73R 1M JU57
TA: 4C7U4LLY L37 M3 5K1P 7H47 83C4U53 Y0U W0ULDN7 UND3R574ND 4NYW4Y

CA: rude
CG: BUT UNDERSTANDABLE.
TA: 50 7H3 F4K3 3R1D4N5 1P 4DDR355 15 4C7U4LLY N07 4N 1P 4DR355
CC: im pretty sure that isnt supposed to work that wave
CG: I UNDERSTAND JACK SHIT ABOUT HUSKTOPS AND I KNOW EVEN LESS ABOUT COMPUTERS BUT I ALSO KNOW THAT ISN’T RIGHT.
TA: 1 D0N7 3V3N KN0W H0W 70 D35CR183 17 175 JU57 N07 R1GH7
TA: 4R3 Y0U FFGUCK1NG K1DD1NG M3 WH17H 7H15 8UL5HY17

CG: WOAH HOLD ON, CALM DOWN.
CC: thats pale as shit
TA: 17 R344LLY 15
CG: EXCUSE YOU! I’M JUST BEING A GOOD FRIEND.
TA: 3V3RY0N3 H0LD Y0UR 717H5 1M G01NG 70 5D33 1F 1 C4N F1ND 0U7 WH3R3 H3 15 4N0Y7H3R W4Y
CA: to be honest its surprisin that he got this far wwithout typos
CA: in the brief time i kneww him he seemed the type to alwways be makin typos

CC: he is
CG: OKAY, LET’S STOP SPREADING RUMORS HERE.
CA: literally no rumors are bein spread im just thinkin shit out loud
CC: by the way i read above where i came in to the memo
CC: and that shit aboat tuna is interesting
CC: we shoald ask him what he was savin to talk aboat later

CG: CAN YOU FUCKING STOP? HE DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW.
CC: pale much
CG: EXCUSE ME??
CG: CAN I STOP BEING ACCUSED OF PALE ADVANCES ALREADY!?

CC: only when you stop actin pale
CA: oh shit
CG: FUCK YOU.
CC: you couldnt handle it
CA: nice
CC: thanks
CA: ...
CC: okay are people goin to make a halibut outta disappearin cause if so i dont like it
CA: at least mit told us he wwas gonna do other shit before he left and kar didnt officially leavve the memo
CC: you and i both know that not officially leavin means jack shit
CA: yeah
CC: anywave
CC: whats up with you

CA: wwhy are you interested all of a sudden
CC: im bored and i barely know you
CA: fair
CA: but i only have the usual stuff up with me

CC: you mean the human fin goin on
CA: yup
CA: actually i think wwe wwere supposed to ask you a question

CC: about my ancestor
CC: or rather feferis ancestor cause mine is a little beach and not here

CA: yeah
CC: id say that shes fin but
CC: i dont know
CC: im good at judgin shady character by now and she just has somefin about her
CC: somefin fishy

CA: shit
CA: can you keep an eye on her for us

CC: thats what i was goin to do anywave
CA: good
CG: HEY IDIOTS.
CC: took you long enough
CA: wwhat happened this time
CG: WAIT, BEFORE I SAY ANYTHING, IS MITUNA STILL HERE?
TA: Y34H 1M 57H1LL H3R3
CG: GOOD. YOU’RE THE CREATOR OF THE MEMO AND IT’S PRIVATE SO I’LL HAVE TO ASK YOU TO INVITE TWO PEOPLE.
TA: G1MM3 7H31R H4NDL35
CG: LET ME MESSAGE YOU PRIVATELY.
CC: oh come on are you searious
CG: VERY. BESIDES, IT’LL ONLY TAKE A MOMENT.
CC: it betta
CA: my guess is wwere gettin more trolls
CC: who
CA: i dunno
CA: nep seems likely to be one and if we care about balance i guess theres always tavs dancestor

CC: youre bad at guessin
CA: excuse me
CG: SAY HELLO TO THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF OUR NOT SO HUMBLE GROUP.


The room is quiet and cast in darkness. The drawn blinds on the window block most of the sunlight but small rays still manage to peek through. They softly illuminate two beds on each side of the room, one occupied and one empty. Two desks sit near the beds, one littered with foreign souvenirs and the other holding haphazardly placed notebooks and a dirty stuffed wolf that currently lived at the base of a potted plant. Two wardrobes sit opposite of the beds, obviously in an attempt to leave a large clear space in the middle of the room. The only thing that thwarts that plan is the piles of stuffed animals and movie posters that waited in their tubes for the day they would be hung on the walls.

Across the room, someone groans from the occupied bed. The copious amount of blankets covering the occupant means that they can’t actually be seen, but that will quickly be rectified. As soon as memories came flooding back, they thrash inside their blankets and claw for escape. One by one, the blankets fall to the floor to let a girl with long, frazzled hair sit straight up, her eyes wide.

Jade doesn't know where she is. All she remembers is the final door turning into something that wasn’t supposed to be there, and then those words, and- oh no. Where is she!? She stands up and quickly looks over the room. She seems to be in some sort of version of her old bedroom, back on her island. There's obviously someone else living with her but she can deal with that later. For now she sniffs the air to try to find any telling scents, but for some reason her nose isn’t working quite right. Jade narrows her eyes in thought and marches across the room to stand in front of the mirror sitting between both wardrobes.

She sees herself wearing a nightshirt, but otherwise everything is the same. She's still her average height, she still has her dark skin, her-

Her ears. Her dog ears! They're gone! Jade quickly reaches up to pat at her head as if the mirror is somehow wrong, but she can’t feel them. A quick reach behind her tells her that her tail was gone too. No wonder her nose isn’t working right, she's so used to having Bec’s sense of smell that she forgot what it's like to be ‘normal’ again. She sighs and rubs her face with one hand. Hopefully this is all the game did.

Suddenly the door opens. “Hey, Jade!”

Jade almost jumps ten feet into the air. She whips around, baring her teeth and curling her fists, only to relax as soon as she sees who it is. It's just Jake. “Oh, hey,” she replies. She doesn’t really remember him well. They didn’t talk much, especially since they both assumed they’d have more time for that after they collected their reward. Some reward this new game is. “Do you know what’s going on?” she asks. Hopefully he’ll know more than her.

“I sure do,” Jake beams. He doesn't seem fazed at all by her reaction. “We’re heading out in half an hour to go see our good friends!”

Jade quickly perks up. It would’ve been better with her ears and tail back, but she’ll definitely get them soon. Especially with the others to help! “That’s awesome! I’ll get dressed right away.”

“You got it,” he replies. “Feel free to get yourself whatever you like for breakfast.”

“Will do,” she says as she watches him back out of the doorway. She smiles happily to herself as she goes over to close the door. Things may be weird, but at least meeting their friends would get everyone closer to winning the post game already. Jade walks over to the window and peeks through the blinds, letting her eyes adjust for a moment. Her intention was just to see what season it was so she could dress accordingly, but now that she's looking, she finds herself staring at the nearby buildings instead of the trees. She isn’t on her island, but in some kind of neighborhood! Maybe that's the game’s doing? This room is clearly different so it makes sense that she’ll live somewhere different too.

Jade sighs and steps away from the window. She goes over to her closet and pulls out a t-shirt and shorts to put on, thinking all the while about what this new game might entail. Would they have to fight more monsters? Will the monsters be different? Wait, do they even have their powers anymore? Jade quickly looks towards one of the piles, makes a frame around one of the stuffed animals with her hands, and successfully manages to make the animal bigger it. At least she still has her powers. But then there's the question of whether or not Jade can still teleport. That's more Bec’s doing, but since he's gone for now she needs to know if she can do it with her godtier powers alone.

She closes her eyes and thinks about appearing on the other side of the room, but it isn’t that simple anymore. She has to move herself there, not be there. Jade relaxes herself and expands her spatial awareness. She doesn’t just know where objects are in her room by remembering them anymore. Now her powers means she can sense the edges of the walls and the desks, and most importantly, the spot she wants to teleport to. She focuses on the space between her and her destination. Jade furrows her brows with concentration and, with a push, feels space bend around her for a brief second. She blinks her eyes open and finds that she's exactly where she wants to be, and she lets out a whoop of success. She did it! The process is more complicated than it was when she was Bec, but if she needs to she can get used to it.

Jade hums to herself and walks over to open the blinds covering the window. She’ll have to practice long distance teleportation, but that can wait until she can make a plan with her friends. For now she's happy enough to teleport her phone into her pocket (luckily it was close by), brush her hair out, and exit her room to walk downstairs like a normal person. She sees Jake at the table buttering a piece of toast and thinks to herself. They might be in another game but that doesn’t mean they can’t get used to each other. She's pretty sure the best way to do that is to treat him like a sibling, so she does what her limited knowledge of siblings tells her she should do.

Jade steals Jake’s toast as soon as he finishes buttering it and smirks at his shocked expression as she takes a bite out of it. She only hums in response to his complaints and watches as he grabs another slice of bread. She won’t steal that one, she doesn’t want to be that mean. While Jake is waiting for his new slice of bread to toast he leans back against the counter and asks her something, but Jade finds that her attention is somewhere else completely. Her grandpa is now entering the room.

He's exactly as she remembered him: broad shouldered, curly mustache, the whole nine yards. He doesn’t have his usual exploration gear on, instead he wears khaki shorts like Jake’s and a green Hawaiian shirt, but he's still perfectly recognizable. Jade gasps in excitement and runs over to wrap her arms around him, only barely keeping the toast from messing up his clothes.

“Grandpa!” she exclaims. She can’t believe it! He's alive again!

“Jade!” he chuckles. “It’s like you haven’t seen me in years!”

Jade gets confused at that, but nothing can slow down her excitement. She steps away from her grandpa and looks him up and down just to make sure. Yup, this is him!

From his position at the counter, Jake laughs. He just finished preparing his second piece of toast. “First you wake up late and now you’re acting like you haven’t seen Grandpa last night? Who are you?”

Jade huffs and crosses her arms, giving Jake her best unamused glare. It doesn’t really work since she's still excited, but it's the thought that counted! “Well excuse me,” she retorts. “Maybe I was exhausted and I just wanted to appreciate Grandpa.” How does Jake know her well enough to know that she usually wakes up early? She guesses it could just be his knowledge of his grandmother. She also doesn’t know why Jake thinks she saw Grandpa last night, but he could always be confused by John’s (or maybe Jane’s) dad. They do look kind of similar.

“Sleeping in makes sense after yesterday,” Grandpa adds. “You did seem tired.”

Jake shrugs and bites off a piece of toast. Jade remembers her own, so she takes a bite of hers too. There's no sense in wasting food! She's seeing her friends today anyway, and she's sure there's going to be enough shenanigans to make her hungry. Speaking of her friends... “So when are we heading out?”

“As soon as you two are ready,” replies Grandpa.

Jake immediately scarfs down his piece of toast. “I’m ready now!”

Jade quickly finishes her’s too. “I’m ready too!”

Their grandpa laughs heartily and starts walking towards the door. “If you say so. I’ll go get my shoes on.”

The two teens glance at each other before quickly racing towards the front door. Jade is slower at first since she doesn't know where the door is, but once she sees where Jake's heading she's off like a shot. She skids into the foyer and hurriedly looks around for her shoes. Jake shoots past her towards a closet and she quickly follows. He opens it and pulls out a random pair of shoes and Jade whoops as she snatches them from his grasp. Thankfully they're hers, and she quickly manages to put them on before Jake even finds his (she may or may not have used her powers to help, but she doesn’t think anyone saw). Jade hears Grandpa laugh at their antics and she grins over at him, ignoring Jake's cursing in the background while he clumsily tries to get his shoes on.

Once they're finally ready, Grandpa leads them outside to a car parked in the driveway. Jade really expected them to have transportalizers, but she guesses that the new game wouldn’t give them everything . Otherwise there would barely be any point! Jake runs around the car to claim shotgun and Jade sticks her tongue out at him, but she doesn’t really mind. She finds that she actually enjoys sibling antics! She can’t believe she missed this while she was growing up.

But she's still growing, she thinks to herself as she slides into the back seat. She isn’t legally an adult yet, but even if she was she knows that brains don’t really stop growing until 25. She's definitely still growing! Jade buckles herself in the way John once described it to her and looks out of the window as the car lurches forward. Speaking of age, she's still 16, right? A quick look over confirms it. At least the new game didn’t change that much. However, apparently it changed Jake’s manner of speech? Again, she hasn’t known him for that long, but he definitely seems to talk differently! Could the game even do that or was he playing a trick on her earlier? She'll ask him later.

Jade watches the houses go by. Each one is nearly identical to the others. She would’ve liked at least some big differences, but that might just be her. The people outside mowing their lawns and playing with their kids certainly don’t seem to mind. The car slowly trundles along and Jade watches how the houses change and get closer together. Are they heading into a city? If so, maybe she should see if her friends can explore it with her. It would be nice to see new things and exercise always makes it easier to think and come up with new plans!

Sadly, the car doesn’t head into the city. Instead it pulls into a parking lot, the townhouses across the street standing out among the growing number of apartment buildings. Jade peers around the front seat to see a park stretching out in front of the car. It isn’t anything massive, but the open field and small copses of trees make Jade long to run and explore everything the park has to offer. She almost forgot her longing for green spaces after the stress of the battle and this alternate game, not to mention the long lonely wait on the ship, but now she can finally satisfy that need! The car is barely parked in its space when she opens the door and launches herself out. Or, well, she tries to. She has to unbuckle herself before she can actually get out. Hopefully nobody notices her blunder!

Of course, Jake and Grandpa notice. They both laugh as they climb out of the car, but Jade barely hears them. She's already sprinting down the field. She laughs as she trip herself and falls into the grass to roll around in it. It’s been so long, but the wait is worth it just to feel this again! She keeps laughing as she sits up and feels the grass with her hands. It's just how she remembers it.

Jade can hear other voices from the parking lot but she doesn’t turn to look just yet. It's early enough in the day that she has the field all to herself and she wants to enjoy it for a moment. She rolls around in the grass some more, not minding her hair. It was always messy with sticks and grass back on her island, so she's very used to it. Then again that was three years ago. Oh well, she’ll deal with it later. For now she's distracted by the quiet rustle of grass and the loud sounds of conversation from her friends.

Jade quickly gets up and faces them. All the humans were there, even the ones she didn’t talk to before! There aren’t any trolls, but she figures they’ll come up with a plan to find them sooner or later. For now she takes in the sight of the group approaching her. There's Dave in some sort of argument with Rose, John making a joke with Roxy, and Jake leading the group with Dirk one one side and Jane on the other. All of them look the same as they were before the alternate game started. Except for the obvious lack of godtier pajamas and the addition of more normal clothes. Luckily, if Jade is anything to go by, they don’t need them for their powers.

“Hey, guys!” beams Jade. “How was your morning?”

Rose pointedly looks away from Dave to fix her gaze on Jade instead. Behind her, Dave smirks. “It was surprisingly pleasant,” she answers. “I couldn’t say the same for the car ride.”

Dirk tears his attention away from Jake to smirk at Rose too. “Weren’t you the one that started the argument?”

His younger sister doesn’t look at him in favor of continuing to talk to Jade. “But how was your morning? As exciting as usual?”

Jade snickers. “I don’t know about ‘usual’. It’s kind of weird waking up in a neighborhood with your grandpa back after everything Sburb threw at me, after all!”

Rose only responds with a blank stare. Jade deflates a bit at that and glances at the rest of the group, who are all looking at her with the same expression. What did she say? Was she not supposed to talk about Sburb in public? The only person with a different expression is Roxy, with her eyebrows raised in shock. Jade opens her mouth to try to ask why everyone is staring but suddenly Roxy cuts her off with a shrill, forced laugh.

“Holy shit, that’s one weird dream you had! You said Sburb, right? That’s so weird! I dreamed about Sburb too! Maybe we haven’t seen each other in so long I accidentally shared one of my usual weird dreams with you to try to reach you!”

Jade is confused. Roxy called Sburb a dream, but why would she do that? Doesn’t everyone know? Jade glances around at the rest of the group and notices that most of them have their gazes trained on Roxy instead. She doesn’t know what's going on, but she does know that Roxy is smart. Whatever's happening, she's going to play along. “Hah, yeah,” Jade laughs. Hopefully it sounds real enough. “I’m surprised you guys didn’t realize I was referencing it earlier. I thought I texted you guys about it.”

That's obviously a lie, but the tension she didn’t even know was there suddenly fades with her words. John and Dirk both check their phones real quick and John shakes his head.

“Nope,” he says. “There’s nothing here.”

Roxy quickly butts in front of him and strolls over to Jade. “Yeah, that’s weird! I didn’t get a text either. How about we go over there,” she points towards a nearby copse of trees, “and I can see if your phone needs to be fixed?”

Jade glances between Roxy and the group but ultimately puts a smile on her face and takes out her phone. No powers this time. “Of course! Here, let me tell you all about it.”

The girls ignore the complaints of the group as they hurry towards the trees, but no one comes after them. Once they're out of earshot Jade quickly turns to Roxy, but the other teen puts a hand on her back and keeps her walking. Jade huffs but follows along until they're both sitting down at the base of a tree, where Roxy finally explains.

“You can’t just go around and talk about Sburb,” she begins. Jade opens her mouth to interrupt but Roxy holds out a hand. “I know you want to, but trust me, you can’t. At least, you shouldn’t. No one else in our group knows about it and I really don’t want to attract the attention of someone who does. I saw a human Condesce walking down the street early today and,” she shudders, “I really don’t want people like her to know that we’re potential threats.”

Jade sits there for a moment and lets the information sink in. Is this the nature of the game? No one but her and Roxy remembers? “So…” she trails off. The other teen patiently waits for her to continue. “We’re the only ones?”

“Yeah, it looks like that,” Roxy sighs, “but at least it isn’t all that bad. It’s better than only one of us remembering.”

Jade finds herself nodding in agreement. “Yeah, it is.”

The two girls look at each other for a moment. Neither can believe the situation they're in. In the distance, the shrieks and yells of their friends chasing each other and joking around can be heard. Eventually Roxy speaks up. “So what do we do?”

Jade takes another moment to think. They can try to convince their friends that Sburb happened, but she has a feeling that would be disastrous. What else can they do? The game isn’t even throwing challenges at them yet. Oh, but wait… “Do the rest of them know about the trolls?”

Roxy frowns and shakes her head. “No, why?”

“Well,” Jade muses. “There’s the chance that at least one of the trolls remember, and I still have Karkat’s handle.”

Roxy straightens up. “Holy shit, yeah! You can message him and see if he remembers. Even if he doesn’t you can always ask for the handles of the other trolls!”

Jade laughs in delight and turns her phone on. “Heck yes. And if we’re lucky, Terezi might remember too! She could probably make our friends remember Sburb.”

The blond teen grins and crosses her fingers. “Let’s hope!”

Jade grins too and opens up her pesterchum app. She can’t find Karkat on her chum roll, but that's okay. She just has to search up his handle.

-- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] at 11:12 --

GG: hi!!!!
CG: OH, HEY. IT’S YOU.
GG: you remember me :D
CG: WHY WOULDN’T I? IT’S PRETTY HARD TO FORGET YOU.
GG: ha, i guess so!
GG: hey i wanted to ask you a question

CG: GO AHEAD BUT BE QUICK. I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONVERSATION.
GG: uhhhh
GG: oh shoot i dont know how to word this :(

CG: JUST SPIT IT OUT. I PROMISE I WON’T JUDGE.
CG: OR SAY THAT IT WAS ONLY A DREAM.

GG: wait a second
GG: did you mention dream as a reference to something??

CG: DID I?
GG: do you know about...
GG: sburb????

CG: THANK FUCK, YOU REMEMBER TOO.
GG: yes!!!
GG: im so glad you remember :D

CG: TRUST ME I AM TOO. EVEN THOUGH IT SUCKS REMEMBERING.
GG: wait why would it suck
CG: THERE’S SOME THINGS GOING ON THAT I’D RATHER NOT DEAL WITH, LIKE ME BEING A HUMAN.
GG: youre a human????? :O
CG: YEAH AND NO OFFENSE BUT IT FUCKING SUCKS.
GG: well i wasnt a troll but i can kinda empathize
CG: HOW?
GG: bec is gone :(
GG: i dont have my ears or tail anymore!!

CG: OH SHIT.
CG: ACTUALLY HOLD ON, WE SHOULD CONTINUE THIS CONVERSATION ELSEWHERE.

GG: in person??
CG: NO. THERE’S A MEMO WITH THE OTHER FORMER TROLLS THAT REMEMBER AND I’M GOING TO INVITE YOU TO IT SO YOU CAN TELL EVERYONE ABOUT THE HUMAN SIDE OF THINGS.
CG: I MEAN THE HUMAN HUMAN SIDE OF THINGS. THE HUMANS THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HUMAN.

GG: oh cool!!!! you should also invite
GG: uh hold on
GG: tipsyGnostalgic!

CG: WHO?
GG: roxy!
GG: she remembers too :)

CG: NICE. THAT MAKES SIX OF US.
GG: six??? :O
CG: YOU’RE GOING TO GET AN INVITE TO A MEMO SOON BUT IT WON’T BE FROM ME. JOIN IT ANYWAY.

-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 11:26 --

Jade is practically bouncing in excitement at this point. Six of them remember, and to top it all off, the other four are trolls! There's every chance that one of them is Terezi. Roxy looks at Jade quizzically so she shows the other teen the last messages that were sent. Roxy’s eyes widen and she quickly reaches for her phone just in time for it to ping at her. Jade checks her own phone and sure enough, there's the memo invite.

gardenGnostic [GG] responded to memo
tipsyGnostalgic [TG] responded to memo
GG: hi!!!!!
TG: sup ;)
TA: 1 H4V3 N0 1D34 WJH0 7H353 N3RD5 4R3 8U7 K4RK47H 54Y5 7H47 7H3Y R3M3M83R 700
CG: THEY DO.
CA: oh hey
CC: sup yourself
CC: so who exactly are you two

GG: im jade :D
TG: and iiiim roxy
CA: oh hey i remember you
TG: wait which one of us
CA: i mean both a you but mostly jade
GG: i remember you too >:(
CA: wwoah hey wwhats wwith that face
GG: i think you know what its for buster!!!
TG: holy shit is there some beef there
GG: i just really dont like him
CA: thats fair cause you kneww me before i died
CG: I DON’T MEAN TO INTERRUPT BUT WHO AM I KIDDING, I DEFINITELY MEAN TO INTERRUPT. LET’S INTRODUCE OURSELVES SO EVERYONE KNOWS WHO THEY’RE TALKING TO. I’M KARKAT.
CA: wwell im eridan
CC: im meenah
TA: 4ND 1M M17HUN4
TA: M17UN4

TG: hi guys
GG: hi!
GG: im a bit sad that theres no terezi but all of you are cool too! :D

CG: NOW THAT WE GOT THAT OUT OF THE WAY, THERE’S A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION THAT I NEED TO ASK OF OUR NEW ARRIVALS.
TG: oooo what is it
CG: ARE EITHER OF YOU GOING TO READ ABOVE WHERE YOU CAME IN?
TG: lol NOPE
GG: oh i was going to but if roxy isnt youre probably going to explain anyway
CG: I’M SO GLAD I CAN BE CONVENIENT.
GG: and knowing two of the people here most of the important stuff is going to be surrounded by unimportant garbage
CG: I HATE THAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT ME BUT YOU’RE ALSO RIGHT.
TA: 1D 4RGU3 7H47H 47 L3457 H4LF 0F 17 15 1MP0R74N7
CC: most of it reely wasnt
CG: EITHER WAY, I’M GOING TO EXPLAIN THIS SHIT AND NONE OF YOU FUCKERS ARE GOING TO INTERRUPT.
TA: 1 W1LL
CC: im totally goin to interrupt
CA: ill join wwhat humans call the bandwwagon
GG: i wont interrupt
TG: i will totes interrupt
CG: WOW, FUCK ALL OF YOU EXCEPT FOR JADE. I’M JUST GOING TO TYPE UP ONE BIG BLOCK OF TEXT AND HOPE THAT ALL OF YOU WILL READ IT EVEN THOUGH NONE OF YOU WILL BECAUSE IT’S A **BIG BLOCK OF TEXT**.
CA: i dont evven need to read it ivve been here the wwhole time
CG: FUCK OFF. TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES WHILE I PREPARE THIS ABSOLUTE MONSTROSITY.
CC: aight cool
TG: so hows everyone
TA: HUM4N
TG: oh shit really
GG: you didnt read that??
TG: nah i only looked at like
TG: the very bottom messages you showed me

GG: oh welp
GG: anyway yeah he and karkat are humans

CA: so am i
CC: me too
GG: okay all the trolls are humans!!
TA: H0LY 5H17 K4RK475 7H074LLY G01NG L157 7H3 F4C7H 7H47 3V3RY0N35 HUM4N
TA: H35 G01NG 70 83 50 M4D 7H47H W3 4LR34DY 541D 17 F1R57

CA: quick spam the channel so kar doesnt wwanna scroll up and read wwhat he missed
CC: on one hand i want to see him pissed
CC: but on the other hell also be pissed at the spam

TA: FUCK Y34H 1M G01NG 7H0 5P4M 50 H4RD
TG: hell yeah lets do it
GG: im not going to waste my energy by telling you guys to wait patiently
TA: GFJKK5JH4JH
CA: spam
CA: spam

CC: wait hold on i know a reference
TG: lol were actually doing this
CC: holla holla get dolla
TA: K5DJK4JK45H0K101H4HJ4
CA: more spam
GG: :/
CC: which one is the human money sign
CA: spammmm
TG: money is $
CC: shell yeah
TA: FLJ5JH48V5DJKLKJ4H845KJLJLJHG4KL4
CC: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
CA: smap
CA: samp

TG: $$$
CA: pasm
CC: $$$ 38) $$$
TG: $$$$$ !!!
CA: smap
CA: wwait fuck i already did that one

TA: FGKJ5JGHFDK54DHGJJFKJ045DJGKD5LGJHDKL54DGHFKDJ54JDH4GD54DG5H4J5HDG75Y4U15DY7GH5JK54DCX7DGHJ8QK4D5HVG5JKDFHGV8WJKD5FHGFVH8JWD5FHGJ
GG: this is getting ridiculous
CG: LET ME NUMBER THIS INFORMATION IN THE HOPES THAT IT MIGHT MAKE ONE OF YOU MORE LIKELY TO READ THIS. 1) ERIDAN, MITUNA, MEENAH, JADE, ROXY AND I ALL REMEMBER. SO FAR NO ONE ELSE DOES BUT I’M ALSO PRETTY SURE THE DANCESTORS APART FROM KANKRI AND MEULIN HAVEN’T BEEN CHECKED. 2) PRESUMABLY ALL OF OUR ANCESTORS ARE ALIVE, HUMAN, AND ACTING AS OUR LUSI. OR “PARENTS” IF YOU’RE HUMAN AND WOULD LIKE TO CALL THEM THAT. SO FAR THE CONFIRMED HUMAN ANCESTORS ARE THE SIGNLESS, THE PSIONIC, THE DISCIPLE, DUALSCAR, AND THE CONDESCE. 3) THE FACT THAT OUR ANCESTORS ARE HUMAN LEADS ME AND ERIDAN TO BELIEVE THAT THIS VERSION OF THE CONDESCE IS ALSO HUMAN AND THUS PACIFIED. MEENAH HASN’T ACTUALLY CONFIRMED THAT SHE’S HUMAN SO FUCK YOU, MEENAH. IF SHE IS, THAT MEANS THAT THERE’S LIKELY NO TROLL CONDESCE TO PROPERLY THWART US IN CASE WE WANT TO BUILD A BASE ON ALTERNIA OR SOMETHING. BUT WE ALSO NEED A WAY TO TRAVEL THROUGH SPACE AND I DON’T TRUST THESE IDIOTS NOT TO FUCK THAT UP RIGHT NOW. 4) NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, THE ANCESTORS MIGHT REMEMBER TOO. WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL. I’LL REPEAT THIS OUTSIDE OF THE TEXT BLOCK SO I WILL KNOW THAT ALL OF YOU KNOW. 5) MITUNA IS DEALING WITH TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES REGARDING BEING A HUMAN AND I WOULD LIKE TO REQUEST THAT WE DON’T TALK ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE HE DOESN’T WANT TO. 6) MEENAH MESSAGED ERIDAN AND GOT SOMEONE ELSE WITH THE SAME HANDLE. THERE’S BEEN NO RESPONSE FROM IT YET BUT WE SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR THAT. SO FAR THE CURRENT THEORY IS THAT ERIDAN (AND THUS LIKELY ALL OF US) TOOK THE PLACE OF ANOTHER VERSION OF US. IT EXPLAINS HOW OTHER PEOPLE CAN REFERENCE THINGS HAPPENING YESTERDAY WHILE WE ONLY REMEMBER THE GAME. ANYWAY, MEENAH MIGHT’VE MESSAGED THE OTHER VERSION OF ERIDAN BY ACCIDENT. THAT ALSO KIND OF IMPLIES THAT THE TROLL VERSION OF ERIDAN AND THIS HUMAN VERSION OF SWAPPED BODIES, WHICH ULTIMATELY IMPLIES THAT WE ARE IN FACT IN A FUCKING FANFICTION. GREAT, I LOVE IT ALREADY.
GG: oh look!! he posted!!! lets read it!!!!
CC: shell no
CA: nah
CG: I’M POSTING THIS SEPARATELY TOO BECAUSE I KNOW MOST OF YOU SHITS WON’T READ THE BLOCK OF TEXT YOU FORCED ME TO TYPE UP. THE ANCESTORS MIGHT REMEMBER THE GAME, SO WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL AROUND THEM. ESPECIALLY THE HIGHBLOOD ONES.
CA: damnit noww i havve to read somethin
CC: fuck the law beach im not readin anythin
CG: IT’S ACTUALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT, MEENAH!
CC: damn fine get off my back
TA: 0H 5N4P
TG: fuck
CA: wwhat is it
GG: oh okay i just read through and thats a lot of information
TG: FUCK
CG: WHAT’S WRONG?
CC: pale cheatin on tuna huh
CG: FUCK OFF, NOW IS NOT THE TIME!
GG: roxy what is it???
TG: i saw condesce today and im totes fucking right we cant mention shit about sburb to anyyone else what if she remmbers and hears and comes after us
GG: okay roxy you need to calm down
CG: GOGDAMNIT ROXY, IT’S OKAY.
TA: 1V3 4LR34DY 833N F1ND1NG W4Y5 70 K1ND4 D3L373 P3573RL0G5 50 W3 5H0ULD 83 R3L47H1V3LY 54F3 FR0M H3R R34D1NG P457 5H17
TA: 4L50 83F0R3 Y0U GUY5 G37 0N MY C453 1M 54V1NG 7H3 1P 7H1NG F0R L473R 7H475 L355 1MP0R74N7H

GG: roxy i see you freaking out over there do you need a hug
TG: not now
GG: okay
CC: whats her deal with the condesce shes just another anemone we moray or moray not have to fight
TG: dont fucking start
CA: wwoah okay am i missin somethin
GG: i feel like im missing something too and i dont like it :(
CG: HOLD ON. JADE, YOU’RE WITH ROXY RIGHT NOW?
GG: yeah
CG: THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU TWO MESSAGING EACH OTHER INSTEAD OF TALKING IN A GROUP CHAT?
TA: C4U53 7H15 15 4 GR0UP CH47 4ND 7H3Y H4V3 70 74LK H3R3 70 74LK 70 7H3 R357 0F U5
CG: I KNOW THAT SHIT, BUT JADE JUST ASKED IF ROXY WAS OKAY. IN A GROUP CHAT. SHE COULD’VE EASILY HAVE DONE THAT IN REAL LIFE.
TA: D0 Y0U W4N7 M3 70 G0 70 Y0UR R35P1738L0CK 4ND H4V3 7H15 C0NV3R54710N 7H3R3
CG: NO. POINT TAKEN.
GG: guys roxy is not doing okay
TG: im perfectly fine
TG: i read up

GG: okay?
CA: wwait
TG: meenah
CC: yeah
TG: whos the adult living with you
CA: wwait hold on i knoww noww lets talk about somethin else
CA: look cro is knockin on my door wwhats this could he actually remember lets invvestigate that okay

CG: ERIDAN, WHY ARE YOU ACTING WEIRD? LET HER TALK.
CA: nope nope nope
CC: well im goin to ignore them
CC: the adult in my hive is the condesce
CC: why do you ask

TG: YOU HAVE TO BE FJCKING KISDING ME
CA: fuck
CG: OH SHIT
TA: 0H 5N4P
GG: oh no!!!
CC: damn
TG: you know what no
TG: im okay
TG: fuck feelings

GG: you are really not okay!!!!
TG: jade ily but if you do that im legit going to freak the fuck out and i really need to be calm right now
GG: okay but after this im giving you a hug and i will not accept excuses!!
TG: thats fair
CG: I FEEL LIKE I’M MISSING SOMETHING.
CC: me too
TG: oh youre just misxsing the fact that i grew up floating in an endless ocean with no humans to actually talk to for the first 13 years of my ljife and the only source of humanity for that time was the books and alcohol my mom left me both of which i used to COMPELETEY forget the fact that my life was a LIOVIGN HEFLL except that was a bad idwa and i probably stujnted my brain growth because KIDA ARENTY SUOPOSED TO DI THGAT but i didnt FUCXKN know any better because my moim was DEASA and i couldnt understand the carapsicas and all i had was my alchohol and the monsaters in the ocean and all that was thanks to the BTICHTR that destroyed the eENTIRETY OF MYRACE except for MR and DIRJK and i thought i fucking killed her but no here shre is again and if she remembers shes going to fjucking take the firfst channce she can to off me and i cant deal with this BU’LGHIY
GG: roxy
TG: im okay jkust let me get thgrough tyhis conversatnion
GG: roxy i can and will steal your phone and force you to calm down
TG: plesda
TG: look ill tyhpe more slowly
TG: see
TG: no typoes
TG: im okay for now

CG: HOLY SHIT.
CA: fuck i saww enough a her dream bubble memories to knoww this wwould happen
CC: honestly i dont sea what the problem is
CC: just krill her again

TG: if you donmt shut up im going to find you and legit fucking muirder you
CC: hm
GG: okay wow no murder please!!!
CG: HOW ABOUT WE STEP AWAY FROM THIS CONVERSATION RIGHT NOW?
CA: yes please thats a vvery good idea
TG: sure wtvr
CG: MITUNA, WHAT’S THE PROGRESS ON DELETING PESTERLOGS?
TA: 1 W45 JU57H 7H3571NG 17 4ND MY M37H0D 533M5 7H0 W0RK 45 L0NG 45 7H3 P3R50N 534RCH1NG F0R 7H3 L0G D035N7H KN0W 700 MUCH 480U7 C0D1NG
TA: 17HLL 74K3 M0R3 71M3 F0R M3 70 F1GUR3 0U7H H0W 70 4C7U4LLY C0MPL373LY D3L373 17

CG: THAT’S OKAY.
CG: WAIT, HOW WERE YOU TESTING THAT?

TA: 1 W45 M3554G1NG 50M3 0F 7H3 7HR0LL5 FR0M MY 535510N WH1L3 Y0U GUY5 W3R3 74LK1NG 70 533 1F 7H3Y R3M3M83R 4ND 7H3Y D0N7
CC: i thought that was obvious
CG: LITERALLY HOW WOULD THAT BE OBVIOUS?
CA: cro probably already told evveryone about my supposed dream and no one messaged me about it
CC: yeah what he said
CG: AND HOW THE FUCK WOULD YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ERIDAN’S PESTERCHUM?
CC: i wouldnt
CC: he just never asked for tuna to let other people into the memo

CG: SHIT THAT’S ACTUALLY A VALID POINT.
CC: damn right it is
TG: we shouldnt rely on talking over pessterchum too much
GG: mituna said that he could delete messages
TG: yeah but can he encryhpt this memo so no decent hackers can find their wsy here
TA: N07 R1GH7H N0W
TG: exactly
CG: SO WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST?
TG: find a way to meet in person and properly talk abt plans then
CA: theres a problem
CA: i havve no idea wwhere any a you guys livve

GG: wait
GG: i have an idea

CG: WHAT IS IT?
CC: and shes gone
CA: thats another one
TG: fuck off
CC: theres really no need to be mean
TG: theres actually every reaason to be mean to you but sure
CC: whats even your deal im not her
TG: i dont want to fuckjn talk about it anymore
CC: fine be like that
GG: okay i have a link!!
GG:
here
GG: go there and tell the map to find where you are right now and then hit save
GG: all of us can add locations and all of us can see the other locations so its perfect!

CG: THAT’S ACTUALLY A GOOD IDEA.
CC: aight i just did it what now
GG: wait for everyone else to do it
CA: did it
CG: DID IT.
TA: D1D 17H
TA: W417 4 FUCK1NG 53C0ND K4RK47

CG: SHIT WE’RE IN THE SAME BUILDING.
CC: you guys are fuckin dumb holy shit
CG: HEY YOU KNOW WHAT? DON’T TALK SHIT ABOUT MY BROTHER.
GG: what????
TG: wait WHAT
TA: H3H
CA: oh yeah that
CC: yeah thats a fin
CC: also stop fuckin pale flirtin

CG: FUCK OFF! ALSO YES, I FORGOT TO MENTION IN THE INFO DUMP THAT MITUNA AND I ARE CURRENTLY HUMAN SIBLINGS.
GG: how do you forget to mention that!!??
TG: yeah that seems kinda important
CG: I DON’T KNOW, I JUST DID. OUR OTHER SIBLINGS ARE SOLLUX, KANKRI, NEPETA, AND MEULIN.
TG: oh shit nepeta
GG: thats a lot of people in one house!!
CG: IT IS. AND HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I SHARE A ROOM WITH KANKRI?
CC: haha holy shit i cant fuckin bereef that
CC: betta you than me

CA: i havve to agree
CG: I’M ANGRY THAT YOU GUYS WOULD SAY THOSE THINGS BUT I CAN’T BLAME YOU.
GG: oh shoot
CG: WHAT IS IT NOW?
GG: i put in the parks location cause i forgot this was just for where we live
TA: L00K5 L1K3 W3R3 4LL 4 8UNCH 0F 1D107H5 H3R3
CG: THAT’S THE MOST CORRECT THING I’VE HEARD SAID SINCE I JOINED THIS MEMO.
CA: im pretty sure other correct thins wwere said
CG: FUCK OFF, YOU SHOULD KNOW I CAN ONLY REMEMBER WHAT’S ON MY SCREEN AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT. HOW DARE YOU ASSUME I HAVE ANY SORT OF CAPACITY FOR MEMORY.
CA: kar i platonically lovve you
CG: FUCK YOU.
TA: 0UCH
CA: thank you for the commentary
TG: anyway so im looking at the map right now and i think where jade and i are at is the best place to meet
CG: WHY DO YOU THINK THAT?
TG: even though so far theres only three locations here where any of us live i can kinda giess where i live and based on the pattern so far i think the park were in is close to the center
TG: seems convenient i guess

CA: that is convvenient and ill take it
CG: THE PARK ISN’T ACTUALLY THAT FAR AWAY FROM MY HIVE SO I’M OKAY WITH THAT. I’LL ALSO MAKE SURE TO DRAG MITUNA ALONG.
TA: L17H3R4LLY DR4G M3
CG: NO.
CC: i dont give a carp aboat where we meet
GG: so i guess the park is good with everyone?
CG: IT IS.
CG: I ALSO HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU.

GG: shoot!
CG: I ZOOMED OUT ON THE MAP AND WE’RE NOWHERE NEAR ANY ISLANDS. YOU DON’T LIVE ON AN ISLAND ANYMORE?
GG: nope!!
GG: i live in a boring neighborhood

CG: WAIT, I DO TOO. IS THERE ANY CHANCE THAT WE’RE CLOSE TO EACH OTHER?
TA: 7H3R35 7H0U54ND5 0F 80R1NG N31GH80RH00D5 WHY 4R3 Y0U 455 UM1NG 5H35 M4G1C4LLY 1N 0N3 N34R U5
CG: I’M NOT ASSUMING! I’M WONDERING.
GG: now youve got me wondering too
GG: ill put my location on the map when i get back home and message you then!

CG: GOOD.
TG: so good were meeting here
CA: question
CA: wwhen

CC: id like to know the same fin
GG: hmm... probably not right now!!
CG: WHY NOT?
GG: all of our friends that dont remember are here and theyd ask questions
CG: THAT’S A GOOD POINT.
TG: well do it tonight
TG: or in the evening
TG: i dont care

CG: ARE YOU SURE?
TG: very
CC: sweet im goin to sneak out of my hive
CA: doubt ill need to sneak but im lookin forwward to leavvin
CG: WITH THREE ANCESTORS HERE I’M PRETTY SURE MITUNA AND I ARE GOING TO HAVE A PROBLEM.
TA: H4V3 Y0U H34RD 0F W1ND0W5
CG: UH, YEAH?
TA: JUMP 0U7H 0F 7H3M
CG: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
TA: JU57 D0 17H
CG: NOT RIGHT NOW!
TA: 0F C0UR53 N07H R1GH7 N0W
GG: if we live close i could probably come and teleport you guys out!
CG: THANK FUCK FOR GODTIERS. THAT WOULD BE MUCH APPRECIATED.
GG: nice!! ill plan on doing that
TG: ill message you guys when its time to leave
TG: bye

tipsyGnostalgic [TG] left the memo
GG: oh well i guess i should probably get off too then
GG: gotta hug roxy and all that
GG: ill talk to you guys later!!

CG: SEE YOU.
gardenGnostic [GG] left the memo

Jade closes the pesterchum app and sets her phone down. Roxy’s phone lays on the grass next to her, having been tossed by the other girl. She draws her knees up to hide her face between them. Jade frowns at the sight and shuffles over to wrap her arms around the other teen. “You’re okay,” she whispers. “She doesn’t remember. And even if she does and she gives you trouble, I’m just a message away. I’ll teleport right over and help you out.”

Roxy sniffles and nods, but no other response comes from her. All Jade can do is rub her back and hope that she'll be okay. Jade herself never had to experience what Roxy did, but she can at least imagine what this scenario might be like. That only makes her want to protect the blonde teen more. Off in the distance Dirk can be heard mentioning Roxy. Jade doesn’t look up to see the group’s concerned expressions. She only sits there, holds Roxy tight, and devises a plan.

Chapter Text

CC: welp theyre gone
CA: guess so
CC: anywave hey tuna
TA: 7H3 FUCK D0 Y0U W4N7H
CC: the pink gal
CC: roxys her name right

CG: IT IS.
CC: yeah okay whale she was onto somefin
CC: meanin you gotta speed up your hacker game

CG: THIS IS SLIGHTLY WORRYING.
CC: what me askin him that
CA: hes been typin for a wwhile it says so at the bottom
CG: HE’S BEEN
CG: WHAT ERIDAN SAID. HE CUT ME OFF.

CC: the fuck are you talkin aboat it isnt that worryin
CA: fuck are wwe gonna get another freak out
CA: wwe cant exactly afford another one if wwe dont even know wwhats happenin wwith evverythin yet

CC: clam down its nothin
TA: 0H Y34H 7H475 JU57 W0ND3RFUL L37 M3 DR0P 3V3RY7HH1NG N4D 4LL 7H3 PR0J3C75 1 W45 W0RK1NG 0V3R7HH1M3 0N 4LR34DY 70 83 48L3 70 45CU4LLY 83 48L3 70 54Y 7H3 5H17 1 W45 74LK1NG 480U7 34RL13R Y0UR WH1M 15 MY 0NLY PR101R7Y 18GU355 4ND 4LL 7H3 5H17 13 4LR34DY D0N3 M34N5 N07H1NG 1F 7H3R35 M03 5H17 70 D0 HUH 1 D1DN7H 3V3N C0M3 CL0353 70 F1N15H1NG 7H3 07H3R 5H17 1F Y0U C4N 3V3N C4LL WH47 H4LF455 57473 1 W45 7RY1NG 70 G37 7H3M 7H0 45 F1N5H3D
CG: WELL *HE* CERTAINLY DIDN’T CALM DOWN.
TA: 0F C0UR53 1 D1DN7H FUCK455
CC: that was sudden
CC: what the fuck was that about

CG: DO YOU HAVE EYES?
CC: do you
CG: ...
CG: YOU’RE VERY SELECTIVE ABOUT THE THINGS YOU READ AND THE THINGS YOU DON’T.

CC: fuck off
TA: JFGDHD FUCK 1 7H0UGH7 WH47H 1 D1D 34RL13R W0ULD W0RK 4 817H 83773R 8U7 317HR3R 175 5H17H 0R 1M 5H17H
TA: PR0848LY 7H3 53C0ND 0P710N

CA: by wwhat you did earlier do you mean hackin or otherwwise
TA: 07H3RW153
CC: okay ignorin that the fuck did you say in that big unreadable block up there
TA: 1 541D FUCK Y0U
CC: excuse me
TA: 1M N07H D01NG 7H15 4G41N
TA: N07 W17H Y0U

CG: WHAT DO YOU MEAN “AGAIN”?
CA: yeah im curious
CC: i havent done shit like this before so i dont know why the fuck hes sayin again
TA: Y0U M4K3 M3 L4UGH
CG: IS THERE SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW ABOUT?
TA: Y0U 837H Y0UR 455 7H3R3 15
CC: whatever hes talkin aboat i dont know aboat it either
CC: but actually theres more conchernin things

TA: 175 N07 L1K3 Y0U 7H0 4V01D 4 PR08L3M
TA: UNL355 17H5 Y0U 7H475 7H3 PR08L3M

CA: is it just me or is this a sudden flip in character for mit
CG: I DON’T KNOW ABOUT SUDDEN. IT COULD BE SOMETHING THAT WAS BREWING DURING THEIR SESSION.
CA: howw the fuck do you knoww that
CA: it couldvve been durin the bubbles

CG: DO THEY REMEMBER THEIR TIME IN THE BUBBLES?
CA: i do so i dont see wwhy they couldnt
CG: I STAND CORRECTED.
CC: so tuna
TA: WH47
CC: cronus is pesterin me and i dont want him to know i blocked him in case i need him in the future
TA: 1 C4N7 83L13V3 1 7H0UGH7H Y0U W3R3 G01NG 70 74LK 480U7 7H3 PR08L3M F0R 0NC3
CA: does evveryone havve beef with meenah
CC: i dont fuckin know
CC: i didnt do ANYFIN

CG: THAT TOTALLY DOESN’T SOUND SUSPICIOUS AT ALL.
TA: H3Y M33N4H
CC: are you goin to block him now
TA: 5UCK 0N MY 8ULG3
TA banned CC from responding to memo.

Meenah groans and sits back in her chair. Her room is dark, just how she likes it, which means that the harsh glow of the screen is the only thing illuminating her disgruntled expression. Really? He banned her just for that? All she did was try to ask him for help!

Then again, that’s what she did last time.

Nevermind that. The chat is moving fast even with half of the members remaining. Eridan and Karkat are surprised by the sudden ban but thankfully Mituna is dodging the more specific questions. Meenah doesn’t know who’s sake he's doing that for, whether it's his, her’s, or the group’s, but all she cares about is the fact that it still benefits her. Confident that none of the past is going to be spilled, she decides to move on to something else. He isn’t going to unban her so quickly and she doesn’t care much for a memo that she can’t participate in. Besides, another pesterchat is waiting for her already. She wasn’t lying when she said Cronus was pestering her.

-- casanovaAccoustic [CA] began pestering causticCondescension [CC] at 13:08 --

CA: hopefully i gave you enough time.
CA: you left suddenly and i told you to get back to me but its been hours so i just want to make sure youre not dead or something.
CA: hello?
CA: im going to keep pestering you until you get back to me.
CA: hi.
CA: hi.
CA: fuck punctuation
CA: hi
CA: hi
CA: hi

CC: what the FUCK do you want beach
CA: oh hey.
CC: yeah yeah hi
CA: youre really snippy today. did something happen?
CC: okay what the fuck
CA: ?
CC: you know exactly what im

Meenah almost facepalms herself when she remembers that Cronus is a human and doesn’t know what moirallegiance is. Human ignorance is going to be the death of her pretense at being another species.

CA: ...
CC: nevermind
CC: i have a question for you cause i have nothin betta to do

CA: i have a question for you too.
CC: im first
CC: where the fuck is your quirk

CA: my what?
CC: the vw and wv fin
CA: what are you talking about?
CC: you did it again
CC: what not wvhat

CA: are you trying to get me to spell wrong?
CC: i guess thats what a quirk is so yeah i am
CA: ...
CC: what now
CA: did you get into a fandom or something?
CC: the fuck is a fandom
CA: at least one thing didnt change
CC: okay nevermind im short on time so ill deal with you and your not quirk later
CC: i have another question

CA: no its my turn now
CC: why didnt you stop flirtin even when i told you not to do it earlier today
CA: oh come on
CC: you snooze you loose
CA: did i read that correctly
CC: depends on what you think you read
CA: do you seriously think im flirting with you?
CC: oh that
CC: what the fuck else is this if it isnt flirtin

CA: first eri and now you. theres some serious marbles loose today
CC: the fuck you talkin about beach
CA: i didnt stop “flirting” earlier because i wasnt flirting. and im not now
CA: why the hell would i flirt with you?

CC: thats not somefin cronus would say
CA: actually it is
CC: nah
CA: i cant believe you.
CA: this is a joke right?

CC: okay the fuck are you talkin about
CA: i knew you thought low of me but i never thought youd think that low.
CC: what the fuck
CA: youre my SISTER for fucks sake
CA: why the fuck would i flirt with you?

Meenah has to mentally take a few steps back. He's what? She saw what Karkat was talking about earlier with his brothers and sisters so she knows that it's a possibility, but she never thought she might have her own brother. Sister, sure. She's smart enough to know what Feferi is to her in this human world. But a brother? Does that mean Eridan is her brother too? Whatever the case, at least it's keeping her safe from this Cronus’ attempts at flirting. Well, as long as she keeps her secret up.

CC: oh shit yeah
CC: totally forgot
CC: yeah

CA: now thats just suspicious.
CC: what do you mean suspicious
CA: meenah
CC: cronus
CA: are you okay?
CC: of fuckin course
CA: somehow i dont believe that.
CC: well you shoald
CA: if anythings wrong you know you can tell me
CA: right?
CA: i may not be the best bro and you may not like me all that much but im still here for you.
CA: id say family has to stick together but obviously our parents didnt.
CA: but im pretty sure you catch my drift.

CC: yeah
CA: good.
CA: now onto my question

CC: oh would you look at that
CA: what is it now?
CC: somefin more important than this conversation

-- causticCondescension [CC] ceased pestering casanovaAccoustic [CA] at 13:43 --

CA: come the fuck on

Smooth. Anyway, now that the conversation is done and she's busy ignoring Cronus’ next messages, she can briefly reflect on the pesterchats she had earlier. She's practically been woken up by Cronus’ texts about Eridan and his “dream”, which she refused to see as concern on Cronus’ part even though her flirting theory is now proven wrong. Then came the mention of Mituna, a brief chat with him, and then a long arduous chat with the rest of the people who seem to remember. It was tough to reign everybody in, but it was all part of the job as a leader. Speaking of reigning people in…

Meenah stands up from her chair and cracks her knuckles. There's work she needs to do today instead of thinking about her recent totally-not-mistakes. She grabs her phone and makes a pit stop by her mirror. She had gotten dressed right after breakfast, between her first pesterchats with Cronus and Mituna, and now she's wearing a stylish crop top and skinny jeans. The top has a logo that's probably for a band of some sort, but she doesn’t care. It's pink on black and close enough to her blood color to suit her preferences.

After she finishes checking herself out (her black hair and braids sadly aren't as long as they used to be, but that's okay), she opens the door to her room and leaves. She lives in a place very similar to Eridan’s, being that they're both mansions on a forested lakeside with way too much expensive stuff lining the halls inside of them. Unknown to Meenah, since she hasn't taken the time to look out any windows, the two mansions are on opposite sides of the lake and easily viewable to each other. Their many windows face each other in a way that suggests that their owners’ regularly watch the other house. However, Meenah is the star of the show, not the mansions.

She finds her way downstairs relatively easily. She’s been downstairs before, but even still, the layout is still strangely intuitive to her despite the fact that it's devilishly maze-like to anyone else. Whether that intuition is from some forgotten muscle memory from another Meenah or from the fact that the mansion almost seems to be styled after her own hive, she can’t tell, but it's handy either way. Any delay risks the loss of valuable information.

Valuable information being anything she can glean from the human Condescension. She saw the woman during breakfast on her way out of the building and instantly knew something was off. Meenah expected confidence to radiate from the older woman, even from someone with no memory of being the powerful ruler of a powerful empire, but instead she almost seemed cornered and wary. Like she had to leave to do something she wished she didn’t have to do. Then Roxy mentioned seeing her out and, even though no location was given, it's solid evidence that she can be found. With luck, Meenah can run into her and spy on her from afar.

Luckily, luck seems to be on Meenah’s side. Neither hide nor hair can be seen of Feferi, which means zero delays for Meenah. It's easy to find the entrance and head out, though another problem quickly makes itself known. Walking down the long well-paved driveway is easy, but which direction should she take to get to wherever the Condescension is now? How far is it? She doesn’t even know if her ancestor is in a city or some sort of rural area, and she doubts Roxy would be open for questioning. There's that online map that Jade gave the memo but it still wouldn’t tell her which direction the woman is in…

While Meenah is wondering what to do, a rumbling noise sounds from a bend down the road. She raises an eyebrow and peers in the direction of the sound just in time to see a black scuttlebuggy trundling down the road. Car, not scuttlebuggy, she reminds herself, though she's more preoccupied by a feeling of satisfaction. Humans are much more friendly than trolls. She would have no problem waving the driver over, and from there stealing the car should be easy.

Except, before she can even wave, the car pulls over towards the driveway Meenah is standing on. She quickly steps back to give the vehicle room and watches as it slows to a stop in front of her. She can’t see the driver through the dark tinted windows and that bothers her. Is it Feferi? Human Condesce? Cronus? Some random person that wants to try to take advantage of her? Meenah doesn’t like this one bit.

She likes it even less when the driver rolls his window down. Adults in the Beforian Empire were less dangerous than those in the Alternian one, plus there was the fact that Meenah was (and is) an heiress who is very competent at defending herself. However, she still feels an instinctual fear when she comes face to face with the human version of Dualscar. Ancestors, human or not, are something worth being wary of.

“Meenah,” he greets with a nod of his head. He glances towards the house behind her and she wonders if he's looking for something. Someone? “You don’t usually leave the house so early.”

“Today’s different,” Meenah answers automatically. She’ll remember that fact about her human self for later, but for now, there's no use dragging shit out. “Looking for someone?”

A brief expression of surprise flashes across Dualscar’s face but it's quickly replaced by a good-natured smile. “Always straight to the point with you. Yeah, I’m looking for someone. Is your mom home?”

That's interesting. “Nah, she’s not. She left a while ago.”

The adult curses under his breath and sits back in his seat. His fingers tap the steering wheel in irritation and Meenah can’t help but wonder why he wants to see her so bad. But if it's that urgent… “Have any idea where she might be?” the teen ventures.

Dualscar glances her way. “Course I do.”

Even more interesting. He bit the hook, now time to see if she can reel him in. “Cool, ‘cause I was hoping to see her.”

One of his eyebrows raises considerably. “And it couldn’t wait until she came back?”

“Nope,” she says. “Important business and she isn’t answering.” Meenah didn’t actually try calling or messaging her in case her ancestor remembered like she does, but Dualscar doesn’t need to know that. Just like he doesn’t need to know that she has no intention of properly visiting the Condesce.

Luckily he seems to believe her. “Typical,” he sighs. “Well I’ll take you there if you want to go. Just hop in.”

Dualscar unlocks the car while she walks around to get into the passenger's side. Once in, a quick glance at him makes her realize that she should probably put her seatbelt on. Y’know, pretend to be a normal human. The car begins to roll forward and she sits back, figuring she may as well get comfy for the ride. There's no telling how long this is going to take.

She keeps herself busy by stealing glances at the ancestor-turned-human, but she isn’t doing it because of his appearance. Something is off with him. It might be the fact that his greeting seemed to imply that he knew her habits, but it's more likely the way that he glances at her every now and then during the drive. Eventually the two of them lock eyes and he clears his throat.

“So, uh,” Dualscar begins. Then he stops and looks back at the road to try again. “I know we haven’t exactly had the best relationship after me and your mom broke up.”

Meenah really doesn’t know, but she's getting good at pretending. “Mhm.”

“But I don’t see why we can’t…” The adult trails off, his fingers tapping on the wheel again. It seems like a nervous tick. “I don’t see why we can’t be close again. Maybe not as father and daughter, but as friends?”

She raises an eyebrow at him. This isn’t where she thought this was heading but then again, she doesn’t know everything about human culture.

Dualscar notices her look and laughs, his voice tinged with self-deprecation. “I don’t even know if you teenagers do that. It could be a taboo or something and I’m here making a fool of myself.”

She decides to step in a little. She doesn’t know if it's taboo or not, but she does know that it's one more connection to help her learn more about this world. The more she knows, the better plans she csn make to get herself out of there. “Hey, it’s cool. I’ll be your friend.”

He seems pleasantly surprised. “Oh really? That’s- That’s great. Thank you.”

Meenah shrugs. “It’s nothing.”

“Well,” he continues without hearing her, “if we’re friends you can’t exactly call me dad anymore. And I know how awkward you get with that.”

Oh. This is an opportunity to see if Dualscar has a title like an ancestor does or a name like a human does, and Meenah is all for that. “So what do you suggest?”

“My first name. I know it’s odd, but you’re only two years away from being an adult and you can’t call everyone by their last name for forever…”

“Get on with it.”

“Right, right. Call me Cedric.”

Cedric? That's maybe a troll name but it's definitely not Cronus, the name he normally would’ve had. Just how much are the ancestors affected? She'll have to look into that when she finds her own ancestor, but for now, the conversation. “Will do.”

Cedric nods and keeps driving. He looks much more relaxed now; a tension that Meenah didn’t notice before is gone from his shoulders and hands. If the words they just exchanged are any indication, he cares about her just like a lusus would. Karkat was right about human parents and that makes her wonder just how susceptible they would be to coercion from their charges. Or “children”, as humans call them. Can she somehow use Cedric and even her own ancestor? That's yet another thing to look into.

Speaking of looking into things, there's one more question that's bugging her. He mentioned that she was two years away from being an adult which, if her information on humans is correct, means that she's 16. Is Cronus the same way? What about Eridan? Depending on how old they are and how different human maturity is from troll maturity, age differences could lead to some serious problems down the road.

“Hey Cedric,” she starts, and he lets out a questioning hum. Hopefully this won’t cause too much suspicion. “How old are we, again?”

There's a pause. “We?”

“Your children.”

There's another, longer pause. This time he ends it with a small laugh. “Forgot how old Eridan was?”

“Sure.”

“He’s 16, the youngest.”

Wait a second. That doesn’t sound right. “And I’m?”

“16? The oldest?”

“How much older am I than Eridan?”

“I dunno. A few years.”

That definitely doesn’t sound right. “And how old are others?”

“What’s with all the questions?”

“Just testing you. How old are they?”

“16 and 16. Cronus is a few years older than Feferi, like you and Eridan.”

“So we’re all 16.”

Cedric pauses. “No.”

Meenah turns to look at him, her gaze calculating. “How old are we?”

His brows furrow like he knows something's wrong. “16, 16, 16, and 16. From youngest to oldest.”

“That sounds like we’re all the same age.”

“No, you’re not. You’re all different.”

“You just said the same number for each of us.”

Cedric glances at her and, for a second, he looks wide-eyed with concern and realization. Then his expression suddenly goes blank and he returns his gaze to the road. There's no answer.

A chill creeps up Meenah’s spine. “Cedric?”

“Hm?”

“What were you saying?”

“I was telling you to call me by my first name.”

Oh fuck. Meenah sits back in her seat as alarm bells sound in her head. The ride is suddenly much less comfortable. Whatever just happened isn’t natural, especially not whatever happened to make him forget the age discussion. She quickly checks her phone and sees that she still can’t respond to the memo. With a glance at Cedric, she quickly pesters Mituna to ask him to let her back in. He doesn’t respond, so she pesters Karkat. No response. Then Eridan. Nothing there either. She scrolls back up in the memo to find the handles of Jade and Roxy to pester them too, but there's no response from either of them.

Meenah eventually lowers her phone, her knuckles white from how hard she's clutching it. Is their lack of reply connected to Cedric’s sudden loss of memory or is it just a coincidence? Whatever it is, she wants out of this car. Now. She looks out the window and sees that she's in some sort of suburb. This will have to do.

“Hey Cedric,” she starts. She tries, somewhat unsuccessfully, to keep the desperation out of her voice. “I just remembered that a friend wanted me to come over. Can you pull over? They’re really close.”

Cedric blinks in surprise but dutifully starts to look for a place to pull over. “Oh, sure. Do you need me to come by later to pick you up?” he asks. Either he doesn’t notice her slight desperation or he chooses to ignore it.

“I’m good. Really.”

He pulls over next to the sidewalk. “If you say so.”

Meenah simply nods, unbuckles herself, and gets the fuck out of the car. She doesn’t look behind her as she walks down the sidewalk in the opposite direction of where said car was going. She doesn’t want anything to do with it or Cedric ever again if she can help it. Then she pauses. She can’t let fear rule her like this. She's a leader for a reason; she's supposed to run towards it.

She glances behind her to see the car already vanishing behind a turn in the road. She'll run towards her fear soon enough. For now she has to figure some things out. Things such as Cedric’s possible connection to this new world and what that might spell for the people who remember the game. Things such as Cedric’s connection to her ancestor and why said ancestor is acting so fishy. Things such as why only six specific people remember and why she can’t contact any of them after what happened to Cedric.

Most of all, she has to find a way out of there.


CG: SO DID EVERYONE ELSE GET SEVERAL MESSAGES FROM MEENAH TELLING US THAT SHE NEEDED TO GET INTO THE MEMO?
TA: Y34H
CA: i got them too
CG: DO YOU TWO THINK I SHOULD ANSWER?
CA: i didnt
CA: shes prolly just gonna yell at us wwhen she gets back on here

TA: 5H35 1N 7H1M3 0U7 F0R 4 R3450N 4ND 5H35 57H4Y1NG 7H47 W4Y
CG: I WISH YOU’D TELL US WHY.
TA: Y0U D0N7 W4N7 M3 70
CA: i do
TA: Y34H
TA: 4ND Y0UR3 57HUP1D

CA: ouch


It's some time after Roxy had her little (embarrassing) freak out. She doesn’t want to think about it. Everyone was super concerned, they asked her what was up, she lied and played their games until she thought they forgot about it, yadda yadda yadda. She wants to move on and forget it ever happened. Except, oh wait, once everyone went home from their little playdate Roxy was smushed back into the Strilonde van and taken to an early dinner in an attempt to cheer her up. She might appreciate it more if it wasn’t for the fact that she just wants to curl up, coupled with the fact that she's still sorely unused to crowds.

To her, seven other people is definitely a crowd. The Strilonde family is seated at a place called Five Guys. Around her are people she recognizes: Dirk, Rose, and Dave. Then there's four others she doesn’t recognize. She met two of them at breakfast, Rosaline and Roxanne, who she quickly learned are her older sisters and legal guardians. Then two others arrived shortly after that, Derrick and David, her two older brothers and the legal guardians of the Striders. To make things weirder, Derrick and David look like older copies of Dirk and Dave respectively and it's the same for Rosaline and Roxanne with Rose and Roxy herself. Apparently they all have the same mom and dad, though where they are now, Roxy couldn't care less.

It's a shame, really, that she isn’t in any sort of mood to be her playful and energetic self. It might’ve made pretending that she's perfectly fine and having a fun time so much easier. She doesn’t miss the worried glances everyone sends her way. The Lalondes are the worst culprits, though that's most likely due to the fact that Rose (and Rosaline) are experts at reading people. Luckily, thinks Roxy, even experts can fail. She would beat them yet.

“Oh shit, that’s our number,” Derrick says, breaking Roxy out of her thoughts. She watches as he gets up and goes to the counter to grab three large paper bags from a worker.

David practically snorts at the sight of them. “Oh my god. That’s a lot of food.”

“Do you really expect anything less of us?” Rose adds.

“I’d hope not after last time’s mistake,” Dave snickers. “That was a mess.”

Rosaline leans forward, smiling deviously. “I seem to recall that it was mostly your doing.”

Roxanne snorts. “I still remember the look on Dirk’s face.”

Dirk raises an eyebrow at her. “Which one?”

This is already starting to overwhelm Roxy. She sits back and feigns a smile, desperately hoping that they're too busy talking to each other to focus on her. Even when she's at her best she can only handle three or four people tops. Seven others makes her head spin. She may have grown up in the middle of a bustling island of carapacians, but at least they rarely talked. Humans are another matter entirely. So chatty, so loud, so overwhelming, so-

“Here we are,” Derrick announces. He's back at the table and pulling burgers out of the bags to set in front of the appropriate people. “Eight burgers and a fuckton of fries.”

David takes the fries and one of the now empty bags to pour them all into it. “Hell yes.”

Roxy watches as the others unwrap their burgers and she quickly does the same. She ordered the plainest burger available, which earned her more than a few stares from the Strilondes. But she had no idea what half of the extras even were and she figured that she might as well let her stomach have some time to get used to something other than pumpkins, canned foods, and confectioneries. It was weird enough during breakfast; she doesn’t need to risk anything else today.

She takes a hesitant bite while she watches everyone else at the table. Once all the fries are in the bag, David salts the whole thing and shakes it around to let the salt get on every fry. When he finishes and turns to his own burger, the other Striders immediately reach for the bag. What ensues is a battle of hands that has David and Rosaline snickering to themselves.

Everyone seems so comfortable with each other. Then there's Roxy, the outcast. Or at least she feels like one. She tries her best not to sigh as she slowly eats her food. If she's going to stop being the odd one out, she'll have to get in the game and start acting like her old self. Starting with actually communicating with the people around her.

“So Dirk,” she starts, only to pause for a moment as she figures out what to say. “How’s life been for you?”

It isn’t the best start and Dirk seems surprised at the sudden conversation, but he smiles and answers her anyway. “It’s been going pretty good. Spring break is giving me a lot of opportunities to work on my projects.”

Dave groans. “He’s been spending every day locked up in his room. He barely comes out to eat!”

Roxy smiles a little. This time it's genuine; she knows exactly how Dirk can get when he's focused on something. It's nice to have something so similar in this new game. “That sounds like him.”

Dirk rolls his eyes at his younger brother (though Dave doesn’t look too much younger than him. It was like they're the same age). “How’s life for you? I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

Roxy can practically feel the attention coming from everyone else at the crowded table. In her current state of mine, it's all she can do to keep herself from shrinking back. “Oh, you know,” she says with fake casualness. “The typical projects.”

Dirk almost looks suspicious. “What kind of projects?”

That Roxy stumps for a second. What kind of projects would she be working on? Hacking and making extremely poor attempts at drawing, mostly, but is that what their Roxy would do? Or… Oh! People her age are supposed to go to school, right? “School projects. I thought they would be easy but they’re kicking my ass.”

Score. No one seems to doubt her explanation, and in fact Roxanne even looks sympathetic. “Oh yeah,” the adult groans. “School. It’s a bitch like that.”

Roxy nods and takes another bite of her burger. Dave and Rose share their griefs with school projects but she finds that she's paying more attention to Rosaline instead. The older woman, though she tries to hide it, still seems slightly suspicious. She's a woman Roxy has to be careful about in the future. That means no more freak outs for Roxy. She's going to be strong and resilient for herself and the others who remember!

It's that thought that makes Roxy’s shoulders lift and her expression change slightly into something more determined. She still isn’t okay, but she's going to be. Rosaline seems to catch this subtle change in demeanor if the slight raise of her eyebrow is any indication, but the woman only turns back to her meal. Hopefully this means that Roxy isn’t going to get bugged about any earlier incidents.

However, that hope quickly dies out. Once the burgers are eaten and the fries are almost gone, Roxy glances around the table again to find Rose staring directly at her.

“What’s up?” Roxy asks her. The dread inside her stomach grows as Rose sighs.

“I’m afraid you already know. I’m worried about you.”

Across from her, Dave lets out a nearly identical sigh and crumples up his napkin. “What happened earlier just isn’t normal.”

“But it totally is,” Roxy insists. She falls back on the lie she told back at the park. It's shitty, but it was the first thing she could think of. “One of my favorite bands is breaking apart and I really liked them!”

“No,” Dirk interjects. He looks serious. “I’m not going to waste my time disputing the fact that you like music for its genre, not for the band. I’m not even going to get into the fact that I looked up almost any band you would like and none of them were breaking apart. No, I’m disputing the fact that your reaction was in any way appropriate for that situation.”

Rosy hesitates but Dirk doesn’t seem to want to continue and no one else looks like they're going to talk. Silence is one of the things she hates most. “Your point..?”

“You looked scared, Roxy. At most you would be distraught over a band breaking up. But scared? That’s something else.”

She glances around the table and sees unyielding, concerned faces. Damnit. She has to think of something else.

“Roxy,” Rosaline urges, her hand moving to grasp Roxy’s, “you know you can tell us anything.”

Roxy meets the woman’s gaze. There's only concern there. It almost makes her tear up - she's the mother Roxy never had. And it's in that moment that she comes up with a plan and lets herself tear up. She hangs her head and her hand grasps at her pants. It looks convincing enough to be the real thing. “Yeah, I do,” she murmurs.

David is on her other side. His hand grasps her shoulder reassuringly. “What happened?”

Roxy sniffles and reaches up to wipe at her eyes despite the lack of any proper crying. “There’s this girl at school. I never even saw her before but I guess she decided that she hated me. She would keep threatening me and calling me names. I kept thinking that she’d go away but then she got a hold of my pesterchum and started messaging me.” Roxy glances up at the others at the table. They seem totally convinced, but she isn’t done yet. “Then when I was at the park she messaged me again. She said that she knew where I lived and that she followed me out there, and that she was going to hurt the rest of you too.”

Their faces instantly change. They look angry now, though Derrick’s and Roxanne’s expressions were more murderous. It's interesting to see how they react. Dirk and Rose sit back and glance at each other like they're already planning to get back at the fake bully. Dave’s mouth is practically open with shock. David and Rosaline’s fingers curl and Roxy could practically feel the tension radiating from the hand on her shoulder. Derrick’s murderous expression slowly slides of his face with deceptive calm, but Roxanne still looks as angry as ever.

“Are you serious!?” she fumes. “Who the fuck even does that?”

Rose’s gaze slides back to Roxy. “Apparently someone at her school.”

“I’m curious to know who she is,” Dirk adds.

With a slight tilt of his head, Derrick gestures his chin towards Roxy. “What’s her pesterchum?”

“Actually,” Rosaline interrupts, “I want more than her pesterchum. I want to know exactly what she said to you.”

Roxy blinks a couple times at that. She didn’t think that far ahead, but she knows the others will press until they get some sort of fake pesterchum conversation. Then something hits her. She and Jade both got messages from Meenah as they were leaving the park, but when she saw that the messages looked a little threatening, Roxy convinced her friend not to respond to them. Those might be able to work. Besides, she ended up loosely basing her story off of the Condesce. If anyone can fit that role it's Meenah. “Sure,” she says, and digs into her pocket for her phone. “I deleted a lot of the earlier conversations from my end so I wouldn’t have to look at them, but she sent some messages while I was on my way over here.”

Roxanne takes her phone almost immediately after Roxy opens up the conversation. From the look on her face, Meenah fills the role of bully perfectly.

-- causticCondescension [CC] began pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] at 14:52 --

CC: cod fuckin damnit beach you betta respond to me
CC: roxy
CC: look im usin your name
CC: fuckin roxy
CC: i know youre seain this shit
CC: damnit do you want me apologize cause you shoald know that i wont
CC: what i said wasnt even that bad i can go much worse
CC: are you seariously not respondin
CC: when i meet you im goin to fuckin make you respond
CC: teach you a coddamn lesson
CC: fuck
CC: get back to me later alright

-- causticCondescension [CC] ceased pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] at 14:59 --

Rosaline leans to read over Roxanne’s shoulder. Then the phone gets passed around so anyone who wants to read it can, which ends up being everyone else at the table. Roxy sits back and tries not to look smug. It turns out Meenah is useful after all, though Roxy can’t help but feel a bit bad for her. Based on everyone’s reactions, they’ll be giving the other girl hell for a while.

Finally the phone is passed back to Roxy and she quickly stuffs it in her pocket again. She notices Dirk already texting on his phone and feels another small wave of sympathy despite herself. Thankfully, David’s voice interrupts her before she can think too hard about that feeling.

“That girl is a piece of work.”

“Certainly,” Rose adds as she takes her phone out too. “Her handle even fits her character.”

Dave picks up his napkin and starts to tear small pieces off. “Shit, I can’t believe anyone would say that stuff to you. What gives?”

Roxy shrugs. “I don’t know. Some people are just mean.”

Derrick shakes his head as he gets up to gather the trash and throw it out. “Fuck ‘em.”

Rosaline sighes as she pushes her chair back to get up. “I just wish you had told us sooner. We could’ve kept it from escalating to this level.”

Everyone else starts to get up too, so Roxy takes that as her cue to get up as well. “Sorry. Thought I could handle it myself.”

Rosaline gives her a sympathetic pat on the shoulder before moving over to pull Rose’s and Dirk’s phones out of their hands. She ignores their protests as she turns to the rest of the group. “Shall we?”

“Yes please,” David agrees. “I have work to do tomorrow.”

Derrick snorts and came over to wrap an arm around David’s shoulders. “Like staying at home and watching cat videos?”

“Excuse you, that’s very important work for the movie I might be directing!”

“Uh-huh. I’m sure of it.”

The group heads towards the exit after that. No one is forgetting Roxy’s story, but it's pushed to the back of their minds for the moment as they laugh and joke with each other. She can’t help but notice the dichotomy between how they're acting now and how they acted when she told her lie, but she isn’t surprised. The same thing would happen back when she and Dirk were on their flooded Earth

Roxy glances around the group only to notice that there's one member that isn’t joking along with the others. Roxanne keeps up with everyone else but she doesn’t seem to be paying attention to them in the slightest. Instead, her expression is thoughtful. Like she's making some connection the others didn’t. Roxy notices this and keeps an eye on her, but the older woman doesn’t say anything as the group loads themselves back into the van. Rosaline also seems to notice but she doesn’t ask.

Once everyone is safely crowded into the van (and once Roxy remembers how seatbelts work), Derrick drives them out of the parking lot and back towards the Lalonde house. The Lalondes and Striders live separately; the girls staying in the suburbs while the guys live in the city. The Striders came to pick the Lalondes up earlier so they could all head to the park, but now that the day’s activities are over, they're heading back to drop the Lalondes off.

The trip back gives Roxy some time to think. She's already feeling better about earlier, though she's still a ways off from being totally fine again. Thankfully, her uncomfortableness about being around so many people is getting slightly better. She doesn’t know if it's because she's getting a bit used to it or because her mood is lighter, but whichever's the case, she's glad for it. It makes the ride home much more comfortable than the ride there.

It also makes the ride shorter, she quickly realizes, as she looks out a window to see that the van is almost at the Lalonde’s house. Dirk also seems to notice this and he asks to have his phone back. Rosaline rolls her eyes but smiles as she gives Dirk and Rose their phones back just in time for the van to pull into the driveway.

“Don’t be too harsh on her,” she says. “Save some for the rest of us.”

Rose smiles deviously. “If you insist.”

The car rolls to a stop and Derrick leans back to look at everyone in the seats behind him. “Alright kids, playdate’s over.”

“Awwww,” David whines, “but we had so much fun!”

Roxanne snickers. She's out of her thoughts long enough to play along and say goodbye. “Yeah. Just five more minutes?”

Rosaline rolls her eyes. “You two sound like you’re still twelve.”

Dave groans and lets his head fall back against the headrest. “You guys do this every time.”

Rose sets her phone down after she finishes her latest message. “Then I’ll take the hint and get out. We all know they won’t move until someone else does.”

“Aww, okay,” he says. “See you when school starts up again.”

Rose smiles at him as she gently shoves Roxy to get her attention. Startled, Roxy quickly unbuckles herself and opens the door to get out. Rose follows behind her and waves to Dave. “I’ll see you then.”

Once Rose and Roxy are out, it doesn’t take long for Rosaline and Roxanne to bid farewell to their brothers and climb out of the car too. The vehicle pulls back out of the driveway as the siblings wave to each other. Once it pulls away, Roxanne sighs to herself and rubs her forehead.

“I need to check some things.”

Rosaline frowns slightly but nods. “Understandable, but don’t stay up too late. I’d rather not be forced to drag you back to your bed for the third time this week.”

The other woman laughs and starts to head for the front door. “Yeah, yeah. I promise I won’t stay up until three am.”

Rosaline rolls her eyes and follows her sister. “You said that the last few times.”

“And you dragged me back before it was three. Check and mate.”

“Fine. I’ll let you stay up all night.”

“Please don’t. I have work tomorrow.”

Rosaline smirks and makes her way in front of Roxanne to unlock the door. “I thought so.”

Rose follows the two older sisters and Roxy quickly goes along with her. Hopefully this means that Roxy will be able to have some time to herself. That would make it much easier for her to call a meeting in the park and slip away unnoticed. She enters the foyer with the rest of the Lalondes and Roxanne immediately leaves to head towards the basement door. Rosaline takes one step onto the stairs and turns to the younger sisters.

“I’ll be in my room if either of you need me, as usual.”

Rose smiles. “Of course. We’ll get you if we need you.”

Rosaline smiles back and turns to walk up the rest of the stairs. Only Rose and Roxy are left. Rose sends another quick message to Meenah before putting her phone away. She looks as though she's going to say something, so before she can give Roxy any sort of obligation to do anything else, Roxy interrupts her.

“I should probably head off to my room. Y’know, school projects and stuff.”

Rose raises an eyebrow but nods. “Alright. I would follow the trend and be in my room as well, but I’d rather watch the movie Dave recommended to us.”

Roxy nods back, suddenly feeling worried about the movie. Is she supposed to watch it too? She really wishes she has more information about whatever version of her she apparently replaced. Sadly, it's too late for her to back out now. “Cool. I’ll watch that tomorrow.”

“I’ll be sure to spoil everything for you.”

Roxy groans. Hopefully the other version of herself hates spoilers as much as she does. “Ugh, no! Why do you have to be like this?”

Rose smirks. “Because I can be. Now,” she says as she heads towards the living room, “I best be off before Dave can spam me with complaints. I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah, later,” Roxy agrees. She rushes up the stairs as soon as Rose is out of sight, thankful that she's been let off so easily. From there it's easy to find her room. The house isn’t that big and she did wake up there. She opens her door and enters the comforting darkness of her bedroom. Then she closes her door again and leans against it with a happy sigh.

Finally she's alone. She loves people, she really does, but sometimes they just get to be too much. Then Roxy groans softly. She can’t escape people just yet. She still has to meet five of them later, though she hopes that they won’t drain her energy too much. Then again, there's only one way to tell.

But there's something else to do before she can call a meeting. Roxy flips the lights on and reveals a small but comfortable room. The bed is messy and the desk and dresser are cluttered with papers and nicknacks, but they don’t bother her in the slightest. She tiptoes her way around some of the stuffed animals on the floor to flop down on her bed and take her phone out. She doesn’t want to do this, but she knows that it's important to at least check in. For the group, if nothing else.

-- tipsyGnostalgic [TG] began pestering causticCondescension [CC] at 17:46 --

TG: hey
CC: holy shit
TG: quick thing
CC: no i need to ask you somefin
TG: if its not about the sudden storm of messages youve prolly been getting then i dont want to hear it right now
TG: save it for the meeting

CC: you know about that
TG: yeah
TG: im kinda the cause of it

CC: what the shell did you do
TG: well i kind of freaked out a little after i left the memo
TG: and my family noticed
TG: fuck its so weird to say that i have a family

CC: and
TG: well they were worried and they didnt buy my first excuse
TG: so i gave em a second excuse

CC: did you pin it on me
TG: i pinned it on some random girl at school threatening me but then they wanted her handle and they wanted to see the conversation so i told em that i deleted the earlier ones but i still had to show em something so i showed them the messages u sent earlier about wanting to talk to me and now like 7 people think u threatened me and also them and theyre angry
CC: beach
CC: the fuck

TG: i had to do something and ur the person i care about the least right now so
CC: look i get the not likin me part but you didnt have to set seven rabid humans on me
TG: call them rabid again i dare you
CC: calm the shell down
CC: look fuck you but lets move past that right now
CC: you saw my messages earlier

TG: of course i did
CC: are you fuckin searious
TG: jfc what is it now
CC: i thought some weird shit was going on cause no one was answerin
CC: but no everyone was fuckin IGNORIN me

TG: sorry to hear about that
CC: you arent
TG: no im not
CC: thought so
CC: anywave can you tell the memo people to let me back in i have some very important info to share

TG: you can do that urself when we meet
CC: come the fuck on its urgent
TG: good
CC: B-EAC)(
TG: im calling the meeting now
CC: oh
CC: at least thats somefin

TG: it is
TG: now come over to the park nd ill get the memo people in on this

-- tipsyGnostalgic [TG] ceased pestering causticCondescension [CC] at 17:58 --

Now that 's done, Roxy stands back up and makes her way over to the window. She's on the second story of the house, but part of the roof is right outside. It will be no problem to get onto it and-

Oh. She could fly back at the game, so why can’t she fly now? Roxy smiles at that thought, but she won’t test it quite so soon. First she has to get out of the house. Jade mentioned being able to teleport people so Roxy is pretty confident that her powers have also carried over from the game. She stares at the window and wills herself to sink into the void. When the familiar cool feeling surrounds her, she reaches out, and her hand passes right through the glass. Roxy grins and walks all the way through the window and out onto the roof. Hell yes.

From there it's easy enough to float down onto the grass of the yard. She glances around to confirm that no one saw her and takes out her phone to check the location of the park. It isn’t too far away. With one quick message to the memo, she tucks her phone away and sets off running.


TG: stop what youre doing and head to the park we got a meeting to see out

Chapter Text

A dark fog permeates the air. Beneath it, there's a sea of small black pebbles. The land is flat and featureless, the fog empty and devoid of life. That is, it's mostly empty. The pebbles shine and reflect a single point of bright, brilliant light. Said light is currently at the end of a wand, and Rose Lalonde is holding it high up in the air.

She's been wandering the featureless place for what feels like hours. She has no idea how much time has actually passed, only that it's imperative that she keep moving. So move she does. The pebbles crunch underfoot and the light like a tiny sun illuminates a small section of the fog around her. All she can smell is dust, all she can taste is ashen fog, all she can hear is the sound of tiny stones sliding against each other, and all she can see is the empty land around her. It almost makes her want to give up her endless wandering.

Almost. Rose thinks back to when she first arrived, sprawled on the stones. She remembers the game and the message that came after, welcoming to her starting tier and the tier she would supposedly support. She's on the Prosperse tier, though what that means, she doesn’t know. Then there was that strange message for the tier she's supposed to be supporting. A 501 error about something not implemented yet. It sounded ominous. It still does

It's made even more ominous by the fact that nobody else has been around since then. At first she called out and hoped that someone was close enough to hear her, but there was no response. Then she checked in with her powers - which still thankfully worked - and came to the conclusion that moving was the best idea. Every time she checked afterwards it still remained as the thing she should do, so here she is hours later and still wandering. Her feet are starting to tire and she has switched her arms too many times to count to keep holding her light aloft. The addition of the light is purely common sense. Her voice might tire, but the light would keep shining as a beacon that would hopefully call her friends. Or at least anyone else.

She keeps walking, one foot after another, and is carried along by a determination to find out what's happening and why she's in this place. If she can only find some other source of life, even if it's as small as an insect. In fact, she's quite honestly looking for something that small, which is why she misses the way the fog seems to reflect her light back at her. It didn't do that before, at least, not to the degree it is now. The reflection becomes brighter as she walks until it finally catches her eye.

It's quickly made apparent that it in’t a reflection at all. It's its own silently pulsing light, though the pulses were too minuscule to notice before. Rose hesitates but lowers her wand and stops providing it with light. Now with the darkness surrounding her, she can easily see the red and blue light before her. It isn’t long before she can make out a slight shape in the fog, short but wiry with psionic energy arcing between four horns.

“Hello,” she calls, and hopes that the person before her is who she thinks it was, “nice day for a walk.”

The person snorts slightly and keeps walking forward. He's more easily visible now and easily identifiable as Sollux Captor, only without the double eye patches he wore when she last saw him. In their place sre a pair of red and blue shades to match the colors of his eyes. “‘Nice’?”

She shrugs. “I heard it’s important to stay positive.”

The troll stops in front of her. His psionics make some of Rose’s hair stand on end. “Says the human.”

She raises an eyebrow and crosses her arms. “I’d love to dig into that comment, I really would. It’s such a shame that literally anything else is more important right now.”

Sollux smirks and shakes his head. “You can’t deny that every human says that.”

“I can. However, I called out the importance of anything else in an attempt to discuss the topics we should be discussing.”

His expression suddenly grows more serious. “Yeah. Did you get the same message I did?”

“Something about being on the Prosperse tier and supporting another tier, though I was presented with a 501 error before I could find out what that other tier was.”

“I got the same thing. Something’s gone wrong.”

“I think you’re right,” says Rose. She glances around at the still featureless landscape around them. “It makes me wonder if this where our supposed tier should be or if it is just a waiting place for when the error is fixed.”

Sollux tilts his head slightly and looks around with her. “Could be either way. But it’s kind of shitty that we and whoever else that might be here were spaced so far apart from each other.”

A thought occurs to Rose. “Do you think that’s on purpose?”

The troll’s eyes narrows slightly in thought. “It has to be,” he muses. “All of us are powerful gods. What better way to bring us down than by splitting us into groups and trying to make sure the groups can’t even meet their own members?”

“I suppose winning the game and not being thrown into another deathly scenario is too much to ask for. Though it would make it much easier if all of us were god tier, not just the humans and one troll.”

Sollux smirks. “Make that two trolls.”

“Two?” she asks. That's interesting. “Did you find a way to go god tier while you were roaming the dream bubbles?”

“No,” he says. “Something even better. I woke up here already god tiered.”

Rose blinks in surprise. “Really? How do you know? You don’t have a god tier outfit on.”

He shrugs and glances around at the fog again. “I might not, but I’m still god tier. I’ve been feeling Doom ever since I woke up and I’ve practiced doing some things while I was looking for people.”

“What kinds of things?”

“Well-” the troll starts, but he suddenly cuts himself off. He's staring at a specific point in the fog, but when Rose follows his gaze, she can't see anything.

“Sollux?”

“We should move,” he says, with an urgency that has her worried. “I don’t think we want to be totally doomed just yet.”

Rose frowns and closes her eyes. A glowing line appears on her forehead, and it opens up into a third eye made of light. The sun-like pupil shines brightest of all as she examines the the most fortunate path ahead of her. Here she can only see actions that should be taken, not their results. Currently only one action is free of the mist that's been clouding her vision since she woke: move.

She opens her real eyes again. Her third eye closes and fades. “You’re right.”

Sollux shakes his head and starts off in the opposite direction of whatever he was staring at before. “Of course I am.”

She follows behind him. She would normally leave the conversation there and let them travel in silence, but something nags her. “How do you know this is the right direction to go in?”

“It’s the one farthest away from our doom. What, do you want to head straight towards it?”

“No, but I can’t help but notice that there are many other options than heading straight away from it.”

The troll side-eyes her. “Do your powers know where to go?”

“They didn’t show me that much. I’m speaking from my own intuition.”

Sollux shakes his head but something disturbs the fog before he can say anything. Both troll and human stop and stare as it moves and becomes slightly uneven in places. It's startling to see a difference in the previously uniform sheet of translucent grey. Then they feel the slight breeze that's agitating the fog and glance at each other. Compared to the stillness beforehand, it's obvious that the breeze isn’t a natural function of the land.

A thought comes to Rose’s mind and she smirks slightly. “I think that might just be John.”

Sollux looks towards where the breeze is coming from - slightly to the left of where they were heading before - and nods. “Looks like we know where we’re going now.”

“We certainly do,” she says as she starts towards it. “Let’s hope it doesn’t take another few hours to find him.”

The troll groans in agreement and follows after her. Red and blue energy still arcs between his horns to light the way. Slowly, step by step, their light recedes into the fog and the land they left behind became dark again. Much later, a darkened serpentine shape moves through the fog. Its long claws dig deep into the endless black pebbles as it pulls itself forward. It stops momentarily where the two gods found each other and it lifts its head - a massive horse skull - to examine something no one else can see. A cloud of ash and dust rises from underneath the skull and, for a moment, its deep green eyes practically shine. Then it turns itself towards where the gods carried on and drags itself forward, inch by inch, to follow them.