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Karkat woke to a knock at his hive door.
Ugh, looks like he fell asleep at his desk instead of in a recoopercoon again. Explains the bad dreams he had.
Karkat shuffles to the door. Normally, he’d be suspicious of any visitors, but since he moved after Crabdad died, the only one who knows where he lives is his moirail, Kanaya, so he isn’t particularly suspicious.
Except he should have been, as Karkat Vantas opens the door to greet her Imperial Condescension.
Karkat is now wide awake as shock registers in his mind.
“)(ello guppy,” she croons as she waltzes in as if she owns the place.
Karkat honestly doesn’t know how he’s supposed to react. He lets the door shut behind her and continues staring.
The Condesce struts into Karkat’s main block and sprawls onto his relaxation bench, her double-sided trident upright beside her. She looks up at him hovering in the doorway.
“W)(at, catfis)( got ya tongue? Come sit down.” She gestures to a chair in front of her as she smirks.
Karkat gulps as his thinkpan starts registering what’s happening. He begins to feel another emotion: fear. He scuttles to the chair and sits on the edge, ready to flee at a moment’s notice.
The Condesce stares at him, looking up and down. Her eyebrows hover ever so slightly above their normal position.
“So you’re t)(e mutant-blood I’ve )(eard aboat, )(u)(?”
Karkat feels the fear coalesce in his chest. How did she know about that?
She scoffs before sitting upright abruptly. “You’ll answer me w)(en I talk, buoy, GOT IT?”
Karkat nods his head frantically.
A malicious grin forms on her face. “Good, t)(at’s w)(at I like to )(ear. And anywave, t)(at was a r)(etorical question. I )(acked into all kinds of surwavelance as soon as I )(eard t)(e spawn of t)(e Signless mig)(t be among us. I already know t)(ose rumors are true.”
Karkat blinks in terror. Oh gog, this is going to be the day he dies, isn’t it?
“Unfortunately for me, ya ain’t t)(e only problem I’ve got bubbling to t)(e surface rig)(t now. -Even so, t)(ey all )(ave a common factor, so I’m t)(inking I can get rid of t)(em all at once.”
“WH… WHAT’S THAT?” Karkat asks cautiously.
The empress smirks.
“You’re t)(e leader of your frond group, ain’t ya?”
Karkat stares blankly. What that has to do with anything he doesn’t know, but after a second he gives a quick nod.
She scoffs. “Pat)(etic. Blood so low, ya ain’t even on t)(e )(emospectrum. If ya ask me, my spawn s)(oulda been in c)(arge.”
The gears in Karkat’s thinkpan start ticking, but he’s too preoccupied to figure out where the Condesce is going with this.
The Condesce smiles. “But lemme give ya some leaders)(ip advice. -Every leader )(as to make some )(ard decisions. And t)(ey are trusted to do so by t)(e people w)(of put t)(em in c)(arge.”
Uh oh. Oh no. No no no. Karkat’s thoughts click into place; it seems he’s made some bad friend choices, and the people Karkat trusts the most are also the people most likely to be a thorn in the Empress’ side based on their own actions and the actions of those before them.
She grins, flashing a million pearly white daggers. “Time for you to make a c)(oice your fronds will )(ave to trust ya on, Karkat Vantas. Ready to make a c)(oice?”
The fear is replaced by a boulder of dread.
She stands and sashays over to Karkat, towering over him, cornering him into his chair.
“C)(oice A: I take ya and and your fronds and stick ya on a s)(ip to send ya far, far away. I’ll let t)(e natives do w)(ateva t)(ey want. Kill, maim, torture, you name it. But in any case, t)(e planet I )(ave in mind is known for its cruelty: t)(ere’s almost always a genocide going on somew)(ere for no good reason, just like )(ere. -Except t)(eir definition of genocide is worse t)(an simple murder. Just t)(ink of w)(at t)(ey could do to ya!” She giggles with glee.
“In any case, I can use any bad be)(avior against ya as an excuse to wave war against ‘em, so add an intergalactic war to w)(ateva ot)(er s)(it )(appens. But t)(e catc)( is, ya mig)(t live, and )(appily too. Small c)(ance, especially w)(en compared to everyt)(ing else t)(at could )(appen. One in, o)(, two to da millionth? But it exists.
“C)(oice B: I krill all of you. Conc)(sider ya-selves good as dead. And I’ll make YOU watc)(! It’ll be fun!” She grins at Karkat devilishly.
Karkat fights the urge to be sick. He doesn’t want anything bad to happen to his friends, but he knows whatever he chooses, it probably will.
He just has to choose how.
The Condesce leans in close, and he can smell the fish on her breath.
“C)(oose.”
He holds his breath and shuts his eyes.
Infinity seems to pass in the next second.
They’re both bad choices. But one has an opportunity for hope. But is such a small hope worth fighting for?
He’ll have to see.
“CHOICE A.”
The Condesce grins and backs away. “------EXC-ELL-ENT! W)(ale, pack ya bags and tell ya fronds! I’ll pick ya up tomorrow at sunrise!”
And like that, she’s gone.
Karkat feels numb.
What has he just sentenced his friends to?

carcinoGeneticist (CG) created a memo “OH GOG I FUCKED SHIT UP”
CG: I NEED EVERYONE TO JOIN RIGHT FUCKING NOW
CG: I’LL ONLY EXPLAIN ONCE EVERYONE IS HERE
twinArmegeddons (TA) joined memo
TA: oh my gog kk what diid you do
CG: YOU SAW HOW I PREFACED THIS
TA: yeah, ii’m tempted two leave
CG: NO!!!
CG: PLEASE
CG: I’M SERIOUS
TA: holy 2hiit ii’m gonna 2tay ju2t becau2e you 2aiid plea2e
CG: NORMALLY I’D SAY FUCK OFF BUT THIS IS TOO IMPORTANT
TA: holy 2hiit
terminallyCapricious (TC) joined memo
TC: hOlY mOtHeRfUcKiNg ShIt Is RiGhT
TC: i SeCoNd NoT hAvInG eVeR sEeN kArBrO rEfRaIn FrOm SaYiNg FuCk OfF
cuttlefishCuller (CC) joined memo
CC: GUYS! B-E NIC-E TO KARCRAB!
CC: )(e’s obviously very stressed rig)(t now!
CG: THANK YOU FEFERI
CG: I MEAN THAT SINCERELY
TA: wow a 2iincere thank you?
TA: what happened two kk??
caligulasAquarium (CA) joined memo
CA: wwhat the fuck is happenin here?
TA: kk beiing 2iincere whiile u2iing plea2e and thank you
CA: wwoww, really?
CA: holy shit
CC: B-E NIC---E!!
arachnidsGrip (AG) joined memo
AG: I’m more interested in how our strong and 8rave leader “FUCKED SHIT UP”
CG: OH YOU’LL FIND OUT
AG: I mean, how 8aaaaaaaad does it h8ve to 8e for Karkat to admit something’s f8cked?
CC: VRISKA!!! 380
TC: yEaH tHaT wAsNt VeRy NiCe Of YoU vRiSkA
TC: eSpEcIaLlY rIgHt AfTeR fEfSiS tOlD uS tO bE nIcE
CC: t)(ank you Gamzee!
AG: ughhhhhhhh
gallowsCalibrator (GC) joined memo
GC: UNFORTUN4T3LY 1 ST1LL 4GR33 W1TH VR1SK4’S S3NT1M3NT
GC: WH4T H4PP3N3D TH4T W4S SO B4D?
AG: Yeah!!!!!!!! <>
CA: thats a fair point kar
CG: I WILL EXPLAIN.
CG: IF YOU WANT IT TO BE SOONER GET EVERYONE ON THE MEMO
adiosToreador (AT) joined memo
AT: dOES,,, eVERYONE REALLY HAVE TO JOIN? tHAT, uH, sOUNDS EXCESSIVE
CG: I’D RATHER ONLY EXPLAIN THIS ONCE, AND THIS IS NEWS THAT HAS TO COME FROM ME
CG: IF IT COMES FROM ANYONE ELSE, WELL…
CG: LET’S JUST SAY IT’LL MAKE ME LOOK SHITTY
TA: that explaiin2 ab2olutely nothiing
GC: NOTH1NG OTH3R TH4N K4RK4T PROB4BLY FUCK3D UP 3NOUGH TO F33L L1K3 H3 N33DS TO T4K3 R3SPONS1B1L1TY >:/
AG: soooooooo… 8ig t8me
CC: )(-EY!!! >380
apocalypseArisen (AA) joined memo
AA: d0nt w0rry! karkat will tell us n ab0ut tw0 minutes!
TA: what
AA: 0r in 0ne minute and fifty tw0 sec0nds t0 be exact
CG: HOW THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW THAT
AA: im g00d with time-based guesses, remember?
AA: i have a g00d feeling ab0ut it 0u0
CG: WELL YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SOON
TC: lOoK aT aRaDiA wItH tHoSe TiMeY wImEy MiRaClEs
AA: 0u0
CA: look at kar bein cryptic as shit
centaursTesticle (CT) joined memo
arsenicCatnip (AC) joined memo
AC: :33< aww rats equihiss beat me
CT: D-> Why do you even care about that?
AC: :33< its fun!
CT: D-> It’s f001ish.
TA: look iit2 the comiic reliief
AC: XOO< fuck you!!
CT: D-> You moronic peasant, keep your trap shut.
CT: D-> Language, Nepeta.
TA: what diid ii 2ay that wa2nt true?
CC: SOLLUX!
CA: haha you got yelled at by fef
CC: -ERIDAN!
GC: H3H3H3H3
grimAuxillatrix (GA) joined memo
GA: What Is Happening
AA: karkat will tell us in ten sec0nds s0 shut up every0ne
CG: FUCK
CG: OKAY
CG: UH WELL
CG: IT GOES LIKE THIS
CG: THE CONDESCE VISITED ME THIS MORNING
CC: 380
AG: WH8T?
AA: shush!
CG: SHE HAS A FEW PEOPLE ON HER HIT LIST, NAMELY US
CG: AND SINCE I’M OUR LEADER, SHE GAVE ME A CHOICE
CG: HAVE HER KILL US FOR SURE
CG: OR HAVE US SHIPPED TO AN ALIEN PLANET FULL OF HOSTILES THAT WILL DO HORRIBLE SHIT TO US FIRST AND THEN WE DIE, EXCEPT THERE’S A QUOTE UNQUOTE ONE IN TWO TO THE MILLIONTH CHANCE THAT WE MIGHT LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER.
TA: 2o… ba2iically zero
CG: …
CA: wwait
CA: wwhat did you choose
CA: kar wwhat did you choose
CG: ...THE ALIEN PLANET
TA: what
TC: wHaT?
CC: W)(AT?
CA: wwhat
AG: Wh8t????????
GC: WH4T??
AT: wHAT
AA: what
CT: D-> What?
AC: :OO< what???
GA: Oh Dear
CG: I UNDERSTAND IF YOU ALL HATE ME NOW BUT I MADE WHAT I THOUGHT AS THE BEST DECISION
CG: I’M SORRY
CG: WE GET PICKED UP TOMORROW AT SUNRISE
CG: … I’M SO SORRY
carcinoGeneticist (CG) left memo

Karkat’s about to cry. But he has something left to do.
He needs to tell his internet matesprit, one of the kindest people Karkat’s ever known, who he loves with all his bloodpusher.
He’s probably still asleep, which is for the best.
Karkat doesn’t want to hurt his matesprit anymore than he has to.

carcinoGeneticist (CG) began trolling turntechGodhead (TG)
CG: I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU
CG: I’M PROBABLY GOING TO DIE BY HOSTILE ALIEN
CG: THE EMPRESS HERE ON ALTERNIA SAW ME AND MY FRIENDS AS A THREAT AND NEEDS TO GET RID OF US
CG: IF I LIVE, I’LL TRY TO COME FIND YOU
CG: …
CG: DAVE, I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART.
CG: I AM SO SORRY
CG: <3
carcinoGeneticist (CG) ceased trolling turntechGodhead (TG)

Karkat wavers on his feet.
His eyes and chest burn, and he feels something drip from his cheek: a tear.
He slowly curls up on the floor, waiting for the Mistress of Death to pick him up.