The further into space you go the quieter the voices become. The subtle murmur of life pushes against your mind when other ships are nearby. You know how to tune out the whispers of those who escort the mothership, and leave just enough room to reach out to her Imperious Condescension. Sometimes she reaches out to you with her mind, and you reach back like lovers clasp hands. She lets it linger maybe a little too long, her daily concerns and fatigues drifting into you with a little pang of affection which never fails to surprise you.
When she visits you can barely tell her apart from the shadows before she puts her hand against your face. It’s cool. Slightly damp since she’s constantly washing her hands. She runs a finger down along your chin and tips it it up. Her voice hides in the dark.
It’s )(igh tide we retreat.
The end of our people is upon us. We need to return to Alternia and protect t)(e grubs from t)(e culling glub. I need you to take us t)(ere.
were thou2and2 of liight year2 away
well never get there iin tiime.
I believe in you, my dear )(elmsman. We )(ave the fastest s)(ip to sail the galaxy.
We )(ave no c)(oice.
Her fingernail traces down to your collarbone and meanders to your chest. Your arms stay pinned helplessly over your head.
no choiice but two have our braiin2 ooze out of our no2e2 fiive minute2 2ooner or later. we miight a2 well just lay down and let iit happen. or 2tay piinned up and let iit happen, iin my ca2e. by the way, thank2 for that.
Full speed a)(ead, )(elmsman
She steps back with a smile, letting her arm extend and linger on you as she disappears.
A lot of concentration goes in to powering a ship, especially when you’re racing against the glub of a dying lusus. You press all you have upward, into the system. Your teeth rattle and your bones ache and for a moment you forget where you are.
You feel the relief of exercised legs folded comfortably into a chair and your fingers rake across a keyboard. Language comes out on the screen with a 2 where an s should be to represent your lisp. There are two i’s where there should be one, because you’re a bifurcated man. And while you’re at it why not use two instead of to and drive this scheme into the ground.
Your hand hovers a moment over the h key as you try to regain your bearings. Your arms are far too thin. Your outfit is far too plain. Your eyes flutter open and you find yourself in the bottom of the mothership once more.
He’s within range again. The boy who is a little too much like you. And you just fell into his head like it was yours.
-- twinArmageddons [ TA ] has begun trolling cuttlefishCuller [ CC ] --
TA: hey priince22
TA: try not two get your 2eadweller undergarment2 iin a bunch iim comiing to connect wiith you now to get you iin the game
TA: 2o ii'll be me22iing around iin your 2tuck up royal palace two get you iin and 2ave your fuckiing liife
TA: iim iin2talliing now
CC: )(--------------EY! glub glub! 38D
CC: Sollux, rig)(t?
TA: yeah but you can ju2t call me fiilth or whatever iit i2 you hiighblood2 do
CC: )(ey! T)(at's not a nice way to talk to someone you just met!
CC: Are you going to just assume t)(ings about me?
CC: Because I )(ave it on good aut)(ority t)(at we are going to be good friends!
CC: I'M EXCIT----ED!!! Glub glub! 38D
TA: what2 wiith the glubbiing
TA: ii2 that 2ome 2ort of hiighblood iin2ult
TA: let me know 2o ii can be appropriiately offended
CC: OMGGGG 38(
CC: I guess I'll just )(ave to prove it to you!
TA: iim not 2ure what youre proviing but ju2t warn me fiirst
TA: ii thiink iive had enough 2hock2 for one day already
CC: Well keep your goggles strapped tig)(t, Solfis)(!
CC: T)(ere are plenty more w)(ere t)(at glubbed from!
CC: Don’t worry, we'll get t)(roug)( it toget)(er! Even if you are kind of a jerk!
CC: Glub glub! )(ee )(ee!
TA: ok what
TA: 2ure whatever
TA: ju2t go help your 2tuck up friiend and iill 2et thiing2 up for you here
CC: OH ERIDAN! I almost forgot!
TA: 2tuff liike that tell2 me that you are totally trustworthy and reliiable
TA: iim ju2t happy iim the one 2aving your liife and not the other way around
CC: Well I )(ope t)(at someone is saving you!
CC: My lusus could die any minute and take everyone wit)( )(er!
TA: well fuck
TA: ii hope kk ii2nt totally iincompetent a2 usual
TA: who am ii kiiddiing iim dead
TA: iit2 not liike ii diidnt see thii2 comiing
CC: It'll work out Solfis)(!
CC: Just you wait and sea! 38D
TA: ii get iit iit2 a fii2h thiing
TA: because you liive underwater
CC: Glub! 3XO
It’s like looking back in time at the Empress. The boy - Sollux - deploys some unrecognizable device and hovvers to drop it in the corner of the girl’s room. She stands on the other side, playing with a flat little computer of her own. The girl glances up, eyelashes too long for her goggles, and takes into her hand one of the many cuttlefish floating about in time for Sollux to drop his contraption on the floor. She gives the thing a kiss before letting it free and returning to what she was doing. Sollux can’t keep his eyes off of her and he doesn’t know why, but it’s your fault.
She’s small and sweet and just like the Empress and nothing like her. She carries herself with the confidence of a girl who has never been told to feel shame. She slips her computer under her arm and swims through the door and down the hall to where Sollux is placing another device. They both know what to do, already veterans of a game that will destroy the universe.
The Empress sits at your feet and it takes everything you have not to run away to that boy and his girl. She rests her trident on her lap and sits in silence as time tumbles by and light years roll past. She’s told you that you provide her solace, but that doesn’t really make any sense to you. Maybe she gets off on hanging you up to try like this, which would be less of a surprise.
She isn’t the monster she would have everyone believe, she just has no time for revolution. You knew when you followed the Signless that your choices were dangerous. You realized a long time ago that stomping you flat was the only option she had. It was the only way things had every been done and the only way she knew then to protect herself. And now she sits at your feet with hands folded over the symbol of her power, eyes lowered and thoughts with her people.
You tried to kill her once and her solution was to put her goggles over your eyes to hold your power in. Now you’re perfectly harmless and she hides down in the bottom of the ship with you for privacy. She leaves herself vulnerable. She’s so pathetic it hardly seems fair.
The Signless would have been furious with you, but you think that he would have understood. He always seemed to feel sorry for her being cornered by her power when he wasn’t freaking out about something she’d done. A kismesis was too dangerous for someone in her power to keep. She has no reason to fear the imperial drone. She just lives a life as lonely as yours.
TA: ii cant get a hold of kk
TA: what the fuck could be 2o iimportant that he cant come at least try to keep me from droppiing dead over here
CC: )(e's probably trying to save )(imself!
CC: If we )(urry, I can enter and come )(elp you!
TA: there he ii2
TA: iit2 about tiime
TA: are you ok there
CC: I t)(ink so!
CC: But we don’t )(ave muc)( time 38(
TA: you need to fiind 2omefiin to prototype your kernel2priite wiith
CC: Was that a fis)( pun just now? 38D
TA: ii gue22 iit wa2
CC: )(EE)(E-----------E! Glub!
TA: tiick tock fi2h priince22
CC: OH RIGHT
-- carcinoGeneticist [ CG ] has begun trolling twinArmageddons [ TA ] --
CG: I HOPE YOU’RE ABOUT FUCKING READY TO GET YOUR ASS SAVED BY YOUR FEARLESS LEADER
TA: iit2 about fuckiing tiime
TA: iif ii diie here iitll be all your fault for keepiing me waiiting for 2o long
CG: FINE, BLAME YOUR SAVIOR PREEMPTIVELY FOR KILLING YOU WHICH, BY THE WAY, ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN
CG: THE GAME IS ALMOST DONE INSTALLING AND YOU WILL BE RESCUED IN THE NICK OF TIME
CG: THIS IS THE UNIVERSAL LAW OF COMPETENT LEADERSHIP
CG: WHICH, BY THE WAY, I AM
CG: AND IF YOU DON’T THINK SO THEN FUCK YOU, YOU CAN SAVE YOURSELF
CG: ARE YOU THERE?
CG: I CANT SAVE YOU IF YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD, SMARTASS
TA: iim here keep your paiil2 iin the clo2et
TA: ju2t keepiing an eye on her iimperiiu2 cru2tacea
TA: the kernel2priite ii2nt iintere2ted iin her cuttlefii2h
CG: OH MAN
CG: FIRST OF ALL, DON’T LET THAT MONSTROSITY NEAR THE KERNELSPRITE
CG: SECOND OF ALL, ARE YOU FUCKING FLUSHED FOR HER?
TA: only you would giive two 2hiit2 about that now
TA: iive been talkiing two her for liike maybe two hour2 ii dont know
TA: and anyway iit2 none of your fuckiing bu2iine22
CG: OF COURSE IT’S MY BUSINESS, NONE OF YOU SLIMEY GRUBS KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ROMANCE. IT’S EMBARRASSING.
CG: WHERE AM I SUPPOSED TO PUT THIS THING IF THERE ARE WIRES EVERYWHERE?
You would recognize that ornery speech anywhere. The pang of memory causes the ship to lurch forward and the Empress glances up at you. This boy is a little bit too much like you and a little bit too much not like you. He seems to have fallen into some destiny where his life is linked with the descendants of the people who influenced you. The room spins and Condesce regards you with some measure of concern.
You’re not sure what to say to her so you choke a little laugh and it comes out with a cough more genuine than you expected. Your head aches - pounds with the effort of propelling the ship. Your heart skips and adrenaline runs silver through it. You’ve realized again how close your death is and through the eyes of that boy it suddenly meant something. You were him and you had things to lose.
not much longer, huh?
You speak because maybe you should, but you don’t want to be in this room anymore. You want to go back and be that boy - the one who has people, who has love and freedom. Even if it does mean leaving her.
She stands. Her hair curls around her like a cape and she gazes at the floor.
were not going two get there iin tiime
Sollux’s totem laithe carves a kettle.
TA: what the glubbiing fuck am ii 2upposed two do wiith thii2
CG: THERE IT IS AGAIN
CG: JUST ADMIT IT. WHAT DO YOU GAIN FROM KEEPING THESE THINGS FROM ME?
CG: WE BOTH KNOW I’M JUST GOING TO CONTINUE TO HOUND YOU
CG: ALSO IT’S A KETTLE. IS THERE WATER IN IT?
TA: actually there i2
CG: THEN BOIL IT
CG: WHILE YOU TELL ME ABOUT FILLING YOUR QUADRANTS
CG: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT ARADIA?
TA: kk ii dont want two thiink about thii2 now ok
TA: ju2t get off my fuckiing back
TA: alway2 fu22iing and meddliing
CG: HAHA VERY FUNNY
CG: HURRY UP
CG: GET IN HERE SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT
Sollux walks briskly to his food preparation block. You can feel his head swimming, rushing to get into the medium to save himself and also submitted to the idea of his own death. The voices in his head always told him this would happen. You told him this would happen.
He turns the dial on the heat stoker and puts the kettle on. He stares at it a moment before turning and walking slowly back to his respiteblock. There is a hum in his brain that both infuriates and unnerves him, but he knows there’s nothing he can do and he returns to his computer.
You both see her as she darts through the water toward her lusus. It sinks deeper into the sea, dying. She wears a purple rope slung around her shoulders and her 2x3dent in hand. Her long hair billows back after her. It strikes you how small and innocent she is.
A meteor parts the water around it and loses momentum quickly, but only after hitting a pillar of her ocean palace. She notices the scene from the corner of her eye and turns. The edge of the pillar misses her narrowly but hooks on to the rope around her shoulders and pulls her down. Sollux reaches for his mouse and grabs the pillar with his sgrub cursor. Feferi takes this opportunity to slice the rope with a stab of her trident.
On the left side of his computer screen, bubbles gurgle out of the beak of the horrorterror lusus as it descends into the kernelsprite. On many accounts, he has failed.
The hum in his mind intensifies into a buzz as Sollux presses his hand to the side of his head and something whistles. Feferi returns to her respiteblock and types furiously to someone before a message appears on her screen for you.
No, for him.
CC: SOLLUX, YOU’RE MY )(ERO!
CC: I glub you! )(EE )(E----E
CC: Why don’t you take a look t)(roug)( your window? 38)
The whistling gets louder and the whispers become more persistent. He wobbles from his chair and moves toward the window, one hand on his head and the other reaching forward for balance. He touches the glass and looks up toward the sky, burning red with the oncoming meteor. A bubble scratches at his throat and he coughs - and keeps coughing, yellow blood splattering at his feet. The scenery changes, but he doesn’t notice. He just falls in front of the window as his lusus looks on. His head hits the base of the Alchemiter hard, but his mind is swallowed by the sounds of the glub.
You listen to his mind whisper out, drowned by sound and voices. The faint hum of the glub begins in your own.
CG: SOLLUX YOU IDIOT
CG: WHERE ARE YOU GOING
CG: YOU NEED TO SIT DOWN AND WAIT FOR MY INSTRUCTION
CG: WHAT HAPPENED
CG: I TURN THE SCREEN TO THE NEXT ROOM AND THEN
CG: BRO ARE YOU OK.
CG: OH GOD
CG: WHAT HAVE I DONE.
CG: PLEASE TELL ME THAT’S JUST HONEY.
CG: PLEASE JUST BE HONEY PLEASE JUST BE HONEY PLEASE JUST BE HONEY
CG: HAHA, OK, MAKE-BELIEVE TIME IS OVER!
CG: OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD
The girl finally touches down in the land of brains and fire. She kneels on the floor next to his corpse and pulls him into his arms, a quirk of a smile on her face. She doesn’t pause a moment, just kisses him, honey-mustard blood and all. It’s a kiss to wake up from the Witch of Life, just like in fairy tales from another civilization that you’ve never heard of. She saves him, just like he saved her. But you don’t get to know that.
With his mind gone you are no longer able to watch the easy way. Instead, you fall back into yourself and give the ship one final push - to go as fast as it can go - before you die. You cough and leave a trail of blood along your front and fall limp in your constraints. She doesn’t even blink at the sound that destroys her entire race. She just purses her lips, hides in the darkness, and watches you go.
She can extend your life to match her own, but she can’t bring you back. But her lusus whispered a story to her a long time ago, and she tries. She wipes the blood from your mouth with her thumb and kisses you - kisses your teeth - and silently pleads for you to open your eyes.
But the power, the future, and love belongs to your descendants. She is alone.
priince22 were you kiissiing my dead 2elf ju2t now
ok ii have 2o many problem2 wiith that ii dont even know where two begiin
You were just so glubbing CUT---E I couldn’t )(elp myself! 38D
You saved my life and it was my turn to save yours wit)( my ancient royal revivification kissing tec)(nique!
that2 fiine ii gue22
but youve got my blood all over you
and ii need two change out of these 2tupid pajama2
And then we can begin our LEGENDARY ADVENTUR--------E!!!
youre really ju2t exciited about everythiing arent you
I )(ave anot)(er kiss waiting )(ere for you w)(en you’re ready!
Sneaking one w)(en you’re glubbed )(ardly seems fair, don’t you t)(ink? 3;)