Enchorus

by GMBlackjack

First published

Stories set in the Songs of the Spheres multiverse written by a variety of authors.

The multiverse is big. When a song is sung that reaches across the entirety of existence, many important notes will be lost within its measures. They sit in the background, being no less true than the melody in the forefront, but overlooked, dismissed.

This is where those stories end up. Some are grand scoping adventures that stand strong, challenging the melody itself, while others are nothing more than little snips of life usually unseen.

Want to see your work here? Put them on the group thread! (Or you could PM me, but you know, that thread is probably the best place.)

-GM, master of snippets.

Twilence's Invitation

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I decided that it had probably been a bad idea to go with the backdrop of space. As mystical as it made me appear, it was slightly annoying to keep control of myself in zero gravity. However, it was what I had chosen to work with, and going back to the library now would be equivalent to giving up, and I wasn't one to do that.

I held up my book in a telekinetic aura, managing to scribble a few words in my notebook before it started to tumble. Instinctively, I spread my wings, their inherent magic allowing me to stabilize even within the vacuum of space. I frowned - annoyed that I hadn't thought of that sooner.

It was only natural, after all.

As I continued to drift through space - though it appeared more as gliding - I opened my notebook once again and delicately scrawled a few words within the pages, the glow from the eye in my chest providing a soft tone for the primary word.

Welcome!

I smiled slightly, amusing myself with the many connotations in which that word had been used in my life.

And that was the signal that the time was right. I cleared my throat and began to speak, seemingly addressing the nothingness in front of me.

"It looks like you've made your way to a somewhat interesting part of the song, haven't you? Come off the beaten path and the major branches to this niche of bundled notes and scrawled letters. I'm not sure what that means for you in particular - each of you probably has their own purpose here - but I'm glad you're here regardless. The multiverse has so many stories to tell, and it sometimes seems... unfair to leave them to the wayside."

I flipped through the pages of my notebook, allowing only a few glimpses of the sketches within its pages. Half-seen monsters jutted out of the folds alongside complex stellar diagrams, sketches of ponies, and repeated mysterious symbols. I ended on a set of pages that had a large nineteen scrawled across them. With a roll of my eyes, I continued flipping - passing Crusader shields, technological diagrams, diagrams of universe creation, and images of my own Eye of Rhyme.

I stopped on a picture of a book with a Dark Tower rising out of the pages, images of roses scrawled in the margins. Everywhere else was filled with my minuscule hoofwriting, barely legible even to myself. "I don't know what lies beyond these words for you. I do not know what Prophets will stick their hands into the tides of possibility and pull out a story. I don't even know what sorts of stories will come - action? Comedy? Or - dare I say it - romance?" I laughed at the thought, unable to keep a hint of worry out of my voice.

"I suppose we will find out what lies beyond together..." I mused looking down at the eye within my chest. It glowed slightly, filling me with a sense of familiar comfort.

"Come with me, dear reader, and let's see what lies off the beaten path." I spread my wings and ripped a dimensional portal through existence. With a single flap, I flew into my library and sat down at my desk, everything neatly arranged in neat, organized stacks. Outside, it was night, allowing my candles to provide the perfect aesthetic for the moment.

I set a gigantic tome gingerly on the desk, its cover similar to that of a book I had read alone oh so long ago... back when I was still just Twilight. I traced my hoof over the relief portrait of a unicorn.

With gentle sparks and a curious glow, I opened the cover. "An encore, and a chorus. A look back, and a synthesis. A-"

"TWILENCE!" Pinkie Pie shouted from a nearby bookshelf. "WE'VE GOT AN EMERGENCY!"

I let out a sigh. "Pinkie, I'm doing a-"

"TWIIIIIILENCE!"

I put a hoof to my forehead and sighed. I flipped the book open to a random page. "Apparently ka has decided this is a bad time for me, so hopefully you can get something out of th-" Pinkie grabbed hold of me and dragged me out of the room. "Pinkie! I haven't been mysterious enough yet!" I flailed in annoyance.

"There's no time to explain!"

"PINKIE!"

Soon, the library was empty, leaving only a book and the memory of a purple alicorn getting dragged away against her will by a psychotic pink horse.

Which, to be fair, wasn't that unusual for this library.

Slowly, the book turned a page all on its own...

Class 3 Diplomacy (GMBlackjack)

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The meeting place was the cueball universe, designation S-CUE0. The universe had an 8-code as well but Twilight Sparkle H6, "Dual Horn Twilight", could not remember it off the top of her head. All she could think about was how empty this universe was - a cueball the size of a planet suspended in empty space. There wouldn't even be any air here if they hadn't brought it with them. She looked to her companions, both other Twilights. One was a standard Twilight who had no nickname and was just called "777" for reasons Dual Horn Twilight was not privy to. To the other side was Twilight Sanchez, sometimes known as "Rick Twilight," whose presence on this mission was of the utmost importance.

Sanchez burped. "...When are they going to get here?"

"Patience," 777 said.

"Okay, look, Triple Seven, fuck patience."

Dual Horn winced at Sanchez's language. Very few Twilights were swearers - and those that were usually didn't cooperate with the Census. Come to think of it, Sanchez rarely cooperated at all. She was known to be considerably better at it than who she was nicknamed after, but she was still exceptionally abrasive for a Twilight. 777, on the other hoof, was exceptionally bland for a Twilight.

Dual Horn herself? She heard that she had a smaller fuse than most Twilights. But she thought that was a stupid generalization.

Sanchez groaned. "I can't even get a good back and forth going here! Or random science! We're on a cueball in the middle of arse-nowhere! There's nothing to work with here!"

777 raised an eyebrow. "You can experiment with the composition of the cueball."

"Yeah, right."

"You could probably make a nuclear reactor with it."

Sanchez took a drink of her magically-infused whiskey. "Yeah, pfft, sure, I'd make a quantum reactor with a compiler - hey that's actually a good idea... How about I take the magical constant of the natural existential song within this universe to breach a portal and..." she trailed off. Dual Horn smiled - there was her Twilight part going off, bringing a stupid grin to her usually dour face. Dual Horn had never seen a real Rick smile that innocently, and she had seen plenty in her time.

Speaking of, a green portal had opened in front of them. Two Mortys and a Rick stepped out - the Rick was a cop Rick, one Morty had glasses, and the other Morty was in an official suit and tie. President Morty.

Dual Horn smiled and extended her hoof. "President."

He smiled and shook it. "Agent."

"I apologize for the Grand Secretariat's absence, she had a Pinkie problem to deal with suddenly."

"That's an understatement," Sanchez muttered.

President Morty held up a hand. "There's no problem. I understand that sometimes the multiverse calls to you."

Glasses Morty nodded. "We were going to bring Morticia but she had to stop a universe from exploding."

The Rick cop raised an eyebrow. "...You know, I still find that a little weird. Good, but weird."

Sanchez blinked. "Wow, you aren't a regular Rick are you?"

"Had a rough experience in Morty Town," the Rick cop said. "Made me re-examine some things."

"And you are the better for it," President Morty said, adjusting his tie. "Now, should we get down to business?"

777 nodded, producing a large scroll. "It said you wished to discuss our future relations?"

Sanchez raised an eyebrow. "There were relations before? I mean, I traveled a lot between the places and I didn't get the impression we were ever on speaking terms."

Big Horn sighed. "Did you even read the briefing?"

"Nope," Sanchez said. "And neither did Rick over there."

Rick froze. "...I skimmed it you little punk!"

Sanchez raised her eyebrow. "I'm you remember?"

"Yeah, and so's Tall Morty."

"...Who- oh. Oh, I want to meet that one. Like, really bad. There are so many things I could do-"

"Sanchez!" Big Horn chided. "Focus!"

"No need to be snappy," President Morty said, holding up a hand. "We are who we are, and frankly you three have less problems than we do. Sanchez over there may be considered one of your more problematic personalities, but she would have been considered too nice on the Citadel." He smiled. "The point is, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and while we should always strive for more it's better to adapt."

"So what are you here to propose?" 777 asked.

"We are class 3 civilizations, dots on a near-infinite expanse of power. Class 1s don't even draw us on their maps, and the Class 2s treat us like children to be looked after. Day after day, Class 3 civilizations are absorbed into larger federations. The TSAB. The Xeelee - grinding out any individuality the civilization had and forcing it to become accustom to whatever ideal the higher power demands. Their hearts may be in the right place, but they are inadvertently stamping out character. And yet, without joining a federation, the only other way to get influence is by conquest. None of us want to gain the reputation of the Combine."

Sanchez raised a hoof. "Pretty sure the Council of Ricks kinda did that already."

"I meant multiverse-wide," President Morty explained. "We are a small fish in this big pond, and we don't want to 'conquer' anymore, that'd just look bad, and possibly draw unwanted attention. Rather, I suggest something new. A coalition."

Dual Horn raised her eyebrows. "What kind of coalition?"

"You familiar with the European Union of Earths'?"

"Yes."

"Like that. Many nations undergoing a small change to become a single united entity, yet keeping their individuality. When it works, it works well. And it has occurred to me that the Multiverse lacks such a coalition. Civilizations tend to combine, or dominate, or 'adapt into the fold'. There are alliances, yes, but I don't see any Class 2s getting all chummy with each other just lickety-split. They all stand alone. And the Class 1s are about as far from united as you can imagine. I suggest we contact many Class 3s and bring them around to this idea of the Coalition. Slowly, we will rise through the ranks and become a presence - a unified presence that can actually have some saying on the multiversal scale." He smirked. "The University of Doors is already considering it, as well as a few others."

Dual Horn nodded. "I do like the idea... We've been having problems with the Eldritch Embodiment lately being a bit overbearing."

"Ugh..." Sanchez muttered. "Don't get me started..."

President Morty nodded. "Normally at this point I'd ask if my lawyers should start drawing up paperwork, but it occurs to me that should probably be your job."

777 nodded vigorously.

"Well then, glad we could have a reasonable talk without bureaucracy for once. I know it's going to be a mess later, but now... It's nice to be simple." He waved. "Until next time!"

The Twilights waved.

Sanchez and 777 turned and prepared to leave. Dual Horn followed, but only after a short pause.

She thought she had seen something... menacing in that Morty's eyes at the last moment.

...She was probably just seeing things.

Super Smash Bros: Interdimensional Tussle (Ponygood)

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The sun was shining over a vast expanse of grass. There wasn't much else besides it, save for the occasional twittering of a bird or the rustling of the wind between the blades. That changed quite suddenly when tears in the fabric of reality spontaneously formed, spewing forth all manner of varied creatures, congregating in two very distinct masses.

A red-hatted Italian plumber appeared out of one of the rifts and took in the crowd gathered before him. A lot of their faces were quite familiar; indeed, he had dunked that dragon-like scowl in lava quite a few times over the course of his adventures, fought that bounty hunter, and worked with the little pink black hole in the past. Even some of the newer faces were familiar in a way, but it was still strange to have a yoga instructor and supersonic hedgehog with his usual friends. But when invitations for the newest Smash tournament were spread through the local multiverse, he was not expecting... this.

Mario sighed and put a gloved hand to his face. "Which-a one of us thought it was a good idea to invite the spawn of-a Sony to our gathering?"

Unnoticed by Mario, Princess Peach visibly blushed and made a point to look everywhere but at one specific person in the mix of newcomers.

In the short second of silence, Nathan Drake stepped out of the crowd. "What can I say? Girls can't resist me." He winked at Peach, and her blush deepened.

Mario turned towards her, his look making it clear he was extremely disappointed and wanted an explanation.

"Well, Mario, I, um..." She fidgeted, and her already extremely red face somehow got even redder. "I mean, you've gotta admit it gets kind of old, when, um, when Bowser ki-kidnaps me, and then you save me. Um, again."

Mario wasn't convinced. His crossed arms and tapping foot made Peach pretty nervous, despite him being half her size. In response, Peach took a half-step back and attempted to make herself smaller.

"Oh, Mario! Just look at him! He's so tall and handsome a-and, um..."

One particularly nasty glare from Mario caused her voice to completely give out, and he turned back to Playstation's representatives, one of whom was grinning at Peach.

"We are-a Nintendo's mascots! We are-a dignified, and-a don't need to associate ourselves with this-a... rabble!

A wicked shining blade shot for Mario, which barely grazed his shoe as he leaped clear over it. The owner of said blade was currently screaming for blood and death - and looked willing to go to any lengths to get it. Samus Aran pointing her arm-cannon directly in his face didn't do anything to calm him down, and he launched himself towards her.

All hell broke loose at that point. Explosive weaponry was flying everywhere, brawls broke out between the multitude of characters; screams of rage, confusion, and enjoyment reached the ears of everyone present. Bowser was trying to duke it out with a giant shape-shifting mass of geometric objects, Sonic was running circles around Crash Bandicoot, and Drake was dodging a flurry of flashing bombs thrown by some elf-kid.

And then funky music started playing out of nowhere, and everyone spontaneously started dancing. All except one fox-thing with a robot on its back.

"Guys, come on, we need to still be alive for the tournaments, right?"

"I'LL KILL YOU, ANNOYING FOX!" Kratos screamed.

"Lombax," Ratchet corrected.

And so they were all treated to the contradictory and amusing image of a God of War angrily dancing the hula. They might have laughed were they not facing similar situations themselves.

Unnoticed by all of them came the steadily raising sound of jet engines blasting their way through the sky. Only when people realized they were there did the cause show itself: a vaguely bird-shaped machine making a beeline right towards them. They all might have been crushed by it if Ratchet hadn't pulled out an extremely oversized gun that blasted way, WAY too many rockets to the tune of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, launching the craft over their heads and crashing it safely past where they were gathered. A hatch flew off the top of it, and a bright red soldier peeked his head out.

"Hey, dudes! What'd we miss?" He gave a thumbs-up at them, oblivious to the surprised and hateful glares thrown his way.

And then the music stopped. As one, everyone launched themselves at the ship, which was quickly unloading itself of its passengers, and the battle started again.

In the midst of the chaos, Mario was able to crawl out. He brushed himself off and looked back at the mess of angry fighters. As if Sony rearing its ugly head wasn't enough, Microsoft had to make an appearance too! Could this day get any worse?

Mario suddenly felt a powerful presence behind him. He turned around and beheld the warping, whitish-fractal pattern indicative of one of Them. The Them called out to Mario, and he felt compelled to listen. "Mario! You forgot your little friend from Ubisoft! He was real eager to be here!"

A small rabbit-like thing pointed its head out from behind the Them's ethereal presence, proclaimed "Bwah!" and rushed to tackle Mario, completely forgetting about the gun held in its paw.

It was at that moment that Mario knew, things could definitely get worse.

The Them laughed - this was the best idea he'd had in ages! The others may accuse him of recycling, but no, he was genius!

Contraband Codec (TheNewGuy)

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Are you someone good with languages and have an unfortunate surplus of happiness? If so, then you might want to apply for my job. What do I mean? Well, I guess I should start from the beginning.

Our story starts many hundreds of years ago, or even thousands if you believe the crazier theories. You see, once upon a time, our ancestors lived alongside many different races we used to dismiss in the "modern" era as mere myths. When I say “alongside”, I mean it in the dimensional sense. You see, there were these naturally occurring Script-Slip portals that…

Actually, never mind. I can see this much detail is boring you. The long and short of it is this: a few years ago the government in this country came clean with a real doozy of a secret. They had figured out how to reopen ancient, hidden dimensional portals to many different worlds. Yes, alternate worlds exist. After some Stargate-like adventures—I am using a “local” reference for your benefit—they discovered that many of these had intelligent life that was oddly human-like, in a way. Right now the public knows about types of “Unusual” like noble-fumes, lamias, and lycanthropes. The whole “Unusual” thing is the new hot topic dominating political conversations, with a lot of old arguments repeating themselves in a new context.

What does that have to do with me hating my job, you ask? Well, you see, where there are different societies, there are people who will want to go to them. Whether it is Unusual or human, another world probably sounds like an interesting place to visit. Unfortunately, centuries of marinating in isolation has made the already highly alien Unusual cultures difficult for humans to interact with. There are still far too few people who can even hold a conversation in a single Unusual language.

That is where I come in. A while ago I woke up in a hospital bed surrounded by a bunch of government employees. I had no memories, no identification, and a wicked wound on my forehead. I had apparently been discovered getting violently ejected from a portal like a rag doll. The physical wounds healed pretty quickly, but my mind was not so lucky. On the other hand, what I did have was a bizarre ability to understand languages and get a point across. That was fortunate since the best thing to be in my situation was useful.

And damn was I ever useful for bridging the gap between humans and Unusual-kind. It seemed like every time the government needed an interpreter for an important job I got packed up and shipped off somewhere new. Being such a valued domain expert does not seem so bad, you say? Well, think again. Sometimes my job feels like being a puppet with my master’s hand far up places that are not fit to be mentioned in polite company. Often times people will get mad at me when the person I am translating for says something they are upset about. It is a real hassle overall, but at least it pays the bills.

“Hey. Hey, Cody!” A voice calling me by my assigned name snapped me out of my internal musing, “Are you in there? I was asking if we should pick up something to eat before talking with this guy.”

“No, thank you. I’m not hungry,” I replied to my current handler and driver, Veronica.

“You never seem hungry,” she deadpanned, “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you eat. Between that and all that hologram stuff, are you sure that you’re even human?”

“Well according to all my medical exams, I am,” I said plainly.

“Fine then. We’re almost there anyway,” Veronica sighed, pulling into a parking lot a minute later.

As we exited our car and walked toward the police building, I took it in. It looked like a rather secure facility. Everyone seemed on higher alert than I would have expected. I even saw some federal agents talking with the local authorities inside. As we walked, I tried to calm myself.

“Remember, this one seems erratic and possibly violent. They picked him up after a pretty big smuggling bust after all.” Veronica chimed in, evidently thinking the same thing I was, “His name is J’tosh U’uk, an ogre. He’s a known felon, but we thought he had died back in the Ai-Lo City incident. That’s part of what you’re going to be asking him about, actually.”

“So a violent criminal with superhuman strength and durability. Just what I always wanted. How’d you know?” I snarked as I materialized a large “thumbs up” in front of us.

“Best save the sass for J’Tosh,” she answered plainly, walking through my hologram without slowing down.

“Alright. Just try not to die while we’re in there,” I sighed, “You’re more useful to me alive than dead.”

“Oh, so you do care!” she said sarcastically as she rolled her eyes.

We were promptly escorted to the cell where J’Tosh was held. I briefly wondered why we were going to the cells instead of an interrogation room, but that immediately evaporated as soon as I saw him. He was big, really big, even for an ogre. Even seated and hunched over he was taller than most people, with thick slabs of powerful muscle filling out his frame. It was a miracle they were able to get him into a cell even if he cooperated, which I was dubious about.

Chains were haphazardly wrapped around him and secured to anchor points in his heavy-duty Unusual cell. I suspected they did not want him moving much and normal cuffs just would not cut it. Out of arm’s reach from the cell there were several soldiers holding machine guns, ready to light up the prisoner if necessary. All this meant he was probably not going to be moved easily. The exposed parts of the ogre’s skin were thoroughly tattooed with various iconography. I spotted a gang-related one as well as a mesh of stars arranged in a configuration denoting several other unsavory affiliations. I would need to tell Veronica about that once we were back out of earshot. The significance of those things was often lost on humans, especially ones who had not been off-world much.

The ogre was staring at the floor with a bored expression as we approached. When our footsteps eventually stopped in front of the cell, he looked up with a derisive scowl. The first thing I noticed was his brutishly ugly face. Jeez, what a mug. Now, I am not saying to judge people based on their appearance, but his face was supremely truthful advertising. Everything about it somehow seemed to scream “felon”. All this lasted mere moments as he sized up his visitors each in turn. Then, something odd happened.

So’ota Rontyr Ci’im! Help! It’s the Rontyr!” J’Tosh screamed bloody murder as he locked eyes with me, “Rontyr! Rontyr!

He trashed against his bindings with all his strength and I feared for a moment he would break free. The soldiers present rushed forward and began barking commands to J’Tosh. Veronica and I quickly slipped back out of view from the cell. I was not in a hurry to get caught in the crossfire if they needed to start shooting. We listened by the entrance to the cellblock for a few tense minutes before it seemed like J’Tosh finally calmed down. That or he had a heart attack based on how manic he looked. What he had said after getting a good look at me was worrying though.

There was no direct translation for it that captured the exact nuances. Overall though, the feeling it was meant to evoke could be translated quite clearly. Now I had the awkward job of telling Veronica, who had been looking at me in shock the entire time, about what all that was about. Unfortunately, I did not know much more than her other than the translation.

Rontyr. “The Calamity”.

Sometimes, I really hated my job.

Creek's Journal (Keywii_Cookies55)

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I don't really expect anyone else to read this, but Mite suggested that I have a place to organize my thoughts. I think it's a good idea, but there isn't really anything on my mind at the moment. I've put it off for too long though, so I suppose this is the time I finally just... begin.

It's been... a very interesting life adventuring with Twilence, Vriska, Rarity, and Mite so far. I've seen so many things, so many different people, and I can't say it's been all good. But I don't regret tagging along. Well, I don't anymore, anyway. I did at first.

It was almost immediately after meeting Vriska for the first time that I had a second thought. I used the portal Sock showed me. (wow, that's a name I haven't heard in a very long time. I wonder if she's doing well) It took a bit of time, an hour I think, but a few of the engineers from the Recursive Organization redialed the portal and we entered the code Twilence gave me. I said my final goodbyes to the world around me. My friends, my coworkers. my son. Everything I had ever known. It's probably why I was so unsettled when I walked through and met Twilence.

The first thing that happened was Vriska gave me a hug. I know it sounds silly that something so small be what sets me off. But I'm that sort of person. I didn't handle it very well and started panicking slightly. In retrospect is wasn't just the hug that overwhelmed me, it was a lot of what was happening. I was entering completely new territory, leaving behind everything I knew, and meeting somebody I'd known for months that had only talked indirectly to me all of a sudden looking directly at me. The tears that stung my eyes were probably a bit much, thinking about it.

I was given space and Twilence introduced me to everyone else in the room, but it was what set the gears of doubt turning in my head. But I didn't really start regretting my decision until that night. Things had calmed down and each of us were given a room to ourselves. I remember thinking at first that the luxury was too much, but the Empress insisted that it was okay, so I accepted. That night though, after all the conversation had died down and we went to sleep... well, I can't say I really got any.

It finally occurred to me that there'd be no going back as I stared at the ceiling. the room was different, the bed was different, even the air smelled different. Every one of my senses was bargaining with me to go back home, to my bed. I probably cried more that night than I ever had in my life.

In the morning Mite was the first to check on me. It was still too early for anyone else to be awake, so we had a long conversation about everything on my mind. I don't remember a lot of it, since it was mostly just emotional rambling and deep philosophy. But I do remember how well he listened to me.

He promised to look out for me that day, and he doesn't really need to anymore, but we still have those conversations. Just last week we had a fun conversation about the implications of copying his personality into hexadecimal and uploading it into an empty shell. I think that no matter what happens, I'll always trust him the most.

~~~

I still miss home some days. With my parents and sister, back when I was a little girl fighting over dolls and holos. I used to really like astronauts, I remember. Suzie Camarillo was my idol.

I was maybe seven years old when I was laying in bed staring up at my ceiling at night. It was covered in more glow in the dark star stickers then any kid's room probably should have been, but I didn't care. I was staring up at the stars and imagining I was like Suzie C.

It didn't matter that she never changed her name, she was my hero. She could go anywhere and do anything. And, as my naive childish self always admired, she didn't have a bedtime.

But, if I'm going to be honest, no matter how fondly I look back on those days, I'm not sure I'd ever return to them if given the chance. It's only been a few years and already I've seen more things then I ever could have imagined. Did you know there's over three hundred thousand different flavours of pie?

My stomach may never forgive me, but my sweet tooth has been in heaven.

~~~

I've been neglecting writing in this journal, and I know Twilence has been bugging me to write my thoughts down more.

I've been wondering lately if I should change my name again. I know it's silly, the others like my name, and so do I, but it doesn't really fit my new lifestyle.

I originally chose 'creek' because there was one where I was growing up that I liked to spend time in, and after my sister died I used to spend a lot of time looking back on those days as my fondest memories. They're quiet and calm, but have the right amount of movement to show that the water is alive.

It was a perfect name, back then. But ever since I joined up with the others, my life has been pretty active. Dangerous, chaotic, and always filled with something to do or run from. Even if most of the time I'm just the diplomatic one.

I wouldn't know what new name to choose though, nothing has really stood out as a good word to describe the person I've become. I'll have to keep an eye out, I suppose.

If I ever come up with a new name, I'll be sure to write it down.

~~~

We still haven't figured out who broke in last night. So in case it was one of us that stole the Cogs, the new safe combination is 3-23 left, 2-47 right, 1-12 left.

Mite knows what material it's made out of and Rarity knows what enchantments are on it to keep it protected.

I don't want to think it's Vriska, but she's been pretty distant about the whole thing. I'm sorry if it isn't you, I know we've been making you angry.

~~~

Ka is an interesting thing to me. At least the way Twilence talks about it anyway. I didn't know what it was when I first became an operator assigned to the Influence, but I spent time looking into it and found out that I didn't like it very much.

It was all just a story to somebody else, written down on paper to entertain people. I don't remember ever thinking about wanting to meet my prophet, not at first anyway. I thought about existence for weeks and came to the conclusion that if god was a human at a desk, then I wasn't interested in meeting him. After all, he was the one that had made me a stuttering wreck of a woman.

Before I started my adventure my thoughts were always changing. Some days I liked it, some days I didn't, and others I wanted to think about other things.

But ever since I started traveling the multiverse I've started liking the idea that it's all a story. Everything is connected in its own way, and even if I'll never fully understand some of the things Twilence sees, I enjoy hearing her talk about them. About her stories, and her visions.

And I'll never tell her, but the way she gets angry at nonsense is very funny. You still can't make a fart joke around her without her left eye twitching at the memories from the Influence.

And, I suppose if I ever met my prophet, I'm not sure I'd thank him, but I'd like to at least talk with him, and learn what sort of person he is. Twilence described not liking his attitude, but that he's a good person.

He can't be any worse than Vriska's though.

~~~

I'm not really sure why, but lately, it seems everyone has been coming to confide in me. It may be due to the fact that I'm always so empathetic and understanding. But I have to be that to do all the negotiations and diplomacy for our team. I never thought it'd lead to being the shoulder to lean on.

I don't mind, of course, it's nice, but it has made me think about what I want. Vriska came to rant, Rarity came to vent, and Twilence, in her own way, wanted to express her feelings to somebody "not important"

I know I'm not supposed to be a part of Song of the Spheres, but it does still sting a little bit to be called unimportant. Even if the intention isn't to hurt me.

Maybe it's weird to think of myself as a confidant because I used to be the mess. The inexperienced member of the team that needed everybody to hold her hand. I've been around for a few years now, so it only makes sense that I'd fill out a role for everyone. One I didn't intend anyway

Maybe I should ask Mite how he handles my problems. He might have the insight that could help me help everyone else.

It's rude to read my journals as I write them Twilence. I want an apology and a visit back to the resort. And a hug, but not as part of the apology, I just want to hug a pony all of a sudden.

~~~

Kiiwii? Is that how you spell your name? I know you're the one writing this. But, well I've been feeling a bit self-conscious lately and I needed to ask you a question.

Why me? That's what I could never figure out. Why was I the one you focused on? You could have just stayed as Key, being your self-insert, but you didn't. You chose me. And I guess I'm just curious why.

I'm skillful now, at diplomacy, at negotiations, and I've even picked up the guitar in my downtime. But back then, during the Influence you made me. A sniveling wreck of a woman who you even described as "Fluttershy, but for robots instead of animals"

I didn't start existing until you, on a whim wrote a new operator for Twilence. And...

I don't even know why I'm writing this, probably because you're making me, but I just wanted to get my thoughts down. And if you're ever able to answer me. I'd certainly appreciate it. I may never meet you, but, well I guess thanks.

It's odd to think you'd never exist if some 20 something didn't want an expy of a cartoon character. But even so, thanks for making me. I kind of like being alive.

~~~

Twilience? Could you please not read this? I'd like to write this privately. Thank you.

Vriska tried to explain troll love to me today. I don't really know what I expected, I could sort of guess it was complicated based on when she'd mention it briefly before. But I wanted to hear from her what it was like.

I suppose I probably should have guessed that it'd be based on playing card suits. She got a good laugh when I asked her if I had any troll romances with anyone we both know.

The answer is no, it seems, which I was relieved about at first, but then I thought about romance in general. It's been so long since I've loved anyone. Only my husband before our divorce and that only ended during my incarceration.

When I first met Twilence I thought I loved her. I later learned though that I'd just built a deep longing for true friendship. After getting to know Vriska and Rarity and especially Mite I know that I was just incredibly lonely.

But... I still feel something for Twilence. I don't know what it is, I'm great friends with my group, and I've made some more casual friends on missions. Carmen is a good example of that. I've come a long way after all.

Still, I may like Twilence, it's still too early to call it love, especially since I'm still not sure it's that myself. And we're not the same species to boot. Plus I never thought I'd be a lesbian.

I need to do some self-discovery before I tell anyone. After all, it's probably weird that a woman in her mid 40's would be learning anything about herself, let alone her sexuality.

I know I could never ruin the friendship, not with a pony anyway. They care about friendship almost like it's a biological function. But I still want to figure myself out.

The O'Neill (GMBlackjack)

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There were legends about the head of Merodi Universalis' Military Division. There were the easily confirmed facts: he came from one of the founding worlds, he saved the world in question on numerous occasions, he was part of leading a base-tech Earth to galactic influence, and he was a tactical genius. But then there were the whispers - that he was immortal, that his most impressive feats were pushed under the rug because they would make the minds of lesser beings explode, that he had punched out gods, and that he was the incarnate of badassery itself.

There were even stories that suggested he was responsible for killing an entire pantheon of gods. But that was absurd, right? The Goa'uld were just little parasites, there wasn't anything else...

Colonel Jared really hoped so. Because he was about to meet the man - Overhead-General Jack O'Neill. One of the most powerful people in Merodi Universalis.

It didn't matter that Jared was here to receive a mission and commendation for his previous work for the Military Division - three top-secret ops, one of them instrumental in the Battle of Farpoint. All went off without a hitch. Well, at least no hitches that compromised the mission.

Of course Jared had seen the man before - his face wasn't a secret, and he made plenty of public appearances. But people always put on visages in front of the camera and crowd. There was no way O'Neill was really that flamboyant. Behind that exterior he cultivated was a harsh, tactical legend, Jared knew it.

But at the same time, he also didn't know what to expect. He stood tall, and opened the door labeled ENTERPRISE OFFICE.

The office was large - but also a rather impressive mess. The only place that had any semblance of order was the desk with it's neatly stacked tablets of paperwork. But O'Neill wasn't at his desk - he was somewhere in the mess of furniture, paintings, and dimensional memorabilia laying around. He was in one of the reclining chairs, watching a TV - the Spirograph Channel. Jared was struck by the unprofessional appearance - the man was in uniform and well groomed, but he was slouching, half-asleep, and his old face sagged.

"Uh... Overhead?"

O'Neill let out an old sigh - and then a smirk crawled up his face. "Ah, you must be Colonel Smith Jared. Welcome to the Enterprise."

"It is a most interesting office, sir."

O'Neill stood up slowly, grunting as he did so. "Most people wonder why I name this place after the old flagship."

"...Because it was the flagship, sir?"

"Nope. Well yes. It was kind of a mobius double reacharound thing. Or it's politics." He sat down in his chair, chuckling. "Who am I kidding, the two things are one and the same."

Jared was a bit dumbfounded - this wasn't the man he had expected NOR the one he had seen in public. He was... A man. That was really all Jared could think to say on the matter.

"Now, I'm suuuuuure you want to know your assignment, but we've got some time to kill before we get into the mess that is the Strands. Right now, you've got to answer me one question and one question only."

"Anything, sir."

"Red or green?"

Jared blinked. "...Excuse me?"

"Choose one," O'Neill said, smirking with the grin of a mastermind who knew he was asking a stupid question. "Red or green?"

"...Yes."

O'Neill's expression flattened. "That is the best answer I've had to that question in a while," he deadpanned.

"...Thanks, sir?"

"Unfortunately the colors were the selection on what your colors were going to be, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to get you a red-green zebra pattern uniform now. I'm going to have to work to get the rations that color as well though..."

Jared blinked. What in... What?

O'Neill grinned. "In case you are wondering, yes, this is a joke. But yes, you really will get red and green striped equipment and you're going to use it in the field from here on out. Unless you want to file a complaint against me, or something."

"...No sir."

"Good. In that case..." O'Neill took a sandwich out of a desk drawer and handed it to Jared. "Eat up. We've got a long briefing in front of us." He stood up and snapped his fingers, causing a large screen to fall from the ceiling. "As I mentioned before you are going into the Strands - specifically, the cluster of universes the Dark Tower physically appears in, like an itch. The hodgepodge smorgasbord of fun there requires someone of your expertise. One of our citizens has elected to hide there among the chaos. Normally I wouldn't give a rat's ass, but she has important information and intel we can't let fall into the wrong hands."

Jared felt his spirits lift - so there really was a good tactician behind the man. "Who is this citizen?"

"A version of Chancellor Fluttershy, Colonel. She's renounced her loyalty to us for the recent events in the Combine/Horrorterror War and objections to the pedestal we give to Agent Vriska Sekret. So, in layman's terms, she sees the screwed up stuff we've done and wants none of it, not thinking of the bigger picture."

"What exactly does she have that's dangerous?"

"You see, that's the fun bit. She has the schematics for our Supergates."

"...You can't be serious."

"I am serious. Or, well, as serious as I can be." He put his legs up on his desk. "The amount of crap I can give for anything has gone down steadily over the years."

"Why are we not sending an army after her?! If the Supergate were to fall into the hands of, say, Valentine..."

"Oh, we are sending an army. You see, you are that army."

"How so?"

"Time clones. Strider and Megido have cooked something up."

Jared blinked. "Are you sure this is a good idea-"

"It's the best idea." A voice that could only be described as cool said. The cool dude appeared in the room with a clockwork effect. "Hey, O'Neill."

"Strider."

Dave Strider snapped his fingers, and a version of Jared appeared in a red-and-green striped uniform. Jared looked at his other self. The two blinked.

O'Neill started laughing heartily.

Jared had a feeling this was going to be a long day.

Wikipedia: Articles for Deletion / Surges of Government Activity in August 2018 (UselessCommon)

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6 days before Disclosure.

Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Surges of Government Activity in August, 2018

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Surges of Government Activity in August, 2018 [edit]
(edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs | views) – (View log · Stats)

(Find sources: Google (books · news · newspapers · scholar · free images · WP refs) · FENS · HighBeam · JSTOR · NYT · TWL)

Unsourced and poorly written article proposing the existence of a rumored phenomenon. Pinatri (talk) 02:54, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

> That doesn't feel right. For one thing, at the time of nomination it had 4 citations. The sources appear dubious, but, by definition, this is not an unsourced article.
Secondly, if "poorly written" were grounds for deletion, Wikipedia would have exactly one page, reading "Proposition: Let's allow the poorly-written articles".
Thirdly, the trend does appear to exist, even if not in such a drastic manner as the article proposes. [Arab Institute for Training and Research in Statistics]: Worldwide Administrative Activity Report for August 15th, 2018: "The average second order derivative of visible governmental activity in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Central African Republic, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, North Korea, Macedonia, Mongolia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States of America, and Vatican City have reached at least a yearly maximum during a period from July 27 to August 7... This would not be an extraordinary event if 2-6 countries were involved, but the scope of the phenomenon suggests the existence of an unknown worldwide trend ... Our colleagues in USA [190], India [191], and Japan [192] could not provide a satisfying explanation of the event, ... analysis is inconclusive." I'll adjust the style of the article, add this source, and do a little more research. It would help enormously if someone who has experience in this field of applied statistics were able to help on this AFD. Meanwhile, I would suggest to KEEP the article. MindJanitor42 (talk) 10:11, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>> What methods can even be used to estimate the government activity of a country? What measure? That parameter appears unquantifiable. Wikipidor413 (talk) 10:47, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>> This source apparently uses "total estimated active working hours per day of high and middle echelons of government". A lot of methods are used, from tracking the internal illumination of government buildings to counting the number of invited consultants. MindJanitor42 (talk) 12:19, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>> Well then, I vote for KEEPING the article. Wikipidor413 (talk) 17:00, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>> Sources are acceptable, honestly, but the big problem with the article is what seems to be unsourced assumptions and conjectures. Remember, a person who wrote this proposed supernatural influence as "one of the most reasonable possible explanations" Pinatri (talk) 18:30, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>> Heh. Honestly, those assumptions may pose less of a problem than you all think. I vote to KEEP this article, as a memento. We probably will need one soon. Panopticon (talk) 19:01, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>> Wait... Panopticon? It feels weird to hear things like this from a person who served as a Wikipedia administrator for the last 7 years.
As for the article, DELETE this conspiracy theory garbage. I mean, it uses WikiLeaks as a source! BatmanOfFacts (talk) 19:16, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>> Still am. An admin, I mean. People change, however. Yeah, we will all change. A lot. Mark my words. Panopticon (talk) 19:19, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>> Panopticon IS weird lately. He wrote more than a thousand articles over the course of 9 years, at least one every week, but for the last two months he almost stops his participation, and NOW writes mysterious off-topic remarks and seems to forget that Wikipedia is WP:NOTMEMORIAL.
That said, BatmanOfFacts's argumentation about deleting the article makes no sense. WikiLeaks may be an unreliable source, but what about other four? And the most outlandish content was removed by MindJanitor. I say KEEP it for now. StrawberryFieldsForever (talk) 19:46, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>> Yeah, no doubt there, late Panopticon surprises me. Or should I say, late Wikipedia surprises me? Many old faces just paused their activity... yes, about two months ago. Some said they went on a different project, but none said which... Maybe we need a statistical research of Wikipedia activity? Anyway, the article is much better now, but still needs more sources to confirm the existence of such a bizarre phenomenon. Pinatri (talk) 19:55, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>> Soon you will all see our project. Just wait a week or so. Panopticon (talk) 19:59, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>>> "Panopticon", stop. You are crossing the line of what you can say and what you can't. The article should be DELETED. ColonelPJL (talk) 20:09, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>> Yeah, we need. Perhaps we could even find a correlation. StrawberryFieldsForever (talk) 20:06, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>> Why are we even arguing? This article obviously doesn't meet the notability criteria. If we recorded every statistical fluctuation, we would run out of space on our servers in days. DELETE. OccultHand (talk) 19:13, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>>> Well, it is a very global trend, and we have not a single idea what could have caused it. StrawberryFieldsForever (talk) 19:30, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>> You are all so THICK! You would not open your eyes to the truth even if it crawled out of your goddamned chest! This "activity"... THIS IS THE ACTIVATION OF ALL CONSPIRACIES! THEY PREPARE TO FINALLY TAKE US ALL OVER! WE HAVE NOWHERE TO RUN - IN A WEEK, THE ILLUMINATI WILL ENSLAVE OUR PLANET WITH THE HELP OF SMALL MAGICAL HORSES! THE MARCH OF THE HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE IS AT HAND! CrushThePyramid (talk) 20:12, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>>> Oh god, one of those conspiracy nuts. They seem unusually ridiculous and unusually coherent lately. Pinatri (talk) 20:15, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>>>> Please, don't say that this is an author of this article. StrawberryFieldsForever (talk) 20:16, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>>>>> No, he isn't. Pinatri (talk) 20:16, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>>>>>> Phew. As you said, those people lately... wait.
Wait.
Unusually coherent?
Call me mad, Pinatri, but this AFD discussion has convinced me… something is going down. StrawberryFieldsForever (talk) 20:19, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>>>>>>> ..............yeah. Pinatri (talk) 20:19, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

>>>>>>>>>>>>> Yes. Yes it does. Oh, and KEEP the article. Just trust me on this one. Adios! Sombra (talk) 20:20, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

Categories: AfD debates (Society topics); AfD debates

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It Only Takes Seconds (Keywii_Cookies55)

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Once upon a time, there was a girl named Christine, though she liked to go by Cris. She stood at five-six and had flowing auburn hair. She had-

“Seriously? That’s how you’re going to introduce me? With a grocery list style read off? And what’s with all this past tense stuff?”

…uh..? What?

“You heard me, give me a better description so the fans can better relate to me.”

…Fine, whatever, I’ll roll with this. Our protagonist stood proudly in her living room after completing the final level of a rather challenging, frustrating even, side-scrolling shooter game. She wasn’t as good at the game as her roommate, but she didn’t mind too much. …Better?

“So I’m a gamer girl now?”

Look, if you’re not going to be cooperative, then I could change you into being some fat nerdy shut-in man.

“You don’t have to get so defensive; it was just a simple question. Plus I like it, it doesn’t reek of cliché or stupid.”

Thank you.

“And you even snuck in that I don’t live alone, it’s hard to rent an apartment in our economy you know.”

Tell me about it, I still can’t nail down a job.

“Noooooo, You? Perish the thought, I’d think that employers be lining up at your door to get a piece of the action.”

Shut up.

“So what now anyway?”

What?

“Well, I just finished this game and you’re apparently the one in charge around here, so what the hell were you planning on doing with this story idea of yours.”

Well, after describing what you look like and what you’re wearing,

“Perv.”

…I was thinking of mentioning a diary or journal of some sort as a form of plot device for later. You were then going to receive a phone call from a friend of yours asking to spend some of the day with her. From there a series of events would be set in motion, leading up to the inciting incident of this short story. A couple of seconds is all it takes.

“YAWN! That sounds boring as hell.”

Well what do you want from me, that’s the style I write in, believable slice-of-life stuff.

“Still sounds boring.”

Fine, do you want to be from the future or something?

“Actually yeah, that sounds cool, because then me and my friend can talk about such things as like lasers and hover vehicles. Put me forward by like, fifteen years. 2010 sounds all futurey and stuff.”

Pffft. Heheh…

“What, what’s so funny? It’s 1995, that means that by using simple math, 15 years forward would be 2010”

I know how to do math, but never mind my laugh, it’s nothing, I just have a better idea. How about I set the story a bit further forward than that, I’m thinking 2012. Now can I proceed with my story?

“By all means.”

Our tale begins with Cris, a somewhat argumentative late 20-something with an affinity for video games. Cris just so happens to be a bit hungry and decides to grab a bite from her kitchen fridge.

“Now that you mention it, I am a bit famished.”

She notices that her phone is ringing as she enters the room.

“You’re still going to go forward with your phone call thing?”

Just answer the damn phone, a couple seconds is all it takes, and I assure you it won’t be too boring for you.

]“…fine, where’s the phone at anyway?”

It’s your cell phone, so I guess it’d be in your pocket.

“Cell phone?”

Yeah..?

“You mean those big bulky things?”

They’re, heh, cell phones are smaller in the future.

“Alright, cool, I guess I answer my phone?”

Cris hits the talk button on her slightly aged slider phone, it’s her best friend Jen. “Hey Cris, it’s Jen, hallah! What up girl?” Shouted a rather energetic and somewhat quirky girl through Cris’ cell.

“Hey B, just chillin’ I guess, just blazed through this one game.”

There’s a short pause where you can tell Jen is rolling her eyes from the other side of the phone. “You troll, we’re supposed to game together this weekend, you agreed.”

“I…just a tick, Jen. I put my hand over the phone? Can you indicate differently that I’m doing and saying things so other characters don’t think I’m crazy.”

Fine, I’ll put what you dictate or say to me outside the quotation marks.

Thank you. I stop covering the phone now. “Sorry Jen, talking to someone.”

“It’s nothing, so you comin’?” Jen asks.

I know it’s her asking, “Yeah sure, gimme-” How far away does she live?

I dunno, I didn’t think of that, I guess about 10 minutes by bus?

“-about 20 minutes I guess?”

“Awesome,” Jen shouts into the phone, “We’ll rock the socks off of those FPS nerdboys. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your account!” Jen hangs up her cell shortly after that, leaving Cris only 5 minutes to pack her game peripherals and head out the door.

What’s an account? Wait, “5 MINUTES?! Shit!”

Cris quickly slips her phone into her pocket and runs from the kitchen over to her room at the end of the hall. The only door she passed in the hallway was the room of her roommate Steph-

Look, I’m in a hurry, can you shut up so I can focus!

A couple seconds is all it takes, but alright.

~~¥¥>Time passes<¥¥~~

After grabbing her memory stick containing her account, as well as her game controller, she stuffed her wallet into her right pocket and headed out the door. Fortunately for our 27-year-old friend sh-

Hold it, I’m NOT 27, if anything I’m 23.

Um, who’s the author here? If I say YOU ARE 27 then you are.

I WILL refuse to do everything you say if you make me 27.

…Fine, what about a compromise? I’ll meet you halfway, literally in this case, if you shut up until you get to Jen’s place.

Can you PLEASE make it so I’m 23?

I can work with that. I’ll just make you turn 24 in a week and a half or so.

What.

Fortunately for our 23-year-old friend she could see the bus stop as she walked out the door, there were a couple people standing there looking as though they’re waiting. Cris takes note of this and rushes across the quiet street to stand at the 9# stop.

What do the people look like?

What?

Describe the people standing at the bus stop.

Why? They have no importance or impact on the story past being setting.

Because I’m a young lady in the city and one of them could be a rapist.

I absolutely assure you that I wouldn’t write that into my story, but besides, it’s not Nu York you’re living in, you live in Hall-hill it’s population isn’t even over 300 000, rape isn’t too terrible of a concern here. Oh, and you’re Canadian in case you were wondering.

That I knew, but I guess if you’re sure it won’t happen then I won’t ask again.

Assured, I may not be able to control anything you do or say, even if I try, but I can and do control literally everything else. So you can trust me.

Okay I guess, I’m still nervous, but I guess I’ll survive. Continue your story.

Thank you. Curious if she’d missed the bus though, Cris asked one of the people standing there.

Fine, “Excuse me, do you know when the bus gets here?”

Cris asks an older woman dressed in business casual. The woman, although looking stressed, and a bit nervous, smiles a bit. “A couple seconds is all it takes.” The woman answers in a friendly matter.

“Thank you.” And thank you, …narrator…guy…

Keyes, you can call me A.J Keyes.

Is that really your name?

It’s as much of my name as you’re going to get. A.J Keyes is my author alias, so like it or not, that’s all I can give you. Sorry.

I can live with that, but can we skip ahead again? I don’t want to ACTUALLY wait for the bus.

I’ll remind you that you actually experience what happens, even if I skip past it, but fine, I’ll skip ahead.

~~¥¥>More time passes<¥¥~~

“Next stop, Parsley St. next stop, Parsley.” Cris hears through the overhead speakers built into the bus she rides in.

Is that my stop?

Your stop is coming up, but no, Parsley St. isn’t yours.

Then why did you cut back in?

I have my motives, but in short, it was in case there was anything you were thinking about.

I did actually want to ask you a couple of things.

Okay, shoot.

Well, the first thing is, how did I pay for the bus?

A bus pass? I don’t know, but clearly, you paid, otherwise you wouldn’t be on the bus.

I have a bus pass?

Well yeah, you bought one of those monthly passes so you could get back and forth to work every day, otherwise, fare for each trip is like 3 bucks, in the long run, a monthly pass is more cost-effective.

I guess that answers if I’m unemployed or not.

You work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, at a video game store downtown. The place is called Life’s Peripherals and your shift starts at 10 am every day you work there.

Really? That sounds awesome! Other than how I got the most radical job on the planet, I also wanted to know what day it is in the year. You mentioned something about a monthly pass, well, what’s the date?

I was thinking about making it be late SEPTEMBER, to match the time of year it is for me right now as I write this, but I was thinking maybe make it April? Early April?

I can live with that, That means beach season is coming up.

Hall-hill is landlocked Cris, beach season doesn’t mean much where you live.

Son of a- You planned this all along didn’t you?

If by planned you mean “Based Hall-hill off of where I live,” then yes, if otherwise, then you’re wrong.

Where you live kind of sucks.

Eh, it grows on you, plus we get some pretty awesome music festivals.

…whatever, I GUESS I can live with that, sucks though.

You will live with it, the beach is an hour and a half away, you’ll be fine. Anything else before I call your stop?

I GUESS I’m curious what I’m wearing and what I look like…

I knew it was only a matter of time, you’re wearing, a grey Mario 1-up shirt, as well as beige cargo pants.

So far no complaints, nothing too over-sexualized, I like it.

A pair of mostly black running shoes on your feet and a nice looking weaved bracelet around your right wrist.

I wear a bracelet?

It was given to you by your older sister before she passed a few years ago.

I have a dead sister? You’re kind of a horrible person.

…Her name was Willow, in case you were wondering.

Oh yeah, give me her name so I have something to think about as I cry later? Lovely.

It’s been OVER 4 ¥EARS, and speaking from personal experience here, you’ll kind of get over her being gone. It shouldn’t still be bothering you at this point.

Screw off, you’ve done enough, just skip ahead to when I get to whats-her-name's place.

~~¥¥>Technical difficulties due to time skipping<¥¥~~

Knock knock knock, is the sound that the door makes as Cris stands on the front steps of her friend Jen’s house and pounds her fist against its face. After a short moment of waiting, Jen answers the door. “Shoot girl, you looking fine! I love the tee!” Jen says loudly while she opens the door. Unlike our sympathetic friend Cris, Jen lived in a house, much larger then Cris’ apartment. Also unlike Cris, Jen can’t complain while I describe what she looks like. Jen was a bit shorter then Cris, 5’4 was her height. With short cocoa coloured hair and a bit of a natural tan, she’s noticeably darker than our protagonist, but not by much, and she doesn’t mind wearing a skirt. Which she, by the way, currently is. Along with her long dark blue skirt, her slimming baby blue t-shirt which prominently displays the Super Meat Boy logo, and her white hair scrunchie holding her hair up in a ponytail, there isn’t much more I can say about what she looks like besides shes beautiful.

Oops, forgot a COMA, sorry, an apostrophe. But I’m done talking about this stuff if you want to respond to any of it.

I’m still upset with you.

And I’m sorry for it, but like it or not, you’re kind of stuck with me.

Whatever…

Are you going to talk with Jen at all? She’s kind of waiting for you to respond.

I don’t really want to deal with things right now.

Look, I know you’re depressed, we all are, but it’s something you’re going to have to grow to live with.

How did… How did she die?

…This is…hard to do, well where do I begin? There was a CAR ACCIDENT about four years ago, your sister and you were driving around after a shopping trip. It was late and there weren't too many people on the road. Willow stops at a red light when it happens. There was an older woman driving her minivan, she was returning home after working overtime at her office job, she isn’t a bad person - in fact, she’s a mother. She closed her eyes for only a second. But, as we’ve learned time and time again, a couple seconds is all it takes. While she took her microsleep, her foot fell down hard on the gas pedal, and before you knew it, her van was impacting with your sister’s car. You were asleep in the back and you miraculously survived uninjured, everyone else in the car, well, they weren’t so lucky. Willow didn’t make it, and the older woman needed a couple of organ transplants. She lived in the end though, with the guilt of what had happened. She’s in therapy now, but all in all, she’s doing a lot better. And finally you, you missed your final year of college due to depression, but you made it through, thanks to the help of your friend Jen. Presently you go to work, hang out with your friend, and basically get by. It’s what she would have wanted.

…I…

Take your time if you need it.

…Thank you…for telling me that is, I know I was annoyed with you for adding this to your story, but I feel better knowing that Willow is in a better place.

She is, she truly, truly is.

Did Jen see or hear any of this?

I could say yes, but that wouldn’t really be that understanding of me. Just promise me you’ll try to be in a good mood for this. Please?

Sure, I’m already kind of over it a bit.

Your mind is catching up to the idea that it happened long ago.

You can continue with the plot now.

Jen just commented on your t-shirt, it’s your turn to respond to her.

Oh, well, “Thanks, I like my shirt anyway.” I guess I walk into the door she opened.

Jen leads Cris into her living room where there’s a large 42” flat screen television with 1080 3D pixels, very cutting edge. Placed around the television are as follows: an Xbox 360, a PS3, a Wii, a Playstation, an N64, a NES, a Sega Genesis, and a Neo Geo. She also has a combination Blu Ray/VCR player, some rather large surround sound speakers, and a wall covered with rows upon rows of wall-mounted racks, full of CD cases. That means Jen owns hundreds of movies, tv series, anime, video games, and music, all alphabetized into the sub-categories of media format.

…Holy shit…

That’s what I said. So take it in, a couple seconds is all it takes, and it’s pretty damn awesome.

…Anywhere to sit?

There are a couple of leather couches to sit on, pick a spot on either of the couches, I’ll have it so you’ve always sat there, this way Jen won’t get suspicious.

I guess I’ll sit on this two-seater here?

Cris walks into the room, unimpressed with this high-end entertainment system, being that she’s seen it so many times. She takes a seat on the smaller couch in the room, the same cushy comfortable pleather seat she’s always sat in when over at Jen’s house, her spot. Cris’ spot is on the smaller couch perpendicularly facing the television, while Jen’s spot is on the three-seater couch facing the tv, both women sitting at the end’s of their respective seats to be closer to each other, making conversation easier.

Jen immediately follows Cris into the room, taking her spot as well. Cris sets her game controller down on the coffee table in the centre of the television and the two couches as Jen grabs the tv remote to turn it all on. You can start talking any time now Cris.

Well, I’m nervous, I don’t want to say anything and weird her out.

That’s almost impossible, seeing as I control what she says and if you screw up I’ll play along. Basically be yourself, it’s kind of easy, just think it over, a couple seconds is all it takes, and again, it’s super easy.

Why do you keep saying that?

Saying what? Hold on.

The thing about everything only taking seconds to happen or whatever.

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Well, you’ve said it like a million times now.



I mean, I just noticed, but if I think about it, you’ve said it a lot.



…Hello? Are you there?



Please answer me… where did you go?

Sorry, I was talking to someone else and forgot to... stop.

What?

Nothing, it’s nothing… Let’s just continue what we’re doing.

It’s not nothing, something is happening, and I don’t want this story about me to continue until you explain it.

We really should continue, I don’t want to PULL THE PLUG on this story, or on you for that matter.

And what’s with the capital letter thing you keep doing.

Before I answer that let me just lock the door.

YOU ARE 27,

The door to the room I’m in is locked.

OVER 4 ¥EARS,

But what I’m doing is irrelevant, I accidentally hit caps lock a few times, so what.

SEPTEMBER,

That’s the name of a month, it could mean anything.

CAR ACCIDENT,

You don’t know what you’re talking about, please stop.

PULL THE PLUG,

Seriously, stop…

COMA.

There’s, ah, something I need to tell you.

You’re fucking right there’s something you need to tell me.

You recall the story I told you about how your sister died? Well, there’s information I left out.

You weren’t sleeping in the back seat of the car your sister was driving during the collision, you were in the passenger seat. When the two cars impacted, Willow was killed instantly, that much is true, but you weren’t so lucky to just survive the crash… Something from the car pierced your skull in a certain way…

…It, put you in a coma that’s so far been irreversible…for the last four years you’ve been at the Garden River Hospital unconscious.

…Why, why do you know this about me?

I…know this about you because I was there.

My name is Arthur Jacobs, I’ve been your best friend since the 9th grade, and I was in that car accident with you two, I was the one in the back seat of the car sleeping.

W…why, why di, did you li…lie?

You don’t understand…

Th, then why don’t you fu…fucking explain it then?!

IT’S BEEN FOUR FUCKING YEARS CRIS! I’ve been in therapy ever since that night! You don’t know what it’s like to have both of your best friends forcibly ripped from your fucking life at the same time! They already thought I was crazy because of my books, what do you think that did!?

…I, I was weak alright …I didn’t feel anything for months after Willow died, and you ended up here…th, the woman driving that damned minivan…

She and I were the only two survivors in that accident. She went on to give speeches about driving when you shouldn’t, using you and Willow as her fucking mascots, she’s been living with the guilt of what happened every single day since. “A couple seconds is all it takes” is her motto. It’s short for, "A couple seconds is all it takes to completely destroy the lives of dozens of people". Meanwhile, I lived detached from the rest of the world for almost a year. I didn’t sleep, I barely ate, I didn’t go outside anymore. When I finally started talking and interacting with other people again it was already too late, I’d missed my last year of college due to my depression.

For a couple months after that, I visited you every day in the hospital, your wounds had healed up, but you were unconscious. I would read to you… continue writing for you... and beg for days, for weeks for you to wake up…

…But you never did…

…I don’t know what to say…I’m sorry, I really, really am…

It’s alright Cris…It’s, it’s not your fault…

I…

If you don’t mind me asking this, how is it that we’re talking…um…with me being asleep and all.

...After I started visiting you in the hospital, I just couldn't bear the thought that it was you there, you were always the lively and active one, so seeing you so perfectly still all the time was... wrong. I decided to do something about it. You remember my books, right? I even told you I thought they were real, once, and that I'd seen the world my words created... You were the only one who didn't think I was crazy. At least at first. Now... well, seeing what's happening on this screen right now, everyone else finally believes me. You'd think it would've been the time I wrote the convenient funding into existence but...

I'm writing this story on a machine hooked up to your brain, created by Doctor Trigalin. Amazing man, agreed to help me immediately. We had problems with funding for the first few months since it was all experimental, but when a government representative heard the old woman's speech... we got all the funding we could need. The machine was finished earlier today. Technically we aren't supposed to be using it yet, but they wouldn't do anything to us for that.

Well, they wouldn't have. But the machine didn't work... there were no responses... and then I started writing a story. And I brought you here with it. I... I tried writing you awake first, but that didn't work. I've been trying to ease you out of it.

I…I needed to talk to you, even if it were only over text-based chat, it’s still you, you…you have no idea how happy I am to finally be able to talk to you.

I’m, I’m glad to hear it I guess. …Look at me blushing, I must look stupid to you right now.

You could never look stupid.

Hold on though, if it’s experimental or whatever, won’t using this machine thing make everything worse?

Don’t worry, Doctor Trigalin is with me and he has assured me 100% that everything is safe. I trust this man with my life, I mean he’s



Hello?



Where did you go?

Sorry, the representative has found out what we’re doing and is banging at the door, Trigalin is trying his hardest to hold him off, but that won’t last forever, so I need to act fast. In case I’m arrested or worse, and I never get to see you wake up, I want you to know three things, the first is that the world WILL be different when you wake up, please keep that in mind so your brain isn’t overloaded with information. Second, I'm trying to get Jane here - remember Jane? Here's to hoping she'll actually be willing to help...

The second thing I want you to know is that I…I lov


He…hello?



Are you still there…




Please…please answer me…





I don’t want to be alone…







…please Arthur…














I love you too.

A Game of Civilization (GMBlackjack)

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There were seven of Them.

They were bored. As usual. It was the way they existed, time went on around them with nothing interesting happening, and they just watched. Some spoke, but most conversations died after a year or two. Such was the existence of Them - agonizing inaction.

And then one of them spoke up.

"Which organic race do you think is the best at, well, living?"

He asked it with no belief that it would actually be answered, and if it was that anyone would actually be interested. But he was about to be surprised by where the idea led.

"Dragons," one of Them said. "Big, strong, affinity for magic, high intelligence, social when they need to be. They dominate when there's enough of them."

"Ah, but that's the issue," another added. "They reproduce exceedingly slowly, and rarely at that. They're easily overrun by many races that share worlds with them."

"That's due to the Narrative."

"Care to bet on that? How about we create a sealed universe with some dragons in it and a race of my choosing, and we'll see who comes out on top?"

They would have smiled if that were a thing They could do on this level of existence. "You're on."

"I want in on this too!" the others blurted in at once.

"Of course," the Them that suggested the idea said. "All of you, choose an organic race. Carbon-based lifeforms. They have chosen Dragons. What are yours?"

"You first," the question-asker said.

"Fine. Elder Things."

"Clever," another said. "Intelligent, spore-reproduction, and extremely resilient and mobile. They do think a bit slow, however... I say Goa'uld."

"That's far from the best mind parasite race!"

"Fine then. Parasytes. I suppose I forgot about them for a moment. Not only do they control the mind of the host but they also bestow them with organic manipulation."

"They have a bit of a violence and hunger problem though..." Another observed.

"There are those who are able to resist the urge. Society will naturally form from them, given evolutionary time."

"Question!" A new voice said. "How long do we get?"

The suggester metaphysically shrugged. "Until there's a clear winner."

"A long experiment then. I put forth the ponies."

"Hey! No fair! They'll just put everyone together in peace!"

"Then there'd be a clear winner, wouldn't there?"

One of Them who'd been quiet for most of this spoke up. "Trolls."

"Uh... really?"

"The kind from Paradox Space. They've been proving to spread rather quickly now that the seals on their space have been torn off. They've also got a wide variety of specialization within their various castes."

"Humans." The only one of Them who hadn't spoken yet blurted.

"...What kind of humans?"

"Regular."

"You can't be serious."

"Oh, I'm serious."

"Care to explain why?"

"No."

"Well fine then. What about you?"

The Them that had asked the original question paused for a moment. "...Tyranids. You are all going to die very quickly as my race absorbs the biological power of yours. The entire planet will fall."

"This is going to be interesting..." One of Them - it was really impossible to tell - said. Suddenly, there was a new universe, one that contained only one life-sustaining planet. On it were seven races - Humans, Ponies, Trolls, Dragons, Elder Things, Tyranids, and Parasytes. The Parasytes were given pathetic original bodies, that of slow, short, mushroom people.

"Hey!"

"You can't start out with any advantage. But you can at least use them to reproduce."

"...Fine."

The races were all placed on different parts of the globe, far from each other. There was only one continent, so there'd be no 'theaters' of battle, they'd soon all know of each other's existence.

'Soon' being a few thousand years, that is.

The seven Them watched their 'players' set to work, spreading across the world...

~~~

Each culture develops separately for a while, allowing them to settle into the way they live.

Humans, in the first era, advance to the level of agriculture and tribal society. They have little drive to do much else besides conquer the nature around them, which is hostile but subdued easily enough given time. They already feel driven to create idols, simple sculptures, and songs. They master fire. In other words, they advance quickly but don't gain anything special. They are decidedly not unified and fight against each other regularly.

Ponies form tribal society easily, having a natural inclination to seek each other out. They also have natural magic for farming, which is great. They don't understand how to create fire besides using magic to do it, and they have little understanding behind the mechanics of anything they do. They live in harmony and see little need to progress further or question anything. An alicorn is born and they make her their leader. Society: organized, but not developing quickly. Little competition.

Trolls master livestock out of a simple biological imperative - they have to raise their lusi so the lusi can tend to their young. After they've established a stable population of young-raising animals, they turn to war pretty quickly. The lowbloods with their impressive powers fight amongst themselves a lot, while the highbloods end up in places of power simply because they live longer. Numerous kingdoms pop up. For now, the seadwellers and the landdwellers remain pretty much separate. They focus largely on managing animals and warring, with limited actual agriculture. Their societies aren't very stable, but they do spread quickly in order to find more resources to fuel their rage.

The dragons reproduce slowly and don't actually form a stable society. They are mostly loners with a few family units flying around. However, they also spread further than the other races given their flight, size, and age. While they have no society, already they can be found worldwide. Most races are terrified of them, and already a few dragon-hunters have been crowned. This means the dragons technically know of the other races already, but they don't really have a reliable information network.

The Elder Things... Don't. Do. Much. They mostly just sit around and live. They can fly, but don't care. They can survive attacks, but nothing attacks them. They have no need for war. They reproduce through spores slowly and just... march onward. They don't even really spend much time developing society or anything, they just... look at things and think all the time.

The parasytes have difficulty forming a society on their own. Those in the mushroom people are the only ones who can maintain high-level intelligence. The parasytes in animals lose higher function and have to be kept as pets or let loose. They also have the issue of eating each other at the start, which sets them back. Eventually, they do form a society with limp, mushroom people in charge of the parasyte animals, though they haven't even mastered agriculture. They are pure hunters for the moment that have a really small population.

The Tyranids move fast. They eat animals, gain their abilities, and move on. The Hive mind, due to not needing to exert itself, lowers in intelligence. It has no need to speak to itself, to be creative, or to plan, it just overwhelms the area around it with numbers. It becomes lazy, so to speak. There is no competition for it, as far as it knows. It is apparently winning in this Era, having occupied the most space. It currently has the capabilities of just about every animal on the planet, which includes extremely potent venom, reptile armor, and the like. No magical abilities to speak of, just skills that regular earth animals can obtain. It has eaten a dragon and obtained its fire breath, but cannot use the magic dragons can.

~~~

"Your Parasytes are struggling just to survive!"

"They need to encounter one of the other races. Give them time."

"The ponies aren't doing anything at all! They're just... sitting!"

"That's good. Keeps them out of the early fight with the Tyranids."

"You speak like the Tyranids are going to lose."

"It's a foregone conclusion. The other six races can, in theroy, live with each other. They cannot live with the Tyranids. I suspect there will be a war against the 'demonic bugs' in the near future."

"How can they be beaten? They'd just take the abilities of all the other races that give them an edge!"

"Being a hive mind is both a blessing and a curse. Tyranids can be exploited if the opponent is clever enough."

~~~

The races become aware of each other, bit by bit. Every race has two closer 'neighbors,' making the entire continent look like a big circle.

The humans are snug between the dragons and the Elder Things. Since the dragon lands are sparsely populated, even if there are larger concentrations of dragons there than anywhere else, humans get it into their head that they're going to settle the land. Humans are stupid determined so the settling actually goes relatively well, though the people here live in active fear of dragons, and the dragons that might want to talk are sick of human 'heroes' coming around to kill them. It's not really a war since the dragons can't raise an army, but it's definitely a conflict that drags on and on and on. The Elder Thing border is an... odd place. Some human kingdoms try to conquer the Elder Things with force while others just occupy the land the Elder Things are in without interfering. The Elder Things are smart enough to realize the humans are different entities, and only attack the ones that attack them. Durable as Elder Things are, not all the Elder/Human wars go in the favor of the Elder Things. They do get slaughtered sometimes. This prompts the Elder Things to begin developing tools and innovation, though only based on what they'd seen the humans use. Some Elder-human alliance nations pop up once the two races figure out how to communicate (it takes a few decades).

The Elder Things meet the ponies for the first time. The ponies aren't aggressive and find the new creatures fascinating. As soon as the Elder Things realize humans can talk, they try to talk to the ponies, and it goes well. However, there aren't many alliances, since the emotional ponies and the logical Elder Things have a hard time identifying with each other. They know that they exist, and that's about as far as they care. The Elder Things try magic for a while and realize they can't do anything with it. Essentially the Elder Things are finally tapping into their ability to think now that they see what it can do.

The ponies are not aware of their other neighbor - the parasytes. And the parasytes are not aware of the ponies. There's too much distance between them. However, the parasytes are aware of their other neighbor, the Trolls. A handful of Trolls have been taken over, but since the Parasytes weren't very clever about it the Trolls are very well aware that Parasytes exist. The Parasytes are not having much luck with infiltration, but they bring some lowblood Trolls back to their growing nation to breed and make more hosts. The mushroom hosts are phased out, but the Parasytes lack the genes for a high blood Troll population. The Trolls are actively on the hunt for Parasytes, though soon this will become secondary to another threat.

The Tyranids begin encroaching on dragon territory and Troll territory. Since the humans are in dragon territory, this makes three races the Tyranids are currently attacking. The Tyranids grab the various lowblood powers from the Trolls - obtaining telekinesis, laser eyes, animal control (unnecessary), and emotional soothing. They have not worked their way up the spectrum to any Trolls with vampirism, mind control, super strength, chucklevoodoos, or life extension as of yet. The Trolls plan to keep it that way. They start to unite under the power of the highbloods, though the seadwellers mostly remain separate. After all, they don't have to worry about a bunch of land bugs, do they? (Also, as the only aquatic race, they're unchallenged in the ocean. For now.)

The dragons are very ineffective against the Tyranids. So are the humans. They seem to fall like candy, and the Tyranids have gained the special metabolism of humanity. The Tyranids still see no real threat, deciding that the Trolls are just annoying and will fall eventually.

~~~

"Your humans are going to die by Tyranid swarm, end of story."

"Shut up. That's only the edge of their territory. The central kingdoms have armies worth something. And resources."

"My Trolls are doing well. Look at them, keeping their higher-bloods away from the Tyranids to keep an advantage."

"It prevents them from using their powers."

"Do not underestimate the power of chucklevoodoo, my friend."

~~~

Humanity pulls something out of its collective hat. They create dragon riders. After numerous cases of the Dragons fighting the Tyranid "literal demons from hell," a few humans got ideas. Most of the dragons were not willing to side with the 'dragon hunters,' but there were enough that did. Dragon eggs started to be raised by humans in large farms, bred precisely for war. Usually, there was a dragon involved in the process, but not always. These extra-armored allies of humans became excellent fighters against the Tyranids. For as powerful as Tyranids were, metallic armor could not be created biologically, nor could iron weapons. When combined with magic prowess and organization, the dragon riders began to beat the Tyranids back. But the Tyranids didn't care - they just moved where they could. Being beat back still wasn't threatening at all.

Some dragons saw the power of organization with the humans and started their own society, a collection of ancient and young reptiles determined to form their own power. They fought the Tyrandis as well, proving that the dragons didn't need the humans' help. Again, the Tyranids just treated the resistance like a 'wall' to move around and forward, into other territories. It just wasn't worth the effort to squash them. After all, the Tyranids already had their genetic traits.

The Human-Elder Thing border didn't change much. There was symbiosis and war. The central human kingdoms started building up bigger armies, slowly getting tied together by a religion that spoke of Tyranids as the incarnation of evil and humanity as the light in the darkness. Dragons were no longer monsters and became noble creatures of wisdom to the humans, as boons sent from God to aid them in their fight against the demonic presence.

The Elder Things began to prepare for possible Tyranid invasion. Knowing how the wars with the humans were going, news of a terrible demonic presence certainly motivated the slow-moving race. They built up large, intensely defensive fortresses, preparing for the bugs to come. A few reached the fortresses by the end of the era. None of the fortresses were breached.

The ponies found out about the Tyranids through the Elder Things, who thought to give them a warning. The ponies learned about the Humans and Dragons through this as well. Initially, they sent emissaries to be friends with the other races. The Dragons were unwelcoming, and those who survived the trip to the Tyranid lands returned with their worldview of harmony forever altered. The alicorn leader was forced to declare an enemy of ponykind in the Tyranids, something that had never done before. They had to ask the Elder Things how one prepared for war. They didn't get much preparation done by the end of the era.

That said, the ponies did make diplomatic ties with many human kingdoms, who were more than ready to bring more mages into the fight against the demonic presence. The humans were definitely taking advantage of the ponies who came. Human pride is starting to swell at this point in time.

Parasytes successfully infiltrate the land of the ponies. The ponies are a lot less willing to kill people who look like their friends, so even though they become aware of the parasytes' existence, they are much less effective at killing them. The Parasytes begin to thrive in the pony nation, though not enough to take control. Meanwhile, the original parasyte lands start getting attacked by Tyranids, and the Parasytes find that the Tyranid hive-mind is never fooled by a Parasyte. They manage to sneak some Tyranid drones for their 'nation' and begin retreating to the pony lands.

Trolls begin to actively fight against the Tyranids with a power strong enough to actually make the Tyranid pause. Cobalt-bloods have begun to master the art of mind-control, using it on the Tyranids' relatively weak drones to turn the swarm against itself. The Tyranids have managed to absorb a few cobalt-bloods and get their mind powers, but are finding that many Trolls are trained to resist it. The hive-mind has spent too long not thinking to build up those muscles now. It's vulnerable. Meanwhile, the seadwelling Trolls and the aquatic side of the Tyranids have finally come into contact. The Tyranids are realizing that Trolls may actually be a threat at the end of the era.

~~~

"I told you all you had to do was be clever and the Tyranids will start to fall back. They aren't all that smart. Too single-minded to come up with creative ideas."

"Patience. The swarm has finally realized there is a need for strategy."

"It's still spreading out like an amorphous blob."

"Shush. It'll get clever eventually."

"I'm betting the parasytes completely destroy the ponies' civilization. They're just too friendly to deal with the incursion, and the Elder Things won't help, and the humans are a bit busy."

"You... are probably right."

~~~

The humans and dragons notice the Tyranid swarms are lessening in strength. They think this means they are winning, so they start pushing. The human kingdoms begin treating campaigns against the demons like the Crusades, full of glory and honor for God. They push into Tyrannid territory for several years, feeling like there's progress for the first time in forever. Back home, festivals are thrown. Who cares if they're celebrating a bit early?

This, of course, means some of the kingdoms on the Elder Thing border start fighting the Elder Things again, this time with dragon riders in tow. The Elder Things are more than ready to defend against them, but there are Tyranid sub-swarms in this area of the world as well. The three-way fights create intense chaos. The Tyranids obtain the Elder Things' tough skin, but even their intelligence is not enough to keep the Hivemind focused. It's just too hard for the single intelligence to focus on all sides at once - which is why the numbers on the Dragon-Human border are falling.

The Parasytes begin to overrun the ponies. Ten percent of the population is infected with parasitic individuals bent on murder and control - until the alicorn decides she's seen enough suffering. She goes, personally, and invents an instant-death spell. She tests every pony she comes across, and if the magic test proves they're a parasyte, she kills them. She breaks down emotionally because of what she has to do, but she has no choice, she's tried all other things. The massacre forces ponies who live in the homeland to reexamine what they believed. With their foothold in the pony lands broken, the parasytes try all-out war against the ponies, since they have to run away from the Tyranids somehow. The Elder Things step in to offer aid, logically deducing that friendly ponies is infinitely better than parasitic monsters. The society of the parasytes, now on assault from four sides (Troll, tyranid, elder thing, and pony) falls. A few individuals of the race still exist, but they must remain in the shadows. The Pony nation is severely weakened and does not have any defenses against the Tyranids. however, due to the encounter with the parasytes, the Trolls have heard of the ponies now, finally making the Trolls aware that the other races exist. They are naturally untrusting.

The Trolls themselves are extremely occupied fighting a war on all fronts - land and sea. The only side not being attacked is the border they now share with the ponies since the parasytes are gone. They spend little effort forming diplomatic ties, but a few Trolls wish to learn more. The Troll society fully unites, forming a dual-council of Purple-bloods and Fuschia-Bloods, doing their absolute hardest to assault the Tyranids. Finally together, the Trolls push towards the center of the swarm, only for the swarm to push back. the Tyranids have started targeting any Cobalt-bloods on the field of battle, taking out the mind-control exploit when possible. The Trolls are starting to lose their advantage.

~~~

"Aaaaaand there go the parasytes first!"

"They could come back. Resurge."

"Unlikely. That alicorn princess is going to live forever and she has basically made them her eternal enemy. All must die."

"I'm biting my nails here! Can the Tyranids do it? Or will the combined efforts of the entire races push them back?"

"It does seem to be pretty even. Perhaps if the ponies hadn't been so weakened, it'd be more one-sided. Or if the Elder Things were more active."

~~~

The war against the Tyranids has been going on for well over a century at this point. The dragons' numbers are falling to extreme lows, and the Crusades are losing their fire. The Trolls are starting to retreat slightly, moving towards the pony lands. The Elder Things realize that their defenses will only be able to hold for so long, that even the best fortresses cannot last forever. The ponies accept the Trolls that flee in their land, but they still have to fight the few Tyranids that show up, and they don't do well.

The Elder Things decide the time to act is now. They contact the alicorn princess and tell her that her ideas of harmony are perhaps exactly what's needed. They will protect the land of the ponies from the Tyranids if her people will do what they do best - coordinate. The Elder Things are notably not good at this. The alicorn agrees, and the Elder Things begin to erect defenses around the pony land - and the alicorn princess makes rounds, fighting the Tyranids herself in different places, meeting everyone she can. She doesn't do as much as she thinks - the idea of forging an alliance doesn't actually mean much since everyone's already fighting - but she has an air of hope about her.

History will not be sure if it was the Elder Things joining or the actions of the princess or some other thing that tipped the scales, but at last the Tyranids began to be pushed back for real. The nations began coordinated attacks - Cobalt-bloods were flown around the world to assault the hive-mind from multiple locations, confusing it. Armies pushed into the center of Tyranid territory, smashing bugs wherever they went.

The death toll was immense. The Dragons' nation was harmed too much, falling apart in the middle of the war. All dragons now existed as part of other nations or loners.

One day, though, the fighting stopped. Pony, human, Elder Thing, and Troll met in the central Tyranid nest and killed the central hub of the hive mind. Over the next few decades, other Tyranid swarms would rise up, but none would ever reach the same level of intensity. The race was eventually hunted to extinction.

And then the world experienced a bit of a 'what now' moment.

There were still dozens of human kingdoms, no longer united in Tyranid crusades. The Elder Things had given aid to the ponies, but now the pony land was an Elder Thing/pony/Troll mix due to the war. The Trolls weren't sure if they wanted to stay united.

And now the humans and Trolls wanted the land the Tyranids had occupied.

~~~

"Three down. Three to go."

"I can't believe the humans are alive."

"The dragons were... assimilated? Did they lose?"

"Pretty much. Couldn't keep up their numbers in the devastation. They had to lose their culture completely."

"What about the ponies?"

"They still own their land, and their leader is still their leader... it's an odd case, I admit."

"I'm being wishful when I want the world to enter an era of peace, huh?"

"Yep. They've known nothing but war for a hundred years. You can't expect that to change."

~~~

The Elder Things, to their annoyance, noted that the human kingdoms on their border kept attacking. They tried to let the humans win a few battles, but that just gave them drive to conquer more. Eventually, the human-Elder symbiosis kingdoms started attacking the regular human kingdoms, breeding more human v human wars. The Elder Things were not in danger of being completely conquered but they weren't exactly sure what to do about the little wars.

Humans themselves started spreading again. Kingdoms rose and fell, and a few key kingdoms began to think maybe peace was a good idea. They signed accords with each other and started colonizing. Dragon populations within the human nations rose, given their knowledge of dragon caretaking. Lots of once-Tyranid land was ripe for the taking.

But, as previously mentioned, the Trolls wanted some of that as well. Thus began the border disputes. The united Trolls and the core human kingdoms all wanted the central Tyranid territory, and they couldn't agree. The Trolls won most of the wars that broke out since the humans were divided, but humans are stupid tenacious. With their dragon cavalry, entire Troll settlements would be burnt to the ground. This just made the trolls angry.

On the home front, the Trolls argued about being united. Cobalt-bloods were being venerated above the higher-classes for their prowess and key ability in the war (even though the purple blood chucklevoodoos were very effective, they rarely fought.) The seadwellers seceded first - they had no care for the landdwellers at all. They went back to conquering the ocean. The purple-bloods found this to be best - the 'royal' sea Trolls had been cramping their style. The purples tried to rule over the lowbloods with a strict caste system, and succeeded for the most part. That said, some of the colonies far from purple control started harboring plots of rebellion. All it took was a mutant blood and a cobalt blood to band together and a civil war began. The humans at this point were extremely upset with the main Troll Empire, so they were more than willing to give aid to the rebellion. A new Troll Republic was formed, with the idea that all Trolls had the same rights. The Troll Republic ended up in the key position of the middle of the remaining nations.

Just because the Republic formed did not mean there were no more border disputes. Far from it.

Meanwhile, the ponies spent all their time dealing with their Elder Thing and Troll citizens, rebuilding their nation. They were able to do it, and nobody felt the need to attack them for the time being. The ponies entered an age of rebuliding, and it went well overall.

The state of the world settled - dozens of human kingdoms, a single pony nation, a single Elder Thing nation, and a Troll Empire, Republic, and Seascape.

The world slowly began to turn from war. The humans still fought amongst themselves, but the battles died down over the years. The Elder Things worked hard to sign accords with the human kingdoms. The main wars that kept going on were the Troll-human border disputes. For the first time since antiquity, something resembling pace remained.

~~~

"They're not fighting anymore."

"Yeah, there's no overarching threat, no intense power, no death from other races. They just fight for the regular reasons, the ones that don't include extermination."

"This is going to go on for some time, isn't it?"

"Probably. There's no clear winner yet, at least."

~~~

In a global sense, the world doesn't change much. The human kingdoms come and go, but they fall less often. Seadwellers basically own the sea at this point. The Troll Republic and kingdoms end up actually getting along, bizarrely enough. The pony nation becomes powerful with the discovery of advanced cloud cities, and the Elder Things are... there.

Then humans and ponies started reading books of knowledge the Elder Things had been compounding for centuries. They found the writings of the world's equivalent of Newton. What the Elder Things lacked in drive, the humans and mixed-pony-nation had. The scientific revolution burst into the world on two separate scenes. One was focused on the use of magic, the other the use of technology. One kingdom of humans, the Primary Kingdom at this point, created the steam engine and rose to extreme power compared to the others. The ponies' magitech began to brim, advancing quicker than human tech (relatively). However, the ponies were willing to share, so their edge wasn't a military one but an economic one. The Troll Republic bought tons of magitech, and the Troll Empire needed it as well to fuel their border disputes against the humans (which were starting to go badly.)

The end result of this was that humans began to get interconnected and the ponies got rich since they were the only ones who could produce magic devices. The Trolls became dependent on outsourced magitech. The Troll Republic didn't mind this dependency, but the Troll Empire did. They tried again and again to steal manufacturing secrets of the magitech and regular human tech. They quickly realized that magitech could only be manufactured by poines, and while regular technology secrets were fair game, they lacked the infrastructure. They decided it'd just be easier to attack the ponies and force some into slave labor.

This started a world war. The Empire Lost. Badly. They learned not to attack the ponies - they had big friends. The border disputes ended, and the Troll Republic ended up using a lot of resources to help fix the ponies, turning the dependency into a symbiosis. The human kingdoms celebrated a large-scale defeat of the Troll Empire.

The Elder Things were still... There.

~~~

"The Elder Things aren't doing anything."

"They see no need to. Why would they? They finally ironed out their differences with humans, and the Republic and Ponies are all friendly to them."

"But if they don't do anything..."

"They'll lose! Right!"

"Peace is reigning. We'll need different win conditions. Even with that highly destructive world war, complete destruction was not an option anymore. They don't want genocide. Too much like the demon tyrannids."

"Right now they all have about equal say. Once one race obtains a mastery over the others - even if it is a pony-based conglomeration - they win."

"I am curious to see what happens once they advance further... Technology always booms right about now."

~~~

The Troll Empire wants nothing more than to crush the humans' stupid determined spirits. One of them gets an idea - ask the Seadwellers. They basically own the entire ocean. If they could be rallied against the humans... With some deceptive 'accidents', toxic chemicals get dumped into the ocean on the human kingdoms' (there are some republics now) shores. The seadwellers are pissed off. Their oceans became corrupted and some of their cities unliveable. One of the human kingdoms, being a little bored, wants more war. The Seadwellers stomp them easily, and move on to the rest of the humans. The humans fight back and the Troll Empire attacks them. Attacked on both sides, the humans begin to sweat. They pour everything into scientific research. Unfortunately, nuclear bombs, while powerful, wouldn't do much against a race of sea-dwelling trolls. So they had to develop something a little more drastic - biological warfare. The ocean is extremely susceptible to biotoxins, which is why the seadwellers started the war in the first place. The human scientists take advantage of that, introducing a biotoxin that is extremely toxic to seadwellers. It spreads like wildfire, crippling their society - but also ruining the ocean's biosphere. Nobody won this war - human society was decimated, the seadwellers became sickly, and the Troll Empire remained mostly where it was in the end.

Of course now the entire planet is wounded because of the use of the extreme bioweapon. The ocean ecosystem starts dying, despite the remaining Seadwellers' best attempts at keeping it alive. It changes rapidly, and this shifts the entire world's nature.

Meanwhile the Troll Republic and the Pony Nation did something unthinkable - they merged their two nations together. They signed an accord and became a single Republic. The alicorn finally renounced her power, saying it was about time everyone got around to taking care of things themselves. After several thousand years of ruling, she finally got to retire. She loved this.

The Elder Things started devoting themselves more and more to their thinking. They cared less and less about what happened in the world. Many discovered that they could just fly out of the atmosphere and drift into space. Their nation began to go into natural decline because they just stopped caring so much. They had no drive, no need to use technology, why bother keeping up all their fortresses?

The newly formed Republic tried to encourage them to find new life, to find drive, but the Elder Things just didn't care. They moved on.

Technically the Elder Thing Nation still existed. But they stopped doing anything. They were no longer a consideration on the global scale, they were second rate.

The world devolved into three superpowers: The primary Human Kingdom, the Troll Empire, and the Republic.

And they were realizing that they had damaged the planet pretty effectively. It was time to have a space race.

~~~

"Hrm... So the Elder Things just weren't effective."

"They're still there!"

"But they're not a consideration in power play anymore. They're just... there."

"I'm more concerned about that Republic. Does that mean the ponies were assimilated into Troll culture? There's a lot more Trolls in the Republic."

"Hard to tell. Probably by the strictest definition, that is a Troll society, but ponies have a lot of say in it. If they end up winning it'll probably cause a 'draw', though we'll have to see how it goes."

"It's going to get complicated as they go to space."

"You bet it is. I can't wait!"

~~~

Spaaaace raaaace!

The contestants - an alliance of human kingdom scientists, the Republic's magitech, and the Troll Empire who really need to get more into the tech scene. It was originally just a simple 'get to space' mission but then this universe's version of John F. Kennedy decided to declare that "WE CHOOSE TO GO TO THE MOON" and it sparked a rioting race.

The Republic lost, they were far too concerned with the safety of their astronauts. The Empire and Humans cared less. They were going to get into space and they did not care how many of their people died on the way - the Empire even more so, but they had less technological base.

But, in the end, the humans proved that once they set their mind to something they'd get it done. They arrived at the moon first and in record time, defeating the Troll Empire and the Republic. The Republic and Empire both arrived at the moon later, but they didn't get to receive the glory of being first.

The moon was largely empty. There were apparently a few Elder Things on the gray globe, tenacious little space-surviving critters, but they had no society. It was just a rock.

Back on the planet, some crazy nutcase invented the internet in the human nation. The sheer speed of progress for the humans was alarming. The Republic was only able to keep up because they could easily manufacture magitech. Human devices were getting more and more sophisticated faster and faster.

The Troll Empire slowly began to realize they weren't top dog anymore. Their progress had come at a huge cost to their people, and they were unhappy. The purple-bloods began to lose control over the population until eventually the Empire fractured completely. Dozens of different nations sprung up, forming dozens of different caste systems. They were far too invested in their blood color to throw it all away. In many ways, the divisions left Trolls worse off. The Empire Remnants just got angry, but they knew the human kingdoms and Republic were too strong for them.

~~~

"...Did the trolls lose?"

"Not really. They are the dominant race in the Republic."

"Weird."

"I told you all humans were great. Did you listen to me? No. I think they're going to win."

"It's devolving into magic versus technology..."

"But it's not a war. The two sides are friends, more or less. Hardly enemies."

"Hrm..."

~~~

The Republic discovers a cheat hidden within magic that allows the circumnavigation of certain physical laws that have limited space travel for so long. The technology is based on the concept of drawing fuel from the space around them, which is filled with magic. This magic can be channeled into the back of a rocket with the proper spells to create effective torchships. Suddenly manned missions to other planets are reasonable. The humans can't develop a power source that effective that isn't just nuclear bombs, which are very illegal, especially in space. But the Republic has difficulties achieving the next step - permanent bases on other worlds. If they rely on magic, well, magic has a randomness aspect to it that nobody's going to like.

Humans manage to create a moon base that's self-sufficient and use it to create a spaceport. They launch significantly slower ships that don't rely on magic, spreading out in a sort of leapfrog chain.

The homeworld watches all this unfold while they have to deal with more domestic troubles. The Empire Remnants have taken to terrorism, there was a Parasyte that revealed his existence to the world and is currently trying to say Parasytes have a right to a sapient body (it's not going well), and some idiot recreated Tyranids that got loose and caused terror for about a week. Humanity is operating much like the European Union at this point, technically a lot of different nations with different governments, but they are slowly gaining a singular identity. (I said like). The Republic is extremely stable. The Human Union and Republic soon grow to heights the rest of the planet can't hope to compete with due to their access to space resources (asteroids be rich, yo).

The Seadwellers finally manage to restore the planet's oceans for the most part, proving that the space race wasn't necessary. They realize they've fallen behind and try to make nice with the Republic for use of their rockets. The Republic starts to get rich again from every nation wanting to use its rockets. Unlike the Human Union, the Republic is very willing to share and sell the rides at a low price. (they're also a lot faster.)

But the Human Union is nothing if not determined, and they're better at making permanent settlements.

~~~

"Hey, is there a technological loophole for fast space travel under these physics?"

"With the humans' current level of technology? Heck no! They're going to be scrounging for a while before they can find an alternative method."

"Great..."

"The humans are making it worse, in the long run. They won't accept help and they won't give help. They're not warriors anymore... but they have lots of pride."

~~~

This progression went on for several years. Ponies and Trolls with the speed, humans with the infrastructure. Both did amazing things, both had amazing tools at their disposal. Yet, one would eventually come out on top.

There was a joint mission to create a multi-generational ship to another star, the Proxima Conduit, and after that was done, things changed. The humans kept spreading and spreading across the solar system, just like the Republic... But their large colonies had no connection to the homeworld. They lacked a single identity, and they - over time - diverged from their center. They became their own nations, separate, different, while the Republic kept its control over its many colonies.

The Human Union tried many things to regain its power - they invented AI to assist them, they automized everything, they tried to create computers that could code spells. And while they did eventually succeed in all ventures (determination), they had already fallen too far behind. The Republic was in charge of most of the solar system and was decidedly more powerful than the Human Union. The humans didn't mind all that much - they started sharing their technology more, and the Republic found many uses for those spell computers.

The Human Union never joined the Republic - too much pride - but the world acted as a somewhat cohesive union there in the end.

The Republic stood victorious.

~~~

"So.... Is that a pony or Troll victory?"

"I don't know. Without the Trolls the ponies would have been squashed, but without the ponies the Trolls would have devolved into madness."

"Trolls win, they're the most prevalent race in the republic."

"No, Ponies!"

"Guys, it's a draw. Plain and simple. You two both win the bet."

"Then pay up!"

"Yeah!"

"...Uh, did we ever actually set any terms...?"

"..."

"..."

"Fuck."

~~~

Princess Snowbloom 'Anastasia' Scarlet spread her wings and tilted her horn to the starry sky visible through the porthole of her ship. "Our world... has reached where it needed to. The peace is incomplete, but lasting. We are free from the shackles of our homeworld."

Lainax Piexes looked up from his seat. "You waxing poetic again? Just say we won and get it over with."

"I just find myself wondering what's next, Lainax. I've been with this world almost from the start - not even you long-lived Fuschia-bloods can say that. I've seen war, death, but also peace and progress. But now that we're here, I find myself wondering what else. What now."

"Maybe aliens?"

"I don't know. You think we would have seen them by now..."

Lainax shrugged. "Whatever it is, I'm certain the universe won't let us stay bored."

"Yeah. What kind of world would it be if that happened?"

Wanderers: Orbits (Runtrivena)

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“Know each other? Oh you bet we do. He and I traveled together for a long time... I could go on for days.”
- Vriska Serket on the Travelling Doctor, Songs of the Spheres, Chapter 045 - The Reach of the Sparkle Census

~~~

It shouldn’t have been possible for Vriska’s luck to run out, but something about this latest place she’d been dumped in seemed to drain fortune as fast as she could steal it. Taking peoples’ luck was her thing, dammit. And she didn’t dare try to push any harder than she already was; stealing somebody’s luck without the sudden loss of fortune getting them killed was a particularly tricky skill that she wasn't sure she quite had mastered yet. Never mind that most of the people around here seemed to deserve it, she was trying to be a good person these days, which is pretty much defined by not killing random people for your own comfort.

At least nobody was spitting on her. In that regard, she was considerably better off than the elf huddled in the next doorway down. She actually felt sorry for it; even monsters, it seemed, could hit rock bottom.

This being the Nightside, it was, naturally, night, the full moon hanging massive in the sky as always, and up until she saw him, she had resigned herself to once again sleeping on this disgusting dump that called itself a street. It wasn't the way he walked that first caught her attention, although that should have been a tip-off that there was something special about him; Vriska had quickly learned that acting as though you owned the place, or worse, didn’t care who did, in a place like this was a good way to get called on it. Often fatally.

It wasn't the way the crowd went out of their way not to get in his, either, despite that on its own definitely meaning something was up; even if he wasn't a major player, he clearly had a reputation worth respecting.

No, what made her notice him was the way he seemed to make his own luck. Vriska had never seen anything like it. Not even the other Light players she had known had been able to create it out of nothing, yet here he was, bold as brass, walking around as though the universe was going to go his way whether it liked it or not. If she were to compare luck to something visible, such as, for example, light, she would say he stood out like the sun: as natural as day, and just as impossible to miss. It shouldn’t’ve been possible for something like him to exist, and yet here he was.

Vriska hauled herself out of her grimy doorway and followed the guy, of course. She had nothing better to do, and she just had to find out how he was doing that. And maybe she'd be able to lift some boondollars from the pockets of that well-made suit at the same time. It was at least a couple days since she'd last eaten; even gambling, normally her go-to method of making money, had been going against her way more often than chance had any right to, and it seemed to be normal practice among the locals to protect yourself against mental influences. Shame, otherwise she could just exert her power over one of these puny human minds and make them buy her some food.

Well, he clearly wasn’t local, and he wasn't human either, she was pretty certain of that. Sure, he looked like them, but she knew what human minds felt like by now, and when she reached out to his it looked nothing like their squidgy little defenseless thinkspheres. The surface was more like glass, all curves and edges and nearly transparent; she imagined she'd be able to practically see his thoughts if they weren't so alien. Well, that wasn't so unusual; she’d run into aliens before, hell, Vriska was technically alien herself, and it had taken years of practice to understand human minds enough to do more than just put them to sleep. His was so different she couldn’t even make sense of his surface thoughts, which definitely didn't help her work out which pocket he kept his money in.

He turned purposefully into an unoccupied alley that was only slightly more slimy than the street. Wow, he really is confident. Either that, or hopelessly naive. All the fewer people who might catch her running away with her loot, then. Still, she was somewhat disgusted with herself for having to stoop so low. The Thief of Light ought to be above stealing mere money.

She quickened her step just a little to match his pace, took a guess, reached out, and-

“I wouldn't think about it if I were you. Never know what sort of trouble you could get into, trying that.”

Holy slimebuckets how did he do that? There should have been no way he could’ve heard her sneaking up on him, she was practically silent. “What, picking your pockets or thinking about it?” Vriska replied coolly.

“Both, of course!” He turned to face her, without breaking step. “Now, what’s somebody like you doing in a world like this? Weellll, trying to rob me, obviously, but apart from that,” he continued, without stopping for breath or to let her get a word in edgewise. “You’ve clearly been on the street for some time, probably haven’t eaten a proper meal since you got here - fell through a timeslip, I assume? Happens rather a lot around here, and you’re clearly not local - and it is rather difficult to establish oneself in a new location, especially if you’re on your own - you are, I presume? Rather unusual to find a troll like you this far from the edge of the Great Void, although I suppose somewhere in the Strands is the most logical place for the unexpected and unusual to turn up - and I’d’ve heard if there were more of your lot about. Although I don’t blame you for trying to keep a low profile, I’d generally prefer to myself, but it usually just doesn’t work out, you know how it is: things that need to be done, scary people to scare and all that. Actually talking of which, I was just on my way to the Hawk’s Wind, got an appointment, I’m sure they won’t mind if you tag along.”

Vriska stared. She hadn’t heard anyone like the sound of their own voice quite so much since… well, not counting herself, since of course she listened to other people when they said something worth listening to... probably since Aranea. Huh. She hadn’t realized she’d practically forgotten about her Dancestor. What had happened to her, anyway? One subjective day the Sylph’d been talking everyone’s ears off in the Dream Bubbles, the next… she wasn’t. And Vriska hadn’t even noticed.

“Oi! Are you coming or what?!”

The grey troll shook off her reverie and hurried after him. Why would she follow… oh, right. The Hawk’s Wind was a restaurant. Maybe she could scam some food out of him.

------------------​

The first thing that struck Vriska was the color. Not just one, not just two, but at least a dozen, in eye-searingly bright shades and patterns that looked like somebody had let Terezi choose the crayons for a coloring book. And the book, too. Scented smoke filled the air. A huge, brightly-lit machine against one wall was singing something about cups of butter, while an arrangement of shining metal pipes and boilers in a corner was emitting colorful clouds of something that may or may not have been steam.

“The Hawk’s Wind Bar & Grille.” She hadn’t asked him for the exposition, but he provided it anyway; between him and her fellow Light players she was starting to wonder if maybe she attracted that sort of thing. “It’s said that the entire building is actually the ghost of a bar that burned down in 1970. I haven’t quite confirmed whether ghosts exist here, or whether it’s even possible for buildings to have ghosts, but whatever it is, it’s quite obviously a product of the Sixties.”

Vriska supposed the comment about “the Sixties” was supposed to explain the weird decor, so she let it slide past her. “Ghosts’re real, all right. Some of my best friends were ghosts.”

“That’s not necessarily true in all universes, actually,” he remarked. “I’ve been to universes where, by all rights, nothing like us should exist. Terribly boring, they were. Still,” he added, with a satisfied edge to his voice as though he’d had gotten an answer to a question he hadn’t asked yet, “it’s good to hear that you have an open mind for the inexplicable... ah, there they are.”

Inexplicable, hell. The only thing that was inexplicable about them was how her own ghost had ended up such a damp wiggler.

Sitting uncomfortably at a table to one side, clearly waiting for somebody, were two older human males, one of them wearing a huge, gorgeous crimson cloak which Vriska instantly coveted, the other half-bald and swathed in some kind of purplish hooded robe, which completely failed to conceal the (in Vriska's opinion) dumb scarlet bodysuit.

Her new “friend” strode confidently towards them.

“Stephen! Good to see you!” The glowy guy shook the cloak-wearer’s hand enthusiastically. “If not for the circumstances, at least. I presume it's something world-ending, as usual?”

Stephen didn't look quite so pleased. “Doctor. I don't believe you've met my colleague?” He indicated the man with him. “Doctor Anthony Druid. Druid, this is the Travelling Doctor. You might recall my mentioning him?”

Doctor Lucky shook the third guy's hand no less happily, hardly giving him a chance to respond. “Just 'the Doctor' will do. Although there does seem to be rather a few of us around,” he conceded. Then he turned to Vriska. “This will probably take some time. Why don't you get yourself a bite to eat?”

“Sure,” she shrugged, sarcastically. “Have you actually got any money?”

“Ah, of course. As it happens, yes.” He rummaged in his pockets, turning up a handful of tokens that were probably valid somewhere. One of them was trying to crawl away. “Here, this should be enough.”

Huh. That had been a lot easier than she expected.

“Now…” Doctor Pushover turned back to the other two. “Exactly how serious is it? You mentioned the Eye…”

Vriska looked around for somewhere to get food. I know I’m supposed to be somewhere on Earth, but this place looks more like something out of some of their movies than any real Earth I've seen. A group of suavely dressed human men at the next table chatted in some sort of code. Golden cages hanging from the ceiling held nearly-naked human females dancing so energetically that it wouldn't surprise her to find that their clothes actually had fallen off, and another, even bustier one wearing towering white boots and what looked like pink plastic was heading determinedly in her direction.

“What can I get you, hun? Are you ready to order?” she asked. Ah. A waitress. She listened to the apparent human as patiently as she could, and ordered something she vaguely recognized the name of. The Doctor’s pocket change just covered it.

-----------------------​

“...exceedingly worried if any more suddenly showed up. I've been involved in something similar before, and the only thing more disastrous than somebody having the complete set was trying to use only most of them. I expect having the instruction manual has helped somewhat, at least?” the Travelling Doctor was saying, as the somewhat less-starving troll carefully cleaned up the last crumbs of her meal.

That was when the guy in the white trenchcoat walked in. No, that was the wrong word. He strode in as though he expected everybody else to move out of his way, and move they did. Now this, this was someone who might as well own the place. Not just the building, or the block, but the whole city. He took up so much space in the world that Vriska almost missed the girl in the spotty dress with him, wearing a huge floppy hat that didn't quite conceal her tiny, pointed horns. The other reason was that he, too, was simply glowing with personal, self-made luck. If the Doctor was a sun, then this guy was at least the moon, rising huge and bright in the perpetual night sky: the same light, but somehow so much more reachable. Two in one day? If it wasn't for the way things had been going for her lately, she'd say it couldn't possibly be a coincidence. She wasn't quite sure she dared believe that her luck was coming back.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to reach out and just... take some. Surely he wouldn't miss it? She watched hungrily as the two found an empty table and sat down. The waitress, she saw, wasted no time in going to take their order.

“Don't look now, but Taylor's just showed up.” The three Doctors had noticed Trenchcoat too. She wished they hadn't; maybe just being close to the guy for long enough would let her sort of soak up some of that lovely luck of his.

John Taylor? Oh, dear.” Her Doctor rose, putting his hat back on. “I’m terribly sorry, gentlemen, but I don’t believe we’ll be able to continue this discussion at this time. You know how it is. I hope I've been able to be of help?”

“I suppose we do,” Cloak Guy conceded. “Your assistance is as always, much appreciated; I feel certain we can handle the situation from here.”

The Doctor came over to collect her, much to her disappointment. She had been half-hoping that he might forget about her so she could try to attract some of Moon Man’s good fortune. “It’s time we were going.”

To her credit, she thought, Vriska waited until they were several doors away before asking: “What's the deal with the coat dude?”

“John Taylor? He’s fairly well-known in these parts; I’m surprised you haven’t heard of him before, I’ve run into him once or twice myself.” Vriska jogged a few steps to keep up with the Doctor’s long legs as they rounded a corner. “He’s a rather good private investigator, with something of a gift for finding things. Particularly trouble, hence our somewhat precipitous exit.”

“Is that all?” the troll scoffed. “I can handle trouble.”

Unexpectedly, the Doctor grinned. “Good, because we’re about to go make some.”

“Bring it.” She grinned back.

-------------​

“When you said we were going to make trouble, I thought you meant we were going to go looking for it! That was more like trouble coming after us!” Vriska braced against the door. “What the hell is their deal, anyway?!”

The Doctor glanced up briefly from where he was punching buttons on some complicated, mushroomy… thing, in the middle of the room. The impossibly large room for the tiny booth it was somehow inside. The troll tried not to let it bother her too much; surely she’s seen stranger things by now? “Ah… Elves are… shall we say… less than popular, in the Nightside.” Huddled in what passed for a corner, Vriska’s former neighbour made a noise that sounded like it could have been either a sob and a snarl. The Doctor spared it a sideways look. “Even elves that come from a completely different universe and bear absolutely no resemblance to them besides the name.”

There was a heavy clunk, and the tall central column began to rise and fall rhythmically, machinery complaining loudly in time with its motion. The Doctor stepped away from it, and went to crouch in front of the pathetic creature.

“You’ll be all right, now. You’re safe here. You’re safe, and we’re taking you home.”

The elf didn’t make any audible reply, but it may have relaxed a fraction.

“So where is home for him?”

After another moment, the Doctor hopped back to his feet. “An absolutely fascinating structure known as the Long Earth, although that’s a bit of a misnomer because it’s actually a long universe, weeelllll, more of a cluster or chain really, where people step from world to world as if they’re just next door.” He grinned at her. “I hope you don’t mind taking a trip? We’re already on our way.”

Already? I could get used to traveling like this. I didn’t even feel us move...

“Does this mean I can let go of the door now?”

The Company and the Cult (Keywii_Cookies55)

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The sun reflected off the metal logo and glass windows of the office complex. The capital letter R prominently shone down into the eyes of a woman riding alongside the building, drawing her attention. She was a sharply dressed woman in her mid-thirties whose light chestnut hair was showing the first signs of deciding to grey.

But it wasn't just the light of the sun that caught her eye. As she rounded the corner she saw the same thing that greeted her every morning. Two equally fanatical groups illegally standing on her company's grass arguing with each other. Years ago she considered calling the police on them, and although that was still always her plan if things got too hectic, nothing ever escalated. No property damage was ever done, and on more than one occasion she was given a gift basket for being so understanding.

So although she had the authorities always one phone call away, she let the protestors stay there for now. No, if anything, what made them fanatical was just the things they came up with. "The true walkers would never agree to such grand gestures! They wish for peaceful travels!" the woman overheard as she found her designated parking spot, putting her car into park.

Turning the key to remove it from her ignition, she briefly composed herself, taking a deep breath in and adorning her professional expression. Which was just a neutral look and a sort of focused look in the eyes, but hey, it had worked her entire professional career, she had no reason to believe it'd suddenly stop working now. Putting her keys in her suit pocket, she exited her vehicle and heard the automatic lock activate before she heard the sound of several pairs of feet coming towards her.

Containing a sigh, the woman looked toward her company building, though more specifically the glass door that marked its entrance. "Twenty feet," she thought, reminding herself of the distance between her and the glass door where these... people... would be able to bother her.

"Mrs Seiko! Mrs Seiko!"
"Are the true walkers inside?"
"What do the travellers from beyond want?"
"Is it true they can see us?"
"Will they visit our moon?"

Mrs Seiko couldn't help feeling like a politician dealing with the press some days. But, like every morning, she gave them the classic 'no comment' and made briskly for the door. However, today was oddly unlike any other before. Being that she was actually stopped by one of them.

"Please Mrs Seiko, you have to know something!" Pleaded a man maybe ten years her junior. He didn't seem to be malicious or dangerous, much to her relief, but he was somewhat desperate. "The elder says that the Forerunner is more active today. And that if we work together, we'll get to meet and travel among the true walkers."

This was just a problem her future self would have to deal with if she didn't resolve it now. "Sir, as much as I'd like to believe that, nothing has changed since yesterday. Whatever is going on, there's been no noticeable change." Then again, she didn't want to deal with it now even more and, despite her lack of morning coffee essentially destroying her ability to publicly speak, the man seemed to accept this answer as all he'd get out of her and stepped aside. She could see on his face that he wanted so much more.

Stepping into the door and passing by her companies front receptionist Lily, she offered a simple greeting and walked on. The instant the woman was out of anyone's earshot though she sighed deeply. There was something different with the Children Of The True Walkers and their rival cult the Travellers From Beyond. They were...well, something had rallied them up. Something their 'elder' had said really got them active. And Mrs. Seiko was ready to deal with her job.

Walking down a hallway, she passed by a mousy woman in a thick scarf who was carrying several files. Shortly behind her was a short, fuming, 30-something with a goatee being talked down to by a tall blonde man with a name tag and a smug attitude. "These are people I've hired." She thought to herself as she refrained from dragging her hand down her face. "I would love to just run a call center on Eliptis-B instead of keeping this madhouse in order."

Spotting the door that was labeled with her preferred title Mrs. K, the click-clack of the woman's high heels seemed to speed up ever so slightly. It took a short number of seconds before she was turning the door handle to her office and walking inside, nodding to the man sitting at her desk already awaiting her. "Good morning ma'am, the night shift ran well." he greeted, his cleanly kept mustache bouncing slightly as he spoke.

"Thank you, Document," she greeted in return as the man stood up from the comfortable looking chair. Document had a steaming cup of coffee in his hand that he wasted no time in handing to the CEO. Taking the coffee and sighing happily, Mrs Seiko smiled and took her seat behind her desk. "Refreshing as always."

Raising an eyebrow slightly, Document couldn't help but hide a slight smirk, "I take it your morning meet and greet went well?" he asked, which gained a groan from the woman, and a slight laugh from the man.

"I swear, they're going to just break in one day and just destroy everything trying to find their weird multi-dimensional gods or something." She frowned as she started reading over her e-mails she'd received throughout the night.

"I doubt they'd ever get past the front door. For cultists, they're surprisingly law-abiding." Document observed as he looked out the window at them. "Well, aside from the loitering on private property they're so fond of."

Taking another swallow from her mug of wake up juice, Mrs. Seiko briefly looked out the window behind her at the two groups perpetually gathered on her lawn. "The leader's smart, using brainwashing in a way that doesn't make them an enemy in the public eye." Turning back to her computer she added more, "that said, I was stopped this morning."

Raising an inquisitive eyebrow, the man turned back from looking out on the collected people. "Is that so?"

With a simple nod, Mrs. Seiko continued reading her e-mails. "They seem convinced that something is happening. Something big. And I can't confirm if it's true or not, whatever's happening has them worked up. It could very well affect us, assuming they're beliefs are real, and while it seems unlikely, I believe our Primary is involved in some way."

Document raised his other eyebrow in surprise. "Our Primary you say?"

With a lighthearted laugh, the owner of the company shook her head, "No, not ours. While I have no doubt he might get involved, I was referring to the Primary behind our namesake." The man nodded in understanding. "Based on the expressions of our favourite fanatics, the recent rush of new activity, and the general introduction of the Trolls, I think we might be at the beginning of that big project we've been tracking."

"Ah, I see," Document simply informed after a short pause of contemplation. "Well let me know if Creek hears any news from the world at large, I'm officially off the clock now."

"Thank you, Document, sleep well."

~~~

Well kept brown leather shoes walked down a hallway lined with several doors. Inside those shoes was a man dressed in a clean suit which gave off the impression of wealth, as did the bushy black mustache and short, combed hair. The pair of eyes that belonged to this man spoke of an entirely different story. One of experience, of knowledge. A pair of piercing eyes that commanded respect while offering a calming aura.

Those green orbs belonged to the manager of the night shift, and assistant to the CEO. A man by the name of Document. And like usual, he could currently be found walking the office complex of the Recursive Organization. Moving forward with purpose he passed several labeled doors before stopping before one in particular.

This door was similar to many in the complex, It was a light chestnut colour stenciled with the employee type in a large blocky font. In this particular case, it read Operator 6. It belonged to the 6th in a line of very specific roles in the company devoted to, in essence, observation and note-taking. But when fully considered it was more than that 1000 fold.

Just before the man knocked on the door to announce his presence, he heard a voice from the other side. One of a woman with something of a stutter, and perhaps a bit of a confidence issue, but despite that, Document had seen initiative from her, which implied that she pushed passed her her nature in order to succeed.

"...they, I mean, when they want to d-denote a new chapter in-in their lives. It's not all about s-safety." She said before Document noticed a red recording light turn off next to the doorknob. He hadn't heard the entire conversation, but it seemed to be over, so raising a fist up the man announced his presence with a light knock. "A-ah!" Which, as it turned out, was very startling.

Seeing as he was her direct superior, after knocking, he turned the doorknob and walked in. What greeted him was a clean workspace. A wooden desk with two computer screens, one larger than the other, a standard mouse and keyboard, a standing desk microphone, and a small family photo of a younger version of the woman with a large man and a small boy, roughly aged at mid 30's and toddler, respectively.

To the side of her desk was a large, neatly organized pile of files and folders. Including one currently open with a pen sitting on top of it. Clearly, she was diligent in her job. On the larger screen was displayed a still image of what appeared to be an unoccupied patch of ground, and on the smaller was a stream of text, which looked to be a text-based conversation between several people.

In contrast to the tidy workspace, the woman it belonged to looked unkempt. Her shoulder-length blonde hair was disheveled under a wide-brimmed bucket hat. Her blue eyes were focused, which betrayed a sort of 'frightened' look the rest of her body was projecting. Perhaps the most noteworthy piece of her attire was a long blue scarf that covered her neck. Though somewhat tall, she held herself smaller than she really was, giving the impression that she was short. Finally, she wore a sweater about two sizes too large on her, causing the sleeves to cover her hands just a touch.

"S-sir! I, I, I was j-just finishing m-my report! Twi-Twi-Twilight, Twil-l-lence was jus-just S-she went invisible s-s-so I wa, won't just-" Creek began quickly explaining herself through very nervous looking eyes. Anyone could guess what had set her off, but Document was here for a reason, and one that wasn't a threat to her.

Smiling and placing an arm on her shoulder, Document waited for his employee to stop talking. "Creek, please, calm down, you're not in trouble." He reasoned that was the most likely cause of Creek's current panic. Having guessed correctly, she sighed in relief and the man removed his hand from her shoulder, wishing to remain professional.

"No, the reason I'm here is to ask you how things are going with Twilight and that Troll friend of hers." He stated, motioning to the computer. Sitting back down in her worn leather office chair, she pulled a folder from the top of the pile and began to read it, her eyes dotting back and forth.

"Ah, um, what would, I mean, what do you w-want to know, sir?" She asked, still uncertain.

"Let's start with Twilight, how has she adjusted to the shift in power?" Document asked, standing to the side and waiting for her to speak.

Creek shuffled through a few pages before turning back to her chat window on the smaller screen and scrolling up, "I-it's been go, going well, um, she, Twilence chan-changed her name, she, she's no longer Twi-Twilight. Um, she's been, been adjusting well. She, ah, I mean, Vri-Vriska i-is um...wh-what I mean is that she's currently look, looking for a p-potion to heal a con-concussi-"

Document cleared his throat, seeming to have changed his mind in what he wanted to hear. "Nevermind that, I can read your report for this." He looked directly at the woman. "Last week you asked Vriska several questions."

"O-oh!" Creek stuttered out, "Um, She, ah, Sh-she confirmed that when Pri-Primaries finish write, writing for their characters it's, it's the s-same as if they were just abandoned. A-and so when GMBlackjack...when he finishes writing for, for Twilence, she'll, she'll be l-like us." She explained, not once taking her eyes off of the folder of loose papers in her hands. "A-and I asked her about the True, True Walkers, j-just in case, and she said that she is, is one, b-but that she travels with...ah, luck.

The expression on Document's face went unchanged as he listened. "Can you recall how she wound up with Twilence?" He asked, not wasting much time with pauses.

Creek thought about the answer briefly before pulling an image up on the larger screen. It showed a grey-skinned human with two mismatched orange horns and glasses holding a blue die with an infinity symbol on it. It looked like she was purchasing it from somebody. "She, ah, Vri-Vriska, I mean, she rolled an infinite-si-sided die and it began to glow before she teleported on, onto an al-alter that Twilight tried to summon G-G. M. Blackjack, Jack onto."

Document nodded before smiling and turning to the door. "Thank you, Creek, that'll be all." He said, turning the doorknob and exiting the room. As he left he turned to look at her, still sitting in her chair. "One last thing, take care of yourself, the last thing I need is an employee that stresses herself out to the point of a heart attack." And without so much as waiting for her answer, he left her office, closing the door behind himself, and walking back down the hallway in which he originated from.

Walking through several deserted hallways, Document finally came across a door unique in that it had a keypad fasted next to the handle. Without missing a beat, the well-dressed man entered in a 10 digit combination and the light lit up, signifying that he had unlocked the door. Turning the handle and stepping inside, Document quickly shut the door behind himself, turning to see a similar sight to Creek's office. The few differences being what was displayed on the screen, and the addition of a shelf with four different folders, each labeled with a capital letter.

Sitting in the chair to what was presumably his desk, Document looked to the screen. What displayed was an image of a crystalline man running frantically through a crowded marketplace. Specifically, though the frame was paused as the man ran past somebody purchasing an item. It was notable because it was a different perspective of the same image Creek had just shown him. Document picked up the pen in front of him and jotted down several notes before playing the video in front of him.

-----

"Done," an energetic voice declared from the screen as Document watched before it added a small giggle, "now all we do is wait!" It said before finally freezing completely. The footage coming to an end, with a message in white stating CHAPTER 1-2. Document, having viewed the entire file, began jotting down word after word.

However, after not too long, he closed the front flap of the folder and pulled a stamper from the side of his desk, along with its ink pad. Without much fanfare, he pressed the stamp into the ink before dropping it on the front of the file, declaring it to be Classified. Following that he returned the stamp and picked up the folder, placing it on the shelf, unlabelled, between the folder marked 'R' and the folder on the very end marked with a T.

He then closed the video and turned off the computer.

~~~

In the dark bowels of the Recursive office complex lay a series of pipes. A framework of water containing cylinders almost labyrinthine in nature. They all convened into a center boiler whose job it was to keep the water hot and ready any purpose.

The room itself was quiet. small, and while the light bulb kept it well lit, it wasn't a place for much in the way of habitation. Perhaps in spite of these limitations, there stood a resolute desk in the side of the room, out of the way of the door and across from the boiler. it's make was that of darker coloured wood, and more notably, it was aged long after it's prime, containing countless stains. It was missing a leg, propped up by a stack of old textbooks.

Along with the desk sat a simple metal folding chair; a small but bright desk lamp, a few books, some artistic sketches, a rolled-up stack of blueprints, and an empty folder laying open.

The quiet of the room, however, was not to continue. Slowly, footsteps of somebody that dragged their feet just a touch echoed across concrete floors. They got louder and louder until finally the jingling of keys was heard and the door swung open. Stepping through the door was a man no younger than 40; he had long dirty blonde hair done in a stylish ponytail, a handlebar mustache, and a blue jumpsuit partially damp around the knees. In his hands he held two stacks of paper.

Closing the door behind him, he dropped the look on his face like somebody grabbing a hot cooking tray without oven mitts on. Where there was once the laid back look of someone disinterested there now stood a man that sighed in relief and whose mouth twitched in contempt. Similarly, his light blue eyes betrayed that he was unhappy with something.

Pulling the chair out and plopping down into it, he placed the sheets of paper from his left hand onto the right side of the open folder and stared intently at the other selection of sheets. A wicked grin slowly took hold of his expression. Still looking over the papers, he pulled out a sleek phone, partially holographic in nature. He one-handedly hit several buttons in a sequence, pulling up menu after menu until finally a name appeared. An icon of an old phone receiver turned green and started shaking. "Reeding Idiot" appeared above the word "dialing" and he raised the phone to his ear.

After a short pause the man spoke, "Hey, It's Stevenson." He greeted somewhat cheerfully, though his face told that he truly distasted the other speaker. "Yeah yeah, just make it quick." He stated before looking at the door, listening closely, and making sure he heard no footsteps.

Looking back at the papers in his hand, he grinned quite madly, "I have it." He said confidently before his darkening expression gave way to one of anger, "You know exactly what the reed I'm talking about! The Documents! They're in front of me!" He yelled, knowing that if he couldn't hear footsteps, he was truly alone, far from any prying ears.

Rolling his eyes, he lost most of his anger, but still held onto a bit of contempt. "Do we still have a deal or not? I can just as easily shred these." After a moment he nodded in acceptance. "Good, because I finally have the information we've been missing all this time." Waving the papers in front of himself and beginning to walk around as he talked, he continued, "The missing piece that'll make the last 15 years look like a joke."

As he walked around the room he looked up at a clock before he began to idly slip out of his coveralls, leaving him in a white short-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans. "I'll be there in an hour, tops." Placing the blue janitor suit on a hook beside the door, Stevenson reached to the hook beside the first and pulled off an old brown coat.

With the phone still held up to his ear, he looked down at the folder on his desk and grinned wickedly. "Oh don't you worry your pretty little head about that. We'll be out of this hellhole by the end of the day." He said, closing the folder to reveal it had a classified stamp on it and was marked by the letter 'S' on its outer edge.

Making sure he had both the folder and the small stack of papers, he left the tiny boiler room.

~~~

It was in a reasonably sized, traditionally decorated office that an old, though refurbished, rotary phone began to ring. Oddly it was only visually rotary, functionally it had a digital display and contained a number pad. It sat atop a large wooden desk with a glossed finish, telling of wealth. Sitting in a tall-backed leather chair was an aged man with a well-kept hazelnut beard, his eyes held a friendly expression as he looked up from his paperwork, setting aside his feather tip pen.

Looking at the display on the phone, which read 'unknown caller', the man gave a confused look, but it quickly faded as he smiled, grabbing the wireless headpiece and lifting it to his ear. With an equally jovial tone, he answered the unknown caller.

"Hello," The man spoke in a friendly tone of greeting, "Father Emerald speaking." Emerald stood up from his seat, his well kept, three-piece suit retaining no wrinkles. His smile widened as he seemed to gain recognition of the person on the other end of the call. "Ah yes, good to hear from you again, how have you been?" He asked, moving some papers aside on his desk to look at a small monitor. swiping his finger across a slider, the door to the office sounded with a metallic lock.

Chuckling, he moved away from his desk toward a towering bookshelf filled with scriptures and books. "Wonderful! I hope those kids of yours aren't causing any problems. They were Robert and Stanley, yes?" Pulling a seemingly random book from an equally random shelf, the man pulled it out to reveal a small switch at the back of the shelf, which he flipped. "Of course, of course. And I can assume you've been feeding them well." Waiting a moment, Father Emerald lost his smile entirely, the jovial spark in his eyes leaving and being replaced by a pair of calculating brown spheres. "Okay Gregory, we can talk freely, what's on your mind, child?"

Putting the book back, walking carefully back to his desk and sitting in his chair, the man smiled knowingly. "Have what? You must be more specific when you speak. I can't be expected to know every single thing you talk about." As he spoke he raised his hand in an explaining gesture.

Smirking briefly, Father Emerald sat back in his chair. "Such language! my dear boy, you'd do well to find enlightenment in these extraordinary times." He held back a mocking laugh as the person on the other end seemed to be upset at the comment. He then looked to a poster beside his office door, one that spoke of always believing in the unseen he was beginning to lose patience, at least a little bit.

"Yes, yes, you're still coming with us, child, my word is as good as the ties of the multiverse." he prattled off, his tone sounding sincere, but his eyes telling of somebody disinterested in the conversation. But then it shifted to pleasantly surprised. "Oh? Well, that is good news, what have you come across?" The Father asked before a genuine smile appeared across his lips and he leaned forward in his chair looking at an analog clock on the wall opposite the bookshelf. "Excellent, I hope to hear from you soon, when can you stop by?"

Nodding, the man moved his finger across the slider on his desk once again, unlocking the door before he replaced the papers over the display. "Good to hear, my child, I eagerly await your arrival. Hopefully, with your contribution, we can move forward several months." He answered before listening briefly and hanging up on the other end.

Steepling his fingers, Father Emerald took a careful breath before adopting the same jovial smile he had before the call began. He then dialed a new number and waiting for the ring, he chuckled softly as the person on the other end greeted him excitedly. "Thank you, child, it's good to speak to you." He stood up from his chair and carefully pushed it into the desk. "I only wish to tell everyone of the good news. The Travellers have blessed us today." Flipping the switch in his bookshelf again, the man smiled warmly, "Everyone needs to hear the news, child, please tell our wonderful community to meet at House of Rest."

Without another word, Father Emerald hang up his phone and stepped out of his office. What greeted him was a large room where stained glass windows stood tall and thin along the walls and two dozen pews lined the floor. His podium stood on a raised stage looking down on the entire space. It spoke of your average church, though missing several details, preferring to keep it simple. A distinct feature was a large carved frame that was arched at the top, almost looking like a doorway. The words 'Beyond Faith, Beyond Worlds' were engraved in the doorway.

Walking over to the wooden doorway, the Father looked up to the words as he waited for his phone call to spread through his followers, and for every single one of them to congregate into the pews now behind him.

It wasn't fifteen minutes before every seat was filled with excited people, eagerly awaiting the words of the man. Mentally keeping a count of the times the door opened, Father Emerald turned back to face his followers with a warm smile. "My children, I wish to pass on my blessings. Minutes ago I was in conference with the Travellers. They wished to congratulate you, for being so eager and for being so happy. They know that each of you has worked so hard to meet them."

Looking at every face as he spoke, he noticed that one looked guilty, and offered a beaming grin. "I know you're suffering, my dear girl, but please don't be fearful, The Travellers wish even you to know that they forgive you." He then turned to look around the room, "They forgive all of you, and have decided, after these many years, to finally reward our dedication by extending their influence."

The room filled with loud gasps as the townsfolk worked out what they'd just been told, "That's right my children. We've been truly blessed on this most beautiful day, and I wanted to tell you as soon as I found out." Pausing for no other reason than effect, Father Emerald spoke again, "The Travellers From Beyond have decided to allow us to join them."

The entire room broke out into hundreds of individual reactions, ranging from crying to cheering, to jumping up and down. People of all ages broke out into their own form of a victory dance. But before a riot could break out, Father Emerald spoke, catching all of their attention immediately. "My beloved children, today is our final day on the moon of Eliptis-C. Go and pack all you wish to bring with you."

And just like that, they all ran out in a blur of activity, almost trampling each other. Left once again alone, Father Emerald walked back into his office and began preparing for later that night.

It was almost an hour later that knocking could be heard on the Father's door. He glanced at the clock at noted the time before he locked a suitcase on his desk and walked over to open the door. "You're late, Gregory," he calmed stated as if it were a fact.

Turning to look into the man's eyes was an irate looking man himself, he had a handlebar mustache and a blonde ponytail. "Yeah, well traffic was hell, something's going on downtown or something."

Emerald adorned a smile and brought an arm over Gregory's shoulder, "Ah, but that's no worry of ours, we have a purpose today. A reason to get together. A very definition of our existence!" They walked into the office and Gregory got out of the half hug, not appreciating the contact. "That is," Father Emerald started, losing any friendly tone he had, "Assuming you have what you say you have."

"Relax daf-for-brains, I have exactly what it'll take to get us out of this hole and off this disgusting moon." He pulled a folder out of his the inside of his coat. "Had to steal from my boss, but to get out of here, I'd rob a bank."

Father Emerald shook his head, "I may not agree with your methods, but I wish to see what you claim is the missing piece."

Walking over to the desk, the younger man placed the folder down and pulled a page out from it, "And I quote, 'she removes the jar filled with its usual magical gas, blue in nature, replacing it with an empty jar. She then fills the jar with a spell from a new spell.' and reading the bottom of the page, it tells exactly what that new spell is." Gregory handed the paper with the observations to Emerald.

Taking a brief moment to read over the page, a smile began to read form on the Father's face. "Remind me to give my thanks to these ponies if we ever meet them."

~~~

In a small 1950's style community suburb, excited people rushed into their houses. They wasted no time communicating with each other or even closing their doors behind them. It seemed that something had consumed their better judgment.

There was so much commotion between the two-story houses that it was easy to miss somebody that would blend in under different circumstances, but in that moment she stuck out like an orange circle on a blue background. She was a dirty blonde woman in her early 40's wearing faded jeans and a buttoned-up light blue blouse. Though her outfit isn't what made her stand out.

That distinction came from her expression and stance. Both focused towards a large church across the street. Another distinguishing feature was perhaps her assortment of surveillance equipment she was currently using. Standing behind a hedge, the woman aimed a sound amplifying dish at the church and listened to the conversation taking place inside.

"SSSSsssssshshhust won't shut up about it, sssssshhhshshhshshhhglad I stole these things to build our porsssshshshshhhh..." Her eyes wandered to the top left corner of their sockets as she adjusted a knob on a small box clipped to her belt that was wired to a pair of headphones she was wearing. "Xsxxxxsssshshshxxshshssssssant to hear how I stole them?"

At this question, the woman's eyes opened slightly, not believing what she had just heard, but then she shook her head slightly, "He can't be serious..." she whispered under her breath.

"That isn't necessary, child," A deeper, more profound voice spoke. The woman looked over at the church parking lot, noting the one car.

"My boss is such a reeding idiot, I photocopied his folder and put back the original, he'll never see it coming." At hearing this claim, the woman just continued shaking her head, looking an odd mix of defeated and vindicated. Listening for a minute or so longer, she packed her equipment into a small satchel by her feet and walked away from the hedge, complete with her reason for spying on the conversation.

Walking a block down the street, she made sure none of the people that lived in this community spotted her acting suspiciously. Eventually reaching her car, she unlocked it and got into the driver seat, placing the satchel on the passenger seat to her right. It landed on a small stack of semi-neatly organized papers and several photographs of two men meeting and working on machinery.

She played a recording of the conversation she just listened to before backing into reverse and pulling onto the road, "I need to tell Doc," She quietly told herself before engaging drive and moving down the road.

-----

Pulling into the parking lot of the Recursive office the woman quickly turned her keys and made her way out of her car, hearing the locking mechanism engage as she walked away. She hurried into the building, giving a brief wave to her co-worker running the front desk as she moved with purpose.

Almost running by the time she made it to Mrs. Seiko's office, she knocked hastily before standing there and waiting for a response. Not getting one after 20 seconds, she quickly moved down the halls, passing by operators and coders and other employees, looking for somebody specific. "Hey Sock, I-"

"No time, busy, talk later," She shouted the half apology half explanation to one of her co-workers as she passed. Wasting no time with chit-chat.

Eventually, she spotted a well-dressed man walking calmly down the halls. "Doc!" The woman shouted, getting his attention. She knew there were places where absolute quiet was required, but also that this was not one of those places. He stopped to look at Sock as she walked up to him, a bit short of breath, but no worse for wear. "Doc, I'm glad I found you, Stevenson is finally making his move."

The man, Document, regarded Sock with curiosity, but no malice. He raised an eyebrow, seeming to request that she elaborate, or at least just continue talking.

Catching her breath for a moment, she looked right into Documents eyes. "I overheard him talking to a friend of his. He stole some papers from one of your secret folders. One marked with an 'S'." Document, upon hearing this, began walking back down the hall he was coming from, Sock followed. "He copied the information over and is using some of it to build something."

She spoke with urgency, but Document never quickened his step. "Did he say what he planned to build or why?" He calmly asked her as they rounded a corner.

Sock shook her head, "If he did, I didn't hear it, I do have a recording of him calling you an idiot and saying he stole from-" She would have continued explaining, but a hand from Document blocked her path, and she stopped and looked at him.

Without turning his head, Document spoke with authority. "I'm well aware that he and you share a history together," He spoke, lowering his hand, "But I assure you, he will be dealt with. Now follow me." He then began walking again. She didn't need to be told a second time and matched her pace with her boss'

Now insight of a door Sock knew was off limits to anyone but the person standing beside her, Document began to speak. "Let me put your worries to rest," He said, stopping in front of the door to input a 10 digit security code. "Gregory Stevenson thinks he's gone under the radar unnoticed, but I have eyes in more places than he could possibly imagine." He walked into the room, but the way he spoke indicated that he wouldn't be long.

And as Sock expected, he wasn't gone for more than a minute. As he walked out of his office and closed the door to make sure it was locked, he handed two folders to her. One marked with an 'S', and another, marked with an 'R' And without saying anything else, he walked away.

Sock suspected that he expected her to follow him, but she had no idea what she had just been handed, looking at the folders inquisitively. "What's this?" She asked, picking up her feet to follow Document towards an exit.

"Reading material. You'll need to be caught up on the drive over."

~~~

The sun had begun to kiss the horizon, signaling the end of another long day as a car drove down a countryside road. It was a nice looking car as far as vehicles went. One that showed signs of upkeep, and protection from the elements in a garage. The colour was a shiny black, speaking of hidden wealth. The rare car or truck passed by along the road, but for the most part, the drive was a quiet one for the two zooming along with the windows up.

The occupants of the car were a man and woman, the man, one of good dress and a moustache was driving while the woman, one dressed far more casually, was reading through a folder with a shocked expression on her face. The folder in question had a large capital letter R prominently featured on its cover.

"W-" The woman, Sock, began to say but stopped immediately, not having anything to say as her brain chugged along. It wasn't until two minutes later that she finally spoke again. "Sir, you know I don't question my job but this... this is something I can't ignore. This is..."

Document remained silent, he both knew what was in the folder as well as understood what it meant. Sock caught herself from going silent a second time "This is US! Our company, the last few days, it's... it's everything. What you were doing, what Stevenson was doing, what...what I did an an...an hour ago. How..?"

It was then that Document chose to finally speak, "Something people don't know about observing the worlds of an author as real people is that they themselves are also the works of an author." He slowed the car to a stop at a four-way intersection and turned right. "And just like the works of G. M. Blackjack, we've received the works of our own author."

Sock shook her head before turning to look at her boss. "But, b-but that's impossible! Key-key-k...He hasn't made anything new since the Evermore Recursions, since...since he abandoned Jane in the hospital in a coma! He-"

Document, held up his hand, commanding respect even while driving, Sock silenced herself immediately. "You've been working for this company for nine and a half years, you should know that things are never that simple."

They pulled up to a community, one that broke up the tree line surrounding it, looking to be very suburb like. Pulling up to the side of the street, Document put the car into park and unbuckled his seatbelt before turning to look Sock in the eyes, "Our author is quite active, in fact."

-----

In a small park surrounded on all sides by houses and small roads was a large group of people gathered around a centre structure. The park itself was a simple affair, a few trees, some benches for sitting, and even a small building to use the bathroom, as well as a jungle gym and swings for children. The pleasant atmosphere of the park was contrasted however by an odd sort of contraption in the centre of the gathered crowd.

Standing atop a ladder leaning against the device was a man currently tightening two bits with an adjustable wrench. The man, in his mid-40's with a handlebar moustache, had a surprisingly pleasant expression on his face, which seemed out of place on his features. Watching him work was an older gentleman with a warm smile and a welcoming atmosphere. The second man, Father Emerald, looked up from a sheet of paper at the first, a worker known as Gregory.

The device itself could only be described as a portal. It had several larger tanks connected by tubes, different electrical bits connected through heavily reinforced cables, and large golden bits. However, at the centre of the setup, was an ornate mirror with markings adorning specific locations. The most noteworthy piece of all though was a connecting wire going from a transformer on the back of the portal to a power bank at the edge of the park. Which in turn connected to the power poles going off into the street.

Gregory, having finished fashioning a cable to its rightful place, took a jar carefully out of his bag. It containing a distinct looking grey gas. With surgeon level precision, he twisted the jar into its holder, before testing to see if it'd move. Satisfied that he had properly set everything up, Gregory stepped down his ladder and wiped his brow.

Looking at Emerald, he nodded, "All setup, now we're just waiting on your other guy." Before he reached into his tool bag and pulled out a flask of something presumably palatable.

Emerald just brought his arm over Gregory's shoulder "Fine work, my child. Fine work indeed." He just got out of the paster's embrace, an upset look on his face. Emerald merely chuckled warmly. "Ah, but there's nothing to worry about Gregory. Jolt has assured me that all power will be diverted in due time. All we must do now is wait for our window."

"I still can't believe you suckered some power plant worker to give you everything for 30 reeding minutes," Gregory said after swallowing a swig from his flask.

The father, however, shook his head, "There's was no 'suckering' dear boy, it was all in the name of the Travellers!" At this claim, sobs of joy could be heard from some of the people nearby.

Gregory shook his head though, "Yeah, well, whatever you did toooooo..." he began to say, but it faded out as he looked toward the park entrance. Walking towards them were a man and woman, and to Stevenson, the last two people he ever expected to see. At first, seeing his boss walk towards him was confusing, and he had to take a moment to think, but it was before he even could that he recognized who was with the man, and his blood began to boil.

It was at the same time that Sock noticed Gregory there, rage in his eyes as he stared at her, that she quickened her pace. They almost looked as though they were going to run at each other before they met mere feet from one another. "YOU!"

"OH REED YOU!" She interrupted him before he could say anything. "I should have known you'd pull something like this!"

"ME?!" He asked, upset, "You're gonna blame ME for anything? how about you? You been spying on me again?"

"SACK YOU! You think I'd waste my time on your worthless daf?" Some of the people around were looking their direction, adults placing their hands over children's ears. "I wouldn't spend my time looking at your nameless space."

"I DIDN'T WANT TO CHANGE MYSELF!"

As Sock and Gregory were yelling at each other, Document finally caught up and passed the two, walking towards Father Emerald. Several of the followers saw this and became angry and fearful, they stepped in front of the well-dressed man to block his path, but with one look from Emerald, they stopped and smiled back at him. Knowing everything was safe.

"Father, a pleasure to finally meet you," Document greeted as you shook hands with the larger man.

Emerald smiled in return, "Document, sir, likewise, I've heard much about you." They broke off their handshake and Emerald motioned to a bench a few small feet away from them.

Taking the offer for a seat, Document returned the smile, though his was more reserved, "Ah, that's good, it means we can put introductions behind us."

"Of course," the bearded pastor agreed.

Glancing briefly at the people around the bench watching and listening to him, Document nodded to Emerald, "The powers that be have made it known that you've been quite busy."

Father Emerald smirked ever so slightly, almost unnoticeably so, "We've done nothing less. Gregory has been a great help in that regard."

"My employees sure are an active few." Document placed a small amount of emphasis on the word 'active'. Nobody except Emerald noticed, who laughed softly.

"How have your employees been, recently?" he asked plainly.

Document's smile raised slightly, "Busy, I'm afraid, though they've made do."

Emerald nodded before looking to portal nearby, "Care to comment on our creation?"

"It's quite impressive, I can't say I expected much," Document commented, his smile completely gone.

"Ingenuity is a staple of the Travellers after all."

Document stood up from the bench, finishing the conversation. "So you've demonstrated." He then looked over to Sock and Gregory, who had stopped arguing at some point and were watching the conversation unfold.

Of the two it was Gregory that noticed the conversation was over first, stepping forward before Sock could stop him. Squeezing his right fist tightly, he stormed towards his boss. "If you think I'm going to let you stop what we've done, I'm going to snap your elitist reeding neck!"

Sock snapped out of her stupor and became angry, about to pull something out of her pocket before the last thing anyone expected to happen did. Both Document and Father Emerald started laughing. This stopped her in her tracks.

After laughing for a moment, Document shook his head and put his hand on Gregory's shoulder. "You're mistaken, Stevenson, I have no intention of stopping you or the good father here." He then chuckled a bit more, amused by any alternative notion. Gregory moved away from the contact, getting increasingly annoyed with each act of touch.

Sock spoke first, "But...Doc, sir? Isn't that why we're here?" she asked, which drew the attention of quite a few members of the crowd, not pleased by the idea of meeting their deities being stopped.

Document put the concern away however by smiling and moving to the portal. "Quite the contrary, I fully intend to allow these good people passage. In fact, I plan to join them."

Confused, Sock walked closer to her boss. "Uh...huh, why?"

It was at this point that Father Emerald spoke up again, "I was actually wondering that myself, what's your reason, sir?"

Reaching slowly towards the buttons on his suit jacket, Document looked at Sock, "Did you bring the folders from the car?" She nodded and reached to pull them out of her bag. "Well, I happen to have bought one of my own."

Undoing his jacket buttons with care, Document began to speak, "Long ago I came across life-changing information. So life-changing in fact that it set me on a course that's lead me to many distant places. Places you've most likely never heard of." Undoing the buttons of his jacket he began to pull out a folder marked similarly to the others.

This one was marked with a capital T.

"To travel to those places, and in turn, to this moon orbiting Eliptis-C, I've seen my fair share of portals." It was at that point a loud buzz emanated from the machine, a transparent tube displayed arching electricity. Surprising Gregory the thing didn't explode. Instead, the mirror lit up before displaying the image of a jungle.

Standing in front of the portal was a man that Sock and Gregory looked at differently, He was looking down at the open folder in his hands, flipping carefully through the pages.

All the devout followers of The Travellers From Beyond whose faces were beginning to brighten from the information Document had said were drawn from their attention as Father Emerald Spoke loudly and with purpose. "My children! Today is truly a blessed day." He walked over to the office worker to put his arm over his shoulder.

"It seems as though a traveller has decided to join our pilgrimage personally!" Emerald's voice boomed through the crowd, they erupted into cheers.

Sock, who had been stunned silent was addressed by Document. "Sock, it's been a good job, but I'm needed elsewhere," He then handed her a photograph from the folder before closing it and placing it back in his jacket. "If anyone comes looking for me, tell them that I've finally found a lead."

Stammering slightly, Sock just stared at her boss, "I- I- I-"

But before she could fully collect herself, Father Emerald spoke again, "My children, it's time." He didn't have to repeat himself as all his followers excitedly picked up their packed belongings and began streaming into the portal one by one. Before anyone could even think, Emerald was walking through the portal speaking to Document.

The final person to walk through was Gregory Stevenson, who, in his classiest move, flipped Sock off, "I never loved you, you reeding whore." Before he flipped a switch on a remote in his other hand and the power to the power suddenly went out, He and his middle finger disappearing behind it as the device returned to being a mirror.

-----

It took 10 full minutes for Sock to finally process that she was even alone. So thinking that she was done dealing with any of this, she turned away and walked back to Document's car. Remembering that he had left the keys in the glove compartment.

It didn't take long to walk through the empty streets and find the car, She opened the driver side door and sat inside. Only then realizing that she was still holding a picture in her off hand.

Looking at it she became confused. It was just a weird black tower, why even have a picture of it? Shaking her head she put the key into the ignition and drove back to work, there was nothing she could do.

We're in for it Now (GMBlackjack)

View Online

Rarely were multiversal meetings called that required all ten of the seats be present.

This was clearly a special situation, since not only were all ten seats full, but they were all paying rapt attention - even the glowing shape of the Them, who called itself You. It wasn't doing it's normal 'hey, You over here!' schtick - it was quiet, curious, waiting for the drama to unfold.

The other faces were all there - a female Celestialsapien by the name of Lestri, voices apparently in unity enough to tap her fingers anxiously. The Xeelee computer box was flashing lights faster than normal, computing any large number of results about what should be done. There was a Flower - Pine Tree - who somehow managed to look perturbed by the whole situation, despite looking exactly like a normal pine tree in a potted plant.

There was a Horrorterror - Squi'bel'zenthasomething or other, hidden behind a shroud so as to not to drive the Beyonder Aminax insane. This fact alone was surprising - the Beyonders rarely showed up for anything, but apparently, it was big enough to demand their presence. The Great Will had sent one of its primary voices - a tremendous head that glared down at everyone in the room impersonally. The One Above All had taken the opportunity to come himself, his shifting appearance always looking kind - but this time, concern was in his face.

Then there were the last of the lower universes - the only human in the room, a girl by the name of Nanoha, who was looking at the accused with a sad look. Beside her was a Time Lord, looking at the accused with an intense, angry stare.

The Traveling Doctor grinned. "Well... I guess we're really in for it now aren't we?"

Deadpool shrugged. "Eh, probably. I brought chimichangas for our grilling! And hot dogs too!"

The room erupted into yelling. Well, You didn't yell, it just kept laughing. This was delightful!

Neither Meat Nor Candy (GMBlackjack)

View Online

> Be John Egbert.

You are John Egbert, and you are suddenly struck by a feeling you haven't had in years. A feeling of being... something. You can't quite put your finger on it, but you know you felt like this a lot when you were playing SBURB. But not when the entire war over the Green Sun was happening...

You can't say you've felt like this since you moved to Earth C. Maybe it was that universe that made things different? No... you'd been to many other universes since the Merodi picked you up. You hadn't felt it at all. Until now.

This being.

ROXY: john, u ok?

You look up at her and the rest of your friends you are currently having lunch with. Right next to you is Roxy, who, let's be honest here, is a bit more than a friend at this point, as the slightly annoyed gaze from Calliope tells you. She catches your eyes and manages to look away with mild guilt on her face.

You really need to talk to her and work this out, but in the back of your mind you know you won't. It'll just be awkward for eternity. Unless something happens.

Like being.

Whatever that means.

> Realize you haven't responded to her. Everyone's probably worried now.

You shake yourself out of your random delirium.

JOHN: yeah, i'm fine. just... got a strange feeling is all.
CALLIOPE: oh?
ROXY: do you not like the smell of the pasta?
PINKIE: I think there's actually something going on. I got a WEIRD Pinkie Sense moment.

You vaguely register the pink party pony that seems to invite herself everywhere. You suppose it's probable that Jade asked her to come along with the other horse at the table - Allure - but you don't really care about that.

You care about the bowl of pasta in front of you for some inexplicable reason. An Earth Ottoman dish you can't recall if you've had before or not. It smells good, and you are quite hungry. But for whatever reason it seems... off. It's not particularly sweet or heavy. It's just pasta. And you're pretty sure you didn't order it.

PINKIE: Earth Ottoman to John, helooo?
JOHN: pasta. what is it about the pasta?
DAVE: its just pasta john

You look at your old time-shifting friend. Your mind flashes for a minute to him arriving at your doorstep yesterday begging you to hide him from the other Jade. You agreed - what else were you going to do - and so far she hadn't come knocking and the present Jade wasn't about to tell her anything.

JADE: john?
JOHN: yeah, it is just pasta. i think that's what's wrong with it. it's supposed to be... more. Like there's...

> Look at Pinkie.

JOHN: a choice. or something. god, i don't even know what i'm talking about...
PINKIE: Hey, just because I'm Aware doesn't mean I know everything! My guess is there really was supposed to be a choice. But something's changed and your little zappy-sparky powers are letting you know something was up.
JOHN: so... should i do something?
JADE: like what?
JOHN: i have no idea...
ALLURE: Are there any big choices you never made in... SBURB?
PINKIE: (I hope people are ready to highlight...)
JOHN: well, we haven't fought lord english, but the gallifreyans have that all taken care of, right?

Everyone around the table nods - though you notice Dave and Roxy tense at the mention of the Gallifreyans. They still have a hold on all of your souls, ensuring you will go back and complete the retcon loop for the sake of the multiverse. Upon your deaths. Of which a grand total of zero have happened. You're glad for that, though you wonder what will happen when your numbers start dwindling. You're all immortal...

ROXY: are u sayin we might have to go now?
JOHN: no.
PINKIE: No.
ROXY: ...then what are you sayin?

You have no idea what you're saying. But you know you want to eat the pasta.

> Eat the pasta.

You twirl a fork into the pasta and shove it in your mouth. It tastes absolutely delicious, but it almost feels as if it's forcing its way down your throat. Your conscious mind has no say in the matter as the winding noodles snake through your body in a way you really shouldn't be aware of but are anyway. It occurs to you this sensation should be somewhat nauseating, but no response rises from your gut. It just is.

CALLIOPE: that was qUite unlike yoU, john.
PINKIE: That wasn't him. Or if it was, he didn't have a choice.
DAVE: this stinks heavily of symbolic bullshit
DAVE: i say we ignore it
DAVE: and
DAVE: like starve it of its meaning or something
DAVE: that is how this works right pinks?
PINKIE: Sometimes?
JADE: we could try to hunt down twilence.
ALLURE: For an odd feeling at a table?
JOHN: we don't need to go through the trouble. really, i'm fine.
JOHN: it's getting... weaker.

You're not lying. You can feel the being fading off of you, reaching away. You decide to push the event into the back of your mind. You rest easy, knowing it really isn't any of your concern...

>Be Vriska about a thousand relative years ago.

You scream - not in pain, though you are certainly in a lot of pain at the moment. No, you scream out of rage. You flail your hands wildly, trying to grasp the distant form of the House Juju, sparkling with red, yellow, blue, and black colors as it prepares its final activation. The defeat of Lord English. By your hands. Your hands!

You need to see it! You need to see it! This is your moment, your spotlight, your victory!

The black hole that was once the Green Sun draws you toward it. Something in the back of your mind tells you it isn't' the kind of black hole you find in space, but something else. Something much more... exotic.

You grunt, focusing your vision eightfold on Lord English. He's not even looking at you - he's standing, glaring at the House Juju with his eight-ball eyes. He knows his time has come, you're certain. But he still looks ready to fight...

The door on the House Juju opens...

...and reality goes sideways.

You expect your body to be torn asunder, or at least for you to experience a technicolor nightmare as you're thrown across existence. But no, your trip consists of a flash of darkness followed by an unceremonious fall onto a field of wheat.

>Stand up, idiot.

You don't even need to be told - not that anyone told you to stand up, that's ridiculous. Despite the rising level of your inner fury, you manage to take a moment to look around. Wheat, wheat, wheat, and a human male with pinker skin than you're used to.

You grab the male by the shoulder and stare into his eyes fiercely.

VRISKA: WHERE AM I????????

The male makes no response besides trembling.

VRISKA: I c8n’t 8e here! I h8ve to go 8ACK!!!!!!!!
VRISKA: I need to see what happened!
VRISKA: I NEED TO KNOW HOW IT TURNED OUT!

You start shaking the male with uncharacteristic desperation in your movements, your words, and your eyes. You're ashamed, but you can't stop yourself.

VRISKA: I need to go 8ack!
VRISKA: I need to SEE!!!!!!!!
VRISKA: I NEED TO SEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

The male belts out a few words of panic in a language you don't recognize. For some inexplicable reason, this makes you stop.

> He's useless. Throw him away.

With a look of disgust, you toss him to the side. He gets a small gash in his leg that starts bleeding, but you don't care. He runs away despite the injury, falling over a few times.

You are alone in a field.

You have no way back to Lord English.

You are never going to see what happened.

You scream.

>Be Davepetasprite^2.

You are Davepetasprite^2, better known to your friends as Davepeta. Those who know you exist, anyway, you're kind of a new thing and a big deal. Because you're going to completely wreck Lord English's shit.

Currently, you are hiding behind the House Juju, using it as support to keep from falling into the monstrous gaping maw that's eating up all of Paradox Space and the dream bubbles. You hope that whatever the House Juju's going to do, it does it in a way that makes it easier for you to move around. Because, otherwise, you're going to have a bit of a problem not getting flung into oblivion.

If that black hole even goes to oblivion. It's not like you have much of a clue.

You poke your head around, looking at the front of the House Juju. A door is opening, and a white hand is reaching out...

...and then it just freezes. You can swear you hear a classic Windows error bloop.

For a moment, fear runs through you. Did something go wrong? Is the House broken? Is Lord English going to win?

You look at the offending monstrosity and realize, with a bit of glee, that he is frozen too. Unmoving. Brimming with a white, zappy energy, like the House itself.

DAVEPETASPRITE^2: B33 < Here goes nothing!

You jump forward, allowing the black hole's pull to latch onto you. It drags you forward - right into the body of Lord English. You grab his frozen form with your claws, discovering him to be as hard as diamond. It'd be impossible to puncture anywhere on him in this state.

Good thing that's not your plan.

> Defeat Lord English.

DAVEPETASPRITE^2: B33 < DIE MEOWTHERFUCKER!

You use the momentum from the black hole to twist around and throw the green skull monster right at the House Juju. The two collide. There's a bright flash of things that never happened, and yet always did. You smell the scent of roses and see some kind of Tower rising in the distance as Lord English is sealed away...

And then the black hole sends you to a random corner of the multiverse, since that's what it seems to like doing to people who aren't ghosts.

> Be Aradia.

You are Aradia, Maid of Time, fluttering as close to the black hole as you think is safe. You have been watching this entire fight unfold from the start, and now you've seen the fate of almost everything. You watch as the House Juju itself is torn into the black hole. You swear you can hear the zap over the chaos of thousands upon thousands of ghosts being torn from their dreams to an uncertain fate.

This is the end of Paradox Space, you're sure of it. This is what you were here to see.

And yet...

You look to the black hole, growing, devouring more and more planes of existence as it continued on its rampage... Would it eat everything?

Or was it really eating them? You feel as if it isn't a death sentence, and you've got a pretty good intuition for this sort of thing.

It was that Calliope that made the black hole. She'd ensured Lord English's defeat. But what was it doing?

A Jade ghost flies by you, grabbing you by the neck. She's trying to drag you in, you realize. You remain calm - altering the perceived flow of time around yourself while keeping Jade's the same, giving you an edge. You move faster than she does, pulling back from the darkness - dragging her with you.

ARADIA: jade why would you do that?
JADE: You need to go through.

You know it isn't Jade talking even before you see her dark eyes. It's just wrong. A normal person - troll or human - would be offput by this. But you just smile.

ARADIA: are you calliope by chance?
JADE: yes. you must enter.
JADE: there is more for you out there.
JADE: i will eject you beyond paradox space so you can arrive at a different destiny

You raise an eyebrow. The prospect of something new excites you considerably, but you can't help feel that this is some kind of trap.

ARADIA: i don't know... can i get sollux first...?
JADE: sollux has already been absorbed.
JADE: the course of narrative has deemed him 'close enough to dead' that he's been sealed away.
JADE: but you are alive. and like all others who live, you are going to be ejected to something greater.
ARADIA: i understand being vague and mysterious
ARADIA: i really do
ARADIA: but youre going to have to give me more than that if you want me to cooperate
ARADIA: all this seems really cool and fascinating but you have to admit you arent exactly trustworthy sounding!
ARADIA: sorry

Calliope twists Jade's face in annoyance.

JADE: the narrative both has been and will be interrupted. something slipped through my sights.
JADE: i had feared it would be john. but I don't think it is.
JADE: it might be the Tower itself.
ARADIA: the what?
JADE: nothing of importance.
JADE: for now.
ARADIA: youre lying
JADE: yes, but i'm not explaining that right now.
JADE: this interrupt means what was supposed to happen won't.
JADE: that this ghost will not be sent to close the loop.
JADE: everything is being put on hold.
JADE: in essence, the computer has frozen. and everything will have to wait.
JADE: and i will die.

She seems upset about this, which confuses you. Didn't she sacrifice herself?

JADE: the plan has fallen apart.
JADE: lord english has been defeated. but...
JADE: ...
ARADIA: but what?
JADE: all of this has happened before.
JADE: but it's apparently not going to happen again.
JADE: ...
JADE: they're coming.
JADE: they know lord english is out of the picture.
JADE: you must go now!

Calliope uses Jade's space powers to shove you toward the black hole. You could have resisted - but you don't feel like you want to anymore. This Calliope may be out there, but she does seem to have some idea about what's actually going on. You wish you could talk to her more, but she's not going to be around long enough for that.

You watch Calliope's essence leave the Jade ghost. She'll fall in with you. But unlike you, she will be trapped.

But you? You are going places you never would have imagined, not in your wildest dreams...

As the event horizon takes you, you see a tremendous portal open up in the sky from somewhere beyond paradox space. Eldritch tentacles pour in, accompanied by white glowing shapes, a few floating masks, and some extremely advanced spaceships.

You won't know that this was a Class 1 brigade until much, much later in your life...

> Be Aradia much, much later in her life.

ARADIA: isnt it interesting?
CORONA: What?
ARADIA: how were opposites

The two of you are walking down a path of Skaia's Dream. Neither of you is physically there - dreaming still occurs for living players within range of the SBURB remnant - but both of you are perfectly aware of this and don't mind in the slightest. You rarely come across each other in the waking world and are quite grateful for the opportunity to just... talk.

CORONA: How we think of death, right?
ARADIA: well yes that
ARADIA: thats obvious
ARADIA: but also in other ways like... aspects!
CORONA: Our Aspects don't... contrast.
ARADIA: all aspects contrast in one way or another
ARADIA: time can be considered the onward eternal march while doom can be said to be the end
CORONA: And yet I give endless life, and you promote the end.
ARADIA: yep!
ARADIA: isnt dualism interestnig?

Corona purses her lips, laying a hand on a brick wall of Canterlot High. You are aware that the pony SBURB sessions included versions of her in it at times, but none of those alternates had shared her aspect of Doom. Mostly Hope, a few Rage and Light, but not much else. It was something unique about her, specifically, that gave her the right to the most mysterious of Aspects.

CORONA: I'm not sure interesting is the right word.
CORONA: Confusing, more like.
ARADIA: well that kind of makes sense
ARADIA: the aspect wheel is an imperfect copy of the tower itself
CORONA: I know. I think we all know that, now, thanks to good ol' Neoan.
CORONA: Who I guess hates us now.
ARADIA: we did cause him a bit more problems than he was expecting
ARADIA: but the green sun was destroyed...
ARADIA: so I guess the horrorterrors won the conflict?

You pass through a memory of the Combine-Horroterror war, seeing an image of the Green Sun floating in the distance as it is used to create a new universe. Corona winces at the sight of the mutated frog.

When you first saw it you were disgusted.

Now, you're just fascinated.

Some part of you realizes this constant fascination with the morbid, wrong, and suffering is a problem... But you can't imagine being anything else. It's what you bring to the table. It's why you're here.

You pass into a memory involving the black hole that sucked you into the multiverse. Your smile widens.

ARADIA: want to know something funny
CORONA: HIt me.
ARADIA: when i first left i didnt understand anything about what the multiverse was really
ARADIA: and as i traveled i slowly figured more and more of it out
ARADIA: i dont think i realized until this moment that i had actually figured it out
ARADIA: when the answers came i didnt even care enough to register it
ARADIA: isnt that weird?

Corona shrugs, not sure what to make of it.

CORONA: I don't think we have all the answers.
ARADIA: i didnt say all the answers
ARADIA: just the answers to the big questions
ARADIA: well my big questions anyway
CORONA: Sometimes I wish I could be as content as you are with... everything.
ARADIA: we need people who arent satisfied with the way things are so they may be changed
CORONA: You really are an ancient guardian, aren't you?
ARADIA: heheh yeah

> Notice you are being followed.

You turn around to see a very familiar Skaian ghost stalking you.

ARADIA: meenah!
ARADIA: come join us were having quite the discussion!
MEENAH: uh...

The royal troll quickly tries to look like she wasn't stalking them, kicking a shoe back.

MEENAH: nah, I got a universe to run, and stuff.
CORONA: Then what are you doing out here?
ARADIA: this is a very good question
MEENAH: none o yer beeswax! seaswax? ...there's gotta be a pun there...
CORONA: If you want your people to respect y-
MEENAH: i ain't giving up the fish puns. not now. not ever.
MEENAH: me n fef are gonna make things the way they need t be.
MEENAH: endless fish puns.
CORONA: *groan*
MEENAH: problem, baconhead?
CORONA: I'm just going to wake myself up now.
MEENAH: oh, yeah, forkin time!

Corona shows that she has enough power to wake herself up completely on demand, missing Meenah's overly-eager "forkin'."

MEENAH: bitch doesn't know how to have fun.
ARADIA: you just mentioned the word FUN in a dreamscape with a narratively important aura that isnt keyed to some particular event
MEENAH: ...what?
ARADIA: i hope you enjoy your party!
MEENAH: you spent WAY too long with those hor-
PINKIE: HIYA!
MEENAH: FUCKIN FIS)(-ST-EALIN' S)(ARKBIT-ES!

Meenah lifts her trident aggressively at the sudden appearance of the Bard of Space.

PINKIE: Aww, there's no need to be like that!
PINKIE: Plus, I'm not dreaming, you could actually hurt me!
MEENAH: that's the idea, assassin!
PINKIE: Actually you probably couldn't do much to me...
PINKIE: Oh, wait, forgot! Thief of Life, duuuuh! Just suck me dry!
PINKIE: Man, why aren't you the vampire?
MEENAH: what the shell...?
PINKIE: I mean rainbow drinker.
PINKIE: ...Wait, you should know that, you and Alushy hang out.
MEENAH: i don't know what you're suggestin.
ARADIA: i think ill leave you all to that!
ARADIA: lots of maid of time stuff to do!
ARADIA: and all the time in existence to do it!
ARADIA: :)

You allow Meenah to stab you, just so she gets the thrill of the hunt. It's the least you can do.

> Be Meenah

You are now Meenah, and you are right pissed that you didn't get much satisfaction out of that forkin'. She smiled, got stabbed, and now she's gone. That's that.

PINKIE: I can set up some pinata dummies if you want.
PINKIE: Or you could probably dream up a horde of monsters!
MEENAH: bah. it ain't the same.

You start walking, heading back to your capital city, Peixe. Basically a dream city with some fancy-schmancy reality anchor doo-dads you use to keep a hold on most of the Skaians. You named it. Well, technically you and Feferi named it, but let's be real you were the one who was pretty insistent about it.

Skaia's Dream likes you for whatever reason most of the time, and whenever you start walking it rarely takes long for you to reach your destination. Already you have arrived in the dream city, shuffling around with a pink pony bouncing behind you. You ignore most of the people walking around even if they don't ignore you.

You basically run the universe, of course walking around will draw attention.

PINKIE: Do you really want to make all these people fight?
MEENAH: i want to fight.
MEENAH: i don't give a jellyfish's ass about the rest of them.
MEENAH: and jellyfish AR-E asses, you know.
PINKIE: That's not true.
PINKIE: The first part, not the fact about jellyfish.

You turn to glare at her.

MEENAH: how the shell would you know?
PINKIE: Aside from being Pinkie Pie?
PINKIE: I talk to Feferi, you know.
MEENAH: fef don't know shit.
PINKIE: She's keeping your image stable despite all the craaaaaaazy stuff you do~!¡
PINKIE: Oh, cool, lemme try something. ∑´•ª¥ç˙ˆ∑˜√¨ø∑´¥®. Nice!
MEENAH: ...what in...?
PINKIE: Just checking out the alternate medium.
PINKIE: Anyway, back on track.
MEENAH: you have a track?
PINKIE: Maybe?
PINKIE: What I'm saying is, you have a heart in there somewhere.
PINKIE: These are your citizens and friends whether you like to admit it or not.
MEENAH: whatever. i'm still goin crazy. there's not enough action.

Pinkie turns to look at you with a pitying glance.

PINKIE: I think you need to talk to Vriska.
MEENAH: i talk to vriskas all the time.
PINKIE: I mean the Vriska. The one I work with all the time.
MEENAH: ...
PINKIE: Here, I can take us there right now!
MEENAH: ponkadonk don't you dare do th-

Pinkie does the portal. Did she use her device or Bard of Space powers? You don't know. All you know is that you're standing in front of Vriska.

> Be Vriska.

I'm sorry, it looks like you're trying to be Vriska right now. No, let's do that later. How about...

> Be Feferi.

FEFERI: Jane is trying to do W)(AT!?
KANAYA: Limit Troll Reproduction On Earth C.
ROSE: I thought you knew.

You pace around the 'royal hall' of Peixe. Several Meenahs and Feferis are there with you, as well as a handful of others (unfortunatly, Kankris are among the number...) but you're the only Alpha Ghost in the room right now. You're not too annoyed at having to take charge since you basically do it anyway, but having something of this magnitude be dropped on you without Meenah present is... problematic.

Or maybe this is a good thing. Now Meenah won't start an illegal war without thinking.

You'd like to think she's mature enough now not to do that, but she's pretty hot-headed...

...Would she even care about troll reproductive rights on Earth C?

You shake your head, deciding to deal with this yourself regardless of anything else.

FEFERI: Okay, okay. W)(Y is s)(e trying to cull everyfin?
ROSE: It is decidedly less barbaric than culling.
KANAYA: That Makes It All The More Dangerous...
ROSE: Regardless, she believes that an appropriate response to possible troll overpopulation on Earth C is to limit their expansion through sanctioned breeding programs.
KANAYA: She Has A Lot Of The Population On Board.
FEFERI: The Oversight Division isn't going to stand for t)(is.
FEFERI: ...Are t)(ey?
KANAYA: I Am... Uncertain Where Overhead Sarsrpilla Stands On The Issue.
KANAYA: The Current Charter Prevents Such Practices From Being Undertaken Merodi-Wide.
KANAYA: But Like The Concessions Made With The Gems Until Recently, Exceptions Can Be Made For Singular Worlds If The Need Is Accepted.
ROSE: We know Jane's going to try and push this at an upcoming meeting.
ROSE: We were hoping you and Meenah could come along to stand up for us?
FEFERI: I'll definitely be t)(ere! T)(is can't be allowed to )(appen!

You said that almost without thinking. You're sure it's the right thing to do though.

And now it's time to make use of one of your least helpful subjects...

FEFERI: Kankri! I need to construct a decisive argument against a political opinion!
KANKRI: I am glad you have finally come to see the merit of my words, Feferi, though I would implore you t-
FEFERI: O)( come on! Just... Can you do it quickly?
KANKRI: I could dictate such a speech to you right now, if you wanted. I already have several points. On both sides, if you're curious...

You point at a Karkat.

FEFERI: )(ey Karcrab...
KARKAT: NO. NO I AM NO-
FEFERI: I need someone to go over )(is speec)( and cut it down to a manageable size!
ARANEA: I can do that!
FEFERI: ...And I want the final result to be the trut)(.
ARANEA: Hey!
VRISKA-1: Bitch, she got you!
VRISKA-2: SERVED!
MEENAH-2: OOOOOOOO!
ARANEA: ...
KARKAT: FINE, I'LL DO IT, JUST GIVE ME A MINUTE...

You turn back to the visiting couple from Earth C.

FEFERI: So, a)(em, now t)(at t)(at's out of t)(e way... )(ow's life you two?
FEFERI: Still being cute?
KANAYA: Why Must You Call Us Cute Every Time We Meet?
FEFERI: B-ECAUS-E YOU'R-E SO GLUBBING ADORABL-E!
ROSE: Heh.
ROSE: Can you really say she's wrong?
KANAYA: ...
KANAYA: No Comment.

> Be Jane.

You are Jane Crocker.

And you have just lost a political debate.

Pretty badly, too. No wonder Dirk didn't want to be anywhere near this.

You honestly should have seen this coming.

ROSE: Hey, Jane.
JANE: What do you want?

You look up, surprised to see sadness in the usually cryptic woman's eyes.

ROSE: Jane, I can see-
JANE: What can't you see?
ROSE: ...Why a choice wasn't made.
JANE: What are you talking about?
ROSE: Something tangentially related to this.
ROSE: Events mirroring something else that never happened.
ROSE: Or did, long, long ago.
ROSE: Another time, another space.

You look at her like she's crazy. She might be, for all you know. You all might be crazy. SBURB isn't exactly something you come out of unscathed.

ROSE: I came here to say we...
ROSE: ...
ROSE: We're still mad you tried.
ROSE: But we're not going to forge an endless crevasse between us just because we had a little fight.
ROSE: We've got to stick together in this wide multiverse.

You look at her, unsure. It'd be rude to blow her off, wouldn't it? And you have an image to maintain. You've ended up the face of Earth C in a multiversal alliance that places way too much weight on friendship...

JANE: I...
JANE: Sure.
JANE: We can put this behind us.

You're not sure if you're lying or not. You decide that doesn't matter.

Maybe you really should just leave things alone sometimes...

> Be Rose.

You are now Rose, but you aren't at the political meeting. You are at none other than Dirk Strider's robot workshop.

You're honestly not sure why you're here. Or why you're here without Kanaya. That's the extra weird part.

You move to knock on the door, but Dirk opens it before you strike metal. He invites you in wordlessly.

You two sit down, awkwardly, at a table.

ROSE: What was supposed to happen?
DIRK: You seem like the one to tell me.
ROSE: I was beginning to feel like my mind would explode.
ROSE: That I would See too much beyond the horizon.
ROSE: To end up in a sort of... apotheosis.
ROSE: But then we were interrupted and that just sort of...
ROSE: Stopped.
ROSE: I hadn't had any strong visions until recently.
ROSE: Something I can't describe as more than...
ROSE: An echo.
ROSE: Meat or candy?
DIRK: No.
ROSE: What?
DIRK: There's your answer.

I appear before you, landing on the table and glaring Dirk down I...

Oh, geez, this is going to be confusing. I can't also be here with you and me and...

> Be Twilence.

You are now me. I am you. I think about you looking at me and I look back out at you.

Do you see why this isn't going to work?

No, we need... Another way to think of this. Hrm...

I think I'll just take control for a bit, keep things simple. I hope you don't mind your nostalgic format being upset for a while.

I glared at Dirk.

"Problem?" he asked.

"How could you know that?" I demanded.

"Logical deduction," he responded with a shrug. "It doesn't take a genius to read between the lines, Twilence."

"Yes it does," I asserted. "But then again, you're a genius."

Rose raised an eyebrow. "...How bad did Dirk get?"

"I really can't say," I admitted with a sigh. "Not because I don't know. But because it's supposed to be gone."

"But the past. Twilence, I am a Seer like yourself, I get inklings of what lies beyond the reach of our intelligences."

I furrowed my brow. "That's why I'm not on your case about knowing. You'll get hints. Dirk isn't supposed to get hints."

"Since when were you the expert on Aspects?" Dirk asked.

"Never," I admitted. "I just try to trot my way through them like everyone else." I narrowed my eyes. "You've been behaving yourself a little too well..."

"Because I can't do anything. There's no master plan. I am not a key player in your story - or song, if you prefer to use your local vernacular for the subject. I would be foolish to try to take over such a thing."

Rose stared at him in disbelief. He was all but admitting to it...

I glared at him. Then I relented. "I can't trust you."

"I can't trust me."

I twitched. "Dirk... just... treat your friends like people."

"I do."

"You know what I mean," I said with a growl. "Rose, we should leave."

Rose stood up, looking at Dirk with a confused - and slightly afraid - gaze. We walked out the front door.

"You would have loved it, Rose," he called from the doorway.

I teleported us away, sighing. "I'm sorry you had to go through that..."

"You're watching him." It wasn't a question. She already knew the answer, I didn't feel the need to confirm it. "How dangerous is he?"

"Given the right circumstances... as dangerous as he wants to be." I turned to her. "I can't answer all your questions. I can tell you that... had we not intervened, there was a large chance you'd lose your mind to the 'importance'."

"...In that case, I thank you and whoever else was responsible for the interrupt. I appreciate the... background presence we've been given. I feel as though I'm allowed to live."

I smiled at her. To her surprise, I pulled her into a hug. "Don't let her go."

And then I left.

...Okay, you can have the wheel back. Even though it isn't really a wheel, it's just... eh, I'm not going to try to explain it. Enjoy.

> Be Dave.

You are Dave Strider, and you have been hanging out a lot with the Super Chill Squad that calls itself The Enemy.

In other news, you're hanging out with your ghost selves. You've basically taken up John's house as your residence, though you've been skipping it through time so the psycho dog can't find you. Crazy bitch wants to marry everything in the multiverse and you're pretty high on that list.

Like, ridiculously high. You're pretty sure you're tied for first place with the other guy hiding out here.

KARKAT: I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHY YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF.
KARKAT: I CAN'T STAND MY GHOST SELVES.
KARKAT: AT ALL.
DAVE: hey cmon man.
DAVE: its like...
DAVE: a bunch of family I thought was dead
DAVE-2: we totally are dead dude.
DAVE: i know but like youre not gone.
DAVE: so thats pretty sweet
KARKAT: AH. YES. FAMILY. THIS FUN THING YOU KEEP MENTIONING.
DAVE: it is pretty sweet man
DAVE-3: yes do it doooo it do it man!
DAVE: i suppose the only downside is that they all know exactly what im thinking
DAVE: and have
DAVE: like
DAVE: no respect for my personal private boundaries
DAVE-4: youre just doing this to yourself
DAVE-2: fuck yeah
DAVE: im beginning to think karkat has a point
KARKAT: *I ALWAYS HAVE A POINT!*
DAVE-3: have you seen your nubs
DAVE-2: not a point to be seen on them
KARKAT: THAT'S IT, I'M LEAVING, GONNA GO LIVE IN THE FOREST AND NEVER COME BACK.
DAVE: come on bro
DAVE: we can make this work
DAVE-2: awwww...
DAVE: you can shut the fuck up
DAVE-2: can, yes
DAVE-2: will?
DAVE: goddammit im an asshole
KARKAT: *NO SHIT.*
DAVE: but im a fun asshole
KARKAT: THE SELF-AGGRANDIZING NEUROSIS IN THIS ROOM IS SO OFF THE CHARTS I CAN'T EVEN FUCKING THINK STRAIGHT.
DAVE-4: since when have you ever thought "straight?"

He marches to the front door and kicks it open, clearly intending to at least make it LOOK like he's going to live in the forest for a while.

The only problem is there's a very particular Skaian ghost at the front door with a very similar ghost tied around her ankle.

JADE-1: i found you!
JADE-A: im so sorry dave, i couldnt stop her this time!
JADE-1: nothing can stop love!
KARKAT: I HAVE A WAY TO PROVE THAT'S FUCKING BULLSHIT.
JADE-1: oh?

Karkat slams the door in her face.

DAVE: dude thats really not gonna stop her
DAVE-2: yeah your point is self-defeating
KARKAT: THAT'S JUST TO DISTRACT HER.
KARKAT: YOU, EXTRA DAVE, UH, THREE.
DAVE-5: im dave five.
KARKAT: UGH WHY DON'T YOU HAVE DIFFERENT NAMES YET!?
DAVE-5: dave is awesome
DAVE-3: also we tried names
DAVE-3: remember jade and jado?
DAVE-3: ...thats what we called them right?
DAVE: i think so
DAVE-3: but then we kept getting confused so we just stopped trying
KARKAT: UTTERLY POINTLESS.
KARKAT: WHATEVER, ONE OF YOU GET A PHONE. CALL THE LEAGUE OR SOMETHING, GET A RESTRAINING ORDER.
DAVE: woah karkat dude
DAVE: i know shes crazy but shes still jade.
DAVE-2: maybe we can talk this out...
KARKAT: THEN WHY ARE WE HIDING IN A TIME-DISPLACED VERSION OF JOHN'S HOUSE?
DAVE: very poor people skills
KARKAT: ...
KARKAT: I HATE YOU SO FUCKING MUCH.
DAVE-3: AWWWWWWWW
KARKAT: DAVE, CAN I RAM YOUR OTHER SELF'S BONE BULGE UP A WALL?
DAVE-3: hah I don't have one o-
KARKAT: *I CAN MAKE ONE FOR YOU.*
DAVE: this i gotta see
DAVE: go right ahead

This interesting experiment is unfortunately put on hold when a Jade charges through the door. The crazy one, you're certain of it. The other one appears to be on her phone, shouting crazily.

JADE-1: okay.
JADE-1: so, just hear me out.
JADE-1: relationships...
KARKAT: BULLSHIT DETECTOR ALREADY THROUGH THE ROOF.
JADE-1: karkat! give me a chance!
KARKAT: HOW ABOUT... YOU TRY TO CONVINCE *YOURSELF* YOU AREN'T CRAZY FIRST?
JADE-1: oh, shes already accepted im not crazy. she just doesn't like me.
JADE-1: even though she totally would have been me without, well, having me around.
JADE-1: she really doesnt like to think about that.
JADE-1: wish shed grow up.
KARKAT: YOU'RE ONE TO TALK.
DAVE: crabby has a point
JADE-1: thats not why im here though. im here for the three of us!
DAVE: no
DAVE-2: shit?
DAVE-3: really
JADE-1: ...can i just have all of you at once?
DAVE: jade how fucked up are you in the head?
JADE-1: oh come on, its not like that!
JADE-1: im just free!
MATTIE: You're not letting them be very free, dear.

You all turn to see Mattie standing in the doorway beside the... well the Jade you think is sane. Behind them are a contingent of Sweeties who look ready to enter a warzone.

JADE-1: but mattie, im jus...
JADE-1: im like you!
MATTIE: Crikey. Jade, Jade.
MATTIE: I'll be the first to admit I'm a maniac.
MATTIE: But even I'm not going to hunt people down to a temporally distorted house in the middle of nowhere just for a chance at some 'action'.
MATTIE: I'm never seeking some kind of serious relationship. Like, let's be honest here, at all.
MATTIE: You've gotten it in your head that you are.
JADE-A: see? even mattie agrees with me!
MATTIE: You really should stop being so forceful.
JADE-1: ...mattie, i...
MATTIE: Go find a Changeling or something.
JADE-1: but its who they are! that's what i...
MATTIE: Jade.
MATTIE: Listen to me.
MATTIE: You're perfectly capable of letting them go.
MATTIE: You've done it before, you can do it again.
JADE-1: ...
MATTIE: And plus, I can tell you these two will be as boring as a salamander baking in the desert.
MATTIE: I can show you how to have a good time.
JADE-A: MATTIE!
MATTIE: Whaaaaaat? You're the one who asked me here, this is how I do things!
MATTIE: Well, besides mess with the fourth wall. Speaking of, hello readers, how would you like to be the nearly invisible-text-speaking whip-wielding maniac that is me?

> Be Mattie.

You really don't want this. Lemme just fix that for you...

> Be a Jade.

You are now the 'sane' Jade. The other you - who you can't help but look at with a little disgust, even if you know that's wrong of you to do - seems to have taken to Mattie's offer well. Apparently, she hasn't tried it with 'all the knives' yet, and reasons that, being a ghost, she can't really hurt herself unless she's really stupid.

The entire thing makes your stomach churn.

MATTIE: Anyway, it looks as if we're off for a night of risque fun!
MATTIE: But before we go, boys?
DAVE: oh no
KARKAT: WE ARE NOT COMING WITH YOU.
MATTIE: Balls, no, I was serious, you two would be a total bore.
KARKAT: *HEY!*
DAVE: when the promiscuous unicorn tells you youre lame you listen Karkat
KARKAT: *BUT!*
MATTIE: You two should really consider kissing.
DAVE: ...
KARKAT: ...
JADE-A: ...
JADE-1: I KNEW IT!

You decide it is probably best to leave. Find John, or something. Get out of this madhouse.

> Be Calliope.

Apparently, you are smart enough to realize you can't be John yet. Good for you.

You are Calliope, a green skeleton monster, and you are slightly depressed.

At least that's what you tell yourself.

> Try not to feel alone.

You fail miserably. You're pretty sure you are alone. In general, the people of this planet don't really know who you are or what you represent, and you kinda scare them with your appearance regardless. When you were younger you could pass as 'cute', but you are a large skull monster now, that's just how things are.

You suppose the rest of the Merodi don't fear you, but in that regard, you've just become part of the background.

And your friends...

Jane's gotten far too involved in politics for your taste. One day she sounds like a paragon of justice and progress while the next she seems a little... xenophobic. Not that you'd say that to her face, oh no, but it does make you uncomfortable around her. She's been drawing away from the public eye ever since she lost that debate. Maybe you should go talk to her... but you really don't feel like it.

Dirk is Dirk. You never really understood him and you get the distinct impression he views everyone in existence as some puzzle piece to force into the frame of his life's master plan. He hasn't talked to anyone much ever since Earth C was moved out of the E-Sphere, even canceling his and Jake's show.

And Jake... Honestly, you have nothing against Jake. If you were human you'd probably be upset that he was shaking his ass around on TV all the time, but you have no frame of reference by which to be upset at that. He's just... always busy. Distracted. And a little clueless.

Then there's Roxy...

Roxy is your best friend, and she's drifted away like nothing else. She's off on some super-secret job she's not allowed to tell you much about most of the time, and when she is around you mostly see her with John. It's clearly love, you don't fool yourself. You hate yourself for getting jealous - it's not like you're even human. You don't experience romantic feelings the same way, and didn't you write several shipping stories about the two of them when you were young?

Yes. Yes you did. And at one point you thought that maybe, just maybe, you had the power to make those stories a reality. But it's been confirmed you aren't a Prophet, even though your brother apparently attained such powers on his journey.

> Don't think about your brother.

Once again, you fail to not think about something. What a great track record for the day. You recently read through a copy of Homestuck you demanded from Vriska, and you got to see the exact sort of... evil things he was doing. You almost couldn't stomach how stupid his influence was. You know he's going to be defeated - after all, Lord English was sealed away - but part of you also knows that, since John hasn't gone back yet, part of him is still free.

You pray he'll never try to do anything. Ever.

> Realize you're not actually alone.

Who are you kidding? Of course you're alone. There's nothing here for you...

JAKE: Greetings, callie.

With a start, you look to your side to see Jake English sitting next to you, looking into the distance with a wistful expression.

CALLIOPE: jake!?
CALLIOPE: when did yoU get here!?
JAKE: I was just walking.
JAKE: Saw you.
JAKE: And you looked so sad, and i knew i couldnt just leave a lady moping like that.
JAKE: It wouldnt be right.
CALLIOPE: jake...
CALLIOPE: thanks.

You don't really feel much better, but at least you're talking. That's something, right?

CALLIOPE: jake. do yoU ever feel... Unimportant?
JAKE: Lately? All the lollygaggin time.
JAKE: I read the whole homestuck shebang.
JAKE: Dont really feel like i did much in it besides glow brightly and shout GADZOOKS!
JAKE: And that wasnt even me.
JAKE: That was the ghost.
CALLIOPE: how interesting.
CALLIOPE: i, too, was overshadowed by a decidedly dead version of myself.
CALLIOPE: ...and now i don't even feel like i'm part of the 'sUpporting cast'.
CALLIOPE: it's like i'm nothing.
JAKE: Yep.
JAKE: You know...
JAKE: Rose was saying that was a good thing.
CALLIOPE: Oh, I know, I understand where she's coming from.
CALLIOPE: A chance at a simple life without the constant pressure of the outside...
CALLIOPE: A chance at...
JAKE: A life where dirks not controlling all of our actions.

You stare at him in surprise. You never expected to hear that from him.

CALLIOPE: do yoU really think...?
JAKE: I may be...
JAKE: Lacking.
JAKE: In the brains department.
JAKE: But even I can see when someones pulling a hussle when I read about it.
JAKE: Even if I dont understand a bloody word of it.
CALLIOPE: yes, I sUppose he was.
CALLIOPE: i still believe he's a good person, at heart.
JAKE: ...
CALLIOPE: jake?
JAKE: I dont have any idea what im going to do with my life.
JAKE: Those shows i do dont really seem real you know?
JAKE: Im lost.

> Act surprised.

You fail so badly that even Jake knows you're faking it. This is so hard to do you're mildly impressed with yourself for failing so badly.

JAKE: Am i really that pathetic?
CALLIOPE: i wouldn't say pathetic! lots of people have no idea what to do with their lives!
CALLIOPE: me, for instance.
CALLIOPE: u_u
JAKE: Then...
JAKE: Maybe we could figure something out?
CALLIOPE: what do yoU mean?
JAKE: Two absolute nobodies versus the multiverse!
JAKE: Well find something!
JAKE: No doubt about it!

He stands up tall, shifting into his Page of Hope robes for what he presumably thinks is dramatic effect.

JAKE: We will find our purpose!
JAKE: We will take it by the... uh... horns!
JAKE: And we will drive it where we want!
JAKE: IT WILL BE A JOLLY ROMP!
CALLIOPE: ^_^
CALLIOPE: yoU really are the page of hope, aren't yoU, jake english?

Somehow, you know that you'll find something. It won't be important, or meaningful, or really have much impact on anything... But it'll be something. Maybe it's best that you have no idea what that something is right now.

You push thoughts of your distant friends and hated brother out of your mind, focusing instead on the future...

> Be Caliborn.

You come to realize, very quickly, that there's been a shitty twist.

And it wasn't yours.

You grip your golden sniper and grind your teeth.

CALIBORN: HE'S SUPPOSED TO BE HERE.
GAMZEE: I mOtHeRfUcKiN' tHoUgHt We HaD nO iDeA wHeN hE'd ShOw Up.
CALIBORN: HE'S SUPPOSED TO BE HERE.
CALIBORN: BUT HE'S NOT.
CALIBORN: HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TRAP HIM IN THE HOUSE IF HE DOESN'T SHOW UP?!

You and Gamzee turn to look at the House Juju. It's a small thing, small enough to be held in your hand. If, well, you could actually hold it. It's pretty intangible and only really moves when you move the chest it's contained in. But you like looking at the prize of your victory, so you usually keep the lid of the chest open. It's a very empty thing - a thing of nothingness. A thing of power.

A thing inadvertently responsible for creating John Egbert, your nemesis.

Who isn't here.

CALIBORN: I AM.
CALIBORN: GOING TO DO SOMETHING.
GAMZEE: MoThErFuCkIn HoMoSuCk? AwWw YeAh.
CALIBORN: NO.
CALIBORN: NO, IT NEEDS TO BE SOMETHING ELSE.
CALIBORN: IT WILL BE...

You grab your tablet and begin to furiously scribble your artistic vision onto a computer screen.

CALIBORN: SHIT OF THE CIRCLES.
GAMZEE: WhAt?
CALIBORN: YOU HEARD ME.

> SHIT OF THE CIRCLES.

YOU ARE...

NO. WAIT. THAT'S NOT RIGHT. YOU AREN'T ANYONE HERE. YOU'RE JUST GONNA SIT BACK AND WATCH. HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM USUAL? BECAUSE IT FUCKING IS, SHUT UP.

TWILIT SPORKL IS A BITCH. WHICH SHOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING. BUT THIS IS A BOOK AND SUCH BASIC DETAILS LIKE THAT NEED TO BE ANNOUNCED FOR ALL TO SEE. SHE IS A BITCH. BUT SHE IS ALSO A VERY LUCKY BITCH THAT GETS TO FIND AN AMAZING DIMENSIONAL TRAVELING DEVICE. A SHIT CIRCLE. TITLES ARE SO IMPORTANT.

BLAH. BLAH. SHE STARTS EXPLORING THE MULTIVERSE WITH THE SHIT CIRCLE. AMAZING. JAW DROPPING. NOBODY CARES ABOUT ANY OF THESE SMALL TIME ADVENTURES. WHAT EVERYONE CARES ABOUT IS THE TIME SHE FINDS HOMOSUCK. BECAUSE EVERY STORY HAS A WORLD. EVERY FUCKING ONE.

ALL BECAUSE OF THIS STUPID TOWER THING THAT THINKS IT'S SO HIGH AND MIGHTY.

BUT SHE WILL RISE ABOVE THE STUPID TOWER THING! ALL TWILIT SPORKL HAS TO DO IS GATHER THE ENTIRE MULTIVERSE TOGETHER... SHE SHOULD FIGHT A WAR, YES, A WAR WITH HER CLOSEST FRIENDS. THE FATE OF EXISTENCE WILL HANG IN THE BALANCE. YES...

SHE CLIMBS TO THE TOP OF THE STAIRCASE, READY TO HAND THE TOWER OVER TO CALIBORN, HER LORD AND SAVIOR. SHE, AT THE TOP OF THE STAIR, WILL AWAKEN LORD ENGLISH. WILL BRING HIM INTO EXISTENCE NO MATTER WHAT THE ZAPPY BOY DOES. AND THE MASCULINE, RIPPED, ABSOLUTE MONSTROSITY OF A BEAUTY SHALL BE UNLEASHED UPON THE MULTIVERSE IN ALL ITS TRUE COLORS!

This isn't going to happen.

GET OUT OF MY STORY. I AM GOING TO RULE THIS MULTIVERSE!

Denied. Your ka has been suspended locally until further notice.

WHAT? WHAT?

> Be Caliborn.

You punch a hole in your computer screen at the Flowery image that had just popped up.

CALIBORN: WHO DARES!?
CALIBORN: WHO DARES INTERFERE WITH ME!?
CALIBORN: IS IT THOSE WORDS ON THE SCREEN?

Yeah, those aren't me, and in fact, nothing aside from this has been me. Long time no see, by the way, lil' Cal.

CALIBORN: WHAT KIND OF SHITTY TWIST IS THIS?
CALIBORN: WHAT COULD POSSIBLY CHANGE THE PROPHECY?
CALIBORN: WHAT ABOUT MY RIPPED BOD?
GAMZEE: WoAh, CaLm DoWn ThErE, yO-
CALIBORN: SHUT THE FUCK UP, CLOWN!

Might as well get comfy, I have no idea how long you're going to be there. Find a way to enjoy yourself.

You feel an immense rage building up in you, one that knows no bounds.

You will be free. You will not stay here forever. You will be understood. Your stories will reach far and wide and your art shall draw tears from those who view it!

You will b-

> Enough of that guy, can we be Vriska yet?

VRISKA: Terezi?
TEREZI: Y34H?
VRISKA: Life is good.
TEREZI: W3LL DUH, YOU GOT YOURS3LF TWO F1LL3D QU4DR4NTS.
VRISKA: You know that's not what I'm talking a8out.

You're standing on the balcony of your 'castle' in the human kingdom of Earth C, looking out at a sunset. Terezi is lounging at your side, able to appreciate the view by smell alone, as usual.

VRISKA: I mean life in general.
VRISKA: The act of 8eing alive.
VRISKA: You know. Existing.
TEREZI: YOU'R3 LOS1NG M3.
VRISKA: Fuck it, nevermind, I never should have gotten philosophical.
TEREZI: 1'M SUR3 D1RK WOULD LOV3 TO SP4R W1TH YOU.
VRISKA: I'm not convinced Dirk has real emotions.
TEREZI: F1N3, D4V3 TH3N. H3'S COOL.
VRISKA: Yes. 8ut he won't shut up about O8ama and the economy whenever philosophy is 8rought up.
VRISKA: Idiot can't even separate politics from philosophy.
TEREZI: H3 4SSUR3S M3 POL1T1CS 4R3 1MPORT4NT.
VRISKA: Well, no shit, of course they are. Were the Merodi not here I totally see Jane going psycho-Condesce on us.
VRISKA: Heck, same with Meenah.
VRISKA: Why do we have so many evil 8itches hidden among us?
TEREZI: WOW.
TEREZI: 1 C4N *H34R* YOU T4LK1NG 4BOUT YOURS3LF 1N TH4T L1ST.
VRISKA: You can't tell me you're not worried about the other Vriskas.
TEREZI: 1'M NOT WORR13D 4BOUT TH3 OTH3R VR1SK4S.
VRISKA: ...
TEREZI: H3H3H3H3H3.
VRISKA: ...Nice.

You share a laugh.

And then Meenah and Pinkie drop out of the sky.

MEENAH: fuckin pink ponies.
PINKIE: I mean, there are probably some Pinkies at the Emporium who'd li-
MEENAH: stop talkin.
PINKIE: *shrug*
MEENAH: ...how the fuckin shell did you do that?
PINKIE: :)
VRISKA: Hey Pinkie. Mission?
PINKIE: Nope!
PINKIE: Well, unless you count giving Meenah a talking to.
TEREZI: TH1S 1S GONNA B3 GOOD.
VRISKA: ...Fucking lovely, Meenah, what did you do this time?
MEENAH: fuckin' nofin.
PINKIE: She's itchin' to fight a war.
PINKIE: It's basically all she wants to do.
PINKIE: And she kinda wants it to be a challenge too.
MEENAH: and what the shell is wrong with that?

You hold your hand to the bridge of your nose and let out an annoyed sigh.

VRISKA: This is going to sound like a8solute 8S.
VRISKA: 8ut as fun as wars are.
VRISKA: They're not only fucking horri8le in the end.
VRISKA: They're also not worth the trou8le.
VRISKA: Get 8oring after a while.
MEENAH: bullshit.
VRISKA: In my early days of exploration I started wars, fought in them, and messed with entire planets just for the heck of it.
VRISKA: Trust me, I know what I'm talking a8out. It gets 8oring.
VRISKA: Predicta8le.
VRISKA: And just a little bit jading.
MEENAH: i'm not there yet, so you can suck it while I enjoy my wars.
TEREZI: LOOK, 1 KNOW YOU'R3 4 HOTH34D UP TH3R3, BUT M4YB3 YOU SHOULD L1ST3N TO W1S3, OLD VR1SK4.
MEENAH: WIS-E!?
VRISKA: OLD!?
TEREZI: VR1SK4 YOU'R3, L1K3, S3V3R4L HUNDR3D SW33PS OLD. ONLY TH3 COND3SC3 3V3R L1V3D TH4T LONG.
TEREZI: YOU. 4R3. OLD.
VRISKA: shit, you're right.
MEENAH: pussy.

Okay, now you're just sick of this. Time to talk in a language she'll understand. You grab Meenah by the neck and drive her into your wall. Pinkie cheers you on while Terezi starts laughing.

VRISKA: LISTEN UP PIEXES
VRISKA: I have softened up and, yes, I might even 8e considered a pussy by your standards.
VRISKA: 8ut I am not LESSER than you. I have 8een through a million more things, experienced more than you might in your entire immortal life, and I know a thing or two about how life works!
VRISKA: War. Is. Hell.
VRISKA: Even if you enjoy it, what you care a8out will be taken from you.
MEENAH: i don't care about nofin!
VRISKA: That's what you think.
VRISKA: You'll tell yourself that, over and over again, that nothing matters to you.
VRISKA: That you're just doing it 8ecause it's fun, it's convenient, it's what's expected, or some other 8ullshit reason.
VRISKA: 8ut that's all it is.
VRISKA: 8ullshit.
VRISKA: You fuckin' care a8out those ghosts.
VRISKA: You wouldn't 8e willing to 8e where you are if you didn't.
VRISKA: So stop 8eing such a fucking loser and get your head on straight.

All this time Meenah has been trying to remove your hand from her neck. She seems to have forgotten that you're a lot stronger now that you've been traveling for an eternity. You hold her there for a few seconds longer - and then release her without pushing any further.

MEENAH: serket...
MEENAH: ...
MEENAH: you're somefin else, you know that?
VRISKA: I've 8een known to think along those lines.
TEREZI: BOO! L4M3 R3SPONS3!
VRISKA: So, what are you going to do, Meenah?

Meenah stands up and glares at you, expression shifting from anger to confusion to understanding and a million other things you can't quite parse.

MEENAH: can I still fork bitches?
VRISKA: There is not, and never will 8e, a 8an on forking 8itches.
MEENAH: cool.
MEENAH: cool.
MEENAH: ...
MEENAH: guess i'll go back to skaia's dream and...
MEENAH: fuckin' address the people or some shit.

You put a hand on her shoulder and smile. You have to admit, you've gotten pretty good at the comforting smile over the years.

VRISKA: Try to actually talk with your friends sometime, okay?
VRISKA: Feferi's one of the 8est listeners you could ever ask for.
VRISKA: Get to know her.
MEENAH: ...sure.

Meenah opens a portal and vanishes, leaving the three of you on the balcony.

PINKIE: Wow, Vriska, you have come a LONG way.
PINKIE: Earlier this short you were beating up a kid because you couldn't see what happened to Lord English!
VRISKA: Eheheh...
VRISKA: You saw that?
PINKIE: Eh, yeah. Sorry.
TEREZI: YOU B34T UP 4 K1D?
VRISKA: I was upset, okay?
VRISKA: And a 8itch.
VRISKA: Actually, that's not an excuse.
VRISKA: ...I wonder what happened to that kid.

You feel remorse fall over you. He no doubt survived, but you can't exactly go an apologize now. He'll be long dead.

Why did it take you so many lifetimes to figure this out?

PINKIE: Hey, Vriska.
PINKIE: The past is behind us.
PINKIE: Let's look to the future.
VRISKA: Heh. Yeah.

You pull Pinkie into a hug.

TEREZI: G44444444Y!
PINKIE: That doesn't even mean anything to you!
TEREZI: 1 KNOW HOW TH3 1NT3RN3T WORKS, PONK.
TEREZI: 1T W4S TH3 ONLY 4PPROPR14T3 R3SPONS3.

You backflip kick Terezi off the balcony. Pinkie is already on the ground waiting with a super-trampoline that will send the troll into near orbit.

TEREZI: FUCK YOU GUYS!

Your hand meets Pinkie's hoof and the two of you start giggling uncontrollably.

SOLLUX: w0w. this is the most incredible thing i've seen.

You look down at the ground, happy to see Sollux up and about on his own.

Life is good.

VRISKA: Hey 8ee-8oy! How's it hangin?
PINKIE: Do you want to join Terezi on the trampoline? It's fun!
SOLLUX: why w0uld i ever want t0 d0 that?
PINKIE: ...The thrill of the fall?
SOLLUX: ...
SOLLUX: whatever. i'm here t0 tell vriska there's a party.
SOLLUX: wait.
SOLLUX: pinkie, aren't you planning that party?
SOLLUX: WHY AM I EVEN HERE?
PINKIE: To reaffirm your existence.
SOLLUX: that's bullshit.
PINKIE: Eh, at least you're not Tavros, he didn't even get a part.
VRISKA: That's lame. He needs more screentime.
VRISKA: Deserves it more than most of us.
SOLLUX: i think i just threw up a little.

You laugh, turning to Pinkie.

VRISKA: So, party?
SOLLUX: hey!
SOLLUX: i'm the 0ne wh0 walked here, i get to give the message!
PINKIE: You could have used a phone.
SOLLUX: I'M BLIND!
PINKIE: I know you have ways around that.

Terezi falls out of the sky and lands on Sollux. The two blind trolls flail around in surprise and mild panic.

PINKIE: Oooh, that's gonna leave a mark.
VRISKA: ...Just tell me a8out the party already.
PINKIE: OKIE DOKIE LOKIE!

Pinkie takes a deep breath - and then winks.

> Let's wrap this up. Be John.

You are John Egbert and... holy cow you and Roxy are fighting a horde of orange puff-balls with razor sharp teeth? How the... when did this start happening?

JOHN: roxy, what did you do!?
ROXY: cant tell you, sorry!
ROXY: *wonk*
JOHN: flirtatious wonking doesn't make me feel better!
ALLURE: Just retcon them away or something!

You look to the little Sweetie fighting with you. You forget, for a moment, why she's here. Because you're actually considering what she has to say. You're relatively sure you can start zapping them away into a nearby star, but you're not a hundred percent sure you'd get all of them.

Not to mention Unintended Consequences™...

ROXY: you dont need to be that fancy!
ROXY: just do the windy thing!
JOHN: oh, right.

> Do the windy thing.

You do the windy thing. An immense breeze blows by you, flowing slowly at first, but quickly becoming a massive torrent of blue-tinged gusts that toss the horde of puff-balls away. The blue tornado you coalesce with your powers is soon tinged with stripes of orange, becoming a complimentary twist of multiple colors.

The tornado quickly dumps all the offending monstrosities into a lake. Without limbs, they find it nearly impossible to swim, and drown in the rippling waters.

It is at this point you realize you have the feeling again.

Of being.

But it seems weaker this time. As if it's fading. Drifting.

Saying goodbye?

Jade appears in the universe, shaking you out of your reflections.

JADE: john!
JOHN: oh, hi jade.

You quickly check to see what she's wearing. Something suitably modest, so you know which one this is without too much mental effort.

JOHN: we just beat up a bunch of ravenous monsters.
ALLURE: ...I have never felt quite so useless.
ROXY: oh sorry!
ALLURE: It's fine. I wasn't exactly here to help with... whatever this was anyway. I was trying to find you for Jade.
JADE: yeah. i couldnt get ahold of you.
JOHN: clearly, little busy with ravenous fuzzy monsters.

Jade shrugs, landing next to you. She frowns.

JADE: other me found dave and karkat.
JOHN: ooooh...
ALLURE: It wasn't... pretty, from what I hear.
ALLURE: Believe it or not, Mattie was the one who resolved the whole thing.
ROXY: what.
ROXY: that girl.
ROXY: STOPPED some kinky shit from goin down?
JADE: yeah. she... i really dont know.
ALLURE: She's her own person.
ALLURE: You really should try to get to know her better.
JADE: ...i dont know...
ALLURE: You shouldn't feel threatened.
JADE: i dont!
ROXY: oooooh...
ROXY: jade, gurl.
ROXY: that shade of red tells me that you are.
JADE: i...
JADE: john?

You gulp. This doesn't bode well for you.

> Avoid the question.

JOHN: i'm not really one to say.
JOHN: since when have i been good at reading people?
JADE: ...
JADE: *sigh*
ROXY: you should loosen up a bit.
ROXY: now really dont end up like that other you.
ROXY: dunno what got into her head.
JADE: its what id have become...
ROXY: you dont know that.
JADE: mattie told me as much.
JADE: and i basically fight it every step of the way now.
JADE: but...
JADE: can i really just ignore these feelings?
JADE: other me just... waltzed in and ruined everything.
JADE: i...
JADE: ...

An awkward silence developed.

> Have sudden personal clarity.

JOHN: do you ever think we're...
JOHN: being unfair to her?
JADE: ...
JADE: yeah.
ALLURE: ...I have noticed you guys drifting apart.
ALLURE: Like, all of you.
ALLURE: You're starting to pair off, form little groups, and separate from each other.
ALLURE: You were once very close friends, right?
ALLURE: It's just kinda sad.

You feel more than a little guilty. She's right. You let Dave and Karkat hide at your place, but you don't really interact with them too much, do you? You spend most your time with Roxy or just... doing whatever. This outing you're on now is unusual. You talk to them, sure, but when was the last time you tried to sit everyone down?

It's not like the fate of the world has to be at stake for you to be friends?

Right...?

> Make a decision.

JOHN: we're getting everyone back together.

Everyone turns to stare at you.

ROXY: what exactly qualifies as... everyone?
JOHN: i don't know. us. the main characters? whatever alternate ghosts care enough to show up?
JOHN: what i know is that we can't let everyone drift apart like this.
JOHN: we got through the mess that is SBURB together.
ROXY: or in spite of each other.
JOHN: well, yeah...
JOHN: but these ponies are right.
JOHN: friendship is important.
JOHN: so let's.
JOHN: ...do the friendship thing.

Allure smiles widely. She opens her mouth to say something but is interrupted by a sudden pink blur.

PINKIE: DO I HEAR AN EXCUSE TO THROW A PARTY!?
ROXY: yes
ROXY: yes you fuckin do.

~~~

I looked down at the party with a smile.

John really wasn't kidding when he meant everyone. He really went and got almost the entire SBURB team together for this. He was there himself, of course, entertaining people with the windy thing and all around being his amazing, dorky self. He may have not been the smartest bulb in the room, but he was one of the friendliest most amiable individuals you would ever meet, and he cared about everyone.

Rose and Kanaya were there - together, of course - but they had actually managed to step away from each other and interact with the other people around them. Rose was talking to a couple of the Dead Dave squad and one of the Jades, who was, somehow, managing to not hit on the red-robed heroes of time, a fact of which I approved. I had seen the two Jades talking amiably earlier - not as friends, but as people trying to make it to that point.

Kanaya was, surprisingly, not with any of the trolls, but talking to Jake and Calliope about the future, politics, and what exactly race even meant in a setting like Merodi Universalis. Jane was standing nearby, trying to look like she wasn't listening and failing miserably. Moments later the conversation would break up and Roxy would go out of her way to talk to Calliope, apologizing for not being around. It was clear Calliope didn't fully accept it, but she was more than ready to start talking with Roxy more.

Vriska was, naturally, trying to hog all the attention. She kept getting in John's face and attempting to take control of the party away from him, but Meenah would regularly boo her off whatever impromptu stage she had set up. This had started a long tradition of one-upmanship between the two trolls. Feferi, to her credit, was keeping score.

Karkat was busy shouting at his old best friend, Sollux, who still existed in an unusual state of being dead and not dead. The main Dave watched them with a smile on his face, understanding perfectly that this was how Karkat worked. It may have sounded like the trolls were at each other's throats, but in reality, they were bonding.

And then there was Dirk...

He had tried not to come, but everyone had insisted. At first, he had hung around the back of the room, looking 'cool' and avoiding any interaction. To put it mildly, Terezi wasn't having any of this, and had started pushing him around from person to person, telling him 'this is not the proper way to be a coolkid.' Somehow, he had managed to hit it off with Aradia, and they were already debating some kind of pseudo-philosophy that made my stomach turn.

But he was... smiling. It was barely perceptible, so much so that I don't even think most of his friends noticed. But it was there.

That was rare. Did it ever happen?

"The magic of friendship," Eve said from my side, a warm motherly gaze in her eyes.

I nodded, meeting her smile with my own.

"We were lucky, you know," Eve continued. "Our interpersonal dynamics weren't such a complete mess. We were all friends, and we always knew that. These players... some of them fought each other. Some of them tried to kill each other - and in some cases succeeded." She pointed at the Tavros ghost, currently chatting with the a Jade amiably. Vriska jumped in between the two of them and proceeded to give Tavros the best cake in the house, laughing all the while. To their side, Spades Slick was leaning against a table, dangerously twirling a knife, much to Meenah's delight. "It was only natural that they'd drift apart. Become enemies in many cases."

"Become villains..." I whispered, looking at Dirk once again.

"But they're here now. Trying to make amends." Eve smiled. "I don't know if they will. But friendship is - and always has been - magic."

"Just like how troll romance doesn't apply to us, the magic of friendship doesn't apply to them."

"But they can still learn things from it."

I smiled knowingly. "You have no idea how right you are."

Self-Absorption Spectrum (FanOfMostEverything)

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In Applejack's mind, the best demonstration of how much Ponyville had changed was how she spent time with her friends. Back in the day, they could all pick one of several beautiful picnicking spots around town, and it would've been like the whole wide beautiful world was there for them to enjoy, along with each other's company.

These days, those picnicking spots were buried under the city's unending growth, and a hole shared by everyone's schedules was harder to find than Trixie's humility. Not that Applejack begrudged all the wonders Eve had made possible. She just felt a mite nostalgic at times.

That nostalgia found itself competing with confusion as she found herself in an Internet cafe looking over Rainbow Dash's withers. "So, lemme see if I got this right. You go on this here site to find other versions o' yerself, an' then you date 'em?"

Dash flinched back. "What? No! What do you think this is, Mirror Matches?"

Applejack nodded. "Good t' know. I knew you were fulla yerself, but I didn't think you'd wanna be... y'know, fulla yerself."

"Nice."

An eyebrow rose like a hoisted guillotine blade. "Though how'd you hear about that Mirror Ma—"

"Look, the point of True Parallels is that it's just neat to see how things might have gone, or what it'd be like if I were a stallion or a squid or something." Dash looked away, her fidgeting wings betraying the casual airs she was putting on. "And, you know, maybe take the opportunity to let them know what they're missing out on."

This prompted careful contemplation of everything Applejack knew about her friend, a full mapping of the intricacies and inner motivations of Rainbow Dash's mind.

The conclusion took less than three seconds to reach. "Yer just usin' this as another way to brag about Prism, ain't ya?"

To her credit, Dash didn't even try to hide it. "I have the best daughter and the coolest friends. I am winning at being Rainbow Dash, AJ. The other mes need to know!"

The Means Justify the Ends (GMBlackjack)

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"Do ze ends justify ze means?"

Eve looked up from the interface of the Shaping Mechanism, taking in the appearance of Curaçao: a blue earth pony with a soft expression and a stylish headband, known to her as the leader of the Mean Six, one of Renee's Expedition Teams. "Ex...cuse me?"

"Do ze ends justify ze means?" Curaçao sat down next to Eve, staring into the shaping mechanism. "I 'ave asked myself zat question zousands of times in my life."

"You would be better suited to answering it than me."

"Ah, but you are ze one who needs to answer it now, non?"

Eve frowned, but nodded.

"You 'ave started a war and led your people to mass death, suffering, and torment. You 'ave lost friends. And you 'ave lost part of yourself."

Eve shuddered.

"But, you 'ave also killed a terrible man, strengzened your nation considerably, and proven zat Merodi Universalis can do what it needs to. The lives of billions owe gratitude to you."

"But at what cost?"

"At what cost indeed?" Curaçao smiled sadly. "Do ze ends justify ze means?"

"I don't know. I know I wasn't ready to pay the cost. I don't know if it was worth it. I can't. I'm too close to it." Twilight turned to her. "What do you think?"

"I zink zat ze saying is wrong, but zere is a kernel of truth within."

"So what justifies the means?"

"Ze means zemselves." Curaçao chuckled. "I live my live by zis: ze means justify ze ends."

"...I don't think that works."

"Non, not really," Curaçao admitted. "It is more of a play on ze previous phrase zan anyzing... but it carries wiz it ze idea. Ze ends, zey do not matter. A pony can be ze best person in existence and still make a mistake that kills millions. What matters is ze means - what and why a pony does what she does."

"It's all in the motives."

"Naturally. Zis does not clear zings up much, sadly. Do I lie to my sisters to better them? Do I kill to protect those I care about?" Curaçao shrugged. "Ze answers... zey change with ze situation and ze pony. But ze results, zey do not matter for 'right' or 'wrong'. All zings work together for good anyway, zey say."

Eve chuckled. "I bet I know where you got that."

"Safe bet."

"What if you don't know? Motives can be pure... but actions can still be wrong."

"Zat I cannot 'elp wiz. I 'ave not found the answer."

Eve smirked. "You seem to be doing just fine."

"I accept myself. I am wrong, I am right, like all ponies. Like you. You do not need to analyze everyzing."

Eve nodded slowly. "I think I get it. For now, anyway, I'll probably Twilight the entire thing into a whirlpool of neurosis later."

Curaçao stood up and shrugged. "It is ze plight of ze messenger to be ignored. C'est la vie."

"Thanks, though. For talking."

"I 'ave been in your 'orseshoes before. I could not sit by and say nozing."

"Yes... the Silvertongue incident." Eve smiled. "You're a good mare, Curaçao, no matter what anypony else says."

"If I 'ung my 'at on what ozer ponies said... I would not be here."

Eve nodded. "See you around."

"Likewise, Eve." She left, smiling.

Oversaturated Remnants: A Zesty Flare of an Introduction (Masterweaver)

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A cacophony of color, sound, motion.

It was to be expected, perhaps. Transit centers were by their nature intersections of many journies. And the Unicorn Cathedral was that multiplied--the chamber of the first portal was built almost reverently at its core, serving to mark the arrival spot of the world's goddess, and surrounded by various lesser chambers which either housed portals to other realms or served as neutral locations for portals to open. And the peoples--oh, they were myriad, even the natives had wonderous variation in their forms, and beyond that, beyond that were those who came through for trade or adventure or simply to see the sights, all walking the tiled floor or flying past stained glass windows or swimming through elegantly flowing waters that cycled through the installed plastic tunnels.

To the four newcomers it was chaos. Everyone was closer together than they were used to, hopping or running or 'excuse me'ing through a sea of living bodies like they'd never seen before. And yet there were patterns; loosening around eateries, crowds forming into lines when they entered marked chambers, the continual patrol of individuals bearing uniforms of red and gold. There was a familiarity in form, it was simply... scale, that overwhelmed. They stood gaping, their mental preparation barely letting them move out of the crowd's way, much less discuss what it was they were seeing.

"...wow." The youngest of them finally shook her head. "I mean... kinda puts the Argus Limited station to shame, huh?"

A loud groan drew their attention to a pair of people standing nearby.

"I told you," said the blue woman, holding out her hand with a smirk.

"Yeah, yeah." Her pink companion pulled out a wallet, handing over some coins. "I seriously thought the blonde would be the one to snark first."

"She'll have more quips overall, I assure you." Accepting her payment, the blue woman stepped forward. "You're the... Remnans? Are we going with Remnans?"

"Uh..." The blonde traveller shrugged. "Sure? People from Remnant, right?"

"Yep." The pink woman smirked. "I'm Lemon Zest, and this is Sunny Flare, and we are not married no matter what anyone says."

"Lemon..." Sunny pinched the gem in her forehead. "Seriously?"

"Just getting it said!"

The dark-haired traveller managed a faint smile. "You're Flurry Heart's aunts, aren't you? She said you would be waiting for us."

"Yeah, we're auntie Zest'n'Flare," Lemon confirmed with a pair of fingers and a tongue click. "Accept no substitutes!"

"Wait, hold on." The white-haired traveler held up a hand. "What was that whole thing with the coins about?"

"We had a bet on who would drop the first bit of snark," Sunny explained with a smirk. "Glad to see you didn't disappoint me."

"Right!" Lemon clapped her hands together. "So before we go any further, anybody need a rename? Just so you don't get confused with your alternates...."

"Well... we are team RWBY," the young one pointed out. "Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, Yang Xiao Long... it's, it's kind of our thing, so changing our name is... not something we're big on."

"Hmmm." Sunny cupped her chin thoughtfully. "You know, aside from Ruby their names are dissimilar enough from the others that no change is really needed. Would you mind if we called you Rosepetal while you were here?"

"Uh... kiiiiiind of?"

"You know what? We'll let the Rubys figure out who's Ruby." Lemon spun around and began to walk off, though she shot a smirk over her shoulder. "Come on, kiddos, time to walk through the looking glass!"

Pink and Blue (GMBlackjack)

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"You know, a more accurate name would be the 'toonforce'," Eve commented to Flutterfree one day as they were walking through one of Ponyville's many gardens. "We always call them 'Pinkie Powers' because we know a lot of Pinkies, but there are other people who have similar powers."

Flutterfree nodded. "Oh, yes, Deadpool and Bugs come to mind."

"And yet, we still call them Pinkie Powers."

"Well, Pinkies use it more often, regularly, and something about the power just screams... pink."

"I mean that Bugs Bunny does it pretty well..."

"He doesn't really have a color, though. When you think of the color for it, it's always pink, pink, pi-"

A Pinkie dropped from the sky, landing right in front of them. She grabbed both of their faces in her front hooves and glared at them. "You two. You summoned her."

"Who?"

"B-b-b-b-"

"HEXLLO!"

She came like a drop of water, depositing herself just behind the Pinkie. Once she had collapsed into a full puddle, she froze solid and shattered like ice, coming together into a bunch of jiggsaw-pieces not unlike a Flat, popping into the third dimension with a whirling tornado. She was a human girl with skin of a light blue tone and hair of a darker shade. Despite her absurd entrance, her apparel was tame - a simple, worn out gray dress and striped leggings. The only odd thing about her aside from her tremendous eyes - which were relatively normal around ponies - was a floating leaf sticking out of her hair.

"That... was a rather impressive display," Eve admitted. "Hello... uh..."

"Bluehilda!" She said, her body flashing like a blue lightbulb on the first syllable and on the second a small grassy hill appeared in her hand.

"Oh... my," Flutterfree said.

"I hear-" her ear grew fourfold "-that you a impressed-" she grew impish horns and her dress became significantly frillier "-with my boisterous blueberry bouncing blooms!" She ended by dropping a large letter B on Pinkie with her hair having turned into the petals of a flower.

"Run while you still have a chance..." Pinkie breathed, reaching weakly toward Flutterfree.

Flutterfree rolled her eyes. "Don't be silly, she seems nice enough. I'm Flutterfree! You've certainly got a lot of fun in that little head of yours!"

"Oh yeah!" She popped her head open and pulled out a twenty-sided die. After she rolled it, the die exploded into a thousand colors of bats that coalesced into a wreath around her hair. A small network of roads formed in her hair, using the lights of the bats as traffic signals. "Awww... why is it that fun always becomes traffic?" She folded her arms grumpily.

Flutterfree giggled. "Looks like I was wrong. Maybe we should call them... Bluey Powers?"

"Toonforce," Eve said, rolling her eyes.

"That can't be the technical term."

"...It is. It really is."

"Toon... force..." Bluehilda turned the words over in her mouth. "Hmm..."

"Oh no..." Pinkie covered her eyes with her hooves. "She's gonna do it..."

Bluehilda rolled her tongue, making one of the most obnoxious noises any of the ponies present had ever heard. ...Okay, so it wasn't even in the top 100, but they could still identify it as more obnoxious than most. She held her hand in the air and grinned. "Toonforce!"

And then a stick of dynamite the size of a phone booth fell from the sky behind her.

It exploded, comically darkening everything for several yards except Bluehilda herself, who was somehow completely unharmed.

Eve coughed smoke out of her mouth. "Ow."

"See what I mean?" Pinkie shouted. "She is to be feared!"

"What, feared, me?" Bluehilda put on the biggest puppy-dog eyes she could muster, which were about three times larger than her face. "I'm a good witch!"

Flutterfree smiled. "We believe you. Pinkie, you are being kinda mean. She's no worse than you, just a bit more... extreme."

"You don't understand. If the Emporium finds out.."

"AHA!" another Pinkie shouted, appearing next to them. She was an alicorn with elements of a Twilight Sparkle mixed in. She was wearing what could only be described as a mad scientist's labcoat. "The Pinkie Pool experiment didn't produce as many results as expected... Now I see a new synthesis! The Pinkie Blue!" She appeared behind Bluehilda. "Give me a strand of your hair."

"But why?" Bluehilda asked, appearing on top of the Pinkie scientist while still being in front of her. For good measure, a third Bluehilda was typing furiously on a phone a few steps away.

"I will mix Blue and Pink together to create... PURPLE!"

Eve raised a hoof. "If purple was a-"

"Shush! Emporium science isn't an exact science! The two must be mixed to create... I don't know what, but it'll be fun!"

"You've sold me!" the three Bluehildas said in unison, fusing back to one. "Where do we sign?" She produced her own paperwork and gave it to the Pinkie scientist.

"Nowhere!" Pinkie said, throwing it away.

"Done!" Bluehilda clicked a pen closed.

Eve froze the two of them in time with Seraphim. "How about we not do that and instead take some time to think about what we're doi-"

"HI!" A soft purple anthro said. "I'm Pinkie Blue Hilda Pie!"

Flutterfree and Eve stared at her in fear and shock.

"If I breathe too hard the scene explodes in laughter!"

I appeared in a flash of purple. "wait nonono do-"

Pinkie Blue breathed an dø˙ ƒ®ˆç˚ ˆ†æß ˙åππ´˜ˆ˜©....

The Leap Untaken (Keywii_Cookies55)

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You know, despite what they say, you never really escape your past. There’s so many programs and features and filmettes that show people living happily ever after when their big story adventure comes to an end. But those things are filled with wasted realness, they don’t contact our lives in any way. You can run and sprint and speed yourself away, but your life back there will always be back there, no matter how far you end up. The same can be said for actually trying to leave the world that scarred your mind and took your happy innocence.

What?

I’m telling a story, do you want to listen or not?

I like saying things weird, it’s fun and-

Fine, you win, I’ll stop using words like ‘filmette’ and ‘realness’ but it really loses something when I tell it normally.

Anyway, as I was saying: your past, can’t escape it. Basic lesson. But for me it was different. See back when I was found I had just lived through the most traumatic… few weeks? Months? Amount of time I’d ever gone through in my entire life. And worse than that, I went through it twice - back to back.

I still remember the second time too, right after I abandoned my ‘villain’ and all responsibility, making a beeline for my escape. I was… okay, so some context, it’s not really what my story is about, but here’s where I was.

I’d fallen down this multi-kilometre tall shaft with a potato, the stupid British ball I thought I trusted betrayed me, and I hit the ground deep in the bowels of the Michigan salt mines. I was sure all hope was lost, but I had my trusty gun, I had a new place to explore, and potentially forever to at least calm down over the betrayal I’d just lived through.

I…may or may not have spent several minutes screaming and punching things… heheh, well that’s just who I used to be. Oh you have no idea how much I used to be this spiteful, vindictive person there’s ever been. I didn’t give my trust lightly, and when I did you had better never have broken it. But the little moron did when he got control of the facility and I took it pretty hard.

When I finally calmed down and started thinking rationally again, yes, I may have thought of revenge to enact on him, but even right after being betrayed I wasn’t feeling it, you know? I’m not really sure why, maybe it was because my last bout of revenge ended with being betrayed, maybe it was later when the very same AI I took out helped me deal with my stress and was a root vegetable. Who really knows, but revenge wasn’t really my number one priority.

Right, well, I made my way through the old testing tracks, and I mean the old ones. The ones from back when humans actually still ran the place. Learned about the three different gels I could mess around with, reunited with potato AI, learned about what happened with Cave Johnson.



Sigh. Yes, the guy that sounds like J. Jonah Jameson, can we move past that, please?

Right, well I eventually made it back up to the facility I was familiar with, the one I woke up in, and I had starchbot on my gun, top prong, and a mission at the front of my mind. Or at least that’s what Glados wanted: revenge. I was silent back then - you know, because of the spite - and also because my vocal chords were pretty atrophied.

Wow I was a real mess mentally back then.

Well anyway, she wanted to get revenge on Wheatley for his betrayal, and talked about how she planned to do that and all that crap, but I was pretty indifferent. The real thing on my mind was escape. I’d foolishly invested my effort into revenge in the meagre hopes that I’d be able to make it to the surface, breathe fresh air again, and finally put to rest that bet about what was actually going on up above.

So as I was in one of the idiots stolen tests, I lazily went through the motions, put cube here, point laser there, break display monitor. I was on autopilot as I figured a way to actually accomplish my goal of escape, ‘cause at that point I had no idea if I was gonna get betrayed again, and again, and whatever.

My future was uncertain, so on a whim I looked down one of the smoggy pits. That’s when I spotted a beam of light, like, natural light, from the real sun. I followed its direction and sure enough found a small opening in the ceiling far off into the distance that I could make my way out through. Aperture was already going down pretty hard at that time, so I determined that if I was ever going to make an actual choice of my own, that was the time.

I think veg.0 noticed what I was doing and tried to talk me out of it, but I already made up my mind. I figured out the path I was gonna take, and my god was I getting out of there. I took Gladdy off my gun, which powered her down, but as a last act of courtesy I attached her to a sparking exposed wire. She booted up, pleaded with me and I ran as fast as I could.

Obviously I’m remorseful about leaving her there, even if I didn’t later find out that she’s redeemed by that point, I’d still feel bad, I’ve matured and know the problems I used to cause. I can’t change the past, no matter how much I want to, so we’re moving on.

Thank you.

The jump was probably the most treacherous part. I didn’t know if I could even make portals, but I was precision focused on my decision by that point. Sounds vanished, smell and taste went with them; all I had was my sight and my calculator of a brain. Before I even leaped I calculated the jump, my angle, the distance, and as my luck always had it, two surfaces to place some orange and blue.

I fell and saw that the entire thing would be perfect, I placed my first portal below me, wind whipping past my ears and pulling at my jumpsuit. The dive was going perfectly. I aimed my arm and knew from earlier testing that the drop off for portal light was about 0.03%, you know, give or take. Taking the angle, distance, and speed into account, I launched off my matching spacehole and smirked, I was close.

Fifteen feet before I hit solid ground at terminal velocity, I heard the telltale sound of an opening portal and in the same moment I felt gravity reverse and my dive was straight up. I had the angle slightly off, but I was going to make direct impact to a piece of loose sheet metal beside my hole in the high wall, so I was okay with that.

Closing my eyes and letting my hearing take over, I curled into a ball and started flipping. It actually sped me up, but the reason I did it was because I thought it’d be cooler. Heheh. My speed slowed and I knew I was reaching the apex of my leap. Opening my eyes I saw my freedom and as quick as it started, my escape ended. I burst past the loose scrap metal and ended up in the free world above.

I hit the top of my jump and landed outside, the sunset greeting me as my hellish journey finally came to an end. I landed on my feet in an old abandoned parking lot. Immediately in front of me was old, cracked, and overgrown ashphalt next to a wheat field expanding as far as the eye could see. The sun was still just above the horizon, but it wouldn’t be long before night fell on the surface world. I couldn’t believe my eyes at first. I looked in front of my feet and the grass and weeds poking through the cracked lot and kneeled down to pick a dandelion.

I took off my portal gun and placed it on the ground beside me, soaking in the reality that I’d actually escaped: no AI, no contrived plans of patiently out-waiting trust, no more tests, no nothing but a fresh start. I picked the weed and gave it sniff. It smelled so fresh, so real. I smiled for probably the first time in decades.

Subjective decades, I mean from my perspective, I was put in stasis if you’ll recall.

Right, well I was the most ecstatic I’d felt in I don’t even know how long. I picked up my gun, and stood back up, planning to take in the field itself. And just to physically distance myself from the facility. I didn’t want to look back, so as to not give my mind any fuel for nightmares going forward. I was probably right to do so, admittedly I have no idea if it would have gone better or not.

What I do know is that after I took a few steps I couldn’t help but notice something felt off, I wanted to ignore it, but it was like an itch at the back of my mind, like I was being watched. Specifically from my right side. I glanced to my right, subconsciously expecting another camera. But what I got was… something I would have never expected.

Standing there in formation was a group of four, a horse with wings that-

Yes I know she was a pegasus.

Yes, obviously I know that now I’m telling my story from the perspective of how I experienced it back then. That means you get a confused human that knows nothing about Merodi, okay? Can I please return to what I was saying?

Good.

Right, so it was a group of four, a winged pink horse, a white horse with a headspike.

Because I didn’t think unicorns were real back then, okay? Let me talk!

Winghorse, spikehead, a short red human with a crystal for an eye, and a normal looking human in a jean jacket and red vest. I almost didn’t believe my eyes at first, who or what were they?

I froze in place at that time for a variety of reasons, the first was that I had no idea what I was looking at. They didn’t seem real; I was almost convinced I was hallucinating, but when that wore off, I was pretty heavily wondering if this was a third slice of hellcake and I was just so hungry because no matter what I did I kept eating more of it.

The white unicorn was the one that spoke first, but I didn’t understand any of it. I saw her mouth move, and she brought her front hoof up to calm me, but my mind was racing. What sort of trick was being played on me, had the neurotoxins induced visual hallucinations? I kept not finding answers to the questions that were piling up, all the while the unicorn slowly approached me. Even in my panicked state I could tell based on its actions, it wanted to be as non-threatening as possible.

My eyes darted and spotted a portalable wall behind them, I briefly wondered if I could even use asphalt as a surface. But in the end I didn’t have to do anything. The unicorn stopped exactly fourteen feet away from me, still holding up her hoof in that universal signal for ‘stop’.

I wasn’t about to feel spite against her at that point due to just the absolute baffling nature of the situation, and so I never entered the mindset of thinking “I will forever deprive you of my voice.”

Right, but she was talking: to the winged horse, who set up some kind of antennae. I didn’t understand any of it until, after a short amount of time, I actually did. Bits of words came through and I cocked my head in confusion, she seemed to sense this and in mostly understood sentences explained that there was a magic spell translating for me from loose radio signals they were picking up. She then must have recognized the… well, recognition in my eyes and so introduced herself as Nord and her three friends. Ribbon, Jemma, and Marty.

Like any rational minded person, I appreciated the greeting and wanted to reciprocate. Opening my mouth for the first time in who knows how long, I croaked out a inhuman sound. Confused, I tried again and got the same lack of my own voice.

Nord understood and told me I didn’t have to speak, and asked me about the world as if she wasn’t familiar with it. I assumed she was an alien of some kind based on that, but I pointed at my throat and she giggled before realizing I couldn’t answer so switched to yes or no questions.

Through getting talked to by her I learned they arrived less than a minute before I burst out of the wall. If I had to guess I was already running for my escape jump when their dimensional portal closed and they started taking in their surroundings. I also learned that they were from Merodi Universalis and were an expeditions team. They wanted to speak to whoever was in charge, but I just silently laughed and hand motioned wanting a pen and paper.

I placed my portal gun on the ground and explained everything. That my name is Chell, that I literally just escape a science facility and that they were taking me with them when they left. Nord opened a portal and sighed, saying it was their third mission in a row without actually getting to explore, but I didn’t care, I had my out and with a pop and a flash I left the world behind me.

Yeah.

No, I never went back.

The moral? Not every story has a moral, this isn’t cartoon network, this is my life.

Oh, right, sorry, what I meant by never being able to escape your past is because when you’re in the multiverse you always come across signs of your old life. People defining you off of where you’re from, finding different versions of yourself, stuff like that. It just goes to show that even if I never saw my Glados or Wheatley ever again, and probably won’t since it’s incredibly likely that because I never faced off against him, my Aperture melted down and blew up.

It’s just the way of things, you know? You do so much to escape, and then you learn you’re from a popular video game and the stigma that you’re an alternate version of said video game character, one that made different decisions, well it’s something you can’t ever really leave behind.

Not that I’m complaining obviously-

Well, I didn’t mean to sound like I was, anyway, that’s all I wanted to talk about.

Because it’s been on my mind recently, I don’t know, you’re my friends, you should just respect that sometimes I want to talk about how I got involved with MU.

Thanks, and yeah, I’m pretty hungry, I’ll buy.

Data Entry RA-19 (Mal Masque)

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ACCESSING PERSONAL ARCHIVES
ENTER PASSCODE: **********
PASSCODE ACCEPTED, WELCOME HEAD OF SCIENCE, DR. KLEIN.
OPEN NEW DATA ENTRY LOG - RA-19-A
ENTRY LOG OPENED

~~~

Today, we have stepped forth where the abstract concept of ‘God’ fears to tread. After failure after failure of tests, along with heaps of dead lobotomites and malfunctioning drones, Project RA-19, codenamed: “The Reality Auger”, has finally yielded a successful test. Through the proper arrangement of particles and bosons and the sufficient energy output provided by the recently acquired remnants of Zeta technology, we have managed a breach in the fabric of the universe and peered beyond the other side. Dr. O and Dr. Boros had their doubts, even suggesting that we may have run the risk of repeating the errors of our predecessors and wipe out the facility along with the 67.412 square mile area surrounding it; but, once again, my ingenuity has proven to be the greatest gift in the fields of scienceology and dimensionology. Yes, there were a few more scorch marks and fried machines than would be satisfying, but you cannot successfully create a nuclear detonation without splitting a few atoms.

Though the connection to the other side of the dimensional veil was blurred and difficult to perceive (Dr. Boros described it as a CTV suffering from a poor connection with static obscuring the view, as though he thought I was not paying attention, the ignorant buffoon), but we were able to perceive something definite. Flora and fauna of both familiar and unfamiliar categories were documented from first observation, but due to a lack of a stable gateway to bridge our two realities, samples cannot be claimed for future study. Further developments may be needed to achieve full dimensional travel via “The Reality Auger” or a subsidiary device that has yet to be developed. Perhaps another recovery effort into the Dome to retrieve the stolen data should be added to our parameters. The mad brain is likely to have something we can use to truly create a stable bridge.

Continuing off the observations from our initial viewing of this secondary reality, my colleagues and I have deduced that it bears a heavy similarity to our own Earth in a more primitive state, as it does not showcase any signs of damage from radioactive fallout or nuclear decay, as is once again proven by the abundance of greenery and nature. Dr. 8 suggested the possibility of some form of civilization further from our views, based on a strange rock formation in the distance. His oculators must be malfunctioning again to think that formations of rock are any grounds for a civilization, primitive as it may allude to be. Unfortunately, due to a power failure brought on by an unforeseen error (likely brought on by Dr. O once again failing to take battery drain into account), visual feed was cut and the “Reality Auger” was forced to self-terminate. Though our peering into another reality was brief, it was merely one step further to achieving a previously unthinkable dream no brain had thought prior. Repairs are currently underway, as is our search for a solution to the battery drainage. Until now, all that can be done is wait until we can truly achieve this impossible goal.

~~~

SAVE ENTRY LOG
LOG SAVED
OPEN NEW DATA ENTRY - RA-19-D
ENTRY LOG OPEN

~~~

After weeks of trial and error (and copious bodies bent spent attempting to breach the Dome to locate one of Dr. Mobius’ stolen projects for a battery life extender*), we have managed to restore the “Reality Auger” to peak capacity, and beyond. Now we are able to not only create a functioning visual into this other reality, but also to receive and transmit sound, in no due small part from the assistance by one of the Sink’s personality programs. The perceived window is unchanged in location from the initial successful test, but the distortion has been sufficiently cleared, and thus we are capable of truly examining the environment. According to observations from all of us on the team, the environment the “Reality Auger” has connected to bears a resemblance to a verdant jungle biome of tremendous scope, not seen since presumably the Cretatious or Triassic Periods (Dr. Boros was certain that the plants were of some prehistoric origin, but without proper sampling, we cannot be certain).

The previously mentioned rock structure that Dr. 8 had taken note of is more definite in appearance, despite the distance, and we can guarantee that the shape was not made by natural formations rather by tools. The possibility of a sentient civilization existing has increased to 84.3%, as I had naturally believed all along. We still have yet to create a stable method of breaching the window and creating a functioning passageway between the two realities, without the increased risk of tearing the fabric of reality itself and unleashing a black hole in the center of Nevada. Fortunately, now that we have auditory transmission, Dr. 8 has been releasing a high frequency encoded message through the “Reality Auger”. If this civilization has some manner of sentience, and are not merely a collection of savages, then perhaps there is hope in establishing multiversal relations.

*ADDENDUM: See information on Project BLE-1304 for further details

~~~

SAVE ENTRY LOG
LOG SAVED
OPEN NEW DATA ENTRY - RA-19-E
ENTRY LOG OPENED

~~~

First contact has been made with intelligent lifeforms. Normally, such a term would simply apply to organics (or synthetics) that have established a means of communication and infrastructure, but in this particular case, I do fully mean intelligent. These organic creatures have not only traced our signal from the point the “Reality Auger” established, but they have decoded the message Dr. 8 had created and sent one of their own in response! First contact with foreign lifeforms not from our own reality! Dr. Mobius was a fool to discard the plans for this miraculous device, now that we have ushered in the first stages of a newer, greater existence!

The message we have received from our recipients has been added to the archive:

INQUEST RESEARCH OUTPOST RATA MODUS RECEIVING, GREETINGS [DATA CORRUPTED]. PROVIDE COORDINATES FOR LOCATION AND ESTABLISH COMMUNICATIONS AND ALLIANCE. WELCOME.

This foreign civilization, designated “Inquest”, will be a most useful case study for our first foray into the multiverse. Dr. 8 is currently amidst creating another coded broadcast to this outpost, so that the Inquest may trace themselves to the “Reality Auger’s” focal point. If I still possessed the useless human appendage known as a foot, I would pronounce this being one small step for science, one giant leap for scientific unity. Until the Inquest receives our secondary broadcast, we can, once again, only wait. Dr. O and Dr. Dala will be preparing a potential speech to greet our newfound associates, though I doubt they have taken account into the probabilities of a spoken language barrier. It pains me to admit this, but mathematics being the universal language shares less prevalence in a reality that is not our own. Only the illusory concept known as time will tell.

~~~

SAVE ENTRY LOG
LOG SAVED
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ENTRY LOG OPENED

~~~~

The initial encounter with the Inquest was unexpected. While some of my far less imaginative colleagues expected more humanoid entities, similar to the lobotomites that make their messes all over the place, I doubt that they expected them to look as they did. The species were diminutive creatures of grey epidermal layers, with beady black eyes and elongated ears that draped along the sides of their heads. They were fortunately clothed, wearing intricately designed clothes consisting of an unknown black and red material, divided between something either comprised of stone or cloth. Dr. Boros suggested they may have had subterranean heritage due to their structure, while Dr. Dala, as she does with all organics, referred to them as “beady-eyed teddy bears”. While those two bickered over unimportant matters, Dr. O, Dr. 8 and myself conversed with the apparent representative of the Inquest. Fortunately, the similarities between English and their own “Common” language made communication a simple matter. Further studies on the connections of languages across the multiverse shall be made at a later date.

The representative referred to itself as “High Inquisitor Zenk”, a member of a race of self-proclaimed geniuses known as the Asura, describing the Inquest itself as a “school of highly sophisticated and dedicated innovators of science and archeotech, who sought to push the limits of understanding where others fear to tread”. Naturally, I felt a connection with these small, floppy-eared flesh creatures. The “Reality Auger” had tapped into their reality, to which they had dubbed ‘Tyria’, the name for both the planet they resided on, and the largest supercontinent they inhabit, and specifically in a region with a prominently sized jungle that Zenk referred to as “Maguuma”. He had made an aside comment about the region being apt for those looking to keep to themselves and be left alone for research and experimentation, a stance that I and my fellows on the Big MT Science Board share sentiment with.

The remainder of the initial contact had been spent testing each others’ intellect (the little flesh-bag thought that my intellect was inferior simply because my prior body was human, a species which also inhabited his planet, to our surprise) with various logic puzzles and queries about immediate technology. All that has been derived from these conversations (along with a series of personal notes by myself and my fellow scientists) have been included in a separate data entry.* Contact had concluded with Zenk making a promise to establish a laboratory and attempt to duplicate the “Reality Auger”. With our combined intellects and integration of technology, we may finally succeed in creating a stable gateway between our realities.

ADDENDUM: See Data Entry Supplement - RA-19-F.1

~~~

SAVE ENTRY LOG
LOG SAVED
OPEN NEW DATA ENTRY - RA-19-H
ENTRY LOG OPENED

~~~

Technological integration has proven to be absurdly difficult. When we first made contact with the Inquest and they established their field laboratory, they had neglected to inform us of the actual level of their technological development. According to Zenk, while their technology was of an as-of-yet unexplained method known as “Spell Matrices” and “Eternal Alchemic Fomulae”, the remainder of the civilized societies have only recently entered the industrial era. Integrating advanced fusion reactors and fission-powered coolant tanks with a steam-powered engine and shiny rocks is not a viable method for our experimentations. We might as well be trying to recreate the Manhattan Project with cardboard tubes and a spatula.

The only ones who don’t seem discouraged are the Inquest, they simply seem to be treating it as a minor hiccup. Zenk has informed me that two-way transportational gateways are a simplistic science for his species, making all these wild and erratic claims that his kind were responsible for creating a network of Gates across their entire planet for instantaneous transport, using - I cannot believe I’m even considering this as a scientific factor - leylines of natural energy and concentrated magic. It seems that I was far too hasty to refer to the Inquest as intelligent if they believe in such fictitious concepts as magic, furthermore conjoin them with the far more legitimate fields of research of science. I’m not even sure Zenk has a degree, let alone the fifty that I possess in scienceology and ideaology alone. “Geosynthetic Meta-physics” doesn’t even sound like a real field of study, for science’s sake! No matter, Dr. O and Dr. 8 are currently working alongside Zenk’s top researchers (whose names are so ridiculous I believe it irrelevant to add to this document) to integrate our technology utilizing the soundwaves that had established our initial contact. Should this succeed, then I declare this a first step in a new field of study for technological integration: Nucleohexology. I should ask Dr. Dala to check if the printers are fully stocked with paper and ink, then check for a vacant space on my wall of numerous diplomas. In the event this all succeeds, of course.

~~~

SAVE ENTRY LOG
ENTRY LOG SAVED
OPEN NEW DATA ENTRY - RA-19-K
ENTRY LOG OPENED

~~~

In all my years of scientific study, as both a flesh and blood human being (disgusting as it is to reminisce on that) and a brain in a floating mechanical cockpit filled with membrane gel, I never believed I would experience a Resonance Cascade. Not simply observe it, but actually experience being pulled through the very fabric of reality and deposited in an entirely new plane of existence. The sensation was far from pleasant, which surprised me immensely due to the lack of any nerve endings on my being. Yet, even in my immense and scientific vocabulary, I cannot even think of a proper way to describe it.

To properly explain what had happened, I shall explain from the beginning.

After months of attempting to properly integrate our technology, and allowing the Inquest researchers to duplicate our own blueprints for the “Reality Auger”, we had finally managed to achieve successful results. Zenk’s researchers had been able to find a proper frequency of their matrices that was akin to gamma radiation, thus making the process immensely more easy. Would have been simpler if their society was still more developed instead of having only recently moved on from clockwork engineering. Regardless, our penultimate test was about to commence when things went awry on both of our ends. Dr. Mobius had somehow taken notice of our experiments and sent a swarm of his Robo-Scorpions to destroy the “Reality Auger”, and us with it. Meanwhile, the Rata Modus laboratory had been attacked by an external force that Zenk had referred to as “The Pact”, and was slaughtering their scientists and security. My memory banks have reached an error at this point, but Dr. 8 was able to provide his input on what had happened.

One of the Robo-Scorpions had fired a bolt of concentrated electricity directly at the main console linked to the “Reality Auger”, which had resulted in a total system overload, while some similar overload occurred on the other side of the gateway. The surge of power had resulted in a vacuum opening up in the very fabric of reality itself, pulling the “Reality Auger”, the knock-off at Rata Modus, Zenk, and myself along with it. All that remained was a crater, much like the rest of the Big MT Research Facility. I remember nothing else of the experience, aside from the sensation of traversing through reality on a near molecular level.

I do not know how long it took me to reactivate my systems, but I had fortunately sustained no damage. Once my visual receptors had been restored, I had discovered that I had been transported to an entirely new location. Not Big MT, not Rata Modus, not anywhere familiar in the slightest. I had been transported inside of an advanced technological facility, operating on advanced electricity and even small traces of nuclear energy. The devices inside were exceedingly advanced, maybe even meeting the standards of what we created at Big MT, yet I could not determine the power sources of most of them. By the time Zenk had awakened, I had taken notice of two things, one important and the other slightly less so: the “Reality Auger” had been reduced to rubble, and Zenk was missing one of his limbs and producing fluids at an alarming rate. Despite my many doctorates and diplomas, I am no medical expert, so the most that could be done for the flesh creature I could manage was keep pressure on the wound with one of my monitors. Zenk was less than appreciative of this; I decidedly less so when he obscured one of my monitors with his red fluids. Disgusting organics.

Zenk’s screaming about his missing limb had attracted attention, as we encountered a new lifeform. A human, much to my own surprise. A human scientist, judging by the lab coat he was wearing. The human reacted as Zenk had been and was screaming, the combined sensation of these organic noises was making my gel boil. Over the noises, I took notice of other unique things about this human scientist. His skin was an unusually yellow hue, the color akin to either unpolished gold or possibly urine, his head was large and seemed to be unusually flat, and in the center of his forehead was a large and metallic letter ‘N’. The multiverse is a strange place where such things are the norm apparently. After Zenk had temporarily ceased his screamings (I am told by Dr. Dala and Dr. Boros this is a state of organics known as “anemic blood loss”, as though it is actually a thing), I initiated greeting protocols with this human, revealing myself and Zenk as explorers from another universe. I had not expected the response to be “again?”.

The scientist introduced himself as Dr. Neo Cortex, robotologist and biologist supreme, and had confessed to have been familiar with multiversal travel. Apparently the room we had been transported into as a result of the Resonance Cascade was a chamber containing an inactive machine, Dr. Cortex, referred to as the “Psychatron”, a machine that allowed for complete inter-dimensional translation. Dr. Cortex had only used it three times since its creation, due to both the immense energy required to activate it, and an unrelated catastrophe that he refused to comment on, only mentioning something about a “retching band kook”. Dr. Cortex and I spent the next few hours conversing about our areas of research and the happenstances that resulted in our transportation. I believe that Dr. Cortex and Dr. Boros would get along well, as both seem to be particularly well-versed in the fields of animalogy and biochemistry. Dr. Cortex himself showcased his greatest invention, the “Evolvo-Ray”, which he claimed had the potential to evolve any animal species to human levels of intelligence and genetic structure. I initially found this preposterous, but then I saw one of his creations walking around. I never expected to see a koala with that dense of a muscular structure, let alone one so huge.

Several hours into the discussion, an assistant of Dr. Cortex’s, a hideous-looking human with a missile protruding from his skull, that an operation was successful. I had no idea what he was talking about when I saw Zenk emerge behind him with a mechanical prosthetic arm. My understanding of facial expressions has decreased over the decades, but he was either extremely irritated or had an urge to relieve himself. His reaction of throwing a wrench at one of my monitors suggested it was the former. Once we had all properly situated ourselves, Zenk and I conversed with Dr. Cortex about multiversal travel and how to best integrate our technologies in a way that benefits all of our sciences, to which he happily agreed. The next few days had been spent repairing the damaged portions of the “Reality Augers” and integrating them with Dr. Cortex’s own “Psychatron”. Fortunately for us all, Dr. Cortex’s own technology was compatible in every sense, utilizing advanced machinery with the nuclear reactors of my RA-19 parts, and providing functioning power sources in the form of highly energized minerals for Zenk’s Inquest technology. The variables for this to have been an event in our favor were too high to properly calibrate. Soon, all three devices had been integrated together into a single powerful piece of technological artistry: “The Reality Auger 2.0”. Since the plan was my own, I had selected the name without necessary consent.

In yet another rare case of fortune, the first test yielded complete success, with Dr. Cortex’s laboratory translating us from his reality to Big MT, depositing us alongside the Sink and crushing a few errant lobotomites in the process. This occurred exactly twenty-seven minutes prior to cataloging this information, though the passage of time appeared to be exactly seventeen hours after the initial Resonance Cascade. Dr. Dala and Dr. O have been working with Dr. Cortex and Zenk on replicating the “Reality Auger 2.0” for usage amongst ourselves and the Inquest, building further bridges across the universal barriers.

Three universes have been explored now, and connections with prominent scientific minds have already been made. What started as a mere experiment to see what initially could never be seen has created a new hallmark in the field of scientific study everywhere. Big MT is no longer constrained to this dustbowl, now that the entire fabric of the multiverse itself is teetering on the edges of our scalpels. And with the Inquest and Dr. Cortex working alongside us, science can continue to expand further and further. A new mission goal will be created. A new field of science introduced on a weekly basis. We will understand and experiment until our thirst for knowledge can be satisfied in its entirety. This is the beginning of an era for new science, new discovery, new innovation. A new Multiversal Think Tank.

~~~

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THANK YOU, HEAD OF SCIENCE, DR. KLEIN