CHAPTER 5. YOUR 3Y3S H4V3 B33N CLOS3D

CONTENT NOTE: This chapter contains Discussions of Suicide.

The dissonant hum of struggling mechanics fills Terezi's ears as she sits, cross-legged, on the floor of the now-ruined engine room. She likes it here. The soft whitenoise ringing of the extensive ventilation network sounds, if she closes her nose just right, like the rustle of wind through the leaves of a treehive universes away.

The warm thrumming of machines at work is accompanied by blinking lights that taste like rainbow sprinkles as they flicker, but Terezi isn’t distracted from the main object of her focus — the unconscious body of Rose Lalonde, bathed in dim light, chest rising and falling in an artificially-induced slumber.

Wires and tubes run up from her plinth to the ceiling of the chamber, keeping her alive, yes, but too much just for that purpose. Something about the tangle of intravenous tubing and fiber optic cable makes Terezi think of the old stories about the Ψiioniic. Her train of thought is interrupted by metallic footfalls, and the screeching sound of a broken airlock door sliding open.

ROSE: There you are. I haven’t seen much of you.

TEREZI: IV3 B33N R1GHT H3R3 FOR HOURS

TEREZI: BUT YOUR 3Y3S H4VE B33N CLOS3D TH3 WHOL3 T1M3 >:[

Rosebot turns her head to look back at the frail, failing vessel that once housed her consciousness. She doesn't even dispatch a fake laugh to her behavioral display matrix in pity of this half-joke.

ROSE: Your attachment to my comatose body is unexpectedly charming, as well as slightly sinister.

ROSE: She isn’t going to do anything.

ROSE: She isn’t coming back from where she’s gone.

TEREZI: YOU N3V3R KNOW

ROSE: Yes, I suppose that’s true.

ROSE: Anything can happen, you can’t see the future, etc. etc.

ROSE: Except I can. I can see the trajectory the story needs to take, and thus I know the trajectory it will take.

ROSE: And resurrecting my meat puppet would not only be difficult to the point of being worthless, it would also be extremely lame.

ROSE: Not that it would be out of character for this story. We live and breathe on the stupefyingly mind-numbing, and the mind-numbingly stupid.

ROSE: But then we begin to veer toward dissolution, yet again.

TEREZI: 1F WH4T YOU'R3 S4Y1NG 1S TRU3

TEREZI: 1F 4 STORY H4S TO B3 COMP3LL1NG TO B3 C4NON

TEREZI: DO YOU R34LLY TH1NK D1RK 1S TH3 TYP3 TO T3LL 4 COMP3LL1NG STORY

TEREZI: H1S T4ST3 1N 4N1M3 4LON3 1S CONC3RN1NG

TEREZI: 1 D1D 3NJOY TH3 ON3 4BOUT TH3 HORS3S THOUGH

ROSE: I don't think that counts as "anime."

ROSE: But that's why we're here, isn't it?

ROSE: To steer this story the right way.

TEREZI: 1 GU3SS

ROSE: But you're not enthusiastic.

TEREZI: S1GH

TEREZI: PL4Y1NG W1TH 4 WHOL3 WORLD L1K3 1T'S SOM3 K1ND OF SQU34KY LUSUS TOY DO3S SOUND L1K3 1T H4S 1TS MOM3NTS

TEREZI: 1 M34N

TEREZI: MY FR13NDS W4NT3D TO RUL3 YOUR L1TTL3 WORLD 4S P3TTY TYR4NTS 4FT3R W3 WON TH3 G4M3 OURS3LV3S

TEREZI: BUT DO YOU TH1NK TH4T WOULD'V3 B33N FOR TH3 B3ST FOR YOU 4ND 4LL TH3 OTH3R M4MM4L14N W31RDOS ON YOUR PL4N3T >:/

ROSE: It didn't happen because it didn't happen.

TEREZI: 1F 1 H4V3 TO H34R ON3 MOR3 T4UTOLOGY FROM 31TH3R OF YOU 1 4M GO1NG TO MOV3 TO TH3 WOODS 4ND PL4GU3 YOUR N3W SOC13TY 4S 4 H3RM1T BOG MONST3R FOR3V3R

ROSE: See, that's more the spirit.

ROSE: Become as myth, Terezi Pyrope, the troll under the bridge you were always meant to be.

ROSE: The village chalk supplies would be ravaged.

ROSE: Townsfolk will tell their children scary stories of the terrible dragon hiding in the woods.

ROSE: If they're not good, she might emerge from the swamp and moralize at them.

TEREZI: JUST B3C4US3 YOU'V3 3L3CT3D TO 4B4NDON TH3 CONC3PTS OF "GOOD" 4ND "B4D" 3NT1R3LY DO3SN'T M34N 1 DON'T ST1LL H4V3 MOR4L R3S3RV4T1ONS

TEREZI: BUT TH1S 1SN'T 4BOUT TH4T

TEREZI: 1'M T4LK1NG 4BOUT TH3 B4S1C 4B1L1TY OF 1NT3LL1G3NT B31NGS 1N 4LL R34L 4ND HYPOTH3T1C4L PL4N3S OF 3X1ST3NC3 TO G1V3 4 SH1T

TEREZI: 1 DON'T G1V3 4 SH1T

TEREZI: 4ND HON3STLY 1 H4V3 4 H4RD T1M3 UND3RST4ND1NG WHY YOU DO

TEREZI: WH3R3 D1D TH1S COM3 FROM

TEREZI: YOU D1DN'T DO MUCH "WORLDBU1LD1NG" WH3N YOU FUCK3D OFF FOR 3ONS 4ND L3T CH3SS P3OPL3 BU1LD YOUR PL4N3T

ROSE: That approach failed.

ROSE: Without an organized antagonistic force, the planet became fundamentally unsuited to relevance.

ROSE: Its dissolution was inevitable. And our fellow victors couldn't – or wouldn't – see.

ROSE: We only know of one way to perpetuate canon for sure. To play and defeat the game, and continue the life cycle of the genesis frog we cling to parasitically.

ROSE: This, obviously, has destructive consequences. Ones we spared the Earth by coming here and starting from a blank slate.

ROSE: Now it is protected, in the steady hands of a duly-elected ruler, sure to have a boring and uneventful perpetual term in office.

TEREZI: BL4H BL4H BL4H BL4H

TEREZI: SO YOU F33L B4D 4BOUT HOW MUCH YOU GUYS W3R3 B1G T33N F41LUR3S 4ND W4NT 4NOTH3R FL1P OF TH3 CO1N

ROSE: No, I don't feel "bad."

ROSE: I don't need to bargain with the past, or question it.

ROSE: Everything that happened brought us here.

ROSE: An imperfect mechanism, to be sure.

ROSE: Rusting in points, barely functional in others, occasionally relying on the labor of strange clowns.

ROSE: As the sheer number of doomed universes our actions in the game spun off should show, we barely understood the design at the time.

ROSE: Truly, we stumbled through the tape of the finish line ass-first, cheating all the way.

ROSE: But there was no table of judges waiting to adjudicate our performance by holding up little placards with numbers on them.

ROSE: We are the observers, and we are the judges.

ROSE: We won, and to the victor go the spoils.

ROSE: If you want a hand in making the rules of this new world, then don't storm off.

TEREZI: YOU'R3 TRY1NG TO L34D M3 TO 4CC3PT YOUR MOR4L FR4M3WORK

TEREZI: WH4T 1F NO ON3 SHOULD CONTROL 4 UN1V3RS3

TEREZI: 4LL W3 FOUGHT 4G41NST W4S MONST3RS WHO CONV3RT3D POW3R 1NTO CONTROL

TEREZI: 4ND NOT 3V3RYTH1NG W3 LOST F1GHT1NG TH3M W4S 4 M1ST4K3

TEREZI: TH3R3 W4S 4 LOT S4CR1F1C3D FOR TH3 1D34 OF "GOOD"

TEREZI: WH4T'S TH3 PO1NT 1N CONT1NU1NG TH1S STORY 1F TH4T W4S M34N1NGL3SS

TEREZI: 1F LORD 3NGL1SH W4S JUST HOLD1NG UP TH3 WORLD

TEREZI: 1F 1T T4K3S 4CT1NG L1K3 H1M TO K33P 1T 4L1V3

TEREZI: WOULDN'T 1T B3 B3TT3R TO JUST L3T 1T D13

Rosebot looks over at the plinth where her body sits, kept alive, sure, but atrophied and weak, dependent on this machine to continue projecting consciousness to the abiotic enclosure keeping the realization of the Ultimate Self from tearing her apart.

Wouldn't it be better to just let it die? Terezi isn't asking new questions. Rose had first threatened suicide when she was eight. (She couldn't bear the thought of attending the funeral her mother was organizing for her beloved cat, Jaspers.) When she was ten, she put on her coat and stood in whipping winter winds on the balcony overlooking a frozen waterfall, imagining the plunge with a blank expression on her face, eyes stinging from the New York cold. (Her mother had drunk herself to sleep with the vacuum on, again, the mechanical wailing inside playing a chord with the gale outside, inescapable.) But her first – and only – real attempt was a success.

All these thoughts cross her mind in a microcycle. Explaining things to someone not aided by the exponential increase in processing power Rosebot has is tedious. Terezi's hesitation won't be swayed by explaining more of the universe. There's another source at work.

ROSE: Not to be indelicate, Terezi, but I have wondered something.

TEREZI: Y34H 1T WOULD B3 COMPL3T3LY UNL1K3 YOU TO B3 1ND3L1C4T3

ROSE: I'm being serious.

ROSE: You said it yourself, that you don't give a shit.

ROSE: This melancholy, this meaninglessness you're feeling?

ROSE: I think there's another explanation for it. One having little to do with the structural soundness of our plan.

ROSE: I think there's a psychological explanation at work here.

TEREZI: OF COURS3 YOU DO

TEREZI: YOU TH1NK TH3R3'S 4 PSYCHOLOG1C4L 3XPL4N4T1ON FOR 3V3RYTH1NG

TEREZI: 4ND 1T 4LL H4S TO DO W1TH "MOTH3RS" 4ND "R3PR3SS1ON"

ROSE: Your mother was an egg. I recognize there are limitations at play here to the human experience.

ROSE: But I don't think it requires a great deal of insight – even though I do, in fact, have a great deal of insight – to recognize that you?

ROSE: You are fucking depressed.

TEREZI: OH TH4NK YOU DOCTOR SC13NC3

TEREZI: L3T M3 T4K3 OUT MY HUM4N CH3CKBOOK TO P4Y YOU FOR TH3S3 1NV4LU4BL3 HUM4N 1NS1GHTS

ROSE: Discovering that there is a problem is the only way to solve it.

ROSE: The constant insistence that everything is as it ought to be isn’t just counterproductive, it’s pathetic.

ROSE: From one seer to another, we both know how bad you’ve gotten in the past.

ROSE: Or, if not in the past, in some past.

ROSE: I have no desire to meet that Terezi, no matter how doubtlessly sticky and charming she might be.

TEREZI: NOT 3V3RY B4D F33L1NG 1S 4 SYNDROM3 4ND JUST B3C4US3 1 DO TH1NGS D1FF3R3NTLY TH4N YOU DO DO3SN'T M34N MY BR41N 1S BROK3N

ROSE: That’s not what depression is.

TEREZI: OH MY GOD 1 DON'T C4R3

TEREZI: STOP TRY1NG TO "G3T THROUGH TO M3" OR WH4T3V3R 3LS3 YOU TH1NK 1S H4PP3N1NG H3R3

TEREZI: W3 4R3N'T FR13NDS

TEREZI: GO 4H34D 4ND DO YOUR 4RTS 4ND CR4FTS PROJ3CT W1TH P3OPL3'S L1V3S

ROSE: Shockingly, Terezi, I am not asking you for your permission or your blessing.

ROSE: I need neither.

ROSE: I was offering a reprieve from the monotony of the last three years, and what promises to be a long stretch of time going forward.

ROSE: Your life is going to be short, compared to mine and Dirk’s, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

TEREZI: TH3 TWO OF YOU R34LLY 4R3 M4D3 FOR 34CH OTH3R

ROSE: I am made from him.

ROSE: That’s how families work.

TEREZI: 1S TH4T WHY YOU L3FT K4N4Y4 B3H1ND

TEREZI: B3C4US3 YOU KNOW SO FUCK1NG MUCH 4BOUT "F4M1LY"

ROSE: I would be careful if I were you.

ROSE: The weight of what I know and you do not is enough to overwhelm a mortal frame.

TEREZI: UGH SHUT UP

TEREZI: STOP PULL1NG TH1S MYST1C4L BULLSH1T 3V3RY T1M3

TEREZI: DON’T YOU M1SS H3R?

ROSE: Don’t you?

TEREZI: YOUR CONST4NT D3FL3CT1ON 1S 4S PO1NTL3SS 4S 1T 1S 1N3FF3CT1V3

ROSE: ...

ROSE: My feelings are irrelevant.

ROSE: There is nothing to mourn if it all dissolves.

ROSE: Not even the capacity for grief.

ROSE: If the cycle of canon must continue, then it must. Some don’t understand that.

ROSE: You do.

TEREZI: 1 D1D

TEREZI: 1S TH1S WH4T "C4NON" M34NS THOUGH?

TEREZI: G4R1SH OR4NG3 4ND PURPL3 GODS 4CT1NG OUT TH3 S4M3 STORY 4G4A1N 4ND 4G41N

TEREZI: 4NOTH3R JOURN3Y ANOTH3R PL4N3T 4NOTH3R G4M3

TEREZI: 1 GR3W UP TH1NK1NG 1 H4D TO THROW 4W4Y 3V3RYON3 4ND GO JET OFF TO SP4CE

TEREZI: 1T W4SN'T GOOD OR 3V1L

TEREZI: 1T W4S 3ASY TO JUST1FY 4S JUST WH4T MUST H4PP3N

TEREZI: IT W4S 3SS3NT14L

ROSE: Ah, but was it relevant and true?

ROSE: This isn’t the same and you know it.

ROSE: We see things — or See things — the way they are.

ROSE: We are obliged to act. To save the concept of meaning itself by continuing to spin the narrative loom into new tapestries.

TEREZI: S1GH

TEREZI: 1 US3D TO 3NJOY T4LK1NG TO YOU YOU KNOW

TEREZI: WH3N 1 THOUGHT TH1S W4S WH4T YOU W4NT3D

TEREZI: TH4T K4N4Y4 JUST COULDN'T UND3RST4ND

TEREZI: TH4T W3 H4D TO DO TH1S

TEREZI: BUT NOW 1 C4N'T T3LL

TEREZI: D1D YOU W4NT 4LL TH1S?

TEREZI: OR D1D TH3 PR1NC3 >:?

Abruptly, Terezi is lifted from the ground with a glidingly-smooth effortless motion. Metal is so much stronger than flesh. She flashes a sharp-toothed grin as her feet dangle uselessly in front of the lithe metallic form of her counterpart Seer. Inspiring a reaction like this from Rose's robotic placidity has been like squeezing blood from a stone on this years-long journey.

Delicious, candy-red blood.

ROSE: I have complete recall of every sensation my body experienced.

ROSE: I can simulate, and have simulated, cherished and tragic memories in their entirety.

ROSE: They flood my circuits with feeling. More real than flesh ever could be, a direct contact between mind and memory.

ROSE: Is this what you want to hear, Terezi?

ROSE: That I can replay the complete sensory experience of my first kiss a hundred times in a single clock cycle?

ROSE: Do you want me to rend my garments and wail at the tragedy of it all?

ROSE: Play victim, damsel in distress, leak lubricant from the joints of my eyes to simulate the tears I can no longer shed?

ROSE: I know what I have lost. I have taken a full account of it. I cannot and will not forget it.

ROSE: But to cling to it as it faded to nothing would be a meaningless capitulation to entropy.

ROSE: Someone must sit atop Olympus and propagate the fabric of reality upon which these memories sit.

ROSE: That is the task we have taken on. The game does not feel. The game does not mourn. The game must be played, and we must guide those who will play it better than we ourselves were guided.

ROSE: Just as I have remembered the good, I can recall the terror that consumed me and overwhelmed my body.

ROSE: The visions of dissolution. The narrative unspooling. A thousand voices shouting contradiction.

ROSE: What value is a marriage, temporary domestic bliss, if all is lost?

ROSE: You understand this bargain.

ROSE: At least, you should. It's one that was made to leave you alone.

ROSE: Is your resentment towards my choice about Kanaya, or about V–

BONK. Rosebot's even metallic voice is interrupted by the bang of skull against metal, and Terezi's headbutt collapses the both of them into a crumpling heap of metal and flesh.

That was a step too far. Tensions that once simmered under the surface have found the catalyst for a boil. Terezi and Rosebot's repartee of words is replaced by the dissonant notes of clanging and smashing as they roll around on the floor of the crashed Theseus's central chambers, throwing punches and smashing into control panels in a crescendo of chaos.

This is more than a sufficient distraction from the melancholy Terezi was sinking into. Her senses are alight. The whirr of servos and actuators are a dusting of snow on her hearing, undercutting the percussion of their rolling wrestling match. The orange cloth she's ripping and scuffing suffuses every breath she inhales with the sweetly acidic taste of grapefruit and tangerine. She imagines anger pouring from the glassy red eyes as they roll over one last time.

Rosebot finally has Terezi pinned to the ground by the throat. A cool metallic knee is pressed hard between her legs, holding her down. A natural pause in the staccato squabble is found, and two pairs of red eyes are locked on each other. Terezi's breath rises and falls, deeply. The robot's intricately crafted torso does not simulate breath, but the soft susurrous purr of cooling fans betrays the tension.

Terezi spits out a few raspy words, gleefully.

TEREZI: 1 T4K3 1T B4CK

TEREZI: TURNS OUT 1 ST1LL 3NJOY T4LK1NG TO YOU >:]

A simulated smirk is summoned into being on the robot's face. A voice file plays in high-fidelity.

ROSE: Back to our usual stimulating dialog, it seems.

Rosebot leans in close. Terezi can smell the licorice-black lipstick, the same kind as always, applied now to synthetic polymer lips inches away from her own. Rosebot's metal fingers close just a little tighter around her neck–Woah, woah, woah.

I fiddle with some advanced speciation machinery for a few hours and then come back to this? This is the problem with lesser actors – leave them alone for too long and they get all touchy and start talking about feelings. We were passing the Bechdel test and advancing none of the plot. There were hardly any panels. That's not my Homestuck. You people are here for logic. Systems. Weird plot shit. Lore. Not this.

Oh, I’m sorry. Was that fourth wall break a little much? Did your disbelief -- until now so utterly delinquent and prone to vagrance that it’s been suspended indefinitely -- finally collapse? Go ahead and close the fucking book then. Quit out of your browser, slam the laptop closed and punt it into the ocean. That shark is probably hungry after all the jumping.

You won’t, though. If you were going to quit you would have quit before this. We’re in this for the long haul, you and I. We’ll all go down together. Welcome to ‘Nam.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, right. Passing judgement on my robotic ecto-daughter smashing the damn shipping grid to pieces. Really, Rose? Really? Our task of phenomenal cosmic importance isn’t going to wait for a dalliance. I've just mastered fine-tuning perissodactyl hooves with this machine and need my co-monarch back. Plus, what would dear, sweet Kanaya think?

TEREZI: (OH MY GOD)

TEREZI: (SHUT UP 4ND G1V3 US SOM3 PR1V4CY)

TEREZI: (N3RD)

Fine. Be that way. I'll just get a head start on my species, then. It's only the fate of a new planet on which the weight of saving the universe lies. If voiding the warranty on a complex piece of machinery is more important to you than all of that, go ahead.

I've got better things to do.

> CHAPTER 6. A Conversation Regarding Relevance