==>

The centipede-tree avatar of ultimate horror doesn’t waste any time hauling her up by the boot, the fetid stench of the alien mud making her vision go streaky and dark. Hot, reeking breath washes over her, but her entire body is coated ice that ripples and spikes across her ribs and on down into her gastric sack. It’s fear, pure and simple. Unsurprising, when being menaced by a monster, but it also doesn’t last for more than a second. A cold flame that instantly burns itself out, and all of a sudden she is just deeply, impossibly, indescribably tired. Down to her bones.

Honestly, she really has no right to feel this... this fatigue. This crushing embrace of endless struggle. Terezi Pyrope has not had an easy life by anyone’s standards, but so much of her thirteen or so sweeps has just been standing still. Waiting. Huddling blind and half dead in her recuperacoon, the sopor burning the hideous mess that the sun has left her eyes, alight with a hatred so layered and intense that she couldn’t make sense of it. It was horrifying--that pain or fury--but also, admittedly, very boring. Then there were the sweeps on the meteor, the endless, gelatinous stretches of time in the chaos of the outer ring, searching for... Vriska, ostensibly, but also maybe just for a chance to dry up. To disappear. Go extinct.

Terezi doesn’t know if it’s an attribute of her aspect, or the sheer psychic damage of spending so long in the company of two humans with god complexes. Maybe it’s just an inherited symptom of being conscious. But sometimes it feels like none of them are going to get out of this, alive or dead.

A truncated version of all of this races through Terezi’s head as the monster lifts her towards its gaping mouth, hot, hideous strands of drool hitting her face.

> STOP.

She doesn’t hear the words, exactly. She more gets the impression that they are being said, hanging in the air around her like sound effects in a comic book.

> STOP.

The monster freezes in place, and so does Terezi, although she can tell that the words aren’t for her. It’s still alive, she can feel it breathing, but it is absolutely unable to disobey The Word. With some undignified squirming, Terezi manages to get a hand in the pocket of her coat.

TEREZI: TH1S SUCKS

ROSE: Don’t struggle, it will only make it more likely to attack.

TEREZI: HOW DO YOU KNOW TH4T?

TEREZI: 4R3 YOU 1N SOM3 SORT OF H1D3OUS P4NM3LD PSYCH1C COMMUN1C4T1ON W1TH TH1S TOW3R1NG MONSTROS1TY

TEREZI: 1S TH1S 4N 3XT3NS1ON OF YOUR R4V4G3D PSYCH3, L4LOND3?

TEREZI: 4M 1 1N F4CT CURR3NTLY B31NG H3LD 1N YOUR V3RY T3NT4CL3S >:000

ROSE: I am devastated to report that those are really more vines than tentacles, and even worse, they aren’t mine.

ROSE: I am holding the creature with the terminal l we have at our disposal in the lab, but as I’m sure you can recall from your brief tenure as Dave’s patron, those commands can be overruled.

ROSE: So I think it would be best to just behave the same way you would with any wild animal, and make as few moves as you can, as slowly as you can make them.

ROSE: Your tentacle dreams will be forced to remain the stuff of fantasy, for now.

TEREZI: WH4T DO YOU M34N 'P4TRON'?

ROSE: The human you took it upon yourself to troll. The one of us you chose to enact your revenge on.

TEREZI: ...1 N3V3R R34LLY THOUGHT OF 1T L1K3 TH4T

TEREZI: W3 W3R3 4LL TROLL1NG YOU

TEREZI: W3LL, MOST OF US W3R3

TEREZI: SOLLUX D1D NOT G1V3 4 SH1T 4ND 4R4D14 W4S D34D MOST OF TH3 T1M3

TEREZI: T4VROS 4ND 3QU1US TR13D, BUT TH3Y W3R3 PR3TTY HORR1BL3 4T 1T

TEREZI: NOW TH4T 1 TH1NK 4BOUT 1T 1 GU3SS W3 D1D SORT OF PL4Y F4VOR1T3S

TEREZI: D4V3 4ND 1 H4D 4 LOT 1N COMMON B4CK TH3N, OR 4T L34ST 1T F3LT L1K3 W3 D1D

ROSE: As I have come to understand it, for a while at least, we were all being steered in the right direction by a debatably benevolent force.

ROSE: One imposed on us by the game itself, even if we had yet to enter it.

TEREZI: ...

ROSE: You don’t believe me.

TEREZI: NO, 1 DO

TEREZI: 1T SOUNDS 1NCR3D1BLY DUMB AND UNL1K3LY BUT SO DO3S 3V3RYTH1NG 3LS3 TH4T H4PP3NS TO 4NY OF US

TEREZI: SO YOU 4R3 DO1NG TH3 S4M3 TH1NGS TO TH3S3 CR34TUR3S TH4T SOM3 OTH3R CR34TUR3S D1D TO YOU 4ND YOUR FR13NDS

ROSE: I suppose that is a fair assessment. Although we were not our own creators. It was John who—

DIRK: I hate to break up the recap episode, but we need to deal with this situation before it gets out of hand.

DIRK: Specifically, the giant hand that is currently wrapped around Terezi.

ROSE: Is that a hand?

ROSE: It doesn’t look like a hand. I thought it was vines.

TEREZI: 4ND HOW 4R3 YOU H3R3 4NYW4Y?

DIRK: I have administrative privileges.

TEREZI: YOU H4V3 4DM1N1STR4T1V3 PR1V1L3G3S TO MY P4LMHUSK

DIRK: Yes.

ROSE: Don’t let it get to you. My father has a habit of appearing in places he’s not wanted.

ROSE: But you were saying?

DIRK: I was saying that we should get Terezi down from there before continuing our mining of the core themes in our personal narratives.

ROSE: Of course. I’ll take care of it.

DIRK: Appreciate it.

TEREZI: 1 W1SH YOU WOULDN’T DO TH4T WH3R3 1 C4N S33 1T

DIRK: Do what?

TEREZI: TH4T TH1NG WH3R3 YOU G3T P3OPL3 WHO 4R3 NOT M3 TO DO WH4T3V3R 1T 1S YOU W4NT TH3M TO

TEREZI: M1ND CONTROL

DIRK: I have never engaged in mind control. I don’t think any human is capable of it.

DIRK: What I do is completely different.

TEREZI: OK4Y

TEREZI: BUT DO3S TH4T 4CTU4LLY M4TT3R 1F 1T JUST H4S TH3 S4M3 R3SULTS TH4T M1ND CONTROL WOULD H4V3?

TEREZI: H4V3 YOU CONS1D3R3D TH4T, MR. THOUGHT 3XP3R1M3NT?

DIRK: I have, actually. And if you want to talk about it, we absolutely can. And not just that. Whatever you want. I’ve got nothing but time.

TEREZI: OK4Y L3TS T4LK TH3N

TEREZI: L3TS ST4RT W1TH—

The ambient STOP that has been hanging in the air releases. Terezi lets out a shuddering breath. She doesn’t THINK she’d been holding it the whole time, but then again, she hadn’t really been paying attention. Her feet touch the muddy ground, squelching between her left toes. She’d lost both boot and sock on her mad scamper.

TEREZI: WH4T TH3 FUCK 1S GO1NG ON

DIRK: You can make more boots.

TEREZI: 1M NOT T4LK1NG 4BOUT TH3 BOOTS, NOOKBR34TH

TEREZI: 1 MEAN TH3 M3N4G3R13 FROM H3LL

DIRK: Well, we’ve encountered a couple bumps along the road.

TEREZI: YOU DONT S4Y

TEREZI: WH4T3V3R G4V3 YOU TH4T 1MPR3SS1ON STR1D3R

TEREZI: TH3 F4CT TH4T 1 W3S ON3 SOL1T4RY GL4NC3 NUGG3T 4W4Y FROM H4V1NG MY H34D NOMM3D OFF?

DIRK: Don’t worry, it won’t try that again.

DIRK: It may be a catastrophic and absolutely hideous failure, but it will do what it is fucking told.

TEREZI: 1S TH4T 4NY W4Y TO T4LK 4BOUT YOUR SL1ME WR1GGL3R

TEREZI: DONT YOU LOV3 4LL OF YOUR 3XP3R1M3NTS 3QU4LLY

DIRK: No.

TEREZI: SO S4D >:/

TEREZI: YOU GUYS R34LLY SUCK 4T TH1S

DIRK: Yeah, agreed.

TEREZI: ...

TEREZI: WOW, TH4T W4S MUCH L3SS P41NFUL 4ND LONG-W1ND3D TH4N 1 W4S 3XP3CT1NG 1T TO B3

DIRK: What was?

TEREZI: CONV1NC1NG YOU TH4T 4LL OF TH3S3 "D3S1GNS" TH4T YOU H4V3 COM3 UP W1TH SUCK SH1T

TEREZI: 1 THOUGHT YOU WOULD T3LL M3 TH4T 4LL OF 1T 1S P4RT OF SOM3 "GR4ND PL4N"

TEREZI: TH4T TH3Y SUCK ON PURPOS3 OR SOM3TH1NG L1K3 TH4T

DIRK: Well, it is a part of the grand plan. And they do suck on purpose.

DIRK: But not on my purpose.

DIRK: It’s Rose. She is remarkably bad at this. Voluntarily.

TEREZI: DO YOU M34N TH4T SH3 1S TRY1NG TO S4BOT4G3 4LL OF YOUR GR4ND CR34T1ONS

TEREZI: OH POW3RFUL GOD PR1NC3?

DIRK: No, she’s playing the game. That part hasn’t been a problem.

DIRK: I mean she is just making incredibly nonsensical decisions and refusing to back down, even when I up the ante to preposterous levels.

DIRK: You should see some of the shit she’s come up with. I’m pretty sure I watched a vagina on legs walk by this morning.

TEREZI: 1 DONT TH1NK 1 S4W TH4T ON3

DIRK: Despite her initial resistance, Rose has gone completely feral.

TEREZI: YOU M34N TH4T SH3 1S H4V1NG FUN

DIRK: Yes.

TEREZI: 4ND WH4T 1S WRONG W1TH 4 L1TTL3 B1T OF FUN YOUR H1GHN3SS?

DIRK: Nothing. I got absolutely no problem with having a good time while we see to the boring and altogether completely frivolous task of seeding the future of this planet.

DIRK: But she really

TEREZI: YOU 3XP3CT3D H3R TO B3 TH3 ON3 TO HOLD YOU B4CK, 1NST34D OF TH3 OTH3R W4Y 4ROUND

DIRK: No, that's not it.

TEREZI: YES, 1 TH1NK 1T 1S 1T

DIRK: No.

TEREZI: 1 TH1NK YOU 4R3 JUST D1S4GR331NG W1TH M3 OUT OF SP1T3

DIRK: That’s not true.

TEREZI: >:]

TEREZI: 1 TH1NK TH4T YOU PROJ3CT TOO MUCH ON TO ROS3

DIRK: Okay, diving right in. Picture me rolling up my sleeves.

TEREZI: 1 H4V3 N3V3R S33N YOU W3AR SL33VES

DIRK: And you never will.

DIRK: By project, do you mean that I expect Rose to be too much like myself?

TEREZI: NO, 1 M34N TH3 OPPOS1T3

TEREZI: YOU 3XP3CT H3R TO B3 B3TT3R TH4N YOU

TEREZI: YOU W4NT H3R TO PR3V3NT 4LL OF YOUR WORST T3ND3NC13S. TH3 W4Y 1 US3D TO W1TH VR1SK4 WH3N W3 W3R3 MO1R41LS

DIRK: Rose and I aren’t moirails. I know it might look similar from your perspective, but human familial bonds—

TEREZI: BL4H BL4H BL4H Y34H 1 KNOW 4LL 4BOUT YOUR HUM4N F4M1LY BULLSH1T!

TEREZI: 1T SUCKS!!

TEREZI: 1 DONT UND3RST4ND WHY 4NYBODY DO3S 1T

TEREZI: WHY WOULD YOU W4NT TO B3 STUCK W1TH SOM3ON3 JUST B3C4US3 TH3Y COM3 FROM TH3 S4M3 SLURRY TH4T YOU DO

DIRK: I don’t know.

TEREZI: YOUR3 3XP3CT1NG ROS3 TO C4TCH YOU WH3N YOU GO TOO F4R

TEREZI: SH3 1SNT GO1NG TO DO TH4T, 1 DONT TH1NK

TEREZI: 1N F4CT, 1 TH1NK SH3 1S MOR3 L1K3LY TO GO TOO F4R TH4N YOU 4R3

DIRK: What makes you say that?

TEREZI: 1 DONT KNOW

TEREZI: JUST 4 F33L1NG, 1 GU3SS. 1 M1GHT NOT B3 4 GOD-MODD3D DORK 1N COSPL4Y, BUT 1M ST1LL A S33R

TEREZI: 4ND 1 H4VE SP3NT W4Y MOR3 T1M3 W1TH TH3 TWO OF YOU TH4N 4LMOST 4NYON3 ELSE, WH1CH 1S 1NCR3D1BLY D3PR3SS1NG TO TH1NK 4BOUT

TEREZI: 4NYW4Y, 1F YOU DONT L1K3 TH3 W4Y ROS3 1S DO1NG TH1NGS WHY DONT YOU JUST NOT-M1ND CONTROL H3R 1NTO DO1NG 1T TH3 R1GHT W4Y

TEREZI: PROBL3M SOLV3D

DIRK: I’ve made the decision to freehand this one. I’m not planning to influence Rose’s decision in any part of the contest. Otherwise it’s too easy, and barely worth doing at all.

TEREZI: UGH NO M4TT3R WH4T, YOU 4LW4YS CHOOS3 TH3 MOST BOR1NG OPT1ON, D1RK STR1D3R

DIRK: So you’re saying you want me to mind-control Rose.

TEREZI: NO, 1M S4Y1NG TH4T 1 TH1NK YOU 4R3 4 COW4RD

TEREZI: P3RH4PS 1 W1LL T3LL H3R TH4T YOU H4V3 B33N WH1SP3R1NG YOUR STR4NG3 L1TTL3 1NC4NT4T1ONS 1N H3R 34R OV3R TH3 L4ST F3W SW33PS

TEREZI: L1K3 4 CR33PY W31RDO

DIRK: No, you won’t. If you were going to, you would have already.

DIRK: The two of you have sure been spending enough time with each other.

TEREZI: H3H3H3H3H

DIRK: Now who’s being creepy.

TEREZI: SO WH4T 4R3 YOU GO1NG TO DO?

TEREZI: ST4RT OV3R?

DIRK: We’re gonna have to, I’m thinkin’. I’m not sure how Rose is going to react to scrapping all of her precious little boys and girls, though.

DIRK: Unless you think I’m still projecting my "image" of what I think Rose "should" do, and she actually won’t give a shit.

TEREZI: NO, 1 TH1NK SH3 W1LL B3 CONFL1CT3D

TEREZI: UNL3SS YOU M1ND-CONTROL H3R NOT TO B3

DIRK: Not mind control.

TEREZI: WH4T3VER!