She wakes cradled in a womb.
It is dark in here, and wet warmth cocoons her, steals all gravity; she floats.
Her first thought is, well fuck. Growing up all over again is going to be so tedious.
She's read so many short stories with this exact premise -- reincarnation, and the slow erasure of the old self into the immaturity of synapses, unfinished neural pathways, preferable maybe to the madness one might succumb to after years of being trapped in a body that cannot move and fight and even focus its eyes on things farther than its own hands, that cannot communicate or be communicated with. She finds it so vexing; she kicks, swift as the thick liquid around her will allow it.
This was not a flesh wall.
Rose reaches out, cautious. The surface gives some under her hands, lightly padded, but it reminds her more of plastic than flesh -- though a little of flesh as well, if merely a thin coat over a harder structure.
Also she can feel her breasts against the inside of her upper arms.
Alright. Not a baby then. Very well. She pats herself down, to check -- no umbilical cord, limbs the appropriate length.
No hair between her thighs, and the spot feels strange in a way that she doesn't want to explore. She yanks her hands away, explores up herself.
She is not as surprised as she should be when she feels two hard protrusions on her skull, piercing through her hairline and rising into smooth, barely curved lance points.
Everyone knew the game would try to fuck them over a last time upon exiting it, she more than most. And she already knew that no matter what -- even were her own old world the destination -- she would not be granted her mother back, as her mother exists already in Roxy. She will not get her mother back, but she will get Roxy and Dirk and Jane and Jake, and keep her friends beside. The rest is just details.
The question now becomes, Beforus or Alternia?
She pushes against the nearest wall, feels the next, pats around. Being unable to find up is more confusing than it should be.
Her skull tingles strangely as thick globs run off it -- no, that's her horns. Sopor flowing down, the strange coolness of air; the surface is that way.
She finds ridges one might sit upon, pushes up, and breaks the surface.
It's dark out there but she feels the edges of the opening of the... recuperacoon was the name, she believes, and she hauls herself out. Sopor drips off her naked body in fat globs, drags strangely off her cheeks, splashes out of the lip of the recuperacoon and onto a floor she doesn't really see, but which she can guess at somehow. She glides off the bulbous outside surface and lands, a little awkwardly, but on her feet.
She ventures away from the recuperacoon, a hand held out. She steps on cloth (wool squelches), comes to an inexplicable stop only to find under her hands, a second later, the back of a chair.
Her desk chair. Her desk.
The laptop's on-off switch isn't quite in the same place, but when she turns it on and dim light throws the bedroom into sharp relief suddenly it doesn't matter at all. She's in her bedroom, bed replaced by some weird, massive insectile cocoon contraption, but the rest identical down to the articles of clothing and notebooks strewn haphazardly on the floor. Her posters now have horns.
Her screensaver is the same and her icons are the same -- Pesterchum is gone but she's seen the Trollian icon often enough on Kanaya's computers.
She sits, damp-assed and dripping, ruining her chair; she doesn't care, she needs to know.
On her chumproll are mostly grayed-out names -- her heart kicks at her ribcage -- but a few are lit up.
Some which she has not seen lit up in years, or never seen lit up before.
Ding. New alert in her tray.
-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] has invited you to join memo CALLING ALL JACKASSES --
She clicks with maybe a touch more urgency than she will ever admit.
-- tentacleTherapist [TT] has joined memo CALLING ALL JACKASSES --
CG: THANK LITTLE JEGUS AND ALL HIS WIGGLER-EATING ELVES. WHAT IS YOUR FUCKING STATUS.
CA: oh great and wwhich human evven is that again
TT: Oh, please. We both know perfectly how well you remember me, Mr. Ampora.
TT: My status is, if you will permit the bad joke, wet and horny.
CG: MY GANDERBULBS JUST IMPLODED FROM GROSS BY PROXY. WHAT THE CROTCHBLISTERING *FUCK*, LALONDE?
TT: As in, I have just emerged from what is either a recuperacoon or a fairly good mock-up, and there are protrusions attached to my skull that I am inclined to believe would be candy-corn-colored.
CG: ... OH. YEAH, VERY AMUSING. I AM VERY AMUSED. HERE IS A PICTOGRAPHIC REPRESENTATION OF MY MIRTH. |:B
CA: wwhat youre sayin youre a fuckin troll noww
CA: bullfuckinshit theres no wway youd be that improvved the univverse aint so kind
TT: It was kind enough to bring a deserving young man such as you back to the world of the living, wasn't it?
CG: NO CATTINESS. I CAN NOT TAKE CATTINESS, FROM EITHER OF YOU.
CG: I AM SO FUCKING RELIEVED YOU'RE HERE, YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
CG: SHIT, THAT CAME OUT WRONG.
CG: I MEAN, YOU MIGHT HAVE ENDED UP BACK ON EARTH. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN GOOD FOR YOU GUYS, I KNOW, AND I'M SORRY IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. BUT WE WOULD HAVE NEVER KNOWN FOR SURE.
CG: BUT YOU'RE HERE AND NOT VISIBLY AN ALIEN TO BE CAPTURED AND TORTURED OUT OF HAND, AND YOU MUST HAVE A HIVE TO BE SAFE IN IF YOU HAVE A 'COON, AND IF YOU'RE LIKE THIS THEN SO WILL BE THE OTHER HUMANS. RIGHT? RIGHT.
TT: One minute, please. There is alas no mirror in my bedroom, and while in the faint light of my screen my hands do appear gray-skinned, I was wondering if I couldn't get a better idea of my new appearance using the webcam. The settings seem slightly different...
TT: Oh, there it goes.
-- tentacleTherapist [TT] has activated her webcam! --
CG: HOLY FLYING NUTBEAST FUCK.
CG: LALONDE WHAT THE HELL
CG: I DID NOT NEED TO SEE YOUR SOPOR-GLISTENING RUMBLE SPHERES TODAY.
CA: i did
CA: personally speakin
CG: ANY DAY BUT ESPECIALLY TODAY. IN THE LIST OF THINGS I NEEDED TO SEE THIS WAS IN PLACE NEGATIVE THREE BILLION AND SEVEN.
CA: that is wwhat is commonly knowwn as an awwesome rack an kar you should be fuckin grateful to be alivve today
CA: ros in case your wweak subtrollian brain couldnt parse it youre on livve cam
She has two choices here, either yelping and covering herself and turning off the cam, or smirking thinly and arching an eyebrow.
She is even now still and forever Rose Lalonde, so the response she goes with is pretty expected. She'll probably apologize to Karkat afterwards.
TT: I had managed to figure out as much, dear.
TT: And yes, I do agree with your assessment. This is quite the fine rack.
She leans her body forward slightly, tilts her head, admires the murderous points attached to her skull. No frills, simply two elegant spears to gore people with, of a nicely imposing length without being cumbersome. It could have been worse.
Her hair is black as coal.
It could have been worse.
CG: HAR HAR.
CG: DO YOU HABVE A SHIRTON YET
TT: Karkat, if you are typing with your eyes closed... How are you planning to read my reply?
CA: or you could yknoww
CA: talk out loud in the microphone so kindly provvided wwith your wwebcam
She is possibly a tad more discombobulated than she thought she was.
"That is an idea."
CG: ARE YOU UNNAKED YET??
"No, I'm afraid not. Please wait a moment."
She covers the cam with a scarf before she stands; there's no reason to give Ampora any more of a show. She's still damp and disgusting, and the green that hasn't sloughed off her is drying; it's repulsive and is going to itch before long. She can't make herself get off the computer that long right now, though. She wiggles into a shirt stamped with some kind of highly stylized whale line art on it instead of her customary Fluthlu face, and a skirt. After due thought (mostly of Eridan's reaction) she puts on panties underneath. The bra will wait.
TT: I'm back.
TT: My apologies for distressing you, Karkat, I was in something of a hurry. Waking in the recuperacoon was quite confusing.
CG: NO PROBLEM. I GET YOU.
CG: AND YOU MANAGED TO FIX IT BEFORE WE GOT DEAD OF KANAYA, FOR WHICH I THANK YOU. BECAUSE TO BE HONEST I WOULD RATHER LICK THE OOZING PUSTULES ON THE MOTHERGRUB'S ASS CHEEKS THAN GO UP AGAINST YOUR MATESPRIT. EVER.
CG: LET'S JUST... HEY LALONDE, YOU'RE ALIVE, WHAT POSITIVELY FABULOUS NEWS. WHAT IS UP IN YOUR CORNER OF THE WOODS.
She turns back to look out of her window, gets up to peer out.
TT: For one thing, no woods, at least on this side of the house. I do believe I'm right next to the sea.
CA: that might have somethin to do wwith the ear fins youre sportin swweetcheeks
CA: just a thought
CA: wwe observvant people havve those sometimes
TT: Indeed. I was rather more arrested by the horns.
TT: What other features should I expect out of a sea dweller that could not be found on an ordinary, say, jade-blooded individual?
CA: ill thank you not to keep bringing up kan
CA: might a had lots a time to get ovver my brutal murderin at her hands seein howw i kinda maybe murdered her first but it wwas still plenty murderous if you get me
CA: an you should havve gillslits on the sides a your neck a bit an some betwween your ribs
CA: the first one should be nestled just under your breasts followwing the curvve
CA: fine as they are im told its a bit of a problem for wwell endowwed ladies a the maritime persuasion
Rose does not have the freedom to read whatever Karkat might say next. Someone is yelling outside her house. Hive. They're also throwing rocks. Hrrm.
Her strife specibus is nowhere to be seen, but there are knitting needles imbedded in quite a few balls of yarn around her; she pulls a pair free and pads silently down the darkened corridor.
She doesn't go downstairs; she finds a window that overlooks the spot the noise is coming from and peers down. It's a bit of a shock -- an unpleasant one, surprisingly -- seeing brand new people after so long in the game with the same copies of the same people over and over again.
They are trolls, one blue, one Gamzee-purple or maybe a bit lower. They look older than her by a couple of years, and bigger, even the girl, yet as she observes the way they dare each other to come up to her walls and kick, only to retreat... Hm.
"--back to the water, you freak! Oh wait, you can't!"
That is obviously the height of humor for these two. She pops open her window and leans out. She would -- at any other time -- find it, she is sure, a joy to interact with the first neighbors she has ever had in her life.
Right now they're preventing her from camping on her chumproll, waiting for her friends and family to wake.
"Hey, she's here!"
They point, take a nervous step back. Stiffen their shoulders, and come back, testing the edge of a range much wider than even thrown needles could bridge with any sufficient force.
She narrows her eyes.
She is not a seer anymore, and seer is too passive for right now anyway. The horrorterrors aren't whispering to her.
Something at the edge of her mind tickles at her, though -- something that feels horrendously, deliciously similar.
Something that twists in her mental grip the exact same way.
CG: NOW THAT YOU'RE MENTIONING IT, I DON'T REMEMBER SEEING ANY.
CG: NOT THAT I STARED OR ANYTHING I JUST
CG: THEY WERE PRETTY MEMORABLE, OKAY?
CG: DEAR HORRORTERRORS, ANSWER ME THIS RIDDLE. WHY MUST WE KEEP RETURNING TO THE TOPIC OF LALONDE'S CHEST BUMPERS???
CA: theyre pretty nice an im somehoww thinkin you aint been seein much of those on yer own kar
CG: SHUT UP.
CA: awwww come on here i am generously offerin to lend an ear to your quadrant shenanigans an youre turnin me dowwn flat a guy could feel hurt
CG: ... YES, WELL.
CG: ANYWAY MY QUADRANTS ARE A FUCKING WASTELAND. BOMBED INTO SLAG BY ORDER OF HER IMPERIOUS CONDESCENSION. NOTHING TO SEE, ESPECIALLY NOT PERTINENT ANATOMY. NOT MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.
CG: I SHOULD TALK TO GAMZEE WHEN HE GETS HIS ASS ONLINE, SEE IF HE WANTS TO
CA: gam you say are you fuckin serious
CA: come on kar dont play coy noww
CG: WE KIND OF WENT PALE WHILE YOU GUYS WERE DEAD, ALRIGHT? BUT HE WAS NEVER AROUND, AND THEN HE DUMPED ME, SAYING HE HAD SOMEONE ELSE.
CG: TURNED OUT THAT SOMEONE ELSE WAS LORD ENGLISH.
CA: wwhat that makes no sense at all
CA: i thought gam was on your side durin the last battle
CG: PRECISELY. I DON'T KNOW IF HE WAS A DOUBLE AGENT FROM THE START OR IF HE HAD A CHANGE OF HEART, BUT.
CG: IT WAS AN ASSHOLE MOVE TO GO BEHIND MY BACK. MOIRALLEGIANCE IS NOT THE CODDLING PEOPLE AND LYING TO THEM AND NOT FUCKING RELYING ON THEM QUADRANT. SO PERHAPS WE'RE FUCKED NO MATTER WHAT. BUT PERHAPS, WELL.
CA: wwanta get back together huh
CG: I DON'T KNOW.
CA: hes a crazed clown cultist wwho cant figure out faygo aint for wwashin in kar you could do so much better
CA: just about anyone wwhos figured how to use wwords a more than twwo syllables to start wwith
CG: SHUT UP, I KNOW.
CG: IT'S JUST THAT HE WAS MY FIRST, OKAY? THAT LEAVES A MARK.
CG: IT STARTED OUT SO PERFECT. I PAPPED HIM OUT OF A FUCKING MURDEROUS RAMPAGE, HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF THAT HAPPENING OUTSIDE A FUCKING MOVIE? ME NEITHER.
CG: I THOUGHT IT WAS SERENDIPITY. IT *FELT* LIKE SERENDIPITY.
CG: NOW... I DON'T KNOW. I KIND OF GAVE UP ON HIS UNRELIABLE SELFISH ASS, BUT THEN HE WENT BACK TO OUR SIDE AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHICH WAY IS UP ANYMORE.
CG: LET'S BE HONEST, I'M PROBABLY GOING TO FORGIVE HIM, I HAVE ABOUT AS MUCH SPINE AS A JELLYFINBEAST THAT WAY. DON'T KNOW HOW SMART IT WOULD BE TO GIVE HIM A SECOND CHANCE THOUGH.
CG: HAH. LISTEN TO ME TALK LIKE I'M SO SURE HE EVEN WANTS ME STILL. MY ARROGANCE KNOWS NO BOUNDS.
TT: Back. My apologies for not warning you of my departure.
CG: HURRAY, ANOTHER CHANGE OF TOPIC, FALLEN FROM THE SKIES.
CG: WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GO, LALONDE, AND ALSO THERE IS NO REASON TO READ THE WALL OF TEXT BEFORE YOU, NOTHING OF IMPORTANCE WAS SAID.
TT: I will, of course, take you entirely at your word and trustingly decline to scroll up.
TT: A couple of neighbors did me the courtesy of dropping by.
CG: OH HELL. ARE YOU OKAY?
TT: A slight headache. It's already fading.
TT: As for your earlier comments, Eridan, it appears, alas, that Karkat's keen eyes were observant as ever. I am not in possession of rib gills.
CA: youre an inbetwweener that figures
CA: from freak fake wwizard human to freak fake sea troll
CA: knockoff vvioletblood undeservvin a the exalted status you cheated your way into
TT: Oh, that's quite alright. I don't believe I mind.
TT: Seeing as it also appears I have the ability Gamzee called chucklevoodoos.
CG: JEGUSFUCK, SOMEONE CULL ME. FUCKING *FIGURES*.
CG: IF I EVER SEE YOU IN PAINTS, I WILL FLIP OFF THE HANDLE SO FAST IT WILL BE LIKE I TELEPORTED.
So, they are on Alternia. It figures. Karkat agrees with her that naturally the game could not let them go without a last fuck you for the road, and it would have made him much too paranoid if they'd landed on Beforus and the place was just as much of a paradise as advertised.
They are on Alternia, and there is an Empress, somewhere up in space, and none of the Beforan trolls are online. Rose tries not to wonder too much whether they're on Roxy and Dirk's Earth, and human somehow, or somewhere else -- something else -- entirely. Roxy and Dirk's screen names are in her chump roll, and she might not have been given any of the Beforans' screen names but she figures if the universe had rewritten her young mother and her teammates out of existence that there would be no tipsyGnostalgic waiting, grayed out, in her list.
The rambling conversation continues. Nepeta joins the chat, and Aradia, and Tavros. Rose waits.
She is not alone, she has these allies, and for all that she hasn't met most of the rest of them in person she counts Karkat at least as a friend. She is not alone.
None of them know of the quiet, deep chasm in her mind that yawns a little wider the longer no other ex-human shows up. No jade-blooded, lovely undead either, no fellow Seer.
She doesn't mind being alone, she was always a solitary child, it's alright. She will just wait, a little while longer.
Maybe it's the famed highblood instability, mining at her foundations. Irrational. She cannot logic it away.
Someone is knocking at her front door again. Heavy, hammering knocks; she can hear the door trembling from here.
TT: My apologies, another neighbor has come to introduce themselves.
TT: I do believe I will introduce them to my needles, this time around. Be right back.
They sound strong, the way the door rocks. She doesn't care. A needle through the brain cannot be stopped with muscle power. She glides down the stairs on bare feet.
"You're trespassing. I advise you to leave," she calls through the door, a last and only warning.
Only the troll on the other side of the door doesn't. "Yeah, yeah, sorry! It's just I didn't remember this hive being here before, so I came to say -- hi?"
Door handle in her hand, shoulder smarting from yanking too fast, too hard, Rose stares at the girl on her doorstep. The tall, spear-horned, finned girl in a swimsuit and bright cheerful veils, who she only ever met in passing, who she never said a direct word to.
"Feferi," she says, and then she chokes on nothing, on air.
On air and a feeling, akin to her chucklevoodoos but not -- there is no terror in this feeling, maybe annoyance -- this girl is too casually cheerful, pushy, too used to being loved.
This girl is Rose's, in a way she cannot explain.
"Oh hey! I figured you kind of were, at least honorary because of you being aliens, but it shore is nice to be able to tell!"
Feferi grins wide, baring all her needle fangs. Rose notes in a small corner of her brain that she needs to get a better look at her own teeth, see what she has to counter with.
She's too stunned to threat-smile back.
Feferi is walking past her and up the stairs to her room, as though she's been in and out of Rose's house all her life and knows where everything is. But she's still here at the edge of Rose's mind, a vast yawning chasm full of easy joy and horrors beyond the void, inextricably mingled. "This is so exciting, I need to tell Karcrab straight away -- hmm?"
"What is it nice to be able to tell?" Rose repeats, dogging her heels and irritated from it. Part of her is frustrated, confused. Part of her already knows. She doesn't like pretending ignorance. She reformulates. "What -- What is that? This feeling. Do remember up until recently I was an alien."
Feferi pauses at the top of the stairs, looks back at her, head tilted.
"We're crew, of course."
It explains exactly nothing at all. It's very visible she is not using it in a workmanlike sense. Rose understands the implication of togetherness, of a common goal, but the underlying assumptions are a huge void.
Rose sits on her bed and watches Feferi take over her husktop (she has no pockets and no sylladex for her own husktop! Thanks, Rose!) and turns and turns that faint, blinding feeling in her mind, that aurora-light awareness.
Eventually she gets her hubtopband out of the wardrobe. Feferi has logged her out and logged herself in. One nice thing: Rose now has coordinates for her own place. No, two nice things: Gl'bgolyb used to rest in a fault very close to her place; it isn't here anymore.
She doesn't feel up to braving the group chat. There still isn't any ex-human in it.
-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG] --
TT: Karkat? I see Feferi has shared the "good news" already, so I shan't have to give you a background for this question.
TT: Will you *please* explain crews to me? She is absolutely no help.
CG: I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU HUMANS DIDN'T HAVE THOSE. HOW DID YOU KNOW WHO NOT TO KILL?
TT: It was much harder meeting with someone who we ought to kill, funnily enough. As for our own hostile impulses, basic kindergarten socialization usually did the trick.
TT: Now explain, please.
CG: MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE HUMANS ARE TOTAL PSYCHIC NULLS, AND EVEN TROLLS WHO HAVE NO USEABLE ABILITY AT ALL ARE STILL RECEPTIVE. SO YOU HAD TO DO THE SAME THING WITH SOCIAL CONDITIONING? HM.
CG: OKAY, OKAY, HOLD YOUR MUSCLEBEASTS.
CG: WHEN A TROLL AND A TROLL AND A THIRD AND FOURTH TROLLS TOLERATE EACH OTHER VERY MUCH...