Chapter

18

Jane may have stepped away from her pursuit of public office, but it’s important for any educated businesswoman to stay abreast of the political goings-on of her nation.

She keeps close watch on the political landscape. She’s got people with eyes on every newspaper and website on Earth C, but she likes to watch the human news herself. It’s just such a delightfully adult thing to do, she thinks, as she spreads out languorously in front of her television. She remembers her father doing the same all the time. Well, without the luxurious silk robe and eighty-inch TV screen.

JANE: I admit I had second thoughts about calling off my presidential bid after what happened with Dirk, but...

JANE: You know what, I’m surprised to say that this administration isn’t too shabby after all.

JANE: I was really worried that one of the candidates would naively roll back the troll population control ordinances once Kanaya got the Mother Grub up and running, but they’re taking a really hard line on this.

Gamzee, as ever, stands by Jane’s side, assisting her as she jots down notes about the political events of the day. When she asks for a fresh pen, he fishes one out of his codpiece and hands it to her, but he looks uncharacteristically disquieted.

GaMzEe: WhOa. ArE yOu ReAlLy AlL uP aNd SuPpOrTiNg ThAt StIcKy ShIzZ, mY wOmAn?

JANE: Excuse me? That... what?

GAMZEE: iT lOoKs To Me LiKe ThE hUmAn MaN iS tRyInG tO kEeP mY pEoPlE dOwN, aLl DiScRiMiNaToRiLy AnD sUcH.

Jane chuckles at Gamzee’s jape. But the strange expression persists on his clownish face.

GAMZEE: ThIs Be WiCkEd SeRiOuS bOo.

GAMZEE: YaLl ReAlLy DoWn WiTh SuBjUgGlAtInG mY nInJaS?

Jane scoffs. The downside of taking notes by hand is that one’s wrist is bound to get a bit sore, and it’s left her short on patience for the tiresome ordeal of explaining the basic functioning of a political system to an ignorant farceur.

JANE: Gamzee, please.

JANE: I’m not down with doing anything of the sort.

JANE: Some of my best friends are trolls. I have no ill will towards trolls at all, and I want them to have the same opportunities and privileges as any human.

JANE: Or carapacian, or what have you.

JANE: But there are certain measures that are, realistically speaking, necessary in order to assure that these opportunities and privileges remain equivalent across the board.

GAMZEE: bUt BrEeDiNg CoNtRoL? i DoN’t KnOw MaN.

GAMZEE: dOeSn’T sEeM kEePiNg In ThE sPiRiT oF tOlErAnCe AnD eQuAlItY aNd AlL tHaT, mAn.

JANE: Gamzee, you just don’t get it.

JANE: It’s not about “equality.”

JANE: It’s about equity.

GAMZEE: YeAh I dOn’T fOlLoW, hOnK.

JANE: You see, in a system of equality, every individual is dealt exactly the same hand.

JANE: Maybe this is an analogy you would understand.

JANE: What if we lived in a world where there were only one size of shoe?

JANE: That would be perfectly equal, if everyone had equal access to that shoe.

JANE: But would it suit everyone?

JANE: Could everyone put on that one size of shoe and receive an equivalent level of support and comfort?

GAMZEE: i DoN’t KnOw, As LoNg As It’S a BiG oLd ShOe It MiGhT bE aLl RiGhT mAnG.

Jane has to pause to huff in exasperation.

JANE: No, Gamzee!

JANE: Everyone needs shoes that fit the size of their feet!

JANE: You need to make unequally sized shoes for unequally sized feet!

GAMZEE: Oh WoRd? I aIn’T kNoW aBoUt AlL tHaT bOo BoO bUt If YoU sAy It’S tRuE.

JANE: Sigh. Yes, it’s true.

JANE: It’s the same with building laws that are conducive to a functioning, equitable society.

JANE: Some people are simply born into positions that confer upon them certain advantages, and it is the job of the government to ensure that people who are less fortunate can be “lifted up,” as it were, to match their luckier peers.

JANE: We must offer greater assistance to some classes of people than others, to ensure that equity.

JANE: Such is the case with natural troll and human birth rates.

GAMZEE: sO yOu SaYiN yOu NeEd DiFfErEnT sHoEs FoR yOuR hUmAn DiCkS aNd WhAt NoT?

JANE: Precisely.

JANE: The reintroduction of the Mother Grub changes everything.

JANE: Trolls and humans don’t have identical birth rates. It’s a fundamental biological fact that natural troll reproduction is much faster than humans’.

JANE: It’s a matter of evolution and society!

JANE: You know this, Gamzee. Your people evolved in a harsh, unforgiving world, where the slightest misstep could lead to death.

JANE: And like any animal would, your biology adapted to the circumstances.

JANE: Your Mother Grubs have the capacity to produce an unimaginable quantity of eggs at a time, to ensure that at least a few can survive to reproductive age.

JANE: And I understand that in the context of Alternian society, that worked great. Because the mortality rate was so high, only a manageable number of individuals were able to make it to adulthood.

JANE: But we have a peaceful society now, with benevolent caretakers and fair laws. No young troll is at danger of being killed by monstrous fauna. No one will be culled for being “too weak.”

JANE: But that doesn’t change your biology.

JANE: So what does that mean for the troll population? It would spiral out of control within a matter of generations!

JANE: You would come to outnumber humans at a factor of thousands, millions to one.

JANE: The infrastructure would not be able to keep pace. The economy would be completely destabilized. The market would be flooded with thousands of trolls who wouldn’t be able to find jobs or places to live.

JANE: Not to mention the issue of your life spans. Some of you will live for hundreds, thousands of years!

JANE: And, honestly... speaking of biology...

JANE: I’m not sure, if we were to loosen population controls right now, that your people have... how to say...

JANE: Well, let’s just say I think it would be irresponsible to gamble on whether or not the natural Alternian order will reassert itself in such a troll-dominated society.

JANE: Maybe in a hundred, two hundred years, when you’ve proven—and I believe you will, I really do—but when you’ve proven that you can coexist in a harmonious society with natural breeding, it might not matter so much exactly how many more trolls there are than humans.

GAMZEE: WaIt. DiDn’T wE aLl Up AnD jUmP fOrWaRd So We GoT 2314 sWeEpS oF hIsToRy Or SoMeWhAt?

JANE: With artificial breeding!

GAMZEE: i dOn’t kNoW, bAbE.

GAMZEE: ThIs iS AlL StArTiNg tO SoUnD A LiTtLe...

GAMZEE: xEnOpHoBiC? :o(

JANE: Xenophobic???

Jane narrows her eyes at the disingenuous buffoon. This is not the first time she has had a conversation like this with him by any stretch of the imagination. Not even someone as willfully loathsome as Makara could be this dense. What’s more likely is he’s attempting to get a rise from her. To get her a little hotter under the collar. To put her in a certain mood.

JANE: I just explained: it’s essential that these regulations remain in place so that the human and troll populations can remain proportionate.

JANE: It isn’t as if this is an issue comparable to racism within a single species, a phenomenon rooted solely in spurious cultural stereotypes, junk science and knee-jerk bigotry.

JANE: There are objectively real and quantifiable biological and behavioral differences between our species, which absolutely must be accounted for if we are to live in a harmonious society together, where no species holds any advantage over another.

JANE: I’m trying to prevent xenophobia!

GAMZEE: I MaY Be JuSt a sImPlE MoThErFuCkInG ClOwN NoT AlL KnOwLeDgE LeArNeD AbOuT ThE InTrIcAcIeS Of hUmAn eCoNoMiCs aNd InTeRsPeCiEs DiPlOmAcY, hOnK.

GAMZEE: BuT AlL ThAt pOlItIcAl pOnTiFiCaTiNg yOu jUsT SlAmMeD DoWn iNtO My tHiNk pAn...

GAMZEE: CaN’t HeLp BuT tHiNk It FeElS a LiTtLe LiKe ThE bLeAtInGs Of A bItCh WhAt’S aBoUt To GeT aLl Up AnD cAnCeLeD.

JANE: Canceled??????

And just like that, she falls right into his trap. There’s no turning back now. The salacious ritual is imminent.

JANE: Excuse me, I’m sorry. “Canceled”?

JANE: Are you even hearing yourself?

JANE: Who in the world gave a literal insect in clownface like you the authority to be “canceling” anybody?

GAMZEE: ...

GAMZEE: wOw. HoNk.

JANE: Oh, forgive me if I’m a bit nettled to hear a drug-addicted clown who murdered half of his friends tell me that I—JANE CROCKER—am... am...

JANE: CANCELED?!?!?!

GAMZEE: HeY. yOu kNoW ThAt’s iNsEnSiTiVe.

GAMZEE: aDdIcTiOn iS A DiSeAsE, aNd i cAn’t rIgHtLy hElP ThAt mY LuSuS WaS NeVeR ArOuNd tO TeAcH Me rIgHt fRoM WrOnG.

JANE: Yes, yes, we’ve all heard your sob story, Gam—

GAMZEE: BuT I DoNe gOnE AnD RePeNtEd, NoW, mY TaLl fRoStY MaMaCiTa.

GAMZEE: I’M A RiGhTeOuS MaN.

GAMZEE: AnD AlL I EvEr bEeN TrYiN To dO Is gEt yOu rIgHt tOo, WiTh mOrAlS AnD GoOdNeSs, AlL fIlLeD uP iNsIdE yOu As TiGhT aS yOuR tAsTy HoE bAlLoOnS aRe WiTh HuMaN mOo JuIcE.

GAMZEE: MaYbE WhAt wE NeEd iS A LiTtLe cOmMuNiOn, My wIcKeD SuCkLe SiStEr, FlEsH To mOtHeRfUcKiNg fLeSh.

GAMZEE: bRiNg ThOsE hUmOnGoUs BaZoNgAs OvEr hErE.

JANE: Get your filthy hands off of me!!

GAMZEE: CoMe oN, mAmA.

GAMZEE: jUsT A LiTtLe hOnK To mAkE It aLl bEtTeR.

JANE: No! I’d rather die than touch your disgusting clown baton ever again.

GAMZEE: YoU sAy ThAt EvErY tImE mY bIg BuStY bAbE :o)

GAMZEE: mAkEs A mOtHeRfUcKeR sTaRt To ThInK iT’s SoMe MoRe Of ThAt PoLiTiCaL dOuBlEsPeAk Of YoUrS, mY fInE dAiRy QuEeN.

JANE: UGH!

In spite of Jane’s protests, Gamzee makes a desperate play for a lusty squeeze. Jane puts up a valiant show of resistance, but Gamzee knows she has no real intent of fighting him off—it’s all part of the kismetic dance. He has his big clown mitts right on her busty bags, honking away.

As soon as Jane starts screaming, the baby does too. Jake, sitting approximately six feet away, bounces the infant a little to calm him down.

JAKE: I say would you mind keeping it down for tavros?

JAKE: He was sleeping and to be honest i think things here are getting a little blue for a baby.

Jane and Gamzee break apart at once. It’s like she’d forgotten that Jake was there at all—she scrambles to cover herself properly the moment his voice cuts through the din of sloppy, moist honking.

JANE: Jake! Darling.

JANE: Don’t worry. Th-there’s plenty of attention to go around, my love.

JANE: Would you care to join us?

JAKE: Erm its ok i think its time for tavros to be fed anyway. Why dont i just take a bottle and get him out of here so you two can...

JANE: Oh, yes, yes. Gamzee, get him a bottle, won’t you?

Jake, who had been sitting on the other side of the couch with sweet baby Tavros in his arms, remains stiff with his squalling infant as he waits for Gamzee to carry out his commanded task. The clown bends over revoltingly in front of the couch, full rump straining against his plush purple briefs, as if daring Jake to look away—and he can’t. Jake stares transfixed into the full moon of the clown’s buttocks, appearing virtually shrink-wrapped by the moist fabric, as Gamzee slowly descends, fingers trailing down the entire length of his leg. His codpiece bobs between his spread thighs as he grasps the bottle of milk that had been knocked to the ground in the fracas. Then he snaps right back up with a honk that nearly makes Jake rocket out of his seat.

Jake’s heart is racing so hard he loses focus. He doesn’t notice that Gamzee is offering him the bottle until Jane’s angry voice wrenches him back to his senses.

JANE: Gamzee! That’s been on the ground! Get him a clean one.

Gamzee shrugs, and squirrels away the half-spilled bottle in his codpiece. He walks off and returns with a fresh bottle from the fridge, then hands it over to Jake.

JAKE: Haha thanks ill just be going now. See ya.

Jake snatches the bottle from Gamzee’s hand and all but flees the room in as brisk a walk as he can manage. Baby Tavros calms down as soon as the rubber nipple is in his mouth.

But no matter how far Jake walks down the long corridors of Jane’s mansion, the lascivious honks echo through the halls like the wails of a dolorous ghost. Nowhere is truly safe. Every little noise emanating from that cursed living room shoots through Jake’s skull like a gunshot.

As Jake gently bounces the baby in one arm, he takes out his phone to text an old friend.

JAKE: Jade are you there?

JADE: yep!

JADE: whats up?

JAKE: Can we call?

JADE: sure jake!

Jade has started up a voice call before Jake can even move to do it himself. It’s such a relief to hear her voice. It’s something to focus on besides the—

OHHHH! HONK!

Jake winces.

JADE: jake!!! its been a while since you called!

JADE: is everything ok?

JAKE: Yep hehe just hunky dory over here. You know how it is. Love my lady and baby and all that.

HONK honk HONK honk.

HOO HOO HOO, THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO THE DARK CARNIVAL!!!

honk HONK honk HONK.

The sound of his wife’s rapturous howling unmoors the last of Jake’s composure. He staggers, threatening to spill soft little Tavros on his soft little head, killing him forever. It’s not safe to stand. So Jake shuts himself into the first empty room he comes across and lets himself slide to the ground against the closed door.

JAKE: Anyway whats up with you? Hows life with davekat going?

JADE: oh its great! im really glad i just went for it

JADE: all of us together... it really is the best of every world

JADE: to be honest ive never really felt like i was cut out for monogamy you know?

JADE: it seems silly to even contemplate keeping all my love for only one person now

JADE: ive never really believed a person ever runs out

JAKE: Thats great to hear!

JADE: speaking of...

JADE: how are things going with you and jane and err... gamzee

JAKE: Haha well its not so much like that for me really.

JAKE: Gamzee is more janeys side piece you know.

JAKE: We dont...

JAKE: Im not really...

JAKE: Well enough about that have you been thinking of your plans for the future?

JADE: what do you mean??

JAKE: Like you know, starting a family and such.

JADE: haha

JAKE: No really. You lot have been together a while now. You havent put any thought into the next step?

JAKE: You and dave would have some real gangbuster babies im sure.

JADE: haha im sure we would!

JADE: but...

JAKE: But?

JADE: well...

JAKE: Not ready for it yet?

JADE: thats not really it

JADE: id love to have a baby like everybody else

JADE: i mean everybodys been having them. i wont pretend im not a little jealous

JADE: but... i dont think its gonna happen with me and dave

JAKE: What? Why not?

JAKE: If you want i could give that whippersnapper a talking to.

JAKE: Get him to really man up and accept responsibility.

JADE: no! its nothing dave is doing! its me

JAKE: Huh?

JADE: theres no way me and dave could have a regular baby together because im...

JAKE: Whats wrong?

JADE: well lets just say that after all the sburb stuff its done some things to my body

JADE: like merging with bec mostly

JAKE: Have you been trying?

JADE: er... we cant really...

JAKE: What do you think your dog genes or whatever are keeping you from getting pregnant?

JADE: um

JADE: not my....... GENES exactly :\

JADE: i dont really want to get into the specifics

JAKE: Would that rule out a union of an ectobiological sort?

JADE: i guess not

JADE: but i dont think any of us are really interested in having a kid with ectobiology

JADE: it just feels...

JADE: well

JADE: i think weve had enough of ectobiology for one lifetime!

JAKE: Heh heh fair enough.

JADE: ive thought about asking rose to help us but thats so much to ask...

JAKE: What like as a surrogate? To have her carry the child for you in her womb?

JADE: yeah something like that

JAKE: Goodness. Have you mentioned this to her?

JADE: ummm

JADE: yes weve talked a little about it

JAKE: What did she say?

JADE: um haha

JADE: i dunno its a tricky subject!

JADE: she didnt say no

JADE: just that there was... stuff to think about

JAKE: I see.

JAKE: But um... i might be missing something.

JADE: what?

JAKE: Well dave is roses brother right?

JADE: yeah

JAKE: So if he supplied the fatherhood material, wouldnt that be... ?

JADE: lol

JAKE: What? What did i say?

JADE: no jake, dave wouldnt be the father in this scenario!

JAKE: Oh... oh!

JAKE: Karkat then!

JAKE: Wait... no. Im confused again.

JAKE: Arent there biological compatibility issues there? I mean with natural birth and not the ecto-whatsit machine.

JADE: karkat wouldnt be the dad either!

JAKE: I...

JAKE: What?

JADE: lmao

JADE: dont worry about it jake

JADE: look i gotta go ok? it was nice talking to you

JAKE: No please dont!

JADE: huh?

JAKE: Dont go. Please.

JADE: jake are you ok?

JAKE: Yes im fine. Its just...

JAKE: Sigh. Nevermind.

JADE: if theres something wrong please tell me

JADE: im here for you you know that right?

JAKE: Theres nothing wrong! Sorry.

JAKE: Im just—

JAKE: I feel like weve been drifting apart lately is all. Because were all so busy with our new lives and such.

JAKE: I just wanted to talk to you. Like the old times.

JAKE: But i wont hold you up if youve got places to be.

JADE: jake...

JAKE: Its ok jade! Ill be ok.

JADE: ok i really do have to go im sorry

JADE: ill talk to you again soon ok jake? ill call you

JAKE: Ok. Thank you jade. Im sorry.

JADE: Ok....

JADE: bye

Jade hangs up. Jake releases a rattling sigh.

Honk, honk, honk, honk...

> ==>
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