EPILOGUE EIGHT

Chapter

39

On the other side of the continent, somewhere along the border between the Human and Troll Kingdoms, Dave and Jade navigate a densely jungled region. Though they’re high-ranking members of the resistance, they aren’t decked out in the full military regalia associated with their positions. They’re in camo fatigues, Dave sporting a patchwork of bright and dark reds, Jade in black and grays. This is the designated attire for those on scouting and reconnaissance missions, which is the nature of their current expedition.

The orders came from Commander Vantas himself. This underdeveloped part of the border, mostly uninhabited for many miles, was unspeakably critical to the rebellion, according to the commander. When pressed on it, he’d claim the reasons needed to remain classified for now. Dave and Jade suspect the real reason is that Karkat can’t bear to put them in harm’s way, risking their Heroic deaths. But they’ve decided to do him the professional courtesy of believing his story. The way they see it, he’s finally earned a little respect by now. Besides, there’s some fun to be had out here, away from the fog of war. Just like the good old days, during their archaeological expeditions in search of Shitty Liberties.

They fly side by side just above the thick jungle canopy, sweeping the horizon with sharp eyes.

JADE: i think i see another one!

DAVE: oh snap

Dave squints. Sure enough, there does appear to be a large, rusted arm holding a torch, blurred by JPEG artifacts and covered in vines, poking out just above the canopy. It’s two or three miles off to the west.

DAVE: youre right

DAVE: another shitty liberty

DAVE: good eye jade

Dave takes a picture with his phone, then updates his report containing a comprehensive accounting of the locations of every ancient Statue of Liberty his alternate-timeline adult self once distributed all over this world as some sort of ironic, avant-garde goof. He’s spent a lot of time on Earth C wondering when adult-Dave got around to doing which specific legendary exploits in the pre-flood period of this planet when it was in the old solar system. So much time, in fact, that he turned into an adult-Dave himself. Was he the age he is now when he scattered these Liberties in one of the boldest postmodernist endeavors in human history? The thought is sobering. He can’t help but feel how appropriate it is that about five thousand years later, his work is being curated and appreciated by yet another adult-Dave. Who better for the task?

Jade readies another tactical bundle to be deployed inside the distant Liberty. It includes an efficient pack of captchalogue cards containing tracking technology, military equipment, and powerful explosives. In the event this region becomes another front of the war, the commander wants as many Shitty Liberties as possible seeded with provisions useful to the rebellion, including the ability to detonate them at any time, so that they may serve as traps. Dave wonders if his other self ever imagined they’d be used this way. He’s sure adult-Dave would have approved, being a fellow freedom fighter himself. It’s too perfect, actually. Deploying a bunch of Shitty Liberties as bombs in the service of a kind of liberty that is entirely un-shitty. It makes him wonder if his other self on some level knew they would be used for this purpose one day. The thought of his double’s selfless sacrifices against clown tyranny makes him feel so proud, he wipes away a small tear forming at the edge of his eye.

Old age has made him emotional. It didn’t used to be like this. Gotta keep it together, he thinks. Focus on the mission.

Then, he notices something. Just below him, to the east a bit. A lumpy part of the jungle where the canopy bulges upward slightly in an uneven, somewhat angular way. It suggests a rigid structure beneath the overgrowth. Something man-made. Another Liberty, perhaps? No, this structure is different, more compact. More likely a ruined building from an ancient Earth city. It seems to call to him.

DAVE: yo jade

DAVE: why dont you go ahead and rig that liberty ill be right there

DAVE: i wanna check something out down here first

JADE: what is it?

DAVE: idk probably nothing

DAVE: some ancient bullshit tucked away in the fucking jungle

DAVE: doesnt hurt to be thorough

JADE: ok dave

JADE: be careful!

DAVE: yeah

JADE: i love you

DAVE: i love you too

Jade swoops closer, gives him a kiss, then spins around and flies off to the distant Shitty Liberty. Dave watches his wife go, her tail protruding through the rear of her camo pants, swishing back and forth with a sense of unrestrained affection for her husband. He’s a lucky man, he tells himself. He knows he is. Before any decades-old doubts can resurface to haunt him, he dives through the canopy in search of the ruins. Those reservations, the tense feelings in his chest, that’s all in the past for him. He loves his beautiful, doggy wife more than anything in the world, and that’s all there is to say on the matter.

The ruins are so overgrown with vines and the thick trunks of creeping trees, he can’t make out the shape of the building. He can barely see an inch of exposed surface, but something is clearly there. He flies around the perimeter, pushing leaves and branches out of his way. Here’s something. An old window, grand in design, but broken, busted in by a huge branch that extends deep inside from years of growth.

It’s dark inside, hot and musty. He activates a small, military-issue flashlight. Bugs scatter and fly about. He scans the boundaries of the room, shining the light around. There are unrecognizably ancient, moldy paintings in frames hanging on the wall. And yet the wall seems to have no corners. He knows what this room is. He’s seen it before in films, under much better repair than this.

He’s standing in the Oval Office of the White House. Plant life is covering everything, but all the fixtures are there. Moss is consuming the big desk. That flowering mass of thorny vines is where the couches would be. And over there... is something he doesn’t quite recognize. It doesn’t seem to fit in. He steps closer to investigate, wiping away at the layers of moss and dirt to reveal a surface he most certainly does recognize. It’s a transportalizer.

Dave doesn’t waste any time. You don’t find something like this in the Oval Office and start agonizing over whether or not to use it. He steps on the platform, and in a blink his surroundings are completely different. The centuries of overgrowth are gone, and he appears to be in some sort of crypt, boxed in by walls of smooth, golden stone. At the far side of the room, something is hanging on the wall, encased in a sort of display. It’s a mounted god tier costume, about the size an adult male would wear. He recognizes the symbol. It’s the same one Jake used to wear when they were teens. It is the symbol for Hope.

He steps toward the costume, hears a “click” under his shoes. He looks down and discovers he’s standing on a large button, which has just become illuminated under the pressure of his feet. The button bears a strange, angular symbol he doesn’t recognize, but before he can study it, something directly in front of him draws his attention. Thousands of bright particles swarm from an unseen origin and coalesce into a solid, luminous figure in the shape of a tall man. The radiance of the holographic image diminishes to reveal a man in a suit, with a strikingly recognizable face. Dave draws in a sharp breath and clutches at his chest.

OBAMA: Hello, Mr. Strider.

OBAMA: I’ve been waiting a long time for you to show up.

Dave’s jaw hangs open. The legends have been confirmed. As well as several key headcanons of his. Without thinking, he drops to one knee and bows his head.

DAVE: m... mr president

DAVE: its an honor sir

President Obama laughs amiably and gestures with one hand for Dave to rise.

OBAMA: Come on now, Dave. We can’t be having that.

OBAMA: I’m nobody’s king. I’m a democratically elected representative who took an oath to serve his country and his people. People like you, Dave.

OBAMA: If anything, I should be the one bowing.

Dave says nothing, at a loss for how to respond to such soft-spoken words of wisdom and humility. He idles for a moment, seemingly waiting for Obama to follow through with his promised act of deference.

OBAMA: Hahaha, I’m not gonna bow, man. I was just pulling your leg.

DAVE: oh ok

OBAMA: I just want to talk to you for a little while. Is that alright, or do you have somewhere you need to be?

DAVE: oh

DAVE: i...

DAVE: no

DAVE: no sir i dont have anywhere to

DAVE: i mean

DAVE: yes sir

DAVE: its MORE than alright its such an honor to...

DAVE: what i mean is

DAVE: (fuck)

DAVE: mr president what i mean is im a huge fan of yours and i hope this doesnt sound fucked up but on some level i feel like ive been waiting my whole life for this moment??

OBAMA: I know, Dave.

Obama offers a warm smile. He looks down, adjusting the cuffs of his holographic suit with the casual manner of a skilled statesman. It’s the body language of a man getting down to business.

OBAMA: Now, you probably weren’t aware of this. But I’m familiar with the work you’ve done for your country in the past. For the whole planet, actually.

OBAMA: Before you moved it, that is.

DAVE: you...

DAVE: you knew about him?

DAVE: or i mean

DAVE: me

OBAMA: Oh, yes.

OBAMA: Most people thought I was gone. But I was keeping an eye on events.

OBAMA: Wouldn’t miss it for anything.

DAVE: where did you go

OBAMA: I was doing what you did back then, when the world needed you.

OBAMA: I was doing what you’re doing now, under the same circumstances.

OBAMA: I was answering the call.

OBAMA: I went about it in a way no one at the time could understand.

OBAMA: You see, Dave. No one can really see the big picture.

OBAMA: That’s what real leadership is all about. Looking at the big picture, seeing the long road ahead, making the hard choices for the greatest good.

OBAMA: Not just decisions that lead to a better tomorrow, or to make sure the next year is better than the last. Or even the next decade.

OBAMA: You have to think about the next century, the next millennium.

OBAMA: Sometimes, you may even have to leave people wondering if you’ve forsaken them entirely, because your real duty is to concern yourself with the final destination of the planet. To make sure it stays safe along the hard journey and ends up being the best home it can be for both the human race and the many newcomers to our world.

OBAMA: Doing the right thing often means walking a long and lonely road, Dave.

OBAMA: But I’m guessing you’ve already figured this out.

DAVE: i guess so

Dave pauses, pensively fiddling with the pockets of his camo pants. He has so many questions for the ex-president. He braces himself, and presses ahead.

DAVE: if you dont mind my asking sir

DAVE: i thought you died?

DAVE: well i mean i KNOW you did where im from with the meteors and all

DAVE: but from what i know about the history of the flooded earth timeline

DAVE: you served your two terms then just

DAVE: a little after that they say you disappeared

DAVE: so... you didnt die?

OBAMA: Oh, I certainly died, Dave.

OBAMA: Just not when they say I did.

OBAMA: Like I said, I was just answering the call.

OBAMA: Other brave heroes like you stepped in to fill the void I left behind. As I knew you all would.

OBAMA: And some say the death of those heroes was in vain, or a waste, since the human race was wiped out anyway. Just like they say my supposed death was a waste, a loss that humanity couldn’t endure.

OBAMA: But they were wrong.

OBAMA: Those heroes were fighting for something. Even if all you manage to accomplish is leaving behind a legacy to inspire others in the future who need that Hope to go on. Even if one of those in the future you end up inspiring is an alternate history version of yourself, Dave.

OBAMA: Haven’t you been improved by the knowledge of what you grew up to be in my time? Can you really say you’d be what you are today without the memory of him?

OBAMA: Or the memory of me, for that matter?

Dave considers the question seriously. He’s transfixed by Obama’s kind gaze and can’t seem to look away. There are times when he feels relieved by the lifestyle decision he made as a kid to wear a pair of aviator sunglasses at all times, no matter what.

DAVE: no

DAVE: but like

DAVE: thats all good and totally inspiring and all but

DAVE: sorry if this is nosy but if you didnt die when you disappeared then how did you die

OBAMA: Most of that is classified, Dave.

OBAMA: Rest assured, it was a Heroic death that took place many years after my disappearance, upon which rested the fate of Paradox Space itself.

OBAMA: There were loose ends to tie up. Baggage from my distant past. You know how it is. Troubles from your childhood tend to follow you. Even after you move into the White House. Believe me.

DAVE: heh yeah i guess so

DAVE: what happened to you as a kid

DAVE: or is that classified too

OBAMA: No, it’s not classified. Because I never even told the government about it.

OBAMA: Can’t classify what you don’t know.

DAVE: damn

OBAMA: When I was a boy living in Hawaii, on my thirteenth birthday I was visited by a mysterious stranger.

OBAMA: He was an older man with a mustache. Kind of a corny, old-fashioned, adventuring type. He tried to convince me we were related. Of course, I thought he was full of shit.

OBAMA: To this day, I’m not sure about that. Maybe he was. I didn’t think much of his tall tale at the time, but what did pique my interest was his story.

OBAMA: He was voyaging all over the Pacific looking for a mysterious island, which supposedly had all the answers he’d spent his whole life searching for.

OBAMA: During his travels, he set up outposts all over the ocean to help with his search. Such as one near where I lived as a boy. The outpost had a laboratory, an archeological dig site, a network of underground tunnels, the works.

OBAMA: One time, I snuck in there and did some exploration of my own. Somewhere in the maze of underground ruins, I found a transporter pad, just like the one that brought you here.

OBAMA: It sent me to a new realm. A place they called the Medium.

Dave does his best not to show it, but his heart is racing faster with every word Obama says. His mind races too, with more thoughts than he can keep track of. Thoughts of affirmation, exhilaration. i knew it... i knew it! his brain repeats to itself. The sense of vindication is indescribable.

OBAMA: Others were there. Kids my age. I made friends that lasted a lifetime.

OBAMA: Over the years, I would return there now and then, when I felt I was needed.

OBAMA: I made one final trip there after serving my terms in office. As I said, I kept an eye on Earth events. But I knew I could never return. Not with the work that still needed to be done.

OBAMA: But before my Heroic death, I made sure to have my affairs in order, to fulfill certain cosmic necessities of the future. Such as our meeting here today, Dave.

DAVE: holy shit

OBAMA: I captchalogued a ghost imprint of my brain. You remember how to do that, don’t you?

OBAMA: I stored the imprint in this holographic projection device.

OBAMA: You see, Dave, it was critical that I had a chance to speak with you. But only when the time was right. Only once you had made it all this way, standing ready to defend the future of Earth C.

Tears are welling up in the corners of Dave’s eyes. There go the fucking waterworks again. He says another quiet prayer of gratitude for the shades John gave him. He’s got to keep it together. He tells himself there’s nothing wrong with crying. Of course there isn’t. Just... not in front of Obama. He’s GOT to keep it together. He sniffs in deeply, with a theatrical stoicism, and crosses his arms. But on his exhale, a small, choked sob escapes. He seals his lips tight, but his mouth quivers and puckers under the impossible pressures of restraint.

OBAMA: I know what you’re going through. There’s a lot to be emotional about in these trying times.

OBAMA: Hey, why don’t we take a walk. You’ll have a chance to collect yourself. And there’s something I’d like you to see.

Obama waves his hand toward a wall, and a secret compartment opens up with the traditional stone-grinding noises to be heard in any crypt worth exploring. He leads the way into a dark corridor. They walk for some time, only one pair of solid feet making audible footsteps that echo far ahead into the darkness. The light from Obama himself serves as Dave’s torch. Soon, he feels calm enough to continue the conversation.

DAVE: mr president

DAVE: you said...

DAVE: i reminded you of the adult dave from your timeline

OBAMA: That’s right.

DAVE: so wait

DAVE: how did you know adult dave if you were from the original timeline

OBAMA: Dave, come on now.

OBAMA: Surely you must know I’m no stranger to timeline shenanigans myself.

DAVE: oh yeah

DAVE: of course what was i thinking

DAVE: anyway no offense but

DAVE: are you really sure i remind you of him

DAVE: there are a lot of times where i dont feel like im at all living up to that guys example

DAVE: a lot of times i feel like im just going along with shit

DAVE: like my buddy organizes a badass rebellion and im just like duh yeah alright

DAVE: sounds cool guess ill scout around the jungle and rig a bunch of shitty statues of liberty to explode if those are the orders

OBAMA: Rig the what to do what now?

DAVE: oh uh

DAVE: yeah maybe never mind that

DAVE: its just a stupid mission im on and tbh karkat probably just sent us on it so we dont get ourselves killed stupidly

Obama nods solemnly at this clarification. His expression makes it clear that this is the type of executive decision he understands all too well.

DAVE: but compared to that guy i apparently turned out to be

DAVE: i dunno

DAVE: i feel like

DAVE: a lesser version of myself somehow

DAVE: not lesser maybe just like

DAVE: i somehow ended up as the version of me who didnt stay as true myself as i could have

DAVE: like

DAVE: i entered this world already considered a god

DAVE: already famous

DAVE: already celebrated as a genius

DAVE: what was there left to achieve

DAVE: i still did a lot of incredible and stupid shit that i guess im pretty proud of

DAVE: idk

DAVE: something feels hollow about a lot of what ive done the last bunch of years

DAVE: or i guess about a lot of stuff in general

DAVE: its not just accomplishments or stuff like that it goes deeper i think

DAVE: like karkat managed to rise to the occasion and defend his people but i hardly had anything to do with that

DAVE: it was mostly him

DAVE: hes turned into someone pretty incredible really

OBAMA: You still care a lot about Karkat, don’t you?

DAVE: uh well

DAVE: yeah?

DAVE: of course i do hes my friend

OBAMA: Are you sure that’s all he is, Dave?

DAVE: i...

DAVE: i love my wife

DAVE: jade has been the best thing that ever happened to me

DAVE: the day i decided to marry her and like

DAVE: get off the fence

DAVE: stop insulting her by acting so casual about it like our thing was no big deal

DAVE: she deserved me being all the way into it

DAVE: she deserves everything

DAVE: and

DAVE: i KNOW this is all true

OBAMA: But?

Here come the tears again. More than a drop or two at the corners of his eyes. He blinks, and they run down his face, racing beneath the lower rims of his shades faster than he can turn away. He’s losing control now. His cool is a distant memory, like a dream he’s struggling to remember. Obama puts a flickering hand on his shoulder. Dave feels the dense light of the hologram buzzing through the fabric of his clothes, grazing his skin. It tingles, like mild static electricity.

DAVE: my bro died a long time ago

DAVE: fuckin hung himself for some damn reason

DAVE: for a little while i had a bro

DAVE: i could talk to him about stuff

DAVE: i did a little bit

DAVE: but i dunno if we got THAT deep into...

DAVE: whatever

OBAMA: You can always talk to me about anything, Dave.

DAVE: yeah

DAVE: thanks man

DAVE: i guess what im trying to say is

DAVE: i miss him

DAVE: a lot

OBAMA: I think Dirk would be proud if he could see how you turned out.

OBAMA: In fact, I know it.

DAVE: no

DAVE: i mean yeah i do kinda miss him too

DAVE: i try not to think about him much because

DAVE: well thats a whole thing

DAVE: what i meant was

DAVE: i miss karkat

Dave falls to his knees. He slides his open palms up beneath his shades and covers his face. He weeps quietly as Obama looks down on him, smiling patiently, understandingly.

DAVE: i think i messed up

DAVE: i didnt do the right thing a long time ago and now

DAVE: even though i love jade

DAVE: i feel like im living a lie

DAVE: i try not to even think any of this stuff but now that im letting myself not only think it but say it i feel like im panicking

DAVE: i dont know what to do

DAVE: i dont...

He’s hyperventilating now but catches himself. He has to calm down. This is no way to behave in front of a president. He collects himself, starts breathing steadily, and looks up.

DAVE: mr president

DAVE: can you keep a secret

OBAMA: Yes I can, Dave.

OBAMA: These days, keeping secrets is practically all I ever do down here.

DAVE: i think

He runs a hand through his hair, and looks back down.

DAVE: i think im gay

Obama purses his lips in that trademark way of his—thoughtful, serious, contemplative. He nods slowly, letting the silence grow, as if considering precisely how to deliver the most perfect arrangement of words any man has uttered in human history.

OBAMA: Over the course of our lives, we all tend to believe we’re a lot of different things.

OBAMA: One year, you’re this. Another, you’re that. Later in life, you start pushing forty, and start worrying you’ve been believing the wrong thing about yourself the whole time.

OBAMA: I’ve had my share of doubts about all that, just like any other man.

OBAMA: And I’ve had plenty of the same kind of struggles as you, Dave.

DAVE: wait

DAVE: you...

Obama nods, smiles wistfully. Dave arches his eyebrows high above his shades. They stare at each other, and in the look they exchange, they seem to say all that needs to be said between two grown men on the matter.

OBAMA: Identity, sexuality, gender, all that stuff is about as illusory as I am, standing before you here.

OBAMA: Is this the real me? Who can really say.

OBAMA: Depends on what real means, or what I even mean when I say “me.”

OBAMA: For that matter, are you even the real you?

OBAMA: Haven’t you been asking yourself that question one way or another all your life?

DAVE: yeah

OBAMA: Believing is the key to understanding the truth underlying the words, the truth underlying the ideas they represent, and the truth underlying who we are as individuals.

OBAMA: The power of belief, the power of Hope, that’s what endows that which is intangible, ephemeral, or uncertain with a sense of reality.

OBAMA: It brings focus to the insubstantial, the mirages of the mind, the multiplicity of what is possible, of what could be, and isolates it—concentrates it—to turn it into that which is.

OBAMA: And the result of that, Dave, is what we call truth.

Dave is still crying, but he doesn’t care anymore. The tears are flowing down his face, but he won’t look away. He’s perfectly unashamed of his vulnerability at this moment. The only thing he knows is he needs to listen carefully to every precious syllable. To listen with his ears, his heart, his entire being.

OBAMA: The truth of oneself can be very specific, if one wills it to be.

OBAMA: Statements such as, I am gay, I am straight, I am a man, I am a woman, these are statements about an individual that gain strength through the power of belief we invest in them.

OBAMA: But there is another more generalized truth about a person that can emerge when such conviction is absent. When the partitions of the mind dissolve, and the boundaries between everything you are now and everything you might have become begin to fade away.

DAVE: oh

DAVE: youre talking about that ultimate self stuff

OBAMA: I am indeed, Dave.

DAVE: wow

DAVE: havent heard about that in so long

DAVE: rose used to talk about it all the time

DAVE: dirk would rant about it a lot too

OBAMA: He sure did.

DAVE: wait

DAVE: you mentioned dirk earlier

DAVE: did you like

DAVE: actually KNOW him??

OBAMA: Oh... we’ve met on a few occasions.

Dave blinks.

DAVE: thats

DAVE: how is that possible

DAVE: he killed himself

OBAMA: Did he, now?

DAVE: are you saying thats not what happened

OBAMA: I’m saying you know as well as I that it’s awfully hard to pin down exactly what happened to whom, depending on which frame of reference we might be talking about.

DAVE: wow

DAVE: so like... he...

OBAMA: I learned a lot from him.

OBAMA: Met up with him as a young man, as I was just beginning to explore the wonders of my session.

OBAMA: He taught me about many things. Combat, philosophy, life, love...

DAVE: love???

DAVE: hold on are you saying

DAVE: that...

OBAMA: Now, Dave. I can’t go around disclosing everything under the sun. Plenty of this is still under the umbrella of executive privilege.

OBAMA: Loose lips sink ships, as they say.

Obama winks again. Dave has actually lost track of how many times he’s winked so far.

DAVE: right right

DAVE: so... somehow he met you and uh

DAVE: trained you and stuff

DAVE: and talked about the ultimate self

DAVE: i remember my dirk would go off the deep end about that stuff sometimes

DAVE: and maybe it made him fucking snap because then he just offed himself and that was that

DAVE: but rose used to talk about it too

DAVE: probably even more

DAVE: but one day she just stopped and never mentioned it again

DAVE: do you know what like

DAVE: happened to her

OBAMA: She’s settled happily into the specific. That’s her path now.

OBAMA: All of you have embraced that life, in this safely sequestered version of planet Earth.

OBAMA: All of you until now, Dave.

OBAMA: This is why you’re here.

OBAMA: I believe you’re ready to wake up.

DAVE: ...

Dave realizes suddenly that they’ve stopped at a dead end of the passage. Obama holds up his arm and points his open palm toward the wall. The wall lifts with the comforting sound of ancient stones grinding against each other. The sliding panel reveals a recess, and in the recess stands a robot. It’s a gleaming, polished silver replica of Dave, but without shades. It stands totally still, unpowered. Dave struggles to make sense of what he’s looking at.

OBAMA: Now, look.

OBAMA: A human body, even one that’s been elevated to god tier status, cannot withstand the stresses put on it by the awesome power of the Ultimate Self.

OBAMA: You’d quickly become sick and wither away. We can’t have that.

OBAMA: So before I died, I made sure to create this brand-new body for you.

OBAMA: I have to admit, it’s some of my finest work. A real beauty.

OBAMA: It should serve you well in your new life. A life where the world will need you more than ever, Dave.

OBAMA: Not only this world, but the future of reality.

OBAMA: If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. You’ll understand everything once I help you ascend.

OBAMA: So what do you say? At the end of the day, this is a choice that belongs to you.

OBAMA: Are you ready to accept your destiny, Dave Strider?

It finally catches up with him, what’s taking place here. Dave is sobbing loudly now, beside himself with feelings of joy, a sort of existential relief, and a true sense of purpose. He takes only a moment to decide. Not to weigh the merits of decision. He understands now that the decision was already made the second he first laid eyes on the former president. He pauses only to savor this perfect moment.

DAVE: yes

DAVE: absolutely

DAVE: i have never been more ready for anything in my life mr president

Obama nods once, curtly, and his smile dissolves into a serious look as he closes his eyes. He extends his arm and slowly pushes his hand through Dave’s forehead. The energy from the dense lightform crackles and sends waves through the air like ripples through a pond. It happens suddenly, a shock of white light completely enveloping his and Dave’s bodies, intense bands and lashes of pure Hope radiating from their silhouettes.

Dave’s eyes widen, his mouth opens as if to scream, but he doesn’t make a sound. Infinite experience flows through his consciousness, an unimpeded torrent of raw potentiality. He sees everything. The roads not taken, the lives not lived, the thoughts, desires, fears all unacted upon. The Doomed Daves, the Davesprites, the Davepetas, life with Jade, life with Karkat, life with both, life with neither. It’s like soaring through the clouds at supersonic speed, too quickly to make out the shape of any single puffy nimbus, like a breakneck jaunt through Skaia. Huge clouds rushing by, small ones, clouds with visions, empty clouds, white clouds, then a great dark one. And then, the briefest possible glimpses—most too fleeting to be noticed—of Dirk.

And then, nothing. It all stops abruptly, and Dave collapses to the ground, dead.

Obama is holding his hand up, and floating just above his palm is Dave’s ascended essence. It flickers wildly in his hand like a little kernelsprite. Obama holds it up to his face and blows it away like dandelion fluff. It floats lazily into the chest of the robot, and with that, Obama disappears, leaving the corridor in total darkness and silence.

Seconds pass. And then a minute.

And then, time seems to stop altogether. As if the aspect itself has suspended its forward motion, bowing before the unprecedented transformation taking place. It defers to its greatest knight, risen anew.

With a deep, reverberating electric hum, the robot’s eyes light up, deep red, bright enough to light up the entire passage. Its face comes to life. Its mouth, oddly pliable for a metal surface, begins to smile a little. And then, very broadly.

The robot steps out of its recess and points its head downward, the searing red beams from its eyes spotlighting Dave’s crumpled torso. The robot—Davebot—shakes his head slowly. The doubts, the confusion, the insecurities of the man lying here all died along with his body. Davebot smoothly reaches down, lifts the shades off the corpse, and puts them on his face.

DAVEBOT: its about fuckin time

> ==>
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