Chapter

2

DAVE: bro

In the heart of the Troll Kingdom’s capital city, Dave and Karkat are sitting on their couch with a foot and a half of space between them. It’s a typically picturesque day outside, but Karkat has the curtains drawn shut all the way. This is part of their compromise living situation: Dave puts up with the trollish non-euclidean architecture and bizarre social mores, and Karkat has adjusted his diurnal schedule to, in theory, see the sun.

DAVE: bro you have got to check this out

Karkat is leaning forward, munching on chocolate-coated beetles and totally absorbed in what he’s watching. The glow from the television highlights the dark bags under his eyes. Dave reaches out and, very gently, pokes Karkat in the cheek. Karkat flinches out of his full-body slouch.

KARKAT: NOT NOW DAVE. JAKE’S ASS IS ON TV AGAIN.

DAVE: stop ogling jakes ass this is important

KARKAT: WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO TELL ME WHOSE ASS I SHOULD STOP OGLING.

KARKAT: LOOK. IT’S ABSOLUTELY HYPNOTIC.

KARKAT: I MEAN, NOT IN A SEXUAL WAY, PER SE.

DAVE: of course

Dave casts a weary look towards the TV, where Jake English is shamelessly exhibiting what is definitely his best feature in front of a live studio audience. This is a regular highlight of his and Dirk’s hit television show, RUMBLE IN DA PUMPKIN PATCH, a schizophrenic cross-section of rap battle and robot wrestling that Rose once described as “an exploitative, almost Dada-esque clusterfuck of circumlocutory pretension and sweaty, homoerotic astriction.” Jake came up with the title for the show, and Dirk absolutely loathed it. However, before Dirk could insist on an alternative, Jake had already posted an online poll pitting his idea against “Whatever dirks lame idea is.” Needless to say, the second option was much less popular.

Karkat gestures at the televised spectacle, a bit helplessly.

KARKAT: IT’S ALL IN THE WAY IT’S BEING PROGRAMMED BY THE STATION.

KARKAT: IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO NOTICE, BECAUSE IT’S NOT LIKE I MAKE IT A POINT OF STAYING GLUED TO THIS PHONY TELEVISED HUMAN GLADIATOR GARBAGE.

KARKAT: IT’S SOFT AS FUCK. THEY BARELY EVEN TRY TO MAKE IT SEEM REAL. DAVE, I CONSIDER MYSELF A COSMOPOLITAN INDIVIDUAL. A MAN OF LEARNING? BUT AS A NATIVE ALTERNIAN, I’M ACTUALLY FUCKING OFFENDED BY THIS INSULTING DISPLAY OF NAMBY PAMBY PAGEANTRY.

KARKAT: ANYWAY, THE MORE I WATCH, I CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE THE CAMERA’S LECHEROUS FIXATION ON THIS BOY’S VOLUPTUOUS POSTERIOR.

KARKAT: CAN’T SAY I BLAME THEM, I GUESS??? AT LEAST IT SHOWS THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT’S PAYING THE FUCKING BILLS, BECAUSE IT SURE AS HELL ISN’T THE QUALITY OF THE SLAM POETRY.

DAVE: ok who gives a shit about that

DAVE: although it pleases me to hear you taking note of the economics of this broadcast since it is apropos to the topic at hand but more on that later

KARKAT: APROPOS TO FUCKING WHAT?

KARKAT: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO “SCOPE THE LATEST MEME,” DAVE. YOU ARE COMING PERILOUSLY CLOSE TO CUTTING INTO MY IMPORTANT LEISURE TIME AS IT IS.

DAVE: leisure time

DAVE: this is all you ever do all day

DAVE: also its not a meme its much more important

KARKAT: OH, EXCUSE ME, HOT SHOT. BUT WHAT POSSIBLY COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE LATEST MEME?

KARKAT: THAT WAS A JOKE, FYI. NOW LEAVE.

DAVE: jane is running for president

KARKAT: WHAT THE FUCK?

Dave scoots a foot and a half closer so that they can both read the news on his phone. Karkat tips his head to the side to get a better view, until it bumps against Dave’s shoulder.

DAVE: got the announcement right here

KARKAT: YOU MEAN PRESIDENT OF EARTH?

DAVE: yeah

KARKAT: WHY THE FUCK WOULD SHE WANT TO DO THAT?

DAVE: i dunno crocker is just an ambitious woman i guess

KARKAT: THIS SOUNDS FUCKING AWFUL.

DAVE: oh it is

DAVE: it absolutely is

DAVE: also like

DAVE: dont tell her i said this but

DAVE: i think shes basically a fascist

KARKAT: WHY WOULD I TELL HER YOU SAID THAT?

KARKAT: WHEN THE FUCK WAS THE LAST TIME EITHER OF US HAD FUCK ALL TO DO WITH *JANE*

DAVE: no i know

DAVE: just like, a figure of speech i guess

DAVE: oh also shes a fucking xenophobe

KARKAT: OF COURSE SHE’S A XENOPHOBE!

Karkat, without drastically altering his position on the couch, turns his head so that he can look Dave straight in the sunglasses.

KARKAT: DAVE, I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’VE NOTICED, BUT

KARKAT: A LOT OF HUMANS ARE???

DAVE: yeah ive noticed

KARKAT: ALSO, WHAT THE FUCK DOES SHE EVEN MEAN SHE’S “RUNNING”

KARKAT: WHAT A COMPLETE LOAD OF SHIT?

KARKAT: SHE’S A GOD. WHICH ONE OF THE TOADYING IDIOTS ON THIS PLANET WOULD DARE TO RUN AGAINST HER.

KARKAT: SHE’S GOING TO WIN IN A LANDSLIDE, ASSUMING SHE DOESN’T JUST WALTZ INTO OFFICE UNCONTESTED.

DAVE: yeah i dont disagree

DAVE: which is why we have to stop her

KARKAT: HUH?

KARKAT: DAVE, WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU SAYING?

KARKAT: ARE YOU TELLING ME *YOU’RE* GOING TO RUN AGAINST JANE?

Karkat’s laughter is uproarious, incredulous. He reaches for another beetle as his guffaws subside, and eats it in a manner he hopes will convey his casual contempt for Dave’s insinuation.

KARKAT: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW *RICH* SHE IS?

DAVE: dude were all rich

DAVE: we like invented the fucking economy

KARKAT: WELL, YEAH

KARKAT: BUT NOT LIKE

KARKAT: *CROCKER* RICH

DAVE: anyway no

DAVE: im not running

DAVE: you are

Karkat stops chewing his beetle and does a literal spit take right into Dave’s face.

KARKAT: ME???????????????

DAVE: yeah man

DAVE: its perfect

DAVE: youre the ideal opponent to take her down and tbh just what this planet needs

KARKAT: NO I’M NOT!

DAVE: yeah

KARKAT: WE ESTABLISHED THIS... HOW MANY YEARS AGO?

KARKAT: I’M NOT A LEADER. I WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE ONE.

KARKAT: JANE PROBABLY IS. ALTHOUGH TO BE FAIR, I’M AGREEING WITH YOU, SHE’S A COMPLETE ASSHOLE.

KARKAT: I’M JUST NOT THE ONE TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE OPPOSITION CAMPAIGN. WHERE... HOW...

KARKAT: I WOULDN’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START!

DAVE: obviously you wouldnt do it on your own i would help

DAVE: id be like your campaign manager, or chief strategy guy or whatever

DAVE: also youre wrong

DAVE: you were meant to be a leader and youd be a good one

DAVE: just not the kind of leader you always thought youd be

DAVE: not a bellicose conquering dickhead who commands “fear and respect”

DAVE: just a guy who is cool and nice and actually cares about stuff and everyone loves them for that reason

KARKAT: PEOPLE DON’T LOVE ME!!!

DAVE: youre breaking my heart dude

DAVE: brb gonna hit the toilet for a quick power sob

KARKAT: SHUT THE FUCK UP

DAVE: it still amazes me how little awareness you genuinely seem to have of how insanely popular you are on this planet

DAVE: its fucking adorable

KARKAT: YOU’RE WRONG! ALL I SEE IS JAKE ON TV! AND JANE IN THE NEWS STORIES ABOUT HER STUPID BUSINESS, AND DIRK DOING WHATEVER... FUCKED UP SHIT HE’S DOING WITH HIS CELEBRITY PRESENCE??

KARKAT: I SEE YOUR MUG A LOT TOO, MR. FUCKING POLITICAL PUPPET MASTER.

KARKAT: YOU’D GET MORE VOTES THAN ME, AND YOU KNOW IT. YOU’RE PROBABLY JUST A COWARD!

DAVE: you only see famous humans on tv because you just avoid all troll kingdom channels deliberately

DAVE: you hate it whenever you see yourself on tv

DAVE: dont pretend i dont notice you change the channel as fast as possible whenever you see yourself

KARKAT: YEAH WELL MAYBE I

Karkat hesitates, then slouches back into the couch cushions, restoring the customary foot and a half of space he and Dave usually keep between them except when watching horror movies, eating chips, or talking about the top six hundred stupid things Karkat saw earlier that day because he made his intrepid annual decision to go outside.

KARKAT: MAYBE I DON’T ACTUALLY LIKE BEING FAMOUS?

KARKAT: AND MAYBE THAT’S AS GOOD A FUCKING REASON AS ANY *NOT TO RUN FOR THE FUCKING PRESIDENCY OF EARTH*?????

KARKAT: NOT TO MENTION THE IDEA OF AN ELECTION IS KIND OF A FUCKED UP AND WEIRD THING TO ME CULTURALLY ANYWAY, AND I’M STILL KIND OF GETTING USED TO THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE CAN JUST... “CHOOSE” THEIR FUCKING LEADERS AND NOT HAVE THE SAME OLD MERCILESS BITCH IN POWER FOR SEVERAL MILLION YEARS.

DAVE: well what better way to acquaint yourself with democracy than to take a crack at high office yourself

DAVE: dude seriously you would absolutely kill it with the troll voting block

DAVE: the entire kingdom would vote for you

DAVE: theyd go ballistic if they heard a troll actually had the guts to run against jane, let alone one of their heroes

DAVE: and frankly just between you and me

DAVE: jane is...

DAVE: how do i put this

KARKAT: WHAT

DAVE: ok ill just be the one to come out and say it

DAVE: shes going to be a fucking disaster for the economy

KARKAT: ...

DAVE: i guess i have to admit

DAVE: part of this

DAVE: for me personally

DAVE: its

KARKAT: WHAT ARE YOU SAYING DAVE

DAVE: its about obama

Very slowly, Karkat raises his right palm and forcefully unites it with his own face.

DAVE: he barely even got a chance to prove himself

DAVE: he was sworn into office and it was cool and everything was gonna be great but then

DAVE: everyone died a few months later because of meteors

DAVE: dude was just gettin warmed up... so sad

DAVE: i wonder if he would have fixed the economy

DAVE: i bet he would have fixed the economy

KARKAT: DAVE, AS MUCH AS I ENJOY LISTENING TO YOU RAMBLE THROUGH YET ANOTHER CHAPTER OF YOUR FREESTYLE OBAMA FAN FICTION

KARKAT: DON’T YOU ALREADY HAVE A BASIS FOR KNOWING HOW HIS PRESIDENCY WOULD HAVE GONE?

KARKAT: I MEAN, WASN’T HE PRESIDENT IN THE TIME LINE JANE GREW UP IN TOO?

DAVE: oh

DAVE: yeah

DAVE: i mean yeah of course i know that

DAVE: i just dont like to think much about that time line

DAVE: it doesnt really feel like its

DAVE: canon?

KARKAT: DIDN’T SOME CLOWNS TAKE OVER THE WORLD OR SOMETHING?

DAVE: i dont wanna talk about it

DAVE: the point is

DAVE: in the world that mattered more, i mean like

DAVE: the one i belonged to that i used to imagine had a real future

DAVE: that didnt involve meteors or a fish dictator or the american political landscape turning into a nightmarish daily joke

DAVE: i still wonder what could have been

DAVE: if the O man coulda saved us all

DAVE: but instead he died probably

DAVE: or maybe not... maybe there was like an escape hatch in the white house that led to his own secret presidential session of sburb

DAVE: what if hes just chillin there now

KARKAT: DAVE, I THINK WE’VE COVERED YOUR “OBAMA’S SECRET SESSION OF SBURB” THEORY WELL ENOUGH ALREADY.

DAVE: i know i know

DAVE: im just saying is all

KARKAT: IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DREAM! I FUCKING GET IT.

DAVE: but yeah its more likely he just died

DAVE: but maybe it doesnt have to be in vain

DAVE: what if he died for our sins or something

KARKAT: HMM! SOUNDS FUCKING MEANINGLESS.

DAVE: yeah

DAVE: but i mean what if like

DAVE: he could be reborn

KARKAT: YES, WE’VE BEEN OVER YOUR OBAMA GOD TIER HEADCANONS TOO.

DAVE: no like

DAVE: reborn as you

DAVE: metaphorically

DAVE: you could be the great president he never got the chance to be

DAVE: you could give the people hope and shit

DAVE: you could inspire trolls everywhere

DAVE: or really all nonhuman kingdoms

DAVE: show them anybody could be a president

DAVE: not just an endless parade of rich humans who think they all know whats best for everybody

KARKAT: DAVE, I’M PRETTY SURE ANYONE *COULD* BE PRESIDENT?

KARKAT: IT’S ALWAYS SEEMED TO ME THAT HUMANS JUST SEEM TO BE MORE NATURALLY AMBITIOUS, AND THAT’S WHY THE POWER STRUCTURES TOOK THE SHAPE THEY DID THE LAST FEW MILLENNIA.

KARKAT: I MEAN, I DON’T CLAIM TO BE AN EXPERT ON XENOPSYCHOLOGY, BUT FOR SOME REASON I STRUGGLE TO IMAGINE A FUCKING SALAMANDER GETTING THE GUMPTION TO THROW HIS CRUMPLED HAT INTO THE RING FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF EARTH.

KARKAT: OR THE CARAPACIANS FOR THAT MATTER?

KARKAT: THESE ARE NOT AMBITIOUS CREATURES WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE, DAVE.

KARKAT: THEY’RE A HUGE FLOCK OF WOOLBEASTS, DAVE.

DAVE: karkat dont stereotype

DAVE: remember the mayor

DAVE: remember how at one point a long time ago he raised an army and rebelled against an evil king

KARKAT: OH YEAH

KARKAT: SOMEHOW I ALWAYS FORGET HE DID THAT.

KARKAT: KIND OF MIND BOGGLING, REALLY.

KARKAT: HOLY SHIT, I MISS THE MAYOR.

DAVE: me too

Dave and Karkat both observe a moment of silence—a delicate and trembling pause of utmost respect to perhaps the greatest and purest being who had ever come forth from Paradox Space. Dave pats Karkat’s knee comfortingly, and Karkat lets out a quivering breath of sorrow, of remembrance.

Into this reverent silence, Dave says:

DAVE: i think he would be totally in favor of my idea btw

DAVE: he loved democracy

KARKAT: NO SHIT, HE WAS A FUCKING MAYOR.

DAVE: i mean forget all the lizards and chess guys for a second

DAVE: just imagine the good you could do for the troll kingdom

DAVE: you would do a much better job of speaking to the injustices trolls face than jane would

KARKAT: WHAT INJUSTICES

DAVE: dude please

DAVE: where to even begin

DAVE: i know earth c has generally been a pretty chill place to live but theres been some shit going on that is legit creepy

DAVE: all this “population regulation” bullshit thats been going on since we basically set up civilization and peaced out to the future

DAVE: when you think about its long term consequences its been fuckin weird

DAVE: like the government being responsible for troll reproduction through cloning

DAVE: a government that just happens to be predominantly human most of the time?

DAVE: like it makes sense on paper at first, no mother grub, gotta keep the race going and expand the population for a good while and get the numbers up

DAVE: until kanaya gets here and hatches the grub and then i guess a system of “natural reproduction” can take over in theory but

DAVE: after so many centuries of that shit doesnt the weird political imbalance like

DAVE: get entrenched??

There’s a measure of real concern and passion working its way into Dave’s voice. Karkat, despite his typical front of loud indignation, hangs on every word.

DAVE: and once rose and kanaya crank out a few more broods in the caverns i guess were supposed to think its all fixed right

DAVE: back to Trolls As Usual or something

DAVE: but do you really think the human kingdom is going to just sit back and let the troll race proliferate wildly all over earth

DAVE: turn it into another alternian empire

DAVE: folks know the history

DAVE: they know about the condesce and all the violence and the hemospectrum and shit

DAVE: theyre scared to death of the possibility that trolls could run wild all over the planet

KARKAT: DAVE, I KNOW ALL THIS.

KARKAT: IN FACT, *YOU* KNOW ALL OF THIS BECAUSE YOU’VE HEARD ME SAY IT TO KANAYA A THOUSAND TIMES.

KARKAT: ACTUALLY, IN AN EFFORT TO NOT GO FUCKING INSANE, I TRY NOT TO THINK ABOUT IT ANYMORE!

DAVE: well maybe its time to start thinking about it again

DAVE: bro did u know, sitting on the sidelines in the face of oppression is tantamount to siding with the oppressors

KARKAT: UHNGH.

DAVE: you think a crocker administration is really going to go through with plans to deregulate troll breeding?

DAVE: she knows exactly what her base wants

DAVE: i can already see the dog whistles in this press release she isnt gonna do shit

DAVE: and really man

DAVE: if nothing else and i truly mean NOTHING

DAVE: please

DAVE: for the love of christ

DAVE: think of the economy

KARKAT: ARRRGH!!!!

The outburst is all Karkat can do to release whatever tension Dave’s impassioned appeal was causing to brew inside him. Motherfucker literally just told him to think of the economy.

DAVE: jane has this reputation for being awesome at business but imo she actually just sucks

DAVE: she doesnt seem to be even remotely aware how much shes leveraged her status as a god to become a bigshot trillionaire

DAVE: i think she thinks its all pure business acumen but i think she doesnt really know what shes doing

DAVE: fuckers left and right just be tripping all day long to give her money hand over fist

DAVE: of course shes gonna milk her biz cred for all its worth in this election

DAVE: shes probably a much better politician than a businesswoman actually she is like

DAVE: sinister as fuck? i mean

DAVE: she hides it well dont get me wrong

DAVE: also she isnt too hard on the eyes which wont hurt her chances one bit

DAVE: but shes going to be BRUTAL on their pocketbooks just you wait

KARKAT: I DON’T FUCKING BELIEVE THIS.

DAVE: she doesnt know the nuances of sound comprehensive fiscal policy like i do

DAVE: my skills are fucking legendary

DAVE: i manipulated the stock market to assume control of the literal majority of all currency on the planet once

DAVE: granted the economy was run by lobotomized reptiles but still

DAVE: wait that was speciesist sorry

DAVE: the point stands though i know what im doing

DAVE: what do you think is going to happen when jane takes over and the economy crashes

KARKAT: I...

KARKAT: I DON’T KNOW???

DAVE: its going to be pandemonium

KARKAT: WILL IT ACTUALLY BE THOUGH?!

DAVE: well

DAVE: i dunno

DAVE: ok if shit goes sideways i guess we arent gonna see like raggedy turtles and pauper chess men standing in bread lines or anything

DAVE: thats just the nature of alchemy-based post-scarcity economies the depressions tend to be pretty mild

DAVE: but it will still be bad

DAVE: a healthy economy is fuckin IMPORTANT

DAVE: if for no other reason than it protects the societal context for what it means to be fucking rich, like us

KARKAT: JUST A THOUGHT. LET’S COME UP WITH A DIFFERENT CAMPAIGN SLOGAN THAN THAT, OK?

DAVE: yeah

DAVE: but the point is just

DAVE: i guess

DAVE: she sucks and shouldnt be president the end

DAVE: you dont even have to think about economic shit i can do that for you

DAVE: ill be like the treasury secretary or something

DAVE: just please tell me youll do this

DAVE: do it for the trolls do it for the economy do it for the mayor

DAVE: but most of all

DAVE: (sniff)

Dave wipes an invisible tear from beneath the rim of his sunglasses.

DAVE: do it for obama

KARKAT: GOD DAMN IT DAVE.

KARKAT: I DON’T REALLY GIVE A FUCK ABOUT POLITICS, OR BEING A LEADER ANYMORE, AND I THINK YOU KNOW THAT.

KARKAT: I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE ECONOMY, AND WHILE I’M SURE THIS OBAMA FELLOW WAS A HELL OF A GUY, I COULDN’T GIVE LESS A FUCK ABOUT HIM EITHER.

KARKAT: BUT...

KARKAT: I DO CARE ABOUT YOU.

Dave smiles.

KARKAT: SO

KARKAT: I’LL DO IT.

KARKAT: WHY NOT.

DAVE: nice!

DAVE: aw yeah

DAVE: you wont regret it this is gonna be dope

DAVE: i think we have a great shot too

DAVE: with my political savvy and economic genius and outrageous flair for subversive anti establishment messaging and propaganda, and your big loud fucking mouth...

KARKAT: WHAT THE FUCK

DAVE: um i guess also your charisma and likability and shit

KARKAT: YEAH.

KARKAT: YOU MIGHT BE RIGHT...

KARKAT: I’M PRETTY SURE I CAN FAKE THOSE THINGS WELL ENOUGH.

DAVE: oh also

DAVE: your weirdly sincere humility

KARKAT: I PREFER THE TERM “SELF LOATHING” ACTUALLY.

DAVE: ok lets try to avoid that phrase on the campaign trail too

KARKAT: THIS ALREADY SOUNDS LIKE A PAIN IN THE ASS.

There’s a gap of silence in the conversation, long enough for the audio from the television to become noticeable. Jake is rambling out a truly dire piece of slam poetry that involves—with zero hint of irony—the terms batty-fang and mad as hops. The neon light blaring out from the screen casts long waves of color along the black walls of the hive and bounces off the glass of the framed print of Dave’s “least psychologically revealing SBaHJ strip.” Karkat sighs and rubs the space between his horns.

KARKAT: CAN’T I JUST

KARKAT: READ A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT YOU WRITE FOR ME OFF A TELEPROMPTER?

DAVE: yeah there will definitely be plenty of that

Dave grabs his tablet off the shelf. He pivots back around and points the pen straight at Karkat. The arc of his arm’s motion is polished and decisive even though it’s been a long time since he’s properly used a sword.

DAVE: but you also need to be natural and speak from the heart and shit

DAVE: just like

DAVE: talk to your people

DAVE: about stuff they care about

KARKAT: “MY PEOPLE”?

KARKAT: YOU MEAN TROLLS??

DAVE: oh

DAVE: yeah i guess that sounded bad sorry

DAVE: but yeah exactly

DAVE: trolls

DAVE: thats gonna be your base so you gotta rile em up

DAVE: inspire them

DAVE: i dont think you need any fancy speeches to do that youll be a natural

KARKAT: IF YOU SAY SO.

KARKAT: SO WHAT DO WE ACTUALLY... DO?

KARKAT: I MEAN, NEXT?

Dave plops down on the floor and gestures for Karkat to join him on the cold stone. He swipes the tablet on and taps the screen with the pen. Karkat lies down on his stomach and props his chin on his palms so that he can watch Dave scribble political ambitions directly into the shittiest paint program on his OS.

DAVE: time to talk some strategy

DAVE: we need to rally as much high profile support to our cause as we can

DAVE: but there are some uh

DAVE: “lines of loyalty” to figure out

KARKAT: WHAT?

DAVE: i mean which of our friends are going to side with us and which ones will side with jane

DAVE: pretty much all of us are famous and popular all over earth to some degree

DAVE: some of us more so with certain kingdoms than others

DAVE: so some key endorsements going either way could swing the whole election

KARKAT: OH, GREAT

KARKAT: SO IT ALL COMES DOWN TO HOW MANY FAMOUS HUMANS LIKE ME BETTER THAN JANE?

KARKAT: WE’RE FUCKED.

DAVE: well no not so fast

DAVE: lets think it through

DAVE: youll have overwhelming support in the troll kingdom and so does kanaya

DAVE: shes pretty much a lock to be on your side

DAVE: dirk unfortunately is just as much a lock for jane im gonna guess

DAVE: but after that its kind of a free for all

DAVE: roxy and calliope will probably be neutral

DAVE: they have a lot of pull with the carapacians though so that would be a nice score to sway them

DAVE: rose will probably claim neutrality at first but im betting she can be cajoled by her wife to our side

DAVE: and once we get rose converting roxy probably wont be too hard

DAVE: as for jade...

KARKAT: ...

They stare at each other. Karkat sighs and Dave raps his pen against the tablet screen in a slow, uneven staccato.

DAVE: uh

DAVE: i think its fair to say shes going to be on our side

KARKAT: YEAH

DAVE: maybe a little too much so

KARKAT: UM, YEAH

KARKAT: I WASN’T GOING TO BE THE ONE TO SAY IT, BUT YEAH, I GET WHAT YOU MEAN.

DAVE: of course we want her help and her endorsement will go a long way but

DAVE: i think we gotta sort out like

DAVE: a hierarchical approach to campaign strategy

DAVE: keep it organized and disciplined with roles well defined

DAVE: not let things get too murky with uh

DAVE: personal shit?

KARKAT: I THINK WE’RE ON THE SAME PAGE HERE, DAVE.

DAVE: ok cool

DAVE: anyway lets come back to the jade issue later

DAVE: uh lets see who else

KARKAT: EGBERT?

DAVE: right

DAVE: john should be easy to convince but im not sure how much of a factor hell be in this campaign

DAVE: have no idea how long hell be away on this “mission” rose mentioned

KARKAT: WHAT? WHAT MISSION?

DAVE: dunno shes been hella cagey about it

DAVE: swore me to secrecy until the right time whenever that is

DAVE: anyway his endorsement would go a long way in swinging the consort kingdom

KARKAT: THAT WOULD BE HUGE.

KARKAT: AREN’T THERE LIKE

KARKAT: 100 BILLION OF THOSE FUCKERS?

KARKAT: SECURING THAT VOTING BLOCK SHOULD BE ABLE TO WIN THE WHOLE THING FOR US.

DAVE: well no the population isnt THAT big but yes its by far the most populous kingdom

DAVE: swinging them our way should help a lot but it wont be enough to decide the whole thing

DAVE: consorts overwhelm the other kingdoms in sheer numbers but due to unscrupulous gerrymandering, all kinds of fucked up voter suppression policies and some electoral “counterbalancing” measures to account for their ridiculous population growth rate their voting power per capita is kind of pathetic

DAVE: also its hard to drive turnout

DAVE: this may come as a shock but legions of easily distracted low information amphibians primarily concerned with eating bugs and farming god damned mushrooms arent the most politically motivated demographic

DAVE: so to get them out to the polls well need to get them REALLY excited

KARKAT: OK.

KARKAT: I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO TRUST YOUR EXPERTISE ON THAT, SINCE I DON’T KNOW THE FIRST FUCKING THING ABOUT HOW TO INSPIRE AN UNINTELLIGENT LIZARD.

DAVE: yeah well

DAVE: i dont either

DAVE: but that brings us to jake

Jake’s butt flexes on the television, as if in response. Karkat cannot avoid watching it from the corner of his eye.

KARKAT: OH, FUCK.

DAVE: no this is important

DAVE: jake is a huge wild card here

DAVE: im sure his endorsement would be completely up for grabs

DAVE: he could go any way including just getting turned off by the whole thing and staying “apolitical”

DAVE: so we have to be careful about how we approach him

DAVE: jake is the only one of us whos wildly popular in all four kingdoms

KARKAT: WELL, I CAN’T ARGUE WITH THAT.

DAVE: yeah so an endorsement from him would be huge

DAVE: seriously just running one ad of him doing his double pistol winking bullshit with a thing under it saying “VOTE KARKAT” might be enough to win the whole election

DAVE: just have to get the fickle bastard to agree to that which could be tricky

DAVE: and honestly id be shocked if jane hasnt already started courting his vote

DAVE: theres no way she doesnt understand the political stakes

KARKAT: SO...

KARKAT: IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE JAKESTAKES THEN.

DAVE: pretty much

DAVE: the jakestakes 2.0

KARKAT: WHAT

KARKAT: THERE WAS A 1.0?

KARKAT: WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?

DAVE: oh thats like

DAVE: a whole story

KARKAT: IS THIS GOING TO BE ANOTHER ANECDOTE ABOUT THE JAKE SQUAD I WON’T CARE ABOUT AND DON’T WANT TO FUCKING HEAR?

DAVE: that sounds like the exact kind of opinion youd have about it so yeah

KARKAT: THEN I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING HEAR ABOUT IT.

DAVE: ok

DAVE: hmm

DAVE: shit hold up

KARKAT: WHAT?

Dave fishes his phone out from his lap.

DAVE: dirks calling me

KARKAT: WHAT THE FUCK DOES HE WANT?

DAVE: idk he just calls me out of the blue from time to time to talk shit

DAVE: usually about nothing whatsoever

DAVE: hell probably joke about how he needs me to cut off his head

KARKAT: HUH???

DAVE: its a running gag hes been running into the ground for years

DAVE: motherfucker is dedicated to his memes ill give him that

KARKAT: YOU SAID HE’S GOING TO BE A CROCKER LOYALIST RIGHT?

DAVE: oh absolutely

DAVE: no doubt about it

KARKAT: YOU DON’T THINK HE’S TRYING TO DO SOME...

KARKAT: RECONNAISSANCE WORK HERE?

KARKAT: LIKE, INTEL GATHERING?

DAVE: he doesnt even know youre entering the race yet

DAVE: no one does

KARKAT: OK. GOOD.

KARKAT: I GUESS YOU’D BETTER ANSWER THEN.

DAVE: ok well i missed the call while we were bullshitting about it

DAVE: but yeah ill just call him back now

Dave hits the callback button. On the television, Dirk’s phone begins ringing.

DAVE: sup

DIRK: Hey dude.

Dave hears the reply through his phone, and then a moment later, through the TV, due to the broadcasting delay. The whole show has stopped so that Dirk can take this call. The camera zooms in on where he’s casually lying on the mat, bruised and a little bit bloody. In the background, Jake strikes an attractive, cocked-hip pose. He’s spinning a revolver around on one finger, affecting an aura of attractive indifference, but the look he’s shooting his sparring partner is caught halfway between confused and exasperated.

Karkat looks from Dave to the TV and back again.

DIRK: Got your sword handy?

DAVE: always

DIRK: Good. See, I’m in sort a bind here.

DIRK: And I’m afraid there’s only one way out.

KARKAT: OK, I’M FUCKING LEAVING.

> ==>
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