Chapter

21

DAVE: holy shit thats disgusting

KARKAT: DON’T BE A FUCKING XENOPHOBE

DAVE: im not being a xenophobe

Karkat doesn’t respond immediately. He shuffles his feet to the edge of the outcropping they’re standing on and stares down at the brood pit, where the Mother Grub of Earth C is squelching out unfertilized jelly.

DAVE: dude you know im not a xenophobe

No answer. This silence makes Dave actually back up for three seconds and think about what the hell just came out of his mouth. He’s worried that maybe he said something wrong here, that he was being horribly insensitive inside a place that’s probably holy ground for the few Alternia-born trolls left alive. Maybe flippant xenophobia isn’t the best look in front of your alien pseudo-boyfriend when it comes to jamming about the irreconcilable biological differences between your species.

Dave could definitely be handling this situation with a certain measure of restraint or grace. But he’s got my genes, so he decides to handle it a different way than that.

DAVE: i mean thats what this whole election thing is about

DAVE: having your back when it comes to this reproduction issue

DAVE: well

DAVE: that and the economy

DAVE: lets not lose TOTAL sight of the economy in this critical discussion

DAVE: but im almost as passionate about this troll speciesism thing as i am about the economy which you may not have known is my number one issue

DAVE: my wheelhouse you could say

DAVE: but my other wheelhouse is like

DAVE: giving a fuck about your feelings and culture and shit?

Karkat still doesn’t answer. He’s staring real intently at the jelly.

DAVE: dude hey

DAVE: karkat

DAVE: yo karkat you listening?

KARKAT: HEY DIPSHIT, SHUT UP FOR A MINUTE.

KARKAT: I’M NOT IGNORING YOU BECAUSE I’M MAD.

DAVE: what

DAVE: that wasnt what i

KARKAT: I KNOW THAT YOU PERISH LIKE A DELICATE LILAC BLOOM IN THE FUCKING DESERT IF NOT SHOWERED WITH MY VERBAL ATTENTION AT ALL TIMES.

KARKAT: BUT I’M KIND OF WITNESSING THE REBIRTH OF MY ENTIRE FUCKING SPECIES RIGHT HERE.

KARKAT: YOU EVER THINK THAT THIS MIGHT BE A MONUMENTAL MOMENT FOR ME?

KARKAT: THAT I MIGHT BE AWESTRUCK AT THE PURE MAJESTY OF THIS SIGHT?

Dave comes to the edge of the outcropping, standing shoulder to shoulder with Karkat as he too observes the majesty of translucent goo getting birthed out of an alien asshole.

Karkat’s got a strange expression on his face, cast half in shadow and half in orange light. Dave winces as the grub’s nasty slime chute sputters out a bunch of air bubbles. It’s a gross, gurgling fart that goes on basically forever.

DAVE: yeah but it is totally disgusting right

KARKAT: I CAN’T FUCKING BELIEVE YOU

KARKAT: WHAT PART OF THIS IS DISGUSTING?

KARKAT: IS IT THE SLOW DEFLATING OF ITS DISTENDED ABDOMEN?

KARKAT: THE SOUND OF DOZENS OF SEGMENTED LEGS CLACKING AGAINST ITS EXOSKELETON?

KARKAT: THE UNFERTILIZED SLURRY BEING SLOWLY SQUEEZED FROM ITS OVIPOSITIONAL SPHINCTER?

KARKAT: IS THAT IT? IS THAT DISGUSTING TO YOU DAVE?

DAVE: kind of

KARKAT: ...

KARKAT: YOU’RE RIGHT

KARKAT: IT’S HORRIBLE

KARKAT: TO BE COMPLETELY HONEST I WOULD HAVE GLADLY GONE THE REST OF MY WRETCHED EXISTENCE WITHOUT EVER SEEING THIS.

DAVE: its like when you squish the toothpaste down in the middle

DAVE: only the tube is filled with fetus juice

KANAYA: Im Sorry But I Can Hear You From Down Here

KANAYA: Did You Want To Talk To Me Or Are You Intent On Performing An Impromptu And Very Unfunny Comedy Act On My Front Step

DAVE: oh hey kanaya

Dave grabs Karkat by the wrist of his oversized sweater and they skid down the narrow walkway into the mouth of the crater. Kanaya steps out from beneath the canopy where she was doing grub science, wiping her hands on a silk cloth. She’s glowing. Her skin, I mean. Her mood can be politely described as pensive. Still, she smiles at the sight of old friends.

DAVE: whats shaking sis

KANAYA: Must You Always Call Me That

DAVE: nah but it does feel pretty rad to say

DAVE: like wow my sister in law is an alien how cool is that

DAVE: i love our awesome planet where everyone is free to form xenophilic family units without fear of government interference or reprisal

DAVE: which is a totally smooth segue into the topic at hand

KARKAT: THAT WASN’T SMOOTH AT ALL.

KARKAT: IN FACT I DON’T THINK IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO RAISE THE SUBJECT WE’VE COME TO TALK ABOUT IN A MORE OSTENTATIOUSLY AWFUL AND AWKWARD WAY.

KARKAT: JUST BECAUSE YOU DID THAT STUPID LITTLE...

Here, Karkat pauses to imitate a very common Davism that involves two hands and a double-wrist swivel. It’s an incredibly good imitation, because he sees this particular bit of body language like ten times a day.

KARKAT: ...MOTION WITH YOUR HANDS DOESN’T MAKE IT SMOOTH

DAVE: no see the reason its smooth is because i was the one who did it

DAVE: i got inherent smoothness and its a quality that transfers to everything i say and do

DAVE: also that thing i do with my hands isnt stupid

DAVE: its cool

KARKAT: IT’S THE STUPIDEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN AND YOU DO IT LIKE TEN TIMES A DAY.

KARKAT: WHAT EVEN IS IT SUPPOSED TO BE?

DAVE: im dropping a beat

DAVE: like im using a turntable and scratching one song into another

DAVE: all smooth and shit

KARKAT: IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE TRYING TO FOLD LAUNDRY YOU FORGOT TO IRON.

DAVE: dude you have never once in your life ironed a shirt

KARKAT: I AM FAMILIAR WITH THE BASIC MECHANICS OF YOUR EARTH CUSTOMS DAVE.

DAVE: ok ironing is def not earth culture

DAVE: ive seen kanaya iron like

DAVE: a whole bunch of shirts

DAVE: yo kanaya

DAVE: back me up here sis

Kanaya regards them with a thin-lipped smile that is equal measures patronizing and fond.

KANAYA: So This Is About The Election

KARKAT: AH.

KARKAT: YES.

KARKAT: YOU’VE ALREADY HEARD.

Kanaya holds up her phone.

KANAYA: I Do Get The Internet Down Here

KANAYA: I Am Impressed That You Managed To Be Seen In Front Of That Many People Without Spontaneously Bursting Into Flames

KARKAT: WOW THANKS, ANOTHER VOTE OF CONFIDENCE FROM ONE OF MY DEAREST FRIENDS.

KARKAT: THIS CONDESCENSION IS REALLY RICH COMING FROM THE PERSON WHO DECIDED HER NARCISSISTIC OBSESSION WITH BEING THE ONE TO HATCH THE MOTHER GRUB WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN NOT SEEDING OUR PLANET WITH A STOPGAP SYSTEM OF REPRODUCTION THAT WOULD CAUSE SYSTEMIC SPECIESISM TO OSSIFY INTO SOCIETY FOR 5000 YEARS.

DAVE: karkat

DAVE: hey

KANAYA: This Again

KARKAT: YES, THIS AGAIN!!!

KARKAT: FUCK!!!

DAVE: (uh)

DAVE: (karkat buddy)

DAVE: (remember the game plan here)

DAVE: (we want to get kanaya on our side not alienate her completely)

KANAYA: Karkat

KANAYA: I Acknowledge That There Have Been Consequences To The Decisions We Made Regarding The Foundation Of This Society That Were Not Foreseen Or Ideal

KANAYA: But I Do Not Think It Is Productive To Attribute These Resultant Troubles To A Single Decision Or Individual

KANAYA: It Stands In The Way Of Our Efforts To Address Them

KARKAT: MMNNNRRRGHHH.........

DAVE: (shhhhhh)

KAYANA: You Know As Well As I Do That We Must Present A United Front

KANAYA: Please Do Not Misinterpret My Tone

KANAYA: I Have Nothing But The Utmost Faith In You

Kanaya reaches out to put a hand on Karkat’s head. He doesn’t duck away in time, and she gives him an affectionate, matronly hair-ruffle between his horns. She keeps her hand there and pulls him a step closer so that she can speak softly to him. Her voice travels high in the empty cavern, but her tone is tender and private.

KANAYA: While I Know That It Is Difficult For You To Take A Direct Compliment

KANAYA: I Have In The Past Put My Faith In You When The Threat To Our Survival Has Been Immediate And Literal

KANAYA: Its Basically Nothing To Ask Me To Do It Again Now That The Threat Is Far More

Kanaya pauses here, choosing her words more carefully than usual. She takes her hand off Karkat’s head and puts two fingers to her lip. Karkat’s eyes follow the motion, wide and bright as dollar coins.

KANAYA: *Existential*

KANAYA: Is How I Think I Shall Put It

KANAYA: If We Are Going To Be Polite

DAVE: youre up on all the issues then

Kanaya sighs and starts making her way around the edge of the brood pit.

KANAYA: How Could I Not Be When It Concerns Me So Directly

She lifts up the hem of her skirt and jumps in. Dave is watching her, but Karkat’s looking contemplatively at his entwined hands. Kanaya’s right: it’s almost excruciating for him to take a completely unironic compliment, especially face-to-face, like what she just said to him. I understand this about Karkat. It’s one of the precious few things he and I have in common.

We internalize and project the quality in very different ways, however, which is why I’m going to win.

KANAYA: Jane Has Been Here To Speak With Me Recently In Fact

DAVE: no fucking way

KANAYA: She Was Quite Cordial As Always

KANAYA: You Know I Do Like Jane

KANAYA: In Some Regards She Reminds Me Of A Friend We Had Who Sadly Did Not Survive Our Time On The Meteor

KANAYA: She Was Unfailingly Kind To Everyone She Met But She Also Happened To Be The Heiress To The Throne Of A Vast And Bloody Empire

KANAYA: And While She Had A Lot Of Opinions On Reform She Had Already Wrenched Some Of Her Power From Our Last Empress In The Traditional Manner

Karkat finally looks up at the description of one of their many dead friends. Kanaya carefully steps between the puddles of brood jelly and approaches the Mother Grub. She rests an ear against the rise of its massive stomach, then taps the shell with two perfectly manicured fingernails.

KANAYA: By Which I Mean That Jane Is Perfectly Pleasant And I Believe That She Has Only The Best Of Intentions

KANAYA: But I Cant Shake The Feeling That Deep Inside Her Lurks The Potential For Despotism

KARKAT: OKAY I GET WHY YOU GUYS KEEP CALLING JANE A CRYPTO-FASCIST

KARKAT: BUT FUCKING FEFERI? SHE WAS HARMLESS.

KANAYA: These Things Take Time To Gestate Karkat

DAVE: damn

KANAYA: Power Corrupts In Small Steps

KANAYA: Compromises

KANAYA: Concessions

KANAYA: Appeasements

KANAYA: And Leaders Follow The Example Set For Them

KANAYA: Look At What Jane Has Modeled Herself After Already

KANAYA: I Do Believe Its Important To Consider Precedent

When Kanaya is satisfied by whatever she hears churning inside the grotesque insides of the giant bug, she comes back up to the lip of the pit and hoists herself out.

KANAYA: This Is Why I Trust You Karkat

KANAYA: Because You Listen To Advice From Below And Beside You Not From Above

KANAYA: And If Dave Is With You I Trust You Not To Isolate Yourself As You Have In The Past

DAVE: sweet

DAVE: so weve got your endorsement then

She laughs, not kindly.

KANAYA: Jane Offered Me “A Seat” On The “Board Of Responsible Troll Reproduction”

KARKAT: WHAT THE FUCK. HOW DARE SHE!

KANAYA: That Is Exactly What I Said

KANAYA: With More Tact Of Course

KANAYA: I Do Understand The Trepidation Considering What The History Books Teach About Alternia

KARKAT: OH, LIKE HUMAN HISTORY IS A FUCKING WALK IN THE RECREATION SPRAWL.

KARKAT: HOW HYPOCRITICAL CAN SHE BE?

KANAYA: Yes

KANAYA: In Case You Cant Tell I Am Actually Fucking Furious About This

KARKAT: SHE COULDN’T PICK A MORE SUBTLE WORD THAN “RESPONSIBLE”? SHE’S NOT EVEN TRYING TO MASK HER XENOPHOBIA. IT’S LIKE SHE HAS NO FUCKING RESPECT FOR US.

KANAYA: It Is Entirely Thoughtless On Her Part

KANAYA: Our Reproduction Method Is Alien And Unfamiliar

KANAYA: To A Human It Must Sound Monstrous

KANAYA: Uncontrolled Even

KARKAT: WELL OF COURSE

KARKAT: WHEN I HEAR ABOUT HOW HUMAN GRUBS CHEW THEIR WAY OUT OF THE FEMALE MATESPRIT’S ABDOMINAL HOLE BEFORE CONSUMING THE WOMB MEMBRANE IT MAKES ME WANT TO VOMIT.

KARKAT: BUT YOU DON’T SEE ME PROPOSING FUCKING POLITICAL POLICY BASED ON THAT.

DAVE: dude thats not how pregnancy works

KARKAT: UH DAVE, YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE NOTICED, BUT WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT HUMANS RIGHT NOW.

KANAYA: Yes Dave Check Your Privilege

DAVE: ok

KARKAT: ANYWAY WE NEED TO EXPOSE HER BULLSHIT IMMEDIATELY.

KARKAT: I DON’T SEE HOW ANY TROLL CAN VOTE FOR HER IF THEY HEAR WHAT SHE’S PLANNING.

KANAYA: I Have A Feeling That It Would Sway Many Non Trolls To Our Campaign As Well

KANAYA: I Hope That There Is At Least One Principle We Share As A Planet

KANAYA: Which Is That We Must All Work To Ensure Equal Dignity And Respect For Every Species

KANAYA: Otherwise

KANAYA: What Was This All For

The three of them stare at the floor in adorably cartoonish synchronicity. What was this all for, indeed?

That’s a good question. Morality is a cultural construct. It’s pure ego for any of them to believe that their personal interpretation of it will result in the most effective laws.

DAVE: you know

DAVE: that might be the magic ticket folks need to hear to wake up about this issue

DAVE: would you be willing to say that exactly but

DAVE: like in front of a huge crowd

DAVE: and also a television crew or six

KARKAT: OR MAYBE JUST IN FRONT OF JAKE ENGLISH?

KANAYA: Oh Dear Has Jane Recruited Jake

KANAYA: That Would Be Disastrous

KANAYA: He Is Beloved In The Troll Kingdom For His Perky Ass

DAVE: seriously?

KARKAT: I TOLD YOU IT’S NOT JUST ME!

KANAYA: It Has Some Terrible Arcane Power

KANAYA: I Have Never Seen Anything Like It

DAVE: well

DAVE: she doesnt have him yet

DAVE: but jane is one of his best friends so we gotta approach this with a scorched earth policy

DAVE: give him a whole cadre of sob stories thatll make him feel all manly and heroic for lending his support

DAVE: just gift wrapping babies for him to kiss

KARKAT: TROLL BABIES EVEN?

DAVE: sure that can be part of the deal he can kiss the first natural born grub right on its gooey lil head

KARKAT: WHILE GIVING DOUBLE PISTOLS AND A WINK TO THE CAMERA NO DOUBT.

DAVE: bam

DAVE: thats your reelection billboard right there

KARKAT: LET’S NOT GET AHEAD OF OURSELVES HERE.

KANAYA: Of Course Not But This Definitely Has Potential

KANAYA: Have You Spoken To Rose Yet

DAVE: uh no

DAVE: i mean

DAVE: shes

Dave mimes laying down and taking pills. The look Kanaya gives him is neither fond nor patronizing.

DAVE: whats up with that anyway

DAVE: are you guys uh

DAVE: grub pregnant

Kanaya keeps staring.

KARKAT: DAVE WHAT THE FUCK

KANAYA: No

DAVE: its ok if you are we wont tell

KANAYA: No

KARKAT: DON’T YOU DARE DRAG ME INTO THIS GRAVE YOU’RE DIGGING FOR YOURSELF.

DAVE: cmon karkat dont you wanna be an uncle to a lil bundle of love and unnatural genetic tampering

KANAYA: No

KARKAT: WHAT EVEN GOES ON INSIDE YOUR HEAD THAT YOU JUST PRODUCE THIS ENDLESS, GUSHING SPATE OF ATROCIOUS WORD GARBAGE EVERY DAY?

DAVE: ok stop freaking out im just saying from what i understand of troll reproduction it would be technically possible for a troll and human to

KANAYA: No

DAVE: and with ectobiology anythings possible

KARKAT: OH MY GOD

KANAYA: Whatever Put You On This Unfathomable Train Of Thought

DAVE: i dunno its just unusual for rose to brush me off for our annual ecto sibling oversharing session

DAVE: shes been sick for a while

DAVE: either shes pregnant or i got reasons to be worried

Kanaya turns her head and bites her lip. Her thin fingers clutch at the hem of her shirt. She starts flickering a little, like a lightbulb in a heavy storm. The mood in here’s just all over the place. Dave, sensing how uncomfortable he’s made everything, cranks up the irreverence in his tone. When you put a foot in your mouth, shoving it all the way through your intestines and pulling it out your ass is a valid tactic, he seems to believe.

DAVE: id be cool with it yknow

DAVE: bring on the rosemary combo grubs

KANAYA: Rosemary

DAVE: like rose plus your last name which is maryan or something right

KANAYA: Maryam

DAVE: yeah that

DAVE: ergo, rosemary

KANAYA: I Hate It

DAVE: the rosemary babies would have her hair and your horns or whatever

DAVE: like when two cartoon animals of different species give in to their lust and have preposterous children

DAVE: fucking adorbs

KANAYA: Im Going To Call My Wife And You Are Going To Stop Talking

Her thumb is anxiously tapping on her wife’s name in her contacts list. She walks briskly to the other side of the cave for privacy, pulling the curtain of her makeshift lab shut. At the other side of the cavern, Dave and Karkat bicker about what their combo kids would look like, in the event that they decided to stop being such laughable wusses and began fornicating like two cartoon animals of different species who have given into their lust. And the day hell freezes over, maybe their kids could even play in the snow.

Kanaya puts her phone to one ear and her hand to the other. Rose’s line rings for a long time. It’s unusual, she thinks. Rose rarely leaves her phone unattended. Personally, I don’t think it’s odd, because I’m currently watching Rose lying unconscious on my workshop floor.

I’m guessing Kanaya is going to be pretty surprised when it’s not her wife who picks up. But she’ll have to deal with it, because I’m the one holding the phone, and Rose is in absolutely no condition to be having a conversation with anyone. Not even her cherished bride.

DIRK: Hey,

DIRK: Sorry, but Rose can’t come to the phone right now.

Kanaya’s voice turns sharp right away.

KANAYA: Excuse Me

She can sense that something’s wrong. She’s also smart enough, and facile enough in handling questionable men, to understand that she quickly needs to regulate the tone of her voice for diplomatic purposes.

KANAYA: Dirk

KANAYA: Is That You

I don’t answer immediately. I’m distracted by something. She really should chill out, anyway. I’ve got everything under control. Not that she’ll ever be able to fully appreciate this.

KANAYA: Dirk

KANAYA: Why Are You With Rose

KANAYA: What Is Going On

I don’t have time to explain right now. John’s doing something vaguely important to the plot again.

DIRK: Kanaya, I don’t have time to explain right now.

DIRK: John’s doing something vaguely important to the plot again.

KANAYA: Dirk...

KANAYA: What

DIRK: This is gonna have to wait.

KANAYA: Dirk

DIRK: I’m putting you on hold, ok?

KANAYA: DIRK!

> ==>
Advertisement