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: 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: yo karkat you listening?
KARKAT: HEY DIPSHIT, SHUT UP FOR A MINUTE.
KARKAT: I’M NOT IGNORING YOU BECAUSE I’M MAD.
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: 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: 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.
KANAYA: This Again
KARKAT: YES, THIS AGAIN!!!
DAVE: (karkat buddy)
DAVE: (remember the game plan here)
DAVE: (we want to get kanaya on our side not alienate her completely)
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
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: 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
KANAYA: Power Corrupts In Small Steps
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: 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: 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
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: 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
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: 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: 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 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
DAVE: its ok if you are we wont tell
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
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
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
DAVE: like rose plus your last name which is maryan or something right
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: Sorry, but Rose can’t come to the phone right now.
Kanaya’s voice turns sharp right away.
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: 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: 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.
DIRK: This is gonna have to wait.
DIRK: I’m putting you on hold, ok?