Hey guys and gals, it's been a long time indeed, but I'm baaaack!

So, it's been touch and go for a long time here, but we've finally got the end of act II ready to go. At least the first part, anyway, because we've hit 10,000 words and we're not done yet, so I figured I'd let you have your Christmas present early (late?) rather than delaying it until gog-knows-when.

I'd like to thank all of the people that reviewed profusely, as it was largely due to their support that I decided against dumping this story as, frankly, I started writing this five years ago, and at this point Homestuck itself just bores me. But, I guess we'll see how it goes from here.

I also want to shout out the awesome Ceebarus, who's created some really damn good art for this story, completely unprompted. Check his stuff out at the link,

deviantart ceebarus/art/We-Got-a-Fight-On-Our-Hands-863894286?ga_submit_new=10

(remove the space between deviantart and .com, because FF hates links with a passion and we have to trick it)

Anyway, I own nothing save the OCs and the camper, and all I can do now is ask you to review, and please enjoy.

Edit: Formatting on this one was hell. Bear with me please.

Upon a land of Frost and Frogs, three kids stood together inside a detached laboratory sphere, the atmosphere for once cheerful. Warm rays of sunlight streamed through cracks in the heavy concrete ceiling, casting intricate streams of yellow light across the gloomy interior of the lab. Brilliant blue computer monitors pulsed with an omnipresent hum as the sounds of conversation echoed inside the sphere.

"So you're Chester's other friend?" Jade Harley asked eagerly, a broad grin on her face, glasses glinting in the reflected light.

Chris attempted to do an exaggerated bow, like any cool knight of olde, yet almost tangled himself in his cape and narrowly avoided losing his footing. Within a moment of righting himself, he simply answered with a childish squeak, "YEP!I'mchris!"

Gesturing to an inwardly cringing Chester, he added, "I'mchester's bestestfriend"

Jade grabbed his hand and shook it enthusiastically, "Nice to meet'cha!"

Turning around, her labcoat-dress swishing around her theatrically, Jade gestured to the laboratory behind her, "Welcome to the Science-sphere!", she declared in a tone that could best be described as EPIC.

"You just came up with that off the top of your head. Didn't you?" Chester dryly observed,

Jade flushed, "Shut up!"

"Ithink its really coolinhere!" Chris added, slowly walking into the centre of the room where the main experiment centre was set up, piles of blue goo and scrap parts scattered all over the floor and tables.

"Well, I'm glad someone appreciates it" Jade declared, hands on her hips, a disapproving glance cast at Chester, who matched it with a dry blink, before returning his attention to Chris.

"I'm glad you're okay." He said after a moment of silence.

Chris shrugged, "Therewas anevildog man, andthenrose wasreally scary!", he began to wave his arms to add emphasis to the epic fight that ensued, adding "pow, pow" noises as well as miming sword-fighting moves.

"You fought Jack?" Chester interrupted, not quite reaching out for a hug, but patting Chris on the shoulder reassuringly, "I'm impressed and relieved to see you survived."

Chris nodded slowly, glance falling to the floor. "Myarm broke,beforethe otherplacefixed it. ButI waslucky, johnand rose gotreally hurt."

"But they're okay now", Jade quickly added.

"Iknow," Chris replied, shoulders raising and voice regaining its warmth, "Thats whyim notsad. They'reokay, and ihave a superspecial mission now!"

Rifling through her inventory, Jade nodded sagely. "I have just the thing that Rose told me to get you."

She withdrew an enormous, seven-foot tall needle, made of some strange material that looked like frozen moonlight, the blue glow of the monitors refracting off it to cast strange and fantastical reflections over the floor and kids. Smiling, she offered it to Chris, who promptly fell over with it, his flailing sweeping a whole table free of test-tubes and glassware. Jade rushed to pull Chris up, but backed off as he managed to wrangle the oversized needle under control alone, slowly but surely sliding the ponderous thing into his own fetch modus.

Standing, Chris glanced at the mess he'd made, shattered glass mixing with papers and liquid in a growing puddle of colourful chemicals. "Ooops", he squeaked.

Jade shrugged, "It's just a mess, don't worry about it"

Chris was eventually mollified by her insistent "don't worries", while Chester grabbed some paper towels and began to clean the mess. From his position on the floor, he inquired,

"What kind of schedule are you running on Chris? I get that Rose probably wants you to go fast. And for us to tag along with you. But we're on the verge of a serious breakthrough here. And frankly. we need more time."

Scooping up a cube of the blue goo, Jade nodded, "If we can get this stuff working, we could get really good armour for all our friends! We could...we could keep them safe from Jack!"

"Armoursounds socool" Chris exclaimed, before turning to look at the gouged open crack in the ball, "butrose told meto hurry. Idon't thinkwe havetime..." He slowly added, beginning to tap his index fingers together uncertainly.

Chester took one look back at their stuff, then shot Jade a meaningful glance. The two held the stare for a moment before they nodded sharply in synchronization.

"If time's of the essence. Lets get a move on then." Chester declared, before glancing back at Jade, "Unless you have things that need to be packed. If we're leaving this planet behind for good."

Jade paused for a good few seconds, indecision in her eyes, before her gaze turned to steel. "Things can be replaced," she intoned, "People can't. Lets go."

Chester shot her what he hoped was an encouraging and supportive smile, which she matched after a moment.

Chris broke the moment by drawing his sword, and thrusting it into the air. "LETSGO ADVENTURERS!"

With that, Chris ran outside, followed by an equally amused Jade and Chester at a more sedate walking pace, Chester captchaloguing a few packs of blue goo as they went.

XXXXX

Upon a Land of Frost and Frogs, a midnight-black swoop ship raced through the air like an arrow loosed from a bow, cutting through the wind with absolute silence, the ship's profile leaving it as concealed to radar as it was to ground-based observers due to its small size and lightning fast speed.

Inside a cockpit that glowed red as not to compromise the night-vision of the pilots, the Dersite Arch-agent known only as the Concealed Murderer noted the appearance of a third energy signature at the target destination.

He deliberated for a moment, before deciding that ultimately, it didn't affect his plan of attack. Speaking of which, they were almost at their destination. With a deft flick of the control rudders, and some manoeuvring of the motivator pedals, the ship's thrust cut out, and the flaps curled upwards, sending the ship plunging downwards like a dart thrown by some ancient god.

A mere moment before the ship struck the ground in a fireball of detonating ammunition and burning fuel, the Concealed Murderer slammed down the hover-mode button, the ship's inertial dampener barely keeping him from being turned into a puddle in the seat as the ship suddenly arrested all its downward motion and came to a delicate hover, the antigravity engines sending a dull chatter through his bones.

His seatmate, some strange jester from the palace squeaked in protest, no doubt terrified and disoriented from the brutal descent. As the crying and protests began, the Murderer simply reached over and raised the privacy screen separating their two seats. Much better.

Now, just a kilometre off target, and positioned below a ridge-line, the Murderer judged that the situation was perfect to proceed to the next step. With a few pressed buttons, a hatch in the bottom of the ship slid open with a sharp hiss, and a dozen small spherical drones fell through, their own hoverpads slowly bringing each one to a hover.

These drones were little more than engine, targeting system, and weapon, but the Concealed Murderer found them perfect for his purposes. From what he had gathered on his targets, the legendary nobles of myth were not actually immortal or indestructible. Neither were they resistant to the level of firepower he had brought. Indeed, the strange bipedal hairless mammals that they were, were actually less durable than the average carapacian, due to, well, the carapace.

So a light repeating laser, terribly effective against body-armoured carapacian infantry during the long war, should prove downright lethal against such vulnerable targets.

As the drones spread out into a wide, crescent-shaped encirclement pattern, the Concealed Murderer brought a few other weapons systems online. The light lasers would be the least of the nobles' problems in a few moments...

XXXXX

In the vacuum of space, surrounded by suffocating blackness and the distant light of Skaia, two kids flew without a care in the world, speaking and not suffocating as if such things were normal.

Clad in greatcoat, helmet, and violet hood, gas-mask discarded for the time being, Evan let out another boorish moan of protest.

"I'm bored"

Floating upside-down and backwards due to his equal boredom, Dave Strider, clad in an impeccably smooth black suit, with only a red tabard emblazoned with a gear to show his new status as a god-tier, replied.

"Well I'm as bored as a two by four plank of wood."

"So you're a board?" Evan asked, blinking.

"No, I'm bored. It's very simple Evan." Dave replied, patiently explaining like a teacher to a special needs student.

The resulting silence lingered like an unwelcome house-guest for a few moments, before Dave broke it with a chuckle, "You're too easy, man."

Evan shrugged, chainsword clinking against the impressive collection of metal canisters and parts hanging from his chest and back. "How much further? I'm dying here"

Dave glanced over his shoulder, eyeing the general direction in which the purple planet should be. "Less than an hour, probably", before snapping his fingers in triumph, "You know what, my angry friend?"

"I prefer the term simmering with rage," Evan interjected, finger raised,

"We should sing!" Dave finished, ignoring his companion.

"I did like singing with my Dad on roadtrips..." Evan slowly thought out loud. His brow furled for a moment, and fists clenched, before relaxing, "Sure, what the hell, I'll start us off."

Dave's first thought, was that Evan wasn't actually a bad singer. His voice hadn't yet broken due to puberty, and the resulting cacophony of noise was pleasant... at least until Dave heard what his chainsaw wielding travel buddy was singing about...

"We shoot the sick, the young, the lame, we do our best to kill and maim!" Evan sang the first line, the gruesome horror of the words almost slipping past Dave, who made a double take and started paying closer attention when Evan rolled into the second line with the grace of a train-wreck happening in slow motion.

"Because the kills all count the same... NAPALM STICKS TO KIDS!" Evan wrapped up the first verse with triumphant cheer.

Dave signalled a time out, "Woah, woah, woah, what the hell was that!" He demanded in shock that was only somewhat exaggerated for comedic effect.

Evan paused, giving Dave a look of incomprehension. "What?", he protested.

"What the heck was that song?" Dave clarified, "That was like the musical equivalent of Sauron's Orcs chatting in the cafeteria of evil about how much they like being evil. That song sounds like concentrated dead puppies. Its like something Rose would sing about while she was possessed by those horror-terrors."

Evan shrugged nonchalantly, "Napalm Sticks to Kids is a classic Vietnam war song. My father used to sing it to me when I was little."

Dave paled, "That makes way too much sense", he murmured softly

Evan frowned, noticing Dave making a face like he was nauseous, and in a moment of unparalleled genius, making the connection that he should sing a song that was less grim, Evan said,

"Fine, I'll do something else then."

With that, Evan took a deep breath of empty vacuum, and to Dave's increasing horror, began to sing once more.

"HE WAS JUST A ROOKIE TROOPER AND HE SURELY SHOOK WITH FRIGHT"

Dave made a noise that could best be described as "No", given shape as a sound,

"Not that one, either."

Evan pouted, before trying again,

"Okay then, you bloody commie censor, how about... Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord!"

Dave nodded approvingly, "That one's okay, but I never pegged you for a Union supporter."

Evan shrugged dismissively, "What? And be a confederate? Damn rebs, Sherman did nothing wrong!"

Dave narrowed his eyes in mock outrage, "You know, as a Texan, I feel like I'm contractually obligated to strike you for that"

Evan actually noticed Dave acting in jest, and snarked back, "Shoot me, Johnny Reb, Savannah was a legitimate military target, Sherman didn't go far enough."

Dave burst into chuckles, and Evan joined him a few moments later.

As they flew into the distance, Dave took a lead in singing, striking up some kind of energetic ditty from the sixties, or "the last decade of good music".

Their objective, the small, violet moon of Derse, still lay imperceptibly small on the horizon...

XXXXX

In a doomed session, deep in an asteroid belt, upon a long-abandoned rock studded with laboratories and living quarters, twelve trolls scurried to and fro, trying to figure out what needed to be done next. Well, at least those with the functioning legs to do so ran to and fro...

Karkat Vantas was not having a good day. Well, to be fair, he hadn't had a good life, really. But that wasn't important. The important part, the troll mused as he stormed down a dimly lit metal hall, shoes thundering against the metal grates underfoot, was that he had several trolls down in sickbay, most requiring surgery only Equius would be capable of providing. Unfortunately, Equius was one of the crippled trolls in sickbay, so there would be no convenient augmentics and hasty surgeries to get everytroll back on their feet.

This left Kanaya and her dubious grasp of first aid, most of which had been specialized for animals, not trolls. Better than nothing, he supposed, but it wasn't very good. With a shiver, Karkat just thanked the Sufferer that he wasn't one of the unfortunate trolls about to be under Kanaya's knife.

Speaking of the one troll smart enough to be his new second-in-command on this rock of failure and regrets, a freshly rested Kanaya caught up to him with a light jog, falling into step beside him.

"Karkat, I'm Glad I Caught You.", she began, voice smooth and level as ever, "The Amputations Are Wrapped Up Now, And Until Equius Wakes, We Can Only Wait And Let Them Rest."

Karkat sighed in relief, coming to a stop as they entered a large domed room with a sweeping glass window into the void beyond.

"WELL, WE'VE GOT ONE STEAMING SHITHEAP OF A DISASTER SOLVED", He commented, before muttering, "EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ENTIRELY SELF-CREATED IN THE FIRST PLACE,"

Kanaya folded her hands behind the small of her back, agreeing, "Its Worth Something, At Least"

Her partner sighed again, "I GUESS SO"

"It Could Be Worse", she continued, "Eridan Actually Seemed To Be On The Brink Of Snapping And Shooting Up The Meteor Earlier, But I Managed To Defuse That Bomb At Least"

"THAT FISHY FUCK?" Karkat asked, surprised,

"Indeed," Kanaya replied, "He Did Prove Quite The Help In Following Events, However,"

Karkat wasn't really sure what to add to that. Eridan being useful? What had the world come to? As he was pondering just how twisted the world had become, Kanaya interrupted his musings.

"Karkat, I've Been Thinking, And I've Been In Touch With The Rose Human, We Can't Stay Here Forever, And She Has A Plan"

Karkat resisted the urge to snark at her, as the Rose human was perhaps the only one among them with more than two brain-cells to rub together. Did humans even have brains? It would explain a lot if they didn't.

"GO ON", he gestured,

"She Plans To Strike Down Jack Noir By Using The Tumor To Travel Outside The Universe, And Destroy The Green Sun, Stripping Him Of His Powers. Then They Will Use THE SCRATCH To Slay Him For Good."

Karkat pondered that for a moment, "WHERE DO WE COME IN?"

Kanaya smiled softly, "Once The Tumor Is Set To Detonate, They Will Require Swift Egress From The Green Sun, Ideally Into The Deep Of The Furthest Ring. From There, She Intends To Travel To The New Session That Will Be Created."

Her partner saw their part in the plan quickly, "AND THOSE USELESS HITCHHIKERS WANT US TO PROVIDE TRANSPORT FOR THEIR LAZY HUMAN ASSES?"

She nodded. "Precisely."

They both stood there for a moment, contemplating the vista of space before them in silence, before Karkat broke the quiet,

"HOW IN THE BULGEFONDLING FUCK ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GET OUT THERE!?"

XXXXX

Elsewhere, in a place that was neither now nor there, inside a tastefully decorated emerald mansion upon a green moon, a lone figure suited in snow-white, with a polished cue-ball for a head rose from his armchair with practised grace.

Turning to the audience, Dr. Scratch bid them welcome, "Greetings, valued guests."

Striding with measured paces across the room, coming to stand before a wall-to-wall panel of slate grey steel, with four dormant screen displays arranged in a window-pane pattern in its centre, the Doctor paused for a few moments of contemplation.

With unhurried movement, the Doctor reached around to the left side of the panel, flicking an imperceptibly small switch on its side. The panel's screens flickered to life, a soft hum filling the room. The screens themselves didn't change colour from their regular flat black, but there was a sense of anticipation about them, as if they were waiting for an event that was just about to occur.

With his task done, the Doctor made an explanatory comment, "Welcome back, I hope this evening finds you well. I have taken the liberty of tying up a last few loose ends to aid our witch of space in the near future. Well, "taking liberties" is a joke, as I am certain you must be aware of. After all, I can hardly refuse the strings of casualty and predetermined events."

Turning from his wall, the Doctor strode to the door of his lavish emerald apartment, throwing it open with gentle care.

"If you would humour me, for a moment of your time," The Doctor asked, "I have one last task left to do."

The Doctor passed through the door, entering a plain white room with a shuttered window. 2010's Video Game posters plastered the walls, a shaggy grey carpet adorned the floor, a top of the line laptop sat on a work desk leaned against the wall, and a sleeping figure bundled under a heavy blue blanket snored on a bed in the corner.

The Doctor lacked a nose, but if he had one he would no doubt have turned up his nose at the room and its contents. Regardless, the Doctor moved like a man with a mission, and quietly manoeuvred to the laptop, unplugging it before tucking the device under his arm.

Device secured, the Doctor returned through the door, closing it with a quiet click.

A moment of waiting later, seemingly satisfied, the Doctor nodded firmly.

"Good. I must admit to loathing that place, if I may say. What a ghastly place, and what a wretched being, not an excellent host at all."

The Doctor then moved to the edge of the room across from the panel, and set the laptop up facing it. Backing up, the Doctor offered one last comment before you go;

"Honestly, I preferred the horse loving man; writing aside, he was a better host."

XXXXX

Deep in the void of space, two kids flew inexorably onward towards their distant destination.

By this point, Dave's voice was hoarse, and Evan had grown tired of singing, so the pair had settled into companionable silence. Neither had really gotten tired of flight, as it wasn't exactly a tiring activity, but the blackness of space was simply mind-numbing.

"Hey, Evan?" Dave called over, suddenly,

"Yeah?", came the slow, drawling reply,

Dave was quiet for a moment, before asking, "What was it like to have a dad?"

Evan grunted thoughtfully, and spent a few moments in quiet flight, before turning his head minutely to face Dave.

"It was normal, I guess," He started, awkwardly, voice at a near whisper, "He was always there, you know? Larger than life. He was too big to fail, too hardcore to... die. Then, of course, he did."

Dave was silent after that.

A few moments of flight after, Evan piped up,

"Hey Dave? What was it like to have a brother?"

Dave actually chuckled, surprise on his pale features, before he replied,

"He wasn't there, you know? He was around, but he was always lurking in ambush, or just a few steps ahead of me all the time. I didn't see him much, but I like to think he cared in his own way."

Evan nodded, "My dad cared. I know he did." Clenching his gloved hand, he continued, "He wanted me to be strong. I think I wanted his approval more than anything else in the world... so I became strong."

"Did you get his approval?" Dave asked quietly, almost afraid to shatter the moment of near serenity that had settled onto them,

Evan nodded, "Yeah. He never said so, but I know I did."

Dave smiled weakly, "That's good, man. With Bro... I was never sure."

Evan glanced at Dave, about to say something, but then he hesitated. A moment later, a green flash cast both their faces into stark shadow. Both boys' eyes widened at once. Both drew their swords and whirled around in flawless synchronization achieved through trauma borne skill refinement.

Hanging behind them in the void, sword stained with dry blood, was Jack Noir, the sovereign slayer.

There was a single moment as all three combatants regarded each other. A moment that seemed to stretch on forever. Dave's grip on his pale sword was so tight his knuckles were white; a trickle of sweat fell down his brow. Evan's chainsword growled like some wild beast, rows of jagged teeth snarling and rumbling as Evan kept it revved to the lowest setting; lubricating fluid poured down the teeth and gears, while the heady scent of gas drifted from the dripping nozzle on his flamethrower glove. Jack eyed them both with what looked like concentrated boredom, eyes flickering from one to the other, blade hanging lazily at his side.

The moment broke as Jack tensed, lunging forward with death in his eyes.

A green flash banished the darkness of space, searing Evan's vision, and even behind his mask's somewhat tinted lenses, he could only gather the vague impression of something really big colliding with Jack, swatting the winged bastard away like a discarded toy.

Evan snarled at the spots in his eyes, blinking hard and clenching his sword tighter, not abandoning his guard for an instant. Rapidly, he began to make something out. It was big... it was a vaguely faded beige colour... it was rectangular... Hold on.

As the world faded back into proper visibility, Evan beheld the Winnebago in all its armoured, run down glory hovering before him, a green corona of energy surrounding it like a protective blanket.

Evan felt a lot of things right then and there. Most of which he really didn't want to get into, but the single, overriding thought was that he wanted to go over there and touch its armoured side. He wanted that more than anything else in the world at that moment.

Then, just as Dave rushed past him, grabbing his shoulder and roughly dragging him forward with a shout of "move your ass, McCready!", Evan noticed the side door open, a rectangle of dim yellow light outlining a small robot with bunny ears, holding its hand outstretched in a clear reference to Barnold Schwartz-egger in the Exterminator movies. The message was clear; "come with me if you want to live, fleshbag".

Evan followed along, flying with Dave like a pair of human missiles, shouldering past the small robot, and collapsing in a heap against the inside wall of the camper. Evan looked up at the door, disentangling himself from Dave, when he saw the door swing shut all on its own, closing with a hefty thud that should have been beyond something of its low weight.

Evan staggered to his feet, the robot deftly manoeuvring itself around his ponderous bulk, as he glanced into the camper's cabin. Jack was still out there, somewhere. Then, just as he turned around and saw Jack flying at the Winnebago through the side window, sword drawn, and an expression of insulted fury blazing across his muzzle, the Winnebago threw itself into motion, causing Dave to once again collide with the wall in a heap of limbs.

Evan maintained his stance, watching Jack disappear in the distance as the camper rocketed away, seemingly under its own power. With that, he turned around and watched the camper's steering wheel and pedals move all alone with an indescribable expression across his face. Then, a massive green light from behind him caught his attention.

Just as Evan turned around; Jack Noir, clad in a powerful aura of green sun energy hit the Winnebago at terrifying speed. Seemingly a moment before impact, a torrent of emerald light poured off of the Winnebago, projecting a solid wall of green.

Jack struck it with a panicked widening of eyes, and the entire world turned white.

XXXXX

Elsewhere, upon a violet world of small black chess people and towering gothic architecture, Rose Lalonde sat in a quiet observation post by the anchor for the great chain shackling the moon above.

She was expecting Evan and Dave to show up at some point in the next half hour, which was disappointingly long, but travel times were an unfortunate reality. So, she contented herself with a pilfered mystery novel from a nearby bookseller's stall.

Just as she was getting to the good part, as the Crooked Constable was confronting the Innocent Witness in the basement of the Salty Kracken, a massive green explosion shook the whole planet, bathing everything in a brilliant emerald light, and shattering every window on Derse.

Rose took cover as a hailstorm of glass shards rained around her, and when she looked up, the remnants of a green mushroom cloud could be seen expanding around the planet in high-orbit.

Slowly sliding a wand out of her pyjama sleeve, idly doubting whether or not the majjyks could even work without the patronage of the Horror-terrors, Rose scanned the sky in concealed terror. Was it Jack?

A few moments of heart-pounding silence later, a beige speck shot through Derse's atmosphere in a fiery corona, and began to approach the chained moon.

Rose raised an eyebrow in curiosity. If she were a betting girl, she'd place better than even odds that the fireball currently sending the whole planet into blind panic was probably Dave and his companion. Though, where they got a spaceship was certainly worth questioning.

Still, since it was probably them, Rose shot into the air, wand still drawn, and tried to catch the speeding beige bullet as it cut across the sky, hovercars swerving out of its way.

XXXXX

Chester followed side-by-side with Jade as Chris led the way outside, flinching in discomfort at the bright rays of sunlight suddenly assaulting his vision. Chester idly contemplated putting his helmet on, not that it was tinted; speaking of which that was another area of necessary upgrades, but besides that there was also a heady scent of pollen in the air that was aggravating his allergies.

Sneezing, the boy met Jade's curious glance while making a face like a frog that had just been punched in the gut, and turned away from her to scan the treeline idly. At least the ground had solidified from slushy muck by this point, so he wasn't sloshing around through ankle deep slush any more. Small blessings.

They walked through the path of carnage left by the sphere; mangled chunks of steel and concrete scattered across the forest like shrapnel from a grenade, while trees were uprooted and tossed around like broken toys by the ball, when a staccato of gunshots shattered the pleasant silence hanging over the forest, chunks of dirt exploding all around them.

Chester took one step more forward and froze like a deer in the headlights, only to be tackled to the ground by Jade a moment later, with a shout of, "GET DOWN!"

Prone and sprawling in the dirt, deafening weapons fire impacting all around them, she hauled Chester's limp form into cover behind a chunk of concrete. Sparing him a glance, Jade roughly shook him, "are you hit"

Back against the wall, Chester shook his head roughly, "No. I just. Uh. Nevermind. What the hell is going on?"

Jade didn't reply initially, uncaptchaloguing a mirror, and slowly raising it above the concrete chunk, facing outwards into the canopy of trees beyond. A few heartbeats later, a blue energy blast punched a glowing hole clean through it, showering the both of them with small sparks. She dropped it with a startled yelp, then shrunk down further behind the concrete cover.

Turning to face him, Jade explained, "they're in the trees behind us, about six muzzle-flashes from what I can see."

"How far are they spread out?" Chester asked, voice level and firm,

Jade made a non-committal motion, "fifty feet of spacing, i guess. couldn't exactly go over there with a tape measure to check, you know"

Chester almost made a snarky, 'Can you give me that in real-world units instead of hamburger-units', but didn't. They both uncaptchalogued their guns, Undertaker decaying whatever scant plant-life remained at his feet to ashen and lifeless strands of grass, while Jade's sun-powered thompson-knockoff immediately warmed the area to an uncomfortable degree.

"Do you see Chris?" Chester asked quietly, slowly becoming aware that the rain of fire had abated for the time being.

Jade nudged him, and pointed down the path a-ways, to where the small knight was sheltering beneath a large chunk of metal. He waved at them, and Chester nodded to him.

"what do we do now", Jade wondered, glancing at the parts of the treeline they still could see with suspicion.

Chester began to charge the Undertaker, a plan slowly beginning to form. He turned minutely to face her, and whispered for her to pester Chris to phase out, and stand up to draw fire on the given signal.

"what should I do", Jade asked, gun held at the ready,

Judging that the undertaker was sufficiently charged, given that it was outright shaking in his grip, ghostly energies pouring off it so intensely that it seemed the gun was on fire, Chester replied, "Throw down some suppressing fire. And tell Chris to start the distraction right about..."

Shuffling around so his legs were tensed under him, boots crunching on the loose dirt underfoot, Chester declared, "...Now!"

Jade sent the message, a ghostly Chris phasing right through the metal sheet moments later, waving his sword in the air and shouting, "HEREIAM!"

Six beams of rapid-fire energy weapons cut through his ghostly form almost instantly.

As Jade rose somewhat, energy rifle shooting inaccurate golden bursts into the treeline, Chester rose also, aiming the Undertaker at the furthest left muzzle-flash.

He squeezed the trigger, and with a searing flash of light and heat, a continuous beam-like explosion carved a glassy trench in the treeline, scattering towering oaks like matchsticks and setting the ancient wood ablaze. As his vision cleared and the laser fire stopped, Chester blinked spots out of his eyes to see the charred hell he'd unleashed. The soil had fused into glass, and shimmering waves of heat rose from it like on a boiling blacktop in an Ontario summer.

Jade looked at the destruction, then back at him, and nodded.

"nice!"

Chester sheepishly nodded in agreement, before casting a critical gaze back at the charred horizon. What had attacked them, and why? Just as he was about to take his first step through the rubble and shrapnel, and move closer to examine the treeline, a massive dark shape shot up into view with a deafening roar.

In the instant it took him to realize it kinda looked like a fighter-jet of some kind, an underslung energy cannon fired a brilliant violet beam, and blew Jade away like a ragdoll with a startled scream.

In that same moment, a pair of Gatling turrets targeted Chester and Chris and fired an intense barrage of bolts. With violet death cutting through the sky towards him, Chester didn't hesitate for once, and threw himself to the ground, staying as low as physically possible while chunks of sizzling rock showered him.

In the distance he heard Chris shout, though he couldn't make out the words.

Chester crawled further into cover, mind buzzing with a million thoughts. He berated himself for not thinking of making smoke grenades or flash-bangs. Area-of-effect shields would have been useful, as would remote-controlled drones to draw enemy fire.

Then his gaze flashed to Jade, only to see a charred crater and her body somewhere out of his sight. He suppressed the pang of phantom pain that pulled at him to instead contemplate their attacker. A Derse fighter-jet of some kind, a ground-attack gunship, clearly.

But why on earth would it strike here and now?

Then it came to him. Chris. The needle and the tumor. It was here to disrupt their plans. In that instant, he made a decision. Helmet computers activating, Chester typed out a quick message to Chris.

-InquisitoralLogician [IL] began pestering incoporealCriticist [iC]-

IL: Chris.

IC: chester?ohmy gosh! Didyousee whathappened tojade?

IC: areyou okay?

IL: I'm fine. And that's not important.

IL: This thing is here to stop us from delivering the quills and initiating the scratch.

IL: We can't afford to get bogged down. Go. Go now.

IL: I'll cover you.

IC: but

IL: Go.

- InquisitoralLogician [IL] ceased pestering incoporealCriticist [iC]-

With that, Chester began to charge the Undertaker, aiming at where he remembered the ship to be, weapon aimed at his chunk of cover. Ideally, he could shoot right through it and hit his target...

Within seconds, the weapon was hot to the touch, and Chester let the beam fly, boring a hole through the solid concrete near-instantly, and searing the sky beyond. Whether or not he got a hit or not, he didn't know. However, the fire on his position intensifying, and a small blue and silver blur rocketing to the sky in his peripheral vision was all he needed to see.

Jade was down. Hopefully okay, but if she hadn't gotten back to the fight by now, she was down for the count. Chris was gone. Just as planned, but still, it left him alone.

Chester's grip on the gun was with vice-like fingers, his breath was ragged.

Okay, step one. Consolidate with allies and seek reinforcements. He glanced back, to where Jade lay, somewhere.

He glanced back to his cover, the ship hovering somewhere behind, weapons chipping away at the heavy stone. Frankly, he was screwed. His cover was shrinking by the moment, and if he made a run for it he'd be scythed down in less than a second. His super-brain had run the numbers on the targeting and projectile speed of the ship, and the numbers didn't look good.

Backed into a corner, Chester did something he never really expected to do. He shut his eyes tight, and thought inward, reaching for the dimly familiar feeling of his, "power", for lack of a better term.

'okay, super-brain', he thought, 'we're going to die here if you don't help. I need you to stop being reactive to explicit requests, and toss me a bone here. I... need help. I need a way out'.

With deafening energy blasts exploding around him, he sat like that for a moment, thoughts still and empty. Then, a feeling he hadn't known since the ecto-biology lab back on the Land of Glass and Pillars returned.

He knew what to do...

Chester turned, weapon aimed at the concrete block at a precise angle. He charged the Undertaker for a exactly 4.35 seconds, before letting the beam fly. A super-heated cloud of concrete dust exploded around him, dropping visibility to nothing, and conveniently hiding heat signatures behind its sweltering shroud.

Then he ran, each footfall perfectly placed, hopping left to right at seemingly random to avoid bursts of blind energy weapon fire. Approaching a slab of stone, Chester leaped over it, before falling to his knees to avoid an energy cannon beam that would have otherwise incinerated his head.

With a shudder that cut into his very bones, he snapped out of what could have been a trance. That was... unpleasant.

Then, Chester's gaze fell on the other body inhabiting the sheltered crater he'd dove into.

Jade.

His blood ran cold as nitrogen.

The girl's limp form lay sprawled on a chunk of masonry, limbs twisted at unnatural angles and body outright charred by the energy weapon. She wasn't breathing.

He crawled to her side, denial flooding his mind, regardless of what his brain's analysis was telling him.

Chester grabbed her wrist and felt for a pulse desperately. She had to be alive. This wasn't possible.

"Oh fuck. No no no no..."

There was no pulse.

'TELL ME HOW TO SAVE HER' he screamed at his power.

No rush of knowledge came. An empty feeling settled over him as if trying to comfort him, but he shook it away.

"HELP ME YOU BASTARD"

Nothing came, and he fell to hands and knees, trembling with exhaustion as his rage faded. Slowly, his mind continued to turn its gears and get back on track.

Next step, secure area, determine enemy composition; counterattack.

His eyes flashed up to where he knew the gunship would be hovering.

His grip on the Undertaker's silver handle tightened.

XXXXX

Upon a meteor-laboratory in another session entirely, a pair of trolls rushed through metal corridors with the energy of those gripped by a new idea.

Karkat barged into Feferi's room, slamming the door open without a shred of courtesy or consideration, and strode in with the impatience of a self-righteous supermarket customer.

A more apologetic Kanaya followed him in, hands fussing behind her back, expression wavering.

His thunderous entrance drew a startled squeak from the fuchsia-blooded heiress, while her mustard-blooded partner in cuddles simply sighed.

"really karkat? what do you even want?", came Sollux Captor's annoyed remark,

Karkat waved a grey hand dismissively, pacing the room and beginning to lecture,

"Get off your lazy hindquarters, Captor, we need you to blast this stupid rock through space and time and into those stupid humans' session"

Feferi's eyes narrowed slightly at the prospect of leaving her comfortable perch, but she returned to her carefully schooled neutral expression soon enough. Rising from the fortress of pillows on her bed, she walked to join Kanaya, inquiring,

"W)(at's )(appened?"

Kanaya replied with something resembling hope, "We've Made A Plan With The Rose Human And Others."

Karkat shook his head dismissively, "THOSE BULGEMUNCHERS COULDN'T FIND THEIR OWN ASSES WITH TWO HANDS AND A MAP. THIS IS MOSTLY TO GET OURSELVES OUT OF THE LINE OF FIRE, AS JACK'LL FIND US HERE SOONER OR LATER."

Kanaya disagreed, "They Plan To Use The Scratch To Kill Jack, While Detonating The Green Sun To Strip Him Of His Power At The Same Time. The Green Sun Is Where We Will Rendezvous With Them."

Sollux nodded, mismatched red and blue glasses glinting under the artificial light. "the plan 2eem2 2ound. two many variiable2 for my comfort, but 2ound"

Feferi nodded carefully, "I agree. We need to fig)(t jack some)(ow, and t)(is plan seams reel clever"

Kanaya smiled, turning to leave, "I'm Glad We're In Agreement. We'll Need Your Telekinetic Skills To Propel The Meteor Into The Furthest Ring, Sollux. Are You Up To The Strain?"

Following the group to the door, Sollux hesitated for a moment, before nodding sharply. "ii am. let'2 go play grub-ball wiith a meteor, then."

The group walked through dim corridors for a time, Kanaya and Karkat explaining the calculations they'd had a freshly awoken Equius carry out for them, and how they'd found the perfect spot to have Sollux give the rock a great big push to send it on its way.

Then, they arrived, exiting the meteor to a wide landing pad, the vista of space suspended all around them in stunning majesty. It was then, as Kanaya took in the pad's current occupants; namely a bed-ridden Equius and Eridan, busy hot-wiring some manner of contraption with Ahab's Crosshairs plugged into it, that Kanaya suddenly realized that bringing Feferi and Sollux to an area inhabited by Eridan was perhaps like splashing liquid engine fuel onto a campfire that had just subsided to embers.

Before she could fix the situation, Sollux and Feferi froze, and Eridan glanced backwards, instantly tensing up, eyes flashing with steely resolve.

Even Karkat, oblivious as he was, came to a dead stop, suddenly realizing that he was standing right in the crossfire between the parties.

Then, Eridan spoke,

"feferi. captor.", and returned to his work without a second glance backwards.

Sollux hesitated, before grumbling under his breath and heading over to the tinkering pair to offer his programming knowledge.

Kanaya nearly lost consciousness from holding her breath in anticipation, but as the trio didn't immediately erupt into eye-lasers and majjyk death-rays, and instead descended into muttered technobabble, she exhaled, feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off her shoulders.

Eridan was normal.

Karkat went over to join the fussing engineers, presumably to offer unhelpful orders and instructions while Feferi hovered at the edge of the group, unwilling to get too close to a conversation that didn't want her.

Kanaya went to join her, and for many blessed minutes the two girls made meaningless small talk, that she only then realized just how much it was missed in the past few hellish days that Sburb had brought to her life.

Upon discussing the finer points of "Midnight", a particularly classy rainbow-drinker romance, the girls were interrupted when the group of boys broke apart, a bed-bound Equius awkwardly raising his arms above his heavily bandaged chest, and proclaiming,

"I have finished the task you set before me. Now take me back to Nepeta at once!"

Eridan shook his head, and to Kanaya's utter mortification, Sollux agreed with him.

"not yet, we need you two moniitor the heat readout2 on eriidan'2 fii2h2tiick gun, iif iit 2tart2 two overheat and enter2 a feedback loop, damn thiing could vaporiize half the meteor iif you don't overriide iit and cycle the power through the auxiiliiary channel2."

Equius's inevitable protest was cut off by a curt Eridan,

"i can't be the one to do it because sometroll needs to align the targeting matrix for the jury-rigged fusion thruster wwe'vve turned my gun into. and before you ask, sollux is busy doing the heavvy lifting on actually movving this bloody rock"

Equius turned to Karkat, gesturing and demanding why he couldn't take over his job, before catching himself, and after an awkward pause, the three tech-heads burst into stress-based hysterical laughter at the thought of giving such a technically oriented job to Karkat, of all trolls.

"FUCK YOU TOO", he snarled, only to have the three laugh harder.

Calming down, Eridan reassured the blue blood as best he could, awkwardly patting Equius' meaty arm,

"i checked up on nepeta as i wwas rolling you out, and she's in less bad shape than you are. it's just that she's got a nasty concussion and really needs to sleep it off."

Seeing that her talents were once again required, Kanaya softly excused herself from her conversation, and chimed in with Eridan,

"Feferi And I Were The Ones To Treat Her, You Know, And Eridan's Right. She Has A Broken Arm And Heavy Internal Bruising, But The Concussion Is The Worst Of It. She Is In No Danger To Her Life."

Equius' eyes softened, and he seemed to relax back into the throne of pillows that were propping his bandaged figure up.

"Very well. And upon my honour as a high b100d, thank you. In any case, we are ready to begin whenever Sollu% is ready."

Sollux accepted Feferi's hand on his shoulder with a blushing cuddle for a moment, then stepped forward to the platform's edge, hands curling into fists.

Equius turned his attention to a series of monitors that were wired into a rocket-like assembly connected to Ahab's Crosshairs, sitting secure in a containment housing.

Eridan knelled at a singular monitor that showed strings of numbers and angles racing through at high speeds.

"ii'm ready."

With that, the entire meteor shook.

XXXXX

Upon a Land of Heat and Clockwork, standing defiantly upon the vast expanse of the Beat Mesa, John Egbert squinted his eyes at the hordes of Sburb-monsters that surrounded him.

On the mesa itself stood swarms of imps and goblins, clad in festive jester's attire. Scattered amonst the teeming throng were occasional Giclopses and Liches, far larger than their early-game counterparts. Insectoid Basilisks slithered through the enemy ranks, their chittering forms promising to prove difficult to hit, and their glinting fangs heralding a venomous death. In the air, winged harpies and flying Lich variants hovered, eager to swoop upon him and deliver the killing blow. Beyond them, in the lava lake that surrounded the floating Beat Mesa stood a larger collection of enormous monsters. A handful of massively high-level Giclopses were so big that they couldn't stand upon the Mesa itself; forced to stand in the lava, their shoulders and heads loomed above the disk's edge. Truly gigantic Titans stood in the lava, their bodies so big that the Mesa only came up to their waists. Mysterious and lanky Acherons darted between their larger brethren, seeking an opening to strike; while gargantuan Lich-Queens lingered in the rear, their prodigious intelligence putting itself to use by wrangling some order into the horde.

Against such monsters, John carried the legendary Pop-a-matic Vrillyhoo Warhammer, a two-handed weapon forged as a combination of his own old hammer, and Vriska's Fluorite Octet; a set of eight eight-sided dice that warped reality to create randomized effects.

Hammer held at the ready, the monsters began to crowd closer. Feeling a light breeze dance across his face, momentarily relieving him of the sweltering heat of LoHaC, John smiled. This wasn't the early-game anymore, and he had gone through a whole character arc and stuff. These monsters would soon be in for a rude awakening asto what exactly an ascended Heir of Breath was capable of.

Just as the tension was about to snap, a heroically screaming blue blur struck the platform, trying and failing to do a superhero landing, and bounced across its surface to land at his feet.

"HiJohn!" Chris's armoured form chirped. "Scratchquill?"

In his outstretched armored hand, was a quill so long it could be considered a spear. Pale like milk and cold to the touch, this could only be Echidna's quill. The one thing strong enough to initiate the scratch.

John took it, flinching at the piercing cold, and then helped a grateful Chris to his feet.

"Doyou wantsomehelp fightingthese mobs?," Chris asked with awkward quickness, "CauseRose wantsmeto meether for thenextpart oftheplan as soonasIcan, andIreallyneed to begoing."

A sweeping hurricane slowly coming to life behind him, John grinned, "its okay, chris. i can deal with these guys."

XXXXX

Upon the violet world known as Derse, a young lady used dark majjyks and inherent dreamself powers to fly through the sky like a particularly graceful arrow; a trail of chaos and devastation left by a flaming beige vehicle ahead of her.

Rose weaved between the panicked flails of flying cars painted in the standard Derse purple, getting ever closer to her target. The fast-moving blob that had singlehandedly caused more property damage to the violet planet in one day than it had no doubt experienced in centuries began to slow down, much to her relief.

Rose saw that it was in fact some manner of camper van, as she got closer. Or, at least it wasa camper van before a great deal of unorthodoxmodifications had been done to it. Most obviously, it had a pair of rocket-based engine pods attached to its sides by metal support struts, with the engines seemingly being able to rotate to allow for VTOL flight. Apart from that, the camper was studded with a variety of scrap metal armour plating, including what appeared to be scraps salvaged from 60's era American tanks being welded around its sides like an armoured skirt. Last but most certainly not least was what could only be a world war bomber turret mounted on the camper's roof, ominously threatening with a pair of machineguns nestled in a gleaming ball turret.

Rose took the only logical way forward, and caught up to the slowing machine. She approached it on the left hand side, and slowed beside the driver's side window. For a moment, the gas-masked individual in a grey overcoat and purple hood did not acknowledge her. She tapped on the window delicately, noting in mild disgust that the window had grease and dirt accumulated upon it to an unacceptable degree, and the individual who really could only be Evan, but she didn't want to assume, turned to face her.

After a momentary standoff, her own distinguished self keeping pace with the mechanical monstrosity, Rose made the universal gesture of "roll down your window".

The individual gave her a suspicious glare, a very impressive feat given his expressionless gasmask, but slowly did so.

Rose smirked in a ladylike manner, "Evan, I presume. May I come in?"

The individual stared at her for a moment, before replying in a nondescript southern drawl, "Who the hell are you,"

"Is Dave there?" She inquired,

The gasmask remained expressionless, but the individual shouted into the back, a feat made more impressive given how his gaze never turned away from her, "DAVE! Get your ass out here, there's a broad that wants to see you! Probably that Rose tramp or something!"

Her eyes narrowed the tiniest fraction at the disrespect, but Rose said nothing, matching the vehicle's pace with a graceful sideways acceleration.

Soon enough, a bedraggled Dave Strider appeared from the passageway between the two front seats, gaze flickering over to her. "oh hey rose, long time no see, eh? well, more like never, really, but who's keeping track, except for some obsessed tracking keeper living in their basement and obsessively tracking people's movements and interactions for the sole purpose of updating their shipping chart."

He smiled roguishly, "its good to see you though,"

Rose smiled too, "It really is."

Evan broke their moment with a boorish grunt, "She cool?", he demanded from Dave in a tone that was almost friendly.

Dave nodded, "yeah, she cool."

Evan performed a complicated maneuver with the camper's handbrake, the engine pods angled forwards, and the ship came to a stop in mid-air.

He gestured to the side door, "Get in, we've got booze and guns, and we're going to help you blow up a moon."

Dave chimed in to correct him. "no, you see, we're blowing up a sun, we just need to disconnect a moon from its planet"

Evan shot him a dry stare as Rose made her way to the passenger door and let herself in. Her nose immediately curled at the dishevelled state of the vehicle's interior, the entire place smelling of body odour, unwashed dishes, and spray-on deodorant. In other words, it smelled of teenage boy, and it smelled disgusting.

Eyes rolling so hard they were at risk of falling out of her skull, she walked to the cabin of their impromptu starship and oversaw Dave and Evan bickering over something that was probably pointless.

"im telling you man, the battle of the alamo was a defeat for the texan settlers. It was only afterwards that it stood as a rallying cry for the texan troops that led them to win", Dave loudly declared, hands waving at Evan.

Evan shot back, "What? Hell no, the Alamo was when Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln fought the British to add Texas to the Union. What the hell kind of commie propaganda have you been learning in your schools?"

Dave snickered and replied, "ive been there man, ive been there several times. I'm telling you, this happened."

Evan snorted dismissively and Dave continued, half laughing, "don't be as nutty as the ancient aliens guy, trying to convince us that aliens didn't build Stonehenge, i'm going to get some real american history through your impenetrable skull one of these days, McCready, mark my words."

"An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred," Evan replied without missing a beat, smoothly steering the ship.

With conversation coming to a lul, Rose inserted herself. "I hate to interrupt, boys, but we need to get our plans together."

"Where do we go", Evan grunted,

"That great big chain anchoring the moon we just passed," Rose replied, "Go back to that, and land us at the base. We've got a moon to decouple, and our window of opportunity is fading fast."

"why don't we just cheat like all great heroes and fly this great american made knockoff of the aluminum falcon all the way to the green sun?" Dave asked, lounging in his chair like a king. Or a lazy jester.

Rose scoffed, "The problem is that space and time are meaningless in the furthest ring. Even if we went in at the same trajectory, we wouldn't end up in the same place. We need to ride the decoupled moon to the green sun. It will take us there. I have foreseen it."

Arms thrown up, Dave conceded, "who am i to argue with our great and terrible witch-queen? lead the way, evan"

As they bantered, the level of petty sniping slowly escalating, Evan had turned the ship around, and flown it all the way to the base of the chain, great links the size of small buildings rooted to the ground by a titanic clamp.

The camper landed with a not so delicate thunk, jostling the inhabitants into the walls and each other. In that moment, Rose shot up in her seat, alarm and shame flashing across her face.

"Damnnation!", She hissed in worry, "The Tumor. We need to wait for Chris to deliver it."

Evan chuckled, and pulled a brown wallet that she recognized as John's fetch modus from his pocket. He tossed it to her, and she deftly caught it. To her immense relief, the unmistakable black and white shape of the universe bomb was held inisde.

She was a little lost for words, "How?", Rose muttered in disbelief,

Evan and Dave shared a knowing look,

"come on down here prince haery," Dave called into the back,

Evan interrupted, "His name, is General Patthare of the third US army, get it right,"

Rose interrupted the both of them, "Why are you both making puns based on rabbit names?"

Evan gestured with his thumb to the back of the camper, and she followed his gaze. There, was John's birthday gift. Casey the robot bunny, looking a bit worse for wear, climbing down from the roof ball-turret. Someone had given her a US army helmet, with the words "Soverign-Slayer Slayer" written on its side.

"The rabbit was here when the camper picked us up. He seems trustworthy enough, I guess," Evan explained.

Rose's next words were cut off by Chris's knightly-helmet-clad head thrusting itself down in front of the windshield. She would never admit it, but she was caught off-guard in that moment, and may have uttered an unladylike gasp.

Dave flinched and his hand fell to his sword, while Evan had drawn his sidearm and had almost put a shot through the windshield.

"CHRIS YOU BASTARD!", he snarled, "DON'T DO THAT!"

The boy outside the camper flinched, and raised his gauntleted hands before his face. "I'msorry!", he yelped.

"Whatever," Evan replied, "Just get your thieving ass in. We've got work to do."

Chris complied, getting in through the side door, and soon stuck his head into the main cab.

"HiRose!", he chirped, "Idropped offthe needlequill toJohn,andwe foughtsome monsters! Itwasawesome!"

Despite herself, Rose smiled, "That's very good Chris, I am sure you distinguished yourself most gallantly."

Dave chuckled, "rose giving out praise? who are you and what have you done with my friend?"

She didn't roll her eyes at him, "This, is Christopher. He has been a little gentleman this entire time, which is more than I can say for some peopleon this adventure."

Dave's reply was cut off by an impatient Evan. "Right, lets get this done,"

He made his way out through the driverside door, and the other three made their own ways out of the fortress camper, robot bunny returning to its perch in the machinegun nest.

Together, the four stood at the foot of the colossal mega-structure.

Dave gave voice to their thoughts, "how the hell are we going to bring this down"

Evan brusquely moved forward, tattered backpack slung off his shoulder and free hand digging around inside. He pulled out a grey brick bound with electrical tape, wires coiling around it like tiny snakes.

Rose couldn't help herself, "Would that be a plastic explosive?"

Evan, who was busy adhering it to the surface of the chain, nodded, "Vietnam war surplus, Dad got his hands on an abandoned stockpile way back"

Then, as Evan pulled more and more of the stuff out of his pack, Dave commented, "plastic explosives, rose, plural. please tell me you at least learned how to count in your fancy rich girl school,"

Sticking strips of a plastic-clad red compound around the chain, Evan chimed in with a booming voice, "I'm also adding thermite if anyone cares, give it that extra kick to really burn through stubborn metal,"

Satisfied with the tightly packed rings of plastic explosives and incendiary compounds he'd wrapped around the base link of the chain, Evan took a few steps back, and wiped his hands on his pants.

Waving a disposable cellphone in their faces, he made his way back to the camper, Rose and Dave trailing behind, "we'd best get moving to the moon, don't want to be near here when this goes off"

"I can only imagine," Rose commented, before Evan snorted,

"I was joking, this should be safe to stand near, or at least mostly safe, its supposed to burn through the chain, not waste its energy blowing up, be a pretty shitty explosive if that's what it did,"

Dave chuckled, "my concern about you has grown slightly, my pyromaniac friend, although my desire to see shit blow up has increased a thousandfold, so its all good."

With amused snorts from Rose and Evan, the four piled back into the camper and took to the sky, violet moon in sight.

Landing on the surface of the moon, at the foot of Rose's dreamself's tower, Evan killed the engine with a blunt turn of the key, and tossed the plain cellphone to her. "Its the send key," he explained, "Feel free to do the honours"

Rose thumbed the green plastic of the "send" button, and with a press, nothing happened. Intellectually, she knew the explosion would be closer to a super-heated chemical reaction that would burn through the chain, but still. She was just a smidge disappointed.

Then, a booming groan of rending metal cut through the air, and with a momentary feeling of weightlessness, the moon began to drift away from Derse, the violet planet slowly shrinking in the sky.

XXXXX

Upon a land of frost and frogs, a young boy charged an ominous weapon with steely determination.

Chester's thoughts were running cold with determined anger. The Undertaker was so overwhelmingly powerful that the grass at his feet for meters in all directions crumbled to grey dust.

He couldn't see that damned gunship, but that didn't matter. He could see the streams of energy weapons fire coming from its underslung turrets. Its position was clear as day under such circumstances, the ship clearly visible in his mind's eye, even as he aimed at it through a concrete chunk.

With a tense exhale, Chester pulled the trigger and his vision went white as the beam of energy vaporized his stone cover in a heartbeat.

When the spots from his eyes faded, the gunship was simply gone. Reduced to free-floating clouds of molecular vapour, most likely. Around him, concrete chunks and rubble in a wide circle were simply crumbling to dust, steel rebar rusting into powder, while trees decayed into sludge.

It was over.

An exhaustion he didn't realism was hanging over him hit him like a truck, and Chester sagged where he stood, gun hanging limp. With nothing more to occupy his thoughts, they inevitably returned to the... deadgirl lying meters away.

Fighting bone-deep tiredness, Chester forced his way through the dust and the ash to come to her side. Falling to one knee, he desperately checked her over one more time. She was cold, and lying there, the larger-than-life girl looked sosmall.

For a moment, he wasn't sure what to do, what he coulddo, but then his thoughts turned to Sburb, its mechanics, and his prior experience.

The God-tier process.

If Jade was a "Sburb-Player", and this was a different session, then surely there mustbe some God-Tier towers and quest beds scattered around. Glancing to the mountainous and heavily forested horizon, Chester's hand balled into a fist. There had to be a tower somewhere. He'd get her there, and the process would do its thing.

It would work.

It had to.

Glancing back at her, he was suddenly struck with intense embarrassment at the thought of lifting a girl. God. That meant he'd have to touch her. In that moment, he was so red he could have been mistaken for an anthropomorphic tomato.

XXXXX

In a place outside time and space, that was also inside time and space but somewhere else entirely; a figure clad in a smothering blue blanket spoke to a Dersite from within the folds of its hooded clothing.

"I̷̪̐ ̷̟̌h̸̭̒a̷̗͋v̴͍̓e̸̟͂ ̷̳̃n̴̡̽ë̴̥́e̷̮̍d̸̗͌ ̸̡̍o̶͍͋ḟ̸ͅ ̸̙̃ö̸̧́n̵̜̔ȩ̶̈́ ̴̗̉ẅ̵́ͅh̶͔̔o̴̢̊ ̴̨̈c̸̻̓a̴̰̋n̵̜͘ ̴͈̽u̸͍̚n̷͙͌t̸̠̉a̴͎̚n̸̜̈g̷͈̕l̸̀ͅē̴̞ ̷̙̕t̴̪̃h̴̛̳è̷̮ ̸̗͌k̸̹̀n̴̬̒o̷͚̒t̸͓̓s̴̨̏ ̷͇̄t̸͇̓h̵͍̆ị̴͋š̶̙ ̸͓͂n̸͙̓ä̷̘́r̶̻͐r̵̺̂a̷͚͂t̶̝͝i̴̞̒v̸͕̐ě̴̳ ̸͍̄ḧ̴̨́ä̸͖́ş̶̅ ̴̣͂s̶̺̔p̷̩̓u̴͙͠n̷̺͠ ̷̖͝i̴̺͐t̵̖͝s̶̘̏e̴͍̿ḹ̴f̵͆͜ ̶̩̏ì̴̖n̵̥̉t̶̯̆o̵̬͂.̴̪̅ ̸̭̔O̵͚͝n̷̡̏ȅ̸͇ ̴̟͛w̷͖̑h̷̩̔o̶̪̚ ̶̽ͅc̸̨͝á̷͎n̵̛̩ ̶̲͐t̸͔̽í̷̭e̷̝͆ ̷̤̓ú̸̲p̸̼͠ ̷̟͝l̸̺͐ọ̸͐ò̷̲ṣ̷̓e̸̲͠ ̸͍́ẻ̶̺n̴̮̄d̴͓͂s̸͍̔.̶̒͜

̶͓̈́

̴̚ͅY̶̢̽o̵͚̕ǘ̸̖r̶̺̋ ̸̧̎ś̵̺e̵̬̓ŗ̶̿v̷̹̆ï̶̡c̶̤̊e̶̹͌s̵̩͋ ̵̡̕h̶̘̚a̸̢͂v̶̧̉ḙ̶͒ ̷̮͂c̷̡̛o̵͙̚m̵͖̔ë̶̺́ ̵͙̋r̵̓͜e̵͔̚c̸͎̄o̶̬͆m̷̹͝m̵̘̾e̶̼̍n̴͉͝d̵̻̿ȇ̴̠d̶̥̓,̶̢̚ ̸̞̽C̷̨͝u̸̲̐r̷̟̓ḁ̵̄t̸̓͜o̴̰̕r̷͊͜"

The Dersite, clad in an immaculate dress suit with a red flower pinned to the lapel bowed his head.

Turning away from the Dersite, the hooded figure turned to face the window, an incomprehensible dimension of Snow and Sorrow outside.

"Y̷̤͝o̶̳͌u̸͉̐r̷̢͑ ̶̯̍t̴̛̼â̷̻ȑ̵̦g̸̻̑é̵͚t̸̳̆s̴̳̀ ̵̥͆w̷̻͊ǐ̸͜l̷̙̈́ĺ̵̺ ̵̹͆b̷̯͗e̶͖͘ ̸͙̑ṗ̷̥r̴̙̊o̷̘̚v̷̛̤ǐ̶͖d̸̟͝e̶̲͗d̸̢͐ ̴̺̊t̷̨̒o̷̘͑ ̷̰͘y̵̼̋o̴̳̓u̸̦͠,̴̞̓ ̴̤͒ȁ̶͈s̴̻̏ ̶̞͝ẁ̸̟ï̷͚l̷͚͂l̴͔͒ ̵̀ͅţ̸̚ḩ̴͗ę̷̀ ̶̭̐m̶̗̃ė̸̗t̶͈͋á̵̧-̵̠͆ṋ̴͆á̷̗r̶͇͊r̶̿ͅá̸͉t̷͈͠i̶͓͆v̸̘̑é̶̖ ̴̗̈m̶̥͠e̴̻͛ạ̸͌n̶͖̓ṣ̴̈ ̴͖̈́t̵̩̂o̵̯͠ ̷̘̉a̸͔͛c̵̱̐ć̵̮e̶̩̚ș̶̎s̸̠̃ ̴̟͂t̸̹͊h̶̙̑e̵͚̋m̴̘̅.̵̰̾ ̴̩̓W̷͉͛e̴̲̋ ̷̟͘h̴̺͒a̵̳̓v̴͉͒e̸̤͒ ̸̟̍m̶̏͜u̸̼̓c̵̲̈́ḫ̴́ ̷͚̃w̶̛̘o̷̻̒ř̴̤ḱ̸͜ ̶̻̀t̶̥̅o̸̥̕ ̴̡͑d̴̥̋o̸̺̅.̶̭̾"

With a gesture from beneath its robe, a glowing door of pure white tore open in the middle of the room, and the Dersite bowed, before walking through with determination.