Chapter 10: THE NATURE OF EVIL or OUT OF DANGER?
"So this is it, huh?" asks Dave, glaring at the small vessel. It's about the size of a Mini Cooper, shaped like a leech, and painted a familiar shade of battleship gray. It's secured to an abandoned-looking pier that the Legislacerators saw fit to utilize after a quick inspection of records indicated no one had been there in more than five years. Wearing an odd pair of wetsuits complete with flexible hoods, he and Terezi are eyeing the underwater vehicle with unease, despite John's affirmations. "The pictures made it look… Bigger."
Beside Dave, Terezi looks slightly uneasy, an expression she doesn't often display. "Yeah, I thought it would be bigger too," she says, frowning. "And you say the floor will come off on its own?"
"That's right! Blasting caps," says John, grinning. "You'll have to have your masks on by the time you're approaching Captor's sub. It'll flood pretty fast, but you'll be strapped in, so there's no danger of you guys falling out or whatever!" He gives a thumbs-up.
"What about the danger of the water pressure grinding our bones into dust?" asks Dave dryly.
"Ah! We thought of that, and planned accordingly. What you're wearing right now are no ordinary wetsuits! These were developed by the Navy in cooperation with some of the brightest seatroll scientists. Real SEALs stuff! They're scaled, see, and sensors woven throughout the suit stiffen the scales to match the water pressure! No matter how deep you get, it'll just feel like a swimming pool. At least, that's what the Navy said," says John with a wink.
"Well that's cool, let's hope it works," replies Dave, pulling a scale away from his chest and watching a network of linked scales stretch away with it.
"One more thing. As I'm sure you know, this type of submarine typically has two hulls, right? To keep the pressure consistent throughout the vessel and so on. Well, when you guys drill through the two hulls, The Remora is only going to replace one. The difference in pressures caused by a huge hole in the inner hull could cause damage to the sub. That's why we're giving you this." John holds up his Droid phone, already displaying a schematic of what looks a lot like a roll of wrapping paper.
"Wait, two hulls? Since when-" begins Terezi, but Dave executes a flawless nose-pap and shuts her right up. She glares at him but doesn't say anything.
"Please, continue," he says calmly, giving John a 'carry on' gesture.
"More Navy SEALs stuff. You're really hitting the jackpot today, haha! Basically it's like aluminum foil- oh, sorry, al-oo-MIN-ee-um foil- that you stick onto the hole you leave behind, right? But then you hit the button on this cool little box, it sends a charge through a network of flexible circuits inside the sheet, and bam! Hard as inch-thick steel." John gives Dave a prize-winning grin.
"Fantastic," replies Dave. "So between our sub and this foil, we're replacing both hulls we put a hole in. I like this plan."
Dave and John shake hands. John wishes them the best of luck, which Dave returns, but Terezi only smiles slyly. With a little sniff, she smirks at him and says "You'd know a thing about luck, now, wouldn't you? A thing or two, even?"
As John blushes furiously and fumbles for words, the pair climbs aboard the small sub through the hatch in the top, then Terezi clanks the cover closed and secures it. Once inside, there's really not much room to move around. They settle into the seats and strap on their five-point harnesses, and Dave begins the ignition sequence. Almost the entire process is computer-controlled, which is good, because Dave's never set foot in a submarine and has never planned to; he wouldn't have the foggiest clue what to do if it were up to him to operate the damn thing. Frankly, in his opinion, the less time spent gallivanting underwater inside a tin, the better.
Strider glances at the instrument panel. A range of high-tech arrays blink and glow at him, providing him with information on everything from cabin pressure to latitude and longitude. Since Sollux's submarine is virtually undetectable by satellite, the US Navy has thrown truly unfathomable amounts of money into a plan involving triangulating its position using radio boats and speedy frigates, counting on the troll not wanting to attack them and blow his cover. It's a dangerous line between simply detecting him and getting close enough to startle him into launching a missile from the middle of the Atlantic, but they have very few options. This morning at about nine o'clock, the first of the checkpoints broadcasted a notification that he'd passed through their AOR one hour prior- being sure to allow enough distance that he wouldn't notice a spike in radio activity and realize he'd been detected- and when the second notification came through from a checkpoint slightly to the north of a line exactly connecting the Rock of Gibraltar and Manhattan, Dave and Terezi had their intercept point. Upon powering the Remora up, it immediately begins to head toward the point designated.
Minutes pass uneasily. Dave has tried to push the events of last night to the back of his head, but something about the deep, dark water and being alone with Terezi is making it difficult to remain his usual stolid self. "Terezi. Last night-"
"Don't wanna talk about it," she interrupts, absently poking at an instrument on the panel.
"Well I do want to talk about it. We've done a very good job of maintaining a professional relationship on this job, and-"
"Dammit, Dave, forget it ever happened. I was way out of line, and I could lose my job over something like that!" Pyrope says frustratedly.
"...If that's what you want, fine. But I really enjoyed it, and I really enjoy being your partner. So if you're not being truthful right now, just know the door's open, in the future."
Terezi considers this for a second then nods once and goes back to poking at instruments. "'K. We'll talk more about this later. But don't let it affect anything today, and definitely don't tell the Spiderbitch."
Strider is startled to attention by a chirping from the instrument panel. One of the screens is displaying a proximity alert and another is announcing they've "arrived at rendezvous point". Dave looks up from the panel to see the sub's reinforced-glass windows bisected between the dark blue of the water and the dark gray of a huge vessel. The Remora is already steering itself over to the larger submarine and rolling on axis. An alarm sounds, warning the agents to don their masks and get ready for the sub's floor to break away. Dave grips his harness, reflecting how much he'd rather be jumping out of an airplane right now. At least if something went wrong death would be quick and painless.
The blasting caps go off with surprisingly little noise, and a wall of water rushes into the half-rugby-ball-shaped minisub. The only sensation Dave gets is that of cold- he doesn't feel wet and he certainly doesn't feel crushed to death. In a normal wetsuit, the oxygen in his joints would be expanding exponentially, causing him incredible pain followed quickly by death from the change in pressure, but the seatrolls' suits have somehow curbed that reaction completely. They must have cost a fortune, he reflects.
He gives Terezi a thumbs-up, which she returns, and they white-knuckle their harnesses, suspended sideways, waiting for the Remora to attach. With a jarring clank, the curved edges of their shell-shaped vessel attach to the large sub by strong magnets within a loop of gel-like material that creates a watertight seal. Dave looks through the murky water at the new wall of the cabin- the smooth metal plates of the large sub's outer hull. Once this is done, another screen on the instrument panel glows hazily and the water begins to pump out of the cabin. In a minute or two, not a drop is left.
Removing his hood experimentally, Dave reaches under his seat to where the acetylene torches are stored. Rose had informed him they'd given the vehicle larger-than-necessary oxygen tanks to allow the hungry torches to burn without suffocating the agents. Nonetheless, Dave still plans to breathe through his suit's oxygen regulator, and he quickly advises Terezi to do the same.
The small troll is already setting up her torch, and with a nod from Dave, she sparks the tool to life, smiling wickedly at its jet of blue flame. Not wanting to waste a second, she guides the flame down to the hull of the sub and begins to drill.
The going isn't slow, but it certainly isn't fast. Dave's nerves don't fail him, though, and with a steady hand he cuts through his half of the circle in time to meet up with Terezi's half at the bottom. The hull panel they've cut away separates from the rest of the iron around it, and with a great heave they push it into the gap between that hull and the next, where it slots in place and stays relatively put. Nodding again at each other, they start on the inner hull.
Dave tries not to think about how if John were here he'd be drawing comparisons to EpisodeI left and right as he and Terezi burn through the inner hull. They've cut the sheet of metal at such an angle that it falls inwards, whereupon they then slot it between the two hulls on the opposite side of the hole from the first large iron disc. Looking and sniffing, respectively, for signs of danger, the two agents dash through the hole. Strider begins to unroll the foil, lining up a two-meter square to completely cover the hole they carved, as Pyrope stows the torches back in the Remora. Ducking back through, she nods at Dave, who finishes the seal and attaches the small black box on one corner, then presses the button on it. Immediately all wrinkles and creases smooth out as the foil melts into a continuous plane with a shimmer, then ceases any motion. It's obviously a foreign material from the rest of the bulkhead due to its reflectiveness, but with a bit of paint it would be indistinguishable. Dave gives it an experimental knock. It delivers a solid thump, not the papery cymbal crash he had been expecting.
"This is the coolest thing I've ever seen," he tells Terezi, grinning.
"Fuck you, I'm blind," she grins back.
"Yeah yeah. Come on, let's find this bastard."
Navigating the submarine is no easy task, and for some reason no one thought it necessary or prudent to fix the agents with any kind of map or blueprint. He follows Terezi, who's tracking traces of scents like a bloodhound, and hopes she's not just going to lead him to the mess hall. According to the Legislacerator, they're running a skeleton of a skeleton crew; there's no more than a few trolls on board. Dave assumes that like their minisub, Sollux probably has this vessel running almost completely on computer controls- a bit of studying and he'd be able to write programs that would make most submarine ratings redundant. In light of this, they decide heading directly to the bridge would be the smart choice. They shed their scalesuits, leaving them in neoprene-and-carbon-fiber bodysuits that provide a decent amount of knee and elbow protection, with a few kevlar plates around the torso. Dave's is black, of course, but Terezi's somehow managed to get a teal-and-red one complete with a Libra emblem on the breast.
Fully aware Captcha is not going to do much good this deep into the ocean, Dave has brought several spare handgun magazines, but he still feels slightly uneasy without the arsenal he's used to at his fingertips. He's got a diving knife strapped to his leg and another at the small of his back, but his main weapon is his PPK snug in his armpit holster. He reaches for it to measure the resistance of the flexible suit, getting a feel for his draw. His fingers are still cold so he breathes on them a couple times to warm them up. Terezi has her cane, of course, so there's that. As they approach the heavy hatch to the bridge, Terezi tugs Dave's sleeve.
"I changed my mind. I don't want to talk about it later. I want to talk about it now."
"Now, Terezi?" Dave turns to face her.
"Yes. Right now. I decided- I won't regret it or take it back. I made my mind up, that this is how I want to spend my future. I've looked at every angle, and this is how I want to live my life." And rising to her toes again, just like last night, she kisses him again. It's different though- whereas last night was experimental, unsure, almost tenuous, the way she's kissing him now is none of those things. This is the Terezi he knows, the Terezi he can't deny his affection for. Bold, powerful, assured. She leaves nothing to chance.
He kisses her back, and allows himself to be pushed against the bulkhead as she presses her slight frame into him. She squeezes his back, breathes on his neck, nips at his jaw. He can barely keep up with her.
But as quickly as it started it's over. She ducks back, adjusts her glasses, and exhales shakily. "More later." And she turns back towards the hatch, as though nothing had even happened.
Dave catches his breath and follows her, trying hard to keep his eyes off her ass.
Terezi and Dave take their positions beside the hatch and listen. From inside comes a tumultuous sound of buzzing and trolls arguing in Alternian. Terezi listens for a second, then signs to Dave to stay put. Footfalls indicate someone is heading their way. Pressed flat to either side of the hatch, the agents allow the troll- not Sollux but another one- to get a few steps past them before Dave closes the hatch and Terezi whips forward and in the blink of an eye has the troll around the neck with her diving knife at his throat. She leads him around a corner, and Dave hears whispers in Alternian and then a thump and the sound of a limp body falling to the floor.
She comes back around the corner, a bit of maroon blood on her suit but no worse for wear. She jerks her head towards the bridge and mouths the words "Solluxalone". Strider nods and puts a hand on the crank of the hatch, prepared to open it on her go.
"Go!" she shouts, and he wrenches the vault-like door open and pulls with all his strength. She dives into the room and Dave follows as soon as he can.
The bridge is roughly square-shaped, about five meters to a wall, and lined with banks of equipment. Another bank of consoles occupies the middle of the floor. All the the equipment is stacked with more honeycombs- apiculturenetworking,Dave recalls- and purple bees flit lazily through the air. One person is seated inside, facing away from the pair on a chair that looks like it would be more appropriate in an office building.
"Sollux Captor!" shouts Terezi. "By order of The Legislacerators, you're hereby placed under arrest for conspiracy to commit international terrorism!"
The troll slowly rotates his chair around to face them. He couldn't look less like an international terrorist; he just looks like some college kid. Dressed in a bulky black hoodie with a yellow Gemini symbol on it and jeans, he could be doing math homework right now.
"Tho the calvalreaperth have arrived. Took you guyth long enough. Another two hourth and New York would be toathedt." Bits of yellowy saliva fly from his mouth with each lisped expulsion.
Terezi continues. "I suggest you come along peacefully. We don't need anyone getting hurt."
Sollux smirks. "If I leave thith bridge, my thub is gonna launch every thingle one of its mithellth. Twenty thities, gone. Jutht like that." He snaps his fingers. A few of the bees drop from their flight to the ground.
Dave speaks. "And how many trolls die if you do that? Ten million? More?"
"Don't underethtimate me, human. Fef and I already thtarted evacuating trollth latht week."
"Captor, when's the last time you actually talked to Feferi Peixies, face to face? Not over chat?"
Sollux frowns. "The fuck are you talking about?"
Terezi fixes Sollux in her unseeing gaze. "We have Feferi, Captor. She's safe and sound in a cell below a very secure Legislacerators' HQ building. Every conversation you've had with her in the last week has been documented and analyzed. There's been no evacuation."
Sollux looks stymied for about half a second. "You didn't-"
"We didn't hurt her, but it's very nice of you to ask. Now why don't you just disarm those missiles and surface this oversized ablution trap."
"Like hell! You think you have me trapped? I'm the one in control here, not you! You douthebagth need me to deactivate thith thing. At thith point the mithileth will go off if you tho much ath cough."
"And millions and millions of trolls with die. Is that what you want? Come to think of it, Dave, which city was Feferi being held in?" asks Terezi.
"Gee, TZ, I don't remember," Dave says, playing along with her prompt. "But it was a big one. Definitely one of the world's twenty biggest, that's for sure."
Sollux grits his teeth. "...Ok, you athholeth. Let'th talk."
Terezi begins. "Plan A goes like this: You deactivate all your weapons, surface the sub, come with us peacefully, and follow all instructions and orders along the way. We release Feferi scot-free, you do a couple easy sweeps in an especially-nice prison and some therapy, and then go about your life. Depending on which countries' governments get involved with the trial, you might have to leave Earth for a while, rejoin the Fleet for a sweep or two. That's Plan A."
"Thitty plan. Don't like it. What elth you got?" spits the troll.
"Plan B is we knock your ass the fuck out, disable the sub completely, our friends pull it out of the water, Feferi spends the rest of her long, long life in a not-especially-nice prison, and you get the deluxe extended public execution courtesy of the Legislacerators. It won't be pretty. And plan C is we kill you right here and the US Navy shoots down your missiles when they go off. You might notice there isn't a plan where you get what you want, so it's time to adjust your expectations."
"Yeah, well," says Sollux, standing up. "That'th the funny thing about planth, ithen't it? They never theem to go how you envithion them." From behind his glasses comes a subtle glow.
Dave feels his feet leave the ground a split second before he goes careening through the room, thudding into a console and crumpling to the ground. The kevlar in his suit absorbs much of the impact, but his ribs and shoulder are bruised and sore. "Ugh… not fair, man," he says.
"What would you know about fair!" yells Sollux, stalking over to him. Strider's arms are suddenly held in place by an invisible force as Sollux begins to punch him. He's not strong, and not very quick, but the injustice of not being able to defend himself hurts more than the troll's knuckles.
Terezi vaults over the central bank of machinery in the room and begins to run towards him, but Sollux casts an arm in a downwards sweep and the periscope column slides down, hitting her and knocking her down before she can react to it. Seeing her groaning and rubbing her head, Sollux seems satisfied to turn back to Strider.
"What would… Feferi say… if she could… see you," Dave manages to mutter, as Sollux batters his face, knocking his glasses off and bruising his eyes.
"Thee would laugh. Thee would fucking laugh at you! Pathetic-ath pink fucking thon of a bitth, you humanth are all alike, thay one thing and do another, always takingand taking and taking and never giving anything back!" He emphasizes each word with a weak punch to Dave's nose, which is bleeding freely now.
"We shared… our planet… with you…"
"Out of fear! Out of desperation!Only because you knew if you went to war with uth you'd lose!" The troll leans back to catch his breath.
"Believe it or not, Captor… There is goodness in human beings. Just like there's goodness in trolls. You just have to look for it sometimes. We could have blown your ass out of the water at any point today, but we wanted to give you the chance to make the right choice. The chance to do the right thing. For you, and for your matesprit, and your poor dying moirail, and all the other trolls in the world." Dave focuses his swelling eyes on the troll, imploring, honestly hoping he'll just give it all up.
"Fuck you! You think I give a thhit about your moralth? I bet you don't even have Fef, I bet you're bluffing. Everything you fuckerth thay ith lieth!"
"He's not… He's not lying, Sollux. INTERPOL arrested her, then transferred her to our care willingly," says Terezi, rising shakily to her feet. "The agreement was they get her if you don't surrender, and we get her if you do. That's as cut-and-dry as I can make it."
"You're clever, Sollux. Way cleverer than me," interjects Strider. "But there's only one solution to this problem, and no amount of cleverness can change that. Just disarm the missiles and surface the sub. The game's over, and you've lost."
Sollux closes his eyes and seems to think hard for a minute. Then he glares at Dave, eyes burning. "No. I either do it according to plan or I'm dead. That's how it'th got to go. New York first, the rest after that. If we don't take out the lab, it's no uthe."
"What the hell are you saying, Sollux?" Terezi yells. She's put the emphasis on the wrong word- it doesn't escape Dave's notice that the implication is on him saying something Terezi doesn't seem to want to hear, rather than something she can't believe.
"You of all people know th- thc- Scratch, TZ! He doethn't give thecond chanceth! If thith doethent go ath planned, and I end up in prithon, how long before I end up a corpthe? His handth are everywhere!"
"Terezi? What is he talking about?" asks Dave, noticing Sollux's control start to weaken.
"I- I don't know!" Terezi shouts back.
"Bullthit, you never even told Thrider about you and-"
But before he can finish his sentence, Terezi plunges her sword-cane through his chest. Sullus coughs yellow blood onto his sweater and looks imploringly at Dave with watery eyes.
"Holy shit, Terezi! What the fuck!" Dave shouts.
Sollux gazes, unfocused, at Dave, bringing a shaking hand up and removing his glasses. He drops them to the floor, where the thin glass shatters. "You're… Maybe not thuch a bad human," he whispers, mouth curling into the barest suggestion of a smile. "Thhe… Not thuch a good troll. Karkat knowth." Then Sollux's golden eyes close and he ceases to move.
Terezi slides her blade out of the troll's thorax with a long squelch and goes about cleaning the blade on a few stray pieces of paper.
Dave just gawks at her. "You killed him!"
"He was hurting you. And he wasn't going to surrender."
"What was that about-"
"We're not going to talk about that now. Come on, let's get this thing above sea level."
Dave doesn't say anything. He desperately wants to freak the fuck out but he keeps himself under control. His head swims with suspicion the entire way to the surface as he patches the communications systems through to the US Navy's signal range and allows their computer engineers to bring the vessel to the surface. Before long, they're piping in fresh air. Rather than attempt to get Terezi to admit anything more and risk a conflagration, he decides patience and rationality outweigh instinct when the outcome could be his word against hers as to what happened to Sollux.
As Strider climbs out of the submarine onto the surface and begins to ascend the US Navy ship's ladder, he squints in the bright sunlight. Shapes dance in his vision and he shakes off the urge to vomit. He smells like blood, his own and Sollux's, and as a pair of seamen go belowdecks to recover the Captor's corpse and the other few trolls that made up the crew. Terezi simply stands on the deck, completely unfazed. She doesn't grin, doesn't frown, doesn't display any of the myriad funny faces to which Dave has become so accustomed. This in itself is terrifying, but what really catches Dave's breath in this chest is when she alights on the deck of the ship and for the first time looks directly at him.
"Well. That sure was an adventure, huh?" she grins.
Dave only nods.
Medals somehow mean less when you don't have a uniform to put them on, so Special Agent Strider feels just a little awkward as the Legislacerators' Chief pins a broadly-striped teal-and-red ribbon on the pocket of his crisp black tuxedo as he stands at attention on a stage in the auditorium of the New York HQ building. Terezi is in her most exorbitant red-and-teal alien outfit yet, with a stiff collar and a system of jackets, skirts and leggings he's not putting much effort into understanding. It's a handsome ensemble, and more than a little intimidating, but not something he'd want to be shoehorned into, if the Chief's is any indication. Pyrope's ribbon rack is expansive, as Strider had subconsciously expected, and the addition of one more doesn't seem to make much of a difference, especially given her stern expression. But the only other troll in the room with the same one is the Chief himself, so it must be a pretty high honor.
"Special Agent Dave Strider. I cannot express my gratitude duly in any language, so let me just shake your hand and point you to the bar," says the Chief, grinning.
"Honor's mine, sir. I'd do it again in a heartbeat," replies Strider, giving the Chief a warm smile. An extremely dignified hug-bump is shared.
"And Terezi Pyrope. I remember when you were just a neophyte. You were breaking records on your very first case! You've grown into a fine Legislacerator, and I expected no less. Someday you're going to have to tell me how you do it!"
"Well you know, Chief, if I told you... I'd have to kill you," quips Terezi with a sharp grin. They share a hearty laugh.
The Chief poses briefly with each agent individually and then both together as flashbulbs capture the ceremony for every major paper on the East Coast. With a little pat on the shoulders, he turns to go schmooze with the Mayor of New York- time to go finagle an increase in budget, assumes Dave.
Terezi pokes him in the side surreptitiously. "Grab two flutes of champagne and meet me on the roof." Then she turns and strides out of the room.
Dave waits long enough to erase suspicion, shakes a couple more hands- both Human and troll- and then plucks a couple tall glasses of the bubbling golden drink from a tray proffered by a waiter. Heading out the direction from which he saw Terezi leave, he quickly finds his way to the elevator. He rides it to the very top of the office building and climbs the last flight of stairs to the rooftop, then opens the door and walks through. Squinting in the sudden afternoon light, he transfers both flutes to his left hand and reaches into his breast pocket for his shades.
A hand catches his wrist and he almost drops the champagne. "No. Leave them off," comes a small female voice, accent lightly Spanish. "Your eyes always smell so delicious."
"So that's what this is about," says Dave, offering Terezi a flute, which she quickly accepts. "You just wanted-"
"God, shut up!" says Terezi, downing the drink on one. "You talk too much. Come over here and kiss me." She steps out from the side of the doorway where she'd been hiding. She's loosened the collar of her service dress uniform, but the starched edges still look like they could put an eye out. Dave drains his flute just as quickly as she and steps into her arms.
"The great, world-famous Dave Strider. And I have him all to myself," she says, grabbing the lapels of his tux and kissing him on the lips.
"I'm glad you remembered my title this time," mumbles Dave between her kisses.
"Mmm. You taste good. Like berries, but a bit sour. It's a shame."
"What's a shame?"
"That this'll be the last time," says Terezi. "We'll never see each other again after this afternoon."
Dave backs up slightly. "Pyrope? What are you talking about now? Does this have to do with what Sollux-"
"Not another word." Terezi's hands find her cane, drawing her blade. With a broad sweep she brings the blade within a millimeter of his jugular vein.
Dave curses himself for failing to wear his PPK under his tuxedo jacket. He's completely defenseless. "Okay. What the hell? If this is a joke, I'm not laughing."
"It certainly has been a hell of an adventure," says Terezi, frowning. Her Spanish accent has fallen away, and what remains is no sort of accent Dave's ever heard in person- he realizes with a start it's pure Alternian. "And certain information came up that I can't allow you to simply walk around with. Information about my true employer." She applies a slight pressure to Dave's neck, leading him around in a semicircle until his back is to the edge of the building. "Walk."
Dave doesn't budge. "Wait. Is this about Doc Scratch? You work for The Felt?"
"I don't work for The Felt. I work for who TheFeltwork for. I work for Lord English. And Scratch has made what he wanted abundantly clear. It's too bad Sollux was too much of an idiot to do his job without The Legislacerators getting involved... but as soon as they put me on the case his fate was sealed anyway."
"Wait, so- Scratch hired Sollux to nuke all those cities," Says Dave, gritting his teeth at the bite of the blade. "But if he wanted to do it without arousing a whole ton of suspicion, why the youtube video?"
"Don't ask me how that guy thinks. He probably thought it would distract the world's law enforcement agencies so he could do the rest without getting caught. You have to admit, it almost worked, too. I didn't want to tell you, but the chances of the Navy actually shooting down any of his missiles was next to none. He wrote all kinds of scramblers into their guidance systems, they're probably only just now discovering them. Come to think of it, that information might be worth a fortune to the right parties..."
"Ok, whatever, but why did you have to kill him? He was going to prison, he wasn't going to hurt anyone ever again!"
"That's the problem, Dave. He didn't hurt anyone. He didn't do his job. And my cover was more valuable than his life. I had to kill him at the last minute there to maintain the guise of a Legislacerator, only it was all for nothing, 'cause now I have to go do it for him, not to mention thanks to that Russian bitch I have a whole list of people who know about the Lord who need to die as well. You're first. She's next."
"Kanaya? No! She never did anything- augh!" Dave can't suppress a cry as her blade cuts a deep gash on his cheek.
"I said walk. Backwards," Terezi barks. Dave complies.
"Trying to stage a suicide? What are they going to think when they find this cut during the autopsy?" smirks Dave. If he's going out, might as well go out laughing.
"There isn't going to be an autopsy, you fucking idiot, I'm a fucking Legislacerator. I didn't get here in time to stop you from jumping off the roof, and that's that. There isn't going to be a funeral, let alone a case."
Dave shuffles back as slowly as he can, racking his brain for any way he can get out of this situation. As he takes a last step back, his heel finds only air. Now or never.
Strider ducks low and crouches forward, aiming a quick punch at Terezi's stomach. But faster than he can see, she catches his fist, winds her cane around his elbow, and with a sudden jerk breaks the joint. She tosses his writhing form to the ground, then lifts him by the collar of his shirt and drags him, bleeding, to the edge.
Dave howls in pain, clutching his broken arm and staring at the woman. "You psycho! You bitch! I saved your life!"
"I was never in any real danger. You really don't get it, do you? I see every outcome, I think through every ending. I've allowed for every method you might use to escape, and eliminated them one by one." Her expression softens slightly. "The only thing that wasn't a lie... the only part that was really real... was what I said about rule number four. Too bad you'll never know what it was." She chuckles, a dark laugh Dave's never heard from her. "Now it's been a blast knowing you, Dave Strider, but it's time for you to die." Effortlessly, she casts him off the edge.
Terezi's impassive face grows smaller and smaller as Dave falls away from it, as if in slow motion. Rushing wind comprises the whole of his hearing and the pain in his arm keeps him from even flailing. Like a rag doll, he simply falls, spinning very slightly, in time to see the street below. The last thing he'll ever see, he realizes slowly. But then, below, a window opens, and something broad and white sticks out from it. He's heading right for it- whatisthat?
Dave lands on what turns out to be a mattress, and the very moment he makes impact strong hands grab him and yank him inside. A new wave of pain washes over him, not stopping at his arm, and as soon as he rolls onto his side be begins to vomit and doesn't stop until there's nothing left in his stomach and he's dry-heaving.
"Hell of way to say thanks! I don't even want to kiss you now!" a shrill female voice says. Sounds like a troll. Dave risks a glance.
Vriska Serket stands before him, dressed as ever in evening wear, a light film of sweat across her brow but otherwise no worse for wear.
"S- Sorry." Dave coughs out, unable to even lift his head.
"Shh. No need to say anything. If you'd barfed on me, though, that would be a different story!" she says, laughing. "Now come on. Let's get you someplace safe."
"Terezi- Gonna kill Kanaya- gotta stop 'er-" Dave mumbles, but he can't fight the wave of darkness that swallows him. Within seconds all is black.
Day breaks, and Dave attempts to get out of bed. He fails completely.
Vriska comes into the room, carrying a tray. She places it by the side of Dave's bed- oh, he's in a bed- and sits down beside him. The change in the mattress' topography causes his arm to throb, but he realizes there's no actual pain.
"'Morning, sleepyhorns!" she grins, displaying a mouth full of sharp fangs. "I made Human breakfast. By which I mean I ordered it from room service."
"What the-" begins Dave.
"If you're worried about the cost, don't be. I don't plan on actually paying my bill here. The service is awful!"
The events of last night swim back into Dave's head. "Oh God- Terezi! Is Kanaya OK? What about John and Rose?"
"Woah there, champ! Eeeeeeeeasy! First things first. After you went lights-out, I was able to call Kanaya in time to get her and the Egberts out of the city, probably the country too. I think they're heading to Russia or some shit. Before you freak out, no, you haven't been out for days, it's only been like twelve hours."
"Well that's something."
"Unfortunately, not everything is peaches and cream. You should know the Legislacerators' Chief was murdered, and Feferi Peixes has escaped."
"What? Was it her?"
Vriska shrugs. "Had to be. No one knows where she is now. She just vanished, like a ghost. I really don't know what to tell you. She does that." Vriska frowns slightly.
"Cut off the head, huh… This way she'll be harder to follow. Still, it's a shame. I liked that guy. Wait, hang on. How the hell did you know how to save me?"
"Terezi give you a speech about 'seeing all the angles'? Something like 'Iseeeveryoutcome,Ithinkthrougheveryending'?" She adopts a convincing Spanish accent for this line, which earns a smile from Dave.
"Yeah. Exactly like that."
"She missed one. The one outcome she'd never have predicted. The one where I feel bad about my past and want to change. I made some calls, hacked some websites, jacked into some satellite feeds. It wasn't hard to figure out what she was going to do when you know her way of thinking as well as I do. As for which room to wait in to catch you... well, I do have aaaaaaaall the luck, after all." She gives Dave a wink. "Now get some rest, I'm going to take a shower."
The tall troll woman starts peeling off her clothing even as she's crossing the luxurious hotel room to the bathroom, affording Dave a view of more and more smooth gray skin by the second. "Maaaaaaaan! I can't stand that little runt, with her ruuuuuuuules and her stupid justice complex. What's her deal!" At this, she clicks the door shut.
Rules. The word jogs something in Dave's memory as he remembers rulenumberfour for the first time. He reaches for his phone- charging on the side table- and dials Aradia.
"Dave! It's been forever, how are you?" His secretary's voice rings crisp and clear.
"I'm alive, and I'm never taking that for granted again. Listen, I need you to look up something for me."
"On the list of Terezi's rules. The long one, not the short one you made. What was number four?"
Aradia laughs through the receiver. "What? What's this about?" Her tone is jokingly scolding. "You two getting up to something I shouldn't be hearing about?"
"Dammit, Aradia, what is it?"
She begins to recite. "Rulenumberfour. No active Legislacerator may possess flushed feelings for any partner, including but not limited to Humans of either gender."
Dave is silent.
"You know, Mr. Strider, There's no rule like this in my contract. Maybe when you get back to London I should have a surprise planned?" She giggles. "Or better yet! Tell me which prison Sollux ended up in and I can pay him a conjugal visit!"
"Sollux is dead."
"What? Why wasn't I told?" the girl shrieks.
"Things are a mess here. The Legislacerators' chief is dead too. And my arm is broken, I'll need to schedule two weeks' convalescent leave. Here in New York. I'm at the Waldorf, by the looks of things."
"Um- okay, got it. Are you really alright?"
"I'm fine. I've got someone to take care of me. Email me the itinerary for my trip back to London in two weeks. As for the surprise, surprise! You get a promotion, and as long as I'm on leave, you are too, paid. Talk to accounting for me."
"Wow. Thanks, sir!"
"That'll be all. Have a nice couple of weeks." Dave hangs up.
Soshe'soutthere,somewhere. Probably on her way to Moldova, preparing God-knows-what kind of scheme with a deranged lunatic, a mansion full of freaks and a mastermind who might be from his own backyard. Assuming his friends made it out OK- and he really hopes it's not too much to assume- he only has to worry about how long it'll be before the next threat of global destruction. And he feels pretty safe in assuming who they're going to call when that happens.
The sound of the shower dies from within the bathroom, and Vriska emerges in just a towel and a cloud of steam, shaking him from his ruminations. "Well now, Agent Strider. Seems I've got you caught in my web! Now whaaaaaaaat should I do with yoooooooou?"
"Whatever it is, by all means take your time," says Dave, turning off his phone and tossing it off to the side. "Saving the world can wait."
I can't believe it! Over 100 pages later and I'm finally done with Bondstuck 2. I know this type of story isn't everyone's cup of tea (even though I totally threw some boys kissing into it, which is really not MY cup of tea) but the reception has been pretty good! I ended this story with a lot of openings for a sequel because I'd love to write a 3rd story, and I already have some plans. But before I do that I'm going to work on an original story I've been developing for some time now, so don't hold your breath.
I'd like to thank Andrew Hussie for creating Homestuck, Sir Ian Fleming for creating James Bond, my sister Roachpatrol for introducing me to the wonders of fanfiction and writing some of this fandom's best AU work (seriously, go read Hemostuck now) and for editing each chapter, the US Air Force for housing and feeding me throughout this process and only asking 10-12 hours of hard work a day in exchange, my friends and classmates for not making fun of me for writing fanfiction (much), and Mainland China for having an awesome language that's fun to learn, if not gut-wrenchingly difficult at times.
I'd also like to thank a few authors on AO3 for consistently putting out fantastic works that inspire me to improve and do my best. ParaTactitian, sunbreaksdown, UrbanAnchorite, and I know there are more but I should keep this short- Seriously, you all need to go get book deals.
Finally, thank you for reading! You could have read most of an actual book in the hours it must have taken you to read this but the fact you thought this work was just as worthy of your time means so much to me. I hope you'll leave a comment expressing your opinion on this story and the direction you'd like to see this series go in the future. Thanks again and goodnight.